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Archives: April 2010

Twitter – Know Your Limits

Twitter enforces various limitations on the things you can do within the social network. This includes the amount of characters you’re allowed in a tweet, the length of your userrname, and how many people you’re able to follow before somebody on the other end goes, “Whoa.”

Some of these limits are well known; others, less so. I thought it would be fun to group them all together via the power of the infographic, which I’d like to share with you below.

Twitter - Know Your Limits

(This is my very first infographic, so be kind. If you’re curious about what some of these statements mean, read the official word from Twitter here and here.)

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HootSuite Preparing " Pro" URL Shortener

Further to my article about the changes on HootSuite earlier this morning, an email I’ve just received announces their plans for Pro, which will allow publishers to use their own vanity URLs on the HootSuite platform.

Get on the list for “ Pro,” which will give you the ability to bring your own vanity URL for branding and style points and be among the first to get your URLs shortened — just the way you want.

The more perceptive amongst you will have noticed that this sounds very much like Pro, which charges a hefty $995 per month for a similar feature. If HootSuite undercuts this and improves their statistical system, this could get very interesting.

(Signup for more information about Pro here.)

Bah, @HootSuite – We Wanted, Not

There’s a small but important update to HootSuite this morning – when you first load up the site, you’re presented with a pop-up window that lets you choose from one or two internal URL shorteners:, which HootSuite has always used, and the new

Bah, @HootSuite, We Wanted, Not

I have to say, when I first saw this screen I was initially quite excited, as I thought it was letting me choose from and my URL shortener of choice – which of course would have been, as despite Twitter’s recent shenanigans, is the only URL shortener any serious Twitter devotee should be using.

(Unless, that is, you don’t really care if people click on your links, visit your website, buy your stuff, etc.)

Instead, what HootSuite has given us is essentially what we have now. has long provided the option to remove the (wildly unpopular) social bar on a permanent basis – it’s now been taken away completely and simply passed over to So, is what was, and is the same as, but without the awful bar.


Let’s hope HootSuite Pro raises the bar just a little bit higher.

Get A Move On, Twitter – Just How Hard Is It To Release Inactive Usernames?

Twitter has some policy on inactive usernames, which it defines as an account which “hasn’t been logged into or updated in over 6 months.”

Inactive accounts may be automatically removed from Twitter. To keep your account active, be sure to log in and post an update within 6 months of your last update. Accounts that have no followers, followings, or updates may be considered squatting accounts and immediately removed from circulation, so do please avoid this if possible!

Checking a profile page will reveal the last update of an account. If six months have passed since the last update, the account is considered inactive. If an account doesn’t have any updates, it may be a recent account that’s not in use yet, or it may be a name squatter account. Twitter is currently working on bulk-releasing all inactive usernames. We are not releasing inactive accounts on an individual basis at this time unless in cases of Terms of Service violations.

Get A Move On, Twitter - Just How Hard Is It To Release Inactive Usernames?That’s fine, but this page was last updated by @crystal in November 2008. That’s almost 18 months ago – they could and should have bulk-released all these inactive accounts three times over by now.

I’ve written before about how usernames on Twitter are slowly accumulating the same kind of value as regular domain names. I’ve had several clients wishing to obtain profiles on Twitter, only to find the name they desire has already been taken by somebody who hasn’t updated since 2007. And unless they have a strong legal position, there’s nothing they can do about it.

I’m no programmer, so maybe somebody could tell why it’s so difficult to:

  1. Scan the Twitter username database and list all the accounts who haven’t updated in six months
  2. Delete those accounts

Twitter could then put out an announcement saying all inactive usernames have been reset, and this process could be repeated twice a year.

Lots of Twitter web-based tools and applications let you file your network by inactivity. Sure, ALL of Twitter is a much bigger job, but I don’t need this by close of business today.

Just hopefully within the next six months.

Twitter Processes One Billion SMS Tweets Per Month (And This Is Why We Can’t Have Proper Hyperlinks)

Bad news – SMS on Twitter isn’t going away.

This also means the limitations imposed by catering to SMS on Twitter aren’t likely to be disappearing some time this afternoon, either. This includes simple, but aesthetically-pleasing, 140 character-effective and commonplace-since-the-90s technologies like anchored hyperlinks.

Hashtags work like hyperlinks on Twitter (going straight to a Twitter search for that tag), so the platform is already there, and something equally basic would be easy to implement (as well as eliminating all the problems Twitter has with trusted links).

Confused about what I mean? Here’s an example of how Twitter manages links now:

Twitter Needs Trusted Links

And here’s how we should be able to do it:

Twitter Needs Trusted Links

But with SMS clearly still so important to Twitter, the limits imposed by that platform mean that this is likely never going to happen. I realise many of the countries that have a weak web infrastructure but a strong mobile network can only access Twitter in this manner, but I would think that a completely independent, SMS-supportive version of Twitter that ran alongside the main hub would be a better solution for everybody. This standalone platform could interpret the (new to Twitter, but web-normal) hyperlinks shared via, desktop apps and smartphones and convert them into shortened URLs so that everything fits neatly into the text message.

This way, the tweet metadata on the web-based platform could be radically updated and party like it’s 1999. And nobody loses out.

Instead, we have this.

Over the last eight months we have been working with a startup called Cloudhopper to become one of the highest volume SMS programs in the world–Twitter processes close to a billion SMS tweets per month and that number is growing around the world from Indonesia to Australia, the UK, the US, and beyond.

To help us further grow and scale our SMS service, we are happy to announce the acquisition of Cloudhopper, a messaging infrastructure company that enables Twitter to connect directly to mobile carrier networks in countries all over the planet.

Maybe this growing and scaling includes something similar to what I’ve outlined above. But with Twitter now looking to launch their own URL-shortener, I wouldn’t expect this to be happening anytime soon.

Why I Think @TheOnion Has Unfollowed A Record 485,000 People On Twitter

A few days ago, I was unfollowed by @TheOnion, the Twitter account of the much-loved satirical news site.

The Onion is one of the most popular feeds on the network, with well over two million followers. Back in the day, the account had a (possibly automated) follow-back policy, and they followed hundreds of thousands of people on Twitter.

The OnionThinking it unlikely that they’d singled me out for a personalised dumping, I assumed whoever it was that managed their social media campaign had decided that enough was enough, and pulled the plug.

So I checked out the stats. And while I don’t speak for The Onion, I’m going to go out on a limb on this one.

Earlier this month, the Onion peaked at a following count of over 487,000. On April 14, they unfollowed 30,935 people, and continued to purge users en masse each day thereafter until April 21, when they appear to have settled at the nice round number of 195.

In a 24-hour period between April 17-18, they removed 316,239 users from their follow feed.

Don't Cry, But @TheOnion Has Unfollowed (Almost) Everybody On Twitter

Overall, they’ve reduced their following network size by 99.96 per cent. Which means they’ve cut their noise by 99.96 per cent, too.

This is likely the biggest cull Twitter has ever seen.

Read more

Is This Retweetable?

This one’s perhaps a little controversial. But still – things to say.

Go to Twitter search, and have a look at all the retweets.

(And this doesn’t even include the internal retweets, which for some reason do not show up on Twitter search. Somebody explain that one to me.)

Take a moment to look at the page and add up what you consider to be worthy of a retweet, and what isn’t.

Worthless Retweets

Sure, this is absolutely subjective. But in a broader, collective sense, you would hope that most people have a rough idea about the value of things, and about when a piece of news or information is significant enough that it warrants sharing with everybody you’re connected to.

It’s not just the little people, either. Roger Ebert is a fantastic movie critic, an inspiration, and seems like a decent guy. He does this thing every evening where he retweets the latest message of his last three followers. It’s cute, and occasionally he sends out a gem, but most of the time it just means putting fluff back into the system, except now it comes with the stamp of approval from a respected celebrity.

And when a celebrity retweets, dozens of people immediately jump on that same bandwagon, often (it appears) without paying much attention to exactly what it is they’re also putting their good name to.

This isn’t a science, and there really shouldn’t be any rules. Absolutely everybody should feel free to retweet whatever they want.

(Exception – don’t be a metweeter.)

I’m simply proposing that a little more thought is given to the consequences of what it means to pass on a message to your network. If these people look to you as a figure of authority and trust the information that you share, then you absolutely have a responsibility to ensure that the messages you’re sending out meet their expectations.

And if they don’t look at you as a figure of authority, and don’t trust the things that you have to say, maybe, just maybe, that has something to do with what you’ve been retweeting.

What's In A Tweet?

Twitter developer Raffi Krikorian has created a very interesting image that shows all the metadata that makes up your common or garden tweet.

What's In A Tweet?

As you can see, quite a lot goes into that 140 characters (or less) that the rest of us see.

(Hat tip: RWW.)

It's Okay – You Don't Have To Agree With Us. (Just Don’t Be An Ass About It)

Everybody has an opinion.

This is a good thing. If we all agreed on all subjects, the world would be incredibly dull.

I share a lot of content on Twitter. Some of it is serious, some of it is funny, and some of it is good, old-fashioned weird. And while I’m not out to cause offense, I don’t shy away from sensitive issues, such as politics, religion and sex.

I don’t use Twitter for one-way broadcasting – I welcome and encourage your responses. I absolutely love it when somebody fires something back that actually makes me think about what I’ve just shared or said, and look at it from a completely different angle. Who doesn’t enjoy that?

Well, the unfortunate truth is… lots of people. Some folks evidently have a hard time with being exposed to a perspective or philosophy that differs from their own. In far too many of these cases, their immediate reaction is hostility. After which, my immediate reaction is to reach for the button marked ‘block’.

There’s a preferred way to share your opinion, and that’s politely. If I’ve been rude or obnoxious, then sure, go ahead and treat me the exact same way.

But if I’ve been good-natured and behaved in the manner to which you have become accustomed, then please respond in kind. And if you’re not familiar with the way I write or think, then take a moment to check out my timeline before leaping to assumptions.

After all, I might have been sharing a joke. Or I might have been deadly serious. But you’ll never know unless you do a little digging. And while I absolutely, positively don’t expect you to always agree with me, it would be nice if we could both agree to be civil.

Two-Thirds Of The Top 100 Blogs Use A Twitter Share Button (58% Use Facebook, Just 6% For Google Buzz)

An interesting report from Royal Pingdom that analyses the usage of ‘share buttons’ across the top 100 blogs as ranked by Technorati.

Two-Thirds Of The Top 100 Blogs Use A Twitter Share Button (58% Use Facebook, Just 6% For Google Buzz)

Almost all of the Twitter buttons are Tweetmeme, of course – a variation on the same one I use at Twittercism, which is located on the top right-hand corner on this article.

(Go ahead – click it now to see how it works.)

As the article states, it’s perhaps a little premature to be overly critical of the lack of Google Buzz share buttons amongst the top blogs, but I’m guessing that six per cent is actually pretty generous when held up against all bloggers. I’d be surprised if it’s even a tenth of that.

Conversely, you see the Tweetmeme button everywhere. And rightly so – it’s a great product that connects your blog’s readers directly to the best network for sharing news and information.

Read the full report here.