The Last ZNF Twitter Post (for now)

Dave Zatz —  February 13, 2009 — 7 Comments

I know we’ve gotten a bit Twitter crazy here on ZNF lately, so I promise this will be our last post… for a little awhile, at least. With that in mind, I cramming several Twitter topics into this one article: software, tools, and etiquette.

twitter_logo

As a quick refresher: Twitter is a web service, born from a brainstorm, to provide and peruse real-time updates. How you use it is up to you. I’ve found it valuable as a “micro blogging” tool. 140 characters is often sufficient to issue a brief opinion and/or link to an interesting tech-related story. It’s also been handy as a means of communicating both privately and publicly with readers, blogging peers, and PR professionals. In fact, Twitter replaced SMS for me at CES this year. Twitter’s usage is rapidly accelerating and they’ve just landed $35 million in Series C financing.

Desktop Twitter Software
While Twitter may have humble beginnings as a simple web page, their open API has led to all sorts of clever clients and integration. What actually inspired this topic was Scoble’s Twhirl versus TweetDeck desktop application showdown. He prefers the screen-encompassing nature of TweetDeck to follow and interact with over 64,000 people. I don’t follow nearly as many and prefer something with a smaller visual footprint. For many like me, the IM-esque client Twhirl is the answer. But I’ve even found that to be inefficient and a distraction. I’ve pretty much settled on running Twitter.com in a dedicated Firefox tab when I want to fully engage, and use the TwitterFox Firefox plugin to check in while preoccupied with other tasks – it’s ever-present, yet remains inconspicuous until called.

twitter-fox


Mobile Twitter Software
At the moment, there are many more mobile clients available to iPhone owners than found on other platforms. And, as an iPhone owner, that’s where we’ll start.

Prior to the launch of the iTunes app store, I ran Twinkle on my jailbroken iPhone. Despite the periodic crashes and photo upload issues, it was an attractive and quick application with location based services (LBS). But due to continual bugs, an iffy design decision (requiring a Tapulous account), and a slow release cycle I moved to the overpriced Twitterrific ($10) shortly after the app store opened for business. To this day I’ve used Twitterrific and it was my weapon of choice for live “blogging” portions of CES. However, the app does have a few shortcomings. It’s visually polished and great for basic reading/replying, but advanced features like Twitter searches or following/unfollowing members are still out of reach. Which is why I also run both Tweetie ($3) and Twitterfon (free). The similar clients are powerful and economical, although a few interface quirks prevent me from utilizing either full time.

The only other mobile platform I can speak to on a first hand basis is Blackberry. For a long while TwitterBerry was the only real app. And it’s pretty solid, other than the accidental public replies to private/direct messages (DM). However, it’s about to be lapped by SocialScope (currently in beta) which plugs into numerous social networks.

Regardless of handset and irrespective of OS, both m.twitter.com and SMS provide a means of Twitter interaction without requiring a dedicated download.

mobile-twitter

Twitter Tools
In addition to Twitter itself, there are a variety of tools I use to enhance my experience. When each character counts, many of us have looked to URL shortening services. My favorite is bit.ly – which offers the least cluttered interface, vanity naming, and provides all sorts of interesting link data. Conversely, I often want to know where these shortened links take me prior to clicking. Which is where Long URL Please comes in, translating on the fly. Both bit.ly and Long URL Please offer Firefox plugins. However, I prefer to go a bit more lightweight and initiate their Javascript bookmarklets from my browser toolbar.

bookmark-bar

Another great tool is actually a Twitter property. Summize was acquired and rebranded search.twitter.com. As you might expect, it provides powerful Twitter search functionality – allowing you to keep an eye on trends or track who’s said what and when. It’s often how I look up my old tweets and to see how my thoughts have been re-tweeted. Unfortunately it’s still a separate web site, although many third party Twitter software clients tap into it.

While 140 characters isn’t much, every now and then I say something meaningful. Which is why I’ve integrated my Twitter feed into the ZNF sidebar to the right. There are a variety of tools to do this, with all sorts of functionality – including automated blog posting consisting of a days tweets or firing off links to your Twitter account with each new blog post. I’ve settled on Twitter Widget Pro simply because it integrated into my WordPress theme most cleanly and efficiently. When I find a free few minutes to customize some CSS, I intend to migrate onto Twitter’s own HTML widget.

Lastly, quite a few coattail riding sites have sprung up that provide all sorts of information on you or your followers – such as Friend or Follow and Twitter Influence Calculator. I find these to be an occasional brief yet fun distraction, but lacking in much real value. Before partaking, keep in mind many of these services are capable of spamming your followers and might even swipe your credentials.

How to Lose Followers
While most engagement advice focuses on acquiring followers, I’d like to offer a few tips on how to keep the followers you have.

Like blogging, be generous with your links. If most tweets are URLs directing me to your website, I’ll probably drop you. Related, if your links take me to FriendFeed instead of the source article, I’ll probably drop you. If you ask me to “please retweet,” I’ll probably drop you. If you offer tips on how to pick up more followers, I’ll probably drop you. If you solicit donations, I’ll probably drop you.

Of course, none of this should be taken personally. It’s just that everyone has limited time and attention – this is my way of maintaining a high signal to noise ratio, while trying to converse with hundreds of people. I recognize most folks follow me for my tech insight, and it’s clear that the occasional fast food or Starbucks tweet loses followers. So, in turn, I will also try to stay “on topic” and not abuse your trust.

Parting Thoughts
It’s entirely possible to keep an eye on Twitter, like a blog, without actually joining. Each member is provided a unique web address and RSS feed that you can visit or subscribe to. Keep up with all of Team ZNF and our extended family here: Dave, Mari, Brent, Davis, Dale, Bruce, Todd, Steve. Additionally, many of the companies we cover are active on Twitter… such as:  TiVo, Sonos, Real, Slacker, Pandora Verizon, Sprint, and SugarSync. And if we’re not following you and should be, by all means, please drop your name/link in the comments.

My final parting thought: How might the quality and nature of conversation change if follower/followee counts were kept private?

7 responses to The Last ZNF Twitter Post (for now)

  1. Great post Dave!
    I’m curious, do you use twitterberry or the new socialscope app for blackberry? I’ve used twitterberry for a while now on the curve, but honestly prefer to twitter with my iPod Touch compared to the blackberry.

    Your suggestions on the etiquette stuff are excellent. It’s easy to stray off topic on twitter at times though.

  2. A certain amount of straying is fine – good even, it gives us insight into the people/personalities we follow. :) It’s the pitches that irk me or 90% self promotion. Also folks who excessively stray into politics test my patience, as it’s not a conversation I want to have on Twitter. Again, we all use it in unique ways and have different expectations.

    I haven’t installed SocialScope, but from what I’ve seen and those I know using it, it looks quite promising. If you add yourself to the beta signup page, you can usually get in pretty quickly. (The Blackberry in our household belongs to Melissa, so I only use it now and then.)

    And, dang, how could I forget TwitPic! Twitter doesn’t offer integrated media sharing/hosting powers yet (like the recently acquired and then shut down Pownce), and TwitPic is an invaluable tool – pretty much the de facto standard for uploading and linking photographs. When mobile, I use it in conjunction with my crappy iPhone camera and Twitterrific (it’s builtin).

    I’d also like to mention that I’m not following David Pogue (NY Times) until he starts following more people (aka conversing) and knocks off the fake queries and column research. Some mainstream tech media who “get it”: Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle, Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post, Jason Snell of Macworld, Sascha Segan of PC Mag, Lance Ulanoff of PC Mag, and Harry McCracken of Technologizer.

  3. I saw your message a few days ago and installed Twitterfox. It’s pretty cool. Although I wish it (and many of these apps in general) would keep more tweets in memory and not just 50.

    Also, have you tried Tweetree (http://tweetree.com/)? I like their concept but wish it’d auto-refresh and keep more items on a page.

  4. Ivan, I would like a few more tweets in TwitterFox. But at the same time, I do want to keep it limited… so I can get back to work. I like the idea of TweetTree to provide a bit more conversational context and media embeds. But, ultimately, would rather see Twitter directly offer this. Pownce had more coolness, like this, but a smaller audience. Maybe how VHS beat out Betamax. ;) (I’m also very careful with the number of sites I provide my credentials to. Twitter needs a better way to share access than by giving out the only account password.)

    While I’m continuing this brain dump, I may as well add I did give FriendFeed a try. Instead of saving time by aggregating content, I found myself less productive visiting/commenting at just another site. I know many folks swear by it, but I’m happy with my current solutions for online social participation.

  5. Not mentioned ( There should be more Twitter posts on ZNF, not less! )…

    The importance of hash tags ( http://hashtags.org )

    Geeky, but powerful, especially when you are in attendance at an event or conference. Adding #___event id___ to the end of your tweets lets other track the millisecond by millisecond happenings around you, even if you are not following the person who uses the predetermined hash tag. Hash tags can be for anything, not just events. Hash tags are “bottom up” creation of semantic data, and there are some very cool programmatic things you can do with the data.

    Twitter app for Android ( http://twidroid.com)

    Currently free and well reviewed, Twidroid is a native Twitter app for all Android devices and has all the same utilities as the iPhone ones mentioned in this post…But since it Android, you can have it and several other apps all running at the same time *AND* receive a call – Unlike the iPhone :)

    Finally,

    Keeping you Twitter account closed is just a really bad idea and I do not recommend you do that. “Closed” will never bring you the joy, satisfaction and entertainment that comes with the serendipitous discovery of an open account.

    I acknowledge that “noise” is an issue with Twitter and I am working hard to fix that. You are encourage to participate and help solve the activity noise problem here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronin691/3132754199/

  6. dave! i tweeted last week about my gf’s fundraising for a tri she is doing. hopefully you didn’t roll your eyes!

    on that note, she is training for the tri through team in training. one of the ‘social networking’ tool they suggest participants to use is twitter…

    it just goes to show how many different way twitter is being utilized, from the far left of social tweets to the far right of business tweets.

    one of my pet peeves is when i follow someone (velonews) on twitter and they are tweeting for every article that shows up in their rss feed. i hate redundancy.

  7. Nice article. Thanks for the mention of long url please.

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