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.

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”

 

YouTube Prepares to Announce a Winner

Fool's Day stampApril 1st has been described as the absolute worst day to go on the internet. Pranks abound, and, if they are good enough, you just might find yourself believing them. Personally, I find the plethora of April Fool’s Day jokes to be very amusing. Here’s a quick review of a couple (just in case you missed them).

Twitter posted a blog called “Annncng: Twttr”. The blog says that, starting April 1, there will be a change.

Starting today, we are shifting to at two-tiered service: Everyone can use our basic service, Twttr, but you only get consonants. For five dollars a month, you can use our premium “Twitter” service which also includes vowels.

The blog points out that “Y” should always be free to everyone – today and forever and that it will be included in the free Twttr service. Read the full blog for the inspiration behind the idea.

The Guardian has launched new “augmented reality” specs that have been specially designed to offer immersive liberal insight. They are called Guardian Goggles.

The device will enable users to “see the world through the Guardian’s eyes at all time”. Users will get an overlay of a real-time stream of opinions from The Guardian that are connected to whatever the user is looking at – be it a restaurant or a cinema. The article goes on to say the Guardian Goggles will also feature an optional built-in “anti-bigotry technology” that will automatically block out certain columns “as soon as the user attempts to look at them.”

Google has been busy! It announced it’s new Google Blue which is ready, after 6 years of developing the technology for it. According to Richard Pargo, Project Manager for Goole Blue was:

How do we completely re-design and re-create something, by keeping it exactly the same?

There’s more! Google has added a special feature to it’s search engine. Under the regular box, it says: “What’s that smell? Find out with Google Nose”. It is currently in beta. Users can “take a whiff” of the Google Aromabase, which includes 15M+ scentibytes. For the first time, ever, you can share a smell with your friends! There is SafeSearch function for users who are “wary of their query”.

YouTube will be shutting down, forever, at midnight, April 1, 2013. Their video explains that they will stop taking submissions at that time and will begin reviewing each and every video in search of a winner.

Image: Stock-Vector-Fool-s-Day-Stamp by BigStock

Is the New Pope Using Social Media?

PontifexWe live in a world where the Pope can Tweet. Pope Benedict XVI was on Twitter. His handle was @Pontifex which sent out Tweets in English. There was also @Pontifex_ es (which was in Spanish and was the one I was following). All told, there were 8 different language versions of @Pontifex on Twitter.

Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope to use Twitter. Although he was not the first Pope to retire, he was the first do so in the past 600 years. This brings up the question: What does one do with the Twitter accounts of a retired Pope? This was not a question that anyone had to think about before, as there was no Twitter, or internet, 600 years ago.

Here’s what ended up happening. Pope Benedict XVI decided that the next Pope would have to decide for himself whether or not he wanted to Tweet. The @Pontifex accounts became inactive during the interim between Pope Benedict XVI retiring and the election of his successor, Pope Francis I. The Tweets sent out by the retired Pope were deleted.

On March 13, 2013, the @Pontifex account(s) sent out identical Tweets in Latin that said: HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCIUM. Now, was this sent out by Pope Francis I, or by someone else in the Vatican on his behalf? The word on the internet is that it was from the newly elected Pope. Now, we wait to see if he decides to continue to Tweet.

Meanwhile, several cyber squatters swooped in to buy every possible iteration of Pope Francis domain names. That was probably to be expected. The unexpected story, though, involves a Chicago lawyer named Chris Connors who somehow bought the domain name popefrancis.com from GoDaddy.com in 2010 – long before there was any expectation that there would be a Pope Francis I. Lawyer Chris Connors has started the process of giving the domain name to the newly elected Pope.

As far as I can tell, Pope Francis I is not on Facebook (at least, not yet). There is a Pope Francis page written entirely in English that says “Not an official page”. There also is one called Cadenal Jorge Bergoglio that entirely in Spanish. It was set up by two women to respectfully support him, and is also not an official page.

Twitter Now Allows Line Breaks!

twitter-bird-white-on-bluePoetry is an art form that has been around for centuries. As such, it doesn’t easily fit into some forms of social media. This is something I can speak first hand about. My Twitter name is @queenofhaiku, which I selected because I enjoy writing these simple looking (but deceptively complex) three lined poems.

Up until recently, I had to resort to putting a slash in between the lines of the haiku. Sometimes, people “get” that I have written a Tweet that is a haiku, and other times I get confused replies from those who don’t recognize it as poetry. The slash I had to put in between the lines made things a bit unclear for new followers (and for people who didn’t know what a haiku was).

Those days are over! Twitter has given all of us the ability to use line breaks in a Tweet. From now on, I can write haiku on Twitter and have it appear in three lines, (the way it is supposed to be presented). To the poets of the internet, this is incredibly exciting news! Twitter didn’t make a huge, formal, announcement about the change. Instead, they presented it this way:

Twitter Line Breaks

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to try out the new ability to use line breaks. I have been waiting for this since I started using Twitter! It is so very nice when technology becomes a bit more accessible for poetry (and other forms of art). Let me share with you my very first haiku – that uses line breaks – on Twitter:

My Line Break Haiku

You May Have to Reset Your Twitter Password

twitter-bird-white-on-blueDid you get a rather ominous sounding email from Twitter today? If so, you are not alone. Twitter sent out email today to users whom it felt may have been affected by the unauthorized attempts to access Twitter user data. I first heard of this because my husband received one of these scary sounding emails. Shortly after he dealt with it, a few of his friends on Twitter mentioned that they got the email, too.

There is a post on the Twitter Blog called “Keeping Our Users Secure”. It says:

This week, we detected unusual access patterns that led us to identifying unauthorized access attempts to Twitter user data. We discovered one live attack and were able to shut it down in process moments later. However, our investigation has thus far indicated that the attackers may have had access to limited user information – usernames, email addresses, session tokens, and encrypted/salted versions of passwords – for approximately 250,000 users.

If one of the 250,000 was you, then Twitter either already has sent you an email about it, (or will be doing so shortly). The social media company suggests that affected users change their password. There are details about what Twitter considers the characteristics of a strong password to include on their blog.

Twitter also repeats the advisory from the United States Department of Homeland Security that encourages users to disable Java on their browsers. Twitter does not specifically state who the attack came from, but it does say this:

This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident. The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked.

Time to De-Clutter Your Social Media

bigstock-Window-cleaner-using-a-squeege-30983438Happy New Year! Now is a time when many people make New Year’s Resolutions. This year, instead of making one that you know you won’t follow through with, try something that you can easily achieve. Clean up your social media!

Social media can be fun, but it can also be a time waster. One way to make it work for you is to do a little gardening. Keep the healthy “plants”, and get rid of the “weeds”. When you get done, you will have crafted your social media into a more pleasant and enjoyable place to visit.

Start with your Facebook account. There are a couple of helpful apps that can quickly remove or replace unwanted posts from your Facebook page.

Tired of looking at countless photos of the brand new baby of your friend from high school? Unbaby Me will replace the baby photos with cat photos. (You can select something other than cats if you prefer).

Social Fixer got a lot of use during the recent presidential election, as people used it to eliminate all those political posts. If your Facebook friends are still stuck in November, you may want to give Social Fixer a try. You can set it to remove posts that contain a series of words of your choosing, (which could be something unrelated to politics if you prefer).

My way of de-cluttering my Facebook account was to completely and entirely delete it. Those of you who are still on Facebook might want to read a Forbes article that was written by Elisa Doucette. She walks you through a variety of ways to use the tools within Facebook to tailor what you see from your Facebook friends.

I’ve learned a lot about how to make my Twitter experience a happier one. Go to a particular Twitter user’s page. Find the button with the silhouette of a person on it. This is where to find the helpful tools in Twitter.

Got a friend who re-tweets a bunch of stuff that you have absolutely no interest in? You can turn off their retweets. There is also a button that you can use to block Twitter users whom you do not wish to hear from – ever.

I use this one when I find a Twitter user who appears to be using his or her account specifically to start fights, encourage drama, and to generally be a person who “does not play well with others”. How do I find these people? Usually, they get re-tweeted into my Twitter feed. The people you block lose the ability to communicate with you on Twitter.

You can also make lists on Twitter. Put all of your family members into a list. Check that instead of your main feed for important news and updates from your loved ones. Make a list of podcasts that you listen to, or of the Twitter friends who all play a certain video game. Narrowing down what you see can save you a lot of time!

Image Stock Photo Window Cleaner Using a Squeegee to Wash a Window by BigStock

Identity Theft Made Easy

Viz Top Tip… Make identity theft easy by posting a picture of your credit card on Twitter or other social media.

Credit Card

(The airbrushing is mine)

Quite unbelievably, this young lady posted a picture of her new credit card on Twitter – “Ahhhhh my first credit card buzzing aint the word my friends” - and it was retweeted to me. I was tempted to DM her and ask for a picture of the back but that seemed churlish. Dumber than a box of hammers, if you ask me.

Miss Alex Mathewson, congratulations on acquiring your first credit card but you might want to check your new statement for some unexpected purchases.

Freedom of Speech in the UK

Law GavelIn the latest podcast, Todd rightly asks about the apparent lack of freedom of speech on social media in the UK. Undoubtedly, it’s a complex issue but it is becoming increasingly clear that the right to free speech is under threat here in Britain. In this post, I’ll look at some of the issues, but to start with, I am not a lawyer (thank goodness) and this doesn’t constitute legal advice.

Unlike the USA, the UK does not have a written constitution guaranteeing rights. The closest the Britain gets to this is the Human Rights Act (1998) which only came into force in 2000. The Human Rights Act is the embodiment in UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf).  The ECHR’s Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression but as will be noted from part 2 of the article below, there are plenty of possible exceptions. I’ve embolden the part that is relevant to the discussion here.

“The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Obviously, the UK police do not pro-actively monitor social media looking for offensive posts. A complaint has to be received by the police based on someone taking offence at a posting on social media. The UK law has increasingly moved away from “offence intended” to “offence taken”. This was primarily done to increase the power of law in areas of discrimination, where people could avoid convictions by claiming that sexually or racially offensive language wasn’t intended in the way it was taken. Now the law supported those who were offended by the sexual or racial innuendo, regardless of intention. However, the “offence taken” law has grown out of its discriminatory roots to take hold in almost any area of offence.

Much as the compensation culture has grown, a similar one has arisen that “bad things” are always someone else’s fault and they have to pay. Although it started with physical hurt, this has gradually extended to psychological hurt and finally simple feelings. Instead of “sticks and stones will break my bones”, it’s “I’m going to tell on you.”

Finally, both the police and the legal system have increasingly taken a view of what’s legal and illegal rather than what is right and wrong. Consequently, instead of the police looking at the social media post with a bit of common sense and telling the complainant to grow-up, the police are now obliged to follow procedure and take up the complaint.

Overall, these changes in the law and approaches to policing now mean that abusive and offensive comments are taken much more seriously than before.

Let’s take a look at three cases that show the variety of circumstances.

The first tweet to come to widespread notice was Paul Chamber’s tweet in response to his local airport being shut because of snow. “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your (expletive deleted) together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” He was initially found guilty in May 2010 of sending a “menacing electronic communication” but fortunately eventually won his challenge in July of this year. The whole incident was farcical and made the law look stupid.

The second isn’t a tweet but a T-shirt worn in response to the shooting of two police officers that said, “One less pig perfect justice”, pig being an abusive slang term of the police. Barry Thew was jailed for four months for this, but many would have seen this as political commentary, particularly as it was about to be revealed that the police covered up their incompetence in a sporting disaster in which 96 people died by disgracefully blaming football fans killed and injured in the incident.

And finally, Britain has been embroiled in child sex abuse scandal involving a well-loved (but now dead) BBC TV personality. In the wake of this, a living person was named on Twitter as being a paedophile when he was wholly innocent and completely blameless. He’s now suing everyone who repeated the lie unless they apologise.

As can be seen, it’s a complex issue with both the freedom of speech under threat and the rights of others needing to be protected. The Crown Prosecution Service has recognised that there is potentially a problem and is intending to consult with the legal profession and social media companies. The Director of Pubic Prosecution, Keir Starmer, QC, has said that “People have the right to be offensive, they have the right to be insulting, and that has to be protected.

In a recent statement about another tweeting case, the DPP said, “Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers. The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.

There’s hope yet.

Courtroom Gavel photograph courtesy of Bigstock.

Twitter and Instagram Compete for Your Photos

Twitter and Instagram are getting ready to offer you a few more places to post your photos. Right now, there aren’t a whole lot of details that have been released. Those of you who feel that you don’t have enough of places to post your photos will probably embrace at least one of these upcoming options.

Instagram has announced that it will be rolling out Instagram profiles. This is in response to the request Instagram had from users who wanted there to be an Instagram interface that was on the web. Your web profile will feature a selection of the photos that you recently shared through Instagram. You can put in a profile photo and create a bio.

People can follow your profile, and you can follow the profiles of other Instagram users. Anyone can comment on the photos or “like” them. I suppose it was only a matter of time until Facebook, which bought Instagram, would figure out a way to get its iconic “like” button in there somewhere. You will not be able to upload Instagram photos through your Instagram profile. My best guess is this is to prevent users from opting out of using the Instragram app in favor of the profile.

According to the New York Times, Twitter is going to be adding photo filters to what it can offer users. The purpose, of course, would be to compete with Instagram (and all the ways it lets you alter and play with a photo).

Although Twitter has made a deal with Photobucket in the past, it seems that Twitter is now storing images on its own servers. It appears that Twitter is quietly working on building its own photo filters that will let you alter your photos like you can with Instagram, (only without actually using Instagram to do it). Like Instagram, the filters from Twitter will be accessible through its mobile app. No word yet on when the filters will be ready.

Image: Stock Photo Using Mobile Phone by BigStock