cicLAvia: Stop creeping out my moms!

Someone in the bike scene has a creepy crush on my mom.  Or, anyway, that’s what I surmised when the Twitter account cicLAvia asked to follow my mom.  That’s right – I got this email from my mom tonight:


Subject: Twitter Requests

do either of you know who the following people are (The first one might be an Alex thing–I don’t understand how this works if you accept followers from an organization??

The ones I don’t know are:



See, my mom is on Twitter (crazy awesome right?) and cicLAvia tried to follow her.  Who is cicLAvia?  It’s a new initiative by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and it seems to be aimed at closing down a section of LA streets for a period of time to make a linear park for pedestrians and cyclists.  Sounds cool, right?  It’s a nice concept, but guess what?  My mom lives east of the Mississippi, and she’s not a bike activist, so she’s got no interest in cicLAvia.  So what gives? Why is cicLAvia following her?

It’s called follow spam.  cicLAvia has been following hordes of people, in the hopes (I can only assume) that they will get followed back.  On Twitter’s blog they describe at as:

Follow spam is the act of following mass numbers of people, not because you’re actually interested in their tweets, but simply to gain attention, get views of your profile (and possibly clicks on URLs therein), or (ideally) to get followed back.

You see, at the time of this posting, cicLAvia has followed 770 people on twitter, while only 220 people follow them.  That’s a sure sign of follow spam – do you think you can pay attention to the updates of 770 people on a daily basis?  Of course not – following that many accounts is indicative of something else.  The fact that only 220 people follow them indicates that of the 770 people they follow, less than a third thought cicLAvia relevant enough to follow back.

How is follow spam working here?  cicLAvia follows people, and if those people follow them back, then they go through that person’s followers and follow all of them.  Let me explain it concretely, using my own experience as an example.  Suppose cicLAvia follows me (Westsidazz twitter.)  I get notification of that, I check out their twitter page, and I’m curious about the project, so I follow them back.

Here’s where it gets spammy.  cicLAvia figures “hey, we got us a hot one here, they’re interested in bikes!”  Now cicLAvia goes through my 190 followers, and the 132 people I’m following (notice how much more reasonable it is to follow 132 people, not 770), and they follow each of those.   Why?  Cause there’s a chance they’re into bikes too.  cicLAvia is hoping to get some of them to follow them back to build their power as a Twitter user.  Among those people is my 59 year old mom, who’s hip to this twitter thing.  She’s careful with her online presence, so she writes my brother and I asking who the heck these twitter accounts are.

You know, cicLAvia is a cool idea.  And I’ve been trying to turn over a new leaf with LACBC, and have a neutral to positive relationship.  I mean, we don’t always agree, but we don’t need to be public about it.  But, I really take issue with this.  Firstly, it’s disingenous.  Secondly, it’s spam.  Thirdly,


For reals.

PS – Also, don’t follow my baby brother.  Kthxbai.

Alex Thompson

Bikerowave co-founder, Cyclists' Bill of Rights co-author, President of Bikeside, and Math Phd. HULK SMASH straight from Michigan!

10 thoughts on “cicLAvia: Stop creeping out my moms!

  1. Yeah, can I follow her?

    Seriously, this is just too funny! And I love it that your mom is so careful about who follows her. Good for her.

    Now I have to see if cicLAvia is following me and block them. The fact that they take peoples ideas and make them into their own, or that they send out their newsletter with other peoples news without giving them credit is creepy. I block them wherever I can.

  2. Rhode Bloch,

    My mom writes “Tell Rhode Bloch to just watch out because I just might follow him—and not in a good way! He may call me ‘Nancy.'”


    I just find it embarrassing. If it were minor, I’d never have blogged it, but 770 followers and following my mom speaks to significant abuse. If it takes just 10 seconds to follow each, then someone was following people for over an two hours.

    They haven’t tweeted since April 14th, so I think nobody’s really paying attention. It’d be real easy to just correct the mistake, admit it, and move on – and I would be satisfied with that.

  3. It’s so good to see a son concerned about his mother. As a mother, I’m impressed……………………:)

    And please tell your mother she did good.

  4. Alex, I appologize for following your moms. Truly sorry for spamming her. You are right that I am using twitter as a means to publicize our effort to hold a ciclovia in L.A. In no way is this an attempt to take cred for the concept however. Credit is given to the founders in Bogota as you can see if you visit our blog. We will not be following anyone for the purpose of reading their updates with the cicLAvia twitter acct. This will be a method for us to post news and updates to supports only. I have a personal acct where I can follow my friends. Sorry for the mixup, your moms tweets are safe and so are yours. I’ll even delete our following list if it makes feel better.


  5. I don’t get what the big deal is, isn’t Twitter just a giant spam fest by it’s very nature anyways. Same thing could be said about everyone inviting everyone and their mother to every big bike ride posted on Facebook.

  6. No, Gary, Twitter is not a big spam fest. The fact that the most highly sophisticated IT people and bloggers swear by it ought to give you doubt about that. On Twitter you have precise control over who you follow, and if you so choose, who follows you. Twitter’s own blog documents this form of spam – follow spam – and I think you would be well served to go read about it since you have such an ill informed opinion about the new communication form.

    It seems like you might also want to brush up on the concept of a Facebook group. Membership in Facebook groups is consensual, and typically this is where most event invites come from. If you’re being invited to events you don’t want to go to, I suggest you take a look at what groups you voluntarily joined which you might now not want to be a part of.

  7. and I should add that it’s not that big a deal, but it is hilarious. I blogged it because it reached such a crescendo of hilarity that I felt it was time to draw attention to the level of spam.

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