8 Secrets to Being a Good Twitter User…

… that really should be obvious to anyone.

Welcome back to my horribly neglected blog. Between twitter, and now Tumblr, I’ve been slacking in the long form posting department. Admittedly I’m in a really foul mood this morning – It’s the first day of spring and I should be sunny and happy but I just have an urge to break stuff for some reason. Well I figure what better way to brighten my day than to rant a little.

So here are my secrets to being a good twitter user that really shouldn’t be anything but painfully obvious:

Twitter Secret #1: The true social media experts are the ones who don’t broadcast it.

This is a lot more general than just Twitter but worthy of a mention as apparently the only qualification you need to be a Social Media Expert these days is that those three words appear in your Twitter bio.

Social Media (whatever the hell we’re considering it is today) is built on one basic foundation – trust. Trust is something you earn. You can’t manufacture, declare or disregard it.

The true experts of this medium are the guys & gals who have earned trust repeatedly in a variety of contexts. They are not the people who follow the most people on twitter, nor are they the ones who are followed by the most people.

I just went through the list of people I know that I think really get “it” and the words “Social Media Expert” don’t appear in any of their bios.

Twitter Secret #2: People who Charge you to show you how to “use” twitter are doing just that.
a.k.a You get out of twitter what you put in.

If you’re an individual and paying one of those “Social Media Experts”, you’re just pissing your money away – So while you’re at it there’s a link to my PayPal account below. Just drop in whatever you’re paying the other guy – as I’ll guarantee you I’m giving you just as much value.

Really people – you don’t need to pay someone to teach you how to use twitter. It’s a text box with a 140 characters and a submit button! If you can’t master the “Type, Click, Wait” technique you should probably reconsider your relationship with the Internet.

Everything else is common etiquette and basic conversation skills. Tragically, the same skills that people who charge to teach you how to “use” twitter generally teach you to ignore.

They want to show you how to extract as much as possible from twitter for minimal contribution. It’s scuzzy, it’s not nice, and in the long run you’ll get a lot more out of twitter by engaging with “it” than simply using it. Trust me.

Twitter Secret #3: Don’t be a dick. Ask yourself “Would I do this in person?” and you should do okay
HOHOTO-7648.jpgConsider the last time you were at a function where there was a large crowd in a big room with lots of different conversations take place. You only know a handful of people, who you ran into at the door and now are in the middle of the room on your own.

Do you?
a. Run around randomly, pat everyone you see on the back and tell them your name.
b. See who your friends are talking to and what they’re talking about
c. Watch for people in the room who look interesting and listen to see what they’re talking about

If you chose a) I hope I never run into you at a party.

Hint: Twitter is just like that party. The correct answers here are b) & c) in moderation – more on that later. Act like a decent person would at an event and you’ll do okay.

Twitter Secret #4: Twitter is about Quality, not Quantity
Twitter is like a river of information and you’re learning to swim. It’ll take you where ever you want to go but you need to learn to float and work with the current. And just like real rivers they all start off as small springs.

I think this video sums it up quite well:

Seriously, the 2,000 person limit on following isn’t a goal that you should try to achieve. It’s there to prevent idiots like you from annoying everyone else on the system. Think of it as real life – ask yourself, do I really want 2,000 random people yammering in my ear all the time?

The one key thing you do need to figure out and learn about twitter is how to manage the flow of information and it’s a lot easier to increase the flow then trying to turn it back down.

Here’s some suggestions:
Like the room example above take the b & c road – follow your friends and change your settings so you see all of their @ replies (not just the ones for people you’re following as well). Watch who they interact with and check out those peoples twitter streams. If they’re interesting follow them. Only add the most interesting people, and add them in moderation.

Also, follow the tags (when you see #keyword – that’s a tag) that you’re interested in – search for them on Twitter search. See’s who is talking about subjects you’re genuinely interested in and consider following them.

Twitter Secret #6: No one cares how many you Follow, or how many follow you. But they DO care about how the two relate.
Put simply if you have only a few updates, follow 2,000 people and have less than 200 following you most people won’t even bother following you back – you clearly took route a) from above.

When it comes to following & followers Twitter has a snowball effect, if you keep rolling along you’ll pick up both and your twitter stream will be better off for it. Whereas if you just try to scrape what little snow is on the lawn together to make a pile right off the bat it’s going to have sticks and crap in there as well and you’ll never get it all out again.

Twitter Secret #7: Don’t Auto-DM ever. Period. end of Story.
Imagine if you were at a party and every time you introduced yourself to someone they whispered in your ear “Nice to meet you, you should see what I’m selling!”

Secret #6 should also be considered proof of the importance of Secrets #1, 2 & 3 – most people who auto-DM me are “Social Media Experts” and many make a living off #2. And really at the end of the day it’s a dickish move, violating secret #3.

Don’t Believe me? The next time you meet someone new, try immediately following “Hello” by whispering “Let’s Fuck” in their ear. Let me know how that works for you.

Twitter Secret #8: If you’re a brand w/a twitter account don’t Follow me just cause I mentioned your name/Product.
Seriously, it’s really creepy and I’m probably not going to follow you back, especially if it was a one off mention. I’ll give you one free @ but it better have some value for me otherwise you just look needy.

As far as I’m concerned a brand twitter account should never follow people (but it should follo
w everyone back – at least try to look like you care)

I feel better now. Did I miss anything?

Let me know in the comments below or drop me an @reply on Twitter.

Bitching about trees blocking your view of the forest

Periodically the guys at 37Signals come up with some good stuff on their Signal vs. Noise blog – although I’ll admit I don’t always agree with all of their approaches I can accept “to each their own” and move on. This morning though I opened up my reader to this post.

Which is bizarre when you look at how availability of connectivity is ever increasing. EVDO cards, city-wide wifis, iPhones, Blackberry’s. There are so many ways to get online these days that the excitement for offline is truly puzzling. Until you consider the one place that is still largely an island of missing connectivity: The plane!

But planes are not a very common hang-out spot for most people. The two major groups of people who are on a plane often enough to care and have an interest in web applications are traveling salesmen and techies who go to too many conferences.

It’s funny, in some respects that I totally know the mindset this post was written in – You get so wrapped up in an argument/train of thought you leap over all kinds of logical conclusions and miss the true point of a topic. It’s unfortunate though that he didn’t catch it before he made such a cocky post.

The excitement behind offline applications isn’t being generated by guys on planes – sure for consumer apps the offline notion is largely unnecessary but for a business it’s just not optional. The unfortunate reality is that Internet connections are still not 100% reliable (although getting better everyday) and outside of the US unlimited data plans are either ridiculously expensive or, in Canada’s case, non-existent.

Case in point – back in December we had our DSL modem die and for whatever reason we had a nightmare of a time finding one that worked (we went through a few all with their own troubles). Problem – at the time we had just started using Google Docs for passing around a bunch of stuff we were working on internally and thus, they were completely unavailable to us. We were literally stuck on a major internal initiative until we could get home & get connected once more.

Until some of the online business tool apps start offering offline capabilities we just can’t take that risk anymore. It’s issues like this that are driving excitement behind offline app access, not bored guys on planes looking to put in an extra few hours of work.

One comment that caught my attention:

“So when 37signals can’t do something, they just tell people they are stupid for wanting it.”

Hmmm… I wonder if there’s some truth in that….

When did Critical Thinking fall by the wayside?

A while back I did a “tongue-in-cheek” post about how the computers will eventually take us (humans) out. The underlying idea though is my serious concern of the apparant lack of critical thinking skills within the population in general.

James Woods (the geek not the actor) passed me over another “Driver blindly follows GPS” story this morning.

…when a U.K. woman sent her £96k Mercedes SL500 flying into a river, trusting the car’s optimistic GPS guidance instead of the road signs warning of impending doom.

The sad thing is this has gotten to be a weekly, if not daily occurance at this point. If anyone knows this woman, or someone who’s done something equally as ridiculous, can you please ask them on my behalf “At what point did you realize something was wrong?” or even better “Did you even hit the brakes?”

I see it every day as well where people step out into a crosswalk, without looking, simply because the “walking man” is lit.

This is very much in the same vein of the increasingly ridiculous use of common sense warnings, on signs and products – Like the fast food coffee cups that now all carry “This beverage is hot, please enjoy carefully” (or something thereabouts). It scares me that people who deliberately order coffee have to then be told “It’s hot”.

Scarier still is the fact I always assume that if it was important enough to put on a label then someone has probably tried it – seriously do people think at all before they do something? At the end of the day I feel pretty strongly that one of the biggest problems in society today is a total lack of personal responsibility – there is always someone, or usually something, else to blame for your misfortune.

In the case of the woman above many will probably blame the GPS device because it told her to turn left, but in the end there’s only one person who is holding the wheel and pushing the pedals. I guess it’s only a matter of time until car manufacturers decide that the simple disclaimer that appears when you start the car is no longer sufficient:

“Attention. If there is no oncoming traffic and the road ahead of you is not blocked, partially submerged, under construction or gone entirely you should turn left in 10 metres. Please be advised though that the temperature is around freezing and ice may be present. Under inflation of tires may also cause for slight understeer, please compensate accordingly accordingly. I also sense that the cell phone is in operation and you only have one hand on the wheel, it is reccomended that one have both hands on the wheel at all times while operating a motor vehicle. XYZ Autocorp is not responsible for any accidents that may occur as a result of this direction, please honk your horn before turning to indicate acceptance of these turns.”

Toot. toot.

Photo: Grant Mitchell