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If Twitter Sells Out Wikileaks, It Could Be Hacked As Early As This Weekend

Exciting stuff.

Since its inception, the internet has provided new ways for people all over the world to exercise the rights of free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. These rights are not simply the benefits of a free society–they are the very means of preserving that society’s freedom. The recent increase in government interference with these freedoms coincides with the failure of the corporate media to fulfill their vital role in checking the abuse of authority. Censorship and journalistic abdication have left citizens unaware and unable to hold their governments accountable.

WikiLeaks has moved to fill the void left by traditional news media, providing the necessary information for citizens to hold their governments to account. Yet it has not been granted the legal protections generally afforded to journalists. Instead, the organization has been vilified and monetary support has been blocked by governments and private corporations. The vitriol aimed at WikiLeaks demonstrates an unsettling disregard for the fundamental freedom to exchange information and express ideas. Members of a free society must not allow information to be suppressed simply because it inconveniences those in power. We share the responsibility to defend vital liberties. The time to act is now.

We are Anonymous, a leaderless movement that has worked tirelessly to oppose all forms of Internet censorship worldwide, from DMCA abuses to government mandated content filters. Our initiatives include supporting dissenting groups in Iran, Zimbabwe and Tunisia, as well as waging the highly visible information battle against the Church of Scientology. We are now prepared to take the fight to the world stage. Join us on January 15th for the first in a series of global protests in defense of WikiLeaks and freedom of expression. Stand with us to defend your freedoms.

We Are Anonymous And So Are You

So reports Why We Protest. There’s even a video.


At the moment Twitter are very much in Anonymous’ good books, as they’ve both opposed the Wikileaks subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice (read it here) that ordered them to hand over the account details of all 637,000 @wikileaks followers, and made the legal action very public. But, reports MSNBC and others, that boldness cannot last forever. Law is law – and even Twitter’s own policy means that ultimately they’ll likely hand over the data.

“[N]on-public information about Twitter users is not released unless we have received a subpoena, court order or other legal process document.”

So, here’s the real question: if Twitter is forced to comply, does this mean that, in spite of their stalling and momentary act of bravery, they’ll be next on Anonymous’ hit list, simply because they’ve sold out to the man?

Perhaps. And if it happens before this weekend, then brace yourself for at least a few hours of minor annoyance.

Twitter: There Isn’t An App For That

(This is a follow-up post to yesterday.)

As you might expect, I write about Twitter a lot and frequently make suggestions for changes, features and add-ons I’d like to see made to the platform.

That is, to Twitter itself.

When I do this, and certainly if and when a given post gets a lot of attention, I’ll inevitably get comments and tweets send to (or about) me that will say:

“Hey, you can already do that on [insert Twitter client here]!

That’s fine. Except you can’t.

When I make a request for change – real change - I want that to come from Twitter. Not from TweetDeck, not from HootSuite and not from whatever piece of Twitter software is your favourite, either.

It’s great when these clients show initiative and add features that improve the user experience, but unless and until they are implemented on Twitter as well, they’re always a compromise. And it’s only ever an improved experience for their users.

As I explained yesterday, if TweetDeck adds or has a feature, then great – but it isn’t necessarily going to be available on HootSuite, Twitter for iPhone, and every other client out there. I’m rarely going to switch clients unless a feature is absolutely killer, but even if I did I want to reserve the right to be able to switch back, and also to use different clients on different mediums (PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, Blackberry).

It doesn’t matter it Twitter Client X has a Twitter experience-changing feature if the other apps don’t have it too. As I said in my example, it’s no use being able to (superficially) hide a tweet on TweetDeck if it’s still going to be there (laughing at me) when I load up Twitter for iPhone.

And the answer isn’t to use the exact same client for everything I do. That’s not a solution – it’s a prison. Very rarely does one software house make the best possible application for every medium.

Real change needs to come from the platform – from Twitter. Editable tweets, filters, hidden tweets, a proper direct message system, spam controls, better privacy controls, TweetRank and conversational tweets – all this stuff is on my list. You’ll have your own. And so will the coders.

But until these requests become part of Twitter‘s list, it doesn’t matter what changes anybody makes. They simply will not be real.

Tweets Need A Hide Button

Dave Winer recently made a post about why you got blocked.

1. I like to follow the Mentions tab in Twitter, so I can see who’s directing messages to me, or talking about me using my Twitter handle.

2. This is the Internet, so sometimes people say mean things. When they use your Twitter handle it shows up in the Mentions tab.

3. The mean stuff can sit there for hours, esp when things are quiet.

4. I think of them as turds.

5. Since I check the Mentions tab frequently, as much as 5 times an hour, I see these turds many times. Each time they get more annoying.

6. There’s no way to delete a tweet from the Mentions tab, without blocking the person.

7. Blocking has the side-effect of making me invisible to the person I’m blocking. This is totally unnecessary. I have no reason to want to stop someone from being able to read my tweets. It’s this one smelly turd they left that I don’t want to look at.

I agree, and I do this too. But none of us should have to do it.

The solution is pretty simple – Twitter should provide a one-click button that lets anybody hide any tweet on their feed.

And it stays hidden.

It’s not deleted – that’s a privilege that I don’t think anyone apart from the OP needs to have and only for their own material. And it’s only hidden for you. But if you click on that hide button then for all intents and purposes it is gone. Hidden tweets could be stored in a new, ‘hidden’ folder, and they stay that way until you change your mind.

Hide any given person’s tweets enough, and maybe Twitter notices and says, “You’ve hidden a lot of really annoying user‘s tweets – do you want to unfollow them?”

Maybe if everybody is hiding one particular user’s tweets too much, Twitter notices and says to them, “Hey, you’re an asshole. Try harder.”

Sometimes a block is exactly what is needed. Sometimes it’s a step too far. A hide button is a nice compromise.

(PS. And before I hear the inevitable: yes, you can hide tweets on TweetDeck and some other apps, but – again – this is not the same thing as being able to perform a function or have a feature available on Twitter itself. That is, on the actual platform. Hide a tweet on Twitter, and it’s hidden everywhere. Hide a tweet on TweetDeck, and it’s still there on HootSuite. And Twitter for iPhone. And your Blackberry. And Echofon. And so on.)

7 Features We Really, Really Want To See On Twitter

I’ve written lists like this before, but that was 18 months ago, and the only suggestion that Twitter implemented was the retweet button – and they kind of screwed that up, too.

So, time for an update – here are seven pretty big (and in some cases, really quite basic) features and add-ons Twitter really needs.

1. A Way To Edit Tweets

Why can’t we edit our tweets? Everybody makes mistakes.

This would only need to be a window of 30 seconds or so. In fact, that’s ideal, as it’s enough time to notice and correct a typo or bad link, but short enough to prevent people changing their statement after a bad reaction, or using it as an opportunity for some kind of abuse.

The lack of an edit is the biggest failing Twitter has made to date. Okay, so you can’t edit on Facebook, either, but at least there it’s relatively easy to quickly delete your update/comment and re-post. And it’s less damaging, too. On Twitter, you know that first tweet has still been seen (and perhaps actioned) by a bunch of people. Quora lets you edit, and they don’t even have a time limit.

2. One-Click Access To A List Of People We’ve Blocked

Everybody blocks from time to time, and then weeks and months go by, and maybe you’ve changed your mind and want to give people a second chance. So, off you go, working your way through your memory banks and trying to remember who it was you’ve blocked and… it never happens.

With one-click access to a list of everyone you’ve blocked you could quickly and easily revoke and let a few back in.

3. Filters

One word: baseball.

Here are some more:, Farmville, football, The Apprentice, Formula 1, Twilight and Jim Davidson. I have absolutely zero interest in any of these subjects. You’ll have your own list. The point is: why can’t we filter out the stuff we don’t care about?

Even if it could be done on a temporary basis during certain sporting events, or runs of TV shows, or utterly tedious things like the upcoming Royal Wedding – a kind of ‘mute button’ if you will – it would dramatically increase your signal-to-noise ratio, and make Twitter a much better place to hang out.

Existing filters could be edited and removed at any time, and Twitter could even put everything in a big ‘junk’ folder just in case you were missing out on something good.

(And yes – I know some apps like TweetDeck let you add ‘on the fly’ filters. That’s not the same thing at all. I want it inbuilt and permanent.)

I wrote recently about being able to follow topics – if Twitter ever implements this, then another way to have filters would being able to unfollow topics, too. That is, you put a big X against topics you don’t care about and Twitter makes sure you never see ‘em.


4. Better Privacy Settings

As most people know, Twitter’s block feature is a joke. Somebody blocks you? Simply log off and, as if by magic, you can now read their tweets. Lots of users have individuals they want to avoid, but the only option they have now to ensure total privacy is to protect their tweets – and if you’re forced to do that on a social network to avoid just one person, something is wrong with the system.

The solution is simple – Twitter needs three levels of privacy.

  1. Open – Your profile and tweets are completely public. Blocking users works as it does now (i.e., badly)
  2. Partially Open – Only logged-in users can see your profile or tweets, unless they’re blocked
  3. Protected – Only people you specifically authorise can see your profile/tweets

It’s not rocket science. People give Facebook an absolute ton of jip about their privacy issues – isn’t it time to shine the spotlight on Twitter?

5. TweetRank

I’d love Twitter to implement a version of Google’s PageRank system – let’s call it TweetRank – and begin to score and rate individual accounts according to the ways in which they behave, handing out penalties to users who show a blatant and repeated disregard for the rules.

This would include cloaking, automated messages, bio stuffing, paid links, URL redirection and linking to known spammers. Get caught doing this stuff, and Twitter issues you with a penalty, which directly affects how well you place in Twitter search and how long it takes for your tweets to show up on the network. To anyone.

(Learn more about TweetRank here.)

6. A Proper Personal Messaging System

Twitter’s direct message system is and always has been absolute rubbish. It doesn’t need a simple fix – it needs a complete overhaul.

Much fanfare was made earlier this year about Facebook’s new messaging system – the so-called “Gmail Killer” – and Twitter missed a real opportunity to take on Facebook and even Google months ago with their own killer product.

Twitter needs to add folders, spam controls, grouped conversations and the ability to mass-move/delete messages, remove the character limit, and make the whole thing a lot more intuitive and user-friendly.

Twittermail, if you will.

7. Conversational Tweet Threading

HootSuite gives you a ‘view conversation’ feature on tweets, and it works pretty well. Why isn’t this a basic feature on Twitter? All we need is a ‘view conversation’ link on every tweet that’s a reply and Twitter could easily work out the history of that discussion. I’d love to see something presented in a similar way to how the iPhone handles text messages.

Sure, Twitter isn’t the ideal platform for long, drawn-out debates, but the existence of a reply button means that we’re supposed to be chatting to each other. Threaded conversations would make that process a lot better, and would also allow other people to get the bigger picture (which might help save a couple of foot-in-mouth situations).


Seven things. That not too much to ask – is it?

If You're Auto-Tweeting Anything On Twitter, You're Doing It Wrong

Social means personal.

It doesn’t matter what it is: blog posts, news bulletins, Foursquare updates, songs you’re listening to on or iTunes, Zynga crap or (especially) direct messages. If you’re auto-tweeting anything on Twitter, it isn’t personal, and it isn’t social. It’s robotic.

And it’s cold.

(If you send those same faceless updates out to Facebook, Linkedin, Friendfeed, MySpace and everywhere else, multiply that failure accordingly.)

Here’s the thing – while it’s a nice gesture to automatically tweet out the posts and tweets of websites and users you like and trust, it also carries a lot of risk. Why? Because you’re giving something your approval before you’ve even looked at it. By sending out a link to that content with your name on it, you’re telling your followers that it’s something they should check out, too. That it’s good. That it’s safe. That you take responsibility.

But who knows what it is? Or what it was? It could be anything.

The New York Times can get away with it – there’s no risk because they’re only sending out their own content. Nobody expects any personality. It’s cold and it’s robotic, but that’s kind of what you expect from a newspaper feed.

It’s the exact opposite of what everybody wants from an individual.

Do the work. Be unique. Make it personal.

Should Twitter Do A Quora And Let You Follow Topics (As Well As People)?

Over the past week or so I’ve been spending a lot of time on Quora – and if I’m honest, totally at the expense of Twitter. More on that in a moment.

Quora, in case you haven’t heard, is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” It’s kind of like a really smart Yahoo Answers meets Wikipedia, with a big dollop of Twitter-ness thrown in. It works really well.

I registered my name on Quora (the site insists on real names, as opposed to aliases, corporations or silliness, which I think is a very smart move) quite a while ago but have only begun to get into it seriously in the past few days. I’ve submitted a couple of questions, weighed in with answers on many more, and I’m having a blast. So much so, in fact, that I’ve been spending a lot less time on Twitter. This got me thinking: how, and why, did this happen?

Read more

Perfect Tweets, The Twitter Below, Road House, TweetRank & Malcolm Gladwell (Best Of Twittercism 2010)

When I first started writing this article I had originally planned to list my ten favourite articles on Twittercism in 2010. As I started to put the post together I found that ten wasn’t enough. I know this statement has ‘monster ego’ written all over it, and to some extent that’s 100 per cent accurate, but if you’re a fellow blogger or a writer then you’ll know how it feels when you’re asked to edit or be selective about your own content, even if it’s an instruction from yourself. It’s hard.

Yes, I wrote all of these pieces. But they feel like my babies.

So, I compromised, and kept in everything I thought was pretty good, and separated all the posts into categories.

  • Get Better At Twitter
  • The Business Of Twitter
  • Twitter Etiquette
  • Your Twitter Identity
  • Followers & Following
  • Twitter Improvements (aka, Whinging & Moaning)
  • Twitter Security
  • Twitter Clients
  • Opinion (And Everything Else)

Read more

No, Twitter, @GailPorter Isn’t Like @RealMattLucas

I used to be a big fan of Shooting Stars, the comedy panel show that starred Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Matt Lucas, who would go on to greater fame with Little Britain.

In Shooting Stars, Lucas played the surreal George Dawes, and when I checked out Lucas’ profile (@realmattlucas) on Twitter I noticed his URL linked to Curiously, this is nothing but a holding page, but it reminded me of one of my favourite sketches from Shooting Stars - the baked potatoes song – and you can enjoy this bit of silliness here.

I watched the video on YouTube and then returned to Matt’s profile, read a few of his recent tweets, and then clicked on the follow button. Nowadays, when you follow a user on Twitter you get a prompt that suggests a couple of other people that you might like to follow. These users are meant to be similar to the person you’ve just hooked up with, with this likeness calculated by some fancy algorithm. Science, if you will.

I have to say: I was slightly taken aback when Twitter immediately suggested Gail Porter (@gailporter).

Let me explain. In the 1990s, Gail Porter was a family-friendly television presenter who went on to become a ‘lads mag’ favourite. In 1999, a picture that showed her naked from behind (NSFWish) was (somewhat notoriously) projected onto the Houses Of Parliament.

In 2005, Porter was diagnosed with alopecia, causing her to lose most of her hair. To her credit she refused to wear a wig, deciding instead to maintain her public profile and raise awareness for her condition, championing the Little Princess Trust. In 2010, most of her hair has grown back.

Matt Lucas also has alopecia, losing all of his hair when he was just six-years old. This connection between Lucas and Porter led to a series of bad-taste jokes about the pair, including one by Jonathan Ross (@wossy) at the 2005 British Comedy Awards.

I spent £20 on a Matt Lucas Little Britain doll.

Got home and found I’d bought Gail Porter instead.

Ross, of course, would go on to greater notoriety, but this remark was widely circulated on the internet and in the tabloid media. It’s a fairly well-known joke.

This leads me to believe that Twitter’s suggestion is far too abstract not to have been done intentionally. That is, somebody must have configured this by hand, because no ‘algorithm’ is programmed with a sense of humour. And, it has to be said, a bit of a mean streak.

Yes, it is true that Porter has tried her hand at stand-up comedy and there is the slightest of chances that Twitter takes a really, really basic approach to these ‘you might also like’ suggestions, but I’m not buying it. I think this was done on purpose.

And if true, it’s a bit of an eye-opener. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it’s actually funny.

Check Your Connections Tab On Twitter (Because You've Only Got Yourself To Blame If It’s Full Of Crap)

I had a strange dream last night.

I was on Twitter when news broke on that Oprah Winfrey had died. I read the article, shared the link, and then went out.

This was all in the dream, remember. As it continued, I came back home after a couple of hours had passed and it turned out that TMZ had pulled the story, that it was a mistake, and Oprah was very much alive. However, my “Oprah Winfrey has died!” tweet was still sitting there in all its glory, and had started to generate thousands of really negative reactions. People were calling me a liar, saying I’d obviously put this out just to get attention, and so on.

As it continued, one guy – who was clearly a huge fan of Oprah (Stedman, perhaps) – got so pissed that he hacked into my Twitter account and hooked me up with all the worst auto-tweeting applications on the planet. Suddenly, ‘I’ was sending out all manner of garbage and some really offensive spew – tweets linking to porn, racist gibberish, etc. It wasn’t looking good.

Still dreaming, and as the complaints went from thousands to millions, I became increasingly frustrated at my inability to deal with the problem. The thing was, I knew what I had to do – it was as easy as visiting the connections tab on my Twitter account and revoking access to all the auto-tweeting crap that had been injected into my account.

But, much like those nightmares where you’re trying to run away from the monster but your legs are stuck or simply refuse to work, in the dream I somehow just couldn’t quite get there, and could only watch in horror as my good Twitter name was torn to shreds.

Suffice to say, I woke in something of a fluster.

Silly as it was, the dream had some purpose. This morning, I checked my connections tab for the first time in a while, and sure enough there were a couple of things in there that I didn’t recognise and immediately revoked. Thankfully, they hadn’t started sending out any auto-nonsense to my timeline, but that doesn’t mean that they never would have.

You see, the problem with giving permission on Twitter is it’s forever – unless you do something about it. There are no layers of permission, certainly from Twitter’s end. You’re either in, or you’re out. Sure, some of these apps let you configure your preferences at their end, but it’s easy to overlook this and it’s really easy to grant permission one day and totally forget all about it the next.

(Especially late at night after one or two raspberry daiquiris – but I digress.)

I’ve written about this before, but I needed reminding myself. It pays to check your connections on a regular basis – once a week is a good habit to get into. Certainly, if you find yourself auto-tweeting – which is never a good thing – check your connections first. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the problem, and solution, will be in there.

As for Oprah – and just in case this article gets misinterpreted and becomes self-fulfilling and wholly ironic – she is, I would like to remind you, still with us.

(Although she hasn’t updated in a while.)

"Baseball, Baseball, Baseball!" (AKA, Twitter, Please Give Me A Frickin' Filter)

I have a main list on Twitter called influencers. It’s a group of people whose tweets I don’t like to miss – tech pundits and blogs, VCs, news feeds, Twitter personnel, one or two comedians, and a couple of novelty accounts. Each has an impact on Twitter, both for me personally and (to a greater or lesser extent) the entire ecosystem.

It’s an eternal work in progress, and people come and go from the list all the time.

However, in the last couple of days the list has seen a major purge. Why? Baseball.

Baseball, baseball, baseball.

I don’t care about baseball. I don’t care about the World Series, and I don’t care about the San Francisco Giants.

However, it seems that a lot of tech folk do care about baseball, do care about the World Series, and do care (a lot) about the SF Giants, because suddenly that’s all they seem capable of talking about. Which is fine – everybody should feel free to tweet about what they like. That isn’t the point of this article.

All this baseball talk does, however, present me with something of a dilemma – either my ‘influencers’ list is clogged up with useless, personal opinion tweets about baseball, or I have to remove a lot of people.

I went with the latter. Now, I have no baseball updates, but it means I’ll have to monitor the folk I’ve removed to re-list them again once all this baseball talk is over. Well, some of them at least. You’d be amazed how many players in the tech world have the most mundane, ‘this is what I had for breakfast’ personal Twitter feeds on the planet. And lots of them work at Twitter. Some of them even run Twitter.

This would all be a lot easier if Twitter allowed me to use permanent filters.

Yes, I know TweetDeck and some other apps have filters, but they’re very superficial. The tweets you’ve filtered out are still being delivered to you by Twitter, and simply hidden by the app. I don’t want that. I want filters I can set that mean I’ll not only never see the content in question, but that it won’t even be sent to me by Twitter.

In a way, I want to be able to do a Gmail and mark tweets as spam. Or, for want of a better explanation, mark tweets as irrelevant. Anything filtered out would go into the folder of irrelevancy, just in case Twitter screwed something up. Which, of course, it would for the first few weeks, up until it had enough information to learn exactly what I didn’t want to see.

And taking another cue from Google’s excellent email service, I’d also like to be able to mark tweets as important. These tags would be carefully monitored by Twitter and it would do its very best to make sure I never missed anything that was vital to my wellbeing, perhaps by using a version of Friendfeed’s super-convenient Best of Day functionality. This could be coupled alongside a take on Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, so that it learns what I expect and, more importantly, want to see in my stream. These important tweets would float to the top, guaranteeing a moment of my time. Once read, I click a little tickbox and they drop back into the abyss.

Hashtags are not the answer, as they’re easily gamed and, to be honest, mostly full of irrelevant nonsense, and/or good, old-fashioned mentals.

I don’t want to mark users as important, because not everything any one person says is interesting 24/7. This is a fact of life. But certain types of content can be interesting 24/7, and that’s what I want Twitter to do for me.

In fact, I want it to bend over backwards to try and do this for me. Me, me, me. I’m the important one in this relationship. I don’t want some generic answer, like trending topics. I want a personalised experience. YOU want a personalised experience. We all do. Why compromise?

Important Note: As usual, I’m not looking for apps or external services that mirror this functionality. I realise some of these things already exist elsewhere, but as I’ve said before – if I have to leave Twitter to enjoy Twitter, then Twitter has failed. I want everything built into the roots of the service, so that and any client I would like to use has that functionality available from the core.

I realise that user-led filters can put a lot of strain on the system, but there has to be a better way to improve the noise/signal ratio in my stream without having to remove and/or unfollow somebody because they’re going massively off-topic for a few days, or even weeks.

Yes, I suppose we could all simply ‘get over it’, but that’s not the way most of us like to live our lives. Moreover, once you start getting over things and just accept mediocrity and poorly-conceived functionality as ‘the way it is’, it won’t be too long before you start looking somewhere else. Tweet relevancy is an absolutely vital part of the Twitter experience. But it has to be relevant to me.