Spy Vs. Spy: The Spymaster Backlash Begins And Twitter Needs To Fix It

spy-vs-spy_tofu_prv_2Spymaster, the Twitter-based game that we covered last night, is spreading like crazy today. It’s been a trending topic on Twitter throughout the day, even ahead of the hype around Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing. Because of this popularity though, some Twitter users are getting inundated with tweets from the service in their streams. It’s not really spam, because it’s their friends doing it, but to some, it’s very annoying. Former Digg lead architect, Joe Stump, is particularly pissed off.

“I’ve started both unfollowing and reporting users of this game to @spam. This isn’t because I hate my friends, it’s because I have no other recourse to stop this application’s abusive behavior,” he writes in a blog post today. While Stump isn’t entirely accurate that the only way to gain points is by tweeting out your actions in the game, the spirit of what he’s saying is correct because you are encouraged to tweet out your actions in the game to earn more points. He notes that this is similar to what happened with Facebook Platform early on, as games like Zombies took over people’s streams. This is something that VentureBeat’s Eric Eldon notes as well, joking that maybe they should rename the game “SpamMaster.”

But the real issue here, which both Stump and Eldon bring up, is that this is the perfect example of why Twitter needs filters of some sort. We’ve been railing on this for a while, and I’m actually quite glad this game has come along to bring the issue to the forefront. The problem isn’t that the game is spam, it’s that Twitter is not at all set up to handle games like this, even though it is positioning itself to be a robust platform.

You need to be able to do things like block certain hashtags or keywords, and to be able to group together certain friends. Currently, various third party sites/services handle thing on top of Twitter, but it’s not enough if Twitter is really going to be a new form of communication. Because if Twitter gets overrun by these types of viral games, people will simply stop visiting Twitter, and it will destroy the platform’s backbone.

Not that these are trivial things for Twitter to implement given its crazy rate of growth right now. But it will be needed if that growth is to continue in the future. At the very least, Twitter should allow you to block which apps you get updates from — though I think it still considers Spymaster updates to be coming from the “web.”

For his part, Spymaster co-founder Eston Bond says, “Backlash has been pretty minimal. Some people find Spymaster noisy but I’m amazed at how many people defend their tweeted spymaster actions to others (search can give you some examples.) For now, everyone’s having fun and I want to make sure that we can keep the game compelling in the long term. I have lots of content ideas that I’ll be hopefully implementing soon.”

Again, I don’t consider this Spymaster’s problem — but there is a problem, it’s Twitter’s. You’ll see this as more of these style games come along. It’s a matter of when, not if.