Canadian public relations practitioner Dave Fleet says Twitter has moved through the Gartner Hype Cycle to the point where it will quickly become unfashionable. In his  Five Potential Effects Of Twitter’s Shift To The Trough Of Disillusionment Fleet charts the technology’s progress and predicts what will happen next.

Fleet’s analysis is on the money. But there’s something else going on with Twitter. After a period of stability, the service is changing. Earlier this week the company altered the way users propagate messages – a process known as retweeting.

In other words, Twitter is still evolving. It will probably be a different beast by the time it resumes its progress through the later stages of the Garter Hype Cycle. Or maybe something else will replace it.

Australian tech journalist Renai LeMay says Twitter is journalism*. He’s right but only up to a point.

LeMay writes;

Journalists are not simply using Twitter to promote their own work and get news tips. This is nowhere near to being the whole truth. In fact, audiences are using Twitter as a powerful tool to engage with journalists directly and force a renewal of journalism and media along lines that audiences have long demanded.

Well some are.

I follow about 25 Australian and New Zealand journalists on Twitter, about the same number of public relations people and a handful of both from elsewhere in the world. If you’re interested, there is a list of NZ media people on Twitter. As an unscientific rule of thumb, I’d say only 40 percent of journalists are using the service in the way LeMay suggests.

About the same number simply use it as a way of promoting their online stories. In other words they aren’t joining the conversation, they are simply using it as a broadcast medium. I suspect, but can not prove, this usually is because of dumb managerial restrictions on their use of the technology. A small percentage dabble in engagement, going on and off line depending on their workload (I’m sometimes personally guilty of switching off Twitter when there’s a looming deadline and a huge number of words to write).

The remainder is still in the dull “morning tweeps” and “I had muesli for breakfast” or the more disturbing narcissistic school of Twittering.

  • The original site is now dead

It was time to act when an email appeared titled “making money w/mlm is now following you on Twitter!”

That’s one follower I certainly won’t follow back. This spammer did little to hide his or her intent, other Twitter spam merchants are more stealthy.

I weed them out this way:

How to spot a Twitter spam account

  • Giveaway names
    ‘Making money w/mlm’ is a dead giveaway. Names are slightly more obtuse or lyrical and yes, spammers hide behind real-sounding names
  • Glamorous photographs
    Let’s face it, attractive young blond women who look vaguely like supermodels or Playboy pin-ups are unlikely followers. Of course there are good-looking people among my genuine followers, but spammers use over-glamorous photographs as a lure.
  • Number following
    Nobody, but nobody, has 3000 friends. So people who are following large numbers of Twitter accounts are automatically suspect. The exception to this rule are people in roles such as tech support.
  • Following follower ratio
    Someone who follows many people but only has a few followers in return is automatically suspect. You can find tools to help automate the process of purging these from your follower list.
  • Location
    I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I  don’t know anyone in India or the Philippines. Of course that doesn’t make everyone from those places a spammer.
  • Bio
    If the bio includes a phrase like “Entrepreneurial marketing leader – passionate about brands marketing technology” the person behind it is almost certainly a spammer. Incidentally this bio is a real one from someone who followed me yesterday.
  • Links
    Web links with terms like erasedebt.com richness.com and so on are dead giveaways.

If a new follower arrives and I can tick the boxes on more than two of these bullet points, I’m going to block them.

Can you think of any warning signs I may have missed?

Update: if you haven’t seen Twitter spam, this explains it: Something’s Going Down @Twitter