Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Twitter Protocol Observations

For the past few months I've been delving into the complex and chaotic foray of Twitter.  It's been fascinating watching this relatively new online community evolve, and I've gradually come to my own understanding of how to do Twitter well.

One thing I've observed is that there are four types of Twitter users:

Type 1: The novice who isn't really sure what to do
Type 2: The casual user who posts things whenever the mood hits, hoping somebody will reply
Type 3: The seasoned user who regularly reaches out and listens to a broad spectrum of people
Type 4: Spammers who seem to think everybody is just dying to click their links (#doingitwrong)

Right now, I consider myself progressing from a Type 2 to a Type 3.  This post is addressed to Types 1 and 2, and to a lesser extent to Type 4.

These are some of the guidelines that I've seen the Type 3's out there adhere to, whether it's instinctive or planned.
  1. First and foremost, be real.  Your profile should be a short summary of what interests and/or motivates you.  And don't automate your tweets.  Compose all your replies and direct messages personally.  People can smell a robot.
  2. Use your face as your avatar.  By default, Twitter assigns a monochrome egg as your profile picture.  If you haven't removed that within a week of signing up (at most), you have no business using the service.  Nobody will take you seriously.  If you don't want your face online, delete your Twitter account.
  3. Be clever.  When you get a laugh out of people, the trust and interaction factors skyrocket.  If you're not naturally clever, then tell a joke.  Anybody can tell a joke.
  4. Be brief.  Twitter forces you to keep your comments to 140 characters.  You can get third party tools that allow you to extend this limit.  Don't do it.  Learn to fit in the frame.  If you have more to say, start a blog.
  5. Ask questions.  Few people will interact with tweets like, "I love my new shoes!"  It's because there's nothing left to say.  Most people (including you) are an expert or at least very knowledgeable about something.  Use that fact to your advantage.  For example: rephrase the tweet to say, "Love my new shoes. What do you look for in a shoe?"  You then open the door for two things to happen.  Twitter users of all types love to demonstrate their knowledge or give their opinions.  Either somebody will reply with an answer like style, price, comfort, etc, or somebody will find a joke waiting to be told and respond with, "A foot!"  See point #3.
  6. Don't link your networks.  Most social media networks allow you to link your posts from one to the other, so that people who follow you on one and not the other can get all your content, streamed word-for-word, from channel to channel.  There are two problems with this.  First, you have different types of people on your different networks.  Content on one is rarely relevant to content on another, unless you specifically design it to be so.  Second, it's lazy, and people will notice.  I lose a bit of respect for individuals and companies whose various social networks are just a bunch of echoes of stuff they've already told me.
  7. Use hooks.  There's a lot of chatter on the Twitterverse.  Most of it is white noise from types 1, 2, and 4.  Type 3 users know how to make you want to click their links.  Sometimes it's a simple as announcing a contest.  Other times you have to be more creative.  Again, rely on point #3 for help in this regard.
  8. Tap into your eclectic nature.  That's a rarely used word, but it means to have a broad range of tastes and interests. My profile states that I like, among other things, Nerf and Toastmasters. [update Jan 15/11 - it now points to my page, which lets me be a little more detailed.]  Use hashtags (the # symbol followed by a word) to search Twitter for a particular topic or theme.  Seek out the official Twitter IDs for the brands you like, and for users who talk about things you like, and follow them.  But first, see point 9.
  9. Be discerning in who you follow.  When my interest in a person or company is tweaked by something I see re-tweeted or a notification that I'm being followed, I review their past few tweets (including the dates of the tweets) to see which of the four types they are.  If it's a Type 4, I never follow.  If it's a Type 3 (i.e. a good mix of recent original tweets, retweets, and @replies) that displays a common interest, I definitely do follow.  If it's a Type 1 or 2, it's a judgement call each time.  Remember, quality is more important than quantity.  Also, look at the number of followers they have compared to the number they follow and the number of tweets they've posted.  You'll start to see patterns in these ratios that will reveal which of the four types they are.
  10. Be proper. Avoid profanity.  Use correct spelling, sentence structure, and grammar (but feel free to save a character but putting only one space between sentences instead of two).  I'm impressed that after a decade of instant messaging, this indication of sophistication and education has survived.

As I said, these are some of my observations of what the Type 3s are doing.  While I'm hardly the first guy to try to build this list, I find it fascinating how the unregulated Twitter community has spawned this emergence of commonly accepted protocols.  If you're a Type 1 or 2, you won't go wrong these insights.  If you're a Type 3, let me know if I've accurately tagged your secrets, or if there's anything you would add to this list.

If you're a Type 4, don't bother commenting - I'll just delete it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shelley Glover and the Clerical Error


Today I received three emails from Michel Trudel, an office staff member for my Member of Parliament, Shelley Glover.

The first email was a newsletter.  Nothing unusual there.

The second email was a note saying that "Please note that I have made a mistake on sending out old versions of the E-Newsletter. Please see the attached for correct copies.  Sorry for the any problems or confusing I have caused. Thanks."  There's some poor grammar there, but that's par for the course with emails these days [disappointed sigh].

And yes indeed, the updated version of the newsletter has been tweaked a bit.  Again, I would normally not have an issue at this point.

The third email, however, demonstrated a lack of technical competence on the part of the user.  The contents said merely,

Glover, Shelly - Assistant 2 would like to recall the message, "".

The worst part is that the third message was addressed - non-BCC - to all of Shelley Glover's newsletter subscribers - 1181 of them, to be precise.  An unscrupulous subscriber could really go to town with that list, and it's likely that somewhere in that 1181 there are a few spies for political & ideological opponents.

I've deleted that message from my inbox.

But first, for fun I whipped up a chart showing which email providers her subscribers use.

I've voted for Shelley Glover, and I've got nothing against Michel Trudel. I certainly hope he learns a lesson here.

What do you think?  Is an error like this in a federal official's office worth dismissal?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Transformations #37: Movember, Cancer, & Sugar

Day 9 for the Flavour Saver
I'm officially going ahead with it.  The results of my poll came back with about 2/3 of votes for the moustache.

By the way, what's up with the weird American spelling of moustache?  They spell it m-u-s-t-a-c-h-e, without the "o".  We Canadians spell it the proper way, just like harbour, neighbour, colour, and splendour.  But on those words, the Yankees dropped the "u."  Why the "o" this time?  Just trying to mix it up a little?

The Movember initiative is designed to help awareness of prostate cancer, as well as funds for research.

From what I've seen & read though, the need for more research is minimal, as existing studies are very clear.  All cancers thrive on sugar, especially refined sugars present in processed foods and drinks.  Remove the sugar from your diet, and your risk of cancer plummets.  Additionally, your body can start to heal any cancerous growths already present.

The typical Western diet is full of sugar.  It's no coincidence that cancer rates have skyrocketed as our diets have changed over the decades.  So instead of raising funds for research, I'll be trying to promote awareness in a different way.  I'm removing sugar from my diet.  And before anyone thinks I'm insensitive towards cancer victims, know that I, like most people, have lost dear friends and family members to this disease.  My hope and prayer is that society can grasp the hard lessons out there and end this disease once and for all.  I firmly believe that the long term solution to cancer will not be found in drug or chemical treatments, but in lifestyle choices.

I should note, in all fairness, that this change in my diet was my wife's idea and her one condition of me growing the moustache.  She also has a vested interest in seeing me lose a few pounds.

It's amazing how many items have sugar in them.  If you didn't know, any of the additives on an ingredient list that end in "ose" are refined sugar - dextrose, sucrose, glucose - and it's hidden under other names too.  I've really got to have a keen eye to catch them all.  It's much easier just to eat nuts, sauce-less meats, lots of vegetables, and hunks of cheese.

The transformative part of this experience for me is the self control it takes to avoid the chocolate bars and chips - especially in a house crammed full of Halloween candy.  Right now I'm snacking on almonds as I write this. My wife made me a blueberry smoothie for an after-supper snack, including yogurt, coconut milk, and avocado.  Delicious, and without a molecule of refined sugar.  The body, I'm told, takes about a week to restructure its digestive processes to burn fats instead of sugar.  So far I've doing this for five days (I got a head start with the moustache).  I can feel my body craving the other stuff I used to eat, and I'm amazed how easy it has been so far to resist.

Stick around - I'll post more Movember pics, and will give updates from time to time on how the sugar purge is going.

Nov 30 UPDATE: I compiled a video of the photos I took throughout the month:

The sugarless diet is going really well.  My wife is incredibly supportive and has kept me well fed with lots of healthy food, and I'm definitely noticing an increase in my energy level.  I want to keep eating like this; it tastes better and I don't feel guilty about what I eat.  It's more difficult, yes, but ultimately it's more rewarding.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Ten Favourite Christian Songs: 4/10

Rich Mullins was an icon and trendsetter in the Christian music scene.  He was killed in a tragic car accident in 1997.  I have a special affinity for him because he too was drawn to the Catholic Church after a lifetime of living as an evangelical Christian, although his death interrupted the formal completion of his journey to Rome.

As with many of my favourite musicians, there are a host of songs I could reference.  But I'm going to go with Sometimes By Step, as there is one lyric within it that really resonates with me.

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw was lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he...


Poll: Should I a grow a moustache to promote prostate cancer awareness?