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Archives: June 2009

Anonymity On The Internet Needs To End

You’ve probably been following the drama that occurred between Mike Arrington of TechCrunch and Leo Laporte on an episode of The Gilmor Gang on Laporte’s TWiT.tv network.

Earlier today, Robert Scoble opened a discussion about this issue on Friendfeed. You can read it here – be warned, there are some 744 comments, and like any huge thread on Friendfeed, it’s a laborious process to follow.

This is the incident in a nutshell. Laporte had a new Palm Pre on his show, and Arrington asked if he paid for it. Leo replied that he did not and that it was a ‘one-week review unit’, which means that after seven days you’re meant to return it. Laporte then, rightly or wrongly, assumed Arrington was implying that his opinion on the Pre was compromised, and went ballistic.

Thanks to this very popular YouTube snippet of the incident, it was quickly all over the internet and large conversations began to take place on Friendfeed, Twitter, Laporte’s IRC chat room, and Techcrunch itself.

The latter was where most of the damage was done – many commentators, mostly anonymous, chose to attack Arrington repeatedly, and many threats and allegations were made. Arrington has heavily edited his ‘Ouch’ post on several occasions, but still intact is his reference to an incident that occurred at a conference in Munich earlier this year, where somebody walked up to him and deliberately spat in his face. After the spat with Laporte, who has a very strong following, Arrington was the recipient of a lot of negative and overly hostile comments on his blog and around the internet. (He mentioned at one point that TechCrunch deleted over 600 of these comments).

Here’s the thing: Arrington and Laporte are both well-seasoned pros and should have known better. I think they share equal blame for their behaviour on the show, and it’s to their credit that they’ve mostly resolved their differences (although Arrington has done a few strange things in the aftermath, such as deleting TechCrunch’s Friendfeed account, which has subsequently been recreated in an unofficial capacity.)

The problem here isn’t these guys – it’s the reaction. And it isn’t that the public doesn’t have a right to respond and comment on issues like this. That’s unavoidable, and if you’re a public figure, which Arrington is, certainly in the tech world, then you have to expect the good with the bad. If you do something that makes people unhappy, then expect to be called out on it. I don’t think Mike would assume otherwise.

The problem lies with anonymous feedback. Anybody can be a big hero and call somebody else a POS when they’re hiding behind a proxy and an alias. What does that prove? What does that mean? Nothing.

Dickwad Theory

I’m all for having a strong opinion, and voicing it. As long as they’re not defamatory or outright lies, I’m 100 per cent behind freedom of speech when it comes to those opinions. But if you have something to say, then you need to stand up and be counted. You need to accept that for your comment to matter – for it to mean something – it needs to be backed up with a verifiable account. We need to know it is you making that statement.

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Twitter: We Need An Edit Window For Tweets, And We Need It Now

Many moons ago, way back in the early days of Twittercism, I proposed several features that I think the service desperately needed, one of which was an ‘edit window’ for tweets. I mentioned this a second time in May.

I’m gonna suggest it again: Twitter needs an edit window for tweets.

Thirty seconds, that’s all I’m asking for. A thirty-second window that starts immediately after you submit a tweet that allows you to edit and then re-publish. Once the thirty seconds has passed, that’s it – no more edit for you. This prevents abuse, but also gives users the facility to correct bad links, edit stupid typos, and all that other ghastly stuff that arises just because you hit the enter key by mistake. It’s common courtesy.

Twitter

As it is now, if you send a ‘bad tweet’ out into your stream, the best thing you can do is to immediately delete it, and then do it over. The problem is that, as we are all now aware, you cannot actually delete a tweet on Twitter. It stays ‘out there’ forever. Sure, it’s not in your timeline anymore, but that’s just an illusion. Bad tweets never die. Here’s a recent example of one of mine. If you click on the first of my two George Tiller tweets, you’ll see that Twitter tells you it doesn’t exist. But as you can see from the search, it does.

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Your Reputation On Twitter Matters – Why Is There No @Abuse Team For Defamation?

About six weeks ago I wrote an article on Twittercism entitled, “Why Replies On Twitter Are Far More Damaging Than Direct Messages“. The general point was that while various protective measures are applied to the direct message system to prevent abuse, anybody can send a reply to anybody else on Twitter, whether you’re following each other, or not.

Moreover, those replies, even if one or both of the parties has blocked the other, go into the Twitter stream, and are viewable by anybody else on the platform, through search, and so on. So, you can essentially say whatever you like, and it remains ‘out there’.

This is a big problem for Twitter, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.

Check out Twitter’s terms of service (a one-page summary is viewable here). Twitter provides legislation about the use of the platform in various ways, including (direct quotes):

  • Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others
  • Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.
  • Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.

This is all fine, and there are various other service limitations that I encourage you to read. The problem is that none of them in any way concern the problem of defamation; that is, one user saying something libellous about another.

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HOWTO: Submit A Help Ticket To Twitter

UPDATE (January 25, 2010): I’ve noticed @delbius using the shortened http://bit.ly/twicket link to forward enquirers to Twitter’s ticket page. It re-routes through to the Zendesk-powered help.twitter.com link as below, but it’s worth memorising for convenience and on the off-chance that the link within changes in the future.

UPDATE (October 20, 2009): The support ticket page is back up, and can be accessed from Twitter’s help area (as before, down the page) or directly here.

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UPDATE: The link to issue a new ticket is still on the help page – it’s been moved about halfway down, encouraging the visitor to read all the text above it before submitting the ticket.

New Tickets - Updated

This makes some sense, and my hand goes straight up here that I made an error. But the link is so small and slight that it’s almost unnoticeable, and certainly for regular visitors to the help portals, the facility to issue a new help ticket does appear to be missing, used as we are to seeing it next to the ‘Check Your Existing Requests’ link, which is quite logical.

I accept that Twitter wants people to learn more about their help resources before submitting a ticket, but it made sense to do this on the new ticket page itself, and the link to this should still be on the menu bar in my opinion.

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I’m not sure if this is a gaff on Twitter’s part, whether they’re currently upgrading the system or what – but the link that previously allowed users to submit a help ticket to Twitter via their support page has been removed.

What’s strange is you can still view ‘existing requests’.

Twitter Support

And you can still reach the submit page manually, via this link, which I found via Google.

Submit A Request To Twitter

Additionally, all the help resources are still working in the forums, such as known issues on the network.

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Are You Missing From Twitter Search?

UPDATE (July 15, 2010): Twitter now has some official advice on this which you can read at this page.

Of particular relevance:

1. Your tweets aren’t recent: We only index tweets for about 6 days. If your most recent tweet is older than that, please tweet again and check.

2. Your account is private: Private or “protected” accounts do not appear in search. Learn more about protected accounts here.

3. Your account is new, or you recently changed your username: It can take a few days for new and updated accounts to be indexed by search.

4. Your email is bouncing: If you log in and see a big red warning when you’re at twitter.com that says your email address is having delivery issues, please take the steps to fix it! We want to show you in search, but we need you to fix your email first.

5. You are being filtered out of search due to a quality issue: In order to provide the best search experience for users, Twitter automatically filters search results for quality. This Search Quality help page has information why accounts are filtered from search

6. You are missing because of current resource constraints: Right now, some users may not be seeing their Tweets because of resource constraints. This is more likely affecting you if you’re a new user (with an account less than a couple of weeks old). Our search engineers are working on this known issue, and your Tweets should start showing up in search soon!

If none of this seems very helpful then you’ll need to file a support ticket at this page: http://bit.ly/twicket.

I’ve left my original article intact as below. Please note that it was written in June 2009.

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For five days now, Twitter’s search has been broken. In fact, it’s actually been acting strangely for a lot longer than this – several weeks  - but one particular aspect is relatively new. The problem is, this part has not been broken for everybody, so it hasn’t received as much attention as it probably should.

But it is broken for me. How? The ‘from:’ query in Twitter’s search feature, which lets you see all the posts from a given user, is showing that I last tweeted five days ago.

From:Sheamus

Now, we know that’s not true, as since that time I’ve submitted about twelve gazillion new tweets.

You can check this for yourself here. See what I mean? I laugh in the face of ‘realtime’.

This Is Just The Beginning

If it was just me being affected by this, I’d think myself either mad, or in the midst of some hideous conspiracy. But I’ve heard it from other people too, including my friend Zagrrl, who also, according to Twitter, hasn’t submitted anything in five days. This is also not true, as you can quickly gauge by looking at her timeline. It gets worse – some of my other contacts haven’t tweeted at all – actually, they have.

The reason why this matters is that many external clients depend on the from: search function to deliver replies to followers. As you may know, I use Seesmic Desktop, and within it I run a search for mentions of my username alongside my standard replies pane. Each time @Zagrrl has replied to me of late, it has not showed up in search. This is the case also for others in my network who have been impacted by this defect.

The catch, as I said above, is from my studies I see that few of the big names on Twitter have been impacted by this issue, or at least are unaware that they have, and this is why I think it is going largely unreported. The thing is, we all have, to a greater or lesser extent – from: seems to be completely ignoring my tweets for the past few days, but it’s ignoring ALL tweets from a week or more ago for everybody on the network. Even Oprah, who according to Twitter has tweeted only once.

It’s not just from:, either – a lot of Twitter’s search functionality is down. In fact, right now, you cannot search back further than 7-10 days (depending on the user) for anything on Twitter. As more than one wag has pointed out, it’s a good thing Twitter is pushing its ‘real-time search’, as right now that’s your only option.

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Why I Deleted One Of The Most Popular Articles On Twittercism.com

Yesterday on Twittercism I wrote an article entitled, “The Long Con – A List Of Known Internet Marketer System Scams On Twitter“.

As I compiled the post, I started thinking about some of my other entries on Twittercism, and I began to wonder if I’d been a bit of a hypocrite with one of my early articles, “How To Gain 200+ Followers Overnight”.

In the article, I opened by making the statement that, for me, “Twitter is all about socialisation”. This continues to be my truth. The essay then provided tips on how by following a list of users who always followed you back (or claimed to), you could quickly and easily boost the size of your Twitter network. To be fair, I wrote this almost three months ago, when a couple of hundred extra followers was a huge deal. It still is for a lot of people, particularly newcomers to the service. Indeed, this was a popular post – it has always had a spot in my top-twenty most-read articles on this blog.

The list I used was compiled by Social News Watch, and in my article I set out to see what would happen if I followed everybody on that page – all 237 of them. The results were pretty amazing – when I began this project, I had 602 followers. Within a week, I had over 1000 – I’d picked up a lot of the people who were following those on the list, too.

But, I began to muse, at what cost?

Reality Check

Here’s the thing: in my opinion, most of the people on that list don’t bring an enormous amount of value to Twitter. That’s a very relative perspective, of course. But, unless you’re like them, you will never engage with them. They will never engage with you.

They are following you back simply because you are following them. That is the only reason. They aren’t reading your stuff, and they’re certainly not re-tweeting it.

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How To Configure Seesmic Desktop For Fun And Profit

I had planned (and hoped) to do a video tutorial for Seesmic Desktop, but I just haven’t had the time. However, I know enough people are waiting for me to do something, and I get enough questions on a day-to-day basis about Seesmic, that I felt it wasn’t fair to keep these folk waiting any longer. So, to compromise, and along the lines of my tutorial about TweetDeck, here we go.

I first reviewed Seesmic Desktop in April of this year. Back then, I felt the software had a lot of potential, but was far too buggy on the Windows platform. In late May, version 0.2.1 of the software was released, and with it several significant improvements. So much so, in fact, that I switched from TweetDeck, my de facto Twitter client of choice, completely to Seesmic Desktop, and haven’t looked back.

If you’re unfamiliar with Seesmic Desktop, or wish to know more about the pros and cons of the software, please read my most recent article before continuing with this tutorial.

It’s also important you have the latest version of the software, which at the time of writing is 0.2.1. (Note: this is a direct download. If this is your first install of Seesmic Desktop, you will need to install Adobe AIR first. Adobe AIR works on Windows, OSX and Linux.)

Let’s Get The Semantics Out Of The Way

  1. I define ‘fun’ as ‘enjoying your time on Twitter’, and
  2. With ‘profit’, I am referring explicitly to the spiritual gain you will make from the rewarding relationships Seesmic Desktop will help you build with your followers. This is not to be confused with financial gain; that said, because Seesmic greatly improves the Twitter experience, certainly in terms of engagement, this is a realistic possibility.

The Setup

Samsung NC10Regular readers will be aware that I do all of my Twittering (and everything else) via a Samsung NC10 netbook. The NC10 is a fantastic computer that is powerful enough for all of my needs, and it’s important to note that it has a 10-inch screen with a resolution of 1024×600 pixels. This means that while I get significant benefit from the way I configure Seesmic Desktop (and, indeed, the way I configured TweetDeck), readers with larger screens (i.e., on a standard-sized laptop or desktop computer) will be able to tweak Seesmic for even greater rewards.

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The Long Con – A List Of Internet Marketer System Scams On Twitter

Since writing this post, Twitter has been inundated with these ‘Twitter train’ auto-follow systems, and they’re all garbage. Yes, every single one of them is a waste of your time (and, in many cases) money. Please read the article below to understand why.

There are too many to keep up with, but new additions to the list (that you should avoid at all costs are):

and dozens and dozens of others. Some are blatant phishing scams, too.

Bottom line? Don’t sign up for this junk. Do things properly.

* This one’s a real shame, as it’s by the makers of FriendOrFollow, which is a great site, and this really dilutes the brand.

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As Twitter matures and grows in size and stature, it is exponentially rewarded with the benefits of the larger network: a richer, more diverse pool of users, which equates to a broader database of news and topic discourse. Conversely, it will attract the downside, too, which includes spam, trolls, a decreasing signal-to-noise ratio, and that consumer favourite of the online world, the internet marketer.

I’ve been thinking about this article for some time now. I’ll continue to update it as and when more information becomes available. I expect something of a backlash here, but that’s less important than the message. Which is, admittedly, a long one, but worth a few minutes of your time.

Internet marketing – the sale (or acquisition, in order to mine or re-sell) of goods, advertising, sales leads and affiliate products via the online medium – dates back to the very beginning of the internet itself. It’s not all bad – in many ways, as the internet continues to reflect ‘real life’, it makes sense that all aspects of that, including commerce and advertising, are adopted. It’s probably fair to say that a lot of e-commerce is quite respectable, at least inasmuch as it’s adopting fair practice with regard to both its pitch and the quality of goods being offered.

However, where this distinction begins to blur is generally when internet marketing in and of itself becomes a profession, and gives birth to the internet marketer. This is not always the case, naturally, but often when somebody promotes themselves under that title, certainly on Twitter, their methods and intentions are not always entirely above-board, nor of any discernible value. (File alongside ‘social media guru’ and ‘SEO expert’)

The System

Internet marketing is a very popular subject on Twitter, as is promoting the concept that the internet marketer – and there are a great many – is a kind of guru or soothsayer, who will lead his followers to unimaginable riches and power, that they know something about how to sell on the internet that you do not. Often this expertise is packaged within some kind of system that, once purchased, will quickly and easily reap the same benefits for the buyer.

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On Twitter, 10% Account For 90% Of All Tweets, The Rest Barely Tweet At All, And Men Like Other Men

There’s been a little bit of buzz the last couple of days about a new Harvard study that makes some very bold statements about Twitter.

The study was certainly broad – 300,542 Twitter users, collected in May 2009, were sampled – and this gives the claims some weight. However, when you think about the results, it’s not too difficult to put the pieces together. That said, there are a few ‘hard truths’ in here, and you may not agree – I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments area below.

1. The Top 10% Of Prolific Twitter Users Account For Over 90% Of Tweets

At first, this seems like a staggeringly disproportionate number – as the article states, on a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production. So why is Twitter any different?

First of all, it should be fairly obvious by scanning your own feed that 10% of the people you follow – at most – are responsible for nearly all of the tweets you see. You’ll see the same few faces again and again in your stream, irrespective of how many people you follow. In fact, I’d suggest that 10% seems a little high. I think I’m responsible for 1-2% of that number myself. :)

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More Twitter Problems – Random, And Massive, Unfollows. Particularly For @Moonalice

Following my article earlier today, another major Twitter problem has been brought to my attention – random unfollows.

Now, we’ve all suffered from that from time to time, and the ebb and flow of follow counts is part of the system. So losing one or two people every day, even every hour, isn’t that big a deal.

But what about if you lost 65 per cent? And what if you lost them instantly?

Because that’s exactly to the band Moonalice, whose follower count suddenly dropped from 2,119 on to 741 yesterday, all at once.

Moonalice @ Twittercounter.com

The band are well-aware of the problem and have reported it to Twitter.

@Moonalice

Have they had a response? What do you think? It’s clearly a glitch – no band, no matter how bad they are, loses two-thirds of their fans like that. And Moonalice, by all accounts, are pretty good. They were certainly popular enough to have a very solid follow-to-follower ratio.

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