A Comical Story About Failed Onboarding Process

Update 31st March

It turns out the account might have been a hoax/fake account

I have noticed a few fake accounts on Twitter have recently added details that they are fake within the description and then are allowed to “pass” so it would be unusual for Twitter to actually remove an account for this specifically.

Also if an account is removed for that reason, the error messages should be different

Original Story

I am writing this because I think it is a little comical, and maybe it is something we can also learn something from and not trying to squeeze every ounce of drama out of a controversial title.

This post contains lots of embedded media so most likely won’t look as good from an RSS reader or email

A few days ago I notice Patrick Pichette, Google CFO has just joined Twitter.

I popped over to his profile and remarked in a tweet

He was already following 921 people which I thought was quite remarkable so I had a look down the list of people he was following.

At least 90% were verified accounts which I can only assume were part of Twitter’s current onboarding process.

The problem is you can only follow a certain number of people without gaining followers of your own. Patrick was gaining a health number of followers very fast.

In fact very quickly he had more followers than he was following

Here is a Google cache screenshot


Patrick was using the Twitter account in a totally natural way and even asking his audience for suggestions.


Whilst I don’t know Patrick I had heard about something fun that he had recently done that I knew a Twitter audience would appreciate – cycling from San Francisco to Mountain View. He even took a taxi to SF to participate.

So I suggested

So 2 days later I see this appear in my stream and immediately responded


Only a few minutes later the new account is suspended as well.

It had been a shiny new account

And now it too is dead

This isn’t some vindictive tale or gotcha, but more a lesson in how collective intelligence and automation can make false positives of the very people you most want to encourage, whether a search giant like Google, or a social media giant like Twitter.

Update 29th March

It looks like Google CFO Patrick Pichette is back

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  1. says

    “Onboarding…?” Twitter doesn’t force anyone to follow en masse. Perhaps he was following many and unfollowing many in the same day; that would cause a suspension. Even hitting thhe follow limit for a new account will not cause a suspension.

    • says

      I can’t remember the old limits… it used to be like 1000 or 2000 before you couldn’t add any more, and then you couldn’t follow more than 10% more than the people following you.

      As you can see from the screenshot of the Google cache, he had far more followers (very quickly) than he was actually following. I haven’t been through the onboarding procedure recently but I doubt he added those verified accounts 1 by one – he probably selected large groups.

      If Twitter is encouraging this behavior, then suspending accounts for using it, then it really is an onboarding issue.

      If people are encouraged to add large groups and then prune them, that is also a natural behavior. From what I recall lots of the people were Google / Startup / Tech related.

      The second account was probably flagged due to matching some kind of footprint of the already suspended user/machine.