Be Prepared: Tweeting without Internet

Every natural disaster these days proves how useful Twitter in particular has become. The problem of course is these disasters usually mean your internet service and/or mobile data service is offline. So how do you stay connected and informed?

Twitter via Text Messaging (SMS)

You’ve probably heard that Twitter was initially built as an SMS service and because of that pedigree it maintains serious functionality through the lowly text message. However many of us don’t use twitter via text message enough to be adept at its syntax.

So here’s is one little tip that could really help – Save the Twitter SMS Commands PDF to your smartphone to have all the commands at your fingertips regardless of your internet connection.

Scan the QR code to open the PDF directly on your smartphone.

Try using iBooks, Evernote, or Dropbox to save a copy of this PDF if you aren’t familiar with this feature.

By the way you’ll need to link your cell phone to your Twitter account via the web at http://twitter.com/devices or you can do this via text message as well.

How to add your phone to your existing Twitter account via SMS:

  1. Send a text to your Twitter code with the word START.
  2. We’ll reply and ask you to text YES to the Twitter short code.
  3. Text your username to the same number. Do not use the @ symbol or quotation marks. Send your username ONLY, for example: larrybird
  4. Next, text your password. This is case sensitive, so be sure you are sending your password correctly.
  5. That’s it! You’re ready to go

This won’t take you 1 minutes of time and it might just help keep you connected in a time when you need it most.

The Currency of New Media is Still Reputation

In a world where everyone is rushing to be the first to break news its time we decide that being right is more important than being quick.

While much has been said concerning CNN and Fox reporting errors concerning the Healthcare ruling last week I’d like to examine a local example from this past weekend in hopes of raising our collective awareness and responsibility.

Just the Facts Please

Last night news began to break concerning a wildfire near one of my state’s flagship state parks, Mt. Magazine. Arkansas is under a severe drought and seemingly everyone is hyper aware of the fire danger we currently face so news of this type spread very quickly.

To my knowledge the news of the fire hit twitter around 8:30 via @KATVheather. Within a few moments @KATV_weather was also following the story. Then at 9pm and again at 10:40pm @ARscanning posted 2 photos reportedly from the Mt. Magazine fire. You can see the full timeline of these posts below

They weren’t.

My eagle-eyed friend @chad_gardner fired up google and easily found both of the images posted online.

Thankfully this wasn’t a matter of life and death and the reports were mostly harmless and quickly refuted. No harm done this time so let’s figure out what went wrong so we can be part of the solution.

It’s a Matter of Trust

@ARscanning is an anonymous account that began to gain traction a few months ago. Most of the tweets seem to be from an individual sitting and listening to a police scanner. The account has no real name, no face, no affiliation, and no website. I’m sure the individual behind the account has good intentions but the fact remains if you trust an account like this for verifiable news you need your head examined. It’s akin to taking stock market reports from a stranger wearing a hood on the street corner. So while the Arkansas Times commenters decry this as an example of why Twitter is a broken rumor mill I’d challenge that it is a failure of common sense.

However, what happened last night was not simply an issue of @ARscanning.’s reports. Yes, the community conscience should hold them responsible for posting inaccurate information but the larger issue is that trusted reporters and journalists started retweeting the account.

Here is the essence of the issue:

If you trust @ARscanning it is your own fault. If you are a trusted reporter and you help spread this inaccurate information without doing due diligence you are just as culpable.

We find an example of getting it right via our own social media juggernaut Mr. Todd Yakoubian, @KATV_weather. He saw the reports and instead of automatically forwarding them he used his resources and called the source of the news to verify what was happening. This in my mind is a perfect example of the value that traditional media can bring to social media. The average Joe doesn’t have contacts and resources to follow-up on a report in a timely manner so we place our trust in proven organizations that do.

To be fair the organizations/people that shared this info quickly corrected the info but they had already given the info their stamp of approval.

I’d like to add that Central Arkansas is blessed to have some incredibly active journalists and reporters as part of our Twitter community. This is not intended to condemn anyone or any organization, just a reminder that we need your skills more than ever.

Takeaways:

You have one currency; Trust. Don’t spend it lightly.

How can the average user help?

  • Remember the golden rule – Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true.
  • Crisis Communications is too important to become a rumor mill. If you see “breaking” news tip a trusted reporter and ask them to follow up.
  • Take a tip from @acarvin and add the words “unconfirmed” to your tweet or ask for the source of the information.

Fake AR Wildfire photos

As news about a wildfire near Mt. Magazine broke last night a local twitter shared some reports and photos supposedly from a firefighter friend on the ground. Through the great work by @chad_gardner and @KATV_weather the erroneous reports were discovered and discounted.

Storified by Keith Crawford · Mon, Jul 02 2012 10:31:52

AR Forestry Commission says 75 acre wildfire right now on Mt. Magazine. Dispatcher not sure if any structures are in danger. Not contained.Heather Crawford
Mt. Magazine, West Arkansas: Fire departments battleing a 75 acre wildfire! http://lockerz.com/s/221633231ARKANSAS SCANNING
Don’t believe fire tweets you see from @ARscanning regarding Mt Magazine. He lifted his fire pictures from here: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51jtoCB0CLL.jpg?aWQ9MTQ1Mjg5MjkwMyZwZD0yMDEwLTA2LTEwJmJkPVBhcGVyYmFjayZhdT0iUmljaCBGYWxldHRvIiZ0aT0mc2k9Chad Gardner
UPDATE: Mt. Magazine, West Arkansas: Fire departments battleing a 75 acre wildfire! The Lodge is now being evacuated!ARKANSAS SCANNING
@CrystalFireDept @ARscanning I just called the lodge and they told me they are NOT being evacuatedTodd Yakoubian
Another pic of the Mt. Magazine wildfire! http://lockerz.com/s/221650121ARKANSAS SCANNING
@CrystalFireDept @KATV_Weather Todd the info I had was from one of the firefighters at the scene. He been pretty reliable in the past.ARKANSAS SCANNING
and here’s the link to the second image that @ARscanning reported as being mt magazine, thanks to @will_watson: http://forestry.about.com/cs/forestfire/a/good_bad_ugly.htmChad Gardner
@chad_gardner I got the info from a reliable firefighter, that I know personally, that is on scene. I do not just make this stuff up.ARKANSAS SCANNING
It has been brought to our attention that the pictures posted tonight of the fire are not authentic. If that is true the I apologize.ARKANSAS SCANNING

 

New Apps, Twitter clients, Dropbox+Truecrypt

A run down of the things I’m testing, trying, and liking…

Recently Discovered iPhone apps I’m loving

Garmin onDemand – $0.99 Requires active data connection. Terrific navigation app. Instantly became my go to map app.

Twittelator Neue – $1.99 Best Twitter iPhone app I’ve ever used. Inline photos, intuitive controls and just plain awesome.

AutoMD.com App – Free. I’m good a geek but an Auto Dunce. This site and mobile app has been a great resource for me.

Cloud Encryption

I finally decided to test syncing a Truecrypt volume via Dropbox and I’m very pleased with the result. It allows me to keep an encyrpted set of files synced across several computers.

Create a truecrypt volume within your local dropbox folder, when you unmount it then Dropbox will detect the change and sync it. I’m only a week in but really liking the solution. I’m using a 150Mb volume without any issues.

If you need details leave a comment.

Minimalist Twitter Client

Sometimes I don’t want my full blown Tweetdeck open on the computer. Just something light that will let me know if I have a mention.

I found the Destroy Twitter client thanks to @akula and I’m liking it. Don’t expect all the bells and whistles but it is simple and small. Worth a look.

Now can someone explain why it’s named Destroy Twitter?

Your Turn

Found anything interesting or useful lately? New apps or tips?

I’d love to hear from you.

An intro to Favorite Tweets

What is that star thing? and What does it do?Favorites-256

There seems to be a lot of folks that haven’t really explored favoriting tweets or at least don’t see value of starring tweets of others so here’s a quick intro to one of the most overlooked little gems of Twitter.

What is a Favorite?

There is a small star under each tweet that allows you to favorite a tweet.

Everything else is open for interpretation and therein lies the problem. It isn’t readily apparent why someone would use this. Is this a bookmark or a high five?

The answer is yes.

How to use Favorite tweets

The standard disclaimer applies: There isn’t a wrong way and this isn’t an exhaustive list.

Method 1: Save a tweet for later.

You see a link in your tweet stream that you’d like to read but you don’t have time at that exact moment to digest the entire article. You can favorite the tweet so you can easily find it later and read it when it’s more convenient.

To see your favorited tweets just visit your Twitter profile and click on the Favorites tab.

This is Twitter’s official recommendation for how to use favorites, (See the Twitter help article on “What are Favorites?”).

Method 2: Show appreciation (give a little Twitter high five)

This is the method I prefer because it allows me to show appreciation to someone for their tweet without retweeting it. In my view, a retweet is for others whereas a favorite is for me and the author of the tweet. But I’ll give you a peek at tweets that I favorite.

To give me this freedom I use a service called instapaper to mark any links I want to use later. Every twitter app supports instapaper (usually a paper clip icon) and its an incredible system for creating a reading list. If you have an iPhone or iPad you’ll find the instapaper apps making for great reading. So by using instapaper it allows me to favorite whatever I like.

Method 3: Create a “Reviews” archive

This is a great tip for brands– Favorite a tweet when someone says something nice about your product or customer service. You can use these tweets in the future on promotional displays, real and digital, and it’s a quick way to show your CEO or a potential investor positive user feedback.

Method 4: Create an archive of tweets

Twitter search is atrocious so if you want to create a searchable archive of tweets you can get the rss feed of your favorited tweets and plug it into Google Reader. Nifty huh? Hattip to @TheFireTracker2 for this idea. (PS: To create a searchable archive of your own tweets create a Friendfeed account, but of course Facebook may pull the plug any day on FF)

Monitoring who favorites your tweets

There are a couple of ways to see when someone favorites your tweets. The first 2 are the most common and the last 2 are my favorite.

1) Twitter.com now includes mentions in the tab formally known as mentions. Just make sure to uncheck the “Show mentions only” checkbox.

2) Tweetdeck will also display favorites in your replies tab.

tweetdeck_favorite_tweets

3) Boxcar iPhone App – This app is how I get push notifications for everything Twitter. In my experience its faster and more reliable, supports many services and comes with settings to set quiet times, sound notifications, and much more. Part of that more is the ability to get a push notification when someone favorites your tweet. It’s free and awesome. Visit Boxcar.io for more info.

4) Favstar.fm – A quirky but very useful service built completely around favorite Tweets. Authorize your twitter account to see who favorites your tweets. My friend @eric_andersen showed me a new feature tonight that shows the people I favorite the most.

Your Turn

Do you favorite tweets? How do you use them?

If this post encourages you to give them a try let me hear from you. Or tweet this post and I might just favorite it.

Create timely tweets

Send Later…

Those are powerful words. It allows me to produce when I can and publish when I determine. I schedule blog posts and delay delivery time of emails (Tip: Try Boomerang for gmail) so scheduling tweets made sense to me from the first day I discovered the function.

alarm_clockScheduling tweets enables me to:

  • Talk when others are listening. Posting links at 2am just won’t see much traction.
  • Prevent flooding my friends timelines. I read hundreds of blogs via RSS and I doubt anyone wants to see me share 20 items at once.

Social dashboard apps like Hootsuite and Cotweet introduced this ability but we are now seeing a new breed of apps that aim to simplify the process. Instead of requiring you to schedule each tweet you focus on creating and the schedule is predetermined.

Don’t miss the great comments below. @BufferApp responds concerning mobile updating, @tacanderson shares how he uses a combination of these 2 services, @nwbingham brings up an additional issue I failed to mention.

Introducing Buffer

Buffer helps you build a queue of tweets that will be posted on a timeline that you predetermine. Set your schedule and write tweets. Easy.

buffer_tweet_box

  • To get started visit BufferApp.com and create a free account. (They do offer pro plans that allow multiple accounts and larger buffer starting at $10 a month but for most individuals the free account will work nicely.)
  • Create a schedule of the days and times you want to tweet.
  • Write tweets and add to buffer.

bufferBuffer has a nice analytics dashboard so you can judge the effectiveness of your schedule and they offer bit.ly API integration for link shortening. They also offer a number of browser extensions and bookmarklets to ease buffer creation.

2 criticisms of Buffer

  1. Their lack of a mobile app and or mobile web page. (Buffer if you are listening I hope I can scratch this statement very soon.)
  2. Buffer should remove the “Suggest an update” field it is bot-like behavior.

Introducing Timely

timely_logoTimely.is is a competing solution build by the folks at Flowtown. The major difference is they tweet at the times they determine to be most effective for your account, it’s a very cool feature but personally I prefer a bit more control.

Time.ly doesn’t offer the extensions or bookmarklets like Buffer but they are worth a look.

Concluding thoughts on scheduling

Some folks don’t care for scheduling tweets. I can respect that but I find this function useful for the reasons I stated above. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t schedule when you are unplugged – If you are going to be away for hours on end don’t tweet. If you can’t be responsive in a reasonable amount of time then you are sending the message you aren’t listening.
  2. Be prepared to pause – Sometimes big things happen and your scheduled tweets will look thoughtless. So when a major quake devastates a country or the President is announcing the death of a major terrorist pause your queue.

Your turn…

What would you add to this list? What are you thoughts on tweet scheduling?

Klout lists cool, helpful, but smack of Jr. High?

KloutLogoIt’s no secret I’m a fan of Twitter Lists, I use them for listening to groups of people I value and for topics likes news and politics. They are also a great shortcut to finding quality people and seeing who others recommend. A few days ago Klout released a feature to import twitter lists and this is my first foray into that function.

Exploring and building

The basics are straight forward. Log into Klout, visit your dashboard and look for the import twitter list button. Klout will import any public twitter list you created.

2011-08-31_1226

First, I wanted to see the influence and reach of people on my politics and infosec lists. It’s interesting to see not only the scores but also the topics associated with different accounts.

Next I built a Little Rock locals list. I’m always looking for a way to provide others with a shortcut to get plugged into twitter in Central Arkansas and lists are a good answer. Here’s how I built it:

  • I used Formulists to build a dynamic list of everyone I follow that has Little Rock, Conway, or Central Arkansas as their location in their twitter profile.
  • I imported that list to Klout.

Now let’s get to the reason behind writing about this list…

2011-08-31_1250Perception and Usefulness

Why build a list for Little Rock? Is it useful?

I think so, it encourages connections and gives insight in to community activity. If you are new to Little Rock or new to Twitter you can easily discover some of the most active or listened to people in the area.

Klout also shows topics and allows you to see explore who someone influences or is influenced by. With some time you could really mine a network this way.

So what’s the problem?

Influence ranking feels like a Junior High popularity contest.

Influence is Analog (IRL)

I like @amybhole and @cottonr, both are close friends but depending on your perspective, interests, and sense of humor they may not be the first people you would want to follow. They top the list but following them (or me for that matter) if you are new to twitter is a good way to get overwhelmed.

Klout scores just aren’t all that indicative of “true” influence. Take @johnwhardin for example. His score is almost 25-30 points lower than the top of the list but I can tell you for a fact that guy is one of the first you’d want to follow. He is genuine, kind, and is truly listened to. I have the unique perspective of being a loud mouth that is still invited to quiet discussions on porches and DMs and I can tell you that if I gained 100,000 followers I wouldn’t carry the weight of John’s words.

Why? He has real influence. It can’t be measured in metrics of clicks and RTs.

Influence is subjective.

One more example – My wife and pastor (@wymanrichardson) have scores in the mid 20’s but there are only 2 people that I subscribe to their tweets as text messages. Care to take a guess?

They have real influence in my life.

What my list can’t tell you is most of the people in the 40’s score range are the heart and soul of my twitter community.

Conclusions

I think these lists are useful when viewed with the proper perspective. They can be informed connection points but the score is an arbitrary number they doesn’t reflect a person’s real influence.

In the end the entire list is people I follow and without exposing my private lists that is about the best recommendation I can give.

By the way, @Klout if you are listening I’d love to import a private list and keep it private.

Your Turn

Is the list useful enough to leave it up? Does it encourage connecting or feel too much like a popularity contest?

Also take a look at @mqtodd’s article on using Klout lists, really great ideas.

Arkansas Hashtag Directory

icon_072Back in the dark ages of Twitter (2009) @LT kick-started tweeting in Arkansas with the Arkansas Twitter Guide. The conversation has exponentially expanded and we are now seeing a meteoric rise in use of Arkansas specific hashtags. As an advocate of hashtag usage this is a great trend to keep Arkansans informed and spawn further conversation but we need a hashtag directory.

So let’s collaborate and build one.

Here is my initial list of Arkansas (1-13) hashtags in no particular order and the community suggestions begin at 14.

  1. #ARwx – Arkansas Weather
  2. #AReq – Arkansas Earthquakes
  3. #ARpx – Arkansas Politics
  4. #ARleg – Arkansas State Legislative Tweets
  5. #WPS – “Official” hashtag of Razorback Athletics (translation Woo Pig Sooie)
  6. #GoHogs – unofficial but popular hashtag of Razorback Athletics
  7. #ARpreps – High School Football
  8. #NWArk – Northwest Arkansas region
  9. #LRtweetup – Little Rock Tweetup
  10. #UCABears – University of Central Arkansas Athletics
  11.  #ARgop – Arkansas Republican Party
  12. #ARKdems – Arkansas Democratic Party
  13. #AR1 #AR2 #AR3 #AR4 – Arkansas Congressional Districts
  14. #DogtownLife – North Little Rock – suggested by @bryanjones
  15. #NEA – Northeast Arkansas region – suggested by @karndawn
  16. #EurekaSprings – Eureka Springs, AR – suggested by @eurekadowntown
  17. #ARWB – Arkansas Women Bloggers

Submit a Hashtag: Leave a comment with a suggestion and brief description.

Guidelines

(subject to adjustment)

  • Hashtag must be focused on an Arkansas specific region, repeating event, community, or topic
  • Hashtag must be used by someone other than just you   Amended: Some regional/municipal hashtags may not be widely used but if they are useful to help spur or organize conversation I think I’ll include them.
  • No hashtag trends or humor, yes we all love #rejectedarkansasmottos but this list is to highlight ongoing interests

PS: Look for a more official directory in the days to come. If you are interested in helping build the directory or give early feedback let me know.

Feature Famine

As I spend more time with Google+ and play with Facebook video chat I’m left with a single question –

What happened to innovation at Twitter?

874766_30600455

The past year of social innovation.

Since July 2010,

Facebook has introduced:

  • New Facebook Groups which are probably the best group technology the web has produced.
  • Facebook Places
  • Facebook Deals
  • Facebook Questions
  • Facebook Messaging and now Video chat

Google built an entire social network with revolutionary features like hangouts and circles.

Twitter meanwhile updated its interface.

  • The #NewTwitter Web interface was introduced and over complicated everything
  • They bought an iPhone app called Tweetie and made it worse.
  • They bought Tweetdeck because they couldn’t improve upon it. (Watch for the Twitter branded version to reduce its functionality)
  • A few search improvements, hit the lotto with Apple, and built a Mac client.
  • [Update: I neglected to mention suggesting people to follow and email notifications. I forgot about them because they are precisely forgettable]

An underwhelming list of achievements.

Simple but Functional

Twitter should be simple.

However, the lack of basic features to address spam/noise, organize people, and create a searchable archive are beginning to really bug me and from the looks of my timeline I’m not the only one.

A laundry list of much needed improvements are being left untouched while Twitter  focuses selling promoted tweets and become the greatest celebrity stalker service ever.

May I suggest:

  • Improve Twitter Lists – Google just changed the game with circles almost 2 years after introducing lists they are still too limited and buried within your apps and web interface.
  • Filter Tweets by Source – Add Tweetdeck’s killer feature to remove the “Tweet old Post” and Paper.li noise.
  • Reduce Trend Spam – Trending topics are home to a copious amount of spam and malicious links. If you’re going to continue to push Trends you must fix this.
  • Treat Twitter Search’s short term memory loss. If it happened more than 3 days ago you must turn to @Topsy or your Friendfeed archive to find it.

Twitter you’re amazing but stop resting on your success.

Your Turn

What would you add to the list above? Am I too critical?

Reaction Time

Our ability to use technology often outpaces our ability to do so wisely

As I watched the events of last night unfold on Twitter and Facebook I was struck how quickly the reactions turned into harsh criticism and verdicts. It was a reminder that we have a lot to learn about being human in this accelerated pace.

A few short years ago discussions of Bin Laden’s death would have been relegated to the barbershop and water cooler hours if not days after the event. The delay in that conversation allowed us time to feel a range of emotions and process the event internally and privately. In this connected age that blessed delay is obsolete.

The power of technology is a double-edged sword. On May 1, 2011 Twitter proved that it has become the greatest real-time news source the world has ever seen and possibly the last place you want to be once the news has broken.

We are too in love with our own voice and greatly enamored with our own opinion. Our instantaneous responses are visceral and without a sufficient amount of empathy. We are speaking before we think or have a moment to process what is happening. It’s a process that deserves introspection and doesn’t need live tweeting.

Far be it from me to suggest that Twitter isn’t a place for our opinions but perhaps in delicate situations it would be best left unsaid… at least for a few hours.

Next Time

Next time I will remember:

  • I am not always right.
  • I am not the judge of other’s actions.
  • I do not fully understand the enormity of any situation.

Next time I will:

  • Tweet & Retweet News
  • Share bits news and analysis I find interesting
  • Give myself and others the luxury of time to deal with a situation on their own terms.

Isn’t community about understanding that it isn’t always about me?

*Author’s Note: I took great care to use inclusive pronouns. We are all guilty to a degree. (self included)

Reduce the Noise in Twitter

Yesterday I helped clean up your Facebook feed by unliking multiple pages so I todays tip is reduce noise in Twitter.

earplugsTired of seeing foursquare check-ins or soundtracking posts? You don’t want to unfollow your friends but you aren’t interested in seeing these tweets. There has to be a middle ground solution.

There is. It is a little known feature in Tweetdeck that can radically improve your signal-to-noise ratio.

Tweetdeck Global filter to the rescue

Filter by Source Client

Assuming you’re using the desktop Twitter client Tweetdeck (you should its amazing.)

  1. Click the wrench icon in the top right corner to open Tweetdeck settings
  2. Click “Global Filter” in the left menu, and you’ll find a screen called “Filter Updates

filter2

Every tweet lists its a source client, e.g., web, twitter for iphone, tweetdeck, and you can use these sources to filter them out of your stream.

To find the source of the tweets you want to filter look at the bottom of a tweet, it’s listed behind the word via in the metadata line (see figure below). Add this to “From Sources:” field and use commas to separate multiple sources.

filter3

I’m not the judge of what is noise but my personal list of sources I filter:

runkeeper, paper.li, itunes ping, getglue, nike, miso, soundtracking, tweet old post, empire avenue

Takeaway

Tweetdeck Global Filter allows you to fine tune Twitter to your interests and isn’t that the point?

Other ways to use the Global Filter

  • DVR proof your stream – Hide spoilers by filtering tweets that contain the shows name or hashtag.
  • Mute a friend – Add their name/ID in the “from people” field to hide their updates for a while.

Hat tip to @scepticgeek for highlighting this feature last year.