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The Twitter API Compromise

The Great Twitter API Compromise (and why I am likely staying with Twitter)Twitter announced last week that they would be making several changes to their API that allows developer to creat applications like TweetBot, Instapaper, and Timehop. These changes are controversial because Twitter’s growth is largely attributable to the geekier-developers that created clients and applications that gave the social network the user experience that made it palatable. Wider adoption happened not through the SMS (texting) interface that Twitter launched with, but through apps and tools for smartphones and other social networks.

Twitter is a community. It’s a living, thriving, and changing group of people that began as a very niche geek clique and grew into the second largest social network in the world. The Twitter icon is everywhere. #hashtags ride beneath every television commercial, cereal box, and even on plumber’s trucks. Tweeting is a ‘thing’. Most importantly, it’s an active community that anyone can use as a soapbox or publishing platform.

The ease of use and built-in community makes Twitter a natural choice for a publishing platform. I simply cannot reach as many people or interact with such a wide group using my own channel. Because of this, I’m comfortable sacrificing access and ownership of what I am creating in exchange for amplification.

I am cognizant of the changes Twitter is making and how those influencers who helped build the social network are questioning the motivations behind the API change. This same audience is beginning to fragment and move to new channels.

As an early adopter and someone who was attracted to Twitter because of a the niche community, I have to ask myself if I’m willing to begin with a new community and abandon Twitter, which is still very active.

APP.NET is a new social network and an example of a new community that has taken advantage of those unhappy with Twitter. It’s captured favor with an open API and a paid service model that should absolve any reliance on advertising for revenue moving forward. The user base is a very tech-savvy influencer group similar to what populated the original Twitter timeline. The appeal is there, but a $50 funding to APP.NET’s kickstarter is the minimum cost to begin playing in this new network.

I’m not going to abandon Twitter anytime soon, but I am intrigued by the model APP.NET offers. It promises a stable environment with a consistent API for developers and a model that is sustainable. Success will depend on how the APP.NET community will grow and how many engaged users will pay for access to this new model of a social network.

Weekend Project: Twitter

Weekend Project: TWITTERDigital media is changing constantly. Never before have there been so many channels and platforms to share information and experiences. This new series, Weekend Projects, will take some of these channels and break them down to something approachable and hopefully get people excited and better oriented.

What is twitter? Twitter is an online service that provides users a platform to broadcast messages of 140 characters or less. These messages or “tweets” are posted to your twitter homepage which can be made private or available for anyone to see.

Once you get started, you’ll want to “follow” other people on twitter to be updated when they make a post. You can also follow other people you might know or find interesting. This interaction, the people you have in your group and how you interact with them will shape your Twitter experience.

How do I get started? If you don’t already have a twitter account, you can visit Twitter.com and create an account. It’s free and the process is easy. Once you have your Twitter account, you’ll be shown a list of people to follow who might be interesting. You can also click on the “Who To Follow” link at the top of your homepage. If you see a post you like, you can simply click the “follow” button and you’ll then see that person’s account on your own Twitter homepage or “stream”.

If you’re interesting in a particular topic or person, you can search for a term or phrase in the search box. The search results will pull be returned in chronological order based on your term or word. This is an excellent way to find other Twitter users who have similar interests. Search for “advertising” and you will be shown a running list of tweets that include the term in the 140 characters provided for posts. Give the results a look-click on the interesting profile pictures to see what else the Twitter-er may have written and if it’s interesting, Follow them! You can always “un-follow” someone (it’s not rood and the person will never see that they have been un-followed).

So how do I use this Twitter thing? There are as many uses for Twitter as there are people using Twitter-over 175 Million. How you choose to use it, depends on you: Some people post small facts about themselves, some use it as a journal, others use it as a chatting service. It can be used to share links, spread news, deliver messages, broadcast a brand.

One of the more powerful aspects of Twitter is the “re-tweet”. The re-tweet is a way for you to share with your group of followers, another person’s tweet. You can do this on the Twitter website by clicking on the “retweet” button in the right-hand interface pain. You can also do the same by adding “RT” and a user’s name, RT @cullmann, for instance. If you find a post to be informative or useful, a retweet is a show of appreciation.

In addition to the retweet, you can also address another user by adding their twitter handle to your tweet. If they are following you, they will see this reply in their feed. They will also see your reply, regardless if they are following you or not, in the “mentions” tab of your Twitter homepage. Its a great way to begin communications or send a public message.

If you want to send a private message, you can send a “direct message” or “DM” to anyone who is following you. Simply click on the envelope icon of anyone’s twitter profile who follows you. Use private messages with caution: It’s very easy for these messages to become public.

Now you’ve got a Twitter handle and a few followers. Now what? Those first few tweets can be hard, but just jump right in. The nice part about this micro-blogging format is that it’s light and fun. You should be trying to have a good time and share that experience with other people. One way is to use something called a “hashtag”. A hash tag is a way to create a searchable term or “tag” that can be shared with others. A simple example of a hashtag might be:
I just added the new version of Futura to my  website with @FontKit #typography #Futura
In this tweet, I reference the typeface Futura. By adding the hashtag #Futura and #typography, I am making myself visible to people who are looking for topics about Futura or typography. You can also use it in reverse: hashtags in your Twitter stream become clickable. The resulting URL is a live feed that is similar to search results. This is a very popular technique for following large events like the #superbowl or #AHA.

This was just a simple overview of Twitter to get you started. If you want to learn more, you can see my previous post on Twitter or a some more advanced techniques. You can also follow-me on Twitter. Don’t just sit there, start tweeting!

Why Twitter?

A Beginners Guide to Twitter and TweetingRecently, I’ve had a few friends ask about Twitter and how to make sense of it. There are those that only see Twitter as a novella of recent meals and Glee highlights. The fact is that Twitter, with a little bit of management, can help you cull down the noise of the Internet and create a best-of list for the web.

So how does someone new to Twitter make sense of this massive onslaught of Tweets? It’s pretty easy to start. Go to Twitter.com and click create an account. Once you’re account is set-up, search for your friends and the names of sites and blogs that you go to regularly. You can also let Twitter help you with a list of people they think you should follow by using the link in the menu bar “Who To Follow”.

It’s likely that you are already regularly visiting websites and news source on the web. Equally likely is that those same sites have some presence on Twitter. So look for an icon or “follow me on Twitter” button and give follow-them (don’t be surprised if they follow you too). So these are the basics.

Live with Twitter for a few days and get a feel for the cadence of those you’re following and if they’re Tweets are of any interest. Don’t be afraid to “unfollow” those people who just aren’t producing anything of interest for you. What will make Twitter useful to you is parring down the incoming “stream” of tweets to the content that is interesting or beneficial to you.

After several days of reading people’s Tweets, you’re going to start seeing how the people you’ve followed are using Twitter. Some people use it as a life-journals, others as a way to promote their content or products, others to aggregate links and videos on the web they find beneficial. You’re also going to begin to see how people are “Re-Tweeting” (re-sending a high-quality Twitter post) and mentioning people with strong links. Start to follow those people too. You’re going to start to see that as you expand the list of people you’re following, you’re going to start seeing more and more links that are of interest and you may have not been seeing previously.

As your Twitter follow lists grows, you’re going to start seeing the “stream” or incoming links move fast and faster through the interface. This is where Twitter Lists come in. Twitter provides an explanation and tutorial on how to make a list, but essentially, it’s a subset of your Twitter group. You can put as many as 500 users in a list and catagorise it in anyway that you like. To make it useful, I have arranged my lists so I can focus on content at any given time. For example, I have a list for design, a list of people I work with, a list for of pharmaceutical industry observers and so on. The list feature can give you the ability to organize and quickly focus on a particular interest when you review your Twitter feed.

In addition to lists, you can also search twitter using keywords or phrases. Like a search engine, Twitter will return posts from the entire Twitter community that contain your particular search string. If you are searching from Twitter’s website, you can then search through the results by last date posted, geographically (tweets near you) and person who is tweeting. All very powerful tools. Google and Bing both provide search features that can focus searches on Twitter and show results in real-time.

You can also search Twitter using hashtags. These tags are a created by putting a “#” sign infront of any word or phrase. Doing so allows that phrase to be easily searched and parsed. Users can then follow a particular hash-tag in a fashion similar to the way that you might follow a user. Some examples are #mobile, #design, or #fdasm. Hashtags are an organic product of the Twitter community and not part of Twitter’s supported API. To use hashtags properly, apply the “#” symbol infront of any word or term without any spaces. Upper and lowercase characters can be used to discern words in a phrase. Managing these hashtags becomes easier if you use Twitter in a desktop or mobile client.

Once you’ve conquered some of the ins-and-outs of Twitter, you may want to start mastering Twitter. Although Twitter’s web interface has come a long way, many power-users make use of desktop clients like TweetDeck (Mac and PC), Tweetie (Mac) or Twirl (PC). Twitter, having recently purchased several third-party companies creating Twitter clients has released their own platform clients. Twitter for the iPhone and Twitter for Mac are two examples. Personally, TweetDeck is a fantastic client developed using Adobe AIR. It works on all major platforms and is very powerful supporting multiple accounts and several other services.

Twitter is as powerful a tool as you make of it. With a little management, careful curating and a little bit of use, you can turn Twitter into a powerful way to pull in information from all over the Internet ranging from topics you are familiar to information that you may never have known existed. It’s important that you spend a few minutes to review some of the etiquette of Twitter as well. It’s a very fickle community and being aware of when to cite a source, what a retweet does and how to direct-message are all important to being a good citizen in the Twitterverse. Chris Brogan has a wonderful Twitter Etiquette post that summarizes everything for the nube and veteran Twitter user. Mashable has created an equally useful Twitter Guide as well.

Follow me on Twitter and happy Tweeting.

RockMelt, The Social Browser

RockMelt, a very cool social media centric browserAre you addicted to your social media channel? Fanatical about Facebook? Totally tuned into Twitter? Then the team at RockMelt have created a browser you can’t live without. Like Flock before it, this new browser marries a ton of social media utility with the browser you’re using to roam the web.

Built on the Google Chrome open source project, RockMelt is a browser that is created around social interaction. It has much of the functionality found in the latest release of Chrome, but adds in-browser integration for Facebook and Twitter. The inclusion of Facebook comes from several very intuitive features: A sidebar showing your friends and the Facebook chat interface, your news stream, and the ability to share the website you’re currently visiting via a single-click button in the address bar.

If your tendency is more towards Twitter, the share button can toggle between Facebook and Twitter both using RockMelt’s own shortening service “http://me.lt”. A running Twitter feed is included in the sidebar without having to visit Twitter.com or use a third-party client.

As a Chrome user, RockMelt is easy and feels right at home, although on a smaller screen, the sidebar makes websites feel cramped and closed in. The browser is snappy and if you spend a lot of time sharing links and posts, than the embedded utility is a very nice cool addition. I think RockMelt feels a little strange, but I toss that up to my being a browser purist. I have been a long-time FireFox user and Chrome user. I tend to use only a very few add-ons for web development and debugging. RockMelt has been a fun diversion, but I’ve found myself returning to my old-favorites with no regrets.

Take a look at RockMelt’s promotional clip or listen to the interview with RockMelt CEO, Eric Vishria.

Recognizr: Your Public Profiles-Public

Facial Recognition and Your Public ProfileSwiss software development group Polar Rose is working with mobile experts TAT to develop a powerful facial recognition platform called Recognizr. The software analyzes facial features and attaches your social network profiles for real-time access. What does this mean? By simply snapping a picture of someone, you will be able to see their FaceBook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter or any other participating social media channel. The sample demonstration is an example of the technology platform in its most basic state, but even this preliminary demonstration shows the power of this kind of application.

The idea of being able to access an entire social library with your friends, family and co-workers is very exciting. Technology like this previously only existed in science fiction and extends the utility of mobile devices past its origins as Personal Information Managers like the original Palm, modern applications like Bump and even emerging technology like augmented reality. This application, the first of its kind, brings your online footprint, your brand, out into the open and accessible to everyone you come into contact with. Obviously, there are privacy concerns and personal preferences that need to be addressed before this is adopted by most people, but this is a tilt-point for personal identity and social networking.

Networking is now approaching an unprecedented level with the lines between public and personal space blurred. It’s crucial that we begin to look at what we are exposing to the world and become experts at managing technology and our actions online. I think that the coming years will bring a more liberal perspective on online behavior as today’s high school and college students enter the work-force with their social media baggage in-tow. Software like this, as creative and awesome as it is, should give everyone a some pause in defining their “appearance” and footprint online.

About Cullmann

Chris Cullmann is a Creative Director and Online Strategist. He works for Ogilvy CommonHealth Interactive Marketing, a digital agency dedicated to healthcare marketing. His professional and personal portfolio includes interactive websites, viral and social media, and online education applications. His portfolio and observations about the design and marketing industry can be found at www.cullmanndesign.com

The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or those who I am professionally connected.

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