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Archives: February 2010

Twitter Frozen For 8 Hours. Checking Status Blog For News… Uh, What About @Twitter… Um, Anyone? Hello?

It’s working fine for me and (from what I can tell) most of the people in my immediate network, but Twitter is evidently frozen for a lot of users.

This used to be a fairly regular occurrence, of course, but it’s a pretty rare event nowadays. Indeed, I believe the last major failure was in October 2009, so that’s pretty good going for a company that is now delivering some 50 million tweets a day.

But, and as always, the real concern with Twitter is their ongoing problem with support and announcements. Head on over to the official status blog, and there’s nothing about this issue. Read the tweets from @twitter, and they haven’t updated since Friday.

No doubt we’ll get the official word from Twitter five minutes after it’s all started working again. If this has all been happening for more than eight hours (as Dave Winer suggests), then this verges somewhere between unacceptable and unforgivable.

It’s social media, right? What does it say when you don’t use your own platform to make announcements about your own platform? Maybe social negligence is closer to the truth.

UPDATE: Finally, Twitter is “aware of the issue and investigating.”

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Let People Find Me By My Email Address Or Mobile Number, Twitter? Uh, No Thanks

Earlier this week I started getting some curious emails from Twitter that informed me that some users had requested to follow me on the network. How strange, I thought – my status updates aren’t protected, so why not just click on the follow button like, you know, everybody else?

Well, this was a little different – they’d searched for me via my email address and Twitter then asked me for my permission, adding that the reason it was doing this was because my account wasn’t configured to let users find me by email.

The message also presented me with options to change these settings, and I promptly clicked on the ‘do not let others find me by my email address’ link.

Why? I’m not completely sure, to be honest, but something about it didn’t feel right. Concerns I had with the privacy implications of using Google Buzz were still lingering in my mind, and even though there’s a chance that some who search for me by my email address actually know me, because I readily share my email openly it’s significantly more likely that the majority will be spammers. Gmail handles 99.99% of that incoming spam for me – Twitter does not.

Earlier today, I logged on to Twitter.com and was presented with this pop-up.

Twitter Now Lets You Opt Out - Or In - Of Being Found By Your Email Address Or Mobile Number

This also gave me the choice to opt-out of being found by my mobile number, too, which I took. While there’s every chance that searches done by this method will be legitimate, there’s something about it that doesn’t feel right. Why not just search for my name? It’s unique enough that these other options aren’t really necessary for me. I suppose for the John Smiths of this world, and certainly those who keep their email address very private, it might be a little different.

Or not – the implications of being tracked by your email address or mobile number are significant, certainly if you wish to maintain a level of anonymity or privacy. I’m not a fan of the former, but that doesn’t mean that the latter should not be completely respected. Your boss likely knows your email address, as does your ex, and several other people that you might not want to be reading your tweets, or at least being able to definitively connect them with you.

As my friend Neil says:

I have no problem with someone authenticating their true identity privately with the provider. But I firmly believe that a person should be able to keep their true identity private from their online associates or lurkers.

And so, by being able to search by e-mail address, twitter has violated a trust – the trust given when the person signed up with the required e-mail address, assuming that information would be kept confidential.

To be fair, by providing us with this pop-up opt-out Twitter has taken some responsibility here. And the emails I received earlier in the week might have been part of their usual, stagger-in beta process where a few (lucky) users get their hands on the new stuff first. And we have been able to find users via their email address for some time. I have no problem with that, but there’s still something about this that makes me a little uncomfortable.

For starters, it’s on by default. (Update:  It’s marked on when you see the pop-up, but you are not automatically opted-in. See the comment below from Twitter product manager Josh Elman.)

I wonder how many will ignore the pop-up, or not realise the implications of being located using these methods. For many it won’t make a lick of difference. For some, it could be very important indeed.

I’m probably being a little overly paranoid and will perhaps adjust these settings in the future, but while I think it is somewhat useful for people you already know to find you within social networks, it’s not as important as being found by new people. Who won’t, naturally, know your email address or phone number, and so will have to find you because you’re standing out, by being interesting, useful and engaging.

My friends? They’ll probably ask me down the pub.

One In Ten (Why Talking About Your Competitors Gets Your Customers Talking About You)

I just want to take a moment to pick-up on something Chris Brogan has said today on his blog, and expand on what I wrote in the comments there.

If you’re a business on Twitter, a great way to add followers, raise the engagement of those you have and build awareness of your brand is to talk about other people.

And the best way to do this is to talk about your competitors. And not in the negative sense that you might imagine.

In fact, that’s the last thing you want to do.

Let’s say you own a fashion company and you make and sell jeans. Really cool, ‘to die for’ jeans that every teenager will want to buy… if only they knew you existed.

How do you let them know? By talking about your industry. By talking about the major players within that industry. By talking about your direct competitors, which includes Levis and Diesel and Calvin Klein and everybody else you want to be associated with.

Search for news and gossip and blog posts about these companies, and the industry as a whole, and share them with your network. Re-tweet their own updates. Become a fan of their Facebook page. Don’t be scathing, don’t be bitchy, and don’t be an ass.

Be nice.

Be sensible, too. Your objective isn’t to try and increase the sales of these guys, but by making your Twitter account interesting to people who buy jeans will make your company interesting, too. Which makes your jeans interesting. Which will increase your own click-throughs, and your own sales.

Remember that very, very few of your customers will only exclusively buy your stuff and nothing else. They are going to shop around, and they are going to own more than one pair of jeans. Don’t bat below your average. Talk about brands you aspire to be like, to be connected with. Honestly, it’s okay to point at a competitor’s product and say, “I like this.”

Let’s talk about ratios. There’s a rule of thumb that I recommend to all clients, and I encourage you to memorise it: for each ten tweets you send out, only one of them should be about YOU. And if that YOU tweet is a direct sales tweet, it should be closer to one in twenty.

All of this will put you right on the edge of the information curve within your industry. Trust me: it’s a system that works. You can vary the ratio from time to time, but move too far the other way and people will start to ignore you (or, worse, think you’re a spammer, which is an irrecoverable position).

For new accounts, this is a critical mindset to adopt from day one. Pretty soon, others will see you as the expert. As the leader. As your own stock rises, your competitors will notice, too. And if all they’re doing is talking about themselves, and their products, you will win.

iPhone Review: Tweetie 2

UPDATE: Tweetie has been bought by Twitter and replaced with Twitter For iPhone, which as of the current update is essentially the same. The main difference is that it is now completely free. Read my review here. Tweetie is no longer available on the app store. However, the review below remains valid simply because Twitter For iPhone is for all intents and purposes the exact same application.

I know, I know. I’ve come very late to the highly-regarded Tweetie, and that’s because I’ve also come very late to the iPhone, having owned a 3GS for just a little over one month.

Hence, I have no experience of the original Tweetie, which was released for the iPhone way back in November 2008, and therefore have not had the opportunity to become as passionate about the client as many others.

Please forgive me. I will try to make up for this oversight with enthusiasm and detail.

iPhone Review: Tweetie 2

Honestly? I give Buzz about a week
before it drops off the front page.

So, this is essentially a first look for me, which should provide some comfort that this is an open and honest review.

A Little History

Prior to getting Tweetie, I was using TweetDeck on my iPhone. The TweetDeck app is free, and because I was familiar with TweetDeck on my PC it seemed logical to install this first. Indeed, I was quite happy with this decision, as for the first three weeks of iPhone-related Twitter usage TweetDeck seemed to hit all of my buttons. It was fast, it was easy to use, and it basically just worked.

(I’ll be reviewing TweetDeck for the iPhone at a later date.)

But all the overwhelming positive mentions of Tweetie kept eating away at me. Could something this loved be anything less than excellent? All of a sudden I was very keen to find out.

Read more

Shooting The Messenger

I tweet a lot. Predominately, I share external content – according to Twitalyzer, I operate at a signal-to-noise ratio of about 84 per cent.

I pride myself on trying to find the best and most interesting links I possibly can. To do this, I regularly scan a number of different aggregators, subscribe to a lot of blogs, read the tweets of a lot of influential Twitterers, and a bunch of other, top secret stuff that may or may not involve speaking in tongues. I don’t share blindly, either – I actually check out each and every link in full. After all, if I can’t be bothered to read it, why should you?

Shooting The Messenger

Here’s the thing – my interests are pretty varied. A lot of my tweets are about Twitter, social media and tech, but I also share stuff about music, movies, TV, politics and current affairs, religion, comic books and lots of other things, too. Pretty much anything that takes my fancy. This slightly splintered approach has worked well for me. It’s probably true that if I only tweeted about Twitter I could significantly improve my targeting, but I don’t want to just talk about Twitter. Nor do I want to talk to people who just want to talk about Twitter, either.

While focusing on one niche has worked well for me on this blog, my Twitter account is a personal one, inasmuch as it’s me, and not a robot or a feed, and I dare say that normal people talk about normal things, which attracts other normal people. And vice versa. This is a good thing.

Most of the time, the response to the links I share is overwhelmingly positive. But every once in a while, somebody will take objection to an article, image or (philosophical or political) perspective that I’ve submitted, and let me know about it.

That’s fine. The problem is: I didn’t write it. I also didn’t draw, compose or film it, nor do I necessarily even believe in it, either.

For some, that doesn’t matter. You submitted it, you deal with the flak. And it’s certainly true that you take a level of responsibility for each and every tweet you share with your network. But only up to a point – if somebody else has a problem with the author‘s message, then, by any reasonable measure, they need to take it up with the author.

Or so you’d think. Often, suggesting to the other user that they should probably address their complaints with the person who actually, you know, wrote the article (or drew the picture, or composed the piece of music, or uploaded the knitting pattern) – that’s what the comments box on their site is for, after all – is often ignored entirely or rebuffed with a response that goes along the lines of, “No, I’d rather take it up with you.”

And (for my sins) while I’m prepared to do this for a tweet or two, once you start ranting and raging I’m going to lose interest fairly quickly. After all, and as a reminder, I didn’t write it. And if I can paraphrase Voltaire et al for a moment, defending another’s right to say something is not the same as defending something they’ve said.

The most guilty of this are headline readers – they scan the tweet without even clicking on the link (reading only the first one or two paragraphs if they do), and then let you have it with both barrels. If this sounds at all familiar, then I urge you to stop. Please refrain from making comment on anything until you’ve read the entire piece. Twice. Or at least until reading in full becomes a habit.

Trust me, this will make you a better person. Afterwards, and once fully digested, if you still disagree then by all means go ahead and be angry. But take it out with the author, not the messenger. We’re simply the bridges that provide the connection. If you shoot us down, you’re on your own.

Twitter Now Seeing 50 Million Tweets Per Day (Or A Less Impressive 0.67-2.00 Per User)

An interesting update over on the official Twitter blog, where analytics lead Kevin Weil looks at the growth of the network over the past three years in terms of numbers of tweets per day.

Twitter Now Seeing 50 Million Tweets Per Day (Or A Less Impressive 0.67-2.00 Per User)

Kevin notes that all accounts identified as spam have been removed from this data, which makes the results even more impressive.

On a year-by-year basis, Kevin notes that Twitter has grown from just 5,000 tweets per day in 2007, to 35 million in 2009, and 50 million as of January this year.

Twitter has a habit of flat-lining pretty quickly after stellar growth, but given we’ve already seen a 43% rise in daily tweets in just a couple of months, and 200% since July, it doesn’t seem too fantastical to set a target of 100 million tweets per day before the end of the year. That’s 1,200 per second, if you’re counting.

Perhaps less impressively – assuming my estimations of 25 million active and bonafide users are accurate – that’s just four per profile, per day. Which equates to only two per day, at the current levels. If the active user numbers are as high as 75 million as some have suggested, that would mean just 1.33 tweets per day per person to hit the magic hundred. Given I do forty or so per day myself, I’m pretty sure that between us we can cope, even if a bunch of you continue taking a siesta.

Of course, if Twitter would actually release the active user data, that would make crunching these numbers just that little bit easier. All this guesswork is getting just a wee bit tiresome.

Are You Being Bullied On Twitter?

Cyber-bullying takes many forms. StopCyberbullying.org describes it as:

When a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

A study by the National Crime Prevention Council suggested that cyber-bullying affects almost half of all American teenagers. But it’s not just children who are at risk. Because it’s so easy to register an account on Twitter (and to do so anonymously), it’s also very easy to use that account for malice.

This would include attempting to hurt or embarrass another individual by:

  • Sending provocative images
  • Making overtly sexual remarks
  • The use of hate speech or racism
  • Making threats
  • Disclosing personal information
  • Defamation
  • Faking or sharing images without consent
  • Tweet-bombardment

Computer harassment is a crime in several US states, and cyber-stalking is classified as a criminal offense in the United Kingdom, and increasingly being perceived as such around the world.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s abuse policy is pretty lacking. Their TOS do not directly address abuse, but the official Twitter rules have a specific section for harassment and violent threats. What the organisation needs is a designated @abuse account, and ideally a checks and balances system for registration.

If you feel you are being bullied or victimised by another individual on Twitter, there are some steps you can take.

  1. Block the account. This won’t prevent them from maintaining their behavioural pattern, but at least you won’t have to see it.
  2. Report the user to Twitter via a help ticket. Be thorough, and include examples linking back to specific tweets where possible.
  3. Consider sending a tweet to @delibus and @safety reporting the user
  4. Make a backup of all abusive tweets using your favourite image software (i.e., Photoshop) as things can be easily removed by the other user. Your backup won’t be proof alone, but Twitter should be able to match-up your records with their own, even if the tweets have been deleted.
  5. Highlight the abuse to somebody else that you trust. This person can later function as a witness.

While not reporting abuse in the hope that it will eventually ‘go away’ is not the best course of action, completely ignoring the abuser is an excellent choice. By not feeding the trolls, you can prevent an attacker from getting the things they typically desire, such as validation, a larger audience and even confirmation of the things they are saying. It also helps to reduce the chances of anything becoming public, primarily because it doesn’t become part of your own Twitter timeline.

That said, there can also be some merit in exposing the person publically on Twitter. This is not always ideal, certainly when your personal information has been exposed, but in some instances it can lead to an immediate end to the abuse, as well as providing a warning to others within your network.

Of course, even if the abuse stops, either because the other user gives up or Twitter suspends their account, this doesn’t prevent them immediately opening up another profile and starting over. If this happens, and until Twitter radically improves their blocking and safety measures, your only option may be to consider protecting your status updates. While this puts the social part of social media somewhat in jeopardy, this is a realistic solution if you wish to maintain a strong level of privacy on Twitter.

Taking It Personally

Sometimes things happen to us on Twitter that hurt.

Out of nowhere, somebody who you thought you’d made a connection with unfollows you.

Or perhaps something you shared comes under attack from another person. It might not even be your content, but because you sent it out, you’re the messenger and you get the blame.

Maybe a user who you thought was a friend suddenly bad-mouths you to somebody else. Or criticises you in front of their entire network.

It’s hard not to take these things personally. It’s a virtual world, but we’re still real people, with real feelings.

Rudeness is rudeness, and should be dealt with appropriately, but unfollows are a unique kind of pain – one that involves your pride. And when your pride is hurt, it stings.

Here’s my advice:

  1. Take a deep, deep breath, then
  2. Have another look at the relationship

Maybe it wasn’t what you thought it was. Maybe it was never anything. Maybe you were just paying lip-service and never made much of an effort to engage with or help that person.

Perhaps it’s a one-way connection. We can’t all be interesting and wonderful to everybody all of the time. Sometimes, one person has a lot to teach another, and – much as we like to think it should – vice versa doesn’t always apply. Teachers can learn a heck of a lot from their students, but not every student has something to teach.

Or could it be that they’ve actually done you a favour? Maybe there was no connection there. Maybe there was a relationship once, many months ago, but it’s now served its purpose. Maybe you didn’t even realise you were following that person.

Bonds on Twitter are often fleeting. Mostly so, in fact. You exchange a few tweets with somebody else over a period of hours or days, and then never communicate again. Twitter is all about keeping your network optimised and relevant, and that rule applies to you and everybody who you’re following, too.

So, if person X is doing a clean-out, and you get caught in the drift, then yes, it can hurt, but it doesn’t have to be end of that relationship. Certainly, unfollowing that person simply because they unfollowed you isn’t the most mature of reactions. But if you’re unfollowing because the relationship has come to an end, then it’s absolutely the right call. And all credit to them for making it first.

"It’s Bigger Than Twitter!"

Hey, guess what – Facebook mobile is bigger than Twitter.

And Google Buzz is already bigger than Twitter, too.

Looking at the respective userbases, these are both factual statements. In reality, they’re very misleading, as ‘bigger’ doesn’t mean what it used to.

It isn’t about profiles. It isn’t about page views. And it isn’t really about active users.

It’s about impact. It’s about power. And it’s about influence.

Facebook has 350-400 million users, but when was the last time you saw a newspaper or TV show check the reaction on Facebook immediately after a major story has broke? Why weren’t the citizens of Iran tapping into Facebook, and the enormous numbers of people on there, during their crisis? Why aren’t people involved in crisis situations or grounded airplanes or rants against airplanes turning to Facebook before Twitter? I mean, if everybody is on there, if it’s the biggest, surely that makes absolute sense.

Right?

Wrong. News doesn’t spread so well on Facebook. It spreads even worse on Facebook Mobile. And given how many people seem to be ignoring or deactivating Google Buzz (and with good reason), and how Gmail’s numbers are never going to accurately reflect Buzz usage, it’s way too early to evaluate how well news is spreading on there (and if it ever really will).

But news does spread on Twitter, and it spreads fast. More importantly, that same news quickly (and sometimes immediately) embeds itself into both the consciousness of the Twitter collective and the mainstream media. Which means that same news then embeds itself into the consciousness of the mainstream public, too.

With a few exceptions, things that happen on Facebook tend to stay on Facebook. Things that happen on Twitter make things happen everywhere else. And that’s a lot, lot bigger.

A Look Back At 12 Months Of Twitter (Part One)

Twittercism celebrates its first birthday today. It’s been a fun time, and if you’ll excuse the self-indulgence, I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of the key posts and themes – as well as the goofs and misfires – of the past 12 months.

It also functions nicely as a timeline of the change and development within Twitter over this period.

This is part one of two posts.

(Note: this is a very long post. If you want the tldr version, it’s ‘stuff happened’).

February 2009

The very first post on Twittercism asked whether Stephen Fry, who at the time was the third most popular user on the network behind Barack Obama and the then unofficial CNN Breaking News account, would ever be caught by any other bonafide celebrities.

The incident that would come to be know as, "Do you remember that time when Stephen Fry got trapped in a lift?"The incident that would come to be known as, “Do you
remember that time when Stephen Fry got trapped in a lift?”

Well, yes. A year later, and despite adding over a million followers, Fry has dropped to a relatively lowly 151 on the network. He’s still enormously popular, but as Twitter itself gained significance and started to attract more A-list celebrities it was always going to be difficult for Stephen to compete with the bigger American names.

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