It’s come to this: firms having practice Twitter meltdowns

Jacobs is the kind of Silicon Valley founder that makes the rest of them look bad. He gets drunk in public, gropes women at the bar, and is having an affair with an unpaid intern. And to top it all off, he’s scheduled to speak at South by Southwest tomorrow — at a panel about women and technology.

Fortunately, Jacobs isn’t real — he’s a simulation organized by a company named Polpeo. Polpeo, a subsidiary of the social media management firm eModeration, specializes in a novel new corporate exercise: the simulated brand crisis. Police officers train for various crises all the time; so do airline pilots. But most corporations don’t — even as the rise of social networks allows bad news about them to spread globally at record speed. More than a quarter of brand-related failures typically go international within an hour on social media, according to Polpeo, and a year after the crisis passes, more than half of companies haven’t recovered their share price.

Protect the brand or die trying: inside a fake social media crisis – Casey Newton, The Verge (20 March 2015)

Read the full piece to see whether you’re convinced this is a real thing. And if it is, maybe it’s a shame because when companies blow up on Twitter you feel they’re showing us their real sides.

Get back on Facebook, Twitter and the rest

I’m not convinced by this. Here’s my take on social media: use it for fun and if anything else happens like work offers, great. If nothing else happens, you still had fun.

Plus, this stuff is fun. There is a reason why so many of us are drawn to it and then find it hard to break the habit and the reason is that is fun. If you haven’t used any social media then it seems daunting, but then the next thing you know you are watching for those Likes on Facebook or those retweets on Twitter.

Different social media networks suit different people and also we change. I lived in Twitter for a long time but now I’m more a Facebook user. No reason. Some people love LinkedIn though the rest of us wonder why.

So use it and don’t feel guilty about it. But writer Julie Schwietert Collazo argues that we should use it more and she gives several reasons. Here’s the one that leaps out the most:

I get work on social

If you’re still skeptical about spending more time on social, consider this: At least $12,000 of my 2014 income can be directly attributed to work I landed via social media contacts. And that work consists of a variety of assignments, from a translating project I got through a Facebook group that netted $8,000 to an $800 article for an in-flight magazine I was able to write after a friend who follows me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram made a referral.

I’ve found that finding work on social networks is relatively simple and doesn’t involve any of the “strategies” that make so many writers want to bail on social media. I follow and engage with editors on Twitter, join professional interests groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and generally just try to be transparent about my needs to followers and friends on all my platforms.

Spending time on social doesn’t mean you have to constantly “brand” yourself. If you make an effort to tune out some of that digital noise and focus on bring productive, social media won’t seem like a guilty pleasure or a time-suck. My life is enriched just as much by online relationships as it is by those offline. And for that reason, I’ll be spending as much time online in 2015 as I did in 2014.

Why Freelancers Should Spend More Time on Social Media in 2015 – Julie Schwietert Collazo, Contently (26 February 2015)

Read the full piece for more.

The city that never sleeps but does stop working early

When I step out onto Manhattan’s streets, I am taller. Can’t explain that, can’t justify it and I’ve long given up trying to understand it myself. But it is true. I love New York. But apparently it’s not as energetic there as I thought:

People in the Big Apple are pretty productive in their mornings but social media distractions solidly take hold by lunchtime – and the rest of the day is really a wash after that.

That, at least, is one observation from a new Twitter heat-map that aims to take the pulse of the bustling metropolis by analyzing New Yorkers’ Twitter activity over a 5-month timeframe. Researchers behind the map say it demonstrates that Twitter could be a valuable resource to understand human behavior in urban environments.

The Exact Moment When New York Office Workers Start Slacking Off – Carl Engelking, Discover (4 November 2014)

Frightening, much? Read the full piece.

Is it worth automating your work?

I now write a lot on here via Drafts 4 and there’s a thing that used to take me three steps that now takes one. (If I’m quoting an article, I would take three trips back and forth from my browser to where I was writing the story: once for the big quote, once – if I’m lucky – for the title, author, date and name of the site and then once more for the website URL address. Now I copy the author and date while Drafts 4 grabs everything else and then pops it all into a new article in precisely the sequence and layout I like.)

Call it three steps I’ve lost: two of the copying-and-pasting ones plus one for the layout. Quotes on The Blank Screen are always indented and followed by a block that has the title, author, site plus date and is a link to the original. Also, somewhere in the rest of the article I’m writing I will direct you to read the full piece on the original site. Drafts 4 gives me a typical “read the full piece” line of text and makes the words “full piece” be a live link to that original. I will change that sentence eight times out of ten but it’s there waiting to be changed.)

It shocks me how much speedier I am having got rid of these two or three tiny little steps but I am and it is vastly more so than you would predict by just removing the time they took. Part of it is concentration: the steps were clear and simple but took skipping between apps and in the time that would take, my mind would wander.

So I do resist trying to quantify how much time an idea or a method or an approach will save me and, given how fast I type, I am deeply suspicious of even the great TextExpander‘s claim that it has so far saved me 229 hours typing since 19 June 2013 when I bought the thing.

I’d like TextExpander to give me a clue how long it took me to set up the various little snippets of text that it will expand out for me. And I’d like to know how long it took me to setup Drafts 4 exactly the way I want. It wasn’t trivial: I think Drafts 4 is remarkable and remarkably easy to use but I set it up for me through a fair bit of trial and error. If you told me I spent two hours setting it up, I’d believe.

And I’d think that worth the time because such a small change has made an enormous difference to me. Many automated things have made a big difference, I’m really only surprised that I don’t do more. You know about Drafts 4 now and TextExpander, but there’s also IFTTT. Every time a story is published on The Blank Screen, a copy gets added to an archive in my Evernote account. If you say something lovely about me on Twitter, I’ll tap that little Favourite button – and without my doing anything else, I know your tweet has been saved for me to another Evernote document. I seem to use Evernote a lot.

OmniFocus. I live in OmniFocus. I think the most automatic of the automated options to do with OmniFocus that I use is Mail Drop and I really, really use that. If you send me an email with a task in it, I’ll forward that straight into my OmniFocus To Do list. Apparently I’ve used that 1,977 times and the most recent was 3 hours ago. With a bit of digging and a Wolfram Alpha day-counting search, I can work out that this means that since I’ve had OmniFocus Mail Drop, I’ve used 2.89 times a day on average. I am truly astonished that it is as low as that.

I started using it in December 2012 and there’s no way my little brain can remember how long it took to set up but looking at the process now, I’d say it was ten minutes with nine of them spent reading what I had to do. If you want to use it yourself, it’s free but you need OmniFocus and you should have a look at this Omni Group explanation.)

All of which is a long way to say a short thing: automation can speed up your work like nobody’s business but it takes time to do. So to roll out my favourite quote from The Simpsons, if you’re wondering whether to automate your work: “short answer yes with an if, long answer no with a but”.

If it takes you longer to automate something than this automation will save you, don’t do it. Except I really would not have predicted how much saving those steps by Drafts 4 would save me time and effort. Rather than just shrug and admit that your mileage will vary, let me show you the reason I wanted to say all this to you today:

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 09.42.24

That’s by xkcd and while it’s the full image, while you don’t see any more of this one, there is much, much more to see and relish on the xkcd site.


Short weekend read: Twitter ‘source of all evil’ says Saudi Arabia cleric

What’s the saying? Guns don’t kill people, bullets do?

according to Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric, Twitter is “the source of all evil and devastation”.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, made the comments on his Fatwa television show earlier this week.

“If it were used correctly, it could be of real benefit, but unfortunately it’s exploited for trivial matters,” he said about the social networking site.

Twitter ‘source of all evil’ says Saudi Arabia cleric – Felicity Morse, BBC Newsbeat (22 October 2014)

Whenever someone wants twitter to say just what they want it to say, well, that doesn’t work and they end up calling it trivial.

Read the full piece but you’ve basically got the gist now.

Ello me hearties

Imagine Facebook without the ads. Twitter without the –

– actually, just a quick aside. Have you noticed how visually Twitter has changed? When it was spot at the bar, when I loved Twitter, it was all text, all the time. Now I look at the feed and it’s predominantly images. Feels like a very different service and I’ve now been so quickly and readily drawn back in to it.

Maybe that is why Ello is interesting.

I think this new social media platform sees itself as less a Twitter without ads and more a Facebook without them. Currently it’s very sparse and minimalist and apart from how I could do without all the writing being in Courier, I’m oddly warming to its cold white starkness.

I just don’t know what I’m doing. Right now you have to be invited and I haven’t figured out how or whether I can invite you. So I can’t say come on over, but I can say you should go take a look at its front page and see what you think.

Note that if you type in the URL, it’s “”. Watch that your browser doesn’t automatically complete that as .com since is something else altogether.

It’s something else.

When you are on Ello, look me up, would you? I’m on as williamgallagher

Taking the scorched Earth policy to your social media

I belong to that exclusive Twitter club, not users who have been “verified” (curse their privileged names) but users who have hit the daily tweet limit, the social-media equivalent of getting cut off by the bartender. The few, the proud, the badly in need of help.

Reboot or Die Trying – David Roberts, Outside (2 September 2014)

That’s serious social media use. I had no idea that there even was a daily limit on Twitter. But after hitting it and generally just going far too far on all of these things, Roberts quit. Cold turkey, near enough, for a year.

He claims to have five things to tell you, five things that you can only know from having a year away from technology – or, presumably, reading about it.

I’d tell you some of the five but this is on Outside magazine. Outside. I barely know what the word means. Read the full feature and if it’s that crucial, let me know.

Search Twitter by number of retweets

This is a clever idea: if you want to find something on twitter, it stands to reason that the best information is the one that has been retweeted the most:

Go to the Twitter search box, type any search term and append the operator min_retweets:[number] or min_faves:[number] to filter your search results. For instance, here’s a sample search that will only shows tweets pointing to the domain that have been favorited or retweeted at least 5 times. min_retweets:5 OR min_faves:5

If you are brand manager trying to find out the most viral tweets generated for an event or a content, the min_retweets and min_faves search operators may save you several hours. You can also archive tweets to a Google Spreadsheet automatically.

A Twitter Search Trick You Didn’t Know About – Amit Agarwal, Digital Inspiration (25 July 2014)

The full article explains that you can do this most easily on Tweetdeck, the twitter client that includes a feature specifically for this, but the trick works everywhere with a bit of effort.

Hat tip to Lifehacker for spotting this.

Exploit twitter for searches as well as nattering

I have a hard time separating twitter from my memory of it as a great place for midnight nattering. It’s a couple of years since it was that for me and my sense is that the feel of the place has changed. It’s definitely added more tools for finding news and information, I don’t know if that’s why it’s not my favourite spot at the bar any more.

But if it’s a good tool, let’s use it. First, scriptwriter and novelist Jason Arnopp has some key suggestions in his Five Things You May Not Know About Twitter:

If you start a tweet with a username, then only people who follow you both will see it. I still see relatively seasoned Twitter users do this.

For instance, if I tweet the following…

@johnhiggs’ book on The KLF is mind-blowing – read it now!

… then only people who follow both me and @johnhiggs will see it. Which is a waste.

In case this confuses you, think of it in terms of tweeting directly at @johnhiggs, rather than tweeting about him. In the former case, it’s generally well known that only people who follow you both can see the tweet. But when you’re tweeting about someone, it seems like a whole other situation. To Twitter, it isn’t. That tends to be why you often see tweets starting with a full-stop, followed by a username – it starts the tweet with a buffer before the username, so Twitter doesn’t misunderstand and shows all your followers the tweet, just like you want it to, you attention-hungry, power-crazed MONSTER.

Incidentally, that full-stop isn’t some kind of specific code – it’s just the most-used buffer symbol. You could start with a ‘&’ or a ‘$’, but it might well look more obtrusive.

Five Things You May Not Know About Twitter – Jason Arnopp, INT. JASON ARNOPP’S MIND – DAY/NIGHT (27 June 2014)

The full piece has four more like that.

But now Lifehacker steps up with an article that’s like an old Open University maths show: you start off thinking this is easy, this is obvious, everyone knows th – pardon? This was the example of a twitter search that gave me pause, made me do a double take and is the reason I’m telling you about it:

Operator: near:NYC within:15mi | Finds tweets: sent within 15 miles of “NYC.”

So, you type in “near:NYC within:15mi” and you really do get tweets sent by people who were within 15 miles of Manhattan when they tweeted. The trouble is, you wouldn’t know that just from reading the results. Not now, anyway. If something was happening in New York City, this would zoom you in on it.

And the rest of Lifehacker’s examples are equally specific, equally potentially useful. Do read Search Twitter More Efficiently with These Search Operators by Patrick Allen for more.