Twitter and Flickr, Rich and Poor, and the West

This morning I ran across this map of Twitter and Flickr activity around the world.  The blue dots represent Twitter activity, while the orange-ish ones represent Flickr photo uploads.

I think the prevalence of activity in the West says something about the world, although I haven’t nailed down exactly what that is yet.

It’s related to something I’ve been thinking about recently: what it means to be rich and what it means to be poor, how even the poor in the west are quite well off compared with the poor elsewhere.

Map by Eric Fisher

Win an iPod Shuffle – Try 2

Alright, my last iPod Shuffle give away failed to actually lead to a give away. So here it goes again. If @ObamaNews gets 100,000 followers by midnight on Easter, I’ll give away a 2nd Gen Shuffle. All of the other fine print from the last contest still applies. Good luck, and don’t forget to tell your friends!

Lent, Fasting, and Idolatry

In case you’re not already aware, Lent begins today. Lent is a solemn season of fasting (abstaining from something, traditionally food) that is modeled after Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness.

Lent is practiced in many churches and often looks different for different traditions, but the idea of giving up something in order to spend more time seeking God is fairly common.

I think that it can be especially beneficial to give up something that is or has the potential of becoming an idol to you. An idol is anything that takes the place of God as first in your life.

A while back I gave up working on a web project because it was consuming me. It consumed my time, my thoughts, so I stepped back from it for a week.

For Lent this year I am giving up seeking out new Twitter followers. I’ve been on a quest for the past few months to gain followers, and while I have been able to use this expanded reach for some good purposes, it does have the potential to become all about self-promotion and my ego, about self-worship.

For the sake of honesty, I should mention that there are a few ways that I work on gaining followers, and one of them in particular is what I plan to quit. Not sure about the others yet.

Are you fasting anything up for Lent? Why are you giving it up?

The Cons of Social Networking?

Earlier today Ed Stetzer, the President of Lifeway Research, wrote a blog post entitled “The Pros and Cons of Social Networking.” While I agree with his pros (and would probably add in a few of my own), many of his cons strike me the wrong way. I’ll dive right in. (Bolded and italicized content is Ed’s, emphasis mine.)

  • When Twitter friends ask me to promote their product on my blog or Twitter.
    Stop it.

    Sometimes people ask you to do something for them on Twitter. You’re free to take a look at the product/service and accept or deny their request. You can also ignore all of these entirely. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. If all someone ever does is self-promotion, that’s pretty frustrating, but if someone asks for something once (or every once in a while), I don’t have a problem with that, especially if it’s someone who dialogues with me regularly on other issues. In fact, Guy Kawasaki just wrote a post on using Twitter as a promotional tool, and he says the exact opposite:

    Ask for help. Don’t be shy about asking people on Twitter to spread the word for you. If they like what you do, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s as simple and transparent as that. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for some of us), most people don’t have the chutzpah to ask for help.

  • When conferences ask me to promote their conference on my blog.
    Stop it.

    See Above

  • When people want to argue with me through Twitter.
    Here’s how it goes down: “Do you really think it is right for LifeWay to not sell this or that product?” Yes, let me think, could I have the privilege of debating you about this while 2000 people watch and we put our thoughts into 140 character Tweets? Genius.

    I realize that Twitter is not always the best forum for debate, and that some issues are best not discussed quite this publicly, especially in a format that removes a great deal of nuance. I think I know the issue Ed has in mind (although I obviously could be wrong about that), and it is a sensitive one.

    I do need to mention that before publishing this post I got in touch with Ed. I always want to be careful when being critical. He happily gave me the go ahead to post this criticism, so it would certainly be unfair to say that he’s unwilling to deal with criticism, but rather that he particularly dislikes Twitter for this type of dialogue. When I initially read this point, it seemed to be a repudiation of all public criticism or questioning online.

    That said, I think we can only expect that just as our Twitter followers will say things like “Hey great decision!” or “Loved your blog post on missions!”, they will also actively disagree with and question us as well. We’re free not to engage them if we so choose, but just like in the real world, people are going to express their opinions on social networks.

  • When people do drive by questions.
    For example, I tweet, “Going to be in Chicago for a week teaching at TEDS.” My next tweet is, “Just landed in snowy Chicago.” Then, I get two replies, “Ed, how long will you be in Chicago?” Three words people: READ THE FEED. It’s not as violent as a drive-by shooting, but it’s just as impolite.

    I’m not sure about comparing a drive-by tweeting to a drive-by shooting, but regardless, it’s tough to follow everyone’s complete twitter feed. While I don’t follow as many people as Ed, I do have a few hundred, far too many for me to read every update or visit every profile. Yes, I usually visit the profile before asking this type of question, but if you tweeted about going to Chicago two hours ago, and I sign into Twitter just in time for your “Just landed in snowy Chicago” tweet, then I might ask what you’re doing there. It’s fine if you don’t want to answer. (Although continually ignoring people’s questions on Twitter is rude. Note that I’m not saying Ed does this. He responded to my inquiry.)

  • When people try to discuss blog posts via direct message on Twitter.
    Look, if I wanted to have a private chat about it I would not have posted it on the blog.

    I’m not a big fan of DMs either, but it’s not that big of a deal. (Yes this is serving as notice to my Twitter followers that I prefer to discuss things in the open unless they really are private. Had a lengthy conversation [for Twitter] last night, parts of which were better left for DM.)

  • When people ask me random questions via Twitter.
    “Ed, we have 300 people in our church. How many students should we have in our youth group?” My name is Ed, not “google.” And, that has a lot to do with your community, by the way.

    People are following you and interacting with you because they value your opinion. If they wanted random information on youth groups, they would Google it. They’re asking Ed Stetzer because they want Ed Stetzer’s opinion. If you’ve already answered that question somewhere online or in a book, you can kindly refer them there or simply tell them to search for that content.

    Although, Ed is right that certain questions can’t be answered without context, his youth group example being one. My church of ~1250 as a youth group of around 6. Then again, the average age is something like 27, and I’m glad most people in our congregation didn’t have kids at 15! So I agree, think before asking.

  • When Facebook friends ask me my email address.
    Look– if we are friends, it is right there. This is almost like someone calling me up on my cellphone to ask what my area code is. *sigh*

    Okay, this one I completely agree with. If my e-mail address is on my Info page, then you don’t need to ask me for it. Don’t be lazy.

  • When Facebook friends invite me to an “event” they should know I cannot attend.
    If it’s not a real event, I don’t want to “attend.” If it is a real event and it’s out of state– it’s irrelevant to me.

    When it comes to non-real events, people may not know that you don’t want to “attend.” It’s easy enough to ignore these or simply decline. Yes, if I obviously can’t be there (and it’s not a significant enough event that people would travel for it), then don’t invite me.

  • When people invite me to join their “cause.”
    I am not joining your crusade for or against the “new facebook,” the “reason for the season,” or anything else. You aren’t going to change hearts and minds and overcome the evil one with what amounts to an electronic petition that no one cares about.

    Fair enough, you don’t like it, some do.

  • When people invite me to play some kind of a Facebook game.
    Look– you may enjoy Dungeons and Dragons but I don’t want to play it with you at this stage in my life. I’m not networking here to see your magic castle, become your squire, or fight your mob war. Just sayin’

    Once again, a personal preference (one that I share). I recommend the “Block” feature for most Facebook apps. That way you won’t get that one again. A side note, if you want to play Scrabble or Boggle with me, I might be up for that! But I’m not going to zombie bite anyone.

Ed obviously has a bigger influence than I do online and a MUCH bigger influence offline. I’m sure he is bombarded with far more questions and requests than I am. On the other hand, it seems unreasonable to expect people to only interact with you on your terms.

I suppose the tone of this post is more what I take issue with. It doesn’t seem to be just a listing of things that are/could be frustrating about social networks. It’s not a kind ask for people to stop doing these things. It seems to be a series of complaints about people not acting the way you want them to, and most of the things listed aren’t inherently rude. I don’t always like the way people interact with me online, but that doesn’t make them wrong.

I don’t mind if people ask me to help them promote something. If I like it, I will; if not, I won’t. If you want to ask me my opinion, go ahead. I may or may not have a good answer. Don’t ask me a factual question that Google answers in the first result, but if you want my take on something, go for it. Social networks are communities. Communities are full of people. People dialogue with other people. People ask people questions.

I hope that I have not been overly critical in this post. I suppose that I am not giving Mr. Stetzer the benefit of the doubt at most points, but the way his post is written it doesn’t seem that he is giving his online community that either. Perhaps I misunderstood and there was more humor intended in his post than I give him credit for.

What are your thoughts about social networking etiquette?

Youngest Twitterer Ever?

My friends Chris and Lora Jarrell had a baby just under a month ago (30 days to be exact), and today they started a Twitter account for him. He’s @TorinJarrell. It’s locked, as well it should be, seeing as he’s not yet a month old, but I wonder if this doesn’t make him the youngest Twitterer ever.

Perhaps more interesting are the sociological and developmental ramifications. Whereas I started using Twitter as an adult, Torin will never know life without Twitter. I assume that when he’s old enough, whatever age that may be, Chris and Lora will turn his account over to him. This also means that depending on how long Twitter keeps their records, Torin could very well have a chronicle of his life story from infancy. That could be a very cool thing.

Twitter Raises API Limit to 100 Requests Per Hour

No Twitter Whale

I didn’t have the chance to blog about it, but I noticed the other day that Twitter set their API limit back to 70 requests per hour without mentioning it on their status blog. I just checked the blog again, and they’ve actually raised the limit to 100 requests per hour. I’ve been quite disenchanted with Twitter lately, not only for their downtime, but also for their removal or severe limitation of integral services in an effort to keep the service up and running. This started me down a path away from Twitter, not really replacing it with anything, just not using it, but this may cause me to start using it more heavily. Congrats to the Twitter staff for this excellent development. Keep up the good work.

Twitter Restores API Limit to 50 Requests Per Hour

Those of you who use Twitter know that the folks at Twitter haven’t been able to keep the service running properly. You may also know that in an effort to combat the enormous amounts of negative PR that they were receiving as a result the downtime, they started the Twitter Status Blog, which keeps you updated on every bump and hiccup the system has.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that during the Stevenote, Steve Jobs’ keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), that some features of Twitter would be disabled and that API requests would be limited to 10 per hour. The Twitter team did this to keep Twitter running during a period when they expected 10x their normal traffic levels. Apparently, the steps they took worked. While this served to keep Twitter running, it essentially brought the system down for those of us who rely on the API to use the service. Anyone who uses Flock, twhirl, AlertThingy, or any of the other myriad of Twitter apps was only able to receive updates every 6 minutes. considering the conversational nature of the tool and the frequency with which I receive updates (probably 5-10/minute during the WWDC), this made Twitter virtually useless to me.

As you can probably tell, I was not (and am still not) very pleased with the way that Twitter decided to cope with the stress on the system. I just shut Twitter off yesterday. Later, the Status Blog mentioned that they had increased the request limit to 20 requests per hour, but this still wasn’t enough. Twitter requires separate requests for messages, @ replies, and direct messages, meaning that I could still only get updates about once every 4 minutes, and I could only request @ replies and direct messages once per hour. Remember that the original API limit was 70 requests per hour; then they dropped it to 30. This change, done without any announcement until well after it was implemented, caused trouble for many users.

That change was made before Twitter started their crusade to be open about the problems they are facing, but Twitter recently made another change without announcing it. At some point yesterday, they set the API request limit back to 50 per hour. This is a very welcome change. While I hope that the final solution to Twitter’s scaling problems isn’t to limit functionality during big events, I am pleased that they have increased the request limit and hope that they restore it to its original level soon.

Note: This means that you can reconfigure your client to request your tweets more often. Instructions for twhirl are here.

twhirl Stop Working? Here’s a Fix.

Since most of you probably don’t care why your twitter client (i.e. twhirl, AlertThingy, etc.) isn’t working and just want to know how to fix it, I’ll go through the fix first.

If you’re getting a “limit exceeded” message or if you simply stop receiving Tweets, you need to tell your client to request your Tweets less often.

Changing this setting is pretty easy to do on twhirl. Just click on the wrench icon at the top of the window (directly to the left of the minimize icon), and go to the “Network” tab. Set the “Request usage” option to 30 requests per hour or less. You can then fine tune how often you get Tweets, DMs, and @ replies. I tend to want my Tweets more frequently (every 3 minutes) and replies and DMs less often (every 20 minutes), but you can obviously fine tune this depending on how you use Twitter.

I’m not sure how to do this on other clients (AlertThingy still really baffles me), but you can probably find the setting if you hunt around a bit.

For those of you who do care about the cause behind this problem:

Twitter recently changed their API to lessen the stress on their system. If you use Twitter with any regularity, you know they’ve been having a lot of downtime recently. Basically, the non-IM clients were previously allowed to access your Twitter account 70 times per hour, but the folks at Twitter limited these requests to 30 per hour. Consequently, you have to tell your client to request Tweets less often. Otherwise, about 30 minutes after you first open your client it will stop working for about 30 minutes, and this 30 minutes on/30 minutes off problem will continue until Twitter moves the limit back to 70 requests per hour.

Moreover, my (not personally verified) understanding is that the IM clients (GTalk, AIM, etc.) aren’t working at all right now, as Twitter has disabled the Jabber/XMPP protocol.

Hope this helps!

Twitter API Lowers Authenticated Request Limit to 30 Per Hour

If you use Twitter, you know that it’s had significant downtime recently. The Twitter team apparently figured out that the source of at least some of their problems was a Jabber client. However, they didn’t mention that they lowered their API limits to 30 authenticated requests per hour (down from 70). They also had some database issues today, so maybe that was why they decided to scale back the service. I’m happy to trade the frequency if it means more reliability, but I am curious if this is a permanent solution or something they implemented just to get them by in the short term.

Update: I figured I should give you a couple more details. I figured this out simply by using the API. After thirty requests, I got the following message “Rate limit exceeded. Clients may not make more than 30 requests per hour.”

Tweet Clouds & Ethics

I stumbled upon (as in came across, not actually Stumbled Upon) a blog post about Tweet Clouds, a service that provides a tag cloud of your tweets. This is pretty interesting for personal use, but what are the other ramifications? Eric Gonzalez asks these questions:

Will Twittercloud analysis become as common an HR proceedure as a background check for hiring? Will nerds like me run social media metrics prior to doing business with someone? Is this an effective (or ethical) way to get inside a prospect’s head for salespeople? What are the shortcomings and caveats here?

How would you use cloud statistics in business, or in your personal life?

I must say, I find these to be incredibly intriguing questions. I will say that on first blush, I don’t have any ethical problems with using a Tweet Cloud to better understand a prospective client. When people openly publish information on the Internet, I think they have to expect that information to be used to market to them, but I am curious what you all think about that. Is there something I’m missing?

Unfortunately, Tweet Clouds is down right now, so I can’t actually produce a cloud for you all to see. Perhaps I’ll update this later. It’s not my night for web services.

Update: It helps when you title your posts 😉