Hachette Will Start Selling Books on Twitter

Hachette logoYou’ve probably seen tweets from authors who are trying to get their book in front of the eyes of their Twitter followers. Soon, some authors will be able to use Twitter to do more than that. Hachette is about to start selling some of its books through Twitter.

How will this work? Hachette is partnering with Gumroad (a company that helps people to sell stuff on Twitter). Those that want to purchase a book via Twitter will use Twitter’s “Buy” button to do it.

This, of course, means that people won’t have to leave Twitter and visit Amazon in order to buy the book they want. It also means that authors on Twitter who have a lot of followers will have an easy way to sell their books directly to their fans.

It seems to be a bit of an experiment on Hachette’s part. The book publisher has selected three authors, who each have a lot of followers on Twitter, for its first round. An exclusive limited edition gift will be included with the purchase of each book. It is a little something extra that Amazon cannot offer. One can assume that if the first round is deemed to be successful, there will be more to come.

On December 11, Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking, will be available to buy through Twitter. She will include a page from the original manuscript from her book. It will have notes on it from both herself and her husband Neil Gaiman (who was her editor).

Two more books will become part of the Twitter in-stream sale on December 15. Former astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book You Are Here is one of them. You might recognize this astronaut from his viral YouTube video in which he sang David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. His “extra” is signed, original, photos.

The third book is from The Onion. It is titled The Onion Magazine: Iconic Covers that Transformed an Undeserving World. Those who purchase it through Twitter will also get notecards compiled by The Onion’s editors that show their 12 favorite magazine covers.

Twitter Makes it Easier to Report Harassment

Twitter logoTwitter has begun rolling out changes that are intended to make your Twitter experience safer. It has become very clear that Twitter needed to make improvements that would prevent people from continually harassing other Twitter users. The new changes include improvements to the “block” feature and an easier way to report harassment and abuse.

Twitter posted a blog that described some of the changes. They are making the reporting process more mobile-friendly, making it require less initial information, and making it simpler for people to flag both tweets and entire Twitter accounts for review.

The part that I feel is especially noteworthy is this: “These enhancements similarly improve the reporting process for those who observe abuse but aren’t receiving it directly”. This is huge! Once this rolls out, you will be able to help protect and defend your friends and loved ones who use Twitter if they become the target of a series of harassing or abusive tweets.

In addition, Twitter says that they have made some “behind-the-scenes” improvements that are designed to help them review reported Tweets and accounts. It is described as “the first of several” improvements to the tools and processes they use.

Another new change is the addition of a brand new “blocked accounts page”. It will be accessible through your settings. This new page shows you the Twitter accounts that you have blocked. I like this because it prevents the need of using third party websites or apps to see a list of those you have decided to block.

Another noteworthy change involves the “block” function. Twitter’s blog says that the accounts you have blocked won’t be able to view your profile. This is great because it means that people who have had to deal with a lot of harassment on Twitter will not have to give up having a public profile there. They won’t have to make their account private in order to avoid harassment.

More changes are coming – this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m glad that Twitter is doing something to curtail the abuse that some people choose to inflict upon others via Twitter. It looks like those who think its fun to create several accounts so they can perpetually harass someone whom they disagree with are going to have to find a new hobby!

Twitter Wants to Know What Apps You Installed

Twitter logoTwitter is about to start checking your phone to find out what other apps you have installed on it. The purpose, according to Twitter, is to “deliver tailored content that you might be interested in.” It would be reasonable to assume that the information gathered from your “app graph” will be used by Twitter to select which ads you will be shown.

To be clear, Twitter is only collecting the list of applications that you have installed on your mobile device. It is not collecting any data that is within whatever applications you have installed on your mobile device.

Twitter will then use that list of apps to “help build a more tailored experience for you on Twitter”. It lists some of the ways it might use your app graph:

– Improved “who to follow” suggestions that share similar interests
– Adding Tweets, accounts, or other content to your timeline that Twitter thinks you will find interesting
– Showing you more relevant promoted content

Fortunately, Twitter is not going to just go ahead and collect the list of apps without telling you first. Their information about the “app graph” states:

We will notify you about this feature being turned on for your account by showing a prompt letting you know that to help tailor your experience, Twitter uses the apps on your device. Until you see this prompt, this setting is turned off and we are not collecting a list of your apps.

Be aware that the prompt indicates that Twitter can now start collecting the list of apps that you have on your mobile device. You are automatically opted-in.

Want to opt-out of this? You can! Twitter has added step-by-step directions that will walk you through how to opt-out on your Android or iOS mobile devices. In short, go into your privacy settings and un-check the box called “Tailor Twitter based on my apps”.

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).