TweetWalls Are Bad For Conference Speakers

Dear Silicon Valley Mobile Monday Organizers,

Thank you for setting up the great talk on NFC technologies and lining up interesting speakers.

I dig the fact that you try out new products and like incorporating social media into your events. Very web-savvy of you. Although you don’t declare a hashtag before your events, you graciously acknowledge them at the start of the events. That’s awesome. (Tip: declare a hashtag before your events, like on your blog or Eventbrite registration page.)

But please please please, don’t project two large screens of TweetWalls behind your panelists again. Please.

Sure, some of the tweets to #mobilemonday and #momosv were insightful and thought-provoking. Seeing them enlarged like that probably motivated many more people to tweet too. Cheers to that gentle use of ego gratification. (Tip: some people love seeing their names or products on huge screens.)

But I’m not so sure everyone found the TweetWall as helpful as you might have. (Tip: not everyone likes to see other people’s names or products on huge screens.)

For me, they were visually distracting. Two bright screens makes for tough competition against dimly-lit panelists. Try sitting with the audience next time and to focus on the panelists. It’s not impossible, but it’s a might difficult.

To put it another way: those screens were like animated gifs on a page of text. Do you like animated gifs? Nah, me neither. (Tip: no one likes animated gifs.)

The TweetWall also attracted tweets that were, ah, less-than-related to the topic at hand. I’m glad some members of the audience got a chance to say Hi to their Moms or declare how they like long walks on the beach. Bully for them, really.

But I noticed the members of the audience were starting to pay more attention to the TweetWall than to the panelists. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I did. Some were more obvious than others, pointing at the screens and taking pictures of their tweets.

The panelists eventually noticed too, when the audience started reacting and laughing at the tweets. I felt bad when one of the panelists asked, “Is anyone still listening?”

That’s kind of bad, don’t you think? You don’t want these great panelists thinking you’re running a comedy act, right? I mean, I guess it’s entirely possible a General Partner at Khosla Ventures, the founder of Vivotech, and directors at Qualcomm (QCOM), Motorola (MMI), NXP (NXPI), and Google (GOOG) were all in on the joke and secretly holding a contest for the funniest, most distracting tweet. I kind of doubt it though.

Again, I love how you’re embracing social media and experimenting with new technologies. That’s cool. But distracting the audience with said new technology is not so cool.

My last tip of the night – and this one comes from a TweetWall competitor, Wall of Tweets:

We suggest you to use our Wall of Tweets in front of the conference room (like in a lobby or some networking space) and not really during the presentation itself. We do support cases where you want to use our Wall of Tweets in the conference room itself but we suggest you to use it during the QnA session or breaks. Even then, our Wall of Tweets in non-intrusive, in-context solution that is situated in background allowing the real starts to shine.

Good advice there, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another great (and hopefully, TweetWall-less) event in the future!

Make Every Tweet Useful

Twitter Constraints can conduce creativity. That’s part of the fun of crafting a 140-character message, in my opinion. It’s like a haiku. Within its limitations can come great beauty.

I’m not saying my tweets are beautiful. Far from it. But since I’ve begun tweeting, I’ve thought carefully about each message. And more than that, I’ve also tried to follow this rule:

Make every tweet useful.

To me, this means more than describing what I had for lunch or how I had a bad day. Something beyond pointless babble, basically. Something hopefully useful, meaningful, and can provide someone with value. Perhaps an insightful quote (I have a thing for great quotes). Perhaps an interesting link. Or perhaps a business idea.

It is relatively easy to craft a useful standalone tweet. A reply within a conversation is tougher. Since it can be difficult to discern conversational context from a single tweet, sometimes Twitter feels like a mess of private conversations. The current remedy is to manually hunt around to determine what was written before and after a particular tweet in a conversation. Some tools try to alleviate this, but I haven’t found one that does an effective job yet. (If you know of one, please let me know.)

Without that conversational context, I’ve purported to make replies useful as well. To me, this means trying to avoid empty responses like, “Thanks!”, “LOL”, or “:)”, and trying to provide some kind of context if I reply to someone. This isn’t always possible. When it’s not, I try to craft my reply so if readers click on the “in reply to…” link, they’ll be able to catch up quickly.

It’s already tough to squeeze a useful message in 140 characters. Doing all of this on top of that is even more difficult. But I like to think that these constraints encourage me to think creatively. And hopefully, all of this makes my tweets more useful to my followers.

P.S. I should mention another constraint. I try to keep my tweets at 126 characters, not 140. This gives room for a potential retweet. If someone were to retweet me, they would likely add a: “RT @mikeleeorg”. That’s 14 characters. Subtract that from 140, and the space I have left is 126 characters.

Ah, the fun of constraints!

How to Market Effectively on Facebook and Twitter

Want to know how to really make Facebook and Twitter work for you? According to eMarketer, here is what other marketers have reported as effective marketing techniques on these two popular social tools:

Marketing on Facebook

The most common marketing tactic used on Facebook was attempting to drive traffic to corporate materials through status updates, followed by friending customers.

But the most effective tactic for consumer-oriented companies was creating a Facebook application, which was done by less than one-quarter of total respondents. Both B2B and B2C companies also reported surveys of their fans as effective; fan surveys were the third-most-common tactic attempted.

I had no idea marketers were “friending” recent customers. How do they even find recent customers? Huh. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I purchased a Starbucks (SBUX) mocha, then came home to see a friend request from them. But I guess this is working for some customers.

Marketing on Twitter

Like those on Facebook, marketers using Twitter were also most interested in increasing traffic. Driving traffic by linking to marketing Webpages was the most common activity on the microblogging site, followed by driving sales by linking to promotional pages. But again, the most effective tactics were different.

B2C marketers had the most success with monitoring Twitter for PR problems (done by one-half of all respondents) and contacting users who posted negative comments about their brand (done by only 22.4% of total respondents). B2B companies also succeeded with brand monitoring, as well as with using Twitter invites for in-person events (the least common tactic of all).

Most of the Twitter tactics don’t surprise me. I personally don’t follow Twitter users who only tweet URLs and use their accounts like RSS feeds. What a waste of a marketing channel. Interspersing meaningful tweets with URLs is more likely to get a click from me, personally.

Biz Idea: Social Media Market Research App

Classic OPTE Project Map of the Internet 2005 Want to see a list of links that will boggle your eyes? Last week, I listed a number of online services that could be used to perform market research. After seeing that list, I wondered:

How about a single online app that helps you do all of that? A social media market research app. Here’s what I think such an app could offer.

The Dashboard

It could have a dashboard that provides a snapshot of your market, ideally updated in real-time. There could be search results from the blogosphere, forums, Facebook (Groups and Fan Pages), LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Yahoo! Answers (YHOO), and other social media sites. Perhaps this information could be displayed through different filters:

  • By relevance
  • By publication date as a stream of news
  • By publication date on a timeline
  • By type of source
  • By source
  • By discussion in a threaded format
  • By tag (more on this later)
  • etc.


My previous post listed a number of services that searched social media sites, allowed you to post questions, displayed search trends, and offered a wealth of company information. I’ll discuss those features first.

Keyword-Based Search Results of Social Media Sites

All of this information could be obtained through APIs and RSS feeds, some from the sources directly, some from the search services I listed. There would have to be some research done to see how real-time updates could be handled, however. Push or pull? Do they ping us or do we have to constantly ping them?

Asking Questions and Retrieving Answers

A mechanism to post questions & messages on forums, mailing lists, and answer boards could be really helpful. It should also harvest any subsequent answers & replies. This would be a tricky technical problem to solve though. Automatically posting on forums and mailing lists could be seen as spam.

Displaying Trend Data

The trend data could be presented in a timeline similar to Google Trends (GOOG) and Dipity, with items such as news articles, company events, and social media posts aligned with it. There could also be filtering options to control what is displayed. I don’t believe any of the trend tracking services offers APIs, however, so this may require a custom technical solution.

Displaying Rich Company Information

Every time a company is mentioned, it could link to a detailed company page that fetches financial & stock data from Yahoo! Finance and places it alongside rich information from sites like LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Crunchbase, etc. In the case of the paid service Jigsaw, they won’t have any APIs. But perhaps a partnership could be brokered.

Additional Features

In addition to the four features above, there are other cool things this app could do. A neat feature could be a Google (GOOG) map with real-time updates, a la DailyBooth or HashParty’s reach map. Each time a new piece of content is published, it could appear right away.

Another could be related keywords, similar to those seen on search engine results pages. I wonder if any search engines offer up related keywords in their web services.

This could also be a really useful feature: How about the ability to tag, rank, and annotate any piece of content the app finds? This is how you could maintain order when deluged with content. Filtering options could include tagged items as well, like displaying only the events tagged with “positive news” or “negative news” on the timeline. Ranking a piece of content could be a way to prioritize its visibility and/or subjective relevance to your research. Perhaps items could be flagged so customer service or public relations representatives can respond right away. And it’s always helpful to take notes against important pieces of content.


The technical challenges are tricky. They are not impossible, but it would take a sharp technical team to think through these issues, such as:

  • How do we fetch the appropriate data reliably and quickly?
  • How do we deal with content that requires authentication?
  • How do we post on mailing lists and forums without triggering spam filters?
  • How do we get, display, and/or build trend data?
  • How do we attach metadata to each piece of content we’ve fetched?
  • How do we display the updates in real-time?
  • How do we design an easy-to-use user interface that allows non-technical business owners to use this app?
  • etc.

I’m sure there are a lot of social media consultancies that offer market research services. But as competitors, service firms rarely hold up to self-service packages. In such situations, self service firms tend to focus on the high-end of a market and offer highly specialized & customized services at premium prices. Going for low-end customers puts their profit margins at risk. Meanwhile, self-service packages like this app can afford to focus on the low-end as a cost-effective solution for them, while still maintaining fair profit margins. And who knows, maybe social media consultancies could become customers of this app.

There might even be such an app in existence already, though I haven’t heard of one. If you have, please let me know.

What do you think?

Photo by: curiouslee

How to Use Social Media for Market Research

Classic OPTE Project Map of the Internet 2005 Pssst, wanna hear a secret? You can conduct free market research using online social media tools. I don’t know about you, but free is my favorite price.

You may already know that you can tap into a plethora of statistics from the US government (e.g. census data, economic statistics, etc). There are also a ton of articles from Entrepreneur Magazine, INC. Magazine, and Not to mention all the great books out there.

But for immediate, real-time commentary, criticisms, and opinions from your customers (potential, current, and previous), social media is the key. Here are some tools to help you.


These tools take a keyword and offer detailed search results sourced from social media sites. All of them are constantly tweaking their algorithms and pool of sources, so their result sets vary quite a bit. Most, but not all, provide RSS feeds of their results too.

The benefit here is monitoring mentions of your brand, products, and/or services. Though you will have to wade through a lot of noise, occasionally, you can find useful suggestions or criticisms. These tools even allow you to engage with potential, current and former customers, which can add to the personability of your business.

I differentiate the blogosphere from social media in my descriptions below. The blogosphere is the collection of blogs on the Internet. Social media sites are social/community-oriented sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, etc. For each, I’ve used the Amazon Kindle (AMZN) as an example topic.

  • FriendFeed – searches through whatever social media sources its members have added.
  • Technorati – searches through the blogosphere, but not other social media.
  • Google Blog Search – also searches through the blogosphere.
  • BlogPulse – also searches through the blogosphere.
  • Twitter Search – provides results only from Twitter.
  • OneRiot – searches just the URLs shared on Twitter.
  • Dipity – searches through social media sites and displays the results against a timeline.
  • Kosmix – creates a customized SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for each keyword with results from blogs and social media sites, including notes from human editors.
  • Addict-o-matic – also creates customized SERPs from social media sites.
  • Social Mention – searches through social media sites and includes statistics of the keyword: strength, sentiment, passion & reach.
  • Scour – searches through social media sites and includes the result’s ranking on various search engines.
  • Samepoint – searches through social media sites and includes how negative or positive that source is on the topic.
  • Whos Talkin – searches through the blogosphere and social media sites.
  • BoardTracker – searches through popular forums
  • Omgili – searches for discussions of your keyword on popular forums, mailing lists, answer boards, blogs, and even reviews on ecommerce sites.
  • BackType – searches for discussions of your keyword on blogs and social media sites.
  • Talk Digger – searches for discussions of your keyword on blogs.
  • HowSociable – provides a visibility score ranking based on the number of keyword mentions on various social media sites.
  • Google Alerts – sends an email each time a new page based on your keyword is indexed.


In contrast to searching for existing discussions and opinions, you can also ask specific questions. There are a variety of methods with a wide range of pros and cons. Some of these offer you an automatic community, while others require you to cultivate a community first. Some of these allow you to aim for a targeted community, while others are open to a mass audience. All have inherent biases based on the types of people who use their services. Fortunately, all of these methods are usually cheaper than putting together a focus group.

Be careful not to come across too commercial or promotional whenever talking to the public. People tend not to respond well to someone they perceive as a spammer. Craft your questions carefully. If you are in doubt, start by asking how people solve the particular problem your business is trying to address. They may cite your product, your competitors’ products, or other indirect competitors, all of which could provide interesting insights.

  • Yahoo! Answers (YHOO) – questions are categorized and social incentives are offered to encourage people to provide answers.
  • Aardvark – uses your extended social network to answer your questions, which may or may not be your target audience.
  • Forums – there are forums for almost every topic and industry out there; look for a few popular & active forums aimed at your target market and post your questions there.
  • Yahoo! Groups – look for a few popular & active groups aimed at your target market and post your questions there.
  • Google Groups – look for a few popular & active groups aimed at your target market and post your questions there.
  • Blog – start a blog and ask your questions there, though without cultivating a meaningful following, replies may not be forthcoming.
  • Twitter – create an account and ask your questions there, though without cultivating a meaningful following, replies may not be forthcoming.
  • Facebook – start a group or fan page for your business and ask your questions there, though without cultivating a meaningful membership, replies may not be forthcoming.
  • Hunch – this is a different kind of question & answer service that does not allow outright commercialism or product promotion, though you can ask general questions about your product category or industry; just be careful not to come off as a spammer.


Want to monitor how popular or unpopular a particular topic has been over a range of time? These tools generally return search result volumes on nice time-based line graphs. Many also allow you to drill down to the individual search result, news article, blog post, or tweet that mentioned your keyword.

The value here is in detecting a growing trend and riding the wave. If you’re trying to start a trend, this can be a good way to monitor its progress. If you’re looking for new product lines or services, this can help you identify new opportunities.

For each, I’ve used the Amazon Kindle as an example topic.

  • Google Trends – displays the keyword search volume and news articles over time, including search volume within geographic regions, cities, and languages.
  • bing xRank – displays the keyword search volume over time, including related keyword phrases, news, videos, and images.
  • Trendrr – searches through a range of social media sites and displays the keyword search volume on each over time.
  • BlogPulse – searches through the blogosphere and displays uses of the keyword over time.
  • Trendpedia – searches through the blogosphere and displays uses of the keyword over time.
  • Hashtags – searches through Twitter’s hashtags and displays uses of the hashtag (if it exists) over time.

Competitive Research

Once you’ve got a list of competitor companies, it is possible to research on them. You can find out a ton of information, including who works there, what kind of roles they’re hiring, and opinions on the company from former employees, current employees, industry analysts, and outsiders.

This kind of information can help you estimate the direction and next steps of your competitor, though it doesn’t offer a view of how customers perceive them. For that kind of info, use the search tools listed above. You can also check up on your own business, of course.

For each, I’ve used Amazon as an example company.

  • LinkedIn – provides employee listings (current, former, & new), related companies (acquisitions & subsidiaries), general company information (location of employees, number of employees, stock charts, etc), employee demographics (recent promotions, common job titles, common career paths, top universities, median age, gender percentages, etc), and job listings.
  • Jigsaw – provides employee listings (name, position, contact information, etc) and employee statistics (number of employees in different divisions & positions).
  • CrunchBase – provides general company information (using wiki software), key employee profiles (current & former), company acquisitions (acquired company, date, & amount if known), company investments (company invested in & date), dates of significant company events, traffic analysis of company website, and list of news articles from TechCrunch, Techmeme, and other sources.
  • ChubbyBrain – provides ratings & reviews of companies made by members of this site, key competitors, mergers & acquisitions, funding rounds (investor, date, & funding raised), and ratings & reviews of investors by members of this site (portfolio breakdown & companies funded).
  • Glassdoor – provides ratings & reviews of companies made by members of this site, salary information based on job titles, information about interviews with various companies, and job listings.

Do you know of other good tools for social media market research?

Photo by: curiouslee

Checking Your Twitter Reputation

Have you checked your Twitter reputation lately?

A reputation is an ephemeral thing based on the collective opinion of others. But nevertheless, enterprising individuals have built a variety of tools to compute your Twitter reputation. If anything, it’s a fun way to evaluate your tweets.

This tool measures the “combined influence of twitterers and their followers, with a few social network statistics thrown in as bonus.” That means the influence of your followers’ followers (your second-order followers) are also factored. TwInfluence is perhaps the most academic and thorough reputation measurement tool currently available. As of this post, my rank (and reach) is 43,527 (81%), my velocity is 4,499 second-order followers/day, my social capital is 6,585.3 +2.2 Very High, and my centralization is 13.20% / 0.0 Average – Resilient.
Twitter Grader
This tool aims to measure the “power, reach and authority of a twitter account” by using a proprietary algorithm that considers factors such as number of followers, power of followers, updates, update recency, follower/following ratio, and engagement. As of this post, my grade is 93 out of 100.
This tool analyzes the last seven days of Twitter usage and provides a measurement of impact, engagement, generosity, velocity, clout, and influence. As of this post, my rankings are – impact: 0.3%, engagement: 25.0%, generosity: 100%, velocity: 1.3%, clout: 0.3%, and influence: 0.2%.
This tool uses “semantic analysis to determine what a person talks about and then measures how influential they are on that topic.” As of this post, my score is 15 out of 100. According to Klout, I am a casual user and “don’t take this Twitter stuff too seriously.” Heh, true.
This tool scans Twitter’s public timeline “for new twits to tweet. A few times a day, we calculate individual statistics for each twittering twit in our database,” whatever that means. As of this post, my rank is 158,477.
This tool is a tongue-in-cheek tool that analyzes a profile’s last 100 tweets for readability and types of tweets. As of this post, my Twitter personality is popular, inquisitive, & cautious, with a chatty & coherent style. I am a parrot. (Interesting; I used to be a writer.)

What’s your current Twitter reputation?

Whatever, I Want a Facebook Username

Facebook Count me in as one of the super-geeky obsessives abuzz over the upcoming Facebook Usernames. And just several precious hours away!

I’ve even got it on my Google Calendar. heh.

There is some contention over these Facebook Usernames though, most notably by Chris Messina. He argues, and rightfully so, that usernames as URLs can be problematic. There is a limited universe of possible usernames out there, so collisions are inevitable. I know I’m not the only Mike Lee drooling over getting “”, for instance.

It is also going to spark a land-grab (username-grab?) for a vanity URL, unless you are a journalist. But this is nothing new. A similar thing happened on Twitter and other social media tools. And with domain names.

Imagine all the hair Messina’s pulled out over these cases. His bathtub drain must be all clogged up.

Personally, I think only a relatively small number of people in the world care about this. Geeks like me, for instance. And purported “social media experts” (FYI: calling yourself that is a sure sign that you are NOT an expert).

I also wonder how today’s youth views usernames. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that teens may have anywhere from 2-5 email addresses, instant messenging accounts, and social network accounts at any given time. I don’t think they place the same premium we old geeks do on usernames.

Perhaps a username to them is like underwear – a new one is fresh and exciting, but a bit stiff. After a while, it becomes nice and comfortable. Over time, it gets old, stained, and full of holes. So you (hopefully) toss it out. Then you get a new pair and start the process all over again. Natch.

Twitter Fizzle

Twitter I’ve been experimenting.

Not the college-student kind of experimenting, goodness no.

I’ve been experimenting with Twitter, trying it out as a publishing platform and getting a feel for the Twitter culture. Here’s my assessment so far.

Quantity vs Quality

A friend who has made zero tweets has been playing the numbers game: he is trying to get as many followers as he can without any automated software. He’s up to 430-ish as of this post.

IMO, it’s a pretty lame sign that 430 people out there will “follow” you even if you haven’t written a single tweet.

The problem is, he’s not alone. While others do actually make tweets, they employ automated software to increase their number of followers. However, the people that are following them are also doing the same thing. So it’s people who want more followers following other people who want more followers. Most of them don’t really care what others are tweeting, as long as they’ll follow them back. In other words, it’s all about quantity, not quality.

These people are all internet marketers of some sort – social media marketers, SEO marketers, email marketers, multi-level marketers, etc. It’s like Twitter is a cyclical inbred ecosystem of marketers.

I don’t mean to generalize here. There are a lot of earnest people sharing their thoughts and trying to write something meaningful. Unfortunately, my experience has been a lot more noise than signal.

Part of my experiment was to follow each person that was kind enough to follow me. At first, I found it flattering to be followed by a random stranger. Then I realized they were just marketers who wanted me to follow them back. If I didn’t, they would unfollow me.

You follow?

They follow me and wait for me to follow them back. If I do, I inflate their follower number. If I don’t, they unfollow me.

What? They didn’t want to genuinely follow me in the first place? I feel so… so used.

As such, I’ve been purging my follower list of the most obvious marketers. And right away, I saw my follower number drop as their automated tools realized I no longer followed them – and automatically unfollowed me. Fine by me. I’d rather have quality over quantity any day.

Built-in Community

Twitter is a publishing platform with a built-in community like (GOOG) and LiveJournal, meaning it is easy to:

  • Discover other users
  • Add them to your list
  • Be added by them
  • View all of their updates on a single page

If you create a blog with your own domain name, getting readers is a slow process of linking to others, promoting your URL, SEO, and other self-promotion tactics. A built-in community makes all of that much easier.

Such is the case with Twitter. You see someone you like, click on the “Follow” link, and voila – you’re done. They can do the same to you just as quickly.

Thinking about this makes me wonder… will micro-blogging services like this go the way of WordPress and MoveableType one day, where you can install your own micro-blogging service on your own domain? Hmm.

Ease of Use

I must admit, it is really easy to use Twitter. I don’t have to sit there and write & rewrite a lengthy blog post all day long. Just a few words and I’m already at my 140-character limit. Then I click “Update” and I’m all done.

That’s both good and bad, of course. There’s no way to go back and edit a tweet once it is sent. Sure, you can delete it from your history. But FriendFeed and other services have captured it already.

The ease of use does encourage tweeting though, especially for writers like me. The character limit can be frustrating as heck, but it is also a creative challenge. How do I say what I want to say within that space? It’s like writing a haiku – the limits imposed upon me force my creativity.

URL Shortening Woes

A friend pointed me to an article on URL shorteners by Joshua Schachter.

Twitter’s 140-character limit has made URL shortening services thrive because many URLs are long. Thus, Twitter users (Tweeters?) employ one of these services when tweeting a URL.

Schachter’s article warns that URL shortening services can be harmful, however:

  1. It’s tough to know if the resulting URL is spam or a legitimate article. Seeing a URL can sometimes offer clues on what the article is about, especially if the publisher made it SEO-friendly. URL shortening services obfuscate those clues.
  2. These services don’t offer any referral credit to the publisher, thereby robbing them of inbound link SEO benefits.
  3. The URL shortening service is now another point of failure. If the service has an outage or goes under, then all of its shortened URLs will no longer work. Of course, if a publisher has an outage or goes under, the same will happen. But Schachter argues that URL shortening services are still an unnecessary point of failure.
  4. Even if there’s no outage, they add an additional step that may slow down the retrieval of the target article.
  5. He adds, with what I like to think is a surreptitious wink, that URL shortening services could one day decide to monetize their services and insert an annoying interstitial ad between you and the target article. How awful would that be?

To add more drama to the issue, recently released the DiggBar, much to the ire of many a netizen. The DiggBar is yet another URL shortening service, but with a twist. It adds a toolbar at the top of the page and retains it’s shortened URL instead of bouncing the user directly to the target article.

Unfortunately, most users won’t realize that they are still on the domain unless they look at the URL. This means they can’t bookmark the target article directly and the publisher gets no SEO benefits (though there’s a debate about this). Fortunately, two developers have offered technical solutions to publishers:

  1. a JavaScript-based solution to remove the DiggBar, which I think is better
  2. a PHP-based solution to display a message to DiggBar users

In any case, it’s tough to get around URL shortening services on Twitter. How else can you share a legitimate & useful URL?

Outages and Glitches

Twitter’s been having outages again. Last month, I lost a few tweets, as did many other Tweeters. After weeks of silence, Twitter fixed it.

Apparently, the Twitter black hole (or Fail Whale) is back again.

The Twitter Virus

Technically, it wasn’t a virus – it was more of a worm. And more specifically, a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack using a client-side language such as JavaScript.

The worm hit Twitter hard. It originated on the StalkDaily website and at best, will modify your About Me section and generate tweet spam. At worst, it will lock you out of your Twitter account.

Fortunately, there’s a way to remove the worm from your account:

  1. Clear your browser cache & cookies
  2. Log out of Twitter & Twitter apps you are using
  3. Change your Twitter password on
  4. Log back into Twitter
  5. Delete any StalkDaily tweets your account has made

This could have been a malicious marketing ploy by StalkDaily, or it could have been committed by a hacker using them as the scapegoat. Whatever the case, this ordeal has shown how vulnerable Twitter can be.

Instant Messenging vs Twitter

Some people use Twitter like a public IM client. Unfortunately, if you haven’t been following the conversation, it can be confusing and end up looking like noise.

You know what I think is especially stupid? Those short useless tweets, like “@so_and_so Yes I totally agree!”

That’s great that you totally agree with @so_and_so, but what are you agreeing about? Why should I care that you agree? Do I really need to click on @so_and_so’s profile and wade through previous tweets to make sense of your conversation? Ugh.

Whenever I reply to someone on Twitter, I make sure my tweet is useful and offers some kind of context. Like this one: “Haha I just set up a “@mikeleeorg” Twitter search too, @Scheinker. My ego is now satiated.”

It’s tough to cram a whole lot in 140 characters, but at least it’s better than a simple “Haha.”

Pay Per Tweet

The blogosphere was once ablaze with blacklash against PayPerPost and similar services that gave money to bloggers for writing product reviews. The fire has somewhat subsided, though repercussions still exist for writing paid reviews, especially from Google.

It seems the parent company of PayPerPost, IZEA, is back again with another product: Magpie. This one pays Tweeters for making sponsored tweets.

While some people like this product, others despise it. Most seem to despise it.

Personally, I am not a fan. Though I’ve written paid reviews in my blog before, paid tweets are different in terms of their utility. It is easier to make a full blog post useful because you can write as much as you want. In my RSS reader, I subscribe to plenty of bloggers who regularly write paid reviews. Since they do so in a useful manner, I don’t mind at all.

But with only 140 characters, it is very tough to make a paid tweet useful.

Seeing a few paid tweets from someone doesn’t motivate me to unfollow them right away, especially if they’ve made many useful & thoughtful tweets too. Unfortunately, people like that are rare. Generally, those that make paid tweets are the same people playing the numbers game.

On a side note, I can see the allure of this simple game:

  1. Create a Twitter account
  2. Use software to automatically generate thousands of follows (who don’t really care about what you’re tweeting, as long as you follow them back)
  3. Make paid tweets and links back to your affiliate programs
  4. Profit

Easy as it sounds, it is still pure spam, in my opinion. It unnecessarily clutters the Twitterverse with junk mail (junk tweets?) and noise. Unfortunately, it is inevitable. Any lure of easy cash always draws hordes of people.


Twitter is fun and allows me to share short tidbits once in a while. Sometimes, I interact with a friend or two. Occasionally, I’ll see a useful or thoughtful tweet and click on a cool link. For those moments, Twitter is a pleasure.

More often than not, Twitter is a lot of random, useless noise.

I’m sure it will get better though. The Twitter team is earnestly trying hard to improve their product. I’ll keep using it too, for the ease of use and creative challenge the 140-character limit imposes – though I hope a viable solution to the URL shortening issues surfaces soon.

In the meantime, I’ll be unfollowing the noise and following more signal.