blog :: social networking

Five Improvements For The New Owners Of Delicious.com

Posted on 28 Apr 2011 by Andy

So delicious (my favourite social bookmarking service) has been sold to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen who say they want to build an information discovery service and are porting bookmarks and networks over to AVOS.

That will help reduce the uncertainty around the service and should prevent the current exodus of users over to pinboard, but let’s look at areas delicious needs to improve if it is to meet Hurley & Chen’s goal.

Delicious Logo

Stop The Spam!

It is way too easy to buy your way to the popular page of delicious. Spend a few bucks on ebay or some of the blackhat forums and you’re there - and if you get popular at the right time of day, you end up with a ton of traffic.

This sort of vote-buying is a problem for every social bookmarking service but every one of delicous’s competitors is much more successful at stopping this kind of spam. Analysing voting patterns and weeding out those accounts which are only ever used for spam votes will be vital if the new owners want users to trust the service.

Integrate, Integrate, Integrate

Delicious already displays Flickr photos very nicely and allows MP3s to be played right from your page of bookmarks but if it is to compete with richer services like Diigo and EverNote it must work harder to integrate more rich media and content creation too. Here are some online entities that could benefit from a simple bookmarking service:

  • Videos - especially sections of video
  • Music playlists
  • Locations
  • Shopping carts
  • Contacts

Its current mechanism of sharing bookmarks with Twitter is clunky and feels like it has been tacked onto delcious’s network sharing (which it was). There is room for improvement to the user experience and benefit to adding many other sharing options like Facebook, Digg, Reddit etc.

Browser Plugins

The delicious Firefox extension is a fantastic piece of work, but sadly it doesn’t work with Firefox 4. Thankfully, Hurley and Chen have said that fixing that is their number one priority.

Google Chrome is well catered for, as is Internet Explorer but Safari users have to be content with the third party (but excellent) Delicious Safari. Surely AVOS could spare some cash to bring them into the fold?

APIs

The delicious API and RSS ecosystem has been used for a huge variety of purposes, from simple database CRUD to email newsletters to archiving your tweeted links. Easy access to your bookmarks has been a part of delicious since the early days and AVOS need to continue in that spirit.

I really hope that as the Grandaddy of social bookmarking services is molded into an information discovery engine that the API and RSS feeds grow alongside the rest of the site.

The Interest Graph is currently finding favour among deep-thinking tech bloggers and delicious is that data - that’s the short version of why AVOS bought it. If AVOS can bring itself to make that data public (ideally through linked data) it will really shake things up.

Open Up To Search Engines?

There have long been complaints about the fact that delicious has prevented search engines from indexing its data.

The fact that delicious is no use for influencing search engine rankings has contributed hugely to its success - I’ve argued that it is selfish, not social bookmarking previously. That is all changing as social signals become more integrated into the search engines’ algorithms.

I think AVOS will eventually allow search engines to crawl delicious data but that they’ll enter into individual agreements with Google/Bing, just like Twitter did.

Conclusion

There is a lot for delicious users to look forward to and I’m really happy that it has new owners that want to move the service forward. Hurley & Chen still have a very difficult task ahead of them but their success with YouTube shows that they are willing to forgo short-term revenue for a great user experience.

As to how they can build the world’s best information discovery service, well I don’t really know what that looks like but I’ll be watching with interest.

Does news of the purchase mean you’ll stick with delicious? Leave a comment to let me know.

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Quora API Shows Its Social Ambitions

Posted on 07 Feb 2011 by Andy

Quora log

The digiterati’s latest Internet fad darling, question and answer site Quora has received a lot of attention over recent weeks, much of it focussed around Robert Scoble.’s exploration of the service. I don’t want to go into detail, but Robert used Quora as a social service and got a little egg on his face. Here’s a quick recap:

The Silicon Valley soap opera is fun for a short time, but it doesn’t tell us much about where the service is headed.

Some Technical Info Appears

Thankfully, engineers working at Quora are answering technical questions pertaining to the service. Phil Whelan has collated several and put together an amazing post about Quora’s technology stack (seriously, go read it - Oli Young called it porn for web devs).

On the custom software side of the equation, Adam d’Angelo has answered a question about the answering ranking algorithm on Quora. There are no big surprises but note how votes from users that have written good answers in the past carry more weight - users are assigned a quality score.

An API

The announcement of an API aimed at browser extension developers made things even more socially focussed.

The API is still very much embryonic - it only has a single method at the time of writing. The only thing we can do with the API right now is get information about the current user (assuming he/she is logged in).

Quora promise to add to the API later but I think it’s telling that their first offering is aimed at people not questions.

RSS Feeds Too?

From the Quora FAQ:

We now have RSS support for user profile pages, user question pages, user answer pages, topic pages, and topic best questions pages.

That is three out of five feeds that are user-centric - more evidence of a social direction for the site. Further API methods are likely to follow the feeds.

Can/Should Quora Get More Social?

There is plenty of scope for the platform to integrate more social features without being sidetracked by "social media gurus".

Quora could add analyse a user’s questions and recommend people to follow. Then it could offer a private Q&A session with industry thought leaders (for a fee, of course). Users with a answer greater quality score could command a higher fee, or get first pick of the relevant requests.

If the quality score really works, there would be little reward for fakers.

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I Will Not Be Deleting My Facebook Account

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Andy

Facebook have recently got a lot of flak for changes to their default privacy settings, terms of service and strategic partnerships. People (and applications) are moving away from the social networking platform and the list of reasons to do so is quite compelling:

I signed up for a developer account, read the Terms Of Service and played around with the API. I’ve also experimented with advertising on Facebook and after a while it becomes obvious that Facebook’s business model is to rent your data out to those willing to invest time (in developing free applications) or simple cash.

However, I will continue with Facebook and here’s why - my Facebook friends.

Friends: Not Fans, Not Followers, Not Community

The vast majority of my Facebook friends are people that I have met in real life, that I have worked with, been to school with or had a beer with and I want to interact with the way non-geeks do.

The geek in me prefers to share photos via Flickr; cool sites via delicious; status updates on twitter; longer messages via email; music via Last.fm and use a host of other specialised services that blow Facebook applications out of the water.

I’m no big fan of Facebook but my friends are on there and that is why I’ll stay.

Facebook is the lowest common denominator of online sharing and that suits a lot of people - people who struggle to keep their email contacts up to date, or don’t understand upload quotas, or cannot install browser plugins. For those people Facebook just works - we developers must remember that.

I Will Be Keeping An Eye On My Privacy

Whilst all of the information in my Facebook profile is available on other websites, I will keep an active eye on my privacy settings and recommending that everyone disable instant personalisation (howto guide here).

I also block a lot of Facebook applications - I just don’t trust them to follow the terms of service even after Facebook has weakened its data-retention rules. I recommend that others do the same, but I also recognise that many are willing to trade privacy for Bejewelled Blitz, Farmville or Mafia Wars.

Facebook Will Die One Day

Just not today.

Communities are fickle, and Facebook is a behemoth with a lot of traction in the lives of ordiniary people, just like Yahoo was and AOL before it. What is needed to make people move is an alternative that is very obviously better in the eyes of the average user (not just the techies currently pushing towards an open, decentralised replacement).

Remember when Google replaced Alta Vista as the most popular search engine? Heh, maybe not; that was a long time ago in internet-years, but I do. All the geeks shouted about how a new search engine’s results weren’t influenced by advertising, how you couldn’t buy placement, the purity of the algorithm, etc.

When Joe Schmoe visited google.com for the first time, he saw a text box and two buttons - and that was better than the busy portals offered by its rivals. Then he tried it out, and the results were good - better than competing search engines - and so Joe had a new favourite search engine. The algorithm didn’t matter; the revenue model didn’t matter; the user experience did matter.

So, developers should not just make an open Facebook, they must make a better social networking site. One that is obviously much better from the first glance and stays better the more you use it.

Facebook are reacting to user concerns too, but it remains to be seen whether this is just PR, or if there will be a root-and-branch change in the company’s practices. I suspect not, they make money by offering access to your info to advertisers and developers so a new revenue model would be needed.

Are You Deleting Your Facebook Account?

Go you! You’ll be part of a mass movement if you quit on the 31st May 2010. The instructions are here.

See this screenshot for what to expect (it’s quite sneaky).

Leave a comment and tell me which (if any) other social networks you’ll be using in future, or if you will stay on Facebook, tell me why.


Creative Commons licensed photo by Franco Bouly.

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TweetMiner - The Twitter App For News Breakers

Posted on 09 Nov 2009 by Andy

A few weeks ago, I got a DM from Justin Vincent asking me for feedback on his latest project - TweetMiner. I’ve been trying it on and off for a while now and I must say that I’m impressed - it’s a solid piece of work that knows its target users.

What Is TweetMiner?

Available as an Adobe AIR application as well as a traditional web app, TweetMiner provides a dashboard for one or more twitter accounts. Each account has a set of streams associiated with it - by default you get the usual tweets from your friends, mentions, direct messages etc. You can add streams from individual users and/or twitter searches.

Each Twitter account can post an update immediately or schedule one for the future including the ability to add them to a “recurring schedule” (more on this below).

As well as the Twitter streams, you can add RSS feeds but this is no feed reader to rival Google Reader or NewsGator. The feed entries can be instantly tweeted or scheduled and you get to edit the message before it is sent, unlike Google Reader’s Send To feature.

TweetMiner’s Recurring Schedule

The recurring schedule is designed to prevent users from flooding their Twitter stream with updates when they find a rich seam of new information that they want to share.

You can configure the schedule to post queued tweets every few minutes and (optionally restrict it to between certain hours) for example every thirty minutes between 8am and 7pm.

TweetMiner Is For Power Users

After just a few minutes of using TweetMiner, it quickly becomes obvious that the tool is aimed squarely at Twitter’s power user community - the so-called social media gurus.

The real-time web loves breaking news and integrating RSS feeds with Twitter is a common strategy amongst those wanting to build followers. That is not to say that TweetMiner is for bots and spammers - feed entries are not mindlessly tweeted, instead the user must choose the items to tweet and can edit the text before sending.

TweetMiner is monetised via a Freemium pricing model that means users must pay to user large numbers of twitter accounts, scheduled messages or track their links via bit.ly. All these features will appeal to marketers looking to leverage Twitter and connect with large numbers of people.

It’s Not Perfect

It’s still early days for TweetMiner, but since Justin asked for my feedback I’ll list a few comments here:

  • The page layout does not make great use of the limited screen real-estate on my Linux netbook.
  • I’d like to see my RSS feeds merged into one stream - not an issue with just five streams but with many hundreds of potential news sources that would affect user experience.
  • I’m not sure what advantage the Adobe AIR version brings? Using TweetMiner offline doesn’t make much sense to me - perhaps Justin could give us an answer in the comments.
  • The "Please Upgrade to Firefox 3.5" dialog on every page is pretty annoying. After closing this once, I’d like to see it revert to a ribbon across the top of the page.

Not too many complaints there - I like Twetminer a lot and think it is definitely on track to become a very powerful tool. Oh, and I’d really, really like to see an API released for it too.

So I do recommend that you check TweetMiner out and I’ll be following its progress with interest (and using it to post to Twitter from time to time). You can sign up using the link below:

Download TweetMiner

Finding Breaking News To Post To Twitter

Of course, you need to find some good sources of breaking news to get the most out of TweetMiner - preferrably sources that few other people use. So instead oof just tweeting the latest posts from TechCrunch or Mashable (good though both those blogs are), try thinking creatively to find interesting content.

Here are some of my tips for building a network of great sources of new and diverse content:

The Old Guard

Many of the first generation of social websites are still going very strong, with loyal, intelligent users that like to discuss the issues of the day in great detail. Sites like Slashdot, MetaFilter (and its simian sibling) are still great. Whilst K5 is good for US politics and B3ta is great for peurile British humour.

Google Trends & Alerts

Both Google Trends and Google Alerts can provide RSS feeds, allowing you to find out what people are searching for and be notified whenever a new blog post covers an area that you are interested in.

Feeds Of Search Results

Both Bing and Yahoo provide feeds of their search results so grab a few for some narrow keywords and plug them into TweetMiner.

Google doesn’t like to release its SERPs via RSS, but luckily there is

Smaller Social Sites

There are loads of niche social bookmarking sites out there if you look beyond Digg and Reddit. Places like Kirtsy, Mister wong and Twine have gold in their upcoming story sections. You can also check out this long list of niche social media sites on Traffikd.

Delicious Tags & Networks

I rave about how useful delicious.com is all the time and I am constantly amazed at how few people use it to its full potential.

Build a great Delicious network or grab an RSS feed from a number of tags and plug it into TweetMiner to find those gems that people will want to read again later. You could always add me to your delicious network too!

Do you know of any other great but unsung sources of breaking news of interesting content? Let me know in the comments.


Creative Commons licensed photo by cobalt123.

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Hacknorth Cancelled But SNZero Was Good

Posted on 03 Oct 2009 by Andy

So, most of you now know that Hackday North was cancelled after Dom’s announcement on his blog. To borrow Dom’s words, I’m gutted too - it promised to be a fun day, with lots of geeky (and non-geeky) activities planned.

After a chance meeting on Park Row, we decided to meet up for a beer and catch up. As luck would have it, we settled on Wednesday evening - the night of a new event called Social Networking Zero (AKA SN-Zero).

Social Networking ZERO

Organised by Matt Pallat of 26.point.1, the premise behind SN-Zero was to get back to the roots of social networking, to allow digital marketing professionals to talk to each other around tables that had beer on them, not netbooks with free wi-fi.

The event fulfilled its brief perfectly, thanks to sponsor Hotfoot Recruitment’s generous free bar and the hard-working staff at The Adelphi.

The night was well-attended by a mix of people from the tech scene in Leeds and everyone was getting merry when I left (quite early, sorry!). I hope that Matt continues to organise more SN-Zero events.

Barcamp Adelaide, Anyone?

Whilst I’m on the subject of social geeks, it looks like a BarCamp is being organised for Adelaide. It’s still in the very early planning stages but if you want to get involved, do get in touch with Monnie.

I hope to get involved, and I might even present something.

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Delicious.com Becomes A Sharing Hub

Posted on 12 Aug 2009 by Andy

Since delicious announced new tools to share bookmarks last week, I’ve been on the lookout for examples of them in the wild. It seems that the Twitter integration is becoming popular because I’ve noticed quite a few tweets that make use of delicious’s URL shortener - icio.us. Here’s a search that shows all those tweets as they arrive in realtime.

The URL shortener is a nice use of the old del.icio.us domain - one of the original (and coolest) domain hacks on the web, that spawned a thousand imitators.

Tweets sent via delicious require your password (instead of using the more secure OAuth protocol) which is a shame but I think we can probably trust Yahoo with our passwords (it has been my OpenID provider for many years). The tweets are also marked as being sent via the API but hopefully the twitter devs will add delicious to the list of approved applications very soon.

Whilst I have my misgivings about the new delicious frontpage, and I’m not alone, I like these new features and I hope that delicious continues to integrate and becomes a bit more daring in some of its future innovations.


More On Delicious:

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Twitter Domain Names

Posted on 05 Aug 2009 by Andy

In a bored moment the other day I was idly looking to see which (if any) other top level domain names are owned by twitter.com. The answer is, none.

This is quite a common mistake made by startups, they work incredibly hard to become a global brand and then discover that a bunch of domainers and/or squatters have taken the different, localised variations of their brand name.

However, it seems that Twitter might be about to remedy the situation as Smart Company (AU) reports that Twitter retained Melbourne IT company to manage its domain portfolio. My investigations (below) show that one of the biggest threats to Twitter’s brand comes from twitter.com.au so that might indicate a reason for choosing an Australian company, although there’s no official comment yet.

Let’s have a look at those other twitter TLDs that are polluting the brand of a company that might be worth as much as $250 million US:

Global TLDs

  • twitter.net - a site for birdwatchers with a nice big link to twitter.com on the homepage. No real brand pollution here.
  • twitter.org - a squatted domain with no website (the owner is missing out on some adevertising revenue methinks). If a website appears, it could do some brand damage to twitter but there are no immediate problems.
  • twitter.info - redirects to a twitter users account. Nice use of the domain name and no brand damage here.
  • twitter.me - another squatted domain with no website.
  • twitter.biz - a squatted domain, currently parked at GoDaddy and displaying Twitter related products.
  • twitter.mobi - another one that’s squatted without a website.
  • twitter.name - redirects to twitter.us.

Country Specific TLDs

  • twitter.us - parked at GoDaddy and showing twitter related adverts.
  • twitter.co.uk - this should be ringing some alarms bells at twitter.com. The page sells advertising and donates the money to charity but it does complain about twitter.com’s policy of not verifying email addresses for new accounts and the story was picked up by the UK Guardian’s Digital Media blog. By all accounts the owner is not maliciously squatting the domain, nor does he want to sell so twitter.com could easily address his grievances to remedy any branding issues.
  • twitter.com.au - This site seems to be an out-and-out attempt to cash in on the twitter name - lots of irrelevant adverts. Ev and Biz want to get this fixed ASAP.
  • twitter.fr - redirects to twitter.com. It’s registered owner is Melbourne IT, so owned by Twitter.
  • twitter.ie - parked and displaying adverts.
  • twitter.es - parked but no website.
  • twitter.ca - a nice little informational website that makes clear it has no affiliation with twitter.com.
  • twitter.co.nz - parked and displaying adverts.
  • twitter.tv - parked and displaying adverts.

All of the other ccTLDs I tried were parked with or without an associated website.

Misspellings

I tried a few misspellings of twitter.com (such as twiter.com and twiitter.com) and they were all parked too. There is also twittersucks.com for a few LOLs.

So, What Should Twitter Do?

It would make sense to keep the owner of twitter.co.uk happy and block signups using an email address from twitter.co.uk as that is what he wants and a quick, technical fix should satisfy the guy.

The squatted domains may be different. Twitter is still a very well-loved service but users are fickle and domain squatters could be quick to exploit (or provoke) bad feeling. If I were in Twitter’s position right now, I’d buy up a few of those top level domain names using a discreet third-party and (hopefully) without resorting to legal threats.

Most domainers are happy to make a quick buck and it is usually cheaper to buy them off than to pay a gaggle of lawyers. Keeping branding issues out of the press can also be a consideration, so a quiet back-channel can be useful. Whatever you think of the morality is domain squatting, it happens and successful companies will need to deal with it at some stage - better to do so earlier than later.


More On Twitter:

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I Love Delicious Because It’s Selfish

Posted on 12 May 2009 by Andy

This post came about after a short Twitter exchange with DeWitt Clinton (he’s @dewitt on Twitter). He asked:

Where do you find new interesting sites/memes *before* they hit digg, popurls, techmeme, reddit, etc? The more tech flavored the better.

I answered that I have a great network on delicious.com that provides me with that kind of thing. His reply got me thinking:

I’ve been treating delicious as write-only for years

This is exactly why del.icio.us is so powerful - the data that people enter is for their own use!

Delicious Is Anti-Social Bookmarking

We delicious users all store bookmarks (and colour palettes) for our own reference. Unlike Digg, Mixx, Reddit et al we’re not adding bookmarks to send traffic or become a top user or hit the front page or stimulate discussion. There’s little SEO, marketing or self-promotional value to being a popular delicious user (the front page sends a lot of traffic but that’s not the same as being a popular user).

We are being selfish and it’s powerful.

It’s powerful because it’s also open. If can identify a thought-leader in a given and he has a delicious account, I can see which sites he thinks are important enough to save for later reference.

This is very similar to my twitter philosophy of “follow interesting people” (stolen, I think, from Robert Scoble).

How To Build Your Delicious Network

I’ve got around forty people in my network right now, each one is active and interesting so I get about thirty to fifty interesting new links sent to me every day. Here’s how I found those people:

  1. Pick subjects of interest - check your top ten tags if you’re not sure
  2. Find out who the thought leaders are in each area. You probably know who they are already, but you can always find more. Use tools like:
    • Google blog search
    • Twitter - search for hashtags and just ask people
    • FriendFeed
    • Academic papers
  3. You’ll find that a lot of people use the same username on all their Web 2.0 sites so check if they have a delicious account
  4. If their delicious username isn’t obvious, try FriendFeed. That has links to a person’s delicious account under their list of services
  5. Check their blog - lots of people automatically post their bookmarks every week using a Wordpress plugin
  6. Try SocialWhoIs
  7. When you have found their delicious profile, click the “Add to my network” link and then click “Yes” to confirm - I always forget to confirm

Build up a good sized network and check back periodically for new links (the Delicious Firefox plugin will highlight the network icon in the status bar if you have unread links in your network).

Enjoy - if you have geeky interests you can find my delicious profile here but only add me if you find my links interesting!


Creative Commons licensed photo by Thomas R. Stegelmann.

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New To Twitter? Cut Beyond The Hype And Use Twitter Like A Pro

Posted on 23 Mar 2009 by Andy

So you’ve given in to the online hype and the pleadings of your friends and signed up for Twitter, but it’s not the Web 2.0 utopia you were led to believe, it’s a quiet little space with no mates, no fun and little to keep you there. Before you give up and go back to Myspace, give the suggestions in here a try.

Signing Up

Signing up is pretty straightforward if you can still find a name available. If not, get creative, try to avoid using your birth year though - that’s a bit lame.

HINT: Try to pick a fairly unique name that you’ll be able to use across different websites. It really helps other people to find you if you have a consistent identity.

If you use a webmail account (like GMail or Yahoo Mail), let Twitter look through your contacts to see if it recognises anyone. The guys behind Twitter are quite trustworthy, I’ve not heard of any privacy arising from this step.

Follower Suggestions

Twitter provides a list of people that it suggests you follow, and how you answer will affect how you use it. This list is a selection of very popular people on the site, like basketball star Shaquille O’Neil, US sitcom star Ellen Degeneres, top-flight CEOs.

It will also suggest bots like CNNs breaking news feed or Gordon Brown’s moronic list of public engagements. Some of these can be really useful - others, like Brown, are wasteful noise.

Careful though. Whilst most celebrities and CEOs often do engage with others on Twitter, they can’t talk with every one of their forty thousand followers. If in doubt, don’t follow any of these suggested people - you can always find them later.

All Signed Up, What’s Next? Who Should I Follow?

Just a minute. There’s another step that will really help you to make new friends on Twitter: Fill out your profile!

Go to the “settings” link at the top-right and (at the very least) fill out the two fields labelled “One Line Bio” and “Location”.

These are important because when you follow someone, they get an email telling them that you are following. Most users will then check out your profile to see if you’re interesting enough to follow back so spend a little time thinking about your biography. You can be informative, playful, caring etc. but you’ve got to be short.

You Need A Picture Too

After completing your profile, please take the time to add a little picture to represent you. When everyone first signs up they get a drab brown picture like this:

Default Twitter Avatar

Make yourself stand out from the crowd with a nice picture. It doesn’t have to be a photo of your face (or any other part of you) but that doesn’t hurt either. You can create a fun cartoon face with this tool, which is very popular.

Once you have the picture you want, click the “Picture” tab on your Twitter profile settings page. Then “Browse” to choose the file with your picture and “Save”.

Now Can I Follow People And Have Fun?

Yes, yes you can.

But How Do I Find People To Follow On Twitter

Good question. First, try to think of what kind of people you want to follow: artistic people, geeks, musicians, students, business people, pet lovers, parents - there are people of all kinds on Twitter, from atheists to zoologists.

Then, when you know who you are looking for, try these:

Directories

There are quite a few Twitter directories that have people divided into categories by their interests:

HINT: Add yourself to these directories so other people can find you and follow you.

Search Twitter

It’s not obvious from the homepage (yet) but Twitter does have a search function. Try searching for phrases related to your interests and click the pictures of the people returned to see if they are interesting.

Hopefully, now you see why it was so important to fill out your profile and get a picture!

HINT: You might see words starting with a hash (#) in the search results. People use these to share tweets about a specific event or subject - try finding one related to your interests and searching for it.

Search Google

Most people on Twitter have their own website or blog and they will link to their Twitter page with the words “follow me on twitter” so try googling for that and some other words to find out more about them than will fit into their short Twitter biography.

HINT: Got a Facebook page? Add a link to your Twitter profile.

I’m Following People, What Do I Talk About?

Pretty much, whatever you want but if you want a conversation you need to be interesting and engaging. Try some of these tactics:

  • Ask questions
  • Answer questions
  • “I’m reall excited about...”
  • “This is a funny picture” (add a link to the picture)

People Aren’t Following Me Back!

They will. Give it time and keep being interesting. Eventually it all snowballs and you’ll feel really important to the internet.

More Help

This post was written as a response to a (real life, not twitter) conversation I had with @JS__78 at the weekend and I hope it inspires her to give Twitter another try - please follow her and give her a bit of support.

I’ll write a followup with some more tips for intermediate users soon (and maybe an advanced one later). In the meantime you might like one of my earlier posts of Twitter Tips.

Check out other websites for lots of Twitter tips, this is a great post by @dhollings.

Finally, if you’ve still got questions, ask away in the comments below or catch me on Twitter.


Creative Commons licensed photo by davemelbourne.

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Free Twitter SMS In The UK

Posted on 16 Feb 2009 by Andy

Since Twitter stopped updating UK users via SMS about six months ago, there have been a number of third parties stepping up to offer support.

Getting SMS updates was a useful feature, but not a must have for me at least so I didn’t try any of the paid up-front services listed below:

I’m sure there are many others too, leave a comment if you know of one.

Free, At Last

After doing without SMS updates, a free service caught my eye. Twe2 offers advert-supported delivery of your Twitter direct messages via SMS.

I checked out the company (it’s been whitelisted by Twitter and is using the Wadja network to provide the adverts), and signed up and I've been testing the service for about a fortnight now.

First impressions are great - it does exactly what it says on the tin. You get an SMS sent to your phone for each Twitter DM you receive. The tweet gets truncated to 91 characters to make room for the advert at the end but I haven’t found this to be a problem so far.

Not Quite As Good As Twitter

Unlike the old Twitter service, you don’t get fine control over which users send direct messages to your phone - there are no equivalents to Twitter’s on and off commands - it’s all or nothing.

This is a feature that I really miss, I used to get a useful SMS when my website went down or I had to take urgent action.

Better Than Twitter

Unlike Twitter’s service, Twe2 can send SMS alerts based on searches that you configure against the full public stream. The total number of text messages you get from Twe2 is rate limited to a maximum of a hundred per hour, very useful if you set an alert for a term that goes hot!

Don’t Use Autofollow DMs

Pretty soon after I started with Twe2, I received twenty(!) copies of the same direct message from @seolman thanking me for following him.

I was pretty annoyed and immediately blocked him.

It turned out that it was due to a horrendous bug in TweetLater - a Twitter service that I use too. I unblocked seolman since he was very apologetic.

I was also unwittingly sending auto-follow DMs due to another bug in TweetLater for which I humbly apologise. I don’t think any of my followers got twenty messages but let me know if you did!

Twitter To Re-Instate UK SMS?

Hopefully, Twe2 will keep on innovating and find some way to match the Twitter functionality, but all their effort might be for nought if this interview is to be believed.

Twe2 is a good service that I recommend and it shows how innovative coders will work around the artificial restrictions put in place by short-sighted, greedy telecoms companies. Any British mobile phone operator with half a brain would have jumped at the chance to have a high-profile client like Twitter and should have offered a very deep discount.

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