“Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad - when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago. This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was, alone - unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright." Bram Stoker

How much do we know your contacts in social networks? How many users are sharing the same interest? Is there any inactive user? Is there any bot spying? Am I seeing the right content? the content I want? or the content the network wants?

These questions sum up the conflict I had days ago. I joined Twitter on June 2009. At that moment I probably didn't know how to use Twitter properly or what Twitter would give me. To be honest back in 2019 I most likely signed up every single trendy network around. But a year ago I removed my Facebook and Instagram accounts. There were some books and series that triggered that event.
Today I only use Twitter and Linkedin. But after that I still felt a bit overwhelmed with the content, the noise, the fake news, the toxicity of the network, so I decided I had to clean up feeds. I've started with Twitter. Since 2019 I've been following more than 2.500 accounts! It's clear that only part of these accounts were at the top of my feeds, others were bots, inactive users, or users who are tweeting content that according the platform does not match with me. I felt I was missing real and creative content, and tweets that I really care about.

So I implemented my own tiny and super basic tool to collect some metrics and try to understand my digital world, and more importantly to get rid of the toxicity I don't want to see.

After a few lines of code I run the tool and I've reduced from 2.500 account to 550......78% decrease!!!! I aim to reduce even more but I need to make the tool more robust.

Along the way I saw bots, celebrities I have no idea why on earth I was following, super-hyper-mega toxics accounts, and accounts I really like. The thing was the platform was hiding me good content. Between 2019 and the present I've changed a lot of things and what it seems I started to follow the majority of account in the fist months/years until now. Cleaning up it's a good practice and we should do it every now and then.

🛠  Walpurgis

I called it Walpurgis, a popular celebration in Sweden (and other countries) where people sing songs of welcome to spring, to the budding greenery and to a brighter future, which include lighting the bonfire 🔥. To be honest I am not really sure about the connection between this and the tool 😄. I guess I just wanna throw into the fire some bad/toxic content and make my network more shining✨.

The code is here.

First thing to do is to take a snapshot which will create a text file with accounts information. After that the tool can perform queries and print on console some basic stats.

In this first and basic iteration the tool provides the 3 commands:

  1. Show pre-defined stats.
  2. Rank users by age, last activity, followers or following count.
  3. Select users by description, email, name or last activity.
margostino@walpurgis> show stats

Username: margostino
Created at: Sun Jun 21 23:46:07 +0000 2009
Description: 𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝙳𝚛𝚒𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚂𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚞𝚕𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚝𝚢 • 𝙱𝚞𝚒𝚕𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚐 @NextGreenGene • 🇦🇷 🇸🇪 🌎 👨🏻‍💻 📖 ⚽️🏔 ❄️ 🎶 🚲
Location: Stockholm, Sweden 🇸🇪
Followers: 478
Following: 550
Last Activity at: Mon Oct 18 19:53:27 +0000 2021
Following 0.01% accounts related with climate change
Following 0.02% accounts related with climate
Following 0.47% accounts with Geo Location enabled
Following 0.16% accounts which are following less than 100 accounts
Following 0.35% accounts which are following less than 300 accounts
Following 0.51% accounts which are following less than 600 accounts
Following 0.69% accounts which are following less than 1000 accounts
Following 0.31% accounts which are following more than 1000 accounts
Following 0.01% accounts with less than 100 followers
Following 0.03% accounts with less than 300 followers
Following 0.04% accounts with less than 600 followers
Following 0.07% accounts with less than 1000 followers
Following 0.93% accounts with more than 1000 followers
Following 0.00% accounts with email
margostino@walpurgis> rank users by age asc

User: jack - Created At: 2006-03-21 20:50:14 +0000 +0000 - Last Activity: 2021-10-23 02:22:30 +0000 +0000]
User: sama - Created At: 2006-07-16 22:01:55 +0000 +0000 - Last Activity: 2021-10-22 15:48:07 +0000 +0000]
User: Werner - Created At: 2006-12-21 15:12:02 +0000 +0000 - Last Activity: 0001-01-01 00:00:00 +0000 UTC]
margostino@walpurgis> select users where description like climate

[jabeckx] - RT @aiyanabodi: American companies representing over 6.5M employees and 13% of the U.S. economy support strong climate investments—because…]
[UNDRR] - #UN Office for #Disaster #Risk Reduction %44%  dedicated to building disaster #resilience and tackling #climatechange through implementation of the Sendai Framework]
[GlobalEcoGuy] - RT @DavidRVetter: People talk a lot of crap about scientists not being able to communicate their work. I interview climate researchers day…]
[ClimateSignals] - Climate Signals provides resources in real time explaining how climate change worsens extreme weather and other impacts. A project of Climate Nexus.]
[AntarcticReport] - Follow for News on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean %44%  esp the hard science underlining the importance of Antarctica as a bellwether of global climate change.]

I needed to automate some exploration on my social network in order to ease the cleanup process, and regardless this is a simple POC with a few lines, which maybe I am gonna abandon, this activity made me think about the quality of content we consume everyday and how much knowledge we have on how Social Networks work and shape our lives. Even thought Walpurgis motivation was a bit different, a clean network is not only about the accounts you are following, but it's also about how we discern between good/bad/toxic/fake content and how we feed the algorithm under the wood. There are plenty of interesting sources which are gonna blow your mind and make you think about your networks for better or worse. Here a few:

📚  Weapons of Math Destruction
📚  Hello World
📚  Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
💻  Algorithmic Justice League
🎬  Coded Bias
🎬  The Social Dilemma

Keep your networks clean and don't trust algorithms! 🎃