Archive for the ‘Twitter’ category

I’ve been bot-bombed!

3 September 2012

Just as I was getting excited about reaching the 2,000 follower milestone on Twitter, I suddenly jumped to 26,000 followers.

No. I’m not that popular.

Smelling a giant stinking rat, I perused my follower list and saw that I was being followed by the likes of @TAKAKOD8STIN and @ELKEg00CALL. Brilliant.

I was afraid this might happen one day. You spend years earning a genuine, mutually respectful following, diligently weeding out the free iPad merchants and the curiously single bikini models, only to be bot-bombed overnight and your follower metric to become instantly meaningless.


Why did it happen? I do not know.

Maybe someone didn’t appreciate my social commentary. For example, I recently wondered whether Julian Assange would start publishing Ecuador’s diplomatic cables. Did a WikiLeaks fanboi take offence? Unlikely.

Another lead stemmed from Twitter itself. When I looked up the profiles of the phony followers, @DoctorKarl, @mariekehardy and @774melbourne were suggested as being “similar” to the bots. Did I upset Auntie ABC? Hardly.

Conspiracy theories aside, the only rational explanation I can think of is that someone, somewhere purchased a batch of followers, and they were mistakenly assigned to me.


Well, despite 26K looking mighty attractive, I had no intention of leaving it that way. To do so would not just be misleading, but also a bit sad.

But how does one shed so many followers?

The best free tool I could find was TwitBlock which analyses your followers and lists those which it thinks are junk (according to certain criteria). This is great, except it maxes out at 3,000 followers and you have to block them one by one. It also continues to scan your followers while you’re trying to to block them, which means the list is constantly shuffling. Very annoying!

I asked the developer of TwitBlock if he might add check boxes to facilitate mass blocking, but he politely declined on the basis that it would encourage thoughtless blocking. I found this understandable, yet my problem persisted.

The best premium tool I could find was Tweepi which enables you to do a range of follower management tasks. Tweepi only lists a maximum of 100 followers per page, and you can’t select all of them in one go via the top level checkbox (which they blame on Twitter’s terms of service), but I discovered a neat trick with the shift key that made “forced unfollowing” a hell of a lot quicker.

Having said that, you’ll notice I haven’t gotten very far.

One of my friends, @ainsliehunter, suggested I grab a nice red, spend a night in front of the TV and cull away. I’ve been doing just that – in addition to squeezing in some opportunistic blocking while on the wrong end of endless dial-in meetings.

If you have a better suggestion, please let me know…!

LATI: A better way to measure influence on Twitter?

23 June 2011

Twitter hero

I’ve never been comfortable with attributing digital influence to the number of followers someone has on Twitter.

To me, it’s more a measure of your longevity on the platform. The longer you have been on Twitter, the more followers you will have collected over the years.

Sure, the quality of your tweets and other variables will have an effect, but simply comparing the raw number of followers among tweeps is not really comparing apples with apples.

Three fresh green apples and one orange

I was ruminating over this when it dawned on me: why not divide the number of followers by the number of years the person has been on the platform? That will remove the variance due to longevity from the equation.

For example, I currently have 831 followers and my Twitter age is 2.1 years, so my Longevity Adjusted Twitter Influence (LATI) is:

831 / 2.1 = 396

According to convention wisdom, someone who has 1500 followers is much more influential than I am. In absolute terms that may be true, but if their Twitter age is 4 years, their LATI is 375 – which suggests I am relatively more influential than they are. That means I’m on track to becoming more influential overall.

Compare that to someone who joins Twitter and attracts 200 followers in 3 months. That’s a LATI of 800 which blows both of us out of the water.


In the short term I imagine a typical person’s LATI would follow an s‑curve, whereby they take a while to attract followers in the beginning, then they ramp up as word spreads, then they plateau out again as their target demographic is exhausted. Over time, their LATI will decline as the years rack up without significantly more followers.

In contrast, truly influential people will continue to attract followers into infinity, so their LATI will remain high.

Einstein sticking out his tongue

Now I’m no mathematician, so my logic may be all screwed up. But to me it’s more meaningful because it levels out the playing field.

Of course, the metric doesn’t recognise who is following you. Someone with 10,000 followers won’t be very influential if those people have neither the means nor the inclination to act upon their pearls of wisdom.

Conversely, someone with only 3 followers will be incredibly influential if those people happen to be the President of the United States, Rupert Murdoch and the Head of the European Central Bank.

So notwithstanding complicated and opaque measures like Klout, LATI provides an open and convenient snapshot of digital influence. At the very least it’s fun to toy around with.

Trending: Sydney

22 November 2010

So Sydney has its own trending topics on Twitter…

I’m not sure how useful it will be.

Cartoon showing only the #property hashtag trending in Sydney

Business applications of Twitter

4 September 2009

Blue birds

Earlier this week, I attended a Twitter Camp billed Twitter is not for dummies. I had the privilege of facilitating one of the breakout sessions, which focused on the business applications of Twitter.

We discussed a range of issues around this topic, and we generated some really bright ideas that I feel are worth pursuing in the corporate sector. Some of the ideas specifically relate to e-learning, while others may fall more comfortably into other portfolios.

BuildingsIn a nutshell, I see the business applications of Twitter falling into three main categories:

1. External
2. Internal
3. Personal

Allow me to elaborate…

External applications

By “external”, I mean your company playing in the real world, beyond its office walls.


With upwards of 20 million Twitter users around the world, companies should at the very least be scanning this massive public forum to keep tabs on what people are saying about them.

I see this kind of activity falling into the Public Affairs portfolio, as it concerns brand management. They need to know if someone is bad mouthing the brand across the Twittersphere, and respond accordingly.

Frustrated customer

But of course, tweet scanning also falls into the Customer Service portfolio. Twitter is used by many as a loudspeaker to vent their displeasure at bad service. Organisations shouldn’t be scared by this; in fact, it presents you with an opportunity: Why not respond to the customer, remedy their issue and turn their loyalty back around? I can tell you that CommSec actually did this for me recently, so it sure does work.

According to Susan Hall, Dell takes tweet scanning one step further: They don’t just look for mentions of Dell, they also look for mentions of their competitors. What an opportunity to win new customers!

Active tweeting

Tweet scanning is one thing, but active tweeting is something else again.

Perhaps your company should be sharing news and conveying other key messages to the Twittersphere. NEC is very active in this space, as is Southwest Airlines in the US: Imagine a raging storm shuts down Dallas airport and all flights are diverted to New Orleans; the Southwest call centre is jammed with thousands of panicked callers. Suddenly Twitter comes into its own as an alternative communications medium.

Businessman typing on keyboardWhat could your company tweet about?


• Its latest financial results.
• The release of a new product.
• The latest warm & fuzzy activity undertaken by its staff for the community.

But you have to be very careful to provide value. If you keep your tweets company-centric, then you won’t be very interesting and no one will want to follow you.

The trick is to keep your tweets customer-centric instead. In fact, according to Spike Jones, you probably shouldn’t even mention the company name at all.

Imagine these tweets from a boring old insurance company:

• Are you paying too much tax? Make sure you submit your Tax File Number to your financial institution.
• Did you know that the average Australian is woefully under insured? Ask your financial planner if you are adequately covered.

Saving money? Suddenly I’m interested.

It’s all about WIIFM.

Happy customer

A two-way street

OK, so you could send messages out to the Twittersphere, so why wouldn’t you also invite them in? Well guess what, ANZ and Telstra are doing just that.

These companies invite their customers (or prospective customers) to ask questions, submit complaints, provide compliments (Heaven forbid!), and most importantly, they have staff at the ready to respond quickly.

So maybe Twitter provides your business with an opportunity to engage with a different demographic of customer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like robots answering my calls and putting me on hold forever, only to be transferred upteen times. But send a tweet? Yep, I can do that.  

Internal applications

The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, actively encourages his staff to follow him on Twitter. He tweets jokes, inspirational quotes, humorous anecdotes, that kind of thing.

But what if your organisation wanted to tweet behind closed doors, out of sight of the prying public? Well, you can do that with Yammer – a Twitter-like platform that allows you to set up a “group” comprising your employees only.

Imagine interacting with your colleagues across the enterprise, asking questions, collaborating, sharing knowledge. Why spend half an hour running around trying to find someone who can help you, when you can just post it to Yammer and let the crowd post a reply.

This is a classic example of informal learning, and it’s central to the evolution and modernisation of workplace training.

Personal applications

By “personal”, I mean you using Twitter for your own professional purposes.

For example, I use Twitter as an international community of practice. I’m connected to a circle of e‑learning professionals from all over the world; I’ve chosen to follow their tweets, and some of them have chosen to follow mine. I share my knowledge, and I learn a lot more in return.

Digital world

So as a technology, Twitter is really simple. It’s what you do with it that makes it powerful.

Twibal Drums

19 May 2009

Do you think Twitter is a self-indulgent waste of time? You’re not alone.

But like most things in life, it all depends on your perspective.

David Hopkins asked his followers recently (via Twitter!)…

hopkinsdavidHow would you describe Twitter to the uninitiated, in 140 characters or less?

My initial reply was…

ryantraceyTwitter is a personal message board…?

And of course it is.

Twitter is traditionally described as a “micro blog” that allows account holders to post short, sharp messages (or “tweets”) of up to 140 characters each.

But then David asked me a probing follow-up question…

hopkinsdavidyes, it can be used as personal message board, but is that good for education when we have a VLE for that kind of activity?

To which I replied…

ryantraceyAh, from an edu perspective: Twitter is a real-time peer-to-peer knowledge sharing forum…?

And there-in lies the point: Twitter can be whatever you want it to be.

Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing

I commented recently on Tony Karrer’s blog

If Twitter users want to be insular, narcissistic and boring, they certainly can be. On the other side of the coin, however, they can also be sharing, fun and interesting.

Personally, I find Twitter indispensable for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. I don’t bother tweeting that I’m having a cup of coffee on Bondi Beach – who cares! Instead, I tweet about the enlightening article I found on the web, or the informative video clip that I watched on YouTube, and I follow others in my industry who do the same.

It’s an international CoP hosted by the Twittersphere.

I even added a link to my favourite Hugh MacLeod cartoon:

Random Thought by Hugh MacLeod

Translation: It’s not what Twitter does, it’s what the tweeter does.


Twibes logoThis is where I think twibes can prove useful.

I define a “twibe” as simply a group of tweeters who share a common interest.

For example, the members of the Gardening Twibe enjoy gardening, the members of the DepecheMode Twibe are fans of Depeche Mode, the members of… well, you get the idea.

Dual role

On the face of it, a twibe seems like just another redundant label. But a twibe can fulfil an important dual role:

1. By joining a twibe, you are promoting yourself to the Twittersphere as a like-minded member of a particular community, and by implication, as a peer worth following;

…and conversely:

2. By browsing the fellow members of your twibe, you can identify peers whom you may consider worth following yourself.

I would argue that both roles further Twitter as a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing forum.


Participate in twibes!So why not join a twibe today?

If e-learning is your thing, why not join:

• EdTech
• Australian_eLearning
• VideoGamesAsLearningTools

And why not found a twibe? Perhaps:

• Canadian_eLearning
• mLearning
• VirtualWorldsInEducation

Keep me in the loop!