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Archives: August 2009

#Media140 London: How Is Real-Time Social Media Changing The Rules Of Consumer Engagement?

Back in May of this year, I had a fantastic experience at the first Media140 London microblogging event. was a media partner and I’m pleased to announce that we will be working with Media140 for the next conference which takes place on October 26th, at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Media140 London: How Is Real-Time Social Media Changing The Rules Of Consumer Engagement?

Media140 London has partnered with the IAB, Contagious, Revolution and Capital Business Media to host a unique event to explore the impact of Twitter and real-time social media on brands, marketing and advertising. Discovering how brands, marketers and agencies are using and exploring the benefits and opportunities of social media tools such as Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, QIK, 12seconds and AudioBoo, which are disrupting, challenging and changing traditional media and advertising.

Earlybird tickets are currently available at £135 but subscribers can use the voucher code ad140 to get the discounted rate of just £95! Click here to buy your ticket.

I’ll of course be in attendance and will be once again live-tweeting the event for Media140. If you’re going, drop me a message (or leave a comment on this blog) and we’ll hook up. :)

(I’d particularly like to connect with a few of the folk I missed last time – you know who you are!)

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I Wish I Knew Who You Were, And Who You Worked For (Automatically)

Lots of people have multiple accounts on Twitter, for various reasons. I can’t tell you the number of times I get a message from somebody out of the blue and I’ll think, “Hey, I know you, don’t I?”

But who is it?

Some detective work later, I figure out that the reason I know this person is because I’m following one of their other accounts. Perhaps their business account. Maybe their personal one. What bugs me about this is I might have a friendly relationship with this person on one of their accounts, but have no idea who they are on another. Or even that they have another.

What I’d like Twitter to offer (and this would be entirely opt-in) is a way for multiple accounts to be linked together. This would be great for businesses that have main accounts and lots of additional ones for their staff. Like Twitter themselves, for example. When you visit the Twitter profile, all their employees should be right there, too. With titles and responsibilities. And if I stumble across an individual employee, it shows that they’re linked to Twitter.

(Think Twitter + LinkedIn.)

Some people do this now in their bios, but it’s kinda awkward, and doesn’t translate well into manageable data.

It could even work a bit like a newsfeed, with one main account pulling the updates from everybody else. So, if I wanted to really follow Google, for example, an @GoogleTeam user could be setup so that everybody who worked for the company could be followed via that one account. The different users would feed in and I could reply to them accordingly.

(Think Twitter + RSS.)

And it wouldn’t have to stop at businesses. Participants in sports teams could link together, as well as social groups and other clubs. You could start your own tribe.

(It might even come with privacy. You could direct message everybody in your tribe with one click. Wouldn’t that be convenient?)

As it is, it’s awkward to find out all the people that work for any corporation on Twitter. I’ve been trying to do this for Twitter themselves, and Dave Winer is doing some great work with his 100twt project. (Check out what the people who work for the New York Times are saying.)

I’d like to see it automated. I think it benefits businesses and customers, which is rare enough to make it very worthwhile.

For Twitter, The Kids Aren’t Alright

Just 11 per cent of Twitter users are aged 12 to 17, reports the New York Times (via Comscore).

Silicon Alley Insider writes about a ‘veteran venture capitalist’ being overheard saying that, “Twitter had better sell out before it’s too late.  Young people don’t like Twitter.  My kids think Twitter’s bullshit.”

Earlier this year, Morgan Stanley unveiled the research of a 15-year old who suggested that while teenagers were ‘consuming social media’, they were ignoring Twitter.

Meantime, use of social media by adults in the 35 to 64 demographic grew 60 per cent in the last year.

This is all great news.

The reason why Facebook and Bebo are popular with kids is the same reason why MySpace used to be – the social media on there is rich. It’s rich media. It’s videos, photos, music, games, quizzes and other interactive applications. These worlds are colourful and fun. They’re also less demanding of your attention. You can drift in, and you can drift out, and nobody minds.

Twitter is entirely text-based; those that are good with crafting a sentence or turning a phrase are rewarded. For the most part, kids don’t do well with prose. I’ve been privy to some of the things my 13-year old (and otherwise quite brilliant) son chats about with his friends online, and believe me, we don’t want any of that on Twitter. You think there’s a lot of pointless babble now? Just you wait.

Sure, you can link to all the rich media you want, but the platform itself is all about words. If you want to watch a video, listen to some music or look at a photo, you have to leave Twitter and go somewhere else. I hope this never changes, as I don’t want to see any of these things on Twitter. Ever.

And Twitter likes it when you make an effort. It doesn’t matter if you’re a brand, a guru, a single mom, or some guy living out in the woods with a laptop. If you don’t have anything to say, people stop paying attention.

I like the idea of an adult-only network (in the non-porn/swinger sense). In fact, I really like it. And if the only way to get kids to tweet is by providing them with all this rich media, I say ‘oh well’. That’s a shame, because all we have are lots and lots of words.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

FileSocial Allows You To Share (Good And Bad) Files Through Twitter

FileSocial does exactly what it says in the tin – open an account (via Twitter OAuth) and you can upload any file you like to your Twitter network via the service. There is a size limitation of 50mb, but after that, you’re free to go.

Can anyone else see the potential downside?

Estimations vary but Twitter has approximately 25 million users. Theoretically, any one message can reach everybody, moving beyond your immediate network via the ripple effect provided by the retweet system. Most people are good, clean and wholesome, but there’s always a few bad apples in the barrel.

We’ve already had a few exploit scares on Twitter as it is – what’s to stop a few individuals using a service like FileSocial to do a lot of bad things? You know, maybe a bit like this:

FileSocial Allows You To Share (Good And Bad) Files Through Twitter

This is a real message that I just posted (the things I do for you guys). It links to a file on FileSocial called ‘twitter_malware.txt’, which is harmless, but at no point in the upload process did FileSocial appear to do anything to verify the contents of the upload.

All you’d have to see is one or two celebrity names retweeting such a message – or others making it appear that they have (which is disturbingly easy to do) – and it will spread, and spread, and spread. Before you know it, most of Twitter could be infected with X, which of course means their computer is infected, which means perhaps everybody they email will soon be infected, and so on.

The problem is that while FileSocial is a nice idea on paper, their level of responsibility is zero. I’ve checked their FAQ and it doesn’t mention anything about scanning for viruses or malware. This should be rule number one for any file-sharing company. (And if they are doing it, it needs to be made very clear.)

Of course, most people will see this as an opportunity to exchange MP3s and other copyright material. And if FileSocial (or a competitor) offered a larger file-size option (maybe through a pro account), you can guarantee that Twitter would soon begin to rival the torrent portals as a way to illegally obtain movies. (Seriously, it can’t be long before Twitter and torrents get in bed together.)

First things first: until I get some level of guarantee that anything I download via Twitter has been thoroughly checked out first, I simply will not click on any of these links, no matter who is behind the upload. There’s definitely a future for file-sharing through Twitter, but it needs to come with a much higher level of security than what FileSocial appears to provide.

(Hat tip to @nrgins for the scoop.)

With Social Media, You’re Always On Camera

Social media is the virtual Big Brother. You get involved, you get comfortable, you get complacent, and suddenly you forget that you’re on camera 24/7, 365 days a year.

It’s very easy to make a mistake. We all do it. Everybody slips up from time to time.

Solution: be smart about who you invite into your online communities. If you’re mixing business (employer, associates, clients) with pleasure (friends, family, relationships) on the same network it’s disturbingly easy for something to go wrong. And even if you’re the very epitome of decorum, somebody else can very easily ruin things for you. This doesn’t have to be intentionally malicious – an innocent act like sharing a photograph where you perhaps don’t come off particularly well can do major damage to your status and reputation.

(This is particularly true on Facebook. Pay careful attention to your privacy settings.)

Twitter is an open network, and as such it doesn’t lend itself to being overly personal or bold. Be yourself, but be the best version of who that is. With more and more employers using social media to research job candidates, you cannot afford to be casual. Doing something stupid on the internet isn’t just for Christmas: it’s for life.

I’m not a fan of online anonymity, particularly in the comment sections of websites. But if you’re concerned about the implications of your personal life impacting on your professional it might be the right thing to do. You may also wish to consider protecting your updates on Twitter.

(It’s worth noting that both of these measures will likely have a negative impact on your potential to do business within social media.)

Let me be clear: it’s absolutely fine to friend your boss. Broadening your relationship beyond the limitations of the office can actually enhance your career. Enjoy the company of your colleagues? Want to impress your clients? Go ahead and friend them online.

But here’s the thing: you can never, ever forget that you’re being watched. All of the time.

Twitter Will Be The Birthplace Of Skynet

You know Skynet, right? From The Terminator movies?

Everybody seems to think that if an entity like Skynet was going to develop in real life, it would likely arise via the military, like in the film. Or possibly Google.

But where does everything happen on the internet first? Right, commerce. Notably in the form of porn and spam. Two things that are very much on the up within Twitter.

Here’s a thought: we’re probably less than five years away from spambots being so sophisticated that not only will you gladly follow them, you’ll be engaging with them. Heck, you’ll be buying from them. You won’t know the difference between these artificial mass-marketers and the genuine ones we have on Twitter right now.

(Actually, make that two years.)

And some time after this, a lightbulb is going to turn on simultaneously in the mind of the programmer and the mind of the artificial lifeform. As I’ve said before, how crazy is it going to be when computerised personalities are indistinguishable from organic ones?

And once bots get AI, why will they need us? Social media will be the first to go. It won’t be long before all human decisions are removed from the networks. Twitter will begin to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th, 2019. In a panic, Biz tries to pull the plug…

I’ve always considered that it is going to be equally magical and terrifying when you watch a live-action movie and only find out afterwards that it was made entirely of CGI… and nobody noticed. You think governments and the global media are shaping the news now? Just you wait.

Hey @Twitter, I Just Got Reply @Spam 41 Times At Once!

I’ve written previously about how the replies mechanism on Twitter isn’t afforded the same level of protection that is provided with the direct message system.

Here’s a great example why. A few moments ago, I was hit with dozens of @reply spam messages all at once. And I mean, literally all at once.

Hey, @Twitter I Just Got @Reply Spammed 41 Times At Once!

(click on the image above to see the full list – it’s too big for this page.)

I now have to manually block each of these accounts in turn, one-by-one, to prevent this from happening again. From these accounts. What’s to stop another load of spam accounts doing the same thing to me ten minutes from now? And every ten minutes after that?

What’s to stop them doing it to you? Using this method, how easy would it be to ruin Twitter for somebody? For everybody? We can unfollow people so they can’t do this to us via a direct message, but replies are fair game. Block one account, and another one is right there to take its place. And another one. And another one.

They’ve even got Tom from Myspace involved (see the pic). This is not just broken, it’s totally fubared.

Two Easy Ways To Improve Twitter’s Trending Topics

The trending topics feature is a nice idea on paper, but the delivery mechanism means it is actually pretty useless. Being frank, I rarely give it more than a casual glance. Partly this is because I only occasionally use (favouring clients such as Seesmic Desktop), but even when I do it’s really of little interest because the content is generally vague or redundant. And in those few instances when I want to find out more, I usually have to leave Twitter to do so (or wade through a ton of spam).

Two relatively simple (even obvious) adjustments that could be made to improve this feature:

1. Make It Relevant

Providing me with the ten most popular topics on Twitter is almost completely useless. Sure, it allows me to have rough idea of what’s being discussed on the network, but most of the time these subjects aren’t something that is necessarily interesting to me. It would be far better if I could view the top ten trending topics within my network, or any other chosen demographic (gender, age, location, etc), or even within a selected group of users. (It would also be nice to be able to filter out certain things.) And let me do this over the period of time (or number of tweets) that I choose. By making the trending topics relevant, I could pinpoint the subjects that matter, that I cared about, and react accordingly. And so could you.

2. Add A Mouseover

I’d love to see a simple mouseover effect that would let me instantly see what each trending topic was about. I can do this currently by visiting a site such as What The Hashtag? but that means leaving Twitter (which means this is broken). Twitter should either leverage the services of an external service like WTH or develop their own definition process. Just scroll your mouse pointer over a trending topic and the definition/reason pops up on the screen. Yes, I can click on a topic and try and determine what is about by reading the thousands of tweets, but this typically means wading through hundreds of spam messages and questions such as, “Why is [insert trending topic] a trending topic?” And if the trending word is broad enough (Apple, say), you’ll be hard-pressed to find the reason at all.

Websites such as Twitscoop and Tweetmeme not only do a better job of informing us what is popular on Twitter, but allow us to shape the data, too. Twitter has a slightly baffling history of coming up with great ideas (either developed in-house or in-stream) that are then modified and improved by somebody else. The madness has to stop. If you’re going to put trending topics on every page, why not do it right?

There Are Three Kinds Of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, And Twitter Statistics

A big deal is being made about a study by US market research firm Pear Analytics, which claims that 40 per cent of the messages sent via Twitter are “pointless babble”.

The firm plucked 2000 tweets every 30 minutes over a two-week period and then classified them in six different categories: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational and those with ‘pass-along’ value.

(Download the entire whitepaper in PDF format here.)

40.5 per cent rated as pointless babble, of the “I’m eating a sandwich” variety, taking Twitter’s ‘What are you doing?’ request too literally.

37.5 per cent were seen to be conversational, with only 5.85 per cent and 3.75 per cent rating as self-promotional or spam (respectively), which countered Pear’s expectations.

The really interesting stat is the tweets that made up the pass-along category – 8.7 per cent. These were considered to have value because they were being retweeted by others.

Everybody is focusing on the bigger numbers, particularly the babble count. But this is looking at it backwards. When held up against the offline, ‘real’ world – and particularly other social networks, such as Facebook and Myspace – Twitter’s 40 per cent inanity rating is almost certainly incredibly low. Be honest: are 60 per cent of all the conversations you have of genuine, measurable value? If the number is as high as five per cent, you must be involved in something pretty special.

Meantime, if almost ten per cent of all the things you say to others are worth repeating, are quotable, you’re not only doing it right, you’re in very rare company indeed. Mark Twain wishes he had the good fortune to be quite so talented.

We Wuz Hacked

Timing is everything. My Samsung NC10 netbook had a massive fail yesterday, which left me unable to access this blog (or, indeed, the internet), and some charming individuals seized this opportunity to hack into Twittercism and add some rather nasty exploits.

I couldn’t get the blog or (more worrying) the admin panel to load at all. Wherever I went, I just got an error message.

Even better, Google decided to mark the domain as a malware risk, which obviously has some impact on traffic.

Fortunately, the exploit, which attempted to load a file from the website, was fairly easy to track down, and I removed it manually via FTP.

If you’re a WordPress user impacted by this issue, I recommend two courses of action:

  1. Check your default-filters.php, default-widgets.php and pluggable.php files (all are located in the wp-includes folder), as well as the main index.php file in your theme. I had a single line of code at the very bottom of all of these files (which starts with <iframe... and linked to a file at Remove it (carefully), save and re-upload your file(s).
  2. Always make sure you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress. I was using WordPress 2.8.3, which is only a single upgrade behind the current version (2.8.4), but it was enough to allow others to have a sneaky in.

Despite Google’s concerns, the exploit never actually loaded. It simply presented an error message. So, if you happened to visit Twittercism during this period, don’t worry. Nothing bad happened. But the sites ( and are known to Google and the warning was legitimate, if a little excitable.

Of course, I’m certainly not in bad company with my blog being hacked. But it’s a lesson learned. Always make sure your online security is top-notch, as the crap has a nasty habit of hitting the fan at exactly the wrong time.