Getting Back To Human

Last week, I attended the Vocus users conference here in DC. It was an interesting time for me based on my history with PR both as a blogger who can’t stand PR and a blogger who wants to see PR do well in social media.

There was one session, in particular, where an audience member asked a speaker talking about software that is currently monitoring only main stream media outlets, “What do we do about monitoring and responding to bloggers?”

The response blew me away. “We don’t do anything about bloggers because we haven’t figured them out yet. Until we do, we won’t be doing anything about them.”

The context here being, of course, the software product.

Software developers understand that software is built on complex sets of logic. If this happens, then we do that. If a user clicks here, then this thing is going to happen. The speaker was saying that until bloggers could be broken down into a logical algorithm, the software won’t incorporate blogs.

My snarky response, expressed only in my own mind, is, “We’re human. If you can’t figure out how to approach us as humans instead of machines, maybe you should get out of the public relations business.”

On Friday, Chris Brogan wrote the same thing from the opposite side:

I have an anti-robot stance on Twitter. By that, I mean to say that I don’t want to follow things that aren’t people (with all due respect to Bruce Sterling’s spimes). I just don’t need to add something automated into a place that’s inherently human.

He goes on to say that his anti-robot stance is being challenged because someone who is using an automated posting system is actually offering something of use and now he has a crisis of conscience.

Folks, we’re unnecessarily complicating our lives. Sometimes a bit of common sense is needed to overrule our warped sense of logical rules. PR folks should look at blogger coverage, not in some automated way that has to fit into specific guidelines in order for them to know how to respond. And Chris needs to stop worrying about artificial rules he has created for himself. You made the rule, you can break it.

I have rules on Twitter too. I don’t follow sex-bots. I don’t follow spammy people. I don’t follow people that have disparate ratios of followers-followees. Except for the sexbot rule, I’ve broken every one if I needed to.

I’ve done the same thing with LinkedIn and Facebook.

Rules are made to be broken by sound human rationalization.

For PHP Devs, a Twitter PHP Class

At the end of this post, this site is going into a twitter free period of two weeks. I’m sensitive to the fact that we talk about Twitter quite a lot and not always doing a good job of reaching into all of real life like we’d like. So after this post, Twitter will not be mentioned here until June 12. :-)

However, I wanted to get this out the door for devs to knock on and bang out. Awhile ago, I created the dctwits Twitter group and released the generic code. It included a Twitter class created by David Billingham and slightly modified for our use.

A few days ago, I released the WP-Twitterpitch plugin which also used the same class. It’s a very useful class but, to be honest, was a little messy, didn’t support XML and JSON and didn’t have support for all the Twitter API.

So I cleaned it up, extended it, fleshed it out a bit more, brought in Keith Casey as a developer and we’re basically launching the class as a version 1.0-beta today.

I’ll work on documenting things a bit more but there is some basic usage on the site and the code itself is pretty well documented. I need testers to bang on this code and submit issues back, via the Google Code page. Patches welcome as well. And I’d love to see how you use this. You can download direct or via SVN.

When Keith gets done with the DC PHP Conference, we’ll look at pushing it out as stable.

Google Cannot Fix Twitter

Jeff Jarvis thinks that only Google can fix Twitter’s woes.

Google hasn’t fixed Blogger since acquiring it in 2003. In fact, it’s a spam sieve full of usability issues and lack of innovation. Meanwhile, Movable Type and WordPress keep plugging away at innovative approaches to blogging platforms.

They haven’t innovated on Jaiku since acquiring the Twitter competitor late last year. Jaiku-since-Google is largely a FAIL, though it might still be too early on this.

Feedburner has become thoroughly Googlefied, going from one of the easiest, brightest and best companies to work with to arguably the worst of all the Google properties. Responsiveness has dipped to near nothing. Innovation has ceased. And I knew it was going to happen, but was soundly told that I was smoking crack, or something to that effect.

Google is not a sexy company. At all. They know how to do innovative things that I liken to trinket teasers. Others might call it “Shiny toy syndrome”.

Microsoft is also, not an innovator, to be fair. Their Windows product is largely a conglomeration of technologies inspired or directly acquired from other companies. Their was a Novell Netware long before there was an Active Directory, for instance.

Not the point.

Jeff, besides the feel-good story that Google reuniting with Evan Williams, the creator of Blogger and now Twitter, what can you point to that aligns well for a Google acquisition of Twitter? There’s not a lot of evidence that Twitter will be better if acquired by Google. Sure, it’ll probably be more “up” than down, but really… Google?

WordPress Plugin: WP-Twitterpitch

Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about PR pitches gone bad. Stowe Boyd coined the word Twit Pitches last month. The concept is to force PR firms to use the economy of words (characters?) to pitch bloggers. It’s a reality in life, and I fight with my wife on this regularly, that no one cares about your “thing” as much as you do and so are less likely to want to give you the time to “pitch” the story or idea. You need to be quick, succinct and use compelling hooks.

Thus, the Twitter Pitch was born.

I’m releasing a new plugin that I hacked together over the weekend called WP-Twitterpitch that I’m also running here at Technosailor. Check out the navigation for a demo.

WP-TwitterPitch is all about getting the pitch delivered to you in the form you want to get it delivered – in other words in Twitter format. If you’re like me, then your Twitter direct message box is a lot like your email inbox. Personally, I don’t want to get pitches from PR companies in certain email inboxes. For whatever reason, I may not check them or they are personal, etc.

Twitter, however, provides the ultimate quick-messaging system. This plugin provides a template tag that you can drop anywhere in your theme. Clicking the link provides lightbox-like functionality for a “pitch form”. Using the form does not require a Twitter account (but does require that you have a secondary Twitter account you can use for this purpose, since you can’t send Direct Messages to yourself via Twitter). Note: Your WP-TwitterPitch Twitter account must follow the account that is being pitched and vica versa. This is a one-off action (hopefully, depending on Twitter) and only needs to be done when setting up WP-TwitterPitch.

Messages sent from the form are DMmed to the account getting the pitch and the form is limited to 140 characters or less. The beauty of linguistic efficiency.

Installation

  1. Upload the
    1
    wp-twitterpitch

    folder to the

    1
    /wp-content/plugins/

    directory

  2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  3. Edit Admin options to include Twitter ID to pitch, Twitter ID and Password to send Twitter pitches
  4. as, as well as a message to “pitchers” that will be displayed in the form after the pitch has been sent.

    Place wherever you want the link to appear

Direct Download Link

The Mind of Dave Winer

Dave Winer has a bad reputation. He’s got a reputation for challenging anyone who disagrees with him. He’s got a reputation for blocking people by default on Twitter.

Yeah. It’s the rule, not the exception.

See, blocking on Twitter is an acceptable action. I’ve blocked people that are so troll-like, I can’t deal with them. These are people who have indicated in the context of their tweets that Christianity is responsible for pedophilia, nearly all murder and bloodshed in the world, etc. While I won’t argue that Christianity has historically included bloodshed and murder in the name of Jesus and that there are sad cases of unacceptable sexual actions in the name of Jesus, that does not qualify for an ongoing, destructive attack on a religion that has done much good, has a significant number of followers, etc. Blocked.

I also have blocked people who belligerently disparage people unprovoked. But very few, and only after a long period of time where my tolerance level have been diminished.

Blocking is an acceptable action in some cases. Most people looking to filter noise simply don’t follow people in return and if it turns out that a person is creating too much noise, unfollowing is the socially acceptable thing to do. Blocking is an ultimate action that is usually only taken when there are no other options. See, Twitter is all about opt-in. I opt to see your updates and vica versa. It’s a “pull” technology, not a “push” technology. I cannot control who hears my messages, but with a block I can control who doesn’t.

Dave has opted to take the ultimate action on gads of people, and while that is within his right to do (the action is not necessarily in question), the perception is a different story. The perception is that he is silencing those who disagree with him. Like Stalin did. Like Mao Zedong did. Like Fidel Castro did. Like the government of Myanamar is currently doing.

Dave’s inability to tolerate those in opposition to him flies in the face of his political fantasies of inclusion for everyone. Here’s a tweet where, in broad strokes, he paints the Republican party as racists. Another one where he quantifies the use of “average white person” as meaning “racist” – more broad strokes from a guy who demonstrates his own inability to get along with people.

Here’s what Dave needs to understand. While he is, without prejudice, responsible for many of the technologies we use today – RSS and blogs – he is past his time, out of touch with reality, and quite possibly a lunatic. His inability to behave in socially acceptable ways pushes him to the fringe of, not only the social and new media space, but civilized society as a whole. His knack for building technologies that someone else has created and calling them his own innovations – whether explicitly or implicitly) his getting tiresome. See Dave’s Twitter uptime monitor of May 23, 2008 vs. Pingdom’s report from Dec 19, 2007. Also see Dave’s decentralizing Twitter “idea” from May 4, 2008 is something I talked about on Twitter quite a bit months before he came up with his groundbreaking idea.

So Dave, instead of building silly apps that do nothing particularly fancy and using Comcast bandwidth, why don’t you go re-inherit your seat at the table and write a whitepaper/spec for decentralized Twitter. Think of it as a protocol, much like email, and go from there. It should include SMS gateways, APIs for handing messages around. And for a business plan, make the open APIs accessible via a pay model. You might be on to something then and it will allow you to be productive as opposed to squashing dissent and blocking people for no apparent reason.

Effective Presence Marketing in Social Media

“Presence Marketing” is a term that is being tossed around a lot more these days. Early Adopters (who remember, are useless) have known this for quite a bit now, and increasingly, we’re seeing later adopters catch that wave and jump on.

Presence Marketing is the recognition and exposure that a person or company gets simply by being there. Where is there? It is simply anywhere that people are.

In traditional advertising, it might be product placement in your favorite television show. An example of this is how Agent McGee uses the iPhone throughout NCIS. (It is unclear if this is actual Apple marketing or not – but any publicity is good publicity, in this case). Another example was the use of Cisco VoIP phones or Dell computers at CTU in 24.

In the online sense, it is nearly identical, but manifested differently. By being active on blogs, social networks or any other format that places a high dividend on visibility, companys and brands are engaging in Presence Marketing.

As an individual, you have more ability to be seen and engaged as any major brand anywhere in the world. In fact, due to Twitter, it is demonstrated repeatedly that simply being present and active on Twitter can create more brand recognition and marketing capital for individuals than companies engaging in the same space and not being “as present”.

Earlier in the year, I wrote about my friend Shashi Bellamkonda, who works for Network Solutions. NetSol, while they have a brand of their own and Shashi is providing tremendous credibility to their efforts, have a long way to go to eclipse, say, Chris Brogan, who has so much brand capital that we just call him The Broganâ„¢.

In another day, or another age, this would not be possible because traditional marketing skews toward those who have money, time or historical depth.

With Twitter, or Brightkite, for instance, little to no effort is required to be present and “seen”. An application like Twhirl can sit in the background and alert you only when there is a tweet requiring your attention. This allows for a small footprint on your time and personal bandwidth, yet provides an easy way to spend time engaging throughout the day or evening. You exist, you engage, you benefit – with little to no impact on the rest of your day. Brightkite and Twitter both can be used over text message, so you can be present throughout the day, even when out and about.

My point is this – companies can complain all day long about the investment of time that goes into using some of these tools. However, I just don’t buy it. As an individual, and someone who has developed a significant personal brand of my own, it is all about being present. If people see you – a lot – they are going to be more comfortable with you and comfortable with what you’re selling, doing or engaging in.

It is the lowest of the low hanging fruit in the marketing industry. Do you do it?

Brightkite: Blazing New Paths in Microcontent

Picture 7.pngA few weeks ago, I received an invite to Brightkite so I signed up, being the early adopter that I am. What I saw instantly resonated with me.

Before I get into the technical and usability “stuff” let me explain the resonance I had. first there was Twitter which blazed onto the scene with the concept of microblogging in 140 characters or less. Twitter challenged the status quo by being so simplistic that anyone could use it. The beauty of twitter was hidden to the average user, and is still largely missed by people who haven’t used it. The beauty was in the API which allowed people to utilize Twitter from their cell phones (over text message), via desktop clients, and allowed developers to create cool mashups such as Summize (a search tool for Twitter) or Politweets which monitors Twitter for candidate mentions and displays the timeline in a relevant way. In other words, Twitter’s simplicity was the greatest strength for “selling” itself to the masses.

What Twitter didn’t do was provide context to the flow. It is difficult to track conversations. It is difficult to send tweets to only a select group of people.

Leah CulverThis is where Pownce showed promise. Pownce took the concept of Twitter and made it contextual. Groups were possible, so I could have “real life friends”, “internet friends”, or “PR bloggers”, for instance. Pownce added the ability to post images or mp3’s so I could share media with my friends. However, until recently, Pownce had no API and the API they do have now is too little, too late. There was no SMS integration so I couldn’t text my comments in while I was sitting in traffic on I-95. I was glued to a website, when I had other things to do, as opposed to having a client that just sat there in the background polling the service and letting me know when there was something important to read. Pownce has the high distinguishment of having the hottest developer, Leah Culver though, so that counts for something.

Brightkite has come along, and though in very early beta, they are building their service around making the service as accessible and easy to use for anyone. Therefore, the simplest of all APIs is text messaging, which Brightkite uses perfectly. The hitch here is a telco hitch. Verizon Wireless, according to Brightkite, cannot support Brightkite because the short code used for interacting, 80289, has not yet been approved by the carrier. Apparently, Verizon is building parental controls for their service to allow parents to restrict access to specific shortcodes and so are not approving anymore codes until that functionality is built. Those of us on Verizon continue to suffer.

However, mobile phone users (including Verizon Wireless) can interact with the service over email as well. Each user account is assigned a unique email address.

In addition to the limitations I’ve already listed, Brightkite is currently a US-only service. So Canadian and other non-US users have to use the email address route.

Brightkite operates primarily around a “Where are you now?” premise – which is different than Twitter which asks “What are you doing now?” Therefore, a primary action within the service is the “check in”. Check ins allow users to say “I’m at Starbucks in Columbia, MD” or “I am at Latitude and Longitude x and y” (think application development in the future with GPS integration on, say, an iPhone or Blackberry).

A lot of early adopters have complained some about the privacy issue here, and indeed it can be an issue. Largely, the specifics of where a person is is controlled by the user. For instance, a check in could be as specific as sending a message “@ 6490 Dobbin Center Way, Columbia, MD” or as generic as “@ Woodlawn, MD”. I use this tactic, for instance, when I check in. I will not give away exact location when I’m at home for privacy and protection reasons. However, when I’m out and about, I will almost always check in with an exact location.

In addition to these privacy options, users have the ability to set their “timeline” as public or private, similar to Twitter. By checking a “Trust User X” box when accepting friendship requests, you can designate with granularity who you want to see your posts, locations, etc.

Brightkite still has a long way to go. Some hurdles that need to be addressed are “threading” of conversations. Pownce does this well. Additionally, it’s a little difficult to respond to users.

I’d encourage a mirroring of the Twitter API. In other words “D user message” should send a private message to the user. “follow user” should send a friend request to the user being followed. “track terms” should give me the ability to see whenever anyone, regardless of friend status, mentions my tracked terms or phrases.

In addition, I’m concerned about the fact that the service is built on Rails. Twitter is the poster child for a bad Rails app, and history shows that, optimized to the extreme, Rails still doesn’t scale well.

Brightkite does provide the ability to cross post to Twitter and gives the user options for what, if anything, actually gets crossposted. However, the biggest complaint I hear from Twitter users is the Brightkite URL appended to every crossposted message. This is bad form, and subtracts from the same 140 character limitation that Twitter enforces.

Largely, I think Brightkite could be a killer app. It does everything that Twitter does well and expands on it by taking some of the better features from other services. But Brightkite is not really about being a “me too” service as much as it is about solving the problem of location. I see the possibility of a mashup service, or a partnership, with activity based companies like WhyGoSolo (no inside knowledge of whether these two are actually seeing this as well).

As a bonus, and if you’ve read this far, I have 10 Brightkite invites to give away for the first 10 commenters requesting one.

Leah Culver Photo courtesy of Tantek, Used under Creative Commons

Cómo Sacarle Provecho a Twitter

Según las últimas cifras de Hitwise (via Twitter Facts), Twitter ha triplicado el número de visitas en los últimos tres meses. En el último año, las visitas a Twitter se han multiplicado por ocho.

En Latinoamérica, son muchas las comunidades de Twitter que han ido surgiendo, interconectadas entre sí y con el resto del mundo. Por su naturaleza abierta, Twitter es una excelente herramienta para seguir los últimos acontecimientos del mundo y no es raro enterarse de las noticias mucho tiempo antes que a través de los medios tradicionales.

Pero a veces es tanta la información que fluye por Twitter que es muy fácil perder las agujas dentro de tanto pajar. A continuación compartimos una lista de herramientas para extraer lo mejor de Twitter:

Para ver los links más recientes y populares distribuidos a través de Twitter tenemos TwitterLinkr y Twitt(url)y. Twitterverse te muestra una nube de tags con los términos más usados en Twitter recientemente.

MessageDance y TwitterMail te permiten enviar y recibir tweets a través de tu cuenta de correo electrónico.

TwitPic y Twitxr te permiten enviar fotos a tu lista de Twitter y Twiddeo te permite enviar videos.

Jott y TwitterFone convierten tus mensajes hablados, via teléfono, a mensajes de texto en Twitter. Ideal para twittear desde tu automovil o cuando textear no es conveniente o seguro.

Para seguir conversaciones en Twitter y buscar información están Quotably, Summize, TwitterSearch, TweetScan, Twistory y Terraminds.

Las últimas estadísticas de Twitter y sus usuarios las puedes obtener via TweetStats, TwitStat, y Twist.

Para crear grupos de usuarios con Twitter (por ejemplo, para enviar mensaje relacionados a una conferencia o mantener a un grupo informado de un tema en particular) puedes usar GroupTweet, TwitterGroups o seguir estas instrucciones de Christopher S. Penn usando Yahoo! Pipes.

Si quieres enviar mensajes a Twitter cuando estás offline (quizás para pretender que siempre estás conectado), TweetLater es tu herramienta.

Si quieres ver un mapamundi con la actividad de Twitter, visita TwitterVisiono TwitterMap.

Para ver quien-es-quien en Twitter, hay un sinfín de directorios como: TwitDir, TweeterBoard, Twitterholic y los TwitterPacks que agrupan a los usuarios de Twitter según sus áreas de interés.

Technobabble compiló una lista de los analistas más importantes que usan Twitter y aquí mismo en Technosailor puedes obtener una lista de medios que usan Twitter para distribuir noticias de última hora. El Online Journalism Blog te explica (en inglés) cómo los periodistas pueden aprovechar y dominar Twitter para su trabajo.

Gridjit y Twitter100 te permiten visualizar tu grupo de contactos para facilitar la conversación, y TwitterKarma te permite ver a quien sigues y quien te sigue a tí.

Si quieres seguir usuarios locales, TwitterLocal te dice quién está cerca de ti y cuáles son las comunidades más activas.

La lista negra de Twitter te dice quiénes son los spammers que usan Twitter, Twistori te cuenta como se sienten los usuarios de Twitter, y el manual de Twitter te explica todo lo que quieres saber sobre esta herramienta.

En ReadWriteWeb encontrarás una lista de herramientas para Twitter (y otras redes sociales) usando Greasemonkey y en OpenGiga hay un listado enorme de programas para acceder a Twitter desde tu computadora.

Por último, Twitter Facts es un blog lleno de información sobre Twitter (en inglés).

Déjanos un mensaje compartiendo tu herramienta favorita para Twitter.

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Do You Have a Failover Plan?

I thought it was funny when I saw a Tweet come through from Alex Payne (aka @al3x) this afternoon. Alex is something along the lines of the Big Daddy Architect at Twitter. The tweet stated that power was out at Twitter HQ and that they had failed over to abacuses.

Picture 10.png

That’s not really funny, actually.

Actually, in my time as a contractor for some random alphabet soup government agency, we regularly went through “hotsite” drills where a core team would disappear to Chicago or New Jersey or somewhere offsite and in a different geographical region to perform disaster recovery drills.

After 9/11, the companies like JP Morgan that had decentralized their operations, were able to recover from the World Trade Center attacks much quicker than those who did not. Maybe those who did not were small businesses.

Which reminds me of the day the email died at the Wall Street Journal…

We’ve been through a fair bit ourselves at b5media. It was bad when our service provider, very early on and before funding, allowed a power surge to fry our servers. It was a “death to our enemies” moment when another power-related failure occurred two weeks later. Our question: Why the heck is there even a hint of power failures in a data center?

Sadly, that question never was answered before we moved to LogicWorks after taking funding.

But this is not the point.

As a small business – what are you doing to mitigate catastrophic loss? Are you relying on simple backups? Are you shipping data offsite in case you need to do a data recovery? What happens if your data center is in NYC and another terrorist attack happens and takes out your systems?

What do you do? Is it in your plans?

If all else fails, there are always abacuses.

Siguiendo la F1 (y otras noticias) con Twitter

Esta mañana fue el Gran Premio de Barcelona de la Formula 1 y qué mejor manera de seguirlo que a través de Twitter y la TV.

Twitter (una red social que permite compartir mensajes de texto rápida y públicamente) es la herramienta perfecta para seguir eventos en vivo y enterarse de los últimos acontecimientos. Con Twitter no sólo pude compartir comentarios sobre la carrera con mis amigos alrededor del mundo (cada uno viendo la carrera en su canal favorito), sino que usando herramientas como Summize podía mantenerme al tanto de los comentarios de otros usuarios que no están en mi red de Twitter.

Mientras ningún medio online había reportado todavía noticias sobre la condición del piloto Kovalainen -quién sufrió un accidente a alta velocidad – ya Twitter tenía la información al respecto. Y es que es mucho más rápido escribir una nota de 140 caracteres y ponerla en línea que actualizar un website de noticias y esperar que Google News lo incorpore a su índice.

Twitter pone a tu alcance una red de comentaristas distribuidos alrededor del mundo… 24 horas de noticias, al momento. Y con herramientas como Summize, ni siquiera necesitas una cuenta en Twitter para aprovecharla.

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