UPDATE/NOTE:  Twitter has a very poorly-timed bug. If you're having trouble changing your avatar, see note below.


 

I so rarely do this, but as I wrote in a post last week, and detailed in my primer on the crisis, what is happening in Wisconsin is too important to not do everything that we can to show support for the demonstrators there; locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, and on Twitter, Facebook, or the back of your damned car.  

Last night, filmmaker Michael Moore asked everyone to wear red to show our solidarity. And this morning, my old friend @hankronan messaged me and suggested Wisconsin Badger Red for our Twitter dress, also known as our avatars.

Now given Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's faux-fixation with communism lately, the color red might not have been the best idea, but screw 'em all. Wingnuts don't own the color wheel, eh?

Look my progressive/liberal friends and neighbors: this is our Stonewall, Waterloo, and <historical name your battle of choice>.

But win or lose, it cannot be our Last Stand.  So please don't just sit on your ass and watch. Do something; anything. Send yourself, your money, some pizza, or call a union and ask what you can do. If nothing else, just make a Tributar like mine shown at upper right. (I've provided some tools to help you make one below.) 

If you want to be subtle, just stick a red square or dot in the corner of  your avatar. As with much in life (except some of my posts), it just doesn't have to be complicated to be effective.

It's the least you can do. The very least. You only have one country, and you may not have it for much longer. So fight for what you have, and fight as hard as you are able, while you still have a country to fight for.

As always, please use the Tweet button to distribute this post to anyone that should care. Thanks. (Note: When you use the button, you increase the #tally, and that encourages others to do the same. This has greater impact than simply retweeting the message that brought you here.)

Tributar Tools

Avatars with some special image, color or text signifying some event or cause are often called "twibbons." I never like terms that are twitter-centric, or for that matter, dedicated to any one social media service, unless they are only applicable to that service. So last year, I coined the term "tributar" at Urbandictionary,com, after seeing Keith Olbermann make one to honor his late-father last year.

Tributar Editors

  • Twibbon.com — is probably your fastest and easiest option. It's very easy, and the site has instructions. Or if you enjoy tutorials, here are some video guides.
  • Photobucket.com — is very easy to use, according to @angryBlackLady.
  • I really never use these tools — because I really don't do many Tributars, personally, so if you know a better tool, please tweet it to me at: @shoq. I will post here.

Image Editors

If you're not a Photoshop wizard and you want to do it yourself, here are some web-based tools you can use. While it may seem like a lot of work to learn the basics of image editing, it won't take more than 15 minutes to change a color the first time if you have no experience whatsoever. And then you'll know how to do it for the next big thing.

Human Editors

  • Just look for someone with a cool red avatar, and ask them how they made it, or if they will make one for you.
  • If you want to volunteer to make them for others, I will be happy to post your twitter handle here. Just tweet me at: @shoq.

Computer Code For "Badger Red"

One of the code(s) below will render a shade of red in your editor:

The PRECISE WISCONSIN BADGER color is: (Hat Tip to @gaborger)

  • RGB: R 191 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: BF0000

My Tributar above uses a slightly brighter value, for contrast with a darker image like the @Shoq panther:

  • RGB:  R 254 G 0 B 0 …or
  • Hexidecimal: FE0000

If you don't know what these codes mean, it doesn't matter. You can probably figure out where to put them in your editor. If not, just pick a nice red from the editor's palette and move on :)

Twitter Avatar Bug

UPDATE/NOTE:  With their usual perfect timing, Twitter has a bug and it's not displaying the "Change Profile Image" button on Settings/profile screen.  They claim it's resolved, but it's not.  To work around this, just hold down SHIFT key and press your browser's reload button. After a few times, the button should appear. If it doesn't, try clearing your browser cache first  (Google-it for your browser) and try again.

Related

 

This page will explain, in the simplest possible terms, why many use a period or other character before a @Twittername. While I once wrote a widely circulated explanation, it was rather dense, and I find that at least a third of my stream still doesn't understand the issue. Thus, I felt a simpler explainer might help.

What is the period (or other character) before the "@twittername" for?

In the simplest possible terms, it "breaks" Twitter's native (built-in) reply threading (a fancy techy term for connecting tweets together).

Without it, your Tweets beginning with @someName will NOT show up to your ALL of your followers, UNLESS they happen to follow both you and the person you are replying to. 

Will only a period work?

Nope. Almost any character will work just as well.

All that matters is that the ?@ character combo be the very first characters in your tweet text.  That said, the period, because I and a few others hammered Twitter streams with it for over 2 years, has become the de facto standard. I would not deviate from it because a) it will just confuse people, and b) there's no reason to. The period is so small, that while anyone can still see it, they visually just tune it out. It has no impact on Twitter readability.

Doesn't that waste a character in my text?

Yes, but LOLs waste 4 (including the space after), and we know you ain't giving them up, right Spanky?  Now STFU about one lousy character and keep reading.

Why would Twitter want to hide my replies from my followers?

The logic is that by only showing replies to those who follow you and the person you're  engaging, innocent bystanders who are not interested in your conversation will not have to see it.

Twitter did not always do this. All replies were seen by everyone no matter what.  While this forced change of Twitter behavior caused a huge furor at the time, as with many Twitter changes, the userbase had no choice but to eventually learn to accept and live with it.  In fact, even I have come to welcome the change. But then, I never did mind the logic. It was the very confusing way they chose to implement it (and spring it on us without much diplomacy) that irked me (and others).

Again, back in May of 2009, I wrote about Twitter's "Replies Issue."  Read it if you like the grim details. Otherwise, find something better to do—such as keep on reading.

But doesn't using this trick make it hard to follow a conversation?

Sometimes, but rarely. The downside is that it breaks Twitter's native connections, so users of Twitter.com (and some clients), cannot "thread together" the stream of messages between the two participants. This is often called "reading the conversation."

Why don't I (and possibly you) care?  Because the best "conversations" usually involve many more than two people anyway, and the threading never worked for that at all.  So I simply use "search" of all the names I care about. It's an extra step, but since most of my frequent engagements are all with people I follow anyway, we all see each other's updates. So it's only only when the discussion is with someone I don't follow, or when  I want to see what the whole herd is saying that I bother to use the search method. But I do it so often, it's not a bother. I usually have a browser search page open all the time, and I just change the names and press go.

Should you always use this technique?

Absolutely not. The rule of thumb should be "Is this something of interest to enough of my followers that I want them all to see it?"  If the answer is no, then simply reply normally without the period.

So why does @Shoq appear to use it so often?

Three reasons:

  1. Because the majority of my tweets are about political or social issues that I feel are of interest to all or most of my stream or they probably wouldn't be following me in the first place.
  2. I may be responding to some wingnut with a dozen followers and I want to amuse or inform my stream about the idiot.
  3. I use it so often for 1 and 2 above that it's become a habit I don't always break when I should. Me so bad. I hate me for it. You can too.

Doesn't Tweetdeck (and other clients*) give you the option to see all replies?

Yes, it does. But Tweetdeck is only one of dozens of popular clients*, and support for this special feature is very rare at this time. And Twitter.com (the client which most people still use), has no such support.

Why doesn't Twitter just build an option into their client?

Because neither software development nor software developers are very rational entities. They do things in their own way, in their own time frame, and for their own reasons. They really don't give a rodent's rectum what you think about it.

But not all developers are total asshats. Hell, if I ruled the world—or at least Twitter— I would implement a "Reply and Reply to All" feature. Just like email. Yeah, it's simple. That's why they missed it.

Where can I learn more?

You can't. All of human knowledge on this topic stops right here. You could Google for it and prove me wrong, but nothing good could come of that. This issue is confusing enough, and you have already been well-armed with all that really matters. Learn to be content with the easy answers. There are so many hard ones that we all need to worry about.

*Oh, and WTF is a "Client?"

Something I get asked about often, so I think I should finally explain it here, even if it has very little to do with Twitter replies.

I can do that, because, at least within the narrow confines of this document, I rule the world :)

A client is a term programmers and us techy types like to use to describe a program that communicates with another programmed service on a remote computer somewhere. Tweetdeck is a client for Twitter, Google Reader is a client for news feeds, etc..  Often, many clients will exist for the same service. (Twitter has hundreds, but only a dozen or so good and well supported ones).

How do I use a Bidet?

Now this is something you could have Googled for yourself. But as you have so often come to expect from me, I've saved you all that time and effort. You're welcome.

How to use a Bidet Properly (Video)

 

 

Note: This post was written in early 2011. But nothing has changed. Millions of Twitter users still don't understand that while it has some value, Twitter's built-in Retweet function has all but ruined a key benefit of Twitter for discovering and recommending information to our followers.

You need to understand why in order to understand why you miss a lot of stuff on Twitter, and why others miss your RT recommendations... routinely,

It will also explain why my followers so often see me using the old style (copy and paste) RT method instead.


 

Well, it's been well over a year since Twitter implemented its built-in "new" retweet feature, which for many of us, immediately wrecked what had been one of Twitter's best features: the old retweeting style which evolved organically from the user-base, and with no input from Twitter whatever.

Naturally, something that millions of people loved just had to be replaced by something confusing and destructive to the Twitter experience, just for the sake of their business model and investors.  So, replace it they did. And in so doing, they created a huge level of completely preventable confusion for both new and old users alike. Confusion that still wreaks havoc on your timeline, even though you're probably not even aware of it. I am just fed up with explaining this over and over again, and still kicking myself for not writing this post over a year ago.  My purpose here is NOT to rehash all the details of what Twitter did, or why. You can click here for that. My purpose is simply to tell you clearly, and without all the confusing details, just…

Why you should NOT (always) use Twitter's built-in retweet feature

There are three very big reasons:

Reason One: Your followers won't miss important stuff you want to recommend to them.

To help you understand why, consider this scenario involving you and two other followers:

@Newbie is some follower you just followed recently. He has about 250 followers himself, and you decided to follow him because he tweeted some funny cat pictures now and then.

@Oldbie is a follower you've liked and trusted since you first got on to Twitter.

One morning, before you woke up, @Newbie retweeted a tweet concerning a really big story in your field of interest. He used Twitter's built in RT feature. It was a story you would really want to know about.

Later that day, @Oldbie retweeted about that the same story, also using the built-in retweet. As you respect @Oldbie, you would have clicked to read his tweet immediately had you seen it. Unfortunately, you never saw @Oldbie's tweet because Twitter's built in RT logic doesn't show you items that:

  • have already been retweeted by any of your other followers. 
  • you follow the original tweeter, and thus, Twitter assumes you don't need to see a RT of it—FROM ANYONE.

If you do see a RT of someone you don't follow, you only see in one time. Twitter simply increases the tally of how many users retweeted that first tweet that you received earlier from that relatively unknown @newbie person. Of course, that tweet came in hours ago, and is now so far down your timeline, you were never likely to see it anyway.

But wait, there's more bad news: Suppose the Tweet that both @Newbie and @Oldbie are new-retweeting was posted by someone else that you follow. In that case, you won't see either of their retweets because Twitter logic assumes you saw the original tweet, even if it went by long ago while you were sleeping, nodding off, having sex. This is a massive fail when big stories are involved. Unless you saw the original when it appeared in your timeline, you will NEVER know about it no matter how many thousands of people RT it. And this is absolutely horrible. It squashes one of Twitter's greatest values: allowing people you trust to filter what you see.

So, now do you see the problem? Twitter decided that you only wanted to see a single instance of a tweet, no matter who sent it, or when, and without any regard for how long you have known a user, nor whether you even recognize, respect or trust them. Thus, because you like some of @newbie's cat pictures, or didn't notice the first time an original tweet showed up in your timeline, you completely missed all the secondary reminders from other friends concerning that story. (And this explains why we often don't see something all of our friends are talking about, too.)

Now you might say, "but I hate seeing dozens of retweets of the same thing." And you're right, sometimes that can be annoying. But keep these things in mind.

  1. Repetitive tweets tell you a story mattered to a lot of your followers. You might ignore the first few retweets you see, but when the 3rd, 4th or 5th come in, you're going to notice, and may well be glad that you did.
  2. Repetitive tweets tell you something is really important, or you wouldn't be seeing so many of them. Even on my mobile phone, all those retweets just help reinforce for me what people find important. And that counts. A lot.
  3. The repetition is not nearly as annoying as missing a story that could be important to you, nor missing out on all the comments that can sometimes be as important as the story itself (or at least funnier). And this leads nicely into the next reason you don't want to use built-in Retweets…

Reason 2:  Users can't add their own comments to the built-in retweets

This one you probably know something about already. But you should not underestimate its importance. Comments embedded in old-style Retweets are one of the very best ways to learn more about a story. More importantly, they help you to discover new users whom you would never know about had they not added a funny or informative comment to a manual, old-style retweet. 

For example, consider this retweet from @newbie, who is now using the old RT method so you WILL see it regardless of who else retweeted that same item already:

@newbie: This story increased my profits! RT @nerdish Study says hire only very good spellers. http://butt.ly/3das

Not only did you discover a new interest that you shared with @newbie, but at the same time, you discovered a new person named @nerdish. Without that all important old-retweet comment, it would probably have sailed right on by you if you're timeline was even modestly busy.

Reason Three:  New RT minimizes the impact of Twitter campaigns

Often, we want to let people and organizations know how we—and the crowd—feels about something. With Old style RT, they'll see thousands of tweets aimed at them. But with the new built-in RT, they may not even see a single one.  Let that sink in. If you want @piersmorgan to know how pissed off you are about something, he'll never see it in his mentions unless you use the old RT.  Be lazy and use the New RT, and it's like saying "ditto" on some lone tweet he may never even see. You scream, but no one hears.


Now, you may be saying to yourself…

"What good is all of this if those followers don't play by the old retweet rules as Shoq has laid them out here?" A good question:  If it all depends upon what THEY do, and has nothing to do with the choices that YOU make, then why bother? 

Three good reasons:

  1. It does affect you. The same rules applied to what you can see will have bearing on what others see from you when you use the new RT. Sure, if you're the very first person among your followers to retweet someone, your RT may get seen. But if not? Then it's just one more number added to the tally on the first Retweet showing up in the timeline of people following both of you.
  2. Because only if you understand the impact it has on you, can you ever explain it to them so that they don't do it. And of course, so you won't either. 
  3. As I demonstrated when I created the #MT and the shorter #FF (for #followfriday) tags, change happens on Twitter over time, as the crowd discovers a better mousetrap.  If YOU stop relying on new RT, others will too.

So now you know

Twitter has a lot of reasons to want you to use the new retweet; reasons that have everything to do with them making money by reporting tweet metrics to advertisers, but absolutely nothing to do with the value that you and your followers will get from Twitter.

For me the choice is simple

Old Retweets are the very essence of Twitter. Sometimes I will use a new RT when I'm in a big hurry and just want to be sure at least some of my followers will see a tweet. But this is usually when I really don't care enough about it to give it special treatment, or when the tweet is so densely or specifically worded that I really can't easily condense it down to something that I can fit a comment into. Alas, if the tweet was from earlier in the day, only those who don't follow the original tweeter are even going to see my recommendation.  Again, for me, this aspect of the issue is a massive fail. It impedes our ability to recommend things to our friends, or those who rely on us as a filter of news and information.

As for you, well…

You're gonna do what the hell you do no matter what I say anyway. And that's how it should be. But at least now you know the stakes. Twitter is a very powerful tool for communication and knowledge sharing. Sometimes it seems like the only people who don't quite understand that well enough are the fine folks at Twitter.

Related

Back story on the "New" Retweets (by Shoq)

About the MT signal (by Shoq)l

UPDATE1:  If this article is accurate, then Twitter is now claiming that their new search—which prompted the post below—was just an "experiment."  (Conducted live with 100 million users? Hmmm)

If true, then all of this drama was about nothing at all. As I said initially, for all we know, it's a bug. When Twitter doesn't share with us these little tests, nobody can know what's really going on. It's annoying that I had to write all of this about something that lasted only a few days.  But so many were hysterical, there wasn't much choice.  
Notice that they say they will look for other ways to remove duplicates.  I think they should simply provide various kinds of filtering options in advanced search, and leave the rest alone.

UPDATE2 (5/23/10): I have seen no changes to search. The new method is still in force, making me greatly doubt the story above claiming RTs would be returned to home/mentions search.

ORIGINAL POST

Yesterday, Ray Beckerman wrote a post titled: Has @Twitter Declared War on Traditional Retweets? #TR

In my opinion, the change he was concerned about is actually a very good change.  But as usual, twitter has not explained it before implementing it.  So Ray's post has brought needed attention to it, but his rather irritated tone with them springing it on us this way has lead many of his readers to take a very hostile stance toward it before they actually understood it.  Many panicked, and have run all over Twitter announcing that the sky may be falling.

Yes, it is a change, but it's hardly a huge change and the sky is not falling. It just requires a bit of knowledge about the new options that you now have when searching for tweets and #tags. So let me explain it before it gets even more out of hand. (I've been getting one question about this every 20 minutes).

The problem that isn't a problem

Twitter has decided—in their typically unannounced way—to make a  change to the way search works, but only IN YOUR HOME (and @mentions) page search boxes. The general search box (at search.twitter.com) is not affected by the change.

As Twitter UI staffer, @charles tweets here, all they have actually done is change the search parameter to be "exclude:Retweets." 

This is actually a GOOD THING. Previously, searches always included every single retweet, and the result was often that the ORIGINAL tweet would be buried beneath many pages of search results. This is known in the tech world as search "noise."  The original tweet is the "signal;" the thing most people are interested in finding FIRST.

So what does this practically mean for your searches?

That you have options in how you search for stuff that you never had before. This change is giving you something, not taking something away.

All it means is that IF you want to use the little home page/@mentions box, you have 3 choices in how you can search:

You can search for:

1)  #tag or Keywords:  example: "#shoqstag"

This will get you only original tweets without duplicates (which is any tweet containing the "RT" code anywhere in it).

Why? Because this eliminates what can sometimes be dozens—or hundreds—of duplicate tweets. That include tweets where people may have appended comments to their RT (using old style RT), but those are derived from the original tweet, and generally much less important for most types of searches.

If you REALLY want to see every single RT-bearing duplicate, and all those possible comments (most rarely do), you simply use #2 or #3 below.

2) tag or keyword PLUS "RT" — Example: "#shoqtag RT"

Do this at the home/mentions box, and you will get everything with your terms plus a RT in it—but NOT the original tweet. This is a small annoyance at first, but actually makes sense when you get used to it.

Just remember that adding RT gives you the retweets, and omitting it doesn't. And if this really still annoys you, for some reason, you can always…

3) tag or keywords entered on the standard  twitter search page — where everything works as it always did.

What about a #tag search/click?

This is the only confusing part of the new methods, and it's not a big deal either.  A tag search is when you click a linked #hashtag.  As it works now, which search method is used depends on where you were when you clicked a #hashtag.

Tags in your a) Home Timeline, b) @mentions, or c) viewed tweets* — will use the HOME/mentions style method without the RTs included.

* Viewed tweets refers to when you isolate a tweet by clicking on its "view tweet" link or its time stamp. Example,

Tags in a regular search.twitter.com. search results page — will include everything.

What About 3rd Party Apps?

Tweetdeck treats #tags as it always had, and probably most clients will do the same. As for Tweetie2 (Twitter's own mobile client), who knows? They are barring old style RTs, reportedly, and that will probably crush that product fast.

What about the "TR" suggestion

This was Ray's idea to work around what he perceived as a bad problem. The idea is that if you really feel a need to indicate that you're RTing someone, and ensure that your tweet still shows up as an original tweet when someone clicks a tag, you'd be sort of saying it's a Retweet without actually using the RT code (which would be excluded with the new method).

I just see very little point to this fake RT/TR idea, and in fact, it will just add yet more code bloat that nobody understands, and really look like you're trying to game a system designed to serve most people with a generalized solution. If everyone started doing this, you'd have even more confusion, as some duplicates would show, and others would not. This would NOT be a good outcome, in my opinion, and I would urge you not to do it.

That's all folks

I am glad Ray brought this up. I've provided all his references herein if you'd like to read more on his view. For a few days, I'd be happy to discuss it with Ray and anyone else interested at tag: #searchchange.

Please use the green button to retweet this to all the people who were confused enough by Twitter weirdnesses before this change.

As always, please follow @shoq for updates on this issue.

Related Info

@RayBeckerman's original post.— which created all this concern, and referred to it in fairly dramatic terms. I understand that. These changes can be annoying when Twitter doesn't announce them. But I do wish he would edit that post and soften the language so people see this as something to understand and not fear.

Twitter's @Charles responded to Ray's concern here, and here. In both tweets, he confirms what I've explained above.

NextWeb Reblogs Ray's Post — This was the more Googled post, getting too much play, but it was simply a reblogging of Ray's post.

Welcome to Twitter! It's about time you got here.

This primer has some tips and resources you'll need to get oriented. There are trillions of tutorials available on Twitter, many of them pretty poor. Twitter's own help pages are among the worst of them.  But there are some adequate sites and pages, ranging from this brief overview style, to the far more extensive, tutorial-about-everything style, such as Mashable's Guide To Twitter.  Even the bad ones can still give you the basics.

Note: Twitter 101 For Business is probably better than most of their materials, and worth a look, even if you're not a business.

I suggest you glance at that one, but ignore the rest (for now). Just wander around, asking questions and endearing yourself to people by being clueless and vulnerable.  Just bear these things in mind during your first week:

  • Tip 1: As in most of life, most people don't know what they're talking about. Twitter has a LOT of those people, and many of them are probably advising you right now. Just send them away. Tell them, "go, I'll learn by stumble."
  • Tip 2: If you're a celebrity, like Tiger Woods's penis, I suggest you ignore the volume of people tweeting at you for a  few weeks. Relax and spend time with a handful of friends and co-workers, and learn how to follow people and "feeds" at your leisure. It's easier than you think.  Select one or two really skilled people and listen to them. This keeps you from being overwhelmed by too many tutors.  But don't assume their habits are everyone's habits, and never assume they understand even 1% of what Twitter is about. They don't. And you won't either, for a long time—if ever. Use your desktop and a program like Tweetdeck.  Don't try to absorb all the culture and tricks on a tiny mobile interface. Spread out.
  • Tip 3: If you're a liberal minded person, politically, the Progressive community is your friend here. You'll find many of us on the #p2 tag. You can read about what the #p2 tag is here.  Whenever you see it, a progressive is tweeting out to the progressive community, or some wingnut is spamming the tag and probably calling you a socialist fag. If you're unlucky, these same conservative hatriots can often be seen using their own "#tcot" tag (and others like it).  These "#hashtag" codes are just little identifiers for what people are talking about. It's very informal and primitive, but it works. Clicking on tags will show you the "conversations" (the tweets) happening at those tags.

     

    Try it. Click #p2 for filthy commie libs, or #tcot for screaming Beck fans who want all liberals to be sent to Super Max concentration camps.

    If you're a conservative minded person, my only tip is this: Facebook.

  • Tip 4: Follow people you can trust to follow people worth following.  But don't stick to your bubble pals (the friend of friends who probably dragged you to Twitter). Pick people you know are interested in diverse issues and ideas. They come upon the most interesting things to know of at any given time. Beware of your own natural tendency to cluster and nest with only people you know.Twitter is about discovery of people and ideas. The best of those are often outside our comfort zones.
  • Tip 5:  Don't be a dork. Especially if you're famous. if someone passes you a tip, or a resource, or an idea, at least tweet a simple thank you.  You don't have to know everyone's name, or that their grandma's dog just died.  But try and explore the very personal exchanges and relationships you can have and enjoy here. You just don't know it yet.
  • Tip 6: Just ask your feed how to do things. Example:  "@shoq, what the hell is "new retweet;" "What's a hat tip?" "How do I start juicy rumors about @pressSec and @kimKardashian?"

That's it. You'll pick it all up from here.

Most of all. Enjoy it. Yes, it's a brave new world, but it's also an interesting and fun one.

Clients You'll Want

Client programs take social media to a new level not usually found on the web verisons of many applications  Nobody you like uses the Twitter.com website to access Twitter:

  • Tweetdeck (makes Twitter MUCH easier). . Tweetdeck is  where you want to be, to start. There are many other programs, but they all work similarly.
  • Hootsuite —  gets better all the time. Tweetdeck is still what I use, as I find it closest to the user experience that I think should be the bare minimum in today's social media ecosystem.

Resources You'll Want

Verify Your Twitter Account — Very important. Celebrities and people important to Twitter can get it done. Just ask your staff to follow instructions.  We little people have to suck it.

Basic Twitter Terms You Must Know

What is Twitter "Blocking"

How to get started with-twitter — As stated above, just one of many tutorials. One is just about as good as another at the start. Get the key ideas; learn by doing.

Twitter Help

Top 50 Twitter Acronyms, Abbreviations and Initialisms by @digiphile — A very good guide by a saavy social media thought leader.

Shoq's Tips — A number of things you won't find easily. Including tricky issues like New Retweet vs. Old Retweet, etc.

What does #FF or "#Follow Friday" mean?  — Since Friday is your first full day, you're about to find out.  It's not one of Twitter's finer traditions. Read about it here.

Twictionary.com — All the lingo in one place. Not for the squeamish.

Hashtags.org — A dictionary of tags (best picked up by just watching and asking)

Journalists on Twitter — A decent, if not exhaustive directory of people you will surely be interested in. Remember, there's far more insight and ideas than what come across in any one community.

Directory of Twitter Lists — Lists are a great way to follow the tweets of many people in various interest areas, without actually following individuals.  You just follow the list, and browse the tweets of the people in them.  

WeFollow.com —A General Twitter Directory

Tweetprogress.us — The Progressive Community on Twitter. Hardly definitive, but most of the leaders and core people are there.

About Gametags — Which are an amusing way to waste hours of time creating completely silly, often riotously funny, poignant, or humiliating tweets about breaking news, or really dumb or annoying people and events.

How To Verify A Tweet  — Useful for Journalists, or anyone trying to confirm the veracity of a Tweet on a fact or news story.

Note: This page will change often. If you are referring it to friends, please ask them to check back often. If you feel it needs new concepts or resources, please post a comment.

As always, using the Retweet button below will expose this page others.


Overview

Gametag — is a term that I created to describe the use of #hashtaqs in contests or simple word games played on Twitter, and other social networks that support such tags.

Sometimes I, my friend @lizzWinstead, or some other Twitter addict will create a tag and put it out there and see if others will find it amusing and join in by tweeting some quip, definition, remark, or other form of "submission" to the #gametag stream.

Most often, these are just for fun, and tossed out at random, but there are many people who are addicted to creating them in hopes that they will become a "Trending Topic" (#TT), and get listed in Twitter's search interface.  Some try to make this happen to promote an event or product (but these are usually obvious, rarely much fun, and often fail to gain much traction).

A popular gametag can be followed—or at least noticed—by thousands, even millions of people on social networks.

Many gametags are based on a breaking news event, such #balloonBoy or #StupaksNewJob, but the majority of them are predicated on some amusing premise such as #TeabaggerMovieTitles, #3wordsAfterSex, or #4WordStories.

For example, #TeachOlbermann was a new gametag I created to teach new Tweep, Keith Olbermann what people think he should know about Twitter—or the politics, culture, allure, or hazards thereof. About 1% of them were serious, and the rest merely funny—or trying hard to be.

Note: You never know with tags. Sometimes they soar, and become a "trending tag," and at other times they're just dog tags and die a quick death).

Some Recent Gametags

Note:  These may be removed from Twitter by the time you read this.

Related

I have created or promoted several tags and codes that are in everyday use on Twitter. And I use many of them, often. Logically enough, one result of that is that I often get asked what some code or tag means. So I've listed the common ones below to save me some time and keystrokes in the future.

If I've left out anything that youv'e seen me use often, please let me know.  I'm not going to make this a glossary of all codes in use. Only the ones which I personally use. I will list some general tag glossaries at the bottom of this post.

Signal Codes

VIA  - Has been used like RT in some older Twitter clients, but I personally dislike it. It's very ambiguous to start with, and the different takes on its meaning make it worse. I prefer it to mean (as do many) that "I came upon this resource via (by way of): @name."  While  @name can often be an individual when appropriate, it is most often a publication name, be it newspaper, blog, TV show, or some other venue. Via should refer to the primary publication conveying the content, and not necessarily the content's author (although they can be one and the same.). 

Example: "This title here" by @pinhead666 was via @oprahshow." 
 

HT  (or h/t, or simply ^@name)  Stands for "Hat Tip," an acknowledgement to the person who brought the item to my attention. While HT is the most common variant, I've now switched to the programmer's "hat" (^) symbol. It saves two characters (including the space after HT), and that is not an insignificant savings in Twitterville's 140 character space.

Example: "This title here" by @pinhead666 was via @oprahshow. ^@dingleberry

FTW"For The Win."

Codes Created By Me

I've also conceived or embraced a few codes that everyone would use, were I ever King.  Some of my followers and friends use them now. These can be typed upper or lower case, but the preferred case is indicated.

MT — Modified Tweet/Transmission. The tweet was substantially changed to mock or clarify.

CC — Carbon Copy routing to list of people.  Do not retweet (or the recipients get tweet-bombed).

by — precedes person or organization that authored the work being tweeted. Best when referring to single, not multiple creators. See next.

cr— Creator code. Essentially a more multipurpose version of "BY @someone" when more than one author or producer created the work.  Based on Dublin Core meta data standards. Signifies that @name mentioned before the CR code had some kind of creative authorship or moderating role in relation to the Tweet or resource.  The precise role is beyond the scope of the code, and a level of detail that cannot be conveyed in a tweet. This code at least affirms there is such a role relationship to be further discovered. 

Code Glossaries

Hashtags

#p2 — The "clear channel" umbrella tag for Progressives (you may know them as "Liberals") to connect up and share resources and information across Twitter and other social networks. Read its history and mission here: About the #p2 Tag For Progressives.

#tcot  — Top Conservatives on Twitter.  In reality, it's mostly unhinged teaparty whack jobs, but it's entertaining for some when there's nothing on TV. I usually include this tag in a tweet when I believe the content is of interest to the conservatives wrecking America, or is simply so deliciously mocking that they shouldn't be left out of the mirth.

#tlotTop Libertarians on Twitter. People who wanted to maintain some distance from the whackjobs in #tcot (see previous), but ended up with their own homegrown variation of the tag. After all, as Drew Carey said, "A libertarian is just a conservative who still gets high."

#ocra — Organized Christian Resistance Alliance. A fringe conservative group who should be watched closely before they bite the heads off too many squirrels.

#WTL – Wingnut Threat Level.  A color-coded system for indicating the current alert status of the biggest threat to democracy since Rush Limbaugh. I created this tag because someone had to.

Hash Tags Created By Me

#ff — Alias for "#FollowFriday," but also being repurposed to mean: "Friends to follow."   It basically means, "I am recommending these [ @names in this tweet ] to my followers.

I did not create #followFriday. I did spend years almost bodily forcing people to shorten it to the much more sensible and economic form now known as "#FF."  Read more about that history, and my redefinition of it here.

#Hatriot — Means "this tweet concerns a Foxbagger, Limbaugh/Beck listener,  or some other strain of right wingnut.  Those who know me, know I've been using this term since 1996, on various services. I neglected to add it to Urban Dictionary (only started doing that with my terms recently), and only recently did someone else finally get around to doing that. And that's fine. I just love the term. Credit is for those kids on the FreeCreditReport.com ads.

Hashtag Directories

  • Hashtags.org — A dictionary of tags (which are best picked up by just watching and asking).

Words and Terms Coined by Me

My Urban Dictionary Contributions

Twictionary.com  —which I administrate, had all sorts of Twerms I've created, defined, or just use a lot.

 

What is the BL code?

A proposed Message Code for Twitter and any social network.

The BL code means "broken link." It tells someone that a link they sent out was defective.

Geekly speaking, it should be "resource," but I won't get into why. I think the average Twitter user can remember, "Broken link," Busted link, Borked Link, etc..  Not going to spend much time writing this up formally, yet, but feel free to comment/disqus it below.  Perhaps we can make it grow!

As always, I reserve the right to completely discard or discredit this idea at any moment, and without warning or notification of any kind.  #SoSuckit

When To Use The BL Code

Anytime you click someone's social feed links, and get any type of fail, and want to quickly, with a minimum of keystrokes, tell the sender that the failure happened, so they can fix it, hopefully before their bad link gets too much traction with their followers, retweeters, etc. 

The failure may have been due to:

  • Failed links (404s, etc.)
  • Video, page, or widget failure.
  • The earth gets hit by an asteroid and we all die.

 

What are Message Codes?

Among the many needs we have in the social space, is more codes to give some quick semantic or semiotic meaning to social media messages (tweets). Twitter has become the 21st century telegraph, on many levels. But it still lacks its own modern morse code for daily use.

Mostly for my own fun and use, I am creating a few codes as the need for them becomes apparent. Most languages and syntaxes get set in stone far too quickly, but you can be sure the social namespace is going to get crowded, as our social nets evolve.  I'd like to see an organic, bottom-up evolution from daily use for the most ubiquitous daily codes. Let local dialects flourish! Hopefully there will never be too many at the root level. I'd like to see lean, mean and very clean (and thus, easy to adopt).

Twitter is the proverbial herd of cats, and the only way anything can happen is over time, with enough people doing it. It gets easier if what we want people to do is really SIMPLE. Thus, I have come up with these few…

The Tweet (Or Transmit) Codes:

 

MT = Modified Tweet/Transmission

Substantially changed to mock or clarify, but may have altered meaning. Be sure to check original, if it could matter.

FF = Follow Friends

Follow anyone, anytime #FF Hashtag.

BL = Broken Link or Resource.  [new]

Please repair & resend… and/or delete bad original.

CC = Carbon Copy Recipent List   [proposed]

Do Not Retweet. Recipients only need to receive it ONCE (and not be tweet-bombed).

DR = Don't Retweet/Retransmit [proposed]

Do Not Retweet. Only copy & paste the message/URL it is linked to (or ignore/discard/keep as just a memo).

 

 

Why Define These Codes?

Because I can, of course.  And because they are needed, and because I want to use them right now, myself, and feel my 6000+ followers would, as well.  Each is based on years of daily practical tweeting.  Few would argue that I do and read a lot of that, and I feel my years of programming and interface design skills makes me at least as eligible as anyone else is to make hideous mistakes.

I am sure others, with an interest in such things, will come up with a more robust standards scheme to build on my meager beginnings, or just overwrite them completely. I'm down with either outcome.  For now, Shoq codes are an intuitive and useful language start, that could assist in the evolution of more useful tools (quickly).

See Also: My "MT" signal idea

Can you do this on Twitter… just make stuff up?

So who's gonna stop me, you? Yes, you can just make stuff up :)  Twitter is a community defined tool; many of the better ideas, including the RT, #hashtags, and other conventions came about via an ad hoc adoption by the community itself.  What works is what people decide is useful, and they just start using it. As of September 10th, 2009, I had been using the BL signal for about a week. I intend to keep using it.  If others find it a good idea, it will endure, and future digital anthropologists may find this page and understand its origins. If it doesn't, it's just one more of my thousands of bad or failed ideas nobody will remember a month from now :)

This post has been updated.

Update: See latest Google Hit Counts: #Followfriday vs. #FF  Click here to jump.

What is the #FF Hashtag?

It's just a much shorter version of the familiar #followFriday hashtag seen far too often on Twitter (and now other social networks, as well).  And as I will explain below, it's also a tag that denotes a ritual behavior that has serious issues and could really benefit from a major rethink.

It's not news to my followers that the concept of #Followfriday is a ritual that I've been openly contemptuous of, but like many trends, such a genie is hard to stuff back in its bottle. But if people are going to use a bad idea, I reasoned, at least they should do it efficiently. Why use 12 precious characters when just 2 would do the same work.

So a few weeks after the ritual was clearly entrenched, I urged my friends and followers to just use both tags for a while, until the #ff caught on with the Twitterverse. After 11 months it seems that's finally happening, and it's now familiar enough that many people are finally dropping the longer original. Good riddance.

But there is much more wrong with this practice than some wasted character space, and I'd like to examine it and propose a retrofit for something popular, but not very useful…yet.

What's Wrong With The #FollowFriday Ritual?

It's just a bad idea, in my opinion. It's noisy, inefficient, quasi-elitist, impractical, disruptive, and just encourages a kind of cliquish behavior that social media has been wonderful at avoiding on many levels.  It can also just make people feel bad.  I have nearly 6000 followers. I follow about 2500.  What does it say to thousands of people that I really like when I single out only a handful of them each Friday? 

Of course they know that I can't possibly recommend everyone, but they STILL feel I did not recommend THEM. Even if they are not consciously acknowledging it, it's there as a resident feeling in most of us.  And that creates a social peer tension that is simply unnecessary, in my view.

The efficacy of the ritual is small anyway. People feel obligated to engage in it, and  wind up just blasting out enough friends so their closer  friends won't feel left out. People receiving these "lists" almost never follow everyone–or even more than a handful of them. Many follow none of them at all. 

While I certainly can't claim formal research, my own experience, and asking amongst friends, is that typically, we might recognize a name we've already seen and think "ok, well there's that @name again, recommended by someone I already follow, so I'll follow them." But that's about the extent of how much we use these "recommendations."

And such a modest value-added to a user's social graph hardly justifies list after list after list of #FF posts  flooding out of the Twitter firehose from millions of users each and every Friday. It's nearly zero signal, and almost all noise. My followers know that I often joke about evacuating or taking shelter when these Friday "Tweet bombs" start to fall.

For a really entertaining comic about #FF, that makes my point in a creative way, check this out: "How Follow Friday is supposed to work."

Is it Wrong To Recommend People?

Nope. And I do that often (but not just on Fridays). But making one or two recommendations, and being specific about why, is a very different message from blasting out some random collection of names that comes off more as "people I like," rather than people who bring value for others to follow. And it's very hard to read news or other important tweets when 150 "name lists" are flooding into our streams.  It's intrusive, disruptive, and often just damned annoying.

Why Do I Even Explain All This?

Because people often include me in their #FF lists, and I do not mean to seem ungracious or ungrateful for the kindness and consideration when they do.  I am pleased they think well enough of me to do this.  But I would not fault them if they didn't, and actually wish they didn't do #FF at all (at least in its present form).

But as critical as I am of the practice, I am also fully aware that #FollowFriday is a fun social activity, and can be a useful way to pass along interesting or important people. I would like to see some new method of recommending people emerge that is less formal, and far more effective.  I just happen to have such an idea lying around here somewhere :)

How Would a New #FF Method Work?

I would like to see the entire meme refashioned from a day-specific "#followFriday," to a far more general, "Friends to Follow" (#FF) recommendation which can be used any day of the week, at any hour, rain or shine.

Note: the actual designation is just a working name. It really doesn't matter what we call it, and at some point, some name will just stick. I also heard and liked "Followable Folks."  So long as the letters stay the same, use what works.

With these "Anytime #FFs,"  Fridays won't come to a standstill as millions of random messages get blasted into the stream, trashing everyone's timeline. If you know a friend who knows a lot about something, and feel they would be valuable to your followers, just go ahead and say so.  For example:

#FF my friend @tesibria. A brilliant lawyer who tracks the Birthers.

#FF @LizzWinstead, co-creator of the daily show. You can think AND laugh (and even chew gum) at same time.

And that's all there is to the idea. Simple, flexible, and far more interesting and informative, in my opinion. And since they can be sent out at any time, there's no need to wait for some ritualistic special day, and no good friend or associate needs to feel "left out," until such time when they've NEVER seen one from you. (But that's their drama–and yours.:)

An important additional benefit is that 3rd party application developers can easily slurp this new meta data from the twitter stream, and feed it into lists, databases, groups, analytic metrics… and whatever. Best of all, now you can do a search for "@someone and #FF" and harvest all the recs they've made in past days or weeks.

But Can't Twitter Lists Be Used To Recommend

Sure, but you run into the same problem–and some new ones. And lots of decisions.  Do you put ALL your friends in such a list, or just the ones you like? How big is the list? Does it just become another variation on your entire follow list? Do you have many lists by topic? What makes these lists different from any topical group you chose to follow?  Why are you recommending them? How much work do you want to do to maintain it?  Lists are a tool.  They can be a very good "recommending tool," but a fairly formal one. They not too useful as informal tool that can be used on a flexible, minute-to-minute, completely spontaneous basis.

Can This Idea Fly?

Sure, why not?  #FF and MT are already catching on.  What else did we have to do this year?  This post is all that's needed to explain it. I plan to just start using Anytime #FFs immediately.

As with any idea I've come up with since I was old enough to say, "this really sucks," you and everyone you've ever known are free to completely ignore it :

Update 1:  In December, 2010, I started noticing a number of people using the "#followanytime" tag. Ugh and more ugh. While it's certainly in the spirit of my ideas herein, and possibly even the direct result of them, I rejected that tag because it's just more characters to waste space. And it's also completely redundant. #FF's meaning is now clear to millions. It's a very small jump to using it "anytime," and as you can see by doing a Twitter search on any day of the week except Friday, miliions already are. Just say no to #followAnyday usage.

Update 2:

Google hits (as of Jan 21, 2011):

#FollowFriday = 510,000
#FollowAnyday = 324,000
#FF           = 202,000,000

Google hits (as of March 4th,  2011):

#FollowFriday  = 622,000
#FollowAnyday  = 339,000
#FF            = 454,000,000

Google hits (as of May 27th,  2011):

#FollowFriday  = 1,480,000
#FollowAnyday  = 1,160,000
#FF            = 809,000,000

Google hits (as of Sept 16th,  2011):

#FollowFriday  = 2,240,000
#FollowAnyday  = 1,200,000
#FF            = 1,180,000,000 (Nutz – probably just a google error )

Google hits (as of April 13th,  2011):

#FollowFriday  = 3,700,000
#FollowAnyday  = 5,960  (finally, this bad idea is dying out)
#FF            = 13,600,000 (This seems more realistic. Google tweaked something)

Google hits (as of November 2nd,  2012):

#FollowFriday  = 2,553,000
#FollowAnyday  = 3,900  (Going, going.. )
#FF            = 11,600,000 

 

Clearly, #FF has failed in the marketplace of ideas :)

Related

How Follow Friday is Supposed To Work

.

If you account was truly hacked, you probably can't even get into it because someone changed the password and the email associated with it.  But if your Twitter name is suddenly tweeting spam or sending DM messages to people you follow with links and messages like "Someone is talking smack about  you.. [link]," then your account has been compromised by some rogue Twitter application that was activated while you were surfing the web somewhere.  The app is allowed to connect to your account via Twitter's authorization system  and we have to fix it. Fast.

Here's the fix

  1. Go to Twitter.com > Settings > Applications 
    If you recognize something you've authorized only recently, and it's some minor app, this is probably your culprit. Just click "Revoke Access" next to it.   But if you have any doubts, revoke access to everything and anything you don't recognize or absolutely need.  It's easy enough to reauthorize each app as you need them.  Popular  applications like Tweetdeck will be safe so you can skip those. 
  2. Change your password immediately 
    In theory, Apps don't use your password, but since a rogue App is dishonest anyway, you have to assume it could have gotten your password somehow.
    Remember, good strong passwords are at least 8 characters with a mixture of characters, capitalization, numbers, and/or some symbols.  Don't use real, properly spelled words if you can help it.   Example:  HOrz-8a8-Fthrz.  Using a product like LastPass can keep your passwords for you in a safe manner. Google it. 

Prevention

Don't be too quick to authorize an App. Ask yourself, "is this thingie-doodle really worthwhile, or just some stupid game or gimmick that really isn't worth the hassle if it's actually malware?"

But don't be too paranoid, either. Many Apps are fun and useful, and most of the time the compromising is just a mild annoyance, but not harmful enough to really worry about. Having someone receive DM spam is not like someone hacking your bank account.