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This article was published on February 3, 2010

WTF is Kevin Rose Thinking? [Updated!]

WTF is Kevin Rose Thinking? [Updated!]

Picture 59Update: We’ve been notified via this tweet that the issue addressed below is now resolved. Your Twitter profile URL does not change by default, it is now an opt in feature.

This, from a new startup or young entrepreneur, I’d let slide, but from a veteran of the start-up/tech/social media scene, it needs addressing.

Digital Inspiration noticed a setting on Kevin Rose’s ‘side project’  We Follow, a Twitter user directory. The setting by default replaces your Twitter profile URL with your URL the moment you join the directory.

See, to add yourself to the directory, you’re taken to a page where you’re made to compile a tweet to send to your followers.

Picture 56

The tweet is similar to the image posted above, includes a link to wefollow and the tags you’d like to be categorised under. A rather clever way to get the word out and give your followers some indication as to what you’re about – win win. Once the tweet is sent, you’re added to the directory and you get on with your day.

Picture 58What you probably wouldn’t have noticed however are two settings discreetly placed above the ‘send tweet and sign up’ button. One of the settings is relatively harmless (“follow ‘wefollow’ on Twitter”), the other is “Update my twitter url to be my WeFollow profile”.

Yes, some more alert users will notice the settings, but most, similar to skipping past terms & conditions, are unlikely to have read any of it. It’s a slimy tactic and (generally) far removed from the generally smart moves of Rose, a respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Digg.

For many then, until they visit their own Twitter Profile (when was the last time you did that?), they’re left with their original profile URL (usually to their blog or own website) replaced with a link to their WeFollow profile which incidentally shows almost identical pieces of information as a standard Twitter Profile – albeit presented prettier.

A little comparison:

We at The Next Web run a startup incubator and one of the companies we’re proud to call our own is Twitter Counter, a top 5 Twitter app. Upon sign up, you’re presented with a selection of settings, one of which is to immediately follow any ‘featured users’ listed on Twitter Counter. Featured Twitter Counter users pay for the privilege and their goal is clearly to gain more followers. The more people who sign up for Twitter Counter and have that setting enabled, the more followers a featured user is likely to receive, and therefore, more return customers for Twitter Counter and in the longer term, more revenue too.

The point here is that the Twitter Counter setting is disabled by default and it is only users who visit their settings page and manually decide to enable the option who bring us any monetary profit – that’s only approximately 30% of the user base. That said, had we enabled the setting by default and unbeknownst to them, they begin noticing new people joining their twitter stream, can you picture the reaction once they discovered it was an opt-out feature enabled when they signed up to Twitter Counter? Furious.

Mr. Rose, come to your senses and get rid of the setting now…or at the very least, make it an opt-in option. This goes for other Twitter app developers too, creating features that are naturally viral is one thing but imposing yourself on a user will ultimately get you nowhere.