Monthly Archives: August 2011

Why smart people post dumb tweets

Each of us has a kind of inner measuring stick that tells us when we’re doing something foolish or out-of-character. But there is a problem we overlook.

Comic Emo Philips explains it succinctly:

“I used to think that the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized, well, look what’s telling me that.”

What do you do when the thing you use to measure your behavior gets out of whack?

I started meditating several decades ago. One of the first things I learned—from experience—is that your brain works differently at different times. (You don’t have to meditate to learn this life lesson.)

Social media is full of examples of people posting things that make them look dumb, and hurt their personal and work relationships. Plenty of people have even been fired for tweets and facebook posts that they would surely have reconsidered posting had they been in a better state of mind.

Simple solution: Develop your own “rant-o-meter”

In almost every case I’ve seen (that didn’t involve drugs or alcohol) the tweet that someone later wished they could take back was a rant of some kind.

In talking with people, I find that they experience a kind of accelerated compulsion, a feeling of “respond now!” when they are about to say or so something stupid.

How to protect yourself, from yourself, in three easy steps:

  1. Post something stupid on social media without realizing how dumb it is.
  2. Think back to how you felt before posting it.
  3. Repeat.

Over time, you’ll start to notice before you are about to post something stupid, by noticing how you feel.

Twitter, quit telling us to check status when you don’t use it properly

When your home timeline freezes, Twitter shows you this message:

The problem? Twitter isn’t posting status updates at Twitter Status regularly. In fact, sometimes they don’t post anything there at all! Even when Twitter support over and over again reports a problem, nothing appears on the Twitter Status page.

Even when third-party sites not related to Twitter show Twitter users reporting problems this bad, nothing appears on the Twitter Status page:

C’mon Twitter! It’s just a status blog, and it’s the place you tell us to check. I’m sure you realize that you get thousands of help tickets from people wondering what’s wrong if you don’t provide some kind of public status update. And your ticket system is already overloaded. What the $#%! is going on over there?

UPDATE: Over 24 hours after the most recent problem started, and after multiple tweets from @Support, Twitter finally updated the status blog to show an issue.

It’s Tuesday, so Twitter is down

Nearly 60% of Twitter’s problems in 2011, as reported at, have happened within 24 hours of any given Tuesday (58.2%). And of those, half happen exactly on Tuesday.

Of the rest, most happen within 24 hours of any given Friday (38.2%).

Fully 80% of Twitter’s problems as reported at in 2011 happened on a late weekday (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday).

The most likely days for service outage to be reported on in 2011 are

  1. Tuesday (16)
  2. Friday (11)
  3. Wednesday (11)
  4.  Thursday (6)
  5. Monday (5)
  6. Saturday (4)
  7. Sunday (2)

Interestingly, today, Tuesday August 30, Twitter support has reported serious problems, but has not put the problem report up at It’s unbelievable to me that even though it took them seven HOURs to report the problem as resolved, it was never noted on Here’s what Twitter’s uptime looked like at “” during that time—the yellow-orange section:

Why isn’t Twitter using their status page anymore? No word from Twitter on that. Maybe they’re trying to make themselves look better by not keeping a permanent record of problems there.


Is your blog so bad it’s untweetable?

Every day I find blog posts with information I’d like to share…but can’t because the blog is so bad.

Often it’s the writing. I tolerate poor writing by non-English speakers if the content is really good, and defend my choice to people who write in and say “That tweet you sent had bad writing.” But far too often, the writing is just too bad to tweet.

Almost as bad is the writer who takes 6-10 paragraphs to talk on and on about their personal life and interests before getting to the point. Get to the point no later than the third or fourth paragraph please.

Ads and formatting make far too many posts hard to read. This is very fixable, people!

If there’s an ad at the top of the website, another one above the article, and two more beside the article and in the middle of the article, I often won’t tweet it, unless the ads are small, and the article is well-formatted to make it easy to ignore the ads.

If you’re using a really light gray and your text is bunched together with little spacing, forget it. Dark neon colors on a black background? No way. I’m always amazed at the combinations people come up with to make their blogs unreadable.

Every day I share blog posts that are poorly written and poorly formatted because the content is good enough to overcome the deficiencies. But some are just untweetable.

The “bet with my boss” scam. Please do NOT retweet it

The “bet with my boss” tweet scam (see bottom of this post) gets people to retweet to help someone make their boss pay for doubting the power of Twitter! However, it’s a scam. People (and some spambots) are just copying a tweet that they’ve seen has worked for other people in order to get more retweets. Don’t fall for it!

Some people are having fun mocking the scam:

People are always trying to come up with ways to get retweets. A popular one is to ask for retweets for a particular reason, for example,

“I’m demonstrating Twitter to a friend, please RT so I can show them the power of Twitter.”

Many tweets I see like that one appear legitimate. However, the “bet with my boss one” is NOT legitimate. Here are a few examples:

The same scam has even made it to LinkedIn and gotten media coverage. Thanks to @Hermaniak for pointing this out:

What to do when you see a hijacked account alert

You’ve probably seen one of these kind of messages before:

Here is a list of all the most recent #Alerts about hijacked accounts. So, what happened? Why are these tweets being sent out? What should you do?

Someone you follow had their account hijacked

When you receive one of these tweets or DMs, it is from a hijacked account. This is NOT regular spam. You should let the person know they have been hijacked, and that their account is sending out messages without their knowledge.

Send them a tweet like this:

Your account may have been hijacked. Check to see if it is sending messages you didn’t write, and read

For more information, read “Is your follower a spammer…or a hijacked account?

How the latest hijackings work

While there are many ways Twitter hijackers and spammers can try to fool you, currently, in July-November 2011, the main method the hijackers are using is this: When you click the link, you are taken to what appears to be a Twitter login page, but is not.

If you enter your password on one of these fake login pages, the hijacker will take over your account. The first thing they usually do is to begin sending out spam tweets or DMs from your Twitter account, trying to hijack other accounts. Tens of thousands of accounts have likely been hijacked.

What to watch out for

You must read the URL in your browser before logging into There are many variations of fake URLs such as “” or “ltwitter/twitter-login” and many more.

Do not be fooled by a page that looks exactly like The page will look normal, except for the URL.  If it doesn’t say // at the beginning of the URL, it is NOT! While your browser will make the top of the page look slightly different from mine (you may have icons and bookmarks or favorites, for example), the URL is what counts.

Here are the only two kinds of pages that are real. Look closely at the URL. Both have // at the beginning:

If you were logged into, and suddenly find yourself logged out, watch out! You are probably still logged in and have just reached a fake phishing page trying to steal your password.

How does TweetSmarter know which tweets are from hijacked accounts?



Did you know Twitter hides some tweets, preventing you from eavesdropping?

Did you know Twitter hides some tweets from you?

You can still see them if you do a Twitter search, or look at someone’s Twitter page (e.g., or set up a Twitter client such as TweetDeck to show you everything. But you won’t see all of the tweets from people you follow in your stream at Here’s why:

Ever find yourself eavesdropping because you suddenly heard a name you knew?

That’s how Twitter @ replies work.

If someone you follow starts tweeting with someone you don’t know (don’t follow) you won’t “hear” the conversation because Twitter will hide those tweets from you. (This only applies when they start the tweet with the other person’s username.)

If they tweet with someone you do know (do follow) Twitter will not hide the tweet from you. It will appear in your stream.

How replies work:

Imagine you are @You. You follow

  1. @Mom
  2. @Dad
  3. and @Boss

…and they all follow you.

  1. Neither @Mom or @Dad follow @Boss.
  2. @Boss doesn’t follow @Mom or @Dad.

So when you tweet

@Boss I’m going to be late for work today

Neither @Mom or @Dad will see it, even though they follow you. This is because you’re tweeting to someone they don’t know/don’t follow. If you tweet

@Mom Thanks for the delicious pie!

@Boss won’t see it, because although he follows you, he doesn’t follow @Mom. But @Dad will see it, because he follows both you and @Mom. And so your tweet could be seen as a clever reminder to @Dad to remember to thank @Mom :)

The most important problem to avoid

What if you want to tell people who don’t already know about @GreatTwitterUser how great they are? If you tweet:

@GreatTwitterUser Everyone should follow you!

…you’ve failed, because only people who already follow @GreatTwitterUser will see your tweet. Everyone who doesn’t follow them won’t see the tweet, because Twitter will hide your conversation from people that don’t follow you both.

TIP: Read “Win Friends And Influence People On Twitter In Just 5 Seconds A Day” to understand how powerful making public compliments can be.

What can you do?

If you want to have a semi-private conversation, start your tweet with the username of who you are chatting with. Then only people who follow both of you will see your tweets.

But…if you want everyone that follows you to see your tweet, the first character of the tweet has to be something else. Here’s a couple of common solutions for changing the semi-private tweet “@Friend, how are you today?” into a public tweet all your followers can see:

  1. .@Friend, how are you today?
  2. How are you today, @Friend ?

Both of these will be seen by all your followers. If you start with anything other than the @, your tweet will be seen by everyone. But it’s become common to simply add a “.” at the beginning when you want everyone to see your tweet.

Noise Filter? Privacy Protection? Discovery Limitation?

I’ve gotten some complaints for framing this as a privacy issue, because people see it in any one of up to four ways:

  1. Hiding tweets for privacy;
  2. Filtering out noise;
  3. Making discovery harder;
  4. Helping Twitter’s infrastructure run better.

When Twitter made this change to stop showing all tweets in 2007 they later explained (in response to complaints) that this was a necessary change, because their computer infrastructure couldn’t handle showing all the conversations.

Others considered conversations between people they didn’t both follow as “noise,” and so they called this change an “anti-noise” change. But since finding new people is sometimes called “discovery,” some other people complained that this change was an “anti-discovery” change.

But whichever way you look at it, it’s essential to know how it works!

Hide Your Chats From People That Don’t Want To See That

If you add a hashtag to a tweet, people that search for that hashtag will see your tweet, regardless of how you address it. But if you participate in hashtag chats, you may want to chat a lot without all your followers seeing your tweets.

You can use what you’ve learned in this blog post to hide tweets, by starting them with a username that none of the people that follow you also follow. If they don’t follow the username that you start your tweet with, they won’t see your tweet.

For that reason, I created the @HideChat twitter account for people to use to hide their chat tweets. You can learn more about it here.

How I failed on Twitter, and how I’m changing

My mission as TweetSmarter is broken down into three objectives, which I’ve listed below. I’ve also include my rating of how good a job I think I’ve been doing:

► Where I failed

1. Connect you to people that help (D+)

The two things I’ve failed the most at are:

  1. Staying in touch with great Twitter users, and engaging them and retweeting their content so as to expose them to more people.
  2. Finding and getting to know more great Twitter users.

To those great Twitter users out there that I know, and have failed to keep in touch with, my apologies. More people need to know about you. I’m going to do better.

Only a few things I’ve done right in this area have kept me from earning a complete failing grade here. I could of course automate #2—there is a ton of “Twitter software” out there that does this. I’ve almost always taken a very manual approach to developing and reviewing lists of new people to follow, and I’ve had to drop this step pretty much completely due to time constraints.

► What I’ve done right

2. Provide the best learning content (A-/B+)

I strive to tweet 95% new, excellent content about how to get the most from Twitter, and spend hours each day finding it or sometimes, writing it.

I strive to provide at least five awesomely useful or popular pieces of content each day from wherever I can find it. It’s no stretch to say this part alone is a full time job, 24 x 7 x 365.

Because Twitter has begun recommending @TweetSmarter to new users lately, I’ve had to spend more time answering questions (see next item), and I’ve had less time for finding great content. I strive for an A++ in this category.

3. Answer your questions (A)

I often write entire blog posts to answer specific questions. I answer every question sent to TweetSmarter within an average of two hours or so, many within seconds or minutes. I answer questions on this blog, by Direct Message, via tweet and on other blogs and forums. If I don’t know the answer, I find it. It’s very rare that I pass someone over to someone else for help. I try to help people without passing them to Twitter support unless it’s absolutely necessary. When I do send people to Twitter support or someone else, I try to help them through the process, and follow up to see if they were helped.

► How I’m going to do better

I’ve purchased a new computer, due to arrive at the end of August (I asked for rush shipping but problems ensued), that I’m going to dedicate to automating part of the process of finding great content, which will also allow more people to help me.

What I’m going to automate is preparing info for people that help me, which is step #1 in this daily workflow:

  1. 3-5 times/day I prepare hundreds of article headlines (and some tweets) to be reviewed (can be much more automated)
  2. Rank and review all headlines/tweets (can be done by people helping me)
  3. Read the remaining few dozen articles and decide what to tweet.
  4. Investigate information as needed, schedule tweets.

Most days I do all these steps myself without anyone’s help. I combine steps 1 and 2. By automating step #1 there will be time to read more tweets, which will mean I can do more retweeting. Currently very few of my tweets are retweets because I find content by searching blogs and aggregators. I don’t read that many tweets! And that’s a mistake.

I want to have more usernames in tweets from @TweetSmarter, more retweets, because that’s how people can connect to other users. And by not doing more retweets, I’m being a bad example. Retweets are one of the greatest community builders on Twitter.

► Why I’m going to be tweeting less content for awhile

The only way I’m going to get the time to setup all the workflow automation needed is to tweet less content, and a bit less new content. I don’t want to answer fewer questions, because people rely on that.

So one reason I’m writing this is to have something to send to people who ask “Where did @TweetSmarter go?” I’ll still be here, but until early mid-September or so, I’ll be tweeting less.

…anyone know a Klout-score-addicts anonymous meeting I can attend when my score starts to drop? ;)

How Twitter got 29% more people to sign up

Many people have heard of Twitter. Few understand its value.

A couple of Twitter employees recently gave a talk about the problems people signing up and staying at Twitter have. The most interesting takeway was this:

What keeps people on Twitter is not what brings them here.

First of all, Twitter is hard to learn. How do @ replies and hashtags work, for example? It’s like learning a new language. In fact, even people who have been using Twitter a long time are often confused about the details of how Twitter works.

This is one reason why 100’s of thousands of new users join Twitter each day and never come back again. They never figure out what they can get out of Twitter. If someone hits a barrier in their first use of Twitter and they don’t come back after seven days, they’re likely never to return.

Twitter’s  research team talked to people who signed up, gave up, and then later came back and became active users. They wanted to figure out how to make people find the value they could get out of Twitter. They learned that the more time people spent on Twitter, the more they saw its value.

So one of the first things they did was to replace a suggested users list with a set of categories that allowed people to find the interests they cared about up front, so they received tweets of interest to them, to keep them spending time on the service, finding value here.

Overall, the new process designed after surveying users is now three steps and more time consuming. But nearly a third (29%) more people complete the sign up process now, and the people who do are more engaged.

I also noticed that Twitter sometimes recommends @TweetSmarter as worth following now to new accounts. We’ve easily answered 10,000 questions on Twitter by tweet and DM for new and regular users. It took Twitter three years to notice us, but it won’t change what we do one bit.

We’re here to help anyone who asks, one user at a time :)