Thou Shalt Not Surprise Users: Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Twifficiency

Yesterday, we noted the annoying phenomenon on Twitter that was Twifficiency. For those unaware (though I’m not sure how you could be), it was a third-party app that hooked into Twitter to calculate a grade for you based on your Twitter usage. There are about a million of those, but this was particularly annoying because it auto-tweeted out the results for everyone that used it. Twitter agreed — and yesterday they suspended the app.

But the situation was a bit murky because Twifficiency actually did warn users they would auto-tweet when a user clicked the button. The problem was that this message was hidden in a tiny font at the bottom of the page. Everyone from Google exec Marissa Mayer to about 300 of my friends fell for the tactic and the thing spread like a virus before Twitter cut it off.

Today on their Development Talk group, Brian Sutorius from Twitter’s API Policy team talked about the issue. Specifically, he says that one of Twitter’s core Developer Principles is “don’t surprise users.” “Twifficiency violated this principle, so we suspended the app yesterday afternoon while we worked with the developer to make sure users were better informed about the application’s actions and could control whether or not a Tweet would be posted,” Sutorius notes.

The developer made the changes — including a prominent checkbox that allows you to opt-out of the auto-tweet — so Twitter re-enabled the app today.

As Twitter continues to grow in size, so does their developer community. And just like Facebook, a lot of these developers rely on viral ways of spreading their apps. It’s good to see Twitter taking action to make sure these actions aren’t to the detriment of users. You can read their API TOS here.

By the way, my Twifficiency score is a lowly 6 percent — as I was able to find out today without auto-tweeting it out.