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Archives: June 2009

Twitter Needs To Let You Backup Your Tweets

Remember the Mikeyy virus? That was an exciting couple of weekends, but it didn’t actually do much harm. The thing is, viruses tend to get worse, not better, and one of these days something nasty is going to hit Twitter… hard.

Let’s say this new virus doesn’t post cheeky messages – instead, it deletes tweets. It deletes your tweets. All of them. One day your timeline is there, the next, it’s gone. Your account was registered two years ago, and you have a vague recollection of doing over 10,000 updates, but for everybody who looks at your Twitter profile post-virus, you’ve done and said nothing.

Or what if Twitter has a really bad day and accidentally erases a whole bunch of accounts? Thousands and thousands of them, one of which is yours?

I touched upon this a little in my article about tweet ownership, but the reality now is that if something happens on Twitter that results in your account getting wiped – and this includes Twitter closing your account for a TOS breach – you’re stuffed. Even if you’re backing up your tweets using one of the very crude external options available, and saving them to an Excel spreadsheet or whatever, there’s absolutely no way to get those tweets back on to Twitter. Restoration is kind of the point of a backup.

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Six Ways Twitter’s Direct Message System Could Be Radically Improved

Twitter’s direct message (DM) system is, quite frankly, rubbish. An inbuilt messenger is a handy and convenient feature on any social network, but what we have on Twitter is so basic and limiting to be almost useless. Here are six ways in which it could easily be improved.

1. Direct Messages MUST Be Two-Way

As it stands, the direct message system on Twitter isn’t really fair – if I follow somebody this affords them the right to send me a direct message, which many do, certainly if they want to keep something private. However, unless they follow me back, I do not have the same luxury. I cannot reply to their DM. This is ridiculous for two reasons: one, it gives them an immediate advantage, and two, the only way for me to respond to their ‘private’ message is to make it public with an @reply.

I say: you should only be able to send a direct message to another user if you’re both following each other. Otherwise, you have to send a reply. This would encourage mutual following and cut down on unnecessary and one-way direct messaging. No mutual follow, no direct message. You’ll have to send me a reply instead.

2. Mass Marking/Deletion Of Direct Messages

Twitter needs to add a series of checkboxes next to each delete message so that you can quickly mark and delete any you want to remove and/or move somewhere else en masse (see ‘Folders’, below). There also needs to be a one-click ‘select/unselect all’ – as it is, I can remove all my direct messages using a service like DM Whacker, but that should be a basic feature on Twitter, surely?

3. Search

If you’re on Twitter long enough, pretty soon you’ll build up a lot of direct messages. Some of these will contain useful links and information – I stress the word some, as relatively it’s going to be very few. Right now, the only way to find that data is to scroll back through page after page of direct message, and hoping that CTRL+F and the right keyword will find what you want. A search feature built in to the DM system would make this a very simple process.

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Who Owns Your Tweets – Twitter, Or You?

Who Owns Your Tweets - Twitter, Or You?Consider this, if you will: I decide to write a book through Twitter, 140 characters at a time. Moroever, I do this stream-of-consciousness style, and just let it all flow out. I keep no backup. I write my book, tweet after tweet after tweet. Soon, thousands and thousands of my words are in the system.

For their own reasons, Twitter decides I’ve done something wrong, and suspends my account. All my work is lost.

What are my legal rights? Who owns those tweets? Can I get them back?

In Twitter’s terms of service, under a section called, “Copyright (What’s Yours is Yours)”, they state:

We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.

We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.

That’s fine, but under “General Conditions”, they also say:

We reserve the right, in accordance with any applicable laws, to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time.

We’ve seen this happen before with accounts such as the fake Christopher Walken. The reasons for the suspension of that user were fairly clear, but what about all those tweets that he wrote? They’ve also been removed without a trace. The account had a loyal and amused following, and those tweets were funny and had value.

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How The Internet Died With Michael Jackson

I was active on Twitter last night when the news of Michael Jackson’s cardiac arrest broke on TMZ. When the same website reported that he had died about an hour later, the impact on the internet was dramatic. This situation was then furthered by the world looking to confirm TMZ’s report – when CNN and the BBC (finally) legitimised the news, the internet almost stopped.

  • The Los Angeles Times was one of the first major publications to state that Jackson was dead. When CNN mentioned this as a source, the LA Times website was brought down by the traffic influx, receiving over 2.3 million page views in one hour.
  • Twitter went into a 5-6 minute delay. I saw the fail whale for the first time in weeks. TweetVolume reported that more than 65,000 tweets reported on the original TMZ story within the first hour – around 5,000 per minute at peak. “We saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Los Angeles Times. “This particular news about the passing of such a global icon is the biggest jump in tweets per second since the U.S. presidential election.” Ultimately, updates about Jackson would double Twitter’s update frequency, and the singer currently occupies seven of Twitter’s ten top trending topics.
  • The number of status updates on Facebook was triple the average. Despite this, Facebook remained operable throughout.
  • America Online’s AIM instant messenger product – which was undergoing some minor scheduled maintenance around the time of the Jackson news – was severely impacted by the story and went down for 40 minutes. “Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth,” an AOL spokesperson said.
  • An edit war on Jackson’s page on Wikipedia ultimately forced the online encyclopaedia to freeze.

Traffic to all the leading online news websites in North America was 20% above the average.

Global Visits Per Minute Around Michael Jackson's Death

Earlier the same day, Farrah Fawcett also died. After Jackson’s death was confirmed, false reports of the passing of Jeff Goldblum and Harrison Ford put more pressure on global web servers.

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Three Ways Twitter Could (And Should) Improve The Suggested User List

Yesterday, my article about the measurable benefits of Twitter’s suggested user list (SUL) attracted quite a lot of attention, both within this blog and around the internet. This was furthered by some interesting comments from those I mentioned in my piece.

Three Ways Twitter Could (And Should) Improve The Suggested User ListThe thing is – it’s very easy to rag all over something as obviously bunk as Twitter’s SUL, without actually suggesting an alternative. Hence, and in the interests of balance, here are three ways I think that the suggested user list could be significantly improved.


Twitter could radically improve the value of the SUL by personalising it to the new user. This would be best accomplished by asking questions about interests, hobbies, sport and club affiliations, employment, etc, during set-up, to build a richer profile in order to best match recommendations. The very basic 160-character ‘bio’ that we have now is pretty useless.

Twitter would scan your data, and recommend 20-50 users for the new user to follow to get started. This would not be pre-selected in any way. If you didn’t like the list, maybe you could click the button and Twitter would roll the dice again.

These more in-depth profiles would remain private and would only be analysed when looking for follower recommendations.


Twitter could continue to use a pre-selected list of a few hundred suggested users, but instead of just giving you a random selection of these when you sign up, Twitter would tailor the list to your interests. This could be accomplished through the use of a richer profile set-up (as above), or by simply asking a few questions each time you require more suggested users to follow.

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POLL: How Do You Rate @Twitter’s Technical Support?

I’ll keep this short and sweet as I don’t want to lead people either way through my personal experiences, or those that have been brought to my attention. Please rate in the poll below your opinion on Twitter’s technical support.

This should be all-encompassing, and include any interactions you’ve had with @Twitter, @Spam and other Twitter support accounts, as well as your experiences at and how well the support team has dealt with any help tickets you have submitted.

Also, it would be great if you could then post any of these experiences (good and bad) in the comments area below. I’ll collect all the data and write a more detailed analysis of Twitter’s support in the future.


CHART: @iJustine’s Plateau Reveals The True Benefits Of Being On The Twitter Suggested User List

Last night I was involved in a fascinating discussion with Robert Scoble and others on Friendfeed about the merits of Twitter’s controversial suggested users list (SUL).

Robert, who has never been on the SUL, shared his hypothesis that the people on the SUL have an inflated follow count that they cannot replicate on other social networks (Friendfeed, Facebook, etc). He used tech guru Tim O’Reilly as an example. Ultimately, O’Reilly arrived and participated in the debate. I encourage you to read the full thread on Friendfeed.

Why does being on the SUL matter? Predominately, it affords the lucky few a huge advantage in building the numbers of followers in their network. At the beginning of March, Tim O’Reilly had just over 40,000 followers on Twitter.

Check out his chart over the past three months:


For comparative purposes, check out Robert Scoble’s chart for this same period. At the beginning of March, Robert had about 67,000 followers.


The different here is considerable. Scoble had seen an increase in his follower count of about 23,000 – some 32 per cent. Over the same period, O’Reilly has gained about half a million followers, an increase of almost 400 per cent.

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What Tyler Durden Can Teach You About Twitter And Social Media

Would Tyler Durden have used social media? Quite possibly, but probably not in an entirely productive way. I very much doubt he’d have been tweeting about what he had for breakfast, or been overly bothered about how many chumps he infected on Facebook (at least, not in the standard way).

Still, there are lessons to be learned about social media from the things that Tyler said, even if we have to be a little creative and put some reverse spin on his intent, doing a little paraphrasing along the way.

“The First Rule Of Twitter Is: You Do Not Talk About Twitter. The Second Rule Of Twitter Is: You Do NOT Talk About Twitter.”

See, this is your problem – you’ve been obeying Tyler’s first two rules. Maybe you’re a brand, maybe you’re businessman, or maybe you’re just somebody with something to sell. Or something to say. So, you’ve set up your Twitter account, followed a few people, been followed back by a few more, and that’s it.

Finished. Over. You’re done.

What Tyler Durden Can Teach You About Twitter And Social Media

Why stop there? If you want to boost your profile on Twitter, you need to think big. You need to think out of the box, and move beyond believing the only way to expand your presence on the network is on the network. Sure, you might chat about Twitter with your friends, but you need to do more. Put your Twitter profile on your business card. Put it in your email signature. Put it on your letterhead. Tell clients to find you on Twitter. Encourage your Facebook friends to follow you on Twitter.

Don’t be embarrassed – Twitter is becoming a really big deal. You need to be talking about it.

“You Are Not A Beautiful Or Unique Snowflake.”

You’re really not. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. Twitter has about 20 million users – what separates you from the other 19,999,999? What can you do to stand out? To be unique? What makes you different from them?

"You Are Not A Beautiful Or Unique Snowflake."

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”

Tip: The answer does not lie in Twitter’s much-derided, “What are you doing?” Think outside the box. Be different. Be interesting.

“People Are Always Asking Me If I Know Tyler Durden.”

Do you know the things you stand for, that you believe in, that you want to accomplish in your life? If you don’t know who you are, how can you possibly convince anybody else?

"People Are Always Asking Me If I Know Tyler Durden."

“Hey, you created me. I didn’t create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better. Take some responsibility!”

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POLL: Why Do YOU Block Somebody On Twitter?

In a recent article I wrote about the limitations of the block mechanism on Twitter. This is an issue because as the network grows in popularity it begins to attract more of the same kinds of ‘problem people’ we see elsewhere within the internet – spammers, trolls, nasty folk and good old-fashioned weirdos.

When I first started using Twitter, I rarely blocked anybody – now, for various reasons, I’m blocking several people each day. It’s those reasons that I want to address in this poll.

Specifically, why do YOU block somebody on Twitter?

(Please check as many reasons as apply.)

Please share any reasons personal to you that I have not covered in the comments area below.

When Is A Re-Tweet Not A Re-Tweet? When It’s Something I Never Actually Said

The re-tweet is one of the backbones of the Twitter system and it plays a significant part in making links, and the sites and articles that they lead to, go ‘viral’. The ripple effect of a message getting re-tweeted throughout the network is a beautiful thing to see, and if you’re the recipient of all that resulting traffic, a reason for some celebration.

However, you have to be careful. I’m not a subscriber to the notion that suggests it’s poor etiquette to alter the existing prose when doing a re-tweet, but I do think you have to make distinctions between what the original poster (OP) said, and anything you have added yourself.

On several occasions I’ve seen things that I’ve never actually said ‘re-tweeted’ in my name, simply because the re-tweeter changed all the words but left the RT @Sheamus part alone. Often this is an accident on their part, and it can end up with amusing consequences.

Or far more severe ones; like the @reply, you could do a lot of damage to a person’s reputation with a series of re-tweets if you intentionally set out to make an individual ‘say’ things that they never did. Not only does this bad information go out to everybody in your network but, perhaps ironically, thanks to further re-tweets, it has the potential to quickly spread to millions of people.

RT @KarlRove I was rooting for Obama all the way!

This is why I use and recommended the via tag over the RT. For me – and I accept this might be a personal view – the RT should, for the most part, be a literal re-posting of the original message. If you tamper with it, I think you need to do everything you can to ensure that your words are clearly separate from the OP’s. More often than not the RT @Username part comes first, right at the beginning of the message, and I think that the words that follow are seen by the majority as coming from that user.

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