Category Archives: Blog

What’s the shortest lifespan of a spoof Twitter account, ever?
If you’re impersonating the police [‘s logo], apparently the answer is 47 minutes. Well, at least until you have to change your logo.

The @gmp24_7 account (parodying the official Manchester Police accounts @gmp24_1 -through- @gmp24_6) was created at 9:55 this morning and less than 40 tweets later at 10:42 was ordered (by the police, via Twitter) to stop using their copyright

What amuses me about this the most is that copyright infringement is what they got called on. (Apparently falsely according to lawyer @davidallengreen – unless he’s a spoof too). Personally, if I was told I may be impersonating a police officer I’d be a little more petrified.

For the record, this spoof account made no attempt to indicate it was a parody. That was a bit of an error, but they’re still tweeting apparently. I’m curious to see whether Manchester Police take any further action to shut this account up. Most famously @BPGlobalPR remained operational throughout BP’s recent PR crisis.

I look forward to the social media/PR pundits tearing this campaign to pieces. It seems rather brave to enter the public domain with something like this and not expect a backlash.

In my view, this campaign basically says “See, we’re working hard. Don’t cut our budgets“. Does anyone doubt that the police work hard? I don’t. The campaign in no way highlights the actual impact of budget cuts – other than more PR will be done on Twitter, because it’s cheap.

Recently I’ve been asking “is Twitter ‘mainstream’ yet?

I appreciate the subjective nature of this word, and also how much this comes down to perception as much as metrics. However, nobody would argue that Facebook aren’t mainstream, so how far behind are Twitter really?

I asked attendees of DevNest to do a quick poll to gauge opinion, and was surprised to see that the majority (at time of writing) thought Twitter is already mainstream.

My own perception is that Twitter isn’t mainstream, at least not within my wider demographic (i.e. my ‘normal’ friends). But regardless of whether there’s any real way to quantify this, certain things are clear to me and need addressing

  • Twitter’s publishing of user statistics is insufficient;
  • Third party research is largely flawed;
  • There is a bias that only users that send lots of tweets are important;
  • We need to better understand the dollar value of all twitter users.

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A gave this presentation at Twitter Developer Nest (#devnest) last night in Brighton, UK (12th Oct).

I discussed what Twitter is doing about entering the ‘mainstream’ and the implications these changes have for developers and business owners working on the platform.

I intend to break these topics down into a series of short blog posts, so check back for more. In the mean time, see below for the slides; minus my scintillating commentary.

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For whatever reason, it’s clear that Twitter want you to use ‘new’ style retweets. They are better for analytics and data-mining, and lower the barriers to participation for unseasoned users.

However, if you’re like me and prefer old school retweets you may be annoyed that the so-called #NewTwitter makes this rather hard. If you want to quote someone’s tweet and add your own anecdote, you’ll have to copy and paste the tweet and then type out the “RT @username” part. It annoyed me enough to make a JavaScript bookmarklet to solve the problem.

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UPDATE: Please look at the date of this post. The information here is out of date and will become more out of date as time goes by. Twitter have addressed some of the issues I mention here, but the post will stay up and the DM cleaner tool still works.

Direct messaging is one of Twitter’s weakest features. On a platform that is fundamentally about public conversation, this is a one-to-one private messaging system – except it isn’t private – it’s just direct. The new Twitter has improved the messaging interface, but this is only superficial improvement; DMs are a flawed feature at a much lower level.

In descending order of interestingness and importance, here are a few things you may not know about Twitter DMs.

  1. All third party applications you authorize can read your DMs *
  2. Deleting a DM you’ve sent or received also deletes it from the other person’s account;
  3. Deleting DMs sends some Twitter clients into a confused frenzy;
  4. DMs don’t have a ‘reply to’ ID, so they can’t be threaded properly;
  5. The new Twitter interface only loads your most recent 100 messages;
  6. I’ve written a tool for backing up and deleting all your DMs – imaginatively titled DM Cleaner.

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I just posted about the Facebook Places UK rollout, but in an effort to try and keep my posts shorter I just talked about privacy.

As a developer, what interests me the most right now is how Facebook Places affects the likes of Foursquare and Gowalla. These companies brought the checkin into our vocabulary, and with only a few million users between them it would be easy at first glance to declare them defunct.

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Facebook Places rolled out to UK users today. This comes a month after the ‘global’ press launch a  month ago. That’s the thing about the World Wide Web, people get disappointed when you say your product is only available in the US. But anyway it’s here now, so our tabloids can unleash the hounds, our social media experts can blog their hearts out, and I can finally find out where my ex-girlfriend gets her hair cut.

Please hold for media storm on privacy ..

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Last night Twitter announced a new version of their main website, quickly dubbed #NewTwitter.

I’ve not seen the interface first hand as yet, it will be rolled out over the usual undefined period of time. As with previous features, such as “who to follow”, it may even flick on and off – who knows. There are a number of features I’m curious to see, such as whether they’ve added full geo support, i.e. adding of ‘places’.

But I digress; these new features and all the whooping over slick new interfaces are not what this post is about. What interests me is what Twitter are doing with their brand, how it affects the developer ecosystem and why the hell anyone would attempt to base a business on the Twitter platform.

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The final stage in speeding up my blog was to add some serious caching to the front of it. This may even have been overkill, because it was already pretty swift under nginx/php-fpm, but cutting out the database connections would speed it up even more.

I had a quick go with the W3 Total Cache WordPress plug-in, but it seems rather biased to running Apache (which I’m not) and I experienced some strange errors that I failed to immediately fix. Rather than wrestle with it, or try other WordPress caches, I decided to get to grips with Varnish. This is something I’d been meaning to do for ages, and of course it isn’t limited to WordPress – Varnish is a fabulous caching solution for whatever site you’re building.

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