An Inspired Use of Twitter?

Can we finally make Twitter work for business?

Some time ago, I blogged about our company Twitter account. We now have around 160 followers which sounds marginally interesting. Only, it’s not.

The biggest problem is perhaps our name, which includes the word ‘computers’. This has unfortunately invited scores of computer shops, assorted geeks and a plethora of ‘bots’ to follow us. From a business perspective, this is next to useless, as none of these people are potential or existing customers (of which we only have around 5 following us).

We’ve marketed the fact we’re on Twitter. It’s on every e-shot we send out, for example, but it simply hasn’t caught on. Several customers have signed up, only to leave their account untouched, no doubt somewhat bemused at the service’s insistence on asking what they’re up to. I don’t blame them; taking on Twitter from a commercial point of view isn’t an easy decision.

Or is it?

We had a brainwave recently which has transformed the way we use Twitter. As you may know, Twitter publishes RSS feeds for anyone that tweets. RSS feeds are highly useful as they can be incorporated into any website and, as we’ve discovered, locally-installed applications.

Without going into too much detail, we develop software for hotels. One element of this software has always been earmarked as a potential tool to distribute news to our customers. News and, of course, product promotion.

So, our clever technical team very quickly incorporated our Twitter RSS feed into said application. They’ve done it in such a way that the end user has no idea the text they are reading has come from Twitter. It wouldn’t matter if this wasn’t the case, of course, but it looks a little tidier and bespoke as a result. Clicking the links takes them directly the URL within the tweet, not the tweet itself, and we’ve even got a bit clever with dates and such so that only the last seven day’s worth of tweets is displayed and, if none are available, or the internet connection is down, the news section disappears altogether.

I’d encourage any software developer to consider this method of utilising Twitter. The alternative we had was to make our application display a web page, but updating this would be a much more arduous task. In comparison, Twitter can be updated with a couple of clicks and from anywhere, as long as we’ve got an internet connection.

Please get in touch or comment below if you’ve found similar ways of making Twitter work for your business. I’d love to hear from you.

Keyboard Warriors on the Rise

According to recent reports, ‘internet bullying’ is on the rise. I sandwich the term with inverted commas because the internet is such an integral part of life these days; reality and cyberspace are split by a very thin fibre optic line and this recent news filler is purely confirmation that bullying is still an issue. The mediums through which to channel it have simply increased and have got more sophisticated.

Firstly, let’s start with the bullies themselves. It’s all too easy to bash some words into a chat window. No one knows who you are, what you’re wearing, what your hair looks like or the expression you have on your face. Indeed, practicing the art of the keyboard warrior is about as easy as eating toast.

No eye contact is involved, therefore you can say what you like and not worry about uncontrollable blushes or stutters. Unless you’ve been drinking too much coffee, you’re unlikely to stumble on a wwword, for example. You can unleash torrents of well structured, grammatically-perfect abuse.

Needless to say, people that use the likes of MSN and Facebook to call people names are about as pathetically unconfident and cowardly as it is possible to be. And this is where I struggle with the whole concept of online bullying.

The fact that the medium in this case is the internet, and the tools are social networking sites, means that anyone subscribing to such services have complete, unequivocal control over who they allow conversations with.

Facebook, for example, allows you to block people. In fact, most social network sites and chat service do. Don’t like someone? A couple of clicks and they disappear. Completely. You can’t do that in the playground.

I’m not in any way belittling or suggesting that those at the sharp end of this trend are willingly receiving abuse, but there really is a quick way out if someone decides they would prefer to spend their evenings spouting profanities about you rather than leading an interesting, normal existence.

Bullying is a hideous part of life for many people. It’s something that will never be eradicated, unfortunately, but for those stupid enough to pick the internet as their battleground of choice, their time and patience is surely going to be limited. The very fact they’ve chosen something people can control not only shows their lack of brain cells but in fact means they’ve given the people they are bullying the advantage.

Brown – A Blunder Too Far?

It was with a certain degree of horror that I watched the poor mother of a soldier killed in action struggle to pick through the personal letter of condolence she’d received from our Prime Minister.

Not only did he start by getting the family name wrong (‘James’ as opposed to ‘Janes’), he then went on to make a complete hash of the lad’s name, stopping briefly to try and correct his mistake. He didn’t even resort to Tippex – it was simply a failed attempt at making an O look like an E. You know, the sort of thing you do on last night’s homework rushed over breakfast.

We’re told Brown struggles to write due to a loss of sight in one eye and that he would never knowingly insult any member of the public, let alone someone who has just lost their son to a highly controversial war.

This may well be the case, but come on. Seriously. I spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring letters and emails I write to customers are word perfect. I’m ashamed if I see a spelling mistake or grammatical error in anything I’ve sent. And I’m writing to people requesting information on our products and services. We sell computer software. Brown has chosen to personally hand write these letters to families of the deceased; the very least he could do is spend some time over them.

Putting the spelling mistakes to one side, why on earth didn’t he stop and start again when he began butchering the name of a dead soldier? And why wasn’t it proof read? You’d think a man in such a perilous position as Brown, a man who’s people treat him and his fellow MPs with the ridicule and contempt their barmy initiatives and activities afford, would at least have got someone to scan over it before popping it in the post. Aren’t poor headlines and political ridicule constantly at the back of his mind?

Obviously not.

I doubt I’m the only person to write about this today, but I felt compelled to do so. I never fail to be utterly amazed at how badly this government goes about its day to day business. What’s next? Can Brown really survive any more blunders of this magnitude?

Driving would be ok if it wasn’t for everyone else

I’ve just about had it with driving on this nation’s congested, poorly designed, potholed roads.

And it’s not just those aforementioned problems that irritate me on a daily basis. No, it’s primarily the bumbling idiots that inhabit the UK’s tarmac. I really enjoy driving but it is very rare that I actually get to enjoy a spot of trouble-free time behind the wheel. Without exception, my daily commute is always blighted by some screen-licking nervous wreck in front of me.

I have the following pieces of advice for those that find driving more confusing and scary than a weekend in a log cabin with only Noel Edmunds for company:

  1. Maintain a constant speed. It’s really not that hard to keep driving at 70MPH on a motorway, for instance. Traffic will always flow properly if everyone keeps their right foot steady; there should be no reason to ever slow down on the motorway unless you crash into a cow that has wandered from its field. Those that do a lot of motorway driving will know that congestion is very rarely caused by accidents and nearly always caused by the dribbling majority who simply don’t understand the concept of steady driving.
  2. Be ready when the lights turn green. We’re all told we rush about too much these days, but I don’t care – BE ready when those lights turn green. Don’t spend fifteen minutes fumbling with your gear stick and handbrake before pulling off.
  3. Pick a lane and stick to it. We’ve all been in situations where we’re in a foreign town and not entirely sure which way to go. Road layouts, as already mentioned, are also notoriously crap in this country. However, I see this on too regular a basis in my own town for it to simply be outsiders. Don’t straddle two lanes – just pick the correct one. Really, really simple stuff.
  4. Stop braking every three seconds. This relates to point 1, and is also most prevalent on motorways. There is a reason you have to keep braking – it’s because you keep flooring the throttle every five seconds even though the car in front isn’t increasing its speed. Trust me, there is nothing more irritating that a brake-happy idiot in front of you. Nothing. Not even Alistair Darling.
  5. We don’t care you’re driving a BMW. Once, I had no choice but to undertake a guy driving a BMW 3 series on a dual carriageway. Whilst I was breezing along at 60 in the correct lane, he was crawling along at about 40 in the outside lane on his mobile phone. Several miles later he thundered up and levelled with me giving me just about every unsporting hand gesture I’ve seen. With that, off he went. Had I had the time to explain, I would have pointed out that I had no choice but to undertake him and that yes, he probably did have a much faster car than me. So, BM and Audi drivers, please put your penises back into your trousers and just get on with your day – no one cares what car you’re driving.

There are far more points I could add to the above, but I don’t want to lecture you any further. If you know of anyone in your family who’s driving mirrors any of the above points, please forward my advice. Perhaps once we get everyone driving correctly we can all get to work on time, ditch speed cameras and finally remove the pointless speed limit on the nation’s motorways.

Facebook Addiction Tops My Stats

A cool person using Facebook, would you believe.

Back in February this year, I wrote this blog. A very brief, light-hearted take on the social phenomenon that is Facebook. I quickly forgot I even wrote it, until a few month down the line when I checked the stats. And there it sat, at the top of the list of the most visited pages.

Its since been overtaken slightly by my take on learning piano via YouTube, but still remains the one post that is accessed on an almost daily basis.

So why is it so popular? I think some of the search terms entered into Google may shed some light:

are we addicted to facebook

why are we so addicted to facebook

we are addicted to facebook

I’m not entirely sure my blog will have quenched the thirsts of these clearly distressed Facebook users, but their search terms are fairly conclusive nonetheless.

As a nation, we are growing more addicted to Facebook by the day.

My comments in the aforementioned post centred around the eternally annoying practice of inane comment posting. It is, however, these very comments and the subjects being commented on (be it a status update or picture upload, for example) which are the root cause of Facebook addiction. We all want to know what everyone’s up to. We want to see where they’ve been. Perhaps, as Brits, we want to delight in those that are miserable, or be angered by those that have strict views on something.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m addicted to a certain degree. While I don’t partake in the posting of dreary comments such as ‘Lol, yeah that was well funny’ or inform people that I ‘have just had the most wonderful time at the park with Dave and the kids, mwah lolol’, I do check the site on too regular a basis. This is due largely to my iPhone which makes it so instantly accessible, wherever I am.

It can be a laugh at times. I love those that don’t take it seriously. There is some brilliant humour on Facebook and the way in which certain comment threads develop amongst my friends is a sight to behold (albeit one I occasionally wish my mum didn’t have access to).

This phenomena is made all the more interesting by the fact that, five years ago – maybe less – Facebook would have been the subject of ridicule and concealed to the domain of the eternally-friendless geeks. It really wasn’t that long ago that the practice of talking to people online was deemed utterly pathetic and reserved for those with square-rimmed glassed held together with scotch tape. Now everyone’s at it. Social media has quickly become the domain of the uber cool.

Going on my stats thus far, I’m expecting this blog to get a fair few hits. Therefore, if you’ve ended up here and have something to say on the subject, I’d love to hear it. Please comment below.