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Archives: June 2009

10 Things That T-W-I-T-T-E-R Might Stand For

The world is a little doom-and-gloomy at the moment, and I’ve perhaps been a little too Twitter-critical on this blog in recent weeks. Sure, that’s what puts the criticism in Twittercism, but you can’t be like that all the time. Time to lighten the mood. Time to have a little fun.

What Does Twitter Stand For?

Twitter, of course, is not an acronym – but let’s assume it was. What could it stand for? Here are a few possibilities.

  • Think. Write Intelligent, Thoughtful Topics. Evaluate. Re-tweet
  • This Week, Iran. Then Transformers 2, Entourage, Reality TV
  • The World Is Turning; ‘Terrorists’ Even Re-tweet
  • The Whale Is Tamed, Tired, Eternally Resting
  • The Writing In These Tweets Encourages Retaliation
  • Tomorrow, We’ll Increase The Tension: Election Results

  • The Weekend Is The Time Everybody Rests

  • Tweeting Will Invariably Terminate Trust; End Relationships

  • The World Imagines Things; Truth Equals Reality
  • Tweets Will Inevitably Trigger This Event : Revolution

Okay – some of those aren’t bad, some are actually quite deep, and some are pretty lame. I’m sure you can do a lot better. Hit the comments with your thoughts of what Twitter might stand for, and if you’re going to tweet this on the network, add the #T-W-I-T-T-E-R hashtag, and we’ll see if we can get the ball rollin’!

Seesmic Desktop 0.3 Released – Now With Full Bit.ly Support, ‘Smart Accounts’

Version 0.3 of Seesmic Desktop has just been released, and with it a bunch of super-cool new features, including:

  • Multi-Account Posting with Smart Account Enabling. You can now send tweets to multiple accounts simultaneously. Moreover, Seesmic’s new ‘smart account’ feature automatically works out which account you should be replying from, based on whom you are replying to. Clever!
  • Authenticated bit.ly Integration. This is the one I’m the most pleased about – you can now add your bit.ly login information to Seesmic so that any links you post using the service are automatically tracked at bit.ly’s website. VERY useful.
  • Services Panel. The new Services Panel allows you to manage your accounts for sending images, and Seesmic now supports Pikchur, Posterous, TwitPic, Twitgoo and Yfrog.

Version 0.3 also includes the following user interface modifications:

  • The messaging panel auto-minimises until you start entering a tweet, which maximises the space available for your streams
  • It also includes an inline reminder of the account(s) you are posting from
  • Replies have been enabled in your Facebook friends’ avatars, so you can quickly add comments
  • An added “Cancel” button to erase your messages in the message panel
  • Updated scrolling arrows for enhanced browsing
  • Ensuring all replies appear in your integrated timeline

Check out this video, featuring Seesmic founder Loïc Le Meur for more detail on these new features:

Download

Click here to download version 0.3 (direct download; requires Adobe AIR; works on Windows, Mac, Linux).

Further Information

To keep up to date with the latest Seesmic news, and for any questions or problems you might have, I recommend following @askseesmic on Twitter. The account is managed by Loic and John Yamasaki, and they’re an incredibly friendly and helpful team.

For tips on how I configure my Seesmic Desktop, check out my article, “How To Configure Seesmic Desktop For Fun And Profit“.

A Block On Twitter Isn't A Block At All

In my article “Why Replies On Twitter Are Far More Damaging Than Direct Messages“, I address the limitations of the block feature on Twitter. As Twitter’s help portal states:

Blocking someone means that you (and your pic) will not appear on the blocked party’s profile page, friends time line, badge, or anywhere else. The person will not be notified that they’ve been blocked, and they will be unable to follow you. If your account is public, the blocked party can still view your profile page, but can’t receive your updates in their timeline or on their phone.

This is all well and good, but as a system it’s an extremely casual approach to a much bigger problem. When you block somebody, they can still:

  • Read your timeline
  • Send you @replies, which are still visible to everybody else, and remain within Twitter search, and will be delivered to you if you have a search for your replies configured on Seesmic Desktop or TweetDeck
  • Re-tweet your messages, which can give the impression to others that you are ‘friends’

TrollIf you’ve had experience as a bulletin board administrator, you’ll know that when you properly block somebody, you have the facility to stop the person from reading anything on the forum (assuming half-decent, standardised software). With plugins, you have the same powers when you run a blog. Likewise, when you block somebody on Facebook, that’s it for them. They can’t read anything you’ve said. You simply disappear.

Why Is It Different On Twitter?

So, why is it different on Twitter? Why does it need to be? I can’t think of any reason why somebody would think the block system as it stands is acceptable. Twitter’s block is a bit like taking out a restraining order on somebody, and then letting them watch you on a webcam.

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Twitter: The Best Of The Week (June 7-14, 2009)

This is a weekly series that looks at the best Twitter-related stories, news and articles within the Twittersphere over the last seven days. You can read previous entries in our archives.

The Twitpocalypse

Amounted to absolutely nothing, as I predicted. Whether that’s through the efforts of hardcore software engineers or because it was never going to amount to anything is a decision I’ll leave up to you. Read more about what might have been, here.

Twitter Launches Verified Accounts

About time too. Verified accounts are a necessary step to stamp out the increasing threat of anonymous users on the internet. This was never more obvious than this week after the mob response to Mike Arrington’s spat with Leo Laporte.

Twitter’s Growth Plateaus

At least, for now – I wrote about what this might mean here. You can read alternative views on Mashable.

Twitter Train

Twitter Train, and various other internet marketer/system scams like this, are slowly beginning to poison the Twitter network. Why isn’t Twitter shutting them down?

Twitter User Says His Vacation Tweets Led To Burglary

Whether there’s a connection or not, you can guarantee Twitter will be involved in some kind of legal scandal involving a situation like this within the next few months.

For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown)

I had a couple of pieces about traffic on Twittercism this week – my Twitter social experiment, and the observation that Mashable has finally overtaken TechCrunch in monthly web traffic.

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Give Twitter Credit – Mashable Passes TechCrunch In Unique Monthly Visits; Dell Makes $3m

I’ve been wondering if and when this was going to happen – according to website traffic tracker Compete.com, May saw the first time that Mashable passed rival TechCrunch in unique monthly visits to their respective websites.

Mashable vs Techcrunch, Unique Monthly Visitors

(Click to enlarge)

Now, that chart only goes back a year (I don’t have access to Compete’s premium features), but I’m not sure Mashable has ever been more popular than TechCrunch, certainly in terms of traffic. And I also suspect that Mashable’s pretty impressive gain between April to May 2009 of almost 400,000 new visitors might have a little something to do with Twitter.

Now, while it’s fair to say that the follower counts of @Mashable and @TechCrunch aren’t different enough to be that much of an issue – 804K to 705K respectively – @Mashable is definitely a more high-profile account on the network. The @Mashable account tweets an average of 21.5 times per day, in comparison to @TechCrunch’s 15.2. Again, that doesn’t seem an enormous disparity, but it is a difference of over 25 per cent. And as both accounts predominately link to their own stories, it makes a huge difference in click-throughs.

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Come On @Twitter – Can’t You Just Block ALL The “Horny Hottie” And Britney Video @Spam Bots?

I opted out of Twitter’s ‘new follower’ emails a few weeks ago, preferring instead to sign up for SocialToo, which gives me a once-a-day email digest of new followers (and, more importantly, unfollowers, too). I wrote an article about my reasons, which you can read here.

During the day, I monitor my new followers on Twitter.com, and what I’m seeing lately is pretty disturbing – more and more spam. But specifically, it’s more and more of the same spam, namely the “Horny Hottie” and “Britney Fuck Vid” accounts that are hitting the network like a plague.

I’ve had several messages from people enquiring about these spam bots, asking how it is that they’re blocking them but then getting a new follow from what appears to be the exact same user a few minutes later. The reason why is that while these bots share the same name – that is, “Horny Hottie” or whatever – their usernames are all different. There are loads of Horny Hottie accounts chasing followers in Twitter.

Horny Hottie

The issue has risen to a point where I would estimate at any given time that 25-50 per cent of all of my last 10-20 followers are spam bots like this. Indeed, and perhaps appropriately, they often come in a threesome.

More Horny Hottie

Twitter, here’s a tip from me to you: automatically ban ALL accounts that enter “Horny Hottie”, “Britney Fuck Vid”, “Boob Doctor”, “Your Horny Kitty” or any other obviously malicious crap as their ‘real’ name. It’s that simple.

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"I Wanted To Send You A Direct Message, But You're Not Following Me…"

Sound familiar? I get approaches like this all the time. I’m sure you get your share, too. Indeed, it seems a fairly common occurrence on the network.

Sometimes, the sender will put a spin on this, and ask you to send them a direct message. Either way produces a follow from you to them, which in many cases is neither desirable nor necessary.

The catch is, direct messages on Twitter are only two-way if both parties are following each other. If I follow you, but you don’t follow me, then I can’t direct message you – but you can direct message me. It’s a bit of an alien system but it was established to prevent spam, bombing and abuse. Imagine if it was the other way around, and worked like email – you’d get gazillions of invasive DMs each and every day.

That said, like a lot of people, I’m not a big fan of the direct message (DM) system on Twitter – it’s clunky and limiting, and the administration of direct messages is an awkward process. Moreover, a lot of people on Twitter abuse the DM feature, and use it to send spam and other messages where they’re trying to pitch some useless product in your direction.

So what to do when you get a message like this?

First, don’t just automatically follow the person – remember, you’re under no obligation to follow anybody, and certainly shouldn’t feel you have to follow somebody just because they want to send something privately to you. As I keep saying, it’s very important to keep your network both relevant and optimised.

Moreover, because @replies on the Twitter network are open – you can @ people you aren’t following, and vice versa – communication and engagements can be (and often are) made between people who aren’t following each other at all. Certainly, a one-way follow is not the end of the world – I follow over 50 people who don’t follow me back. Why? Because I find them interesting.

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Hey, Twitter – I’m A Real Person. Are You Going To Verify My Account, Too?

Yesterday, Twitter started to roll out the verification of accounts, a process they first mentioned on June 6, on the official blog.

The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation. We hope to verify more accounts in the future but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set.

Please note that this doesn’t mean accounts without a verification seal are fake–the vast majority of Twitter accounts are not impersonators. Another way to determine authenticity is to check the official web site of the person for a link back to their Twitter account.

Already, a lot of celebrities have been given the seal of approval, including Ashton Kutcher, Shaquille O’Neal, Marvel’s @Agent_M, MC Hammer, Oprah Winfrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

@aplusk

Some businesses, brands and organisations have also been given the early nod, including The Whitehouse. It’s clearly a work in progress, as a lot of names you’d expect to have been verified very quickly – like, say Al Gore – have not, while a few surprising ones have made the early cut.

Curiously, @mashable has been verified, while @Techcrunch has not. Somewhere, Mike Arrington is seriously pissed.

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Twitter Social Experiment: What Do Your Followers Want From YOU?

Last weekend I had a little bit of extra time on my hands and decided to use this to undertake a social experiment on Twitter I’ve been thinking about for a while.

I’m a big sharer of links on the network – about half of all my tweets contain links of some description, and the rest are made of replies (and the odd bit of fluff). I’ve noticed that when I tweet about certain things, my follower count rises and falls accordingly. Specifically, when I mention something that might be considered risqué content – sex, for example – I note I can lose a few followers, even if the article in question is in a reputable publication such as The Guardian or The New York Times.

This got me thinking – what exactly do my followers want to see from me? What do they expect to see from me? Can this be determined, and if so, can this data be used by other people to figure out what their followers want from them, too?

My Twitter Social Experiment

I decided to spend that weekend submitting 50 tweets contained a variety of linked content to my followers and then tracking the results using Bit.ly. From this, I hoped to determine:

  1. Which subjects get the most clicks?
  2. Which subjects get the most re-tweets?
  3. Which subjects get the least amount of clicks?
  4. Do people care (or even notice) affiliate links?
  5. Does submitting risqué content to Twitter lose you followers?

I decided to submit five tweets in each of the following ten subjects:

  • Twitter
  • Social Media (non-Twitter)
  • Tech/Internet (non-Twitter, non-social media)
  • Religion
  • Current Affairs
  • Entertainment (Movies, TV, Music etc)
  • Risqué Content
  • Videos
  • Humour
  • Affiliate links

I would have liked to have done more topics, and with hindsight I wish I’d have included subjects such as science and sports.

Where appropriate, I would mark the tweets accordingly (i.e., ‘video’ or ‘funny’). All affiliate links were through Amazon.com, and were tagged at the end with the letters ‘AL’ (affiliate link) in parentheses.

When I started the experiment I had 2686 followers.

You can download a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet of all 50 tweets with links to the Bit.ly info here. It’s fairly crude but will allow you to check out the data yourself. Note that the links used during this experiment are still ‘out there’ and the data is likely to change (increase in clicks) over time, so the numbers at Bit.ly likely will differ from what is on this page as the weeks pass.

The Small Print

First of all, I feel I need to point out that this isn’t hard science. It was interesting and fun to undertake and I’m not in any way claiming this is the definitive study. But there is some data of interest here, and it does encourage further thought.

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Twitter, Friendfeed Growth Stalls For May; LinkedIn drops, Facebook Climbs 8.5%

It couldn’t last forever. According to website traffic tracker Compete.com, unique visitors to Twitter.com rose less than 1.5 per cent, from 19,443,286 to 19,728,619.

Twitter

(Click all charts to enlarge)

Facebook, meanwhile, gained over 8.5 per cent, boasting 113,014,638 visits in May, and further widened the gap over once-rival MySpace, which also saw minimal growth.

Facebook, MySpace

Indeed, Facebook was the only social networking platform that gained any considerable ground. Friendfeed was up marginally, Plurk dipped a little, and Linkedin dropped over 3 per cent.

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