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Archives: February 2009

Keep Twitter Tidy

All of us – even the very best – make typos. No matter how accomplished a writer you are there are times when you are going to make mistakes, certainly when trying to squeeze something desperately important into just 140 characters.

In an ideal world, everybody would run their Tweets through a word processor, or Twitter.com would come with a built-in spell checker/grammar grader/text-speak remover. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

So, picture the scene: you’ve written your Tweet, clicked the update button, and off it goes into the Twittersphere. Then, suddenly: the horror, the horror. You’ve made a hideous error.

Errors within Tweets come in all shapes and forms, but will generally be one of the following:

a.     A shocking spelling mistake
b.    Terrible grammar
c.     A bad link
d.    You forgot the @ symbol
e.     Twitter and alcohol don’t mix
f.      You said something positive about Scientology

Now what? Well, if you’re like most Twitter users, you’ll simply re-type the message and submit it again.

This is the worst thing you can do.

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Twitter Is Not Facebook (or, Why Status Managers = Fail)

When Twitter started – way, way back in March 2006 – the service was, essentially, built around the same principles behind the very popular status update feature on Facebook.

However, times have changed. While it’s certainly true that Twitter’s insistence on asking you “What are you doing?” definitely encourages too many people to take the question literally and reply with something fairly inane – i.e., like the majority of Facebook statuses – there are some significant differences between the two platforms.

Too often I see people using ‘status manager’ services like HelloTxt to update their statuses across a variety of platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Plurk and so on – and this is, in my opinion, a major mistake. Why? Because of the differences in how updates on Facebook and Twitter read to other users.

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An Important Announcement For All Celebrities On Twitter

Celebrity Grammar On Twitter

Next week, we’ll be looking at the difference between its and it’s

HOWTO: Delete All (Or Lots) Of Your Direct Messages On Twitter… Including The Ones You've Sent

I’ve observed a few times on here about how one of the most lacking features on Twitter, Seesmic Desktop, TweetDeck – or anywhere else, for that matter – is the ability to mass-delete direct messages.

Once you’ve been on Twitter for a reasonable period of time, thanks to auto-messaging and genuine DMs from your friends and followers you’ll very quickly build up a large list. This is fine until you decide you want to delete some or all of them. Twitter only allows you to do this on a per message basis. If you have a lot of them, this will take forever, and the most likely result is that you won’t bother.

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TweetDeck Makes Twitter Better. Why Aren't You Using It?

So you’re into Twitter, you’re following lots of people, and now suddenly it all seems a bit of a… blur?

The reality is that while you can run even a very large Twitter account on Twitter.com, the site itself is pretty limited. Tweets very quickly fall off of the page, @replies sometimes don’t arrive at all, and basic functions like re-Tweets and direct messages require you to actually type things on the keyboard. What is this: the 90s?

Fear not, my friends, because TweetDeck tackles all of these issues with easy one-click solutions. It also allows you to filter your Twitterfeed in different ways, allowing you to keep track of your favourite Tweeters, as well as yourself.

What Is TweetDeck?

My Tweetdeck

To quote directly from the site itself:

TweetDeck is an Adobe Air desktop application that is currently in public beta. It aims to evolve the existing functionality of Twitter by taking an abundance of information i.e., Twitter feeds, and breaking it down into more manageable bite sized pieces.

TweetDeck enables users to split their main feed (All Tweets) into topic or group specific columns allowing a broader overview of tweets. The default columns can contain All Tweets from your timeline, @replies directed to you and direct messages. The GROUP, SEARCH and REPLIES buttons then allow the user to make up additional columns populated from the live tweet information. Once created these additional columns will automatically update allowing the user to keep track of a twitter threads far easier.

Essentially, TweetDeck makes Twitter a more enjoyable and manageable experience for the user.

What Are The Advantages of Using TweetDeck Over Twitter.com?

  • TweetDeck has one-click access to replies, direct messages and re-Tweets.
  • Comes with built-in link shortening functionality (i.e., TinyURL.com, is.gd, snipurl.com, and so on).
  • Can be configured into specific ‘groups’, each of which will filter a certain part of the Twitterstream (as per your settings). This makes it a lot easier to follow your friends or favourite Tweeters.
  • If you’re working in another program, TweetDeck will run in the background, and notify you when you have new Tweets.
  • Built-in search functionality.
  • Updates continuously while open. No more refreshing the page. (If you leave the software open overnight, it will store all updates.)
  • TweetDeck can be resized to your exact specifications: from a single column to a full-screen multideck (and anything in between).
  • Comes with built-in translation software.

Installing TweetDeck

TweetDeck is available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

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So You Don't Get Twitter? (Part Three)

(This is part three of a three-part series. Read part one here and part two here.)

How Many People Should I Follow?

The question of questions. As a new user on Twitter, if you follow less than ten people, certainly if these are ten people you actually know, the service won’t make any sense to you at all. Yet, if you follow too many random users, it can easily get confusing any overwhelming. Furthermore, if your following count is too in excess of your number of followers, you could actually end up looking like a potential spammer (both to other users and Twitter itself).

So what’s an ideal number of followers for the new user? I would say a good starting point is the number of people you know plus about another twenty people you don’t. So, if you know ten people on Twitter, seek out and follow another twenty or so. If you use the various search and tracking facilities outlined earlier this should be very easy, and hopefully you’ll find lots of people with whom you have a common ground.

When you reach this number, sit tight for a while. Let people start to follow you back. This will include some of the people who you are following and new people that appear out of the ether.

Twitter Etiquette

The rule of thumb on Twitter was generally that to be polite one should always follow back everybody who chooses to follow you. This is social media, after all. But this has always been more of a guideline than an actual requirement, and as the platform has grown it is wise to be somewhat careful before automatically clicking on the ‘follow’ button.

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So You Don't Get Twitter? (Part Two)

(This is part two of a three-part series. You can read part one here.)

Who Should You Follow?

Anyone, and everyone! Twitter makes it very easy to follow new people – simply go to their profile page, and click on the ‘follow’ button. Equally, it’s just as easy to ‘unfollow’ anybody, which means that at no time are you risking anything. Again, Twitter isn’t like Facebook – by following somebody, or letting somebody follow you, you’re not exposing all your secrets to some random stranger. The personal information on your profile page is basic and all your Twitter friends will see is your name, location, website and bio. That’s it. There’s nothing to worry about.

There are three main ways to find new people to follow:

1.    Use Twitter’s ‘Find People’ feature
2.    Use Twitter’s search function
3.    External services

Each of these are beneficial in very different ways.

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So You Don't Get Twitter? (Part One)

I’ve recommended Twitter to a few of my friends lately and while one or two of them have taken to the platform with ease, the majority have been giving me the same kind of response that seems to be on the lips of a lot of newcomers to the service:

“I don’t get it.”

The thing is, by just having a quick look at their profile pages I can see instantly why my friends have not taken to Twitter, and the fix is pretty straightforward. If you’re not ‘getting it’, either, or have friends expressing similar bewilderment, this post is for you.

Let’s Get Started

First things first: if you don’t already have an account, get one.

Twitter.com

(At this stage, you could do a lot worse than clicking on the link marked ‘Watch a Video’. This will open ‘Twitter In Plain English’ which, while perhaps a little dated now, is still excellent.)

Complete the basic form, and register. Please, please, please enter your full and proper name in the ‘Full Name’ field. Why? So when people you actually do know try to find you, they can.

Pick any username you like. It really doesn’t matter, because you can change it at any time. But consider that people may judge you for it. (This is the Internet, remember.)

Once you’ve completed the registration, go to the ‘settings’ page. This is where you can configure your account. Two things that really matter to the new Twitter user are:

1.    Your profile picture
2.    Your bio

Unless you’re representing a brand or a company, your profile picture should be an actual picture of you. A real picture, not a Simpsons caricature or a still from your favourite movie. It needs to be you. Why? Because other people are more trusting of a Twitter account that comes attached to a real person, and while this method isn’t foolproof, having a real picture goes a long way to making you seem genuine. The biggest sin you can make is to not bother with a profile picture at all. By default, to all and sundry, this will make you look like a spammer.

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Celebrities Who Are Failing @ Twitter

In an article in today’s Observer,  David Mitchell waxes fairly eloquently about the reasons he was drawn to Twitter in the first place (essentially, to usurp an imposter pretending to be him, which seems to have been the case for several celebrity appearances of late and, of course, as time passes, will increasingly become of import), and why, a heady 34 days later, he still isn’t really getting it.

Mitchell isn’t alone. I like the guy – at least, on his endless television appearances he comes across as being essentially okay -  but the reason he isn’t getting Twitter is the same reason numerous other Twitterslebs aren’t getting it either: they’re not making the required effort.

Wikipedia, of which Mr Mitchell is a fan, describes Twitter as “…a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.” Seems fair enough. But what Twitter really is, essentially, is a giant chat room. One that affords the user the luxury of defining both whom they wish to listen to, and whom they wish to hear them speak.

Of course, for your common or garden celebrity, the latter is all that really matters. It’s certainly true that all it takes to build an almost instant following in the tens of thousands is to be remotely famous. The more famous you are, the more you can quickly expedite that number to the glory of the top 100 most followed Twitter users. Not that you would imagine many celebrities really care about, and are even aware, of that. (Nor should anyone else, really. There’s a certain faux-credibility that comes with being in the top 100 list on Twitter – or at least there was – even if, in many instances, the actual value of following that user is of some debate.)

But, what many of them are simply not getting is this: Twitter is meant to be a two-way medium. It always was. I mentioned previously my idea that one way for the platform to move forward was to impose a ratio of followers to followed on all new accounts, so, if that ratio was imposed at 1:4, then you could only have 40,000 followers if you followed 10,000 people yourself. That might seem a little radical, but it would certainly mean that your more uneducated public figure would be somewhat forced to ‘get it’ pretty sharpish.

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The Darker Side Of Twitter

In my blurb about the purpose behind Twittercism I wrote the following:

For perhaps the first time in our history, Twitter has provided the masses with a convenient and simple way to hook up with their icons. This is good for the fan and great for the ego of the celebrity. Right now, things are mostly going okay. People are civil to each other and Twitter’s simple interface means it’s easy to block anybody who is quite blatantly a mental.

Yet: the cracks are already beginning to show. We’re already seeing cat-fights between A-listers. Public cat-fights, on Twitter, for the world to see. A few celebrities are already beginning to feel the scorn of the hyper-cynical public. Fingers are being pointed. Words are being exchanged.

It is only going to get worse.

The thing between Perez Hilton and Lily Allen got fairly ugly but was mostly amusing. The reality here is that both of them are well-known provocateurs and when you get two of these kinds of people together it always gets a bit messy when they bump virtual uglies. We’ll definitely see more celeb-on-celeb action in the future, but I don’t think that will ever get too insane. (Although it will certainly amuse.)

No. I think the biggest problem you’re going to see on Twitter over the next year or so is famous types coming under wave-after-wave of pretty vicious attacks from Joe Public. And not just your common or garden Joe Public, either.

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