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Category: Opinion

 

Before I move on to other posts I want to do (and considering my absence, I have quite a few of those), I want to describe a very unpleasant experience I had last week and some lessons I learned.

 
Last Thursday I moved to a new place. I’m pretty used to this by now as I move, on average, slightly less than once a year – so this wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. However, this time things were quite unusual.

 
In order to get moving quotes from various companies, my wife filled the details of our move using some online form. She’s already done this before. Hell, who doesn’t? This is similar to the way you can get auto insurance quotes from several companies – I offer this on three of my own sites – you can do the same thing with moving companies. We got many offers, invited three to our home to give final proposals, and agreed to go with one.

 
It turns out that one of the companies that sent an offer which we immediately eliminated (obviously a total scam based on online reviews) figured which company we were going to go with. Then they called them, impersonated my wife and canceled our move claiming to be her. The next day they sent their people who claimed they are the representative of the moving company we called. The day before the move they also called my wife and warned her about “scams” so if anything looks out of the ordinary, she should give them a call to make sure things are fine.

 
Considering these, it took about an hour and a half for us to figure out we are dealing with criminals and not who we were supposed to. Thanks to Google, we also found out, in real time, what is next to come: based on dozens of online reviews, this company takes your belongings then hold them hostage until you pay, in cash, an outrageous sum (several times the amount you were promised – assuming you hired them in the first place). All these, however, were based on people who actually hired them. We never did – they got to our place in a criminal fashion. We never saw any review that mirrored our story either.

 
We called the police and the original moving company. After they arrived (the police sent 5 cops!) we heard that neither has heard of a similar case before (though I’d be surprised if we were the first). By then it seemed that it would be better to finish what we started – not our preferred choice, but the police took the movers’ details and assured us that they won’t try to hijack our items.

 
It was pretty stressful, but eventually the move ended despite fears we’ll never get our belongings OR get only some OR will have to pay a crazy sum. Or even worse.

 
My conclusion
Both my wife and I use the net all the time. We’ve always been very careful with our identities. Like I said, I even offer a similar service myself. Scams and frauds are one thing, criminal activity is quite another. It is important to emphasize we weren’t the only victims here, the original moving company was cheated as well (and who knows how many times?).

 
Despite being so careful, this unfortunate scenario still took place. So I ask, how could this have been prevented?

 
My advice
For starters, even if someone calls to confirm your order/move/etc, do not trust this but rather call the company yourself to confirm it.

 
More importantly, I think that from now on, it might be a good idea that whenever I’m asking for quotes, not to give my real name (or to alter it in a way that would be noticeable if someone were to use it). Of course, once dealing with a company, preferably in the flesh, I would use my name. Had we done this, if some criminal company were to call us or come to us using these details it would’ve been immediately obvious.

 
The final option is to avoid using such services.. but I think to have this attitude means going back to the stone ages. We may as well not be online at all. And the same thing could’ve happened had we done everything using phones.

 
Note that there’s more to this story though I can’t share it for various reasons (just yet).

 
Any thoughts?

 

 

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Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

Nostradamus: Only fools try to predict the future?

 

From some reason I remember there is a saying “Only fools try to predict the future”. I can’t seem to find it so I might be mistaken.

 
Even though I completely disagree with the idea that it’s foolish to try and predict the future – many people and companies do it all the time – we have to remember it’s all based on what we know, on past events – and that things can change at any given moment.

 
Many financial companies – Lehman Brothers, for example – successfully predicted the future for many decades and made unimaginable sums of money. Until one day things – in this case, the economic market – changed dramatically and all their predictions turned sour. A company that existed since 1850 perished in a matter of weeks because it didn’t predict the future properly.

 
Yesterday I met with a very good friend of mine. He has a Twitter account but he’s not really active. However, he is very interested (and knowledgeable) in technology trends. He asked me: where do you see Twitter going?

 
That is a very good question. Where do I see Twitter going, I wondered to myself.

 
My guess, and of course, it’s just a guess – that Twitter will follow the same patterns that other companies faced in the past, particularly in the last few decades.

 
Here are two examples – I can give many more.

 
You might not have been online back then, but I still remember the times before Google existed. I was mainly using Altavista and Lycos and was very pleased with the results. When Google appeared, I didn’t see the point of switching. I also didn’t believe – and I remember saying it to a friend – any new company stands a chance in the search market. A few friends of mine mentioned Google is good, I figured I’ll give it a chance. The results seemed to be better though weren’t dramatically better. However, at some point I did find myself switching to Google – though that was mainly because of the simple interface.

 
Of course, Google reinvented the search engine landscape and deserves a lot of credit for that. However, I wasn’t the only one who guessed wrong: I bet Altavista and Lycos were taken by as much surprise as I was.

 
Similarly, when Friendster, the first modern social network, was created, I was one of the first people using it. That’s actually an understatement – I was extremely active because it was so new and really explored interesting territories. Many of the things we now take for granted were actually “discovered” by Friendster who had to find the right way through trial and error.

 
Numerous new social networks later emerged, but the one that deposed Friendster was MySpace. MySpace got so well established I thought “this is it!”. It seemed immovable, but then Facebook rose and completely and utterly took MySpace’s.. space. I still remember articles writing that “Facebook is not going to be successful, MySpace will reclaim its position”. Kind of funny when you think about it now.

 
Quick disclaimer: I’m not writing anything that hasn’t been written before. Someone comes, creates a product – it could be successful, even very successful – but then a successor creates an improvement that completely wins over the audience. Though I don’t remember anyone saying this about Twitter (even though probably someone did).

 
That’s my guess for Twitter.

 
Twitter is flawed. Technically it is awful. Years after its launch we still get the fail whale on a regular basis (I get it at least 5-10 times a day). It has numerous bugs. It has a lot of really silly features and flawed concepts: the retweet button, no search mechanism for bios, no way to mass delete DMs, no way to filter DMs… the list is endless. However, no one can deny twitter is extremely popular. Extremely.

 
Based on these factors: that Twitter is a very flawed application and that the space is extremely attractive, while looking at past trends, I find it hard to believe that at some point in the next 1-5 years a new microblogging service, one that has learned from all of Twitter’s mistakes and improved on it, won’t come and completely dominate this market. That is, unless Twitter will clean up their act completely… but in all fairness, I don’t see that happening.

 
This may seem impossible now, but that was the case in both the examples I gave.

 
Google tried to do this with Google Buzz – that didn’t go too well because of the privacy issues (just too eager, huh?).

 
My prediction is that there will be someone else. And they will be successful. And in a couple of years we will all be seeing articles analyzing how Twitter lost its market share, and “what went wrong?”.

 
Only fools try to predict the future. Perhaps that might be true, but this is my guess.

 

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As you all know, there are quite a lot of celebrities on Twitter and more are joining every day. I noticed that there are roughly three categories of celebrity following… and yet there seem to be inexplicable (?) exceptions.

 
Let me emphasize, this is not a scientific study, just my general impression. However, my brain usually works by classifying things. There are plenty of other examples in my blog…

 
On this note, I have to say, doesn’t Twitter have a name suggestion mechanism?! It took me quite a while to find some of these celebrities. Eventually I discovered that the easiest way is going to Google, typing the name, seeing the suggestion (which was always right) and using it. Come on, Twitter – can’t you do the same? I remember considering doing this for an eCommerce application I wrote 8 years ago, wasn’t supposed to be hard.

 
Celebrities are easy to recognize on Twitter. They either have the verified tag next to their name, a ridiculous follower/following ratio, or – quite often – by the fact they “broadcast” – it’s a one way interaction on their end.

 
First, there are the big celebrities. They don’t need to do anything and still get a large follower base almost overnight.

 
For example:

  • Britney Spears (5,016,111 followers) – she pushed aside the former king of Twitter and is the new reigning queen.
  • Lady Gaga (4,251,933 followers)
  • Conan O’Brien (1,021,242 followers) – didn’t he just recently join?
  • Jim Carrey (1,017,771 followers)

 
Second, there are the somewhat smaller celebrities who are still household names. Some of them used to be ‘bigger’ in the past but the canceling of their shows or the fact they haven’t been in a big movie recently in a leading role obviously affected their status. Their number of followers is actually reachable by “mere mortals” – I have more followers than most of those I include below.

  • Elizabeth Banks (Spiderman, W., Scrubs – 156,579 followers)
  • Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayers, How I met Your Mother – 101,537 followers)
  • Jason Segel (How I met Your Mother – 52,941 followers)
  • Julie Benz (Dexter, Desperate Housewives – 44,182 followers)
  • Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, Cheers – 22,207 followers)

 
Finally, there are the “minor” celebrities, those who are known to some, but generally are not household names. These can also be of the previous category whose television shows have expired. I have secondary accounts that have more followers than these…

  • Diora Baird (The Wedding Crashers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 14,066 Followers)
  • Shiri Appleby (Roswell, Life Unexpected, ER – 4,251 Followers)
  • Elisabeth Harnoi (Point Pleasant – 1,559 Followers)

 
Then again, there are some celebrities who ought to belong to the second or even third category yet still have a staggering number of followers.

 
For example:

  • Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory, Stand By Me – 1,654,037 Followers)
  • LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation – 1,601,451 Followers)
  • Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Independence Day – 1,366,661 Followers)

 
All three are known to Trek lovers, but I doubt they are household names. Moreover, considering their main show was canceled in – what, 1994? – isn’t this large number of followers very surprising – they far outrank more household names like Julie Benz. Heck, even Jim Carrey!

 
Why is that?

 
In my opinion, this is a result of these celebrities not only being active on Twitter, but also using it as a two-way communication medium. They all communicate with their followers: I didn’t say they speak to everyone but they do talk rather than “broadcast”.

 
I believe even Ashton Kutcher (4,986,024 Followers) – that despite the fact he’s already a pretty well known name, he is not of the caliber of Jim Carrey in terms of celebrity status, as well Demi Moore (2,732,687 followers) and Alyssa Milano (856,495 Followers). All are not only extremely active Twitter users, but also heavily interact with their followers.

 
More importantly, to all three this has brought significant Twitter attention. At least in Ashton’s case, I believe this has even translated into success in the real world, being known as the king of Twitter – the #1 most followed person (until last week).

 
So my advice? Use Twitter as it’s meant to be used. I know you’re busy. We all are. But use Twitter as a two-way communication medium, respond to followers, interact with them. People appreciate not being ignored and want to “touch the stars”. Give it to them. They will appreciate it and you will feel the effect.

 
I believe that a celebrity who has a very low number of followers is impacted, to some extent, by this – and the opposite is true as well.

 
Like it or not, Twitter is a measure of sorts of popularity. I would not be surprised if some casting agencies actually check Twitter before they cast an actor. I think it would be wise to do so.

 

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a

 

Before I begin, let me say I’ve written so much about Twitter Jail, this has become a series: here are links to my two other articles about Twitter Jail:

 
Twitter Jail: Some Suggestions
Twitter Jail: A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

 
I think somewhere in Twitter there is a guy whose responsibility is coming up with innovative ideas. In the past few months he has dedicated a large portion of his time to Twitter Jail.

 
Why?

 
Because it’s a fresh concept: have you heard of Google Buzz Jail? Or Plurk Jail? Don’t think so!

 
Because it’s clearly something that gets people talking – check my most popular post. Yep, Twitter Jail. Check my other post to see how many people are looking for information about Twitter Jail.

 
I consider myself an expert on all matters Twitter Jail, so imagine my shock when I discovered yet another type.

 
Yesterday I tweeted four tweets with links in a rather short amount of time. One is an article criticizing Twitter I found (which I just waited for the opportunity to tweet – as you may know, I tweet every few hours. Best way to avoid addiction). One was a link to my friend’s online seminar. One was a link to my newest blog post.

 
Immediately after I tweeted the last one I noticed a typo, so I deleted it and tried to repost it – only to be informed I can’t, because I exceeded the rate. What the hell?! I just started using Twitter after several hours, I certainly did not do 100 tweets per hour/1000 per day!

 
Obviously this was created as a way to stop spammers – which considering the advice I gave in my other post, is not very efficient – there are so many simple ways for Twitter to automatically recognize I’m not a spammer. Besides, what good is it going to do? Assuming this works by limiting the number of links that are sent in a span of time, a spammer would simply space them out. Fewer links, yes – but he/she would still be spamming.

 
Or maybe it’s just the fact that I posted a link to an article criticizing Twitter..? I doubt that Twitter is capable of tracking so many articles, so that can’t be the case :-P .

 

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Me and my son, taking a nap

Me and my son, taking a nap

 

This is a bit different from what I normally discuss here.

 
A few years ago, while I was still employed, the thing I hated the most about the jobs I held was the rigidity of the work schedule. Even though many workplaces brag about their flexibility, and I worked in at least two such places, in practice neither was flexible. In fact, one was the most rigid place I ever worked at: it’s very easy for a company to claim it offers flexible hours as a perk but put so many conditions that in practice it’s impossible.

 
I remember thinking: if only I can get 2-3 hours a week where I come late to work and leave much later to make up for this time, that would be perfect – then I could go see the occasional movie without requiring a babysitter, see doctors if I need to without having to describe my ailments to my boss, etc. But even that was frowned upon. Why? I suspect because if I did this, then my colleagues would be jealous and would resent me and/or my boss. Alternatively, they would want to do this too. And if everybody did this.. well, most companies don’t really want flexible schedules… it’s just a method of enticing people to come work for them.

 
Another point: even though I heard of people working in 9 to 5 jobs, I never had such a job in my entire life. Ever. It’s probably a matter of industry, but the vast majority of jobs I held required at least a 9 to 7 workday, sometimes a lot more. With this type of work day, often there were days I would not see my son at all: I’d leave when he’d still be asleep, and return when he’s asleep. What’s the point of working if you don’t get to enjoy the after hours?

 
Therefore, when I started my own company, one of my primary goals was to work when I want to. If I want to go see a movie, then I go. If I want to take a nap, I can. Of course, there are always limitations (clients, meetings, etc) but still this was my goal. Note that this requires discipline – something that is actually harder than it sounds, but is definitely possible.

 
So I did it. I structured my entire workday in a bizarre way. Specifically, I work around my family’s hours: whenever my son & wife are at home, I am with them. When they go to sleep, I start working again. This results in two shifts: a day shift (10:30am – 6pm) and a night shift (10:30pm – 4-5am). I know I don’t have to work so much, but since there’s so many things I want to do or learn, I feel I need this time.

 
At first I didn’t like working after 1am… but I got used to it. It’s quiet.. no one calls. Now there are days I finish everything I planned to do at 3:30am but still pass time for an hour or more (sometimes just chat or watch videos). I once collaborated with a team who had a similar work schedule, so often we’d have conference chats at 4am – which was admittedly bit strange (even though I do work at these hours, I’m definitely not at my best).

 
I also nap quite often during the day. I think companies would have much more productive employees – not to mention happier ones – if they allowed an optional 30-60 minute nap during the day – even demand that employees work late if they choose this. I find that napping really refreshes me.

 
I’m curious: if you’re self employed, how do you manage your time? What do you allow yourself to do that you wouldn’t in an ordinary job? And if you’re not self employed, what would you like to have as a perfect work day?

 

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What's next?

 

I’ve been doing internet marketing for quite a while, and I can say, I’ve never seen an industry that changes so quickly. Every month there is something new, every month brings a big – sometimes a game changer – event.

 
Unsurprisingly, there is always a wave of internet marketers, product creators, that attempt to benefit from it. Although many marketers create products that genuinely provide value, there are the others who just create something, often without any meaningful understanding of the topic, in order to benefit from the wake of the fad.

 
What both frustrates and excites me is that these changes tend to affect the behavior of online marketers, and in turn, this usually affects the market itself… which affects marketers once again. This is probably why these new fads emerge in the first place. (Ok, I don’t want to lose you now, but this actually relates to my Ph.D. thesis which dealt with interactions that take place between various levels of complex systems… in this case, the market is a hierarchical complex system. But never mind..)

 
Forgive me if I got the time-frames slightly wrong.

 
In October 2009 it was all about PPV (CPV – cost per view) advertising. I don’t know how many courses and products were released in a short span. The result? Not only a large number of people started doing PPV advertising, but also, the biggest PPV network, TrafficVance, became extremely selective about accepting new advertisers, despite the fact its policies already required that new advertisers bring 2 referrals (!) and a minimum of a $1,000 deposit. It’s funny when one thinks about it: they’re literally saying no to advertisers who are willing to pay at least a $1,000. It’s been a while since then: as far I know they are not as strict anymore.

 
Then in December 2009 it was all about site flipping. In the span of three weeks I must’ve seen or heard of at least five products, each suggesting people build quick sites and flip them for a quick buck. I’m sure this could work, but not after releasing all these products… there’s a limit as to how many people can sell sites simultaneously, after all, the number of buyers did not change. Supply and demand and all that.

 
In January 2010 it was Facebook advertising. I don’t remember the exact phrases used but “Facebook loves affiliates” and “a goldmine” got stuck in my head. This resulted in many people trying Facebook advertising, and not long afterwards (April 2010), Facebook coming down with very, very strict guidelines that effectively eliminate most affiliate products from its network.

 
In February-March 2010 it was all about mobile. Mobile advertising. Mobile sites. Pay per call courses. A few courses created by very big marketers in a short span of time. Now, I don’t think mobile is a fad. I think mobile will just get bigger. But it was interesting that these were released at such a close proximity.

 
April-May 2010 were the months of local advertising. I saw several classes touting that “these are the biggest markets left unexplored” or so. Some of these classes seemed like the real deal, but others seemed almost like a scam (at least in one case, I’m pretty sure it IS a scam). What’s going to happen as a reaction to that? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out very soon.

 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of trying some of these as well. I’m not trying to say “look at these idiots, trying one fad after the other” since often I was once of “these idiots” ;-) . I’m also not trying to say that none of these forms of advertising worked. In fact, I believe all of them worked prior to the release of the courses/products… by then the market had reacted and it became considerably harder, and at times, impossible, to benefit from the lessons taught.

 
While I love these dynamics, it’s virtually impossible to predict what will be next. What will be “the next big thing” in June? August? October? I don’t know. From an intellectual perspective I am really curious, though I know that whatever is promoted then, now is probably a good time to do it because by the time we hear of it, it will most likely be too late.

 
Edit: by the way, any guesses? Obviously Plenty of Fish (POF) is becoming increasingly popular as well as other traffic methods. I’m curious what you think.

 

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stupid phone


 
If I could do it easily, I would run a poll: “how many of you use a Smartphone vs. a traditional, old-style cell phone?”. I’m sure the vast majority would be using the former. Not that the readers of this blog represent, in my opinion, the phone user demographics properly, but that’s not my point.

 
Well, I’m not. The last time I switched phones was almost two years ago. Back then I intended to migrate to a Blackberry. But when I reached the store, it just seemed unnecessary. All I wanted was a phone with a big keyboard so that it would be easy to write emails and send text messages, which I got (the image above is the type of phone I’m using).

 
I would be lying if I said I regretted this decision. Though as time passed, I kept missing some features that others had. For example, I had no easy way of accessing my email or Twitter: I had to open a browser and type the URLs. I also had no way of uploading photos directly to email, Twitter, Facebook. Nor could I use applications like Foursquare – I’m not sure I would, but I’d definitely give these a try.

 
A few months ago I decided to upgrade: in 2008 all of my urgent emails were work based, so were answered at work. Now that I am self-employed, I really need to answer some emails when I’m away. I already do it if I really have to, but my phone really isn’t designed for this, so it’s not very convenient (purely in terms of interface). In addition, my phone has reached old age: it has an annoying habit of turning off in the middle of conversations – somehow, always when I’m trying to meet someone outdoors – or turn itself on in my pocket and dial random people (if one is reading this: my apologies!). It clearly needs to be retired (possibly even put down. It will be humane, I promise).

 
What are my choices?

 
iPhone: I know most people just looooove iPhones. I respect that. However, I have an iPod touch I’m not using at all. I can’t stand the touch screen interface, I don’t like the navigation interface… I just don’t like it. My iPod sits and gathers dust and I really need to just sell it.

 
Android: I decided I’m not getting one because it’s Google based. They already have too much information about me and the rest of the world, I’m not about to give them more. I imagine a scary scenario: it’s the year 2020 and Google can suspend/ban you from its applications if you go into certain areas: “You’ve been to MICROSOFT’s HEADQUARTERS? No GMAIL FOR YOU!”. Ask any affiliate marketer and they won’t deny that this is a plausible scenario (even if a bit exaggerated). We’ve seen Google at its worst (at least I hope that this is its worst).

 
Palm: I have heard good things about the palm, but when I saw it, it looked too similar to the iPhone for my taste.

 
Blackberry: that was my original choice. I know they are convenient for email management, they do hold the largest share of the Smartphone market, and I like the fact you don’t need to touch the screen on most of them.

 
So a quick summary of my goals:

  1. Get a phone experience that’s better than what I have.
  2. Be able to manage emails/Twitter/Facebook much better than I currently can.
  3. Be able to use apps – and I honestly care which app store, whether the Blackberry app store or Palm’s, etc.

 
Today I went to the store determined to make the transition. I left – pretty disappointed – without making one.

 
I played with all the phones. Most of the touch screen interfaces weren’t so inconvenient as I thought they’d be, so I decided to reconsider those. Some of the Androids had a physical keyboard, so I decided to risk the doomsday scenario I described (I deserve the criticism, I know) and include those as well.

 
Most seemed like good phones. But none, not even a single one, was as good for typing as my old style phone. Even the phones that included a keyboard were too small, or were designed in an inconvenient way.

 
People used to to tell me “Oh, you’ll get used to X’s way of entering text” (usually X was the iPhone). But no, I don’t want to! I don’t want to get used to a bad thing, I want to upgrade! When I switched to my current phone, typing immediately became pleasant and easy – I didn’t have to get “used to it”. Particularly now that I intend to use it for email much more, I don’t want to start hating my (new) phone! Not to mention, switching to a Smartphone increases one’s phone bill (though that’s not and never was the issue).

 
I’ll also state I have carpal tunnel syndrome (well, not exactly – something similar) – as a result of almost 30 years of typing – so typing on a small keyboard is always an unpleasant task for me.

 
I tried one after the other. They all sucked in this respect. I don’t get it: why can’t a single Smartphone manufacturer include in its device a keyboard that opens like mine? I’m not going to get a Smartphone just to be “cool” if it makes my life harder!

 
I started looking at the new models of my existing phone… these definitely improved in two years. But I didn’t feel I could make this decision, staying with a “stupid”, “moronic”, “clueless”, phone (i.e. not a Smartphone) without at least getting more information on the alternatives.

 
Therefore, I wrote this post.

 
Any ideas? I’m hoping someone would say that there is a mythical model, offered by company X, that does exactly what I want. And it’s either too expensive to be sold (I’ll pay the price!), or no one likes it so it’s almost free (even better). If I need to travel to China to get it, I’ll go there. If I need to sacrifice a small goat to the God of mobile phones, I’ll even do that. It is time to move forward. But really move forward.

 
Help?

 

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Twitter jokes
(The image above doesn’t really relate to the article – I just found it amusing).

 

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article that discusses Twitter and influence. It argues that number of followers isn’t the best measure of Twitter influence. I think he expected me to argue that the article is wrong. However, I fully agree with the article’s premise. Here’s an anecdote: there is a Twitter user I recently stumbled onto who has – if I recall – ~135,000 followers and 0 tweets. Clearly that user is not influential in any way. How he got to this number of followers is a mystery.

 
An additional commonly regarded measure is number of times a user is being retweeted. While I think there is some merit to this idea, I think it fails too. There are quite a lot of users – I can name 5 off the top of my head – who have an auto-tweet mechanism that just tweets quotes and/or facts and/or news all day long. Some are bots – there isn’t even a real user behind them. Personally, I find them somewhat annoying, but manage by mainly ignoring them – though a few friends of mine detest those passionately and argue that these are what will bring Twitter’s downfall. I do have a problem with the quotes being repetitive and cliche, as well as the facts being erroneous and misleading, but that’s a different matter.

 
My point is, these users get retweeted lot. This is unsurprising: corny, cliche quotes would be retweeted since they appeal to the lowest common denominator, particularly if they are repeated countless times. It’s like popular commercials: the jingle sticks in your head no matter what, simply because you hear it all. the. time.

 
Another aspect I haven’t read about and yet would consider relevant is the number of lists one appears in. This appears to be somewhat correlated with influence. However, the more followers and/or the more active a user is, the more lists a user tends to appear in. I wouldn’t say that the more lists a user appears in, the more influential he or she is. However, I would say that a user that is not listed a lot is probably not influential.

 
Yet another aspect is interaction: how much a user interacts with fellow users. Why is this relevant? Because interaction creates relationships, relationships result in paying attention to what one says, and that is influence.

 
Ok, now that we’ve seen this is problematic, how would I measure influence on Twitter? As the article argues, it’s not easy.

 
If I had to devise my own algorithm, and a few months ago I actually considered doing just that, I would take several factors into account. The following are not sorted in order of importance:

  1. Number of followers.
     
  2. Number of followees.
     
  3. Number of tweets.
     
  4. Number of lists the user is included in.
     
  5. Number of retweets.
     
  6. Number of interactions a user has with other users (responses) – both the number of users he/she interacts with and the actual number of interactions (i.e. 100 responses to many different users vs. 100 responses to a single user).
     
  7. The characteristics of those who retweet the user’s tweets (i.e. their number of followers, followees, lists, tweets, and retweets).
     
  8. The characteristics of those who interact with the user.
     
  9. A measure that will indicate whether a user is real person or not. If a user tweet 24 hours a day, in set intervals, and never interacts in any meaningful way (i.e. it may say “thank you for the RTs” in a mechanical manner) it’s not a real person, period. I would remove those from the list completely.

What will this show me? I believe it will – generally – demonstrate who is an influential presence in Twitter. Of course, some people are exempt from this. Conan O’Brien doesn’t need to respond to anyone to be influential. But he’s influential outside of Twitter and this influence carries into Twitter.

 
Why is Twitter influence important? The article stated that companies are paying users with many followers to tweet. This is true to a degree. Companies such as SponsoredTweets and ad.ly (I believe) do factor influence measures into the decision whether to pay a user to tweet. It’s not just number of followers.

 
I don’t intend to do a full survey of Twitter influence tools, but here are three I’ve used.

 
Twitter Grader used to do an adequate job in my opinion, but it was changed so much its results are completely meaningless nowadays. I stopped paying serious attention to it a long time ago, as it is so fundamentally flawed.

 
For example, if you look for major influencers in the state of New Jersey, the #1 – consistently – on the list is a bot (it RTs useful pieces of information – but a bot, nonetheless. Until I see it interact with anyone I won’t believe otherwise). Clearly it assigns excessive importance to retweeting. Also, strangely it includes users that have tweeted a ridiculously low number of tweets and don’t have a lot of followers either (i.e. one user tweeted a total of 172 tweets – seriously, that user is a major influencer? I’m not buying that). Twitter grader also doesn’t explain how it works – it feels like a random generator of numbers. There are more issues but I’ll stop here.

 
Twitterholic (which seems to be in the process of changing its name to Twitaholic) simply shows the number of followers, followees and tweets for a specific area. That, as stated, is not an accurate measure, but it is far superior to the Twitter grader whose results are meaningless. Even this limited number of characteristics says a lot about the user.

 
Klout, I believe, does the best job. What I like about this tool is that it takes a lot of the above factors into consideration and even explains its reasoning why a user is influential or not, and classifies it into one of several categories. It’s really the only tool that does an adequate job in my opinion.

 
And there are many more. Many more. More seem to appear every day.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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pirate

Ok, this is not a full post – more like an open question.

 
A while ago I wrote about internet marketing, ethics and dishonesty. I had quite a lot of say, and pretty much finished writing the post. However, afterwards I decided I’m not going to publish it for now because some people may feel it is a bit controversial.. and I was not in the mood for that at the time (just before SM201). I will use it at some point, but not just yet.

 
Anyway, that post relates to the following…

 
What do you do when you buy a product through a big internet marketer’s affiliate link because of a bonus he promised, only to receive nothing, and be repeatedly ignored by the said marketer and his team? This happened to me once before with regards to a bonus I didn’t care about, and again, recently – with a bonus I very much wanted and deliberately purchased the item through the link because of it.

 
Would you wage war? Write furious blog posts, let everyone know on forums, point fingers, etc? In this situation, it’s more likely I would be more damaged than the other party – we are talking after all about a big marketer and I – well – I am not one just yet.

 
Would you track him down (phone, personal email address) and demand the bonus? This is much easier than most people believe, and if I wanted to, I could probably track down almost every person I wanted to. However, this is a dirty trick which – personally – I’d never do. I also highly doubt it would result in the desired effect.

 
Or do you just accept the fact you won’t get the bonus and remember never to buy anything from said big marketer?

 
Even though I tend to be militant by nature, and have occasionally been trigger happy even when I should not have been, I will probably pick the third option. Accept my loss and move on.

 
I’m curious what others think.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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I like Facebook's Like Button

I like Facebook's Like Button

 

It seems many people have something to say about Facebook’s new addition, the universal “like” button. Some people have voiced concerns about privacy. Others just try to figure how to add it to their sites: I added the button with a simple Wordpress plugin, though to be honest, I’d like to add a “like box” to my blog – what used to be a part of the Facebook fan page mechanism. Still working on that.

 
Personally I think this was a brilliant move on Facebook’s end. Not only they will dramatically increase their penetration to countless internet sites that had no relationship with them, but they also give advertisers the ability to target these “likes” – at least, I assume they do, I still personally haven’t tried to do that (if I am mistaken, someone please correct me…). All in all, ingenious move.

 
On a side note, I have to say I always resented the Facebook fan page concept. Not the actual mechanism, but the idea of ‘fans’. Being a fan is a pretty strong term in my opinion, so I deliberately tried to avoid using it as much as I could. Now that they changed it to “Like”, I feel much more comfortable with it. Yes, this is only semantics – but it when you think about it, this means quite a lot. I think far more people would be likely to say they “like” me than saying they are my “fans”. Don’t you agree? I wonder why it took Facebook so long to figure this out, I remember discussing this with a friend back in 2007 or 2008.

 
p.s. Twitter, why can’t you be more like Facebook? Instead of imposing silly rules and limitations (such as Twitter Jail) or some “innovative” concepts such as the Retweet button, come up with some useful stuff? Please?

 

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