Tag Archives: twitter

Produce, Organise, Consume


I think what I’m trying to sort out in my mind is what are the main skills that people need when being introduced to all the loveliness of Web2.0.

Looking back the components might have been…

  • Having a blog or wiki where you can quickly create information and more importantly, be found (and connected with).
  • Using Delicious so that you can benefit from other people’s bookmarks, work across devices (home, work, iphone etc)
  • Using an RSS Reader to make keeping up-to-date that much easier…

And to be honest, when introducing those three tools to teams, people aren’t half creative with what can be done with crude and simple tools. But with Delicious fading and Google Reader seeming less relevant somehow, is all we’re left with Twitter and Facebook ( or twitter-based tools like Paper.li )? … for both Production and Consumption of information… with nowhere to shape, to hack or Organise our information.

In many ways these three tools never really integrated very well. Maybe that is a good thing, like separation of church and state… Maybe I’m getting old but 2011 feels more about losing choice and control than gaining new features.

Maps, Mobile and Instant Backchannels

Whoo hoo! Doing OpenStreetMap based stuff in Plone works (thanks to some pointers from Giorgio Borelli). Here’s two offices, mine and Alistair’s in Heslington Hall added to the University of York map. Perfect!

Interestingly ANY Plone object can have coordinates (rather than there being a separate Location object type).


My interest in showing maps within the Collaborative Tools Project isn’t actually rooted in maps as such, although they are lovely things… maps aren’t they? What I’m also interested in is…

Flashmobbing and “Good Enough” User Generated Mapping Data

Parts of the University’s campus are very well defined in the OpenStreetMap map and other buildings such as the recently finished Berrick Saul that I look out on are missing completely. I suspect the trails on the map are the result of a StreetMap Party (but I don’t know) where mapping nuts gather with devices and leave their trail(s).

This is fascinating firstly because it happened in the first place, but also because it’d be great to help make it happen again. Or to put it another way, the University of York is awash with energetic young people with a GPS device in their hand… surely with a little gentle persuasion a little effort from a lot of people, say, adding a room’s geographic location could add up to something bigger, better and more useful… Like for example…

…Accessible Maps

There is a project looking to marry the maps that our Estates dept have, with data about the paths, roads and layout around the University to create something that is helpful to people with disabilities. It’s a lot of  (technical) work but I believe that in the meantime we could have a prototype (maybe an iPhone app) that gave enough information to help shape the design of a better system.

Or to put it another way… I suspect that, in order for map to be genuinely useful, it needs to be mobile (and probably not paper) and allow user contributions “Don’t go this way – there’s a massive puddle of duck poo!” etc.

Which leads on to…

… Instant Backchannels…

Or put it another way… Have you ever been at a presentation where the presenter has announced a hashtag that the audience can use to collect tweets from everyone? It’s quite an interesting experience, for the presenter it can be a challenge receiving instant feedback but it also gives everyone outside the room a flavour of what’s going on inside the room.

“Instant backchannels” can be a mess to invoke … almost as if once everyone is in on the secret it works magically, but if they aren’t it can’t. For example, people in the audience might need a twitter account, and to know about tools that pull hashtags searches together… I might want the backchannel displayed alongside (or over) my slides being presented… I also might want some “background” material available too in say a wiki. I’ve even remotely attended conference sessions where the presenter’s talk is video streamed (I think with uStream) and I even got to ask a question via Twitter.

So I thought how easy would it be to create an Instant Backchannel for every room in the University? The idea being that it was there, all ready to go whether you use it or not. The point being that it probably wouldn’t get used much, but when it was, it would be invaluable.

What’s most interesting (to me) is that in order to work it doesn’t require accurate geographical data, it only needs a list of room names BUT the geographical location can be added later, as an when… as simply as tapping a button on your iPhone. It might look something like this…


So there… a very simple idea that might help people find their way around campus, participate remotely in presentations, get in touch with people who aren’t in their office, find information or people based on the discussions that other people had in a room the week before you were in it…

…that involves Crowd-sourcing the geographical location of important places, QR codes to bring the digital into the real world and back again, twitter, mapping, iPhone or mobile apps, accessibility issues and user generated “good enough” content.

Sounds like a plan.

What Are People Thinking (Note: Not Thwinking!)

I’ve had a lot of responses to my post about twitter, attribution and passing on links. And most people have been commenting on the retweeting/attribution side of things but that wasn’t the point I failed to make.

My point is this: When people share a link what is in their mind with regards to audience?

It might fall in the bleeding obvious category, but everyones’ audiences are different… And so when sharing a link (or a gag) you can’t know if you are late to the party or an early worm. Do people think about this or even care?

Do people know what, if ALL of their followers RT’d them would be the total number of people who would potentially see their tweet? Is tweeting just blogging lite or something else?

Do people know what timezone their followers (and followers followers) are in?

Which of the people you follow get RT’d most?

Does it matter? I don’t know… I too share links, but don’t know WHY I do it…or who I do it for (me probably?).

What Are People Who Post Links In Twitter Thinking?

If you don’t know, there was a joke that rippled around Twitter about  ‘H from steps being dead‘. Relax, the gag was just a picture with no malice involved… but it caught on…

What I found interesting, and then annoying was how it rippled around (my) twitterverse. Initially, I heard it lots…. and lots… Some people chose to attribute (or retweet) their source with an RT, others didn’t, some attributed the person they heard the joke from, but not the person that that person had heard it from.

The next day it started to happen again as a new crowd started laughing at the same re-cycled joke… and people did the same with regards to attribution. Hearing a joke for the six hundredth time can get annoying.

And then, perhaps days after that, it hit Facebook and sparked off another round of comedians sharing the love. And still some people were more inclined to claim authorship (by omission) than to accredit the source…like, for example, Tom Hingley who isn’t pointing at the original twitpic, but a copy that has been put on a server somewhere else completely. The Facebook resurgence awoke part-time twitterers to pass the joke on… What absolute never-ending joy!

I think there’s something interesting in whether or not name their source when they pass on links, and I know sometimes you don’t have enough characters to be able to do so, and some people don’t know how to, and sometimes life is simply too short but what I think is important is what people are really thinking… Are they, deep down, knowingly stealing? Are they pretending that the gag was theirs?  Like we all do in real life… Like I did last night for example… I told a friend unloading his worries that he shouldn’t fly RyanAir because they’ve bought in a surcharge for emotional baggage… I can’t remember where I heard that meagre gag, but it got re-used, royalty, copyright and credit-free. Almost humour free too.

I’d love to see a visualisation of a twitstorm that took into account peoples’ willingness to credit the source with regards to a “H from Steps” meme or any other meme where there is clear personal benefit, such as “being a wag”

But this then lead me onto to thinking about, what are people who post links in twitter thinking? Why do they do it? What is it for? What do they gain from it? Who do they think their audience(s) is/are?

So when someone adds a link (or lots of links) in Twitter, there are a number of scenarios…

  1. You’ve seen twenty times already! Argh! Unfollow!
  2. You’ve seen once before already from someone you both are following
  3. You have seen it before from someone this particular person isn’t following
  4. You’ve seen it before from someone, and they haven’t accredited the source
  5. You haven’t seen this yet

… and depending on your overall grumpiness rating, your respective reactions might be…

  1. And your tweet is the one that made me realize, as a news source you are at best, late, top spamming me, unfollow
  2. You are arse-licking at worst and making yourself redundant at best
  3. I really didn’t need this link, I’ve already got it, you are only useful as a measure of popularity
  4. Ooh… not only are you a spammer, so now you are noise AND a dirty rotten retweeter.
  5. Thank you very much, that link made my day

Which makes me think, that given you can’t see your audiences’ worlds (they’re all different to yours) then when passing on links you are either always there first (you up-to-the-minute saddo) or you have a dullard audience (you saddo) or you have a one in five chance of not pissing people off.

Like those odds?

Then again, I don’t think many people care about pissing people off with the amount of stomach-lifting, puke-making tweets I see. I started collecting them, but found the stench too much to be able to keep it up… but if I get enough I’ll post a link (please RT).

Why Twitter Isn’t Real Audience Engagement

Last night, under the banner of “You TWEET if you want to: the web is for opposition, not for governing”, Fishburn Hedges and Channel4 brought us Twinge. What was essentially a twitterfall page where us public could chip in with questions for Ed Balls, Miliband and others by adding the hashtag #twinge to our tweets.

And despite Simon Redfern declaring

Suffering a bit of a #twinge hangover this morning.
Format worked well – perfect for conference, real engagement with outside world.

… It was a Twitterfall page. Nothing more and nothing less. Hardly what I’d call real engagement and more like standing outside the city walls in a big gang and shouting. And like all Twitterfall pages, it quickly succumbed to the inane (see screenshot below)… And yes, I took part in that inanity, the really funny thing was that everyone else I knew did too, at the same time.

Stepping aside from the sniggering masses for a while, there is so much more that could (and can) be done that move beyond the simplistic idea that a Twitterfall page is real engagement. As a participant you get to make and see your question amongst heaps of others which has a twinge of excitement because it feels like you are participating and more importantly, that hundreds of your fellow participants have read (and enjoyed) your tweeted contribution.

The fact is, however, that because everyone else in involved in the same activity… vanity tweeting (Ooh look I’m on telly) … they probably didn’t notice your hard wrought comment. Add to that the fact that when hundreds of people “engage”… you simply can’t read them all, there’s too many.

So, given that the technology is a bit rubbish, we have to improve it….for example…

Make the question selection process transparent

By this I mean.. Currently what happens is that everyone contributes and then “magically” somebody’s question gets used… Presumably there are some researchers queuing up good candidate questions, seeing a list of those would alter what I choose to contribute. I can imagine a sidebar of the tweets being stacked up, like Post It notes…

Be transparent

The fact that there were Fishburn Hedges employees taking part in the jollying along of the twitterfall stinks. It simply makes me feel that everyone else is a bot… a paid stooge, a hired hand. If you can’t get this bit right, Twitterfalls like this will be dead in the water before they’ve gained any traction because everyone will feel that the discussion has already been hijacked by PR wonks.

Cut the spam

How hard can it be to filter out some of the bots that jumped on the Twandtwagon (and don’t you hate it when everyone is still “tw”-ing words?). Looking at the remnants of the #twinge comments here, it’s unfortunate that there are so many “download a movie here” comments that need clearing up. Of course, clearing up tweets is a tricky one if you are then seen to be censoring dissent or trolling.

How about voting?

A simple voting up and down of comments may help with “making the selection process” transparent.

How about comment limiting?

What if you only get three tweets. You might use them more wisely. If you receive karma for more votes, maybe you get to make more comments. In effect this would be a real-time election of representatives from the masses on the fly.

How about a chuckle tool?

I have to admit, I like the silly stuff that people tweet in these situations but at times it drags. If a real engagement-oriented twitterfall page had a “chuckle” tool, then I’d be free to filter those too… and only let the ones with a guffaw ranking get through (or vice versa).

Add Some Bloody Value

There are so many functions and features that could be added to a Twitterfall page. You, or Fishburn Hedges,  could even just make it look nice(r) like this, which might accompany watching the TV show better than a disorientating scrolling vertical list.The visualisation of the tweets could, potentially be wonderful, not in an eye-candy fashion but to empower the participant… What if all URLs mentioned were shown in a sidebar and summarized (in real-time)… what if the most RT’d items were kept on screen (this again might help with the transparency and selection process ideas).

But the important thing is that this could be a new form of engagement and isn’t.

Yes, I know it’s early days and broadcasters as well as audiences are still getting to grips with the tools, shaping them as we go but slapping up a Twitterfall is so unambitious.

I’m not even sure if the likes of Twitter will be able to deliver when it comes to engaging with the masses and maybe it will always  just be like shouting outside the city walls at the silly burghers – but let’s at least have a try at enabling real engagement rather than something that looks like it.

Growling Tweets

It’s nice to see that John has taken my ropey old AppleScript code to display tweets with Growl and improved upon it here, Growling Tweets – John’s World Wide Wall Display, so that it doesn’t need to use Vienna (why didn’t I think of that?).

And then as if by magic, Pete (I think) shares his Python version to do the same thing.

One of my pet hobby horses (I have a stable full of them) is about how the presentation of dialogue alters what kinds of dialogues we have. The simple version of this might be, “Aren’t most forum tools totally rubbish?”…. or “No wonder twitter visualisation projects get so much attention!”

More later

The Death of Blogging… Again!

I haven’t blogged in ages, but then, neither have you. It seems much of the blogosphere, meaning you and me, have been lured, entertained and distracted by twittering instead.

Twitter satisfies many of the needs that blogging used to sate. It’s instant, social and fun. But Twitter is so much easier, so easy that even talentless celebs can do it. And Twitter is a much better platform than blogging for “showing off” because one’s followers (or readers) are explicitly “on show”. Measurment is transparent.

But the twitter can’t half be annoying. And when I say “twitter” I mean you … and me. What I hate most is not the people who tweet what they had for breakfast which I quite like, I mean, any sentence with “kipper” in it is automatically improved in my book but the people who ruthlessly self-promote, ALL THE TIME!

Recently I was watching “Question Time” a political UK talk show. The audience and twitter alike were full of tough questions, humour and vitriol and someone (at 10:30PM) tweeted “New Blog Post: 15 ways to increase your traffic”. I’ve got nothing against self-promotion at all, it’s a dirty job and all that, but to push a crappy SEO blog post whilst everyone else is fuming about duck islands, moats and second homes apart from being beyond the pale seems unbelievably one dimensional and boring.

And whilst I’m probably more guilty than you are of mindless bandwagon jumping and I too find myself trotting out excuses about “not having time to blog” and “not quite seeing the point” I’m going to have a bash at old skool blogging again where I simply share what I’m doing, what I’ve done and what I’m thinking about doing in a “think out loud” way. Not with any alterior promotional motives, but just in the hope that it makes a connection for someone somewhere.

You never know.

p.s Like lots of people, I use Google Reader to read my RSS feeds. I had to move to Reader because NetNewsWire simply couldn’t cope anymore and neither could I. News reading had become a chore because Google Reader (apart from having a raft of usability issues) was just so bloody ugly. So thank goodness for Feedly (image above) which makes reading blogs not just easy on the eye but also has enough small usability additions to have me hooked.

Every little helps.

1 of 3. Social Media slides from Tom Smith

Thanks for all the lovely, well, comments about my presentation at ThinkVisibility. Mental?! And I never knew that I never finish sentences… I really don’t…

This video is a sketchy look at some of social media projects I’ve been working on, with a peep at the tool I’ve created to help us with our social media efforts called The Engagement Engine.

1 of 3. Social Media slides from Tom Smith at Think Visibility

Taste the Rainbow or Something Worse

So, Agency.com decided it’d be fun to have a twitter search page (for skittles) as the skittles home page and much obscenity ensued.

It was/is a nice idea that was bound to be abused and was. Now in terms of Search Engine Optimisation, it’s sheer genius, I wonder how many new links there are to Skittles.com in the last few minutes. As PR it’s dangerous because I’m sure thousands will be outraged (or as @chorltonbrooker calls it, nowtrage) at the naughty words. And then things move on, last week was all about gFail, today is Skittles Day ( well maybe skittles hour ) as the sweets insinuate themselves into our minds for a few seconds that they wouldn’t otherwise have done.

The question is, did Agency.com plan the obscenities? Maybe they’re doing them themselves to stimulate the Nowtrage Effect? It does make you wonder why a site for sweeties asks for age verification. I would add to the swear words but I’m not in the mood… I feel manipulated by a sticky bag of crap sweets and a see-through web agency.

But then again, I am blatently bandwagonning at the speed of light (ish)

Skittles.com: Interweb the rainbow. Taste the Rainbow.

Twitter, Growl, Boosh! In AppleScript!!

Last night whilst keeping an eye on the footie, as a follow up to The Happening, which I wrote about here, I decided to try and create a tool that would improve the experience of a Bad Movie Club, or even a Good Radio Club (happens tomorrow Thursday 26th Feb 2009!).

If you don’t know what either Bad Movie Club or Good Radio Club are – they are essentially chatting whilst watching a movie or listening to radio using twitter. And hashtags are like codes, for example #badmovieclub, that let you filter just the tweets that contain the code.

Call me crazy but I decided to make these tools in AppleScript, so they will only run on MacOS X.. sorry! I’ll write the fancy-dancy, cross-platform version when someone pays me to reinvent television… They are called HashtagGrowler and the other is called TwitterSearchGrowler and what they do is this.

How To Use TwitterSearchGrowler

First get the excellent Vienna RSS Reader. There aren’t any calls in AppleScript that get RSS feeds so I decided to use this lovely tool.

If it isn’t already, install the fabulous Growl Notification Tool. Growl is beautiful because it overlays notifications on top of, for instance, the movie you might be watching. I found the experience of using a web-based app during #badmovieclub just not right. I wanted to be able to watch the movie AND enjoy the tweets in cinemascope.

The tools also make use curl to get web pages. I don’t know if this comes already installed on MacOS X, if it’s not you might need to find a geek to hold the scissors for you.

Lastly, download TwitterSearchGrowler and HashtagGrowler here. When you double-click TwitterSearchGrowler, you can enter your (or someone else’s) Twitter username or a search term like “social media” (see above).

TwitterSearchGrowler then tells Vienna to subscribe to that feed and then keeps refreshing, showing the tweet messages using Growl (see below). Isn’t that cute!

It even shows the twitterer’s images using some curl magic and hilarious string handling in AppleScript (this bit was tough because I didn’t want to rely any osaxen or extensions such as regexes so that it would stand a chance of working on most peoples’ Macs).

The screen above is, for me pretty much a prototype for social media-ized TV except that you’d have to make room somewhere to add your own tweets. It gives you a flavour though. It’d be great for small geek conferences, if you published on your first slide, a hashtag you’d like to share for your talk, because the tweets would be displayed over your slides. Hilarious!

I’m hoping to be able to tune-in to the Good Radio Club tomorrow and point HashtagGrowler at “#goodradioclub”… The only problem is that the GRC seem to have chose quite a high-brow topic (anti-social housing) … I mean, anyone can laugh at a bad movie but anti social housing is a different kettle of fish completely and I suspect may inhibit contributions. Here’s hoping.

Getting Support

Are you kidding? This is AppleScript – it’s not meant to work! I wrote it in an evening. If you find a use for it or even fix it (using the AppleScript Editor in the Applications folder) please send me your improvements and feedback. Follow me everythingabili on Twitter to keep up with any further developments and to discover what I had for breakfast.

How Two Jokers De-Zombified the Film Industry with Twitter


The Crappening

On Friday 13th, sometime before 9PM, Graham Linehan had had a great idea he called Bad Movie Club. I heard about it from Phil Jupitus’ twitterings. I’d hastily followed him before I realised it was THE Phil Jupitus, dur!

The idea was brilliant-ish and was for everyone to get hold of and watch a really bad movie called The Happening (trust me it is really bloody awful) and after all hitting PLAY at 9PM everyone would be free to use the “#badmovieclub” hashtag whilst twittering.

The experience was hilarious. Some people had clicked play a few seconds early and were spoiling the film for the rest of us. I spent most of my time reading the comments rather than watching the film and giggling at the tweets which were automatically refreshed if you used TweetDeck to automatically show anything (see below). 

The actual experience of course could have been better, there were far too many people tweeting at once, it was almost impossible to keep up with the fire-hose flood of tweets, some of which weren’t very good – such as the endless “EXPOSITION!” heckling but despite all that I loved it. It was like going to see a film in a cinema where the audience are guaranteed to be rowdy, which for most films would be your worst nightmare but for some films, this approach is perfect.

I know it’s as corny as bees but I felt like I was part of something, which for a medium which is becoming increasingly fragmentary as people simply don’t get together to watch anything.

But the really important thing, for me, was that Graham has shown us with a simple experiment a perfect prototype for what video content such as films, football matches and even education could be. This is the future and it’s a future where the asynchronous, such as DVDs and YouTube videos and films you’ve downloaded can be re-synchronized with the added goodness of the juice of real people.

Imagine… what it would be like to watch a really bad film, only instead of having to use a different application the tweets appeared nicely overlaying the film – that’d be sexy.

Now imagine if you could limit the tweets to just people you follow, that would cut out a lot of noise. But it may cut out too much noise, so let’s maybe let through tweets from people outside our immediate circle of friends that have been thumbs-upped by their friends, this might just let the funny ones through. Or maybe, what if you received tweets at a certain rate, so that if your friends weren’t commenting on the film then “outsiders” tweets would bleed through.

Now imagine you were late to the party and were watching the film on Saturday, that needn’t matter because you could still see the film with tweets because they have all been time-synch-ed with the film. So, not only will it feel like a synchronous experience, you can add to it in a way that the person hopelessly late to the party on Sunday can still enjoy (and contribute to).

Now imagine, that someone writes a search engine that searches for “bees” or “cheese and crackers” that simply assumes what people are tweeting about whilst watching a film (no matter how you do it) has something to do with what’s going on onscreen (even if it’s just a piss-take). Then, we have a means of gathering really messy meta data about a film and become able to search it (or link to it) textually for the first time. There would be groups of film buffs collaboratively adding the dialogue to “the classics” just as people pitch in and help with mapping streets for the open source community in no time. Film courses would create a meta-layer where they offer their commentary on a film “just look at the camera angles used here” and you can watch it and here’s the good bit, even if you don’t have access to the movie but do have access to tools like BitTorrent.


Imagine a group of comedians being assembled to “watch and comment” on a film. I’d pay to be able to switch on the layer that made the film funnier. Imagine a pair of glasses that did that for a romantic film you really didn’t want to watch, I don’t know many blokes who wouldn’t pay for a pair of those… with earplugs.

The next step this experiment needs to take is to create a software player that can play stuff from wherever (YouTube, DVD, hard disk, stream) and that hooks into twitter. It’s not hard to do and then you’d be able to layer comments on a film, and then choose to filter those comments to just friends or just film buffs or even “selected hilarious tweets” from Graham himself.

The important bit is that the movie industry don’t need to know about it, we don’t need their permission or copyright to share time-coded knob jokes and if people are watching the film in a cinema,  playing a legal DVD or an illegal download doesn’t make any difference. All that matters is the people, the timing and the quality of the gag.

So there, The Happening was awful, great fun and massively important – you should’ve been there – it was the future of film … ish.

A Free Tool for Reputation Management and Finding Potential Customers with Social Media

In the olden days, circa 2004, it was often enough to create a great site that was SEO’d up to the hilt and to advertise with Google Adwords. All you then had to was sit back and wait for the customers to roll in.

For many companies nowadays you have to slightly more proactive in finding customers, especially the customers who don’t know that you exist and don’t know that you have the answer to the problem that they find it hard to even express. You can’t expect to be seen as a listening company if you expect customers to find you before they get their questions answered. You have to go looking for them.

I’ve created a quick hack that simply takes your chosen keywords and builds search subscriptions to a whole heap of discussion-oriented search sites ( twitter search, backtype, board tracker, yahoo answers etc ).

Once you’ve entered your keywords, it then gives you an OPML file (don’t worry what it means, you’ll find out soon enough) that you can import into Google Reader (or any other RSS aggregator of your choice such as Bloglines or NetNewsWire) and see lots of up-to-the-minute discussions and blog posts about the things that matter to you and your business.

Of course, you will need to prune or add extra sources and keywords to your subscription list but the tool provides a great starting point for finding customers with problems you can solve – wherever they may be.

Finding Customers with OPML Maker…