Tag Archives: twitter

Stop breaking the internet!


That’s what I’m getting at the moment whilst trying to read an article from a feed I subscribe too.

I use Feedly, as you may have guessed, which insists on hijacking the URLs from the feeds with it’s own redirects. I get no benefit from this, just the longer wait when, as has happened a few times, Feedly’s redirect service decides to be a dick.

It’s frustrating, and unnecessary. Worse, Feedly isn’t the only one. Twitter has to be the worst. Every bloody link goes through t.co now. Facebook does. Google does it on search results even.

How is this good for the internet? How is this good usability?

It’s not. Please stop it.

Why I backed App.net

Given the choice I’d prefer to pay for a product than be the product.

I want ownership of my own data, my own mutterings, musing, incoherent rants and drivvle.

My own words and creations should be available to me in the format I want them in, not subject to someone else’s corporate branding guidelines and platform stifling despotism.

Being in a walled garden feels anathema to the world wide web that was envisaged by TBL and that I fell in love with so many years ago.

So many people whinge about being delivered ads on Facebook, in their Gmail, or promoted tweets on Twitter. Yet often (not always!) those same people don’t seem to get that they are the product.

App.net lays the foundation (important: Alpha does not equal App.net) for that relationship to fundamentally change, in their favour.

The Lichfield Blog Twitter account – can you help?

If you’re reading this you’re probably aware that The Lichfield Blog‘s Twitter account was the subject of unauthorised access and de-activation this week.

We’ve been through the process to retrieve it as Twitter suggests we could still get it back. However, that’s not a certainty and I won’t hold my breath.

It seems we’re popular enough that other variations of Lichfield Blog have already been snapped up. As Ross has said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – so thanks to those people(!)

A while ago I snapped up @Lichfield and handed it over to Lichfield District Council’s tourism team who subsequently changed to @VisitLichfield leaving @Lichfield to be snapped up by someone who hasn’t even used it!

So I’d like to try and obtain @Lichfield instead. It’d be a great account to use and we could really use it well to promote everything that’s going on!

Here’s what I’d like you to do to help;

  1. Follow @Lichfield – this will send the owner an e-mail so if there’s lots of us that means lots of e-mails!
  2. Send a tweet to them, asking them to donate the account and linking to this blog post.

Please don’t retweet each other doing it – send your own, individual tweet as it’s the most sure fire way to make sure the owner gets lots of tweets! Oh and be polite!

Lastly, if you’re the owner and you’re reading this – pretty please could The Lichfield Blog have the account? Hopefully you’re reading this because you’ve seen the support we have locally but just in case, see our about page for what we are & do. If you’re willing to pass it on please e-mail me at phil@thelichfieldblog.co.uk 🙂

Staffs Police reach 5,000 followers, expect pat on the back for not engaging.

This morning, Staffordshire Police tweeted the following;

“Nearly 5,000 followers on force social media sites http://bit.ly/foyiNn

Brilliant. Good for them. It’d help if they actually engaged though on those social media sites. Or maybe the force is socially inept as an organisation.


I actually went through all of @StaffsPolice‘s 1,463 tweets. I found 21 replies (though I may have missed some). After running the account through TweetStats I was given the figure of 1.3% of total tweets were replies. That’s 19 if I’ve done my maths right.

The real telling stat though, was this one;

Over 90% of their tweets are completed automated, generated from an RSS feed with no input from an actual Police officer or employee.

There is some good news though – they have a few manned Twitter accounts which are working on a more community level which you can see in action on the Twitter list.


This is a funny one! Or at least, it made me chuckle before I got annoyed by it… The force’s Facebook page has 1,027 “fans” (or whatever Facebook is calling them this week).

Despite some good signs of engagement back in October it seems to have tailed off. The few examples there are focus on the Staffs Police asking us how they’re doing at social Media. Here’s a great example;

Across all of our social media sites we have 5,000 followers! Are you likely to engage more with Staffordshire Police because of Facebook and Twitter than you would if these weren’t available? Please post your comments below.

Andy Bennetts: Are you going to engage with the public through social media? It doesn’t look like it so far. Your various social networking accounts are a one way conveyor of ideas and information. There’s no conversation going on. You post links etc. people comment and that’s that. Doesn’t look like engagement to me.

Staffordshire Police Thanks for your comments, these will be useful as we look to increase the number of social media sites, especially at a local level, and also improve the way we use the sites to engage with youselves. Keep updated at www.staffordshire.police.uk/about_us/social_media/

Andy Bennetts: Just like that.

Andrew Fox: MegaLolz.. Thankyou for you engagement.

And then there’s the forum discussion they started asking how they’re doing. No replies; maybe they should take that as a hint. Once again the Facebook page is mostly made up of automated postings from an RSS feed using an app called RSS Graffiti – no human involvement.


Honestly, I’ve got better things to do.

I’d like to make this a sort of open request to Staffordshire Police: please get better. Go and ask Nick Keane and other forces for lessons in doing this right.

Michael Fabricant’s tweets: policy or playground?

Many of my Twitter followers have today seen my passionate side as I exchanged tweets with Michael Fabricant over his use of the social networking site. He’s a little unfortunate in that he’s the only one of Lichfield’s four candidates to be active on Twitter. Labour candidate Steve Hyden is but hasn’t tweeted since February. That gives Mike a boost when it comes to engagement with constituents, which is great, but I have a bee in my bonnett.

Like many voters, I think, I’m fed up of the playground politics that we often see. By that I mean politicians just attacking each other. Providing nothing meaningful in terms of solutions to the problems faced by the country or individuals, or focusing on policy. I believe the primary reason why Nick Clegg performed so well in the first leader’s debate is because he focused far more on re-iterating Liberal policy while Cameron and Brown attacked each other.

The polls were clear; as voters we are tired of playground politics. We don’t want you to be saying “don’t vote for the opposition, they’ll do A, B and C” – we want to hear “vote for us because we’ll do X, Y and Z.” In fact, I kind of don’t mind if candidates attack each other so long as they attack policy and then follow it up by telling us what their own policy is on the same issue.

It’s not hard, we just want to know what candidates stand for and what we can expect from them if they become our MP.

So with those basic principles in mind I decided to do a (very unscientific) sentiment analysis of Fabricant’s tweets since he ceased being an MP and became a candidate.

Of 47 tweets since 12th April I found that while 13 (28%) were positive a slightly higher number, 15 (32%) were negative. The rest (19 – 40%) were neutral.

I’ve copied them all into a spreadsheet which you can all see and scrutinise to your hearts content, and I encourage you to do so.

There was no rigid rule set about what is and isn’t positive or negative and in some cases I’ve even asked for clarification from you as to whether I got it right as well as explaining in some cases why I chose the sentiment I did. I’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

What it showed me personally was that, overall, Mike’s tweets ain’t that bad. Some of the negative tweets could have easily become positives if followed up with “…but Conservatives would do X” to show the difference in the main parties and hence the choice we have.

I should also point out that as an MP, Fabricant had some very good moments. Especially (and dear to my heart) the tweeting he did during the passing of the Digital Economy Bill.

So, what do you think?

Update: Michael said to me on Twitter, “Oh get real! Detailed policy in 140 chars? Go to www.conservatives.com for detailed policy.” so it makes sense I give an example of what I would like (not detailed policy!) This tweet attacking Nick Clegg could have been followed up with something like, “Conservative gov’t would introduce Privilege Act to stop that happening. See manifesto p66 http://bit.ly/aR9PfA [pdf]” – that’s 117 characters that says “vote for me and I’ll do something about such abuses.”

Would you go into a high street shop that if it required handing over your name and address to do so?

I’m gonna assume the answer is no. Giving info like full name, postal address, e-mail isn’t the kind of thing you expect to have to do purely to browse around.

So why do so many web sites insist on asking for exactly that?

I got a little irate earlier this week (maybe ’cause I’d been in a bad mood all day) at eMusic. I was doing a bit of research for my post about Spotify and just wanted to find out how much eMusic subscriptions were so I could compare the cost and support my argument that Spotify is too expensive when put up against the likes of eMusic.

Could I find out about the subcription plans let alone the prices though? No. I faced the same wall whatever I tried: a 13 field registration form which was just step 1 of a 3 step process.

It’s the same story with sites like Love Film which ask for your bank details just to get a free trial. They say stuff like “to make it easier for you to sign up after your trial, if you want to.” No it’s not, you just know some people are flakey and won’t be arsed to cancel. Or, like me, will cancel last minute but you’ll have already charged my account in advance for the first months subscription that I never actually said I wanted. (I got my own back, by the way.)

I had a brief conversation with eMusic on Twitter about this little phenomenon;

  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn This link should point you in the right direction:http://bit.ly/mMGrR
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews That asks me to login. How is that useful if I’m not a subscriber and want to know what my choices for subscribing are?
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn I believe there should be an option there to set up an account. If you go through that process, you should see plan options.
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews Yeah but only if I give you my passport, birth certificate and god knows what else. It’s called a barrier to conversion.
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn Hi Philip -if you fill in the first reg page, the 2nd page shows you the available plans.
  • PhilipJohn: @eMusicNews I get that but I don’t want to part with personal info just to see your prices. It’s like demanding ID to enter a high st shop!
  • eMusicNews: @philipjohn Sorry….

Know the phrase, “sorry isn’t good enough”?

You might be thinking, “why do you care so much, they’re the ones loosing out?” They probably are missing out on customers because they’re putting up a barrier to conversion.

Thing is, I’m passionate about the web and how it can be used successfully for businesses. But putting up barriers to conversion in any business is surely a bad idea (unless they’re designed as a qualifier). I hate to see examples of the web done ‘wrong’ because I want to see a web that is easy to use, free of frustration and ultimately a good experience for the user.

Yes, I’m an idealist, bit of a dreamer but it’s not impossible. It’s certainly not hard. So why not JFDI?!

I’ll make this an open letter to all on line businesses… open up. Take down your barriers. Let people in. You’ll benefit in the long run.

The Twitter settings update as a lesson in web usability

Twitter went a bit potty today over a change made to the services settings.

Yesterday, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, blogged the change saying,

“Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow… however, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow… is undesirable.”

See it yet? He said most people. That means a majority. It means that some aren’t like that. That means changing it will be bad for that minority.

Consider this change from Twitter to be entered into the 101 of how to piss off your users.

It’s all about choice. Give people choice and they will reward you with their loyalty, respect and recommendations.

Take features away or make life harder and they will scream, shout, complain and generally bang your door down.

But 37signals are just neglecting their customers

There’s been a bit of a spat between 37signals and Get Satisfaction today, after Mike Stanley took offence at Get Satisfaction’s efforts to get companies to take notice of their customers.

I really admire Get Satisfaction for the way it sort of shames companies who don’t provide good customer service.

I’ve never experienced 37signals’ customer support but plenty of people seem to think it’s top notch, so I can understand why the wording on Get Satisfaction would be hurtful to their reputation.

To their credit, Get Satisfaction have realised their mistake in how they word their site and responded well to Mike’s post.

However, I do think that 37signals are missing something.

In my last post I spoke about the open nature of the internet, that people will talk about companies on tools like Get Satisfaction and that any company hoping to maintain a good reputation needs to be monitoring these sites.

I also believe that the internet enables people to play by their own rules and that if companies are to provide the best customer service they should be prepared to do that in the customer’s preferred method.

Mike slammed Get Satisfaction’s approach saying,

 Their brand of “open” means “only on Get Satisfaction.”

Surely Mike is being hypocritical, though? If 37signals are committed to providing excellent customer service, shouldn’t they deliver that service via whatever means customers ask for it?

They already do that through Twitter, so why not Get Satisfaction?

Mike suggests that,

When customers see a “support site for 37signals” and an open text field, they’ll post their concerns and they’ll get pissed when they don’t hear back. I would be too!

That’s certainly not a good thing, but by not taking part in Get Satisfaction aren’t 37signals just neglecting those customers?

What do you think? Should 37signals use Get Satisfaction like they use Twitter or should Get Satisfaction be making sure that visitors to their site are well informed that 37signals has it’s own support area?

Update: I’ve added my thoughts to the comments of Mike’s original post. Do find on “Philip John” to see it. Maybe 37signals didn’t like my comment, ’cause it’s been deleted. I’ve commented again asking why. Let’s see if that one stays there.

The internet will make you accountable for your actions

I wouldn’t normally advocate reading The Sun, but as much as it pains me to do so I need to make a point.

A woman has apparently initiated divorce proceedings against her husband after spotting his car outside another woman’s house, on Google Street View.

“Top media laywer Mark Stephens” was quoted saying, “I suspect the husband’s lawyers will claim it was an invasion of privacy that will cost him his marriage and Range Rover.”

He may well lose his marriage and precious shagg wagon but it’s not Street View that’s brought that cost upon him, he’s done that all on his own.

And here, my patient readers, is where my point comes in.

The internet is an open and democratic medium. Get filmed, photographed or otherwise captured doing something you shouldn’t and you could well face the consequences.

It’s not the fault of the internet, of Google, of ISPs or of web site owners. It’s your fault.

Moaning about having your ‘privacy invaded’ because you got caught humping your cleaner thanks to the internet is akin to complaining that you got caught speeding because you happened to have been followed by an un-marked Police car.

The solution is quite simple: don’t do anything you wouldn’t want anyone knowing about. Especially cheating on your wife!

And guess what, the same applies (even more so, in fact) to companies.

On an almost daily basis my twitterstream contains tweets pertaining to bad customer service. I always worry for those companies. I wish, for their sake, that they’re monitoring Twitter, and the rest of the web.

If not, they are potentially letting their reputation sink lower and lower. As tools like Twitter, Facebook and Get Satisfaction gain traction, more and more people are making themselves heard. Word of mouth as a communication medium has rocketed to new heights.

So, if you’re a business do two things right now.

  1. Smarten up. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t mind the world knowing about.
  2. Keep an eye on what’s happening to your brand online. Failure to do so could result in a seriously damaged reputation.