Twitter Aims Toward More Diversity

Twitter logoTwitter announced their commitment to a more diverse work force. Information was posted by VP, Diversity and Inclusion, Janet Van Huysse, on the Twitter blog.

In the blog post, she states that Twitter has already been working towards internal diversity goals at different levels in the company. They decided to publicly share those goals. Twitter has defined what these changes will yield a year from now. In short, the new goals are focused in increasing the overall representation of women and underrepresented minorities throughout the whole company.

Those goals (set for 2016) are:

* Increase women overall to 35%

* Increase women in tech roles to 16%

* Increase women in leadership roles to 25%

* Increase underrepresented minorities overall to 11%

* Increase underrepresented minorities in tech roles to 9%

* Increase underrepresented minorities in leadership roles to 6%

Those last three goals come with an asterisk: “US only”.

That’s a good start, and an admirable goal. The LA Times breaks things down a bit. In an article titled “Twitter’s diversity plan: approximately 40 women” written by Tracey Lein and Daina Beth Solomon, the reality of those percentages becomes more clear.

In the article, it says that Twitter has a global workforce of 4,100 people. Right now, 34% of those employees are women. Twitter’s new goal for 2016 is to increase women overall to 35%. That comes out to 41 more women than they currently employ.

The same article notes that underrepresented ethnic groups (mostly blacks and Latinos) currently make up 8% of Twitter’s U.S. Workforce. Twitter wants to increase that number to 9%. In other words, Twitter has made some very modest goals.

Twitter’s First Hashtag Was Posted 8 Years Ago

HashtagHave you ever wondered why people started using hashtags on Twitter? Today, it’s not unheard of for a group of people, who are all tweeting about the same event, to use three or more hashtags to describe it. We may have reached #hashtag #overload.

Eight years ago, that wasn’t so. The very first person to suggest that people who are all tweeting about the same thing use a # (pound) was Chris Messina. His very influential tweet was posted on August 23, 2007.

Who is Chris Messina? His bio says: “I invented the hashtag, advocated for many open source and open web projects, and co-founded BarCamp and coworking communities. I previously worked at Google in developer relations as a UX designer.”

It’s pretty amazing to see how far his suggestion to use what was then refereed to as a pound symbol has gone. Why did he choose the pound symbol, instead of some other one?

In another of his tweets, Chris Messina notes that Twitter (the company, not the users) resisted using hashtags in the beginning. He points out that hashtags were not intended to be Twitter-only. Today, we see them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Twitter DMs Can Now Go Over 140 Characters

Twitter logoTwitter has removed the 140-character limit from Direct Messages (DM). This allows people to use Twitter’s Direct Messages feature to chat with their friends without having to curtail their thoughts to fit within the 140 character limit. This change does not affect publicly posted Tweets, which must still be 140 characters or less.

The removal of the character limit for Direct Messages started being rolled out on August 12, 2015, on Android and iOS apps, and on Twitter.com, TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac. Those of you who cannot wait to try the new, longer, Direct Messages should make sure your using the latest version of their apps. Twitter’s blog also notes that sending and receiving Direct Messages via SMS will still be limited to 140 characters.

Those of you with a lot of verbose and loquacious Twitter friends may be fearful of the length of the messages they might send you. Or, maybe you are looking forward to sending exceptionally long Direct Messages to some of the people you follow.

Personally, I suspect that it is only a matter of time before spam accounts and brand accounts take advantage of the longer Direct Messages. Now might be a good time to go into your Twitter settings and uncheck the box next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone”.

You Can Now Share Your Block List on Twitter

Twitter logoTwitter has been making changes that are designed to make the social media website a nicer, safer, place to interact with others. In April, it made policy changes that enabled Twitter users to report harassment that was happening to someone else. (Previously, users could only report harassment if it was happening to them). Now, Twitter will let users share their block list with others.

The purpose this new change is to help make Twitter safer. Anyone can choose to share their block list with another Twitter user. The new feature “makes blocking multiple accounts easy, fast, and community driven”. Twitter describes it this way:

Mute and block are tools to help you control your Twitter experience. While many users find them useful, we also recognize that some users – those who experience high volumes of unwanted interactions on Twitter – need more sophisticated tools. That’s where this new feature comes in. You can now export and share your block lists with people in your community facing similar issues or import another user’s block list into your own account and block multiple users all at once, instead of blocking them individually.

In addition, Twitter users will be able to manage their list of imported blocked accounts separately from their own full list of blocked accounts. Twitter has some easy to follow directions that will teach people how to use this new feature.

Twitter’s new Policy Changes Aimed at Combatting Abuse

Twitter logoTwitter will be making two new policy changes. One is related to prohibited content. The other is about how they will enforce certain policy violations. The goal is to reduce the amount of abuse that Twitter users could find themselves subjected to.

More specifically, they have updated their violent threats policy. It now extends to “threats of violence against others or promot[ing] violence against others.” This change broadens the previous policy so that it is not limited to “direct, specific threats of violence against others”.

Twitter is also going to take steps to enforce penalties upon those who violate Twitter’s policies. Their support team has been given additional enforcement options that gives them the ability to lock abusive accounts for specific periods of time. Twitter’s blog further explains: “This option gives us leverage in a variety of contexts, particularly where multiple users begin harassing a particular person or group of people”.

In short, Twitter can lock a user’s account if he or she violates the Twitter Rules. Twitter can actually give users a timer “countdown” that shows exactly how long it will be before a person can use their Twitter account again. Personally, I think that this delay will effectively remove the instant gratification that some people appear to get from harassing others on Twitter. They won’t be able to fire off the next unpleasant comment – they have to wait.

Once the “countdown” ends, Twitter might ask the user to enter their phone number. An SMS with a verification code will be sent to that phone number. The Twitter account won’t be unlocked until the person is able to send Twitter the SMS code. After that clears, it is possible that Twitter will require a person to delete the Tweet (or Tweets) that got them in trouble in the first place. Don’t want to delete that Tweet? The account stays locked.

Twitter is also testing a new product feature that will help them identify suspected abusive Tweets and to limit their reach. The feature “takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive.”

My impression is that this new feature will be able to notice that a brand new “egg account” has been created, to note that it is sending out abusive Tweets, and to prevent the person behind the account from being able to continue to do so. In other words, an abusive Tweeter that got his or her account locked might not be able to immediately make a brand new “egg account” for the purpose of continuing to behave badly on Twitter.

Twitter updates Direct Messaging System

twitter-bird-white-on-blueTwitter announced today that the company is updating its direct messaging system so that it’s no longer a requirement for accounts to follow each other in order to send direct messages. Previously, users could only send direct messages to accounts that were following them. From the Twitter blog:

Changes include:

A setting that allows you to receive Direct Messages from anyone, even if you don’t follow them. To change your settings follow these instructions.

Updated messaging rules so you can reply to anyone who sends you a Direct Message, regardless of whether or not that person follows you.

A new Direct Message button on profile pages on Android and iPhone. You’ll see it on the profiles of people you can send Direct Messages to.

The announcement of this change set off a firestorm of criticism from Twitter users. Apparently, the idea that anyone could easily direct message anyone else wasn’t too popular. The outrage is no surprise, as Twitter has a poor history of dealing with harassment amongst its user base. And while it’s easy enough to report and/or block a user who’s been sending troubling @ replies to you, allowing potential instigators to have access to what has always been a private and secure space (your direct message inbox), provides a whole new level of problems.

Fortunately, this new function is opt-in. So, if you still want your direct messages to work as they always have, you don’t need to do anything. But if you would like to open your direct message box to the world, you can choose to do so in your Twitter account settings.

It seems that Twitter made this move in response to commercial accounts looking for more efficient ways to communicate with their customers. Of course, for Twitter, adding more users is the name of the game. Perhaps the company believes that implementing this change will woo new users over the potential of sending direct messages to their favorite celebrities.

Something tells me most Twitter users won’t be opting in to this new feature.

TweetDeck rolls out New Teams Feature

tweetdeck logoI prefer to access my various Twitter accounts thru the TweetDeck web interface. It organizes all of the different accounts and their associated streams very well, and it makes it much easier and more enjoyable to use Twitter.

Today, TweetDeck announced a new “Teams” feature, which will allow multiple users to access the same Twitter accounts but those users won’t need to share passwords in order to log in. From the Twitter blog, linked above:

TweetDeck Teams is a simple solution to Twitter account sharing. It enables you to delegate access to as many people as you like, and remove accounts when they no longer need access.

TweetDeck Teams works by having the owner (Admin) of one Twitter account create a team inside of TweetDeck and from there, that owner can add other users (Contributors). Those users confirm their place on the team thru an e-mail invitation. Account owners can also remove team members anytime. More from the Twitter blog:

Admins are users who sign in to TweetDeck with their personal account. As an admin, the user can Tweet from the account (plus build lists, follow or unfollow accounts, send Tweets and schedule Tweets), add or remove team members and view the team. An admin cannot access the account off of TweetDeck or change the credentials or password.

And contributors are those people who can Tweet from and act as the account (plus build lists, follow or unfollow accounts, send Tweets and schedule Tweets). Contributors cannot view, add or remove team members, and can not access the account outside of TweetDeck.

[Read more…]

Google Cloud Accidentally Endorses Gamergate

Google Cloud Platform logo on TwitterThe official Google Cloud Platform Twitter account posted a rather confusing tweet that included a controversial hashtag today. It’s unclear exactly what message they were intending to send with that particular tweet, but it definitely got a lot of attention. This situation is a good example of why brands should take the time to understand a hashtag before including it in a tweet.

The tweet has since been deleted from Twitter but is (at the time I am writing this article) viewable on Archive.today. The image in the tweet shows a video game controller being held by two hands, both of which are “Simpson’s yellow”. One hand has painted nails and a bracelet, the other does not.

Google Cloud Platform deleted this tweet

The tweet includes the #GamerGate. TIME has an article that offers a good explanation of what GamerGate is, how it got started, and the kinds of things people who identify themselves as in support of GamerGate have done.

It appears that whomever posted the tweet with the #GamerGate on the official Google Cloud Platform Twitter account may have been unaware of what GamerGate is or the controversy that surrounds it. Someone at Google didn’t take the time to Google GamerGate before including it in a tweet.

The tweet was deleted and a new tweet appeared with what seems to be an apology. The new tweet calls the previous tweet “a mistake”. It also clarifies that “We do not support #GamerGate.”

Google Cloud Platform clarifies

This situation is one that brands, and individuals, can learn from. Don’t include a hashtag in your tweet unless you have taken the time to research what that hashtag is about. Google it. Read some articles. At the very least, see who else is using that hashtag and what they are saying. Doing so can prevent you from making the mistake that someone behind the Google Cloud Platform Twitter account made today.

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.