My pet monster, by Steven Kraan

Steven Kraan (aka @drawing_daily) has been drawing monsters for people everyone who follows him, and he’s created probably thousands by this point. I followed him a couple of months ago and today I got my pet monster:

I think it looks great! If you want one he’s planning to stop after he reaches 4,444 followers (as I write this he’s at 4,404 followers).

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The internet’s plans for that thing you created

Here’s an example of something I will never understand. A Twitter account called @wallstreetwoif posted this (the ‘i’ in woif is styled in uppercase, as you do) shared this:

And @picpedant (who you should go and follow now) pointed out that this is a copy of a Doghouse Diaries original, with the credit cut off and the captions reformatted:

Doghouse Diaries - Plans

It also looks like it’s been photocopied a few times, had some extra outlines put on. The ponytail on the stick figure has also been removed and the second frame now has a border at the end, weakening the point made in the strip somewhat.

The thing I don’t understand is why any of this?

Why take the effort to remove someone’s credit? Why make their work look like shit? Why edit it to change the meaning? Why share it without giving a thought to who created it?

I find it all very strange.

Updating @datahole

Datahole's Twitter avatar Datahole is a Twitter account I have been ‘maintaining’ for over four years. In practice I’ve simply been letting it run itself.

It takes RSS feeds from Ars Technica, Wired, The Guardian and Bruce Schneier‘s blog and looks for stories containing words like ‘leak’, ‘phishing’ and ‘password’.

Then it adds in unfiltered posts from The Register’s security news and The Open Rights Group.

Last night I updated the look and feel of the account with a new avatar, header and background image. Besides these cosmetic tweaks I added two feeds from the blog of security expert Brian Krebs, specifically his categories ‘latest warnings’ and ‘the coming storm’.

How? And why? →

My Twitter archive

I’ve finally been able to download my tweet archive from Twitter. I’m really impressed with how they’ve made the data browsable and easy to explore. Here are my first tweets from January 2007:

My tweets from January 2007

Fascinating, no? You can also see some account details, which informed me that I am user ID #703,673 and that I joined on 25 Jan 2007, 8:53:08 PM (UTC).

You can get your own tweets (if they are available to you) via your settings at twitter.com/settings/account.

What else do you get? →

Link

I like this suggestion for pinned tweets from Alex Pankratov:

The idea is to reserve the top part of my tweet stream for tweets that are promoted, or pinned, by their posters. This way if I go on a vacation and a vendor ships an update, I will still see the news when I get back:

Pinned tweet mockup

Once a pinned tweet is shown to me, it starts dropping down in my timeline as usual. Think of it as a delayed, on-demand tweet delivery.

I’d propose a variation of this idea though — perhaps pinned tweets could be generated from the tweets that people I follow are favouriting and retweeting a lot. Many people use favourites to bookmark tweets they want to follow up on, so Twitter could encourage this behaviour, perhaps by changing favourites into pins. Continue reading

Waterstone’s Spy Games

Waterstones Oxford Street I’ve moaned before about the obnoxious ‘RT and/or follow us to win a free iPad’ marketing strategy on Twitter before, and I had another little moan today. It’s depressing that so many of the people I choose to follow see no problem with sending unsolicited spam my way for the outside possibility of winning something or other. It’s human nature I guess.

A little later, @WstonesOxfordSt demonstrated a different kind of Twitter marketing. If only more corporate Twitter accounts would follow their example.

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Tweets of Note

Update 2012.03.23: Never mind.

Tweets of Note was going to be a weekly newsletter, created with TinyLetter, that compiled links and other stuff from my Twitterings. I promoted it a bit on Twitter (it got 12 subscribers — thanks!) and put together the first edition. When it was ready (666 words!), I hit send. And…

“Message was not sent because its content is flagged as spam”

Oh. They don’t give me an option to edit my email either. ‘That looks like spam’, yoink. If I hadn’t emailed myself a draft, I wouldn’t have any copy at all.

So the idea has been nixed by an algorithm. While I don’t consider the newsletter (linkletter?) to be spammy, I can’t think of any way to provide an email full of links without it looking spammy.

I’ve included the text from the newsletter below. Consider this the first and final edition. Sorry if you were hoping for more. Continue reading

Please stop

Aside

This is one of my pet hates.

It’s sad that marketers have figured out how to get their brand into my timeline, even when I have chosen not to follow them. And even sadder that it works.

Flighty birds: My free Creative Commons designs that keep getting stolen anyway

I’ve been having some problems with flighty birds recently. Actually one is a penguin and the other is a dragon. Here they are, together for the first time:

Cartoon penguin meets Twitter dragon.

Two variations of Tux

Original Tux on the left

I created the penguin in early 2009, working on a tiny EeePC, running Linux. I was actually taking a stab at improving the look of Tux, but he went in a different direction.

The dragon was created in early 2010, to look like the familiar Twitter bird, but with a unique Welsh dragon spin.

Both images have gone on to be pretty popular on the web, used for avatars in forums, on Twitter and so on. I deliberately licensed both as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This means that people are welcome to use the images, for free, on condition that they provide a proper credit, and do not seek to profit directly or indirectly from use of my work. Also, they must make any derivative work available under the same terms.

The continuing misadventures of ‘Boggle’

These conditions seem more than reasonable to me, but I’ve spotted examples of people either not knowing or not caring that they are violating this very liberal licence, especially with the cartoon penguin design. There was a guy selling penguin t-shirt prints, and then only last month I found an iPhone game and a Mac software house using him. I ended up giving permission to the latter – they seemed nice enough.

The original Cartoon penguin post had actually become one of my most popular pages, bringing in 100+ hits per day via Google image search… until a few days ago I noticed this had stopped! Compare the following images:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - September 2009

This is how the image search for 'cartoon penguin' looked last month (September 2011).

Compare that with the result today:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - October 2011

...and this is the same search today (October 2011)

Yup, now Google has removed the link to my original page, and instead sends searchers to this charming Tumblr page:

bowlofcarrots, some random dude on Tumblr

SEO surgery

Clearly the guy is no designer or SEO expert, but he has managed to outrank me for my own image! I’m assuming he’s winning because the image is near the top of the page in the title area (that appears on every page), and he’s renamed the image ‘cartoon-penguin.jpg‘, whereas my original is the less useful ‘penguin_finished_012.png‘.

Last night I optimised my site a little in an attempt to win back favour. I also contacted Mr. Bowlofcarrots via his site and Tumblr support, though I don’t really expect any joy from either of them.

It’s surprised me how annoyed I am by this minor injustice. After all, this is an image I was happy enough to give away for free. It occurred to me that even though this Tumblr user isn’t attempting to ‘steal’ my work in the same way as some previous people have, he has nonetheless taken it from me in a more real sense. Quite innocently, he has robbed me of my sense of ownership of the image itself. It’s very frustrating.

The @thisiswales saga

My other ‘bird’, the Twitter dragon, has been on other adventures. In this saga, I found him being used as part of the branding for an official-looking Twitter account calling itself ‘this is Wales‘.

Twitter page for @thisiswales, 5 July 2011

How @thisiswales looked in July, 2011

Official-looking it may be, but that’s simply because it imitates the look and feel of a BBC design, while appropriating the ‘This is X’ brand owned by Northcliffe Media (see This is South Wales / @thisisswales for examples). Not to mention, my Welsh dragon design.

Twitter repliesI asked people on Twitter if I should be upset about this – after all, this is another of my ‘free’ designs, and @thisiswales didn’t actually seem to be for any kind of profit.

It turned out that most were more outraged on my behalf than I was! (Thanks everyone!)

In the process of complaining, I may have upset the account’s owner, but he did remove my design later that day as he promised he would. Well, kind of. As I write this I notice that the background image still contains my work, but I think I’ll declare victory anyway.

The owner denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he “recently took on @thisiswales with logo already in place.” This may be true, but I have actually been aware of the account since July, and at that time it linked to the same Mr. @uselessdesires. Depends how you define recent I suppose.

So what?

I do realise both of these cases are pretty trivial. It’s not like Paperchase or Urban Outfitters have stolen my work to be used to fuel their profit machine. In the worst case, a blogger has been denied 100 hits a day that weren’t really contributing anything of real value anyway.

Cartoon penguin in life preserver and goldfish bowl helmet. But it’s frustrating to offer something for free, yet still have it taken without permission asked or credit given, especially when the casual theft can have a negative impact on me. It makes me want to use a more traditional full-copyright licence, and go after people who take the piss.

I wonder where they’ll turn up next?

UPDATE 2011.10.18: Tumblr got back to me; they have suspended the blog that was using my penguin image. A bit harsh perhaps, but I’m not going to complain. It will be interesting to see if I regain my ranking (or if Mr. Clipart manages to get his Tumblr blog reinstated).

Static brands don’t belong on Twitter. Discuss.

I just asked a question on Twitter:

Static brands like Coffee #1 and Clark’s Pies are very dull on Twitter. Besides running promos and RTing complements, what else can they do?

Now, I don’t mean to call out Coffee #1 or Clark’s Pies in particular. (I happen to love coffee and pies, though not necessarily together!) Both of these brands are small, local companies who are interacting with followers. They look and sound professional, and are probably doing everything a ‘social media expert’ would recommend. But the experience of following them can be, to choose a charitable word, repetitive.

Should brands like these be on Twitter? What better ways could static brands take advantage of a fast-moving medium?

Is human communication to blame for the London riots?

Quote

In its coverage, the Daily Mail quoted one tweeter, AshleysAR as follows: “Ashley AR’ tweeted: ‘I hear Tottenham’s going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll.”

However, AshleysAR’s full, unedited quote on Twitter reads: “I hear Tottenham’s going coco-bananas right now. Watch me roll up with a spud gun :|”.

Suddenly the tone of the message becomes markedly less sinister. Ashley later threatens to join in with a water pistol.

Despite the claim of Tottenham MP David Lammy that the riots were “organised on Twitter”, there is little evidence of their orchestration on the site’s public feeds.

Looking back through Saturday night’s postings, DanielNothing’s stream offers some promise of substantiating the theory with his comment: “Heading to Tottenham to join the riot! who’s with me? #ANARCHY”.

But it is followed soon after by: “Hang on, that last tweet should’ve read ‘Curling up on the sofa with an Avengers DVD and my missus, who’s with me?’ What a klutz I am!”

(via Is technology to blame for the London riots? – bbc.co.uk)

How long before we have another Twitter joke trial farce?

Why you should use the location field in Twitter

I have two good reasons why you should consider using the location field for its intended purpose:

  1. You’re not being as clever as you think (see below).
  2. One of the best uses of Twitter is finding out what is happening locally.

Personally, I will almost always follow someone local to me. If you’re a postman in Hull, then who cares, but if you might be my postman, then you could be really interesting to follow.

You don’t have to type out your whole address or anything. City or county is close enough to be handy.

An analysis of the non-geographic information entered into the location field

via Augmented Social Cognition Research Blog from PARC: “Location” Field in Twitter User Profiles (and an interesting fact about Justin Bieber) – asc-parc.blogspot.com

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Link

I had already written multiple Twitter bots by this time so I decided to just use some of my existing code to poll Twitter’s search API. Essentially, the “documents” I mentioned above were actually tweets containing the terms “book” or “books.” Two and a half days later I had a working prototype that could generate a book recommendation from a given tweet. It was at this time that I added steps 5 and 6:

Tag URLs returned from Amazon’s ItemSearch with an affiliate ID; and Reply to the tweeting user with their new book suggestion

Four months later and I had generated over $7,000 in sales for Amazon with over $400 commission for myself.

(via How I Made Money Spamming Twitter with Contextual Book Suggestions – charleshooper.net)

Read this is you are determined to build a Twitter keyword spambot. The author throttled the amount of tweets, recorded usernames so he wouldn’t annoy the same person twice and generally did his best to build a relevant spambot with good etiquette.

A Twitter web client for Luddites

Old Twitter

Image: Twitter c.2007

Here’s a free idea that someone might get some milage out of. Every time a website like Facebook, Flickr or Twitter overhauls its design, a vocal percentage of users complain. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ they will cry. ‘Why is the thing that used to be up there now over here?’ they will moan. ‘Change it back or I’m leaving’ they will insist.

Why not cater for these users that are uncomfortable with change? Build a Twitter web client that looks exactly like an older version of Twitter. Hell, build them all and let people choose for themselves how many features they want to take away?

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Tweetcarts: Can we have some of these in Cardiff?

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This is a brilliant idea – food trucks that move around and advertise their presence on Twitter! Examples from the states include @Whiffies (deep fried pies?), @kogibbq (Korean BBQ tacos, with over 74,000 followers!), the wonderful looking @RickshawTruck (dumplings), @DumplingStation (more dumplings) and @cremebruleecart (‘better living through dessert’). I’m sure there are others.

Can some dumpling chef start one of these in Cardiff please? (And if you do, try and think of some clever ways to use Foursquare / Gowalla / Facebook Places as well as Twitter.)

EDIT 19.09.2010: Our very own mobile Twitter entrepreneur @big_blue_bike just pointed out to me a brilliant variation of this from Copenhagen: A Coffee Bike!

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Roger Ebert on the merits of Twitter

I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! – Roger Ebert’s Journal

Ebert lays out a good set of rules for making the most out of Twitter, describes how it has become particularly important to him, shares some observations and even talks about some of the many other interesting Twitter users he follows, with reasons why.

Simply one of the best posts on Twitter I have read.

If you’re not following him, you should be: @ebertchicago

A branding lesson from Leroy Stick, aka @BPGlobalPR

Quote

You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand?  Have a respectable brand.  Offer a great, innovative product and make responsible, ethical business decisions.  Lead the pack!  Evolve!  Don’t send hundreds of temp workers to the gulf to put on a show for the President.  Hire those workers to actually work!  Don’t dump toxic dispersant into the ocean just so the surface looks better.  Collect the oil and get it out of the water!  Don’t tell your employees that they can’t wear respirators while they work because it makes for a bad picture.  Take a picture of those employees working safely to fix the problem.  Lastly, don’t keep the press and the people trying to help you away from the disaster, open it up so people can see it and help fix it.  This isn’t just your disaster, this is a human tragedy.  Allow us to mourn so that we can stop being angry.

(Leroy Stick, The Man Behind @BPGlobalPR)

A justifiably angry article explaining why it’s okay to hit BP with the big Twitter stick. Makes me wish I had fought with Twitter to keep my @virginmedia account. They weren’t destroying the planet or anything, but they did (and do) have terrible customer service.

[Edited post to switch link from Gizmodo to the actual source. Screw Gizmodo, I thought it was their scoop.]