Twitter Gets You Noticed

I only joined Twitter back in December, but I have been very impressed with the impact it has had in terms of my blog.  My blog posts are automatically sent to Twitter via TwitterFeed so that followers know when I have written a new post.  Since joining Twitter and setting up this feed, views on this blog have steadily increased way beyond the kind of figures I used to get pre-Twitter, as the following demonstrates:

Total views (the red mark indicates when I joined Twitter)

Total views (the red mark indicates when I joined Twitter)

It just goes to show, if you want to get your blog noticed, get on Twitter and start feeding your blog through your account – it’ll get you noticed!

Diigo and Delicious

After seeing a lot of stuff about Diigo floating around in the ether, I thought I should sign up and give it a try (as I do with these web 2.0 tools!).  So far I have been reasonably happy with it, although it does seem to lack some functionality that I rather like on Delicious (I have still kept my Delicious account running whilst I play with Diigo).  For example, Diigo doesn’t suggest tags like Delicious does (at least as far as I can fathom).  When I tag a page on Delicious, not only does it offer recommended tags (both from other users applied tags and my own), it will also predict what tag I am adding as I type it.  This makes my life much easier as it keeps my tags neatly organised.  With Delicious I can start typing in a tag and see instantly if this is a tag I would normally use (Delicious informs you how many times that tag has been used).  Without this functionality, I find myself staring blankly at the screen trying to work out what tags I would normally apply to an item.

Despite this minor flaw, Diigo definitely has one advantage over Delicious: the ability to highlight text on a web page.  Many a time I have bookmarked a site due to a small passage on the page.  The beauty of Diigo is that you can highlight the relevant passage for future relevance instead of having to scour the entire page at a later date, desperately trying to remember why you bookmarked the page in the first place.  This is certainly a massive advantage over Delicious and one that has made Diigo a resource worthy of further investigation.

For now, I will reserve my judgement until I have had more time to play around with it.  It certainly seems a useful tool, but to me it lacks Delicious’ simplicity (which may be a strength for many).  Maybe in time I will ditch Delicious in favour of Diigo.  At the moment I’m not so sure.

A Basic Guide to Twitter

I have noticed a number of people signing up for Twitter or asking me about it in recent days and weeks and, undeterred by the amount of blog posts already written on the subject, I thought I would wade in with a few tips on how to use it (there’s a glossary of terms at the end).

1.  Once you have signed up for an account and decided on a username, ensure you add a photo to your profile.  I tend to be very wary of Tweeters who do not have a picture.  Generally speaking, it tends to be spammers that don’t add one and consequently, if you don’t have a picture, many people won’t even consider following you.  So,  in short, if you want to make the most of what Twitter has to offer, add a photo pronto!

2.  Perhaps the most important tip of all.  Once you have chosen a username, make sure you fill in the ‘one line bio’ box in the settings screen.  I cannot emphasise enough just how important this is.  This is what will essentially attract fellow Tweeters to follow you.  Not only fellow Tweeters, but fellow Tweeters that you will actually be interested in following.  For example, I am interested in connecting with librarians, so I indicated in my bio some information that will attract other Tweeters to follow me: “ILS student, wannabe librarian, ebook owner and Web 2.0 addict.” By inputting such information, fellow users will instantly be able to see if you will tweet the sort of things that they are interested in.  Complete this section appropriately, and you will soon attract other users.  Furthermore, by completing this section properly, you will really start to see the benefits of being on Twitter.

3. Once you have sorted out your profile, it’s time to find some other Tweeters.  One of the best ways of finding people to follow is by using Twitter Advanced Search.  By completing the search form, you can easily find other users who ‘tweet’ about things that you are interested in or who live in your area.

4.  Keep your tweets public if you want to gain followers.  If you make them private, no-one will follow you making it less likely to discover anyone that may be of interest.

5.  To send someone a public reply, use ‘@’.  For example, using @ijclark (my username) will ensure that I get a message and that anyone else who follows you will also be able to see that message on your profile page. Furthermore, those that follow both of us will potentially be able to see any @replies (this can be turned off in the settings menu).

6.  To send a private message, use direct message (use ‘D’ followed by a space and then the username of the person the message is directed at).  This ensures that only the sender and the recipient will be able to see the message.

7.  To manage your tweets more effectively, sign up for TweetDeck. This is a desktop application that allows the user to split tweets into columns making them easier to follow as well as making it easier to send @replies, messages and ‘retweets’.

8.  If you have accounts with other social networking sites, eg Delicious, LastFM etc, sign up for Twitterfeed to enable recent activity to be posted to your profile.  For example, if you ‘love’ a song on LastFM, you can set Twitterfeed to post this activity straight to your profile.  Likewise, add a link to your Delicious page and that too can be directed to your Twitter profile via Twitterfeed.  This also applies if you have a blog.  Add the RSS feed to Twitterfeed and a link to your blog post will be added to your Twitter profile.

9.  Link Twitter to Facebook.  By adding the Twitter application on Facebook your Twitter updates will also be posted on your Facebook status…handily killing two birds with one stone.

10. Set up your Twitter account to enable mobile updates.  This makes it far more instantaneous than solely updating when you are at a computer…a massive benefit when using Twitter as the immediacy of tweets are a crucial component in making it such a useful tool.

11. Want to share a website you have found? TinyURL, bit.ly and other shortening tools are essential for shortening web addresses and enabling them to fit within your 140 character limit.

That should be enough to get you started.  It is quite common to sign up for Twitter and think ‘Eh?’, before giving up and wondering what all the fuss was about.  It’s only after you have been using it properly that you begin to see why Twitter is such an excellent tool for connecting to other people.  Since joining I have found it very beneficial, especially in terms of my job as I have been able to pick up various hints and tips I wouldn’t have been aware of previous to signing up. As long as you use Twitter properly, you too will find it a wonderful tool for communicating with others.  It’s not just about telling people about what you are having for lunch…..it is much more than that.

Glossary

Twitter: A social networking site that enables users to connect with others using short messages of 140 characters.

Tweets: The messages that are posted on Twitter.

Tweeter: Someone who writes ‘tweets’ (short messages) on Twitter.

bio: Gives other Tweeters an idea of what you are likely to ‘tweet’ about. Absolutely essential to fill this in.

@[username]: Sends public message to that user.

D [username]: Sends private message to that user.

Retweet: Resending a tweet that someone else has written.

TweetDeck: Organises ‘tweets’ into groups making it easier to manage.

Twitterfeed: A tool that sends RSS updates to your Twitter profile (including blog posts and activity from other social networking websites).

TinyURL: A tool that shortens web addresses.

Bookmarking Websites with Delicious

delicious-2I have long found that the Favourites folder on IE was not exactly the most convenient way of storing websites for future reference.  I often found that I had to go through my folders trying to find the actual link I required, all the time wondering what it was called and what folder I had actually put it in.  Many a time I eventually gave in and ended up trying to search for the site again using Google – an infuriating and wasteful way of finding that elusive website.  The need to find an alternative became even more pressing when I started my course, as I knew I would be bookmarking a lot of material.  It was at this point I finally plunged for Delicious.

I have to admit, I came to Delicious a little late.  It was already widely used by the time I came round to finally signing up for an account.  However, no sooner had I joined than I wished that I had signed up for an account a long time ago.  Quite frankly, once you have signed up for a Delicious account, you wonder why you have put up with IE Favourites for so long.  So, what actually is Delicious?  How does it work?  What are the benefits of using it as your library of bookmarks?

Once you sign up for an account with Delicious, you have the option to download a toolbar direct to your browser.  After downloading, you can simply add a website to your Delicious links at the press of a button.  Nice and simple.  The downloaded toolbar also has a number of other neat features, like a list of your most recent bookmarked items  and the ability to see your links in a sidebar.  The thing that really stands out on Delicious, is the ability to add tags to items that are bookmarked to your account.  This enables the user to retrieve links quickly and easily.  The tags can either be simple one word tags, or word combinations using ‘_’ or ‘-’.  When searching for a specific tag, you can simply click on a tag to present a list of items tagged with that specific term.  You can then drill down even further by adding another tag into the mix.  So, for example, you may click on the tag ‘football’ and get a list of items related to football.  You may then decide that you want to find the links that are related to Italian football, so you would just click on the tag ‘Italy’.  You would then be presented with all the links that have been tagged with the terms ‘football’ and ‘Italy’ (which should hopefully relate to both these tags).  This is really handy for finding items quickly and efficiently.  Unlike IE folders, you don’t have to indulge in a fruitless search through a sea of links and folders that give you very few clues about what they relate to.  You can even add a short description on Delicious to make it even easier to find the right item.

There is also the ability to browse through tags that have been applied by other users in order to find items that might also be useful for future reference.  And, if you discover a fellow account holder with similar interests, you can add them to your network and keep up-to-date with what they are bookmarking.  As a result, it is possible to not only organise your bookmarks, but also to discover new resources that may not have encountered before.  Delicious enables a degree of knowledge sharing not previously possible on the internet.

There have been arguments amongst some that the idea of individuals tagging items would be a nightmare for someone wanting to find a particular resource.  After all, if everyone applied there own tags to an individual bookmark, there would be chaos, right?  How could you guarantee that you could find all the weblinks that you were after if there is no consistency in the way users ‘tag’ their items?  Well, this isn’t as much as a problem as you might think.  It turns out there is a high level of consistency to tagging the more people save a particular bookmark.

This consistency is rather helped by the fact that Delicious suggests tags that may be appropriate for the item that you have bookmarked.  These suggestions tend to be the most popular tags which therefore helps to standardise the cataloguing of weblinks.  Even if these are ignored, however, there is still some degree of consistency.  Generally speaking, there is a tendency for people to tag things in a similar way.  As more people tag an item, a commonality amongst tags starts to emerge.  Although there is a variety in the number of tags that are applied, there does tend to be a small number of tags that will consistently appear across all users.  This commonality suggests that user-based tagging is not as anarchic as one might be lead to believe.  In fact, as Merholz has argued, such systems are rather like ‘desire lines’ that emerge over time in a landscape.  Once it becomes clear that a commonality has developed amongst users tags, it is easy to direct them to the appropriate tag (rather like a controlled vocabulary).  Considering the rapid growth of the information that is available on the internet, such a system is very useful indeed.

In short, I would highly recommend that if you haven’t already got an account with Delicious to organise your bookmarks, you should set one up as soon as possible.  It has numerous benefits when compared to other methods of organising your favourites (like IE folders), not least the ease of access.  And despite some concerns about the ability for everyone to freely apply tags to their bookmarks, the fact that a degree of commonality emerges suggests that these fears are unfounded.  Considering that there are now well over one trillion unique urls, organising content for retrieval is absolutely vital.

Twitter….the new Facebook?

tour_1It would certainly appear that Twitter is fast becoming the next big thing in the world of social networking.  According to a number of reports today, traffic to Twitter has increased by an amazing 974% in the past year.  According to the director of research for Hitwise, the company that has produced these figures, Twitter was

 

…one of the fastest growing websites in the UK last year, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  If anything, the service is even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website.

If the people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications (such as TwitterrificTwitterfeed and Tweetdeck) were included, the numbers could be even higher. Many people seem to find Twitter addictive: the average amount of time that people spend on Twitter.com has more than trebled from less than 10 minutes a year ago to half an hour now.

Pretty impressive stuff.  But what is Twitter and why is it being touted as the next big thing?

Twitter is essentially a service that allows account holders to update their status rather like the status section on Facebook.   Using the question “What are you doing?” as a starting point, Twitter allows users to do exactly that in 140 characters.  As well as updating your status, you can follow other people’s updates and read a feed of all the status updates of the people that you follow.  Now, that may seem that it would be useful only for pointless  meanderings and useless chitter-chatter, but it is also a useful tool for information sharing.  Instead of sending emails to a number of different people, you can just post to your Twitter page and save an awful lot of hassle.  Furthermore, as updates can be sent from your mobile phone by SMS, you don’t even have to access the internet to share info with your followers.

 

My Twitter Profile

My Twitter Profile

 

 

Twitter has proven to be an extremely useful tool of late.  Take the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai.  During the attack, people caught up in the events were able to ‘tweet’ (the term used for updating Twitter) the events that were going on around them when the media was trying desperately to grapple with the events as they happened.  The same was true of the recent plane crash in New York.  Local observers were able to tweet before the media could even get on scene.  Although it lacks the authority of the media, these two events have demonstrated the strengths of Twitter as an information sharing service.

Personally, I have also found tweeting quite useful.  Recently my wife flew out to Spain to be with her family and I was left home alone.  During the course of that week, I had a lucky escape as there was a series of major road accidents on the way to work and I was held up for a couple of hours.  As I could just send a text from my phone, I could let my wife know via my Twitter page that I was ok (cheaper than texting Spain!).  It also came in handy when I was due to fly out to meet up with her.  The last time we went to Spain at this time of year, there were massive delays and we were stuck at Heathrow for hours.  The ability to tweet would have been very useful for keeping her family up-to-date with the latest regarding departures and arrivals.  Luckily it wasn’t so problematic this time, but at least I could keep her informed.

But Titter can also be useful from a business perspective.  It can help bring the business and their customers closer together.  It could be particularly useful in the library field as it would be easy for the library to update ‘followers’ on what is going on in their local library in terms of events etc.  It also enables users to post questions that can be answered via a tweet reply (using @username in the status window) and can also be used to post links to a blog or other useful resource (although it is necessary to shorten the address to a Tiny URL).

Of course, Twitter will also be used for bog standard pointless ‘twitterings’ and if that isn’t your bag, you might find it irritating, but you don’t have to follow people if they do have a habit of posting annoying updates.  If you are fascinated by celebrity, it might well be right up your street.  For example, I am currently following Stephen Fry, Graham Linehan (of Father Ted, IT Crowd fame) and Jonathan Ross (not because I am obsessed with celebrity, they are just interesting).  In fact, I even managed to have a short tweet conversation with Jonathan Ross about ebooks (he has a Kindle and a Sony Reader apparently).  So, if you are interested in celebrity, telling everyone what you are up to, or interested in sharing information, Twitter is certainly a very useful tool.

However, it does have some limitations.  It would be useful if you could tweet to a group rather than an individual or everyone.  That could make it much easier for those that wish to tweet for business and pleasure.  The other problem at the moment, certainly for me, is that there are still a lot of people who have not brought themselves to get an account.  Out of all my friends in my email address book, I am the only one with a Twitter account – which makes it pretty dull at the moment!  However, I am convinced that Twitter has a lot of potential and, alongside ebooks, could just be one of the big things for 2009.

If you want a more comprehensive explanation of Twitter, I found this YouTube video that explains all about it and how it can be used in the workplace (be warned it is over an hour long…..the first 5-10 minutes should be enough to explain what it’s all about)

Web 2.0 and the Library

One of things that has really interested me since starting my course all those months ago, is the use of the wide variety of Web 2.0 tools to develop the library service.  As you can see from my sidebar, I have a number of profiles with various social networking sites including Flickr, LibraryThing and Last.fm(I also have a Facebook account, but that is for another post).  Of all these sites, the one that has interested me most of late is, of course, LibraryThing.

I am always eager to identify opportunities to utilise the internet for the good of the library service, and LibraryThing certainly seems to have the potential to add an extra dimension to the library service.  This is particularly true in the case of LibraryThing LocalLibraryThing Local, in case you didn’t know, is a database of libraries, bookshops, book fairs etc in your local area.  By adding your library to the database and obtaining administrative rights, you suddenly have a page to connect with users.  You can add events, information about the library, people can ‘favourite’ your library and comments to a comment wall.  This all sounds fantastic, but I wonder how useful it is to actually have a profile on LibraryThing local.  Although it seems to be a fairly popular site, even the most famous libraries have very few ‘fans’.  So, is it an interesting gimmick or a useful tool to develop the service?  At this stage, I reserve my judgement.  I have had a chance to add a couple of libraries to the database, and I will wait and see what develops.  Meanwhile, I would be interested to hear any views from anyone who has used this tool to promote their library service.  I am willing to experiment with sites such as this, but I wonder how valuable it really is.