Category: twitter

Jul 14 2009

Followers Are Not Your Friends

A couple of weeks ago, I started ranting a little over Twitter about followers and how people see them as friends. The rant began because someone I followed had posted a few messages about only wanting “quality followers” and asking everyone else to please stop following her. So I stopped following her.

To me, that’s a crazy obnoxious egotistical statement. I mean, come on, who do you think you are? Do you really think Matt Lauer tells the Today Show audience that he only wants “quality viewers?”

Either this person didn’t understand what followers really were, or was being a snot. Either way, I didn’t care to see a whole slew of messages about it. I follow enough people that I have a fairly low tolerance before I unfollow people. It doesn’t keep my follow count down like I wish it would, since I keep finding new people to follow, but I do try.

Anyway! Back to followers.

If someone has a public Twitter page, their data is available – to anyone – a number of ways. You can visit the website, you can subscribe to their RSS feed, or you can follow them. Their tweets also appear in the public feed (although there’s a setting to turn that off), and are available through search.

What all of this means, is that you really don’t know who’s reading what you say. The only way to control this is by making your twitter feed private. Once you’re private, you have approval over every person who can read.

I think most of the whining about “don’t follow me” is over spammers more than real people, but that really makes no sense to me. Spammers rarely talk to you. I’ve gotten a number of @ messages from spammers, but they’re not from people following me. In fact, I think the spammers unsubscribe once I don’t follow back. It also seems like the same people who complain about spammers are those who try to get tons of followers. Spammers artificially inflate follower numbers – shouldn’t they like that? If some person hawking viagra really wants to subscribe to my feed…have at it, I’m not interested anyway.

Most of the follow/unfollow behavior is automated. Mention one thing and suddenly a flood of people are following you. It’s not like an actual dude who sells viagra is sitting at his computer staring at your tweets. But really, if you’re uncomfortable with that idea, you should not have a public twitter feed.

I used the TV comparison above, but Twitter – to me – is best comparable to a blog. Some people read a blog by going to the webpage, others subscribe through RSS readers. Some blogs even end up syndicated to other places, on other blogs, to Facebook, all across the Internet. I don’t know everyone who reads what I write, and there’s no way I ever could. And that’s ok.

I’ve talked before about how the tone of my blog changed when I went public, there’s no denying that it did, significantly. It had to, for exactly the reasons stated here. I don’t know who’s reading what I’m writing. I’m the same with Twitter. No question that there are things I will not say on there.

But even I’ve said some things on there I shouldn’t have. For example, I discovered a guy I follow (and who follows me) on twitter lives above me in my building. He seems to be cool and I’m not concerned, but it is spooky. I should never have said enough so he could figure out where I lived.

Facebook, on the other hand, grew as large as it did specifically because it was locked down to your friends. You did only have “quality” readers (if you’re really going to be as obnoxious as to describe people as “quality”), since nobody could see what you wrote unless they were your friend. That, of course, is changing now, with Facebook making status messages more open. More and more people will now see what you say on Facebook, and you’re going to have less control over that.

So the Internet’s trending…again. We were all open, then we went all private, now we’re all opening up again. It’s easier to go from open to closed than from closed to open. People will be much more likely to make mistakes. Hell, I did, and I thought I was smarter than that.

I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but it will be fun to watch.

Mar 13 2009

The Problem with Twitter Suggesting Users

There has been a lot of discussion around the blogosphere the past few days about Twitter’s Suggested Users feature and whether or not it’s fair, valuable, and so on. Jason Calacanis offered up $250,000 to be near the top of the list for two years, and stated he thought that price was a bargain. (Jason has also been pushing the value of Twitter followers for a long time now, but that’s a whole other story. For this, let’s assume there is some value to the number of followers you have.)

I gotta admit – I agree with folks on this – there is a problem here.

Twitter is like any other social network – it’s no fun unless you have friends to follow. It does make sense to create a list of people for new users to add and it avoids having to create a “Tom” (MySpace) type person who will give you something to do when you first join.

My problem is around the way the list has been implemented. I have multiple problems with it:

  • The only people being listed are those who already have thousands and thousands of followers. I was personally already following anyone on that list I cared about.
  • The list is fairly static
  • There is no clear way to get yourself on the list, beyond knowing someone at twitter.
  • The list isn’t “fair.” One newspaper has already complained because another newspaper has had multiple feeds listed, they have done, and can’t figure out how to fix it.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any actual logic to what’s in the list. You’d expect the list to cover a wide range of interests, but it’s all sorts of weird.

The list is truly akin to an advertisement, which, let me make clear, I have absolutely no problem with. When I was at MySpace, we created (and this still exists) an Editor’s Pick spot for applications that would receive the same sort of promotion as paid ads, but would be clearly designated as an editorial choice. Ads would be marked as ads, and anyone who wanted to be featured could ask to be listed (btw, if interested, head over to http://developer.myspace.com) more information about this program is here:  In fact, everywhere I’ve worked in the last, oh, 10+ years, has a rule that ads must state they’re ads.

The Suggested User “ads,” while not being a result of money being paid (as far as we know), are clearly there because of….something. Is it knowing the right person at Twitter, is it having a certain number of followers, is it ‘quality’ of what the person says, is it some sort of evaluation of the person themselves, what? “Payments” do not always involve cash.

Suggesting users is a great idea. The problem is in the execution, and, really, all issues that are fairly easily fixed. It is to Twitter’s benefit in the long run to make sure their users are not all following the same 20 people, and to possibly create a revenue model that doesn’t exist right now.

If the list is editorial, it should be rotated, and be pulling from a larger segment of users than just the ones who are already popular. Twitter should also tell people what the requirements are to end up on that list. If the list is going to be the result of paid sponsorships, that’s fine as well, it should just be marked as such.

Until the issues with that list are fixed, if you want to find new people to follow, I recommend checking out the #followfriday hashtag over at twitter search. You’ll be exposed to a much larger and more diverse segment of the Twitterverse than you will on the Suggested Users page.

Mar 02 2009

Skittles Let You Speak the Rainbow

skittles

I’m a huge fan of user generated content. I think the greatest copy, ideas, and criticism can come from your own users. However, there is such a thing as going too far.

Last night at some point, http://www.skittles.com switched its page to become a constant feed of a twitter search for skittles. Almost immediately, people began talking about all sorts of random, not-skittles related stuff, just to appear on the page. I even sent a message about prefering M&M’s to skittles (which I do).

You just can’t put unfiltered user content out there. Sorry. I learned this lesson the hard way years ago. Back when I was at Pseudo, I had to do an interview with Dick Morris, who at the time was embroiled in quite a scandal surrounding the Clinton white house. We had this fantbulous idea of showing the live chatroom on a plasma screen right in between the two of us during the interview.

As you can imagine, the room was filled with things that weren’t appropriate for anyone to see, much less the target of them – Dick Morris himself.

The ONLY way to do this kind of content is to very, very cautiously moderate. You don’t need only positive statements going out, actually, if you want to really show what your users are saying, you should include some negative statements. But you absolutely need to be able to block messages like this:

PMansellSheep: fighting the cult @ XENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUXENUoYOUoJUSToLOSToTHE

I don’t understand why Skittles didn’t know better, and why they haven’t taken the page down yet. There’s a warning that you need to be an adult…but when the first comment is “skittles sux,” does being over 18 matter? In my case with Pseudo, we yanked that chatroom screen down before I was 10 minutes into the interview.

Over the summer, a lot of concerts did a deal with Verizon where you could text a message to have it shown on the big screen. Those messages appeared quickly, and looked “live,” but they were heavily moderated. And I know this cuz, um, I sent something inappropriate to see if it’d get through. I had to try, I almost ALWAYS try. I sent “scream if you love porn,” which I thought would be fun. But nope – lots of “Scream if you love linkin park” and the like, but no joy for me.

There is also the question of privacy, something people have been talking about a lot lately. Is my Twitter appearing on Skittles going to be seen as an endorsement? Do they actually even have the rights to do it (I need to dig through various terms to figure that out – expect a follow up post when I have time to do that). I can’t block it…at least I can block myself from appearing in Facebook’s social ads. But this is a whole other thing, and not one I’m entirely sure I’m comfortable with.

All that said, would I have ever written a blog entry about Skittles today if they hadn’t done this? If “any press is good press,” then Skittles has done a fantastic job at that – everyone’s talking about them on Twitter. Not talking about the candy, of course, they’re talking about the mess on the Skittles homepage. In what probably took them 10 minutes, they redid their website to something that people can’t stop talking about. Well done for that.

In the long run, is this going to make me buy more candy? Absolutely not. But I will be pointing to this as an example of UGC gone bad for years to come.

So for that, thanks Skittles!!

Jan 30 2009

Morning Sessions, #ShesGeeky Conference

I have issues with a lot of conferences. The panels are rehashing the same stuff over and over and over, and the “real” work gets done at the parties or talks in the hall between sessions.

She’s Geeky is an “unconference,” meaning that there are no panels, long keynotes, or presentations. All we talk about is what we talk about. It’s awesome.

The first session I went to this morning was about gaming…and it wasn’t even my session, someone else ran it! It was fantastic, an hour or so just talking with a whole bunch of women as interested in games as I was. We also focused on areas of games that you wouldn’t hear at a typical conference – educational, children’s, casual games, that sort of stuff.

My big takeaway (in addition to meeting all these great women) was the discovery of a program called Alice. Not only does it have the same name as my fantabulous niece, but it is – get this – a 3d GAME that teaches kids programming. REAL programming. I am blown away, and am totally going to use it.

Liz Henry also has a good writeup on the session, and I will add links to others as they come online.

I’m currently in a session about twitter, talking on twitter. I think that says enough right there about how much Twitter effects our lives these days. As someone just said… “it is the ultimate elevator pitch.”

Sep 09 2008

Fun With Twitter

I’m always being asked for links to people to follow on Twitter. This is often phrased as “gimme some things to follow, because I don’t understand why I should bother.” So, here you have it – my list of fun Twitter stuff.

First, learn all about twitter here:  A Newbies Guide to Twitter (http://twitter.zappos.com/start ) – this was written by the CEO of Zappos, (who you should also follow http://twitter.com/zappos ) and is still to date the best explanation I’ve seen.

Now that Tony’s taught you all about twitter, add these “people” who I find really entertaining:

Sockamillion http://twitter.com/sockington – Yes, this is a cat. But I think this is easily the funniest “person” on twitter – I adore seeing him update. I think my cats are jealous.

CobraCommander: http://twitter.com/CobraCommander – remember GI Joe?

SARAH http://twitter.com/_S_A_R_A_H_ – Sarah is the house in Eureka (tv show). Gotta love a twittering house.

Whole Foods http://twitter.com/wholefoods – Yummy.

Captain Hammer http://twitter.com/captainhammer – from the singalong blog, of course.

Darth Vader http://twitter.com/darthvader – needs no explanation

I Can Has Cheezburger http://twitter.com/ICHCheezburger – Cat pics, what else!

Donna Noble http://twitter.com/DonnaNoble – not so active these days, damn that amnesia

Martha Jones http://twitter.com/MarthaJones

Southwest Airlines http://twitter.com/SouthwestAir

Stop the Spam http://twitter.com/stopthespam Twitter spammer updates. Always fun to get a new follower update, then see that person reported by Stop the Spam within the same minute.

FreebieAlert http://twitter.com/FreebieAlert

TechInsider http://twitter.com/techinsider rumors, gossip. Not always correct.

The Coop http://twitter.com/andersonscooper FAKE Anderson Cooper.

Anderson Cooper http://twitter.com/andersoncooper REAL Anderson Cooper

Pirate Bay http://twitter.com/tpb News about IP and the internet

El Gato http://twitter.com/el_gato And another cat.

Twitter http://twitter.com/twitter Twitter news, status updates

CNN Breaking News http://twitter.com/cnnbrk

Mars Phoenix Lander http://twitter.com/MarsPhoenix – if you were watching this guy a few weeks back, you would have seen the “wee, we found ice!” update. Cutest thing ever.

NASA News Feed http://twitter.com/NASA

For real people…search Twitter for your friends, for celebs, for websites you like – you never know who or what you’re going to find there. Another way to find people to follow is to look at who your friends are following.

You can also reading Twitter easier by hooking up sms or getting a client ( http://twitter.com/downloads or check google to find some, there are TONS).

There ya have it – the basics of twitter. If you do decide to join in on the obsession, leave your twitter name here, or shout out to me so I can follow you – @stephaniebambam. Just remember – 140 characters or less!

Enjoy!

Jul 21 2008

Twitter’s got a new logo!

I don’t know how this happened, but some random dude’s avatar is currently the logo on twitter. Harmless, but too funny not to share..

And yeah, my twitter obsession continues… :)

twitter hacked?

Mar 30 2008

Has Twitter Ruined Blogging?

Earlier today, someone – I can’t remember who, I follow too many people – commented on Twitter (tweeted, I guess) that “Twitter is the gateway drug to blogging.” I wholeheartedly disagree.

Of the many, many messages I sent out on Twitter over the past week, five of them could have easily been blog entries. In fact, at least two of the messages probably would have turned into blog entries, had I not already released the emotions and thoughts around each over Twitter. That’s kind of a shame, the entries would have been interesting. But I truly don’t feel like writing them now. I already did, in very short form.

A blog entry requires actual writing. A somewhat decently written “article” focused around a thought. There is time involved, no matter how short the entry is, which means there is always a time delay from the moment I come up with the thought to the satisfaction of posting the entry. A computer is also required, since I don’t like typing a lot on my blackberry. I used to come up with ideas for blog entries and save them for later. I’d email them to myself at home, scribble them down on a post-it, whatever. These days, instead of saving an idea for a later blog entry, I immediately post it on Twitter.

All you need for Twitter is a phone. There isn’t any real writing or time involved, since the largest a “tweet” can be is 140 characters. I’m able to immediately release the thought, and forget about it. Or watch and see what other people think, which, let’s face it, is what a lot of us do when we’re writing anything we share with the public. I’ve asked questions in this blog – I’m doing it right now. I’ve also done the same over Twitter. We all crave interaction and responses. Why wait until a blog entry can be written when we can instantly get the thought out over Twitter?

I know I’ve been blogging less since I first started using Pownce, then moved to Twitter. For me, Pownce was the gateway drug to Twitter. Twitter’s character limit is truly what did it for me. I can’t think a lot about a tweet, it’s too short. I could blab a bit on Pownce.

We all once said that “push” technology would change the Internet. Pointcast, right? Well, it took a while, but look…it happened. I always have Twitter on, and I’m always checking it. It’s right there, pushed to my screen. From the major to the mundane, the 154 people I’m following on Twitter right now are always talking about something I’m interested in. And believe me, following 154 people is a somewhat small number for Twitter. I get my news from Twitter, even, my coworkers laugh at me for how often I end up saying “I just read on Twitter that….” Who needs a newspaper, when I have CNN Breaking News on Twitter?

To those of you who haven’t discovered Twitter yet, beware. Remember your life before email? One day you’ll remember your life before Twitter. I truly believe the impact will be just as significant. We may not always be using this one service, but the lifestreaming Twitter has created won’t be going away anytime soon. We are genuinely interested in the tiny details of other people’s lives, just like they’re interested in the details of ours. They say everyone’s a voyeur. Do I really need to know that someone is ‘going to get a glass of coke?’ Or someone else is ‘putting the baby to bed?’ Not at all. But I keep following….

Find me on Twitter as @stephaniebambam.

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