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Archives: March 2010

I Want To Buy Your Twitter Username, But It Breaches Their TOS. What Happened To Capitalism?

(Inspired by a musing from Robert Scoble – more on this later.)

Increasingly, your choice of username on Twitter is becoming a really big deal. Twitter profiles rank really well on most search engines, often at the very top of the results, and as more and more people join the network the right name – both in a sense of accuracy (certainly for brands) and, for convenience and retweet value, length – is becoming important.

I Want To Buy Your Twitter Username, But It Breaches Their TOS. What Happened To Capitalism?Having an accurate username that reflects or exactly matches your business or brand name is of course ideal. Twitter has policy in place that allows them to “reclaim usernames on behalf of business or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark to those names”, which is fine and how it should be (even if it isn’t always actioned).

But what about the little guys? What if somebody has the Twitter username that we want. Shouldn’t we be able to buy it from them?

Here’s the thing – buying and selling Twitter profile names is a serious breach of their TOS. A few websites have tried to get around this, but it’s essentially illegal.

Earlier today, Robert Scoble expressed an interest in the essentially dormant @s username, later boosting his bid with a $5,000 offer to charity.

I Want To Buy Your Twitter Username, But It Breaches Their TOS. What Happened To Capitalism?

This offer was then doubled by @shervin, raising the valuation to $10,000.

Ultimately, the auction is likely to prove moot, as Twitter themselves now own the @s username. But Scoble’s query is legitimate, because as Twitter continues to creep up on 100 million users, the availability of even remotely credible usernames is rapidly beginning to thin out. Which raises a valid question: should you be punished with a crappy username on Twitter simply because you came to the service late?

Internet domain names are, of course, bought and sold en masse. The best and most lucrative domains are quickly snapped up, and can command an enormous selling price on the open market.

Why should it be any different on Twitter? Doesn’t it make sense for the company itself to set up an internal auction system so that the top profile names can be sold to the highest bidder? Okay, so they’ve got legitimate issues with squatting, but if they increased the verification process for all sign-ups to the platform then this would become far less of an issue, almost overnight.

And even if they didn’t, so what? This open system works for the rest of the internet – first come, first served. And if you still want it, you have to pay for it. Naturally they would continue to claim back profiles that clearly breached trademarks, become dormant or otherwise fell foul of TOS.

Of course, any two parties could do this secretly, and I’m sure this happens all the time, but the risk is enormous. If Twitter finds out, it’s goodbye to that account. And all that money.

Reality check: as Twitter expands, @business has a lot more clout and financial worth than @b129P43g. It isn’t just about your username, of course – you actually have to do a spot of engaging, too – but as a starting point, especially for brands and influencers, thevalue should not be underestimated. And if there’s a value there, I say people should be able to pay for it.

Twitter Adds Internal URL Shortener ( To Combat Phishing And Malicious Links

Over at the official Twitter blog, there’s news of a new internal URL shortener that Twitter has added to the platform.

The shortener,, cannot be accessed directly at the moment. Instead, Twitter plans to route all submitted URLs through this new service so that it can “detect, intercept, and prevent the spread of bad links across all of Twitter”, adding that even if a link is shared by a different method (i.e., email notification), they will be able to keep the user safe.

Since these attacks occur primarily on Direct Messages and email notifications about Direct Messages, this is where we have focused our initial efforts. For the most part, you will not notice this feature because it works behind the scenes but you may notice links shortened to in Direct Messages and email notifications.

It’s worth noting that when you see a URL shortened to it doesn’t mean that the contents of that link are bad. One assumes that when malicious data is contained within a link, Twitter will simply re-route the user through to a stop page that prevents them from being affected, hopefully with an explanation as to what happened, alongside some encouragement not to retweet.

More details as they emerge.

Fake Celebrity Accounts That Twitter Doesn't Seem To Care About #23 – Michael Jordan (@michaeljordan)

UPDATE: The @michaeljordan account has now been suspended. Well done @Twitter – only took you about six months to notice.

Twitter has a strange, hot-and-cold policy to the suspension of what they refer to as ‘impersonator’ accounts, and which the rest of the world refers to as fakes.

Obviously Fake Celebrity Accounts That Twitter Doesn't Seem To Care About #23 - Michael Jordan (@michaeljordan)You may recall the suspension of the Christopher Walken spoof account in March 2009. At the time, the profile was nearing 100,000 fans, which was a big deal a year ago, and was enormously popular, picking up a ton of retweets and mentions and also getting some attention in the mainstream press. However, the parody breached Twitter’s TOS regarding impersonation and was removed with no warning or fanfare, at least not from Twitter themselves.

That’s fine – that’s their rule, after all – but the problem is, much like anything else that falls under official Twitter policy, they seem to thrive on an attitude of ‘one rule for one’.

The (clearly) fake Michael Jordan account is a prime example. I mean, it’s a hoot, but it’s not real, and yet Twitter seems not to care about it one little bit.

Obviously Fake Celebrity Accounts That Twitter Doesn't Seem To Care About #23 - Michael Jordan (@michaeljordan)

Not only does that account have almost 75,000 followers, but it’s got the right username, too – @michaeljordan – and I can’t begin to imagine why Michael Jordan himself doesn’t do something about it. Or, for that matter, any of the many other representatives of the multi-billion dollar franchise that Jordan’s name represents.

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Can't Spare The Time? Get The Most Out Of Twitter In Just 30 Minutes A Day (Or Less)

In a recent piece I wrote about how it’s a common misconception for some to think that Twitter is a ‘waste of time‘.

How To Get The Most Out Of Twitter In Just 30 Minutes A Day (Or Less)There are others still who actually have an interest, and want to get involved, but fear getting caught up in something that’s going to be all-consuming, again leading to major time suckage. Your time is important, and anything that has a negative impact on that will be dismissed pretty quickly.

Or perhaps you think that unless you fully commit, you’re always going to feel (and worse, look) like an outsider, as if Twitter is a club to which you’ll never really belong.

The reality is, you can get everything you need out of Twitter in just 30 minutes a day. With practice, even less. Used wisely and with good habits, even this relatively brief period of time can be immensely rewarding and informative, to businesses and individuals alike.

The best part? Everything listed here can be easily managed at and Twitter search. The only thing you need is access to your favourite web browser, which means that software restrictions in the workplace (or on your mobile handset) aren’t going to hold you back.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Spread It Out And Break It Down

Let’s say you can only spare 30 minutes a day for Twitter. The network is a fluid, almost living organism that flows, trends and re-forms multiple times a day. Hence, using those 30 minutes all at once at a random point over a 24-hour period – which will usually be a hurried, last-minute thing when you get a moment to squeeze it in – isn’t the best use of your time.

Approaching Twitter in this way usually means missing out on lots of news, signal and opportunities. Which means you’ll get frustrated, and can leave you feeling like a bit of an outsider.

If your time is limited, it’s far better to slice what you have up into periods.

2. Try To See As Much Of The Twitter Day As You Possibly Can

It’s important to remember that Twitter functions over several time-zones and continents.

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Something Is Technically Wrong (So Is Anybody Doing Anything About It?)

Not the most useful of error messages, is it?

Twitter: Something Is Technically Wrong (So Is Anybody Doing Anything About It?)

Three things I’m curious about:

  1. Do the Twitter engineers automatically get sent a report each and every time this page appears?
  2. Does it go into detail as to why it happened, or just say it happened?
  3. If not (and even so), why is there no ‘report this error’ button?

Most of the time, this error can be ‘fixed’ with a simple refresh. But not always, and you’d be amazed how often default pages like this are used as a catch-all for a myriad of serious faults on major websites.

The dreaded fail whale is increasingly a thing of the past, but I see one of these error pages at least once a day. I really hope somebody important is paying attention and this isn’t all just lip service.

"Clearly You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands."

This one is a real bugaboo of mine.

Some questions that may sound familar:

  1. How can you spend so much time on Twitter?
  2. Where do you find all those links?
  3. Don’t you have anything better to do?

There’s really no need to justify passion, but here’s your answer: because it interests me. Because it interests the people I care about. Because I see the value. And when something is interesting and valuable, then it’s fairly easy to make that extra effort to accommodate it into your life.

If you don’t see the value, or simply are not willing to, then it’s never going to be important. You’re always going to see that effort as ‘wasted’.

Either find the time, or do not. But please don’t criticise other people because they’re prepared and able to do the work and research that you’ve shown you’re incapable of doing yourself.

The Itty Bitty Twitter Committee

Committee tweeting is where more than one individual is involved in the decision process that makes up a single tweet.

Usually, this means heavy-handed involvement from the dreaded M-word – management.

How is this going to look, they’ll ask.

Wouldn’t it be better if we wrote it like this, they’ll say.

What will people think?

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Twitter Can Be As Much About Letting Go As It Is About Connecting

Next Monday, March 8th, I’ll have been on Twitter for two years.

I’d love to be able to see my first tweet, lame as it inevitably was, but unfortunately Twitter limits back-searches of your tweets to the last 3,200, so that’s not possible. Still, if the mood takes you, you can see some of my stuff from about a year ago here.

(Check your own early tweets at MyTweet16. If you’ve made less than 3,200 updates, you should be able to see your very first submission.)

Recently I’ve been thinking back to my early days on Twitter, when my network size (follower and following) was less than 150 people. There was a core group of maybe thirty to forty contacts there, and, even beyond how everybody is permanently connected on the network, we were all interlinked, regularly sharing and discussing links, concepts and ideas.

I’m pleased to say that I’m still in close touch with many of these people, and still consider them the core of my network. Predominately, these aren’t business contacts, or clients, or associates. They’re friends, which I think is the critical component of any community. More importantly, they’re friends I’ve made through Twitter.

But there are others – many others, and I’m sure this is true for most of us – who for various reasons I have had to let go (or they have let go of me). Occasionally, I will be reminded of these individuals by a retweet of somebody who is still connected, or perhaps an old screen-capture on this website. For a moment, I’ll reminisce about what once was, or might have been. I’ll remember conversations that took place, and jokes that were shared.

I’ll wonder – who lost touch with whom? Did I stop engaging, or did they?

The thing is – knowing when you should unconnect from somebody on Twitter is as important as actually getting together in the first place. Certainly if you feel like you’re struggling to find a reason as to why you’re still following another person, it’s absolutely necessary for you to part ways. In fact, it’s essential.

There’s no obligation here. Sometimes, the most rewarding and intense relationship experiences can also be quite fleeting. None of us can be everything to everybody all of the time. If you’ve parted company from another individual, most of the time it was the right thing to do. The fact that you’ve done it at all is usually all the proof you’ll ever need.

Twitter Will Pass 10 Billion Tweets Very Soon (It Could Be You)

November, 2008 – Twitter reaches 1 billion tweets.

October, 2009 – Twitter reaches 5 billion tweets.

Sometime over the next couple of days, Twitter should pass the 10 billion mark, which is an incredible accomplishment in a relatively short period of time.

This is according to data provided by, which tracks all tweets via an almost mesmerising GigaTweet counter.

Twitter Will Pass 10 Billion Tweets Tomorrow

Last month, we reported how Twitter was now averaging close to 50 million tweets per day. GigaTweet has charts for that, too.

Tweets Per Day (Millions)

As well as per hour.

Tweets Per Hour (x1000)

In case you’re wondering how they work this out, all tweets are conveniently tagged with their number, which is contained in the URL.

For example, this tweet is number 9,887,809,135.

Who will get tweet 10 billion? Just how many of these tweets are spam or ‘pointless babble‘? And how long would it take you to read them all?

More importantly, shouldn’t Twitter really give out some kind of prize?

(Hat tip to Diana Adams, her friend @cheth and Mashable.)

Have A Question About Twitter? Just Ask Me

I’ve added a new help section to Twittercism.

Ask me anything. As long as it’s Twitter-related, I’m happy to help.

It’s free, it’s easy, and I don’t bite.

Some things you might be curious about:

  • How to get started
  • How to get more followers
  • Twitter privacy settings
  • Configuration of Twitter software
  • Recommendations
  • People you should follow
  • Any problems you are having on Twitter

Go ahead: ask me.