Monthly Archives: August 2010

Would You Help a Twitterer In Need?

Please help! The folks relying on us to help answer their Twitter questions need YOU.

We are going to be delayed in answering tweets for a few days, so here are some links you can check to find people that you can help: Search #1Search #2Search #3 (Twitter search sometimes doesn’t let you see more complex searches, so use whichever one works for you. Read on for what to do).

Could you do us a favor?

You can look through those searches listed above to find people asking for help. Would you then help anyone that you can? We normally answer many questions each day, but won’t be able to for a few days.

If you haven’t already, read this for places to check to get help with Twitter issues. Feel free to do this all the time, if you like! It’s more important to us that people get helped rather than who gets credit. Remember, anyone can request help directly from Twitter via http://bit.ly/twicket …always feel free to share this link a lot!

What to do when you find folks who need help

A great way to participate on Twitter is to help folks, so these tips are good anytime you’re looking for someone to help on Twitter :)

To see if someone has already been helped, click the “Show Conversation” link if there is one. It will show you the Twitter conversation (and change to “Hide Conversation”). Here’s what that looks like:

If you can’t figure out what they’re asking about, take a look at the tweet that they are replying to. To do this, first click the “View Tweet” link under their tweet to be taken to the webpage for that individual tweet. Then look underneath the tweet for the words “in reply to …” If you hover over those words they will change to a link you can click. Example:

Then you can read the tweet that they were asking about. Sometimes they didn’t reply to a tweet, so there is no link. And sometimes that makes it hard to figure out what they need help with!

Thanks, everyone!

And…apologies in advance: I’m going to retweet this blog post a few times because we could really use your help to see that people who need it get helped. We will still be tweeting (but a little less often) and checking some messages. Here are some example conversations we’ve had today:

Twitter: Has the novelty worn off?

Twitter has made real-time information commonplace

Seeing information stream in real-time isn’t the novelty it used to be. Formerly something of great value, Twitter has made real-time information commonplace. We expect it now.

I’ve noticed a large drop in the number of people clicking through to read happening alongside an increase in the number of tweets and retweets. One very large account showed me how their clicks are down from a high of near 600,000/month earlier this year to barely 250,000/month today. And we’ve seen something similar happen to clicks on @TweetSmarter tweets. Urgent Twitter status notices, for example, used to get several thousand clicks, and are down to maybe a quarter of that.

I think part of the reason for the drop is that the novelty of seeing information in real time has worn off for longer-term users. The first few times you see tweets about celebrity deaths, they seem more retweet worthy than they do after seeing them for several years in a row. What do you think?

Another factor: Overuse

The tragedy of the commons parable says that popular resources open to the public can be over- or misused. At first they work well for a few people, but as more people use the resource, its value can be driven down or destroyed. Think of a stream that can provide water to a few people a day. If too many people arrive and start jostling in the river, the water could become muddy and not good for anyone.

A similar situation with Twitter is using it to find links to articles to read vs. sharing links for others to read. When everyone follows only a few quality people and no one overshares lower-quality tweets, Twitter is an easy-to manage resource for finding quality information. Of course, just sharing more tweets and following more people doesn’t HAVE to mean the quality goes down, but that is usually what happens. The more people you follow, and the more everyone shares, the harder it is to easily find relevant, high-quality tweets. The water is muddied with thousands of tweets.

Twitter tools come to the rescue to a large degree, allowing you to filter the tweets you see, or create Twitter Lists of fewer people tweeting more focused or higher-quality tweets. And there are other ways to manage finding tweets as well. But it has made using Twitter well a more advanced task than ever before. If you’re not careful, it can be less like a intimate party with interesting people and more like a riot with thousands of people shouting.

Alternate uses of Twitter

But alongside the growth in size and volume has come a growth in ways to use Twitter. It has become valuable in more ways than ever before. The purpose and value of Twitter is changing and becoming more varied. I think the reality of what we are seeing is simply that Twitter is growing up, becoming much more than a place to try to get people to read your blog, or find interesting links to follow and read. It’s still great for those things, but we would all be wise to make the most of it, and not find ourselves stuck in the past. What’s your take?

How to fix Twitter problems on your BlackBerry

Tip: Connect with @blackberryhelp on Twitter for more help.

Websites That Help

First, realize that when you need help with your Blackberry Twitter application Twitter itself does not support any Twitter applications for Blackberry. It is Blackberry or helpful websites, forums or users you will need to reach out to for support. Also, there are some common tips and tricks listed a little further down in this blog posts. Here are some helpful websites to know of:

Blackberry’s official support sites

Blackberry user forums

Tips and Tricks for Common Issues

Thanks very much to @BBGeeks for this information. They are a great account to communicate with if you have a BlackBerry issue!

The “Incorrect Signature” error

This problem is related to the connection to a services api—if there is a glitch in the communication the error will occur. This can happen because an app is coded wrong…and can then only be fixed by an update from the app’s developers.

TRY THIS FIRST: Enable or disable wifi whenever the error pops up. This fixes the problem for some. If it continues, try one of the fixes listed below.

Battery pull fix for general issues

This is exactly what it sounds like. Remove and reinsert the battery on your Blackberry device to effect a reset.

Delete and reinstall fix

90% of the time, the “Incorrect Signature” glitch—and many other common issues—can be fixed this way. Make sure you know where to go to get the app you want, because you will need to reinstall it after deleting it!

  1. Delete the app
  2. Remove and reinsert the battery
  3. Reinstall app
  4. Remove and reinsert the battery

You’re done!

Twitter for Blackberry “find people” not working

Turn off the https setting from a browser (HT @roverradar).

And be sure to watch our favorite LOL  for BlackBerry users: “My BlackBerry is Not Working!”

How to find your Outlook contacts on Twitter

When you’re logged into Twitter’s web interface, you can find your friends on Twitter by their email address from https://twitter.com/invitations/find_on_contacts…but only if you have saved their email information in Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or LinkedIn. Twitter doesn’t offer an option to upload and search your Outlook contacts. However, you can easily upload your Outlook contacts to a place Twitter can check them to find your friends.

Four steps and you’re done

Here’s what you do. Don’t worry—it’s actually pretty simple, just four steps:

  1. Click here to get a free gmail account to put your contacts into for Twitter to scan. This is really fast and easy, so don’t be put off by it. Just use any nonsense name, but remember the username and password you create! (You can also use an existing gmail account, if you want to merge your Outlook contacts into it.)
  2. Click here to download and install Google’s free new tool to export/upload your contacts into Gmail. Also much easier than you might expect. It also offers to upload your calendar and email, but deselect those options—they will fail anyway unless you are using and are familiar with an existing Google Apps account (which are different than Gmail accounts).
  3. Run the tool to put your contacts into your new Gmail account. Now make sure you’re logged into Twitter.com and click here to go to Twitter’s find friends from contacts page.
  4. Put in your new Gmail email address ([email protected]) and password into the boxes and click “Find Friends.” You’re done!

A big reason we started this blog was to be able to provide more detailed answers to the Twitter questions we get. @Amy Willis was the most recent person to ask us this question:


How To Search Old Tweets Until Twitter Lets You Download Yours

For people search, see “The Ultimate Guide To Finding People On Twitter

Twitter’s default search only goes back a week—if that—and often chokes on multiple keyword searches. But finally, Twitter has begun letting users download ALL their Tweets, and has included a tweet search engine (& charts) with the download! It even lets you sort by month or keyword, and includes some handy charts. Well done, Twitter!

But not everyone can access their download…yet!

So if that’s not available to you, fortunately, there ARE many great alternatives. For example, Topsy lets you search all the way back to May, 2008. Below are links in order of what I’ve found most useful to least useful for general tweet searches (however, some are powerful in other ways)

Problems With Search

There is no free search product that is 100% reliable. Even just trying to see tweets written to you on a day-to-day basis can be problematic. Also, read about how, in July, 2011, Twitter changed how search works.

Also, to see the most tweets possible at Twitter.com, read “How to get Twitter.com to show you more tweets when you page down.”

Here are my favorites:

  1. Download all your tweets with a built in search engine
  2. TwimeMachine
  3. SnapBird
  4. Topsy
  5. The Archivist (a service that lets you search Twitter for Tweets. Then you can create an archive, view it as a spreadsheet or download a .zip file and analyze, export and share the tweets. It displays some stat charts about the tweets.)
  6. TweetBoard
  7. All My Tweets (View your last 3200 tweets on one page.) HY @tsbandito
  8. Google Tweet Search with date option
  9. Google Realtime Search Update: Google has cancelled this service after coming out with their own social network
  10. TweetScan (now for sale)
  11. BackTweets
  12. Twitter Advanced Search
  13. Social Searching (claims search years back in Twitter or Facebook, doesn’t always work)
  14.  http://chirpcity.com searches local, city and keyword based trends and tweets.
  15. FriendFeed
  16. Research.ly announces you can access up to 1,000 days of Twitter conversations: http://bit.ly/hVxcbN
  17. The paid search companies @gnip and @DataSift will search ALL tweets for you.
Searchtastic (went offline July 26, 2011)

Library of Congress tweet archive search

By searching Google using the “Updates” option you are searching the entire twitter archive. See the Google section below.

Review of all search methods

I’ve added a brief review below, which I’ll expand later. Before I do, would you let me know of any other tweet search engines you’ve found? I’ll update the chart and this review to include them. Would you also let me know of any problems you’ve had using these search engines? Of course, there are tons of alternative Twitter search engines out there, with a wide variety of features. See, for example, 30 Twitter Search Alternatives & Tools. And many Twitter clients have advanced Twitter search options.

Note that search engines don’t go beyond the 3200 Twitter API limit.

Review of Tweet Search Engines

Snapbird

Note that you can search your DMs or any user’s favorites in SnapBird, and Searchtastic will export your search results to a spreadsheet. Great features!

BackTweets

This lets you see tweets that linked to any website address, e.g., see all the tweets that have included links to your blog. Twitter did not formerly offer this search service themselves, but now they do. But BackTweets will show you more results than Twitter’s search. Just paste any URL into BackTweets or search.twitter.com to see all the tweets that have included a link to that URL.

Topsy, Tweetboard & Friendfeed

These powerful tools are different from the others, and not search engines in the way you might expect. Topsy now lets you search all the way back to May, 2008! These three should all be part of your Twitter arsenal. Do this:

  1. Apply to join the Tweetboard beta.
  2. Sign up for Friendfeed so it will save your tweets,.
  3. Start experimenting with Topsy.

I love how Tweetboard will show me conversations from nearly two years ago on Twitter. Topsy’s strength is showing you which are the most important links tweeted for a particular search. Some of the links we share from TweetSmarter every week are found by searching Topsy for “Twitter.”

Tip: When you are looking at search results in Topsy, note the options at the bottom of it’s left-hand column, and along the top of the page.

Google

REPLAY: Google has several ways to find tweets, but I don’t find any of them very useful. They had an experiment called “replay” that let you see how frequently words were being tweeted. Although it is officially over, you can still access the replay features here (as of August 11, 2010). Note the date links under the search box. Play with those to see different date ranges.

UPDATES: For any Google search you do, you can click “Updates” in the left column (you may have to click “more” to see the options) to restrict your search results to tweets. While the keyword search is advanced, you are restricted to searching all tweets from all users.

CUSTOM:You can search for tweets from specific users, but Google has been eliminating most tweets. They used to show you a LOT of tweets, now there are very few results returned. The way to achieve this search is to enter the following into the Google search box:

site:twitter.com inurl:”USERNAME/status” SEARCH TERMS

For example, here is how you would search for any tweets from @TweetSmarter that contain the word “followers”

site:twitter.com inurl:”TweetSmarter/status” followers

There are other ways to do this, but Twitter has changed its URL structure a bit, so this is now the most accurate.

LISTS: You can do a similar search for Twitter lists in Google, which appears complete. Read more by clicking here and scrolling down to the section “Comprehensive index of all Twitter lists…on Google

TwimeMachine & TweetScan

You’ll probably find yourself using these least of all, because in each case there is another search engine that does it better. But let me know your experience!

Other tweet search engines

Know of others? Leave me a comment to let me know and I’ll update this post and credit you. I’ll be reviewing some of these in a future post:

Archive your tweets

There are a lot of services that you can subscribe to that will archive your tweets, and then there are options for searching them as well. If you haven’t signed up to any archive service yet, first join FriendFeed and let them save your tweets for you. I’m writing a separate post about tweet archive services that I’ll link to when it goes live, but in the meantime check out 10 Ways to Archive Your Tweets.

Summary: All The Ways You Can Search Old Tweets

This chart is a bit out of date at present, but you may still find it useful:

Was Twitter’s “Who To Follow” feature a mistake?

Twitterers are being very vocal about how much they dislike the new “Who To Follow” feature on the Twitter website. In fact, a hugely popular article by @kitchenmage on how to block the “Who To Follow” feature has gone viral across Twitter.

Like it? Loathe it?

While I’ve heard from a few users who liked the new feature, many more have decided that “Who To Follow” is best described as “WTF.” In fact, I’ve heard a lot of different reasons people have for disliking it. Like it? Loathe it? Please click here and tell me why. Thanks!

Who is @TweetSmarter?

Dave and Sarah=@TweetSmarter Photo by Jassie Kurr

First, please realize we don’t work for Twitter—we just like to help. Dave is also the CEO of @Oppora. For background on us, below are a few excerpts from the many interviews with us. We started on Twitter in September of 2007. There is also a video of us here. Plus, here’s a post about how we manage the @TweetSmarter account.

Klout Stars (About people with high Klout scores)

We were the second user Klout added to their Klout Stars program. (Our Klout rank was an 86 on the day the interview came out.) Some excerpts:

The @TweetSmarter account has won a Knight Foundation and Shorty award, been pictured on the front cover of CNN’s technology section, profiled by the Huffington Post, and has answered thousands of questions for Twitter users around the world over the past three-and-a-half years.

Run by Dave Larson with the help of his wife Sarah, @TweetSmarter has been ranked as high as one of the three most influential accounts in the world in years past by various influence measurement services. Oprah even once displayed Sarah’s personal account—with the message “follow @SarahJL“—during their first big segment on Twitter.

Outside of Twitter, they are both public speakers, Dave being an internet entrepreneur and investor who likes to bring people together on various projects, and Sarah teaching and performing as a professional dancer and voice actor.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to take their social media influence and presence to the next level?

People have always come together to help and learn. Social media expands the potential to learn and help exponentially—but you have to connect with the right people. Whether you’re building a brand or trying to connect with experts for professional development, concentrate both on learning and helping. Find both those that need you, and those that can help you.

We probably have a thousand people who have offered to do something for us that we have never taken them up on. That’s a very large “gratitude bank” and I think that’s a key foundation of social media influence and presence.

The Huffington Post (mid-2010)

This interview was titled “Live Free, and Tweet Smarter.” The interview was conducted by the wonderful 2morrowknight. Here are some excerpts:

TweetSmarter, a non-stop, 24-hour feed with news about all things Twitter, has been around for all of the the moments that have defined and shaped the identity of the site. Its influence is driven not by its high number of followers, or its impressive number of awards. People are excited about TweetSmarter because of its great content, and its willingness to share, assist, and empower. Its not just a news site, but in fact, a role model for how to be successful in social media.

You are about to begin your fourth year on Twitter as one of its most retweeted and respected accounts. Did you ever expect to have this type of success?

Our plan was to help as many Twitter users as we could.

In our non-Twitter life, we are working to set up free web services that help people help one another, and Twitter is an extension of that. Since everything we do is aimed at finding ways to help people, we figured we would eventually reach a lot of Twitter users. But we never expected to be one of the most retweeted accounts of all time! In fact, when TweetLevel — a tool rating users by influence — was released, it listed us as the third most influential user in the world. So, it’s been pretty amazing. But last year, when we had a tweet retweeted over 20,000 times for the first time, we knew were on to something.

You can read the rest of the interview here, which also covers our thoughts on such things as Twitter’s blueprint for profitability and efforts to improve service.

How To Become Influential On Twitter

This was a video interview in December 2011 by @JayGould of Behind The Web about how to use Twitter to connect with leaders and influencers and become influential yourself. This is a great audio to help someone new to Twitter understand more about it’s potential.

The Twitterrati Interview (2009)

Mark Evans from Twitterrati.com interviewed both Sarah and me back when our Twitter account name was @Twitter_Tips. Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

Several years ago I had an idea for a new way people could work together that would be accessible to the majority of the world’s population, but I saw that it wouldn’t really fulfill it’s destiny unless a new kind of protocol or service arose that would compete with phone and email to allow people to share their status in short snippets on a real-time basis. When you realize that what I was thinking of describes Twitter almost to a tee, I have to admit it took me a ridiculous amount of time to realize that Twitter was the service I had foreseen.

And when I say “forseen,” I don’t mean I knew this would happen. I just saw that if it existed, it could be the basis for a number of new ways for people to interact and enrich their lives. So in a very real sense, I’ve been working for several years on services that could be built using Twitter or something similar as their backbone.

You can read the rest of the interview here, which covers more about how we got started and began finding content to share.

Tweet Café: The Future of Twitter (June, 2010)

An excerpt (read about Google Plus here):

Twitter has long been a company that fell off a cliff and has been trying to build wings on the way down. Previously they had someone who didn’t want the difficult CEO-type responsibilities of a situation like that, and now with Dick (Costolo) we have someone who does want them.

First, he had to prioritize what could be done and what should be done. Some projects were put on hold, others reprioritized. Resources were shifted around. But job one when Costolo came in was really simply hiring—lots and lots of hiring. Twitter had fallen behind simply due to lack of people.

Next on his priority list, I believe, was ensuring continued growth. A number of factors affect that, such as ease of use. I think it is to Dick’s great credit that ease of use seems today a top prioritizing factor internal to Twitter in determining what Twitter does. While Twitter’s interest in making all interfaces work similarly has been controversial, the variety of interfaces has been a number one problem for people newer to Twitter.

And of course, always near the top, was the initiative to become profitable. At the end of the day, money is the gas in the tank to get everything else done.

Finally, there was no way Twitter could move forward without a rich media interface (images, video) and the ability to prioritize search results. So many other things build on these two factors that Twitter’s new web interface and upcoming new search interface had to have a lot of resources put behind them. Errors and downtime continue to reduce as Twitter improves infrastructure, and support at Twitter is better than at many other popular free internet services.

Leadership, Hiring, Growth, Ease of Use, Profit, Rich media, Search Prioritizing: With the fires mostly put out in each of these key areas, I think 2011 is finally the year we will start to see what Twitter can really become.
Spam is the only serious issue I don’t think they yet really have a handle on.

Intuit Small Business Blog: Twitter is a like a “$10,000 check you’re leaving uncashed”

In my interview with Intuit (makers of Quicken Financial Software) I explained how businesses can gain the most by using Twitter first as a Personal Learning Network to connect with experts who can help them be successful in business.

Mind your manners online: Tips on how to keep social media from becoming anti-social media

Here is a short excerpt from some guidelines I shared in this interview with Canada’s Sun newspaper chain done by @DahliaKurtz 

  1. Seek others you can help and help them. And seek others to help you.
  2. Work at striking a positive tone in all your communications. The emotions that we naturally pick up on when meeting in person can be missing in short written statements, sometimes making us look harsh and distant. Adding a little positivity to what we say online, helps to restore that natural emotional balance.
  3. Be biased toward setting a good example. Instead of telling people who are still learning what you think they should do differently, it is better to set a good example than to tell other people they are “doing it wrong.”
Here is the full list: “10 Guidelines to do doing well on Twitter

Why you don’t always get credit for your tweets

A common question we get is “Why don’t you credit more Twitter users in your Tweets?” The main answer is because we rarely find tweets through Twitter users.

One reason we don’t read a lot of tweets to find interesting things to share is that Tweets don’t show the date the information linked to was published. So 5-year old articles can be tweeted next to 5-minute old articles and you can’t tell the difference.

But also, sometimes a user thinks that because they tweeted about it before we did—in some cases including our username in their tweet, such as “/cc @TweetSmarter”—that we found the tweet from them. We didn’t. When we DO find an article because of a tweet, we credit the person(s) who (re)tweeted it.

Tip: If you’re going to suggest a tweet, at least read our tweets to see if we’ve tweeted it already. We  regularly get people asking why we haven’t retweeted their suggestion—when it was something we had ALREADY tweeted.

Where do we find things to tweet?

UPDATE: In 2013, we source a lot of tweets from customizable services such as Flipboard and Zite.

We don’t read every tweet with our username—we get too many retweets (100′s of thousands/year) and spammy callouts to make it possible to look at them all. We find most of the posts we tweet from custom searches looking for recent, relevant Twitter articles. Here’s an example of one of our Google searches, set to search blogs only for the last 24 hours:

twitter | tweep | tweet  ”how to” | ~tip | ~tutorial | ~help | ~strategy -money

We do searches on a variety of services besides Google, such as Topsy.com.

In fact several times a week, we add someone’s username to a tweet we have already found before we saw their tweet. That’s right—we give credit to someone who had nothing to do with the tweet. We do it because it actually saves us time from having to respond to a complaint later. Also even if there would be no complaint it prevents someone being disappointed.

What tweets do we look at?

In rough order of what we look at first:

  1. DMs
  2. Tweets that may include a question to us as described here
  3. Tweets addressed to us, filtered to exclude certain users. Why filtered and not blocked? Among other reasons, some users who appear to have mental disorders sometimes write us many tweets all at once. (Yes, we have experimented in the past by replying to them.) Others are just “celebrity baiters”—always addressing miscellaneous banalities to users with a lot of followers.
  4. Tweets that include our username that we just happen to notice. We scan other tweets with our username as time allows, and occasionally notice things that we respond to.

How do we schedule tweets?

Although many tweets go out within minutes of our finding them, typically 3-5 times a day we schedule a group of tweets.

On average, a tweet is scheduled 3-4 hours before it is actually tweeted. Only a few tweets are ever scheduled more than 12 hours in advance, and we very rarely schedule anything more than 16 hours in advance. We have tried many programs for scheduling tweets, including but not limited to HootSuite, SocialOomph, EasyTweets, FutureTweets and others. We sometimes use multiple interfaces to get around downtime on any one service.

Tip: You may want to check out 15 Free Twitter Tools For Scheduling Future Tweets.

Our strategy for scheduling tweets

Some of the guidelines we follow include:

  1. Urgent or extremely timely topics we try to tweet immediately (such as info about new Twitter errors or downtime)
  2. We try to tweet what is likely to be most popular at the time most people will see it. The time that something will be popular is completely dependent on our research of when OUR users respond, not when Twitter as a whole is most responsive. So a “hot tweet” that we find at a slow time of day we will delay tweeting until more people are likely to see it.
  3. We sometimes delay our tweeting about extremely popular topics until a time of day that is well-read in another country. For example, if interesting but non-timely information comes out via @Mashable late afternoon U.S. time, we have found that our tweeting about it right away is redundant—most of our followers checking tweets at that time have already seen the story. We even get complaints! So we wait a few hours until more people are checking tweets in Australia and post the information then.
  4. Tweets that got a lot of clicks or retweets we will sometimes repeat once (prefaced by “r/t “) at a less busy time of day within 8-16 hours after the original tweet went out.
  5. Certain kinds of tweets (highly technical, business-oriented, humorous) are more popular at certain times of day, so we sometimes take that into account.

What about crediting authors of articles?

We rarely include the username of the author of a post in the tweet itself because we are already linking to the author’s article. Authors who want their usernames visible to readers should make them visible to readers of the post, and not rely on others to find and include their username in tweets. In general, anything that makes tweets shorter makes them get retweeted more frequently (which is what is most beneficial to the author anyway).

For more ideas about who to credit and when, go here.

Should we suggest articles for you to tweet?

That’s actually a tough question to answer. We realize that with over 200,000 followers, MANY people are likely to have tweeted about something before we do.

First, realize that we only want tweets that are less than 24 hours old, preferably less than two hours old. But, people say, what if I have found something great that is a week old. IF you have looked at EVERY ONE of our tweets in the past week to KNOW that we have not tweeted it, and IF it is really a great tweet for us, then fine. But we’ve found people just send stuff and say “I don’t think you tweeted this.” In EVERY case so far, we DID already tweet it. EVERY case. Sometimes it is a very popular tweet that we have already planned to retweet once or twice more in upcoming months and so we tweet it and credit the person suggesting it, even though we already found and tweeted it several weeks previously. Again, we prefer harmony rather than explanations or rejections where possible.

Second, we only want suggestions for tweets that are urgent and timely, or very clearly about helping people use and benefit from Twitter. Yes, we tweet about social media in general and issues that affect large numbers of internet users. But we don’t want any help finding those tweets! Those are either easy to find because they are so generally popular, or sometimes just barely significant enough to be tweeted.

Third, we ALWAYS have some tweets scheduled in advance. The odds of you finding something that we haven’t seen or heard of already are not as high as you might think. Your best chance is to tweet us something just before we are doing one of our daily searches. But there is no set time we use, so it’s random luck when that happens.

But what if you are already sending us tweets? A few people do, and though it usually doesn’t help us, we mostly maintain a gracious silence. There are about one or two people in any given week that send tweets we are  happy to see, totalling usually only 3-6 tweets altogether. One user is always sending us his own off-topic articles and saying things like “This is right up your alley!” Dude—it isn’t. And you’re obviously just self-promoting. Drop the hype. Why don’t we block him? Well, we have blocked many users like that. His is a borderline case. Again, this is someone we’ve given feedback to and he just doesn’t listen. We may yet block him.

We have tried a few experiments asking people to find tweets for us. Each time it has created more, not less work for us. It’s also a lot of work for our tweet-finders. They have to at least click and look at every one of our tweets to see if we have already tweeted something, unless they have found something ultra-current. What we have learned is that there are always people in any group who listen poorly.

We had one user we contacted six separate times (one document of guidelines, four emails, two DMs) about serious errors they were making in finding tweets for us in one of these programs. Errors such as suggesting things we had already tweeted, irrelevant tweets that had nothing to do with Twitter or relevant social media, etc. They never changed their tweets and we ended the tweet-finding program in order to stop dealing with this one person. Why didn’t we just end their participation? Because it was clear they weren’t listening, and any explanation we could give about why they were being rejected was also unlikely to be heard clearly. With an account as large as ours I’ve found maintaining harmony simply saves time. We are still planning to restart a program of folks who help us find tweets…but we won’t be inviting them to it.

Are we being a little too “nice?”

We have tried being more direct. We have blocked users who don’t listen when we ask them to stop what amounts to harassing us. We have sent clarifying emails, had others talk to them on our behalf, etc. We have repeated ourselves over a long period of time before eventually blocking or being more and more blunt. We have found that some people Just. Don’t. Get it. And more than once, we have groups—yes groups—of people contacting us saying “Why did you do that to ____?” Or hearing people spreading misinformation. Having experienced that enough times, we decided to be nice to almost everyone—because it’s easier. We do LIKE being nice to people, but we like even more making our lives easy (and peaceful).

And to those of you who makes our lives easy—we appreciate you more than you will probably ever know.

Twitter Downtime Report

Pingdom showed a total downtime of 1 hour, 14 minutes for Twitter’s last prolonged incident. Twitter’s last uptime report: “Twitter is fully recovered.

If someone has sent you a link to this page, Twitter may be down overall  now or very recently.

How can you tell if Twitter is down?

Sometimes it’s just a local problem, and doesn’t affect everyone. Sometimes Twitter is just much sloooower than usual, and will work for most people if you keep trying. So how can you tell if Twitter is down overall, or just for you?

Pingdom

Most reliable is checking Pingdom to see if Twitter is down for more than just you—look for the tiny red icon under “Status” (shown in Pingdom screenshot above right). If Twitter has been down for more than a few minutes, this page may take a long time to load, because thousands of people are checking it at the same time.

Down for everyone?

If the Pingdom Twitter page fails to load at all, Twitter may have already been down for several minutes. To be sure, check the the Down for everyone or just me? website and check Twitter. They will display a message that looks like this:

Twitter is down

Search for “Twitter down” messages

You can also check for Twitter updates on a Google “Twitter down” search or a  Twitter “Twitter Down” Search (which may also be down). If you see a LOT of recent messages Twitter is probably down.

What about Twitter’s status page?

Checking Twitter’s own status page is not always reliable—although for prolonged downtime, they always post a message eventually. They’re getting better at posting updates quickly.

Also only semi-reliable is: http://www.istwitterdown.net/ … and this blog you are reading  is only human-updated, so don’t count on it to be always current either. Check the services above first.
Also realize that unusual situations like missing or duplicated tweets many happen during this time.

Any tips or tricks?

Twitter downtime (or maintenance) is likely to be unpredictable, but there are some tricks that have had limited success in the in the past.

Try alternate Twitter sites

If Twitter.com or 3rd party programs are down, sometimes one of the mobile sites is still working, or is less busy. So try either of these links if you’re having trouble accessing Twitter:

Be careful when scheduling future tweets

If you are using an application that allows you to schedule tweets, remember that they may fail both now and at the time you schedule them for, if Twitter is still doing maintenance. Your best bet is to schedule them for long after Twitter expects maintenance to be completed (in case it runs longer than predicted), or wait and tweet manually when Twitter seems to be working better.

When Twitter is up…but has problems

Twitter has a form exclusively for reporting problems to Twitter. It’s at: http://twitter.com/HELP

Last Downtime Report (in Universal Time):

At a little before 10:00 PM Thursday, August 05, 2010, Twitter posted the following status update:

The simplest guide: Make your Twitter sidebar transparent and invisible

Also popular: 

Alternate directions with browser bookmarklet

So many people are failing to follow the directions properly about typing in the “javascript:” (don’t forget the colon—”:”—character at the end!) characters by hand, that I’ve created a bookmarklet to simplify things for folks.

  1. Simply drag this box into the bookmarks/favorites bar of your browser: Clear My Sidebar!. It will look different on different browsers. Make a note of where you dragged it to on the top bar of your browser! You’ll need to click
  2. Then, login to Twitter and go here: http://twitter.com/settings/design.
  3. Clear your browser’s cache (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips).
  4. Click the icon on your browser’s bookmarks bar where you dragged the “Clear My Sidebar” box. Click the save changes button at the bottom of the Twitter page. You’re done!
If it doesn’t work with the bookmarklet for you, scroll down and copy the code by hand (you’ll also have to do some typing).

IMPORTANT!! Try the troubleshooting tips before leaving a comment that it “doesn’t work.” It still works. Explain what you tried if having problems.

A couple of notes:

  • Once you change anything else, the transparent sidebar steps will have to be done again. So you may want to create a test account to experiment with, and then once you find the settings you like, use those on your main account.
  • There is no way to make the whole page transparent. Just the right-hand sidebar.

 

Ultra simple: Paste the code shown below into your browser address bar here, press enter. The short version:

  1. Login to Twitter and go here: http://twitter.com/settings/design. Clear your browser’s cache (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips).
  2. Paste the code (copy it from below) into the address bar on your browser.
  3. Check the code to see if your browser accepted it all. Type in “javascript:” (without the quotes) by hand at the beginning of the code you pasted in. (HT @amanda36c).
  4. Press enter on your keyboard, and then click the save changes button. Clear your browser’s cache again (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips).
  5. View your Twitter home page to see the result

A transparent sidebar is a bad idea if you have a background that is a similar color to your text—it may make your sidebar text seen almost invisible. Also, if your background image is very busy, it may just look bad with the text of your sidebar sitting on top of it. And if you are using “New Twitter” you may like: How To Add new media types to “New Twitter”

But if you want to try it, it’s very easy to do! It’s also easy to change it back if you don’t like it. Just follow these simple steps:

Works for new and old Twitter!

You must be logged into Twitter.com for this to work! And it seems to work best from old Twitter—you can switch back to New Twitter afterwards. Try a different browser if you get an error. Test show Twitter hasn’t changed this—it’s still working! You will likely have to reset your browser cache to see the results (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips).

It’s possible you won’t have to follow the steps in as much detail as I’ve put them down here, but this is what seems to work for everyone:

STEP 1: Click here to access your profile design settings: http://twitter.com/settings/design and then click the button for “Change design colors.” Now clear your browser’s cache (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips) and then copy the code between the lines below (don’t copy the lines!):


document.getElementById("user_profile_sidebar_fill_color").value = '';document.getElementById("title_theme").innerHTML = 'Click The Save Changes Button At Bottom To Finish!!';void(0);


STEP 2: Delete the URL (website address) in the address bar at the top of your browser (Where is my address bar? See also: Address bars in different browsers).

STEP 3: Paste the code in where the website address was and type “javascript:” (without the quotes) at the beginning of the line. Now press enter on your keyboard. The URL will probably return .https://twitter.com/settings/design?tab=colors

STEP 4: Find and click the “save changes” button just above the bottom of your screen. It should look like this:

STEP 5: Clear your browser’s cache again and check your profile page (see http://bit.ly/FixBrowser for tips)

You may not notice anything different, but you did it! (When you first enter the script and press enter, the example sidebar will not become transparent.) The sidebar on your Twitter page (go there to check) should now be transparent.

Click here to see your transparent sidebar

Didn’t work? Having a problem?

Tips to try first:

  1. Turn off HTTPS Only…Always use HTTPS at http://twitter.com/settings/account
  2. Check and type in anything by hand that didn’t get pasted over. For example, in Chrome, I need to type in “javascript:” (without the quotes) at the beginning of the line by hand. You may need to type  ”javascript:” (without the quotes) before pasting.
  3. Try it from a different browser.
  4. In some cases you may need to do a “hard” refresh of your web page. Do this by going to your Twitter page, and then holding down the “Ctrl” key on your keyboard (Command key on a Mac) while pressing the F5 (function) key at the same time. This should do a full refresh of your page.

It is also possible that at some future date Twitter will prevent this from working. If you have a problem, leave a comment below!

To change your sidebar back to a color

  1. Make sure you are  logged into Twitter.com
  2. Return to your design settings page: http://twitter.com/settings/design
  3. Click the words “Change design colors” near the bottom of the page and you’ll see several colored boxes.
  4. Click in the colored box under “sidebar”
  5. Choose a color by clicking and moving your mouse around in the box of colors that pops up. It should look something like this: