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September 28, 2008

Five Creatively Obnoxious Things to Do With Social Media

We're all too familiar with trolls or people who spout nonsense to get a rise out of you. The art of trolling is one much-perfected by few, and typically, despised by all. But there are less "in your face" ways to have someone scratching their head, trying to figure you out. Some are undoubtedly amusing, and I've been tempted to do them myself, if I didn't unfortunately have an inner moral conscious crying out for me to stop. This list is by no means inclusive, but none would be all that difficult to pull off, if you're in an incendiary mood.

1. Respond to very old e-mail as if there were no issues.

We've heard many people espouse the idea of "in box zero", but for most of us, it's not realistic. I've got e-mails I never answered in my in box going back a good part of two years. Sometimes, I think it'd be fun to start at the top, and respond to the old e-mail, without apologizing for my lateness, and continue the conversation from where it left off. Imagine the hilarity!

2. Pick somebody random on Twitter who is fairly active. Follow them, and then block them immediately.

Most Twitter users will give a new "follow" at least a cursory glance, and many will reciprocally follow. They'll likely be scratching their heads when it turns out you've blocked them and it's impossible for them to follow you back.

3. Use Twitter or FriendFeed to shout out someone's name with no context.

I've seen this happen a few times, when people accidentally post a name instead of searching for it. (For example: here) If you saw somebody post your name to Twitter without any reason or follow-up, wouldn't it drive you a little nuts trying to figure out what they were thinking?

4. Put somebody on a custom FriendFeed list that contains profanity or an odd name.

Earlier this month, resident crank and good friend Steven Hodson of WinExtra noticed somebody had added his data to a custom feed called "curmudgeons". As you can set up any names you wish, and there are no known filters, you can let your imagination run wild with just what you can name the lists. Then put people you know obsess over their stats and click through like mad.

So far, I haven't thusly been abused. Some of the referrals I've seen have me in "gurus", "noisy", "personal", "thetechnologylife", "professional", "sm-bloggers", and "pay-attention". So far, so good, but there's no doubt this could change. I'm just trying to stay off Mark Hopkins' "irksome" list, myself. (See also: Hutch Carpenter: How to Mess with Bloggers’ Heads Using FriendFeed Lists)

5. Set up a custom e-mail account for Disqus with an auto-responder.

If you have a Disqus account, leave a comment on a blog, and get a reply, you should receive an e-mail notification saying the conversation has continued. If you create a new e-mail account just for this, say from OtherInBox, you could set up your e-mail to reply to all new messages, saying you're out of the office, or something akin to "I receive a lot of e-mail and will answer yours in the order it was received".

This response will itself be placed in the comment thread of said blog, and be the owner's responsibility to delete, or could even lead to them responding to your out of office and have it continue. Heck, if you make the auto-responder creative enough, they may think you actually typed it yourself!

These are of course just scratching the surface. What other annoyances have you seen, or done yourself, that can be pulled off without being too destructive in nature? Have you done any of the above, and will you start now?