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Archives: December 2009

Quick Tip For Users

Quick Tip For UsersI love this: if you put a + (plus) sign at the end of any URL, it immediately goes to the info page for that link, displaying all those juicy stats, as opposed to the link itself.

For example, instead of entering, which is the shortened link to my Top 10 Most Popular Twittercism Posts Of 2009 article, I would enter, which takes me straight to the data. (By clicking on each of these you can see the difference.)

This is super-useful. Try it.

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Alan Davies, Michael Jackson, iJustine And Mikeyy – The Top 10 Most Popular Twittercism Posts Of 2009

I plan to do a couple of ‘best of’ posts before the year is out, but first I’d like to have a look at the top ten most popular posts on Twittercism this year, and why.

So, in reverse order, here’s the countdown…

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

Written back in June, this article is one of those ‘long tail’ posts that keeps getting return interest from visitors to this blog, search engines and Twitter itself. And perhaps rightly so, as it (in my opinion) clearly illustrates the benefits of being added to Twitter’s controversial suggested users list (SUL).

The debate in the comments thread was fairly heated, involving noted tech gurus Tim Reilly, Robert Scoble and Dave Winer, as well as the Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur, and many others. What’s of interest is, I think, that it really seems to be those on the list who defend it, and tend to describe its benefits as negligible. (This of course works both ways.)

It’s worth noting that not too long after this article was written, iJustine was re-added to the SUL, and now boasts over one million followers.

There’s been talk that there are plans to scrap the list in the new year, and I for one welcome this move, as long as it isn’t replaced by something that is even more insular and contrived.

9. Alan Davies And Stephen Fry: When Celebrities Fail At Twitter

I wrote this article in November after watching Alan Davies go completely off the deep-end when Stephen Fry announced, somewhat foolishly, that he was going to ‘give up on Twitter’, after another user dared to suggest that he might be a little bit boring.

Read more

According To Twitter’s Trending Topics, Lady Gaga Is Still Trapped On The X Factor

You may have noticed that Lady Gaga has once again breached Twitter’s trending topics. I wonder what she’s done this time? I know – let’s click on the trending topic directly and find out what Twitter has to say about it.

According To Twitter's Trending Topics, Lady Gaga Is Still Trapped On The X Factor

Um, I don’t think so. As the description actually states, Gaga’s performance on The X Factor was back on December 6. It seems extremely unlikely that this would be trending almost a month later, and doing a little research on the (far more reliable) What The Trend? or What The Hashtag? tells me that the real reason Gaga is trending is because she’s announced a tour in South America, including Brazil, in 2010.

If you look closely, #GaGainBrazil is also in Twitter’s top ten, clarifying the meme. And interestingly, they’ve got the right information there.

It’s a good idea to have explanations about the trending topics built into your own website, but it’s really, really poor that nobody has bothered updating this since December 6. Outdated explanations are of less value than no explanation at all.

Sort it out, Twitter. Hire some better people if that’s what it takes. Because if I have to leave your site to find out what is going on within it, you’ve failed.

UPDATE: Seconds after writing this article, Lady Gaga was removed from the trending topics, which is strange as she was nowhere near the bottom when I began to write it. I’m guessing Twitter favoured booting her off the list and having just the one Gaga-related meme, as opposed to, you know, doing a bit of work instead.

Who Was Your First Twitter Follower? Mine Was, Uh, @BarackObama…

An amusing diversion: allows you to quickly and easily see who was the first person who followed you on Twitter.

I wasn’t lying about the President being my first – check the screenshot below, or you can test it for yourself by typing in ‘Sheamus’ into (Or anybody else, for that matter.)

Who Was Your First Twitter Follower? Mine Was, Uh, @BarackObama...

Of course, back in the day Barack followed everybody back, and it would be better if he was actually making those decisions himself, but still, it’s pretty cool.

Who was your first? And are you even following them? Hit the comments below and let me know.

(Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb for the scoop.)

Share With Me How YOU Measure Online Clout

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”
~ Native American Proverb

Prediction (possibly for 2010): Whoever cracks the code that unlocks a really accurate way to measure online clout will be sitting on a goldmine.

Accurate is italicised for good reason. On Twitter, for instance, there are several tools (Twitalyzer, Grader, etc) that will analyse any given Twitter profile and return a score ranking that user against everybody else. But a moment of fun aside, they’re all pretty meaningless as they place far too much emphasis on number of followers, which is a quite redundant (and easily gamed) stat.

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." ~ Native American proverb

So, and continuing to focus on Twitter, where else can we measure clout? How about how often an individual is retweeted? Perhaps, but celebrities get more retweets than anybody – even the dullest of the dull – and while they certainly have a lot of influence on Twitter, that’s not quite the same thing. So retweets as a measure of clout aren’t necessarily reliable.

And it’s worth noting that just because somebody has a ton of clout on one social network doesn’t mean they necessarily have clout on the entire internet. There are lots of giants on Facebook who have absolutely no presence on Twitter whatsoever. Vin Diesel isn’t perhaps the best example of somebody with genuine clout, but with over seven million Facebook fans he’s certainly got a lot of presence, albeit limited to just the one place.

Is a couple of hundred thousand followers spread over two or three social networks more indicative of clout than several million on one? Is a thousand fans on Facebook of more value (in a clout sense) than a thousand followers on Twitter?

And what of the person with enormous offline clout who then becomes an online presence – does that reputation immediately move over from the ‘real’ world to the virtual, or does it take a little (or a lot) more than that?

It seems to be that the most accurate way we currently have to measure online clout is through good old-fashioned word of mouth. And while that is often on the money – good and bad news has a habit of travelling fast – it’s difficult to quantify and many times one man’s social media guru is another man’s snake oil peddler. (More often than not, if the latest research is to be believed.)

I don’t really have an answer here, but it’s a subject that fascinates me. Certainly, I’m curious if online clout – across all of the internet – can ever be accurately quantified and ranked.

I’ll give you an example: Seth Godin has an enormous amount of online clout (and has written an enormous amount about it). Aside from an account that sends out updates from his blog, Seth doesn’t really use Twitter, but if tomorrow he actively started tweeting he wouldn’t see a fraction of the coverage that Oprah Winfrey received when she logged on to Twitter for the first time. Oprah’s ‘real world’, offline clout dwarfs Godin’s, who is an absolute non-entity to your average man on the street. And while Winfrey’s online clout is at or close to zero – it takes just a couple of minutes to browse her Twitter account to realise this – if she ever does or says anything meaningful or controversial within her profile it will always start waves. But who has the genuine online clout? For me, it’s Godin, but for probably 90% of people, it’s Winfrey. How do you measure that? How do you rank it?

So, I’m handing this one over to you guys: please hit the comments and share with me your thoughts and feelings on the elusive, but in my opinion extremely valuable answer to this problem. When you are following a person, be that on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or any social network, via a message board or chat room, or even through an online newspaper or magazine, how do you measure their reputation? Do you have to be told that they’re this great and worthy person, or do you always find out for yourself? (Or both.) And is some clout across many mediums of more importance that absolute clout on just one?

Tell me: how do YOU measure online clout?

Merry Christmas From Twittercism

Just a quick update to wish all Twittercism readers celebrating Christmas a great day.

Twittercism turns a year old over the next few weeks, and what a year it’s been! I’d like to say there was some huge masterplan but essentially this all started because another Twitter-related project I’d been working on for a period of time was scuppered by somebody else (and which has since gone on to great heights).

I plan to do at least one ‘best of’ post before 2009 is over, and hope to move on to bigger and better things in 2010.

I’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to everybody who has supported this blog in 2009, and this of course includes my readers. You’re a great bunch.

Have a fantastic Christmas!

How Important Is Twitter To YOU?

It’s been a huge year for Twitter. Huge.

Twelve months ago it was an evolving but fairly low-key social network where the most popular user had about sixty thousand followers.

Now, it’s an internet giant that has forced Facebook and Google to continually revise and re-evaluate their mission statements, and been embraced by the global media and general populace at an unprecedented level. And 220 users now have more than one million followers.

But what I want to know is: how important is Twitter to YOU?

I’d like you to consider this from the perspective of how you would feel if Twitter suddenly disappeared tomorrow. How would that make you feel? How would it impact your day-to-day life?

Please choose your answer in the poll below, and I encourage you to follow this up in the comments section.

A Different Perspective On Why (Some) Celebrities Ignore Their Followers On Twitter

This weekend, as if by magic, I happened to be sent leaked results showing the official UK Christmas top 40 countdown (sales and everything) before the chart went live.

This told me that Rage Against The Machine had, against the odds, and completely on the back of a heavily-hyped Facebook campaign, secured the coveted Christmas number one spot over X Factor winner Joe McElderry.

It was too late to put on a bet – God only knows what odds I would have received if I’d have marched into my local bookies and said, “Right, what will you give me if I make a guess at the top 40?” – and to be honest at first I was a little skeptical about whether the information was accurate. So, as the chart show aired, I monitored the results against what I had on my list.

It was complete accurate from #40-#25, so I decided to go live with it.

And I published the top twenty on my blog.

Not Twittercism – it didn’t really fit with my theme here and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure of the ramifications of publishing such a leaked document. News is, however, news, and therefore fair game, so I went ahead and wrote about it on my Posterous blog.

I linked to the article on Twitter and Facebook, and continued to update the countdown as the results became available.

A Different Perspective On Why (Some) Celebrities Ignore Their Followers On Twitter

Not only was the list 100 per cent accurate from start to finish, but my article started to get some attention, too.

Ultimately, it went on to receive more than 50,000 views and 160 comments, most of which happened within an hour or so.

It was an interesting experience, and as I responded to comments made on the article and things I was sent on Twitter, it started to make me realise that, in my own small way, this must be what it feels like to be a celebrity who uses social media.

Now, I’m not for a second saying I am a celebrity – far from it – but simply that what I saw during the UK chart countdown must be like what the bigger celebrities on Twitter experience every single minute of every single day.

A couple of things really stuck out:

  • Comments – When lots and lots of people have the opportunity to post comments anonymously, some of them will act like morons. While most contributed to the article in the spirit with which it was intended, I had to delete about ten comments because they were racist or offensive.
  • Reply Spam - I’ve written about this before, but once the article started getting traction I began to receive lots and lots of reply spam, often multiple times at once (clearly from a series of accounts ran by the same person). All told I’ve had to block about 20 users. This is a serious problem, and I’ve yet to see Twitter address this in any meaningful way.

Reflecting on events today, I’ve realised that this may in some way explain why some celebrities seem a little aloof or even rude when it comes to responding to replies on Twitter. It’s certainly true that since the very early days of this blog I’ve ragged on a lot of celebrities for the way they behave on Twitter, but I might have been been a little short-sighted.

Because the amount of reply spam and offensive replies the top celebrities see likely matches or even outweighs the ‘normal’ replies they are sent, a lot of the genuine enquiries are likely getting lost in all that traffic. And after a while you’d imagine they’d be less likely to bother doing much more than dipping in and out of their mentions folder. After all, it’s going to take a lot of work to pick out the good from the bad.

If you auto-follow on Twitter, you’re likely inundated with spam direct messages like everybody else who has a similar policy. I have some experience of managing Twitter accounts for clients, and in those cases where the client has followed everybody back out of courtesy the direct message system becomes completely useless (even more so than it is the rest of the time). It’s a no-go area, because it’s almost futile to separate the spam from the genuine enquiries. Eventually, you stop bothering altogether. Which, while extreme, is understandable. And for businesses, very damaging.

Celebrities typically don’t follow a lot of folk so direct messages aren’t of much concern to them. But their replies folder must be absolutely jam-packed with spam, as well as the crazed ramblings of obsessed fans, stalkers and good old-fashioned weirdos.

Twitter is a fairly busy place if you follow a few hundred people and are followed by a few thousand, so God only knows what it’s like if you’re world-famous and have a couple of million people hanging on your every word.

Of course, some celebrites are just rude, or ignorant. But we should perhaps offer a little leniency to the rest of them because most of the time it must be absolutely overwhelming. Don’t believe me? Check out Ashton Kutcher’s inbox. Or Britney Spears’. Or Taylor Swift’s. Or Lady Gaga’s

5 Ways To Protect Yourself For The Next Time Twitter Gets Hacked

Details are currently still a bit sketchy but Twitter was allegedly hacked overnight.

5 Ways To Protect Yourself For The Next Time Twitter Gets Hacked

As you can see, all indications point to the “Iranian Cyber Army” but my gut feeling tells me that a very different entity is likely the culprit. There’s also some talk that Twitter itself was not hacked at all, but that the domain name itself was simply re-routed to another server (now confirmed by Twitter), allowing the invaders to display their message.

But why take the risk?

Unfortunately, Twitter has a bit of a history with lousy security protocols. In just the past few months, major internal documents have been leaked, Twitter was stopped with a DOS attack, Jonathan Ross accidentally unveiled his email address and was then unable to remove it, and the admin team thought that the word “password” was good enough to use as an, uh, password. Twitter is very much a work in progress, but you don’t see this stuff happening on Facebook.

Here are five ways to protect your Twitter account now for the next time this happens.

1. Change Your Password Regularly

It makes sense to change your Twitter password on a regular basis – certainly every month or two. And change it to something that is hard to break, and made up of 10 mixed characters of letters and numbers – I recommend using this website, which is free and generates superb passwords.

2. If You Use The Same Password On Twitter For Other Websites, Change Them

We still don’t know if Twitter has been properly hacked, but if it has your data might have been compromised. This means that your email address and password may well be in the hands of somebody who wants to do bad things with them. So, if you’ve been using the same password on Twitter that you have for, say, your Facebook page, blog, or worse, your bank account, you should go there and change them right now.

And stop doing that – while it’s convenient, it’s far too much of a risk to use the same password for everything on the internet. If you have a lot to lose – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – consider a premium service like 1Password.

3. Don’t Openly Share Sensitive Information

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often people discuss private security data on an open public platform like Twitter. You casually chatting with friends about why you hate your HSBC bank account tells everybody else that you (duh) bank with HSBC. Boasting that you’re about to spend two weeks in Barbados tells everybody else that your house is going to be unmanned for a fortnight.

Think before you tweet. Think about who might be reading this information – what is the worst thing they could do with it?

4. Don’t Panic

The thing that concerned me most during the Mikeyy exploit was how so many high-profile accounts (including celebrities and social media ‘gurus’) were sharing damaging and outright false information about the incident, which led to a lot of unnecessary panic.

While it’s absolutely normal to be concerned about your private data during events like this, analysing and evaluating the situation in a calm and intelligent manner is essential. Be careful what you retweet. Double-check everything twice. Don’t assume somebody else knows what is going on, no matter who they are. Find out for yourself.

5. Don’t Be That Guy

As above, it’s easy during situations like this to panic and start retweeting and spreading any old nonsense around the interwebs. Don’t be that guy. Don’t make things worse by initiating or sharing poorly-consider opinion and hyperbole. Make sure the information you are passing on to your network is as accurate as possible at the time it is delivered.

YOU need to be the voice of reason. If you’re running around like a headless chicken, talking about alien invasion and/or the apocalypse, then YOU are part of the problem. Try to be the solution. And if no reasonable information is forthcoming, avoid crazy speculation, certainly if you’re seen as an authority by your network.

After all, you want things to stay that way, right?

Yes, Retweets Have Vanished Again

Twitter’s becoming a bit like that dream you have where you’re walking down a crowded street, and then suddenly realise you have no clothes on.

The internal retweet function has been switched off again – and with it, all those precious retweets. No announcements, nothing on the status blog as of yet, and the main blog is far too busy patting itself on the back for introducing German language support.

Yes, Retweets Have Vanished Again

Lucky, I guess, that like tens of thousands of other users, I never stopped using the organic, old-fashioned, and considerably more reliable RT @ manual retweet.

Ho hum.