Twitpic and Twitter Agreement Keeps Links Alive

Twitpic LogoRecently, Twitpic announced that it would be shutting down on October 25, 2014. That’s not exactly what happened, though. Instead, it appears that Twitpic and Twitter have managed to form an agreement that will keep the links to Twitpic photos active. That being said, Twitpic isn’t accepting any new users.

Twitpic posted a blog on October 25, 2014, called “Twitpic’s Future”. It says that although they weren’t able to find a way to keep Twitpic independent they did reach an agreement with Twitter. The agreement keeps the Twitpic photo and links alive “for the time being”.

Twitpic’s blog also says: Twitter shares our goal of protecting our users and this data. Also, since Twitpic’s user base consists of Twitter users, it makes sense to keep this data with Twitter.

What does this change mean for people who use Twitpic? It means that Twitpic will no longer be taking on new photos or data. In other words, you can’t add anything else to it, and the stuff that is already there will be in read-only format. Twitpic has removed their iOS and Android apps from the app stores. If you are using it, be aware that it is no longer being supported.

People who are already using Twitpic can still login to their profiles and delete content or delete their Twitpic account. The same group will still be able to export and download their Twitpic data / photo archive on Twitpic.com.

This appears to be the end of the “Is Twitpic shutting down?” saga. But, I could be wrong about that. The Twitpic blog said that Twitter will keep photos and links alive “for the time being”. There has been no further clarification of how long “the time being” will actually be.

Twitter Restores Block Functionality

Twitter logoTwitter very recently made a change to what happens when a user blocks another one. After receiving lots of feedback, Twitter announced that it was going to restore block functionality back to the way that it originally was. It kind of surprised me how quickly Twitter responded to user feedback on this issue.

Previous to this whole situation, a person who has a Twitter account could chose to block another user. Doing so prevented that other user from being able to contact them. A person who had been blocked could not:

* Follow the person who had blocked them
* Retweet anything from the person who blocked them
* Send a Tweet to a person who blocked them
* Send a direct message to a person who blocked them
* Read the Tweets of the person who blocked them (at least, not directly through their blocked account)

Twitter briefly instituted a change to its block functionality. In short, the new change would have worked more like a “mute” instead of a block. You block a person who is harassing you. The new change would mean you would no longer see anything that person tweeted. But, it would no longer prevent that blocked user from contacting you, retweeting your tweets, or sending you direct messages.

Lots of people on Twitter were very upset by this change. I saw tweets about it that included #RestoreTheBlock. For many people, Twitter felt a lot less safe. The new change meant that the people you blocked (so you could avoid their harassment) could go ahead and continue to threaten you.

Twitter responded by putting the block functionality back to what it was before the (brief) change. Part of Twitter’s blog about this situation notes that they want people to feel safe while using their platform.

It appears that part of the reason why they made the change was because Twitter was getting feedback from users who had been blocked – and who were angry about it. Twitter appears to have made the change to prevent “post-blocking retaliation”.

The new change would have prevented a blocked user from realizing that he or she had been blocked. Unfortunately, it would also have made Twitter unsafe for the person who did the blocking. Kudos to Twitter for its rapid response to users feedback about their desire to have the block functionality restored!

Two Million Passwords Stolen by Hackers

Trustwave logoOn November 24, 2013, researchers at Trustwave discovered that hackers have obtained up to 2 million passwords for websites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Twitter (and others). Researchers learned this after digging into source code from Pony bonnet. It appears that information about this has only been made public very recently.

Here’s some quick stats about some of the domains from which the passwords were stolen:

* Facebook – 318,121 (or 57%)
* Yahoo! – 60,000
* Google Accounts – 54,437
* Twitter – 21,708
* Google.com – 16,095
* LinkedIn – 8,490
* ADP (a payroll provider) – 7,978

In total, Pony botnet stole credentials for: 1.58 million websites, 320,000 email accounts, 41,000 FTB accounts, 3,000 remote desktops, and 3,000 secure shell accounts.

According to Trustwave, around 16,000 accounts used the password “123456”, 2,221 used “password” and 1,991 used “admin”. Now is a good time to go change your passwords into something strong and secure.

Doing so won’t make it entirely impossible for hackers to crack it, but it could make it more difficult. Trustwave noted that only 5% of the 2 million passwords that were stolen had excellent passwords (meaning the passwords had all four character types and were longer than 8 characters).

Twitter banning Bit.ly, other URL Shortners on Direct Messages (DM)

Twitter logoToday I was trying to send a direct message to a friend. Included was a bit.ly link to a page I needed him to see. For some reason, Twitter kept saying there was an error and cannot send the DM. After checking his page to make sure he was still following me and sending a couple test DMs successfully, I realized the problem was the bit.ly link.

I did a search and found that indeed – Twitter was blocking DMs with bit.ly links. They found many different links could not be sent via DMs. CBS.com was one of those who were blocked by Twitter DMs.

Of course, this is because of Twitter allowing n0n-followers to DM people. You have to opt-in to the option, but with this you can get messages from many different people.

The Twitter error Message Needs to Be Fixed

So direct messaging with a link could come back saying the person might not be following you. That could be totally confusing – especially if you know they are. I almost chalked it up as a twitter database error but decided to check and see if there was any changes.

The only advantage of allowing non-followers to DM is if your Twitter account is a corporate one or you have over 10,000 followers and don’t want to follow them all back.

The Problem with Blocking Bit.ly – the Mask-Around

Spammers are smart and/or intuitive. Instead of using bit.ly, they’ll use another system that gets around the twitter issue. Twitter might then block that, but in the meantime, you don’t see a bit.ly link – you see a My.website link. Give a spammer/hacker 2-3 days with an $8 /year website domain and they could make enough to buy another $8 domain and start the process over again.

Of course this is a very common problem with url shorteners. Tiny URL added spam block and virus protect tools shortly after they started. Bit.ly also has some preventative measures (using companies like Sophos, Verisign, Websense and more). Still, they are not responsible for 3rd party content using their links.

Bottom Line – Don’t click on unknown links

Usually bad links start with “Hey, is this you” or “I got a way you can make money” which really translates to “I got a way for ME to make money using you”. If you choose to opt-in to letting anyone DM you, keep in mind you will get spam in your message box. If you don’t feel confident you can sniff out the good from bad, then simply don’t check the box.

Yes, Twitter was Down Today

Twitter Support logoAre you among the many who had difficulties with Twitter today? For most, this meant that their Tweets were not posting and that they could not view photos, or click on links, posted by other users of Twitter. TechCrunch reports that the outage lasted about 41 minutes.

Twitter confirmed the outage with a Tweet from its Twitter Support account:

They suggested people find updates by going to status.twitter.com. Note that the link was not clickable (at least for me) in the Tweet from Twitter Support. I’ve tried going to the suggested website many times, but all I’m getting is a server error.

However, Huffington Post eports that around 5:20 p.m. ET, Twitter posted a blog saying that the issue has been resolved. According to Huffington Post, an explanation was given:

Due to a routine change, Twitter was not available from 1:08 pm PDT to 1:33pm PDT. We rolled back the erroneous change as soon as we identified the issue. Additionally, some users may have experienced Tweet delivery delay from 1:33pm PDT and 1:53pm PDT. We apologize for the inconvenience.

It looks like everyone can relax now. I admit I was concerned about what happened to Twitter after I read an article from the New York Times that quoted Turkey’s leader, Mr. Erdogan, as saying something I found to be rather ominous, considering the recent events in Turkey:

“Now we have a menace that is called Twitter,” he said. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society”.

Vine Comes to Android: Get Your Wil Sasso Lemon Skits On…

Vine-on-AndroidVine is the Twitter service that will let you push a six second video to your Twitter and Facebook fans. For a long time you could do that on your iOS devices. This morning, Twitter’s Blog announced Vine will be available for Android devices.

One interesting feature Vine has is the stop-motion option. You only record when your finger is on the record screen. Therefore, a lot of creators have been using the stop-motion capture to move action figures, show the day pass by or what Wil Sasso did – Spit out lemons.

Vine is absolutely free and available by Twitter – who bought the company in October 2012 (only a couple months after launch). On April 9th, 2013 Vine became the #1 most downloaded app on the iOS store.

Twitter Adds Two Step Verification System

Twitter logoWhen Burger King got hacked, we all laughed at the idea McDonalds might have bought it. When the Associated Press got hacked, we noticed. But it took the Onion in getting hacked for Twitter to finally do something…

Twitter rolled out a two-step verification system for users to get extra protection against would-be hackers. The verification method includes a special code that is sent via phone when they try to log in. With this extra step using a cell phone, hackers can become thwarted in trying to access an account.

This is not a new process – Facebook and Google both give this second verification step in your security features. Its better than a password because you don’t need to remember one. Its also better than a “name your pet” verification because in some cases (like Sarah Palin) people know that information.

“Today we’re introducing a new security feature to better protect your Twitter account: login verification,” says Jimio from the Twitter Product Security Team on the Twitter blog. “With login verification enabled, your existing applications will continue to work without disruption. If you need to sign in to your Twitter account on other devices or apps, visit your applications page to generate a temporary password to log in and authorize that application.

If you choose not to opt in you run risk of getting hacked. Of course, you also need to keep your phone numbers up-to-date. If that changes, you might have problems getting into your accounts.

If your Twitter Gets Hacked

First, attempt to change your password. If you still can’t log in, contact Twitter through a Support request. (choosing “Hacked account” from the list of options).

The Problem With Promoted Tweets

Twitter logoPromoted Tweets are Twitter’s way of raising revenue. I cannot really fault them for creating a way to make money on a service that everyone can use for free. However, it seems like I’m getting more Promoted Tweets that do not match my interests than ones that do.

One very clear example of Promoted Tweets gone wrong involves a religious online university. The first Promoted Tweet I saw from them seemed to be trying to point out where I could get more information about their upcoming courses.

I replied to their Promoted Tweet to tell them that I was not their target audience. I noted that I was not the religion they were connected with. I said I had no children (so wouldn’t be putting them through college). I even told them that I had finished college and wasn’t intending to go back. Of course, I shortened my tweet so as to fit it within Twitter’s 140 character limit.

A couple of days later, there was another Promoted Tweet in my stream from the exact same religious online university. I found this to be annoying. This is when I realized that there is no “opt-out” button to prevent unwanted Promoted Tweets. I replied to the religious online university again. This time, I made it clear that I had already told them that I was not interested, and that I had no other choice now except to block them.

The information on Twitter’s Promoted Tweets page says that it is possible to target which accounts will see your Promoted Tweet based on geography, interests, gender, or by what mobile device the person uses to access Twitter. Maybe the university decided to just “spam” all of Twitter, instead of refining their target?

It also says that people who buy a Promoted Tweet only pay for engagement:

Since you only pay when people click on, favorite, reply, or retweet your Promoted Tweets, your budget gets used efficiently on Twitter.

This means that the university is paying for the two negative replies I sent to its Promoted Tweets. I’ve also gotten a Promoted Tweet from the governor of a state that I do not live in (and whose political views I don’t happen to agree with). I got another from a Senator who doesn’t represent my state or my political viewpoints. I’m certainly not following any of those accounts, so I cannot imagine why I’ve been targeted to see their Promoted Tweets.

So, that’s four Promoted Tweets that do not seem to be for me. Compare that to the one Promoted Tweet I got from a company that makes gluten free foods (and whom I am following). To me, it seems that Promoted Tweets are ineffective.

My First Hour with Twitter Music

Twitter Music  Twitter Music released today to the general public. I have been playing around with it for the last couple of hours. When you go the website the first thing you will see are the most popular tracks . You can choose from Popular, Emerging, Suggested, Now Playing and Me. How they are curating some of these categories such as Suggested and Emerging isn’t clear. So far I haven’t recognized a lot of the artist on my suggested list, that is neither good or bad just interesting. To play a song you simply tap on it. If you have a premium Spotify or Rdio account you can play the full song, if not it plays a 30 second clip, which appears to be an iTunes preview. Which makes me wonder what happens when you come to a song that isn’t on iTunes. When you play a song a rotating circle appears at the bottom of the screen. If you are on a iPhone and you tap on the rotating circle it will go full screen. You can fast forward or rewind by swiping the outer ring of the circle backward and forward. You can go to the next song by simply swiping to the left. To stop it you just tap on it. You can control the volume directly in the app. If you are using the web version and tap on the same rotating circle you are shown a view of the artist twitter profile page. If you tap on the right arrow on you keyboard it will take you to your next song. You can swipe forward or backwards with in the song by using your mouse, although it is very hard to control. I haven’t discovered any keyboard short cuts for that, but I might be missing something.

There are a couple of things I noticed right away. The first was there is no way to save a song or tag it to buy later. Unfortunately, to play a full version of a song you must have either of a premium Spotify or Rdio account. I had no problem connecting to my Spotify account on the iOs version. At first the connection to Spotify wasn’t working on the web version, however it is now. It is an iOs app only and is built for the iPhone or iPod, although it does play fine on the iPad. Since I have an Android phone I am hoping they bring it to the Android platform soon. I am not sure how much I am going to use it I like the ability to check out emerging artist and what my friends are listening to.  I think it will be something I start playing and then let it run in the background when I just want to listen to music, but don’t care what it is.

Twitter releases #music for web and iOS

We have been hearing about a Twitter Music service for the past week, but it has been all rumors so far….until today. Music.twitter.com officially launched this morning.

It uses all of the activity on Twitter (such as tweets and general engagement) to identify the most popular tracks and emerging artists and allows you to listen to previews from Apple iTunes. However, if you have an Rdio or Spotify account, then you can log in to those and check out the full tracks.

The service is initially available in the US, UK and Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but more countries will be added over time.

The app, for now at least, is only for the web and iOS, but Twitter promises that Android will be coming soon. However, there is no word on availability for the Windows Phone fans out there or for Blackberry users.

twitter music

“Twitter and music go great together. People share and discover new songs and albums every day. Many of the most-followed accounts on Twitter are musicians, and half of all users follow at least one musician. This is why artists turn to Twitter first to connect with their fans — and why we wanted to find a way to surface songs people are tweeting about. We offered music artists an early look at the service. You can see some of their reactions below. We hope you like it, too”