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January 7th, 2019

My tweets

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The New Year is a time to look at things you are doing and assess whether or not they have worked. Over the last few years, particularly when the culture wars around Gamergate and the Hugos were at their peak in 2014-15, I subscribed to several of the various Twitter block lists, assuming that it would keep malevolent types off my time line. I very much defend the right of anyone to block whoever they want - as someone else said on Twitter recently:However, I've been noticing that I am finding interesting material in accounts that I had somehow blocked, and have no memory of blocking. Perhaps the block lists are too big and all-embracing to be useful for me. I therefore decided that I would do a New Year amnesty and unblock absolutely everyone, and anyone who is very annoying to me in future can be muted (and anyone who is really very annoying can still be blocked).

So I went to the list of Twitter accounts I have blocked, and spent an idle hour or so clicking on the "unblock" button beside each name. But it became uneasily clear to me that this was not having a terribly rapid effect. There seemed no end in sight. Eventually I clicked on the "Advanced options - export your list" option on the page. It downloaded a surprisingly large number of files listing accounts that I had blocked. I was astonished when I looked at the files and realised that each of them contained 5000 blocked Twitter accounts. 5000 times a surprisingly large number is a very large number indeed.

Well, I'm glad to say that I found this page explaining how to deal with the problem. Basically you have to go to the list of blocked Twitter accounts, open up the developer tools consolde by pressing F12, open up the browser console by pressing Esc, and then enter the following three commands:

var autoScroll = setInterval(() => window.scrollTo(0, document.body.scrollHeight),1000);

This starts scrolling automatically through the list of blocked accounts - and if you have many thousands, as I did, you'll probably want to take several runs at this process. The tab need to be the active one in your browser window (you can have other browser windows open, and it still works). When you think you have enough blocked accounts on the screen, then enter this:

clearInterval(autoScroll)

That stops the scrolling. Then, to click the "Unblock" button on on each of the displayed accounts, enter:

$('.user-actions-follow-button').click()

And it takes a while - not as long as the first phase - but you get all of the displayed accounts unblocked. (Be careful not to enter that command twice - if you do, you end up following them!)

It's going to take me several days to go through the process, and no doubt I will have to do some tidying up if people who I had blocked for cause try and interact with me again. But I was astonished to realise that several big media outlets, and some fairly innocuous political figures and commentators, had ended up on my block list. In the end I can choose how to engage, and I choose to go for a bit more openness. (Though firmly operating a one-strike-and-you're-blocked policy.)

Incidentally I discovered that I am on seven blocklists myself; no idea why. I certainly don't feel that anyone is obliged to listen to me, but it's unfortunate if people cannot access me because someone else decided that they shouldn't.

Hope this is useful! And if you have been vaguely wondering why I might have blocked you, my apologies, and now we should be able to communicate again.

(If you think you know perfectly well why I might have blocked you, you are probably right. But you are getting another chance.)

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