Anatomy of a tweet


The 140 character message is the least of it!



How to fake being social on social networks

Updating three social networks daily sounds like an easy task. But what if your goal is to update these sites a certain number of times in specific ways, but after a busy week, you realize you may have updated each site with a status update daily, but forgotten to accept friend request or respond to messages. So for this to do list item, I will define what specific updates I would like to do daily.

  1. Twitter daily actions
    • Check and respond to direct messages
    • Check and respond to Mentions
    • Send three relevant status updates daily
  2. Facebook daily actions
    • Check and respond to inbox messages
    • Update business pages
    • Happy Birthday greetings
    • Check and respond to group / page discussions
    • Send three relevant status updates

[etc, etc]

(via How to Write a Clearly Defined To Do List –

… what the hell? I’ve never needed a reminder to check messages people send me. You just read them. If you are too busy, you read them when you’re done or need a bit of a break. This stuff shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be so unintuitive that you need a fucking list to remind yourself that you give a shit what your ‘friends’ are saying to you!

Oh, and please, don’t forget to ‘send three relevant status updates daily’. It hardly matters if you don’t have anything interesting to say, does it? Just knock up some drivel about how to sell your crap on Twitter without looking like you’re just trying to sell your crap.

I should probably just not read blogs like this…

“haha. This you????”

I’ve only had two of these phishing DMs that are currently all the rage on Twitter. Curiosity got the better of me, so I followed the link. I’m tempted to create a dummy account and give it the credentials to see what it does.

I’ve attached screenshots, comparing the fake login page with the real one, and the destination you get to when you give the fake page your credentials. (I used fake info, naturally!) It’s just an empty Blogger blog. Most of the other links on the fake page don’t work.

Honestly, I can see how people are taken in. I instantly noticed the padding errors where they hadn’t duplicated the page properly, but Twitter hasn’t always had the best design, so I could easily believe it was the real login page on a bad day. Of course, the URL is totally wrong, but that could be missed by people with no reason to doubt the link.

Welsh Twitter dragon #Daily365

A bit of a cheat today – this design wasn’t created entirely this evening. In fact, it’s about three evening’s work (see other posts from last September).

Tonight, I changed the eyebrow so he looks less angry (I actually preferred that look, but had several negative criticisms), finalised the palette using a nice scheme from Colour Lovers and added a bit of canvas texture in GIMP.

Of course, I’m not the only one doing these daily designs – check out ‘Of Science and Beauty‘ for some really nice science themed illustrations.

Twitter dragon – a mascot for Welsh tweeters

A simple mashup of the Twitter cartoon bird identity and 'Y Ddraig Goch' that appears on the Welsh flag. It’s not finalised yet, but it’s nearly there. When I look at it again in a few day, I’ll probably spot exactly what needs to be tweaked to make it just right. Of course, feedback at this stage is often useful too. :)

I’m thinking about putting him on a grassy backdrop, to imitate the Welsh flag even more.

A dirty little trick to get more followers on Twitter

About a year ago I gave up caring who started following me on Twitter, largely because of the proliferation of blatant spammers. I put up a note on my bio saying that if people really wanted me to reciprocate, the should send me a message, and I would certainly follow back if they were an interesting real person, and not some spam account (or worse). This still seems perfectly reasonable to me.

More recently though I decided I should take a more active interest in those who choose to follow me. I started using the excellent Topify, which makes it easy to identify spammers and I check out anyone who seems interesting.

Consequently, I’ve spotted an annoying trend.

There are many, many users who follow about 200 more people than follow them back. They are taking advantage of the fact that about half of the people that they follow, will follow them back! For whatever reason a large number of people feel it is the done thing to just blindly follow back anyone who follows them, however spammy, offensive or bizarre the new follower is! Personally, I don’t understand this behaviour in the slightest: I don’t want spam in my Twitter stream – so I don’t follow spammers. It’s simple.

Nonetheless, if you want to steadily grow your follower base, add 100 new people a day. Then, after you’ve been doing this for a few days, go back and unfollow all those who didn’t follow you in return, while continuing to follow new people. This way your ratio will always be near enough 1:1, making you look legitimate and popular. Eventually, when you reach an acceptable target (say, 10,000 followers) you can have a big purge and get rid of a lot of the mindless sheep you have accumulated. Say, 20-30% of them. Now it looks like you are a power user. Any new visitors to your profile will assume that you are hugely important and that maybe they should listen to you too.

So there you go, now you can claim to be an SEO-demigod, and have huge numbers of low-quality followers seeming to back it up.

Or you could just use Twitter like a normal person.

The Virgin Media Twitter account saga

I was finally able to access the Gmail account that I used for my @virginmedia Twitter profile that Virgin Media ‘stole’ from me earlier this month. I now know that I received only one email from Twitter on the subject. There was no opportunity to change the name myself, or to fight my position. They also stripped the avatar, background image and bio (presumably because these reinforced the ‘impersonation’), leaving me with @notvirginmedia. I’ve copied the email from Twitter below.

Hi There,

We’ve received a complaint from Virgin Media, UK. It has come to our attention that your Twitter account:

is in violation of our basic Terms of Service, specifically article 4 which mentions impersonation:

  1. You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.

In this case “impersonation” is the issue. Impersonation is against our terms of service unless it’s parody. The standard for defining parody is, “Would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke.”

To settle this issue we’ve changed the user name to “notvirginmedia” in the full name and username fields in order to eliminate confusion. You can change your real and user names to something else if you’d like:

  1. Visit
  2. Edit the Full Name and Username fields
  3. Click “Save”

but please honor Twitterʼs Terms of Service accordingly. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.


Twitter Support

However you define parody or impersonation in legal terms, I’d imagine my Twitter profile was in a pretty grey area. I had copied the branding and used their company name, but the bio line (‘We’re Virgin Media, you’re just a customer’) and the tweeted content was pretty clearly parody and not produced or endorsed by Virgin Media.

I have reconfigured Twitterfeed and tweaked the design of the page to make it a clearer parody. I’m not interested in fighting this in any way, but I think a lot less of Twitter as a result.

One unexpected angle on all this is the Virgin Media Twitter profile itself. Although they only have five updates, despite launching a major new service, the are at least @ replying to some users. Hopefully they will use Twitter as a positive force. I originally set up the account out of frustration through shitty service. Twitter is an excellent way to provide a small amount of technical support (that you don’t have to pay for!) or to provide service level updates, etc.

Let’s hope they use it for good!

Virgin Media ‘stole’ my Twitter account

About a year ago, after a particularly frustrating experience with Virgin Media, I created a Twitter profile, @virginmedia, and set up a TwitterFeed, drawing from various forums and keyword based news searches. The design of the profile copied their branding (better than it currently does!) and had the sarcastic bio: ‘We’re Virgin Media, you’re just a customer‘.

So not exactly great PR for them.

It amused me that most of the stories were complaints about service or technical difficulties, but the account could easily have tweeted positive stories. The feed seemed a pretty reasonable reflection of their service to me.

Anyway, today I have just noticed that the page has been ‘claimed’ – presumably by Virgin Media itself. The page has been wiped clean: zero followers, zero following, zero updates. Zero bad Google karma.

So my question is, how pissed off should I be? I feel like this is fair game… it’s not my brand to screw around with. If I fought it in court, I’d certainly be out of luck. It’s not like I’d have fought for it anyway. But still, I’m a bit pissed that Twitter just gave over the keys to the account like that!

Ah well, Virgin Media Sucks, but I have no other choice!

EDIT (28 Dec 2008): I just discovered that in fact my account wasn’t deleted so much as ‘moved aside’.  The Twitter account @notvirginmedia is the account formerly known as @virginmedia. It has all the posts up to the point where the username changed and broke the Twitterfeed. They also stripped the account of the avatar and background image (copyright infringement?) and the bio line. Bastards.

See this more recent post for an update.

Help me improve the @datahole feed!

Firstly, I need to find some good sources. I’m starting with the Open Rights Group (data protection tag) and The Register (Security / ID tag). I’d look at the EFF, but they seem to be down at the moment. I’m also using a Twitter Search feed for #datahole. I’m open to any and all suggestions for good news sources. I’m hoping the Twitter and Identica community will contribute other valuable links and commentary too.

Some of these feeds should probably be filtered using keywords like lost, personal and data. Suggest any more?

Secondly, I need a plumber. Well, not exactly! I’ve used Yahoo! Pipes for some pretty basic stuff before, but for some reason, I can’t seem to get the Reg stories to mix in with the other feeds. I think it’s because their pubDate is formatted differently, but I don’t know how to fix that. I’ve published the pipe. Please, have a look and feel free to rewire the feed.

It’d be nice to make some other tweaks too. I’d like to cite the source at the start of the tweet (eg: [EL REG]), and strip out all the other gubbins, so each post becomes: [SOURCE] Headline – Link.

Click for the Datahole 0.5 pipe

Twitter themes for dummies

Twitter introduced new themes recently, which should help bring a bit of variety to profile pages, but a shocking amount of people seem to stick with the default twitter page design. Or worse, modify it badly and really bodge things up. Here’s a quick guide to making a nice theme.

  1. Pick a nice colour palette. Colour Lovers is great for this. I chose a monocromatic an aggressive red palette, but you’re probably better off going for some contrast. Nothing vivid mind! We don’t want to melt any eyeballs or anything. Write down the hex values or keep the page handy.
  2. Make a background image. You can use a plain colour if you like, but the background is the biggest canvas for creative freedom on Twitter, so why not make the most of it. I used Stripe Generator. Just plug in your colours until it looks good. You can be bold, but try to pick a couple of colours that don’t clash together. Preview to make sure things tile nicely and download when you’re happy. I ended up with this, which suits my project nicely.
    If you lack even this basic level of artistic ability, just grab a nice image from Twitter Patterns. What do I care?
  3. Now to business! Go to your Twitter settings and look under the design tab. This is much improved over the last version, but it can still be a bit clunky. Go ahead and upload your background image and save changes. Looking good? I’ll take your word for it.
    To the right you can change your design colours. Put your hex numbers from Colour Lover in here. Be sensible and make sure you can read all the text clearly. This can be trickier than you might think. The live preview is great, but make sure you check your actual profile page, as other users will see it. Do your links stand out? Can you read everything in the sidebar? Then that’s probably as good as you’re going to get. Job done.
  4. Well, almost. You still need a decent avatar, but that’s a subject for when I’m less grouchy. Just one pointer: If you use Face Your Manga, you have failed.

Further reading: Learn a bit about colour theory, and experiment. Look for inspiration, and try some helpful tools.

Tweeting every time your data is compromised

Tonight, my project is to add some polish to my Twitter project: Data Hole. It’s an automated Twitter account that uses Twitterfeed to post links to news stories about companies and governments that loose personal data records, or otherwise compromise your privacy. The goal is to raise awareness about the issue. At the moment it’s just taking in a Google News feed, but I plan to use Yahoo! Pipes to refine it a bit, and add some other features. I’m going to look into using TweetLater too.

I may also write a follow up to my blog post, ‘Build a Robot Slave in Twitter‘. But probably not.