Monday, 18 June 2012

All in a Twitter about Direct Messages?

I have a suspicion that a lot of people on Twitter don't bother to look at their direct messages (those private messages that you can send to anyone who is following you)  because a lot of them are simply of the 'thank you for following' variety.  But there are also two other types of direct message that frequently appear.

The first of these is the message which tells you that the sender "uses TrueTwit validation service" and asks you to click on a link to validate.  When you do so, it brings you to a page with a 'captcha' phrase that you have to type in, and you are then thanked for validating.  If you investigate further, you will find that TrueTwit  has been designed to help distinguish real people from robots, avoid Twitter spam and save time managing your followers.  So I've been religiously clicking on any validation links that I'm sent in order to assure the person who I've recently followed that I am, indeed, a real person.

I've been assuming that TrueTwit acts as a screening process and that, if I didn't validate, I would automatically lose the chance of being followed by the person concerned.  But I've now been told that if I don't respond to  a validation request, I can still keep following that person and they can still follow me.  So am I wasting my time typing in those 'captcha' phrases?  Possibly the only way to find out is to stop responding for a while and see whether the rate at which I get more followers decreases.

I don't personally know anyone who uses TrueTwit.  So if you use it and have found it helpful (or, conversely, have found it of little use) please tell me about it in the comment box.

I said earlier that there are two types of direct message that keep recurring.  The second of these, which also contains a clickable link, is of the "this user is saying horrible things about you..." variety.  They occur so often that I doubt whether many people are taken in by them.  On the other hand, there is a temptation to click, just to see what the link leads to.  Is this some strange way of selling something . . . and, if so, what?  

However, according to Ian Hardacre, the links in these direct messages - and also those with variations on the "This made me laugh so hard when i saw this about you" variety are all virus-related.  His interesting blog post contains a long list of such messages all of which, he says, are indications that the account from which the message purports to come has probably been hacked and that its owner needs to change his or her password.

And this, of course, leads on to two possible courses of action.  Should we send a message to everyone from whom we receive one of these messages, suggesting that they change their password?  Well, perhaps.  It could be time consuming but might bring us a few followers, grateful for the information.  

And, secondly, should we also check our own Twitter accounts to make sure that they've not been hacked?  This, I would say, is a no-brainer.  It's easy to do if we have more than one account because we can send a direct message from one to the other.  Otherwise, we could ask a friend to check on a direct message we send to them.  It shouldn't take more than a minute or two and it could prevent the direct messages that we really want to get through to our followers from being hijacked.

Finally, of course, this is a reminder to change our passwords regularly.  Yes, it's a bore but with hackers and viruses getting more sophisticated by the minute, it seems a sensible thing to do.