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Archives: August 2010

Give People A Reason To Miss You

Everybody gets busy, and once in a while we all get too busy for Twitter.

This is (or should be) a good thing. Hopefully, it means your business, family or friends are taking up too much of your time. Hopefully that’s a positive.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been completely swamped with a project at work. A social-media powered sale that I put together for a client has been successful beyond our wildest expectations, to a point where it’s actually generated a bunch of little headaches because it’s been so big. These are nice problems to have, but problems need solutions, and solutions quickly eat up a lot of your free time.

I’m happy to work 15-hour days when I’m seeing results, but other things have to take a back seat by necessity.
This has unfortunately included my personal account on Twitter. My daily post rate has dropped dramatically in recent weeks. It’s also impacted the number of updates on this blog. Fortunately, I’ve put in a lot of hours in the past in both of these areas, and have a pretty solid body of work to keep people interested. Amazingly, traffic to Twittercism is actually up this week. On Twitter, others have noticed that I’ve been absent and have reached out. This is always welcome.

Give people a reason to miss you, and to stay in touch. We all need downtime and we all get busy. Put in the work ahead of time and your breaks will take care of themselves. The last thing anybody wants is the realisation that nobody noticed. Or cared.

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Lady Gaga Becomes ‘Queen Of Twitter’ As The Network’s Most Popular User

Okay, so nobody really cares, but @ladygaga has usurped @britneyspears as Twitter’s most popular user, with some 5,736,127 followers.

Gaga even had a celebrative message about her new position as the ‘Queen of Twitter’ for her fans:

“This is Lady Gaga, queen of Twitter. I wanted to thank all of my beautiful little monsters for following me. Thank you for beginning my reign as Twitter queen. May you always have soft cuticles while tweeting. May you never have carpal tunnel. … I vow to always tweet and tweet again.”

In the scheme of things, it seems fair enough. Gaga is arguably the hottest celebrity on the planet, and Britney… isn’t. Yeah, okay, you don’t care, but almost six million people do. That’s a lot of swing. Not forgetting, of course, the 11+ million fans she also has on Facebook.

What price former #1 Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) being outside of the top 10, and maybe even the top 20, in a year’s time?

Twitter Rolling Out 'Also Following' And 'You Both Follow' Feature

Twitter has started to roll out two new features on the homepage – also following and you both follow.

Both of these have just hit my account. You may have had them for a day or two now. Other accounts I’ve tested have yet to receive either implementation.

It’s a small change but a good one. Especially when checking out new accounts, it’s nice to see which of your existing contacts have already given them the seal of approval. Playing around with the feature I’ve actually been quite surprised about some of these revelations, especially in the ‘you both follow’ part.

What’s still missing is an indication of whether you’re being reciprocally followed (or not) by a user. Seems an obvious and pretty major oversight, and perhaps this will be added in the months to come.

Does Twitter Need 'Fat Tweets'?

Dave Winer has a proposal for Twitter.

In case you missed it (I did – I was enduring an 8-hour drive back home from Devon), briefly last night a loophole in Twitter’s internal URL-shortener meant it was possible to create tweets of longer than 140 characters.

Much longer – here’s an example from Dave himself here. Dave has pitched Twitter on the idea of letting these ‘fat tweets’ be open to a select few over a period of seven days to see if they’re any better or worse than what we have now.

I’m hot and cold on the issue of longer tweets. I kind of like the idea of a blog-style ‘more’ button for anything > 140, with tweets below that number rendering as they do now, but I can just see this being really abused by, you know, idiots.

Last thing I want is one tweet per screen. Especially on my netbook. In HootSuite, I only get 4-5 as it is. Can you imagine an update of several huge tweets from different folks, all at once? Even if we applied a bigger limit – say, 500 characters – this would still be a problem.

Sure, you can unfollow people who abuse something like this, and maybe that’s the answer for some folks, but it’s a bit too either/or for my liking. For example, I follow a lot of writers. And writers like to write. That’s their prerogative, of course, but I’m not sure I necessarily want to see volumes when 140 characters will do. And retweets throw up another (potentially hideous) can of worms.

You could make this configurable on a per-user basis, like we do retweets on Twitter, and that could work. Or, as Dave says, make the entire thing optional – and if you opted out, longer tweets would have to link off somewhere. Would you read them? If you’re like me, probably not. I tend to avoid things such as Twitlonger like the plague – and this includes the links.

There’s something about the limitations of 140 that absolutely improve not only the way that you write and deliver headlines, but the way you think about them, too. It also makes you very creative with language. Less is more, and all that.

Maybe it could or should be a premium feature? Pay-per-character. 140 or less is free for everybody, but you go above that and you’re billed. That would at least give all but the richest of mass-marketers pause.

Another possible problem: if (pigs could fly and) Twitter agreed to do this, what happens to those fat tweets as soon as they switch everything back to the 140-character limit? Either they’ll have to be linked on to somewhere else so they can be read in full (kind of like this, which Twitter did yesterday) or they’ll just stop at 140 characters. Could be awkward, and perhaps a little mssy.

I suppose it essentially comes down to this – why tweet, when you can blog, and simply link to it on Twitter? Kind of like how we do now. Isn’t the short, bite-sized exchange of information slices really what it’s all about? And if it becomes something else, is it still Twitter?

I couldn’t give a hoot about protecting the tweet upper-limit so everything works in SMS text messaging on mobile phones – I’d like to see that archaic way of using Twitter buried completely, being totally frank.  If only because it would mean (really quite basic) add-ons like (proper) hyperlinks could be quickly implemented, but tampering too much with the character limit makes me a little edgy.

All that said, if (Hell freezes over and) Twitter agrees to play around with this, it’ll be absolutely fascinating. I’m pro the experiment. I’m just not sure it’s something that I want to see become a permanent feature.

(Image credit: Aleandros.)

POLL: When You Go On Holiday, How Often Do You Check Twitter?

The holiday season is well and truly upon us, and it’s probably fair to say that most people – certainly most business professionals – bring their mobile phones and (probably) laptops with them when on vacation.

Certainly for me, the thought of being completely isolated from the internet is less of a holiday, and more of a prison sentence. This week I’m enjoying a (brief) getaway to Devon, England, and while the beaches are breathtaking and the towns are picturesque, the lack of a reliable 3G connection – or anything resembling free wifi – is driving me nuts!

What about you? Are holidays (note: not business trips) literally about getting away from it all, or are some things like Twitter still super-important? Vote in the poll below to let me know, and then hit the comments to tell us more!

[poll id="16"]

When You Die In 'Real' Life, Who Will Keep You Alive On Twitter?

On July 28, 2010, Ivy Bean, who at 104 was considered the world’s oldest Twitter user, died peacefully in her sleep.

At the time of her death Bean had some 60,000 followers, and for the previous fortnight updates on her condition had been made by friends and family. When she died, it was announced quickly on Twitter and further statements regarding Ivy’s funeral and donations were made for the following week or so.

Ivy’s death received coverage around the world, and while labelling her as a celebrity might be stretching it a little, she was certainly much-loved and a figure very much in the public eye. She had a fan base, and those members were kept informed of her passing.

If you’re famous, chances are your death will be reported on Twitter, whether you’re a member of the network or not. But what about everybody else?

What happens when you die? Is there somebody you can rely upon to let everybody in your social network know what has happened? Would they know what to do if it happened now? Do they have your logins and passwords? Would they know what to say, and who (and where) to say it to?

And how quickly does it need to be said? Serious question: what’s the correct etiquette here? How many updates does the average person’s death need? Should the accounts of the dead ultimately be deleted – Twitter’s own policy says they have the right to do this with inactive users after a certain period of time – or should they be left alone as a kind of digital headstone?

Ultimately Twitter will likely need fresh policy here, but we’ve all seen how badly Facebook handles this kind of stuff.

(Incidentally, if you ever needed another reason to remove any kind of auto-tweeting connections on your Twitter profile, your eventual demise is as good as any. How bad is that going to look?)

As the line between off and online life continues to blur, the same preparations and guidelines we leave in the event of our passing need to be applied to the virtual world, too. It can’t be too long until this becomes a normal addition to any will.

This is perhaps a subject that nobody likes to think about, but it’s a reality, and one that can force itself upon us at any moment. Like you, I plan to live forever, but just in case the worst happens, what preparations can you take to ensure that the people who care about you don’t just think you disappeared?

(And if you think this is ridiculous and your followers wouldn’t care, then you need to find different followers.)

UPDATE: Twitter has some official policy on this, and even offers a facility to backup a deceased love one’s tweets. God only knows how long you can expect to wait for a response, however.

Twitter's 'Algorithm' Must Be Broken, Because It Just Suggested I Follow Kanye West

I moaned about Twitter’s new suggestions for you/who to follow feature last week, but despite this I was kind of hoping I was being my (occasional) curmudgeon self and their touted ‘algorithm’ was going to right itself and eventually suggest people I might actually want to follow. You know: interesting people.

No such luck. All week long it’s been nothing but individuals who are either members of the suggested user suggestions list, random verified users and people or brands who have the slightest connection to me because I said something loosely connected about them once. While drinking.

I mean, it’s been accounts like Oprah Winfrey, for Christ’s sake. Not to mention Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, one of whom I have zero interest in following, and the other who I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

And just now Twitter suggested Kanye West.

Kanye West.

Two thoughts:

  1. This is garbage, and
  2. So is their ‘algorithm’

Thank God for the hide button, but I fear that if I click this any more I’ll end up with Carpal Tunnel. Can’t I just hide the entire lousy feature?

Come on Twitter, you can do better than this. Can’t you?