Twitter

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after critical tweet

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after critical tweet

This is fascinating to me.

1. The gate agent was following the rules. Maybe a bit too rigidly but still, following the rules.

2. The guy must have used #southwest or something but someone at Southwest Airlines picked it up in real time and called the gate. Amazing.

Obviously everyone who publishes anything online, and Twitter is a publishing platform, needs to be careful of what they publish. I don’t know how many people were following this passenger but if he used a popular hashtag, like #southwest or whatever Southwest Airlines uses, his tweet might have been read by thousands if not tens of thousands of people very quickly.

I may be ignorant, but I tend to think that many on platforms like Twitter have no clue that their tweets might be read by a larger audience than the people who follow them. Between hashtags and retweets things can go viral very quickly.

Careful what you tweet.

Reunion

This is a brilliant advertising piece by Google that I found embedded in the following article on Medium: Why did Google make an ad for promoting “Search” in India where it has over 97% market share? by Himanshu Gupta.

The gist of the Gupta piece is that Google is all about getting everyone, including mobile users to use browsers for everything, including running apps. This makes sense, they get to serve up ads and control quite a bit of the back end of what we do with browsers. However, on mobile devices people use connected, client apps as well as browsers and Google has no control in this arena.

This is the same struggling going on at Twitter now: Twitter would like to make it tougher for third party client apps to use its service because those apps can filter out ads and Twitter would like to make money serving ads. So, if you use Twitter via a browser or via an “official” Twitter client app, you’ll see ads and Twitter will be happy. Otherwise, no ads and you’ll be happy. Google, Twitter, and Facebook, among others, are struggling with this stuff right now.

The funny caption under the image at the top of the Medium article also caught my eye and it underscores the idea that in mobile, it’s about apps: “Why didn’t you just Skype with me Dumbledore?” Brilliant.

Why RSS still matters

Why RSS still matters

Another well-written piece on the Google Reader demise and the importance of RSS as a technology on the web. This piece on the difference between looking at a collection of RSS feeds vs. a Twitter feed is meaningful:

Trying to get caught up on more than a day or so of Tweets is virtually impossible for anybody who follows more than a few dozen active users — you simply can’t comprehensively take in the full stream. With RSS, on the other hand, you can scan through headlines and save them (or, yes, share them) and it’s possible to do so after a few days off the internet. Or a few hours. Woe betide the nine to fiver who wants to come home and quickly catch up on the day’s news via Twitter. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to keep tabs on Twitter all day. Twitter is realtime and RSS is time-shifted. Both are important. Just tell these same people you’re taking their DVR away and see what happens.

“Twitter is realtime and RSS is time-shifted.”

Brilliant.

RIP Google Reader

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Google Reader is a cloud-based service for aggregating (listing, organizing, updating, and subscribing to) RSS feeds. Every web site that I follow/track/read on a regular basis puts out an RSS feed and I collect them all in one place: Google Reader. I use a client application on the Mac: Reeder, and it’s client cousin on iOS: Reeder for iPhone and iPad to read them all. Because all of my feeds are stored in the cloud on Google Reader I can move back and forth between Reeder on the Mac and Reeder on the iPad and everything is automatically in sync. It’s an incredibly slick and useful way to get through a lot of information.

What do I track? All kinds of major news feeds, dozens of blogs, all of my Flickr activity, photoblogs, all kinds of business and investment sites, a ton of Apple-related sites, political blogs, and a few humor and “cute” related sites. Every time any of these sites posts something new, it shows up automatically in Reeder and I see it. Once I’ve looked at it it’s “read” and won’t show up as new again. Simple. The alternative is to visit that particular site and try to remember what’s new and what’s not. RSS is one of the single most important technologies around yet it’s poorly understood and underused and this is terribly frustrating for me because I’m afraid RSS will be marginalized by the likes of Twitter and now Google pulling the plug on Reader.

I realize that some people reading this have no clue what RSS is or why anyone would care about it and that’s fine. But, just to be clear, my RSS feeds are the center of my connected life and unlike some, Twitter will never replace RSS for me. Frankly, even though Twitter has become ubiquitous (even the stodgy PBS NewsHour lists Twitter handles under people’s names) I don’t find it all that useful and have considered dumping it recently as it takes time to deal with and I’d rather read a real headline in my RSS reader than a 140 character quickly-posted-link in Twitter.

A little over a year ago I posted a long piece Ramblings on Twitter, Tweet Marker, RSS, and the cloud that was prompted by my discovery of a cloud service called Tweet Marker that enables synchronization of a Twitter feed across multiple devices. As I said in that post, I have no idea how so many people can track so many Twitter feeds on multiple devices without such a service. I track less than 100 feeds but some folks are tracking thousands. You get caught up on your computer, then move over to your iPhone and have to start all over again. Tweet Marker, by synchronizing the two, will update the iPhone to reflect where you left off on the computer. I’m still not a great fan of Twitter but with Tweet Marker it’s much more useful across multiple devices and clients.

No doubt developers are scrambling because while the demise of Google Reader is a bummer, it’s also an opportunity for smaller developers to get into the cloud hosting game. I’m sure many alternatives to Google Reader will spring up and we’ll get through this transition without too many bumps but it’s important to make note of the fact that a lot of people make daily use of the Google Reader service.

I’ve been reading various pieces about this all morning and so far the best one is this post by Justin Blanton: Quick thoughts on the death of Google Reader.

Interview with Jack Dorsey, inventor of Twitter (among other things)

Kevin Rose interviews Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter and co-founder of Square. This is a great interview and well worth taking the time to listen to. Jack talks about how the ideas for these two successful services came about and many other things. Kevin’s questions are great and Jack is both humble and brilliant.

More interviews at Foundation.

[via Zapong]

Ramblings on Twitter, Tweet Marker, RSS, and the cloud

Preface
Last month while reading an interview with Jason Kottke, a blogger I’ve been following for many years I noticed this question and answer:

What’s your online reading setup look like these days? RSS? Twitter? Multiple devices?

For discovery, Twitter and Stellar. No RSS…stopped doing that a few months ago and I feel like it dramatically improved my success rate in finding interesting things (although the addition of Stellar has helped with that too). For reading long stuff, Instapaper.

The fact that he dumped RSS and uses Twitter (and his web application Stellar) gave me pause and I started to think that maybe the way I’m using my aggregation tools needs to be reconsidered. Granted, his response seemed to be about mining the internet for things to post on his site, less about getting news, but many of us mix these two things together and my guess is he does too.

Part of me hates change, especially when I’ve got things working well, but part of me enjoys the evolution of these tools and seeing how things evolve is fascinating. Couple that last thought with the idea that people seem to be skimming rather than reading online these days and you have part of the recipe for the success of a service like Twitter, where posts can be no more than 140 characters long.

Keeping Twitter in sync
Twitter is a service that allows registered users to post (tweet) to their subscribers and subscribers to follow the feeds of people and/or services that interest them. It’s incredibly popular the world over and it runs on computers, tablets, smartphones, and almost every connected device out there.

If you only use Twitter via your web browser on a single computer or device keeping things in sync isn’t an issue for you but if you use Twitter with client software (not a web browser) on multiple devices, have you ever considered that there is no way to keep your feeds in sync? In other words, if you read (skim, browse, scroll) through a bunch of feeds on your computer and get to “now” (a tweet from 1 minute ago) then pick up your iPhone and run your Twitter client there, it has no clue that you’ve already read the feeds you have on your computer, you’re back hours before “now.”

I use Twitter via a client for the Macintosh called Twitterrific and a client for iPad and iPhone called TweetBot. These happen to be popular and excellent Twitter clients in the Macintosh and iOS worlds but I chose them for another reason, they make use of the Tweet Marker service. While Twitter is a cloud service it doesn’t seem to have a way to keep track of the position of your twitter crawl across multiple devices. This is what Tweet Marker is all about and it works quite well with Twitter clients that support it. You don’t need to make an account with Tweet Marker, you simply turn it on in the preferences of supported client applications.

With Tweet Marker enabled, if I update my Twitter feed on my Mac when I pick up my iPhone my Twitter feed automatically scrolls to the place I left off on my Mac, and visa versa. The bookmarking is still awkward on both Twitterrific and Tweetbot but it does work and it makes Twitter infinitely more useable to me.

Frankly, I have no idea how most Twitter users deal with looking at dozens, some with hundreds and some with thousands of feeds across multiple devices. I have no idea how people can deal with more than 100 feeds even on a single device coupled with their RSS and no doubt Facebook activity, but that’s another post. Twitter can be a useful tool and if you want keep things in sync between multiple devices you might want to try Tweet Marker.

I’ve used Twitter for a while but (Kottke aside) prefer my RSS feeds to my Twitter feed for the content I like to track and read. However, an individual can get a Twitter account without having a web site and tweet away while RSS requires a web site that puts out an RSS feed. They’re both useful technologies and there is overlap, it’s up to us to sort it all out as both publishers and readers.

Backstory on RSS
Simply, RSS is a technology that allows a web site like this one to put out a feed and for users like you to subscribe to it. If you subscribe to it and track it along with other feeds in a newsreader application (aggregator) it’s a simple way to see which web sites you visit regularly have updated their information. RSS is useful to a publisher (me) in that it lets me notify you that I’ve posted this piece of writing and it’s useful to a reader (you) because it allows you to see that I’ve posted this along with other feeds you track, all in one place and/or application. It remains my favorite networking technology although it is quickly being replaced by Twitter (Kottke seems to be supporting this) which I’m less than happy about.

The content management system that powers this site, WordPress has RSS capabilities built in so all I have to do is hit “post” on this post and the site will send the headline out to anyone who’s subscribed. In other words, everything I post here is also sent out to my RSS subscribers and if they want to read further they can click on the feed headline and come here to get more information. I could also send the post to my Twitter account automatically so that anyone subscribed to my Twitter feed (an overlapping group) would see notice there. I do this manually now as I update posts and permalinks and don’t want to be posting to Twitter until things are done on this end so that I don’t create dead links for subscribers.

Almost every web site I visit I visit through a headline I’ve clicked on in my RSS newsreader. I have only a few sites I visit daily that I visit by way of a browser bookmark. RSS has been the core of my web experience for many years and I can’t imagine it any other way.

For those reading here who have never used or learned about RSS, look at this old post What is RSS and/or this entry: RSS.

The need for cloud services
In the old days when NetNewsWire was the only game in town for managing multiple RSS feeds on the Macintosh and we didn’t have to deal with multiple devices, life was simple. As people started attempting to manage RSS feeds across multiple computers the need for cloud-based services became apparent and around this time Google started offering RSS feed aggregation with their Google Reader service (there were and are many others). One could use a web browser or a dedicated client application on a computer to read feeds on one computer and log into the same account on another computer and see where one left off. This is the beauty and importance of having this stuff in the cloud but also having the service keep track of activity. I can read some feeds on the train with my iPhone and when I open my computer when I get home I don’t see those feeds as unread, they’re read and gone.

The world of RSS aggregation and reading has remained like this through the transition to iPhone and iPad and at this point I have a Google Reader account that I read on my Mac, my iPad, and my iPhone with a great application called Reeder. There are Windows and Android equivalents of all of this stuff although Reeder is so good I’m not sure what’s quite that good in the Windows and Android worlds. No doubt there’s something. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you find a client application you like and use it to manage the ever growing stream of information coming our way.

For those new to all of this let me be clear: Reeder is a client application that is not stand-alone, it requires that you have a Google Reader account to store your RSS feeds in the cloud. It taps into that account and displays the feeds and allows interaction with the account more elegantly than Google does in a web browser. Reeder is the killer RSS aggregation app for any Macintosh or iOS using, Google Reader using user.

In the same way I find it difficult to understand how people who use the web for news and information can get along without a newsreader subscribed to RSS feeds, I can’t understand how anyone could use Twitter and keep up without a service like Tweet Marker and I’m amazed that Twitter doesn’t have a service like this built into their API. Twitter the company should buy the Tweet Marker capability from its author and embed it in their Twitter back end.

Will Twitter kill RSS? I hope not. They’re different technologies with different capabilities and I find them both useful, now that there’s Tweet Marker.

Tools and attention spans

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Blogs wane as young people figure out it takes work to keep them up, and even more work to read them. Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to shorter attention spans and more easily attained popularity.

Chicken-egg: Are tools like Facebook and Twitter the right tools at the right time for our (TV) shortened attention spans, or, has the use of these particular tools shortened our attention spans (even more than they were already)?

All of us involved in online social networking have experienced the shortening of our attention spans as we scan large amounts of information looking for interesting tidbits. The question is, what do we do with the tidbits when we find them if they’re the tip of a long form article iceberg?

I’m noticing many on Twitter will re-blog this stuff without reading it which is a shame because sometimes their quick executive summary is way off the mark. Couple this with the fact that many on Facebook and Twitter are tracking thousands of contacts (some think more contacts = more popular) and you have a recipe for the dumbing down of information or certainly, the telephoning of tidbits that many aren’t taking the time to dig into and understand.

So, two things are happening that are creating shorter attention spans: Tools like Facebook and Twitter are built for chatter rather than long form writing and reading, and the sheer amount of information that many are tracking is growing, much of it chatter that gets in the way of or interrupts long form reading and more nuanced understanding.

Broadcasting tweets is a great way to build a revolution (Egypt) but it may not be the best way to build a new government and society. For that you need long form thinking, writing, reading, and understanding.

Problems in the social networking world

A while ago when I was deep into flickr I wrote a piece on how too much concern with the social networking aspects of it can affect one’s photography: Flickr Explore. Now Thomas Webber at The Daily Beast has taken apart how Facebook’s popularity contest works in a fascinating piece: Cracking the Facebook Code.

How does the social media giant decide who and what to put in your feed? Tom Weber conducts a one-month experiment to break the algorithm, discovering 10 of Facebook’s biggest secrets.

The bottom line is that you can game these systems if you want to be popular and Thomas shows you how. But then, being popular on Facebook means what exactly?

The popularity of Facebook and other social networking sites is probably partly the result of people being obsessed with their own popularity. Social networking for the sake of social networking.

I think our culture has hit a new low.

Postscript: Not that this should be a model for anyone but on Twitter I can’t see how people could be following 1000 other people who tweet a lot. How can they have a life among all of that information flying by like a crawl on CNN? I follow about 50 people and try to keep the number manageable so I can actually read the tweets. Anyone I connect with who floods that channel I disconnect from. I’m not interested in minute by minute updates from anyone, including The NewsHour, onPoint Radio or friends. I think many use Twitter as a way to make as many connections as possible and to me, that defeats the purpose of it. Again, social networking for the sake of social networking.

[via Kottke.org]

Social networks spread iranian defiance online

Huge Rally in Support Of Mousavi, Tehran

This image is blogged from Mir Hussein Moussavi’s flickr account. Absolutely amazing to have this wormhole-like connection with Iran.

New York Times: Social Networks Spread Iranian Defiance Online

Mir Hossein Mousavi’s bio at Wikipedia
Mir Hossein Mousavi’s facebook group
Mir Hussein Moussavi’s Twitter account

On Twitter people are using the tag: #iranelection.