Category Archives: Social Networking

So what is NAIDOC Week?

We all stand on sacred ground. The ground on which I stand has been the homeland of the Narungga people for time immemorial.

The 5th to the 12th of June 2015 is NAIDOC week. From the official about page:

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Last year, I may have heard of NAIDOC week, but I couldn’t have told you what it is. This year, I’m making it my business to find out, and I hope others will join me.

Mainstream media coverage of Indigenous matters in Australia tends to be thin on the ground; the phrase that springs to mind being “bugger all.” The only way that I have begun to learn of them is through Indigenous voices, and advocates on social media, primarily Twitter. It is through these voices that I have learnt many uncomfortable truths about the lot of Australia’s First Peoples – including that in which the current administration appears to be doing anything but improving the situation.

For those who want to join me in this learning journey, allow me to share some resources. Firstly you can follow, the #NAIDOC2015 Twitter hashtag. Here are a couple of “Follow Friday” tweets I made, being a go-to list of accounts to follow. Tweet 1, and Tweet 2. (Note: I made a transcription error in the second – first account should be @flashblack.)

Most essential reading, at the moment, is @IndigenousX, where current curator, Law PhD candidate, Darren Parker is talking about the history of the Australian Constitution, as relates to Indigenous peoples. Go back to Friday morning on the timeline, to get the story from the beginning. (History of Law may sound like a dry subject, but Darren is making it fascinating reading.) Also @WeAreAustralia is under the curation of Indigenous voices for the week, including IndigenousX founder, @LukeLPearson.

@mskieralouise has curated the @IndigenousX tweets on the Introduction to Australian Constitutional Law. Here’s another account, from @InflappableAK. (Kudos to them.)

Here is a Storify of tweets by @LukeLPearson, summarising the results of the @IndigenousX Constitutional Recognition Survey.

If I find further resources, I will add them here.

Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/1HEoDJl

Mate

The Information Age has enabled human relationships that could not have existed in an earlier time, by creating discussion spaces that transcend regular geographical and social boundaries.

Some of these relationships go beyond what might be the norm for IRL (In Real Life,) as the online medium can be conducive to a greater degree of self-revelation than in a physical, public, space. We can, in quite a short time, come to know more about someone that we may have never met – and indeed may never meet – in person than someone with whom we have lived or shared a workplace for many years.

For some time I have pondered terms that could be used to describe those with whom we enjoy these relationships, online sharings of the soul, if one will, and have found most to be wanting. ‘Contact’ is a word I use frequently, but I find cold, sterile, and highly impersonal. ‘Friend’ is a word with which I am rarely comfortable as, to me, there are both an implication of commitment that is hard to quantify, and the fact that the word has all but been lost to the language due to its bastardisation by social media companies – where ‘contact’ probably would be an appropriate term.

Examining my own spontaneous (rather than considered) use of language, I find myself tending to the use of the Australian informal ‘mate.’ Whilst communication through language has to be based on consensus of definition, I often have perceptions of the meanings of words that transcend the (dictionary) consensus. Mate, to me, implies a relaxed, and unforced relationship, but one that may involve profound respect for, and a sense of privilege in knowing the person in question. I also consider ‘mate’ to be completely gender-neutral, and unsullied by the complications of any of the Deadly Sins, such as lust or jealousy.

If I call you ‘mate,’ I like you, and respect you as a human being, pure and simple, and in one, single syllable.

Taming Ello

As I have mentioned previously, I am using the new social network, Ello. New, and not without problems – the worst of which (for me) involve the user interface. Pale grey icons on text on a white background do not make for good readability, so I had a poke around in the page source to see if I could use some custom CSS to make it more readable.

Different browsers use different ways to override the CSS provided by sites; Google Chrome has an extension called Stylish, which does this for me. (Also available for Firefox, I believe.)

For anyone wanting to try this out, here is the CSS I am using. It’s a bit rough and ready, but fixes colour contrast and scrolling issues that were breaking things for me.

#drawer, #peops {
 overflow-y: scroll;
}
.btn--ico {
 color: #000;
 font-weight: bold;
}
 
.svgicon {
 stroke: #000;
 stroke-width: 2px;
}
.postbar {
 color: #000;
}

Smiffy Says Ello

There is a new entry into the world of social media, in the form of ello. Yesterday, I was given an invitation, and signed up as @schamiyam, my regular identity already being taken. (The problems of having a common name, including nickname.)

The following is the text of the first significant post I made, preserved for posterity, should ello cease to exist (or get bought by FaceBook, in which case I would delete my account.)  The first section was written in modern/brief English, and was partially re-phrased to match the second.

So pondered have I how might this novel medium me serve, how might it be a part of the way within which, with the world, I interact. From the outset, worried I that another app.net might it become, something soon to abandon, perceiving no obvious virtue, and taking away time from the other media in which I can communicate in a productive manner.

@ello has its faults but, ignoring for now accessibility issues, the faults for me are primarily cosmetic, unlike the ghastliness that is Facebook. The faults of my primary medium, Twitter, have been, and remain manifold. In looking into how this medium might serve me, I look therefore to those virtues which it has, of which others lack; the answer lies in what I have written here so far – in a single message, I have written what would have taken in the order ten, disjointed, truncated, tweets.

Whilst Twitter begets brevity, teaches terseness, vanquishes verbosity, it makes also for a marring, and a mangling of language, a literary laxness, which oft do I find to be a right, royal pain in the arse.

The very name under which I write, @schamiyam, was one I created for a writing project, many moons ago. It is meet, therefore, that this become a place to write as Art, rather than as a mere vehicle for factual information.

Thus do I rest my use-case.

FOOTNOTE: It appears that one cannot copy and paste from this composition screen. Browsers crash, so probably best to compose offline, and paste the completed text.

 

Getting Better 2009

The Story So Far

Executive summary: I’ve been sick for a while. (End of summary.) I have reported on this at various times in this journal; in February 2007, which would have corresponded fairly closely to the nadir of my health issues, I described a day in the life of (me.)

Skip on a couple of months and I started – albeit slowly – weight training. The Weighty Matters section of this site (includes this article) documents my weight training progress.

Now, 2 years and 10 months from that low point, things are much better – and I am talking quantum levels better, from my rather subjective viewpoint, at any rate.

The Story Today

I think that my work capacity speaks volumes. At the beginning of this year, I was able to work about 12-14 hours per week, never more than 4 hours a day (on a really good day) and never 2 consecutive days. At the time of writing, I am able to work in excess of 20 hours per week, sometimes up to 6 hours per day (best days) and up to 2 days consecutively.

As regards lifting weights, improvements during this year include some of my troublesome joints ceasing to be so (and for the first time in my life,) and breathing issues that hindered exercises with heavier weights, far more than the weights themselves, having resolved.

Where I Am With Weights

My weight training progress seems to have been the most constant of improvements. This is a good thing as it creates motivation (and something to feel good about in general) through positive feedback.

Primarily due to elbow issues – the last of my joint troubles to persist – and a weakness in my thoracic spine due to a probable combination of scoliosis and an old horse-fall, I have simplified my workout cycle to something resembling the following:

  • Bench press
  • Variants on the lat pull
  • Squat
  • Bench press
  • Variants on the lat pull
  • Deadlift

Including rest days, this constitutes about 10 days to 2 weeks of workouts. I tend to avoid using the same intensity of exercise for more than two sessions of a specific workout.

Numbers-wise, I regard workout-weight to be that which can be performed for 6-8 repetitions, expressed in terms of bodyweight. (My bodyweight, that is!) Squats are at 1.75, deadlifts at 1.46 (with hooks – wrists still a bit dodgy,) bench press lagging at 0.92, with 5 reps at 0.97.

My most significant, recent, milestones in terms of absolute weight were reaching what had for long seemed the unobtainable 4+ reps at 100kg (after months in the 90’s,) and achieving 4 sets of 5-rep deadlifts at 130kg without hooks. Meaningless milestones to most, but morale-boosters for me. And yes, I can be a bit numbers-obsessive; I have a terrible compulsion to count things – wonder if it means I’m a vampire?

Quantum Sleep-Leap

My health improvements have been due to factors both within and beyond my control. In the list of ‘beyond my control,’ I include things which I could control, but am unaware. It turned out that my sleep quality was one of these things.

After 4 years of CPAP therapy, I thought that my sleep apnoea issues were well and truly nailed. So did my respiratory/sleep physician and the rest of my medical team. At my last appointment, my physician suggested a machine upgrade as the old one was rather old and I had no backup should it fail. (No machine = no sleep. Or at least, no sleep that would count.) I followed up on this advice and acquired a new machine and mask.

Within a week of starting with the new equipment, I had far more energy and my work capacity shot up. Why? Despite 100% CPAP compliance and despite data downloaded from the machine suggesting that all was well, there was more to the problems of sleep than just apnoeas. The discomfort of the mask – possibly designed by a member of the Spanish Inquisition – and the noise of the old machine appeared to have been giving me really lousy sleep-quality. I just wish I had known that a long time ago.

CPAP therapy isn’t the scary thing that it may seem to those who think they may need it or are about to start on it. You need it, you use it, you get used to it. At least I do/did. Having the extra bag when traveling and trying to find a power point near hotel beds can be a bit of an inconvenience, but that’s life. It would be far worse without it.

Keep Taking The Medicine

One of the key players in my improved health has been my doctor (GP.) Lots of diagnostics, trialling medications (mostly hormones,) and regular reviews have finally hit a relatively sweet-spot. Whilst I’m still well below-par when compared with that elusive beast, the population average, I am very pleased with where I am and what I can do compared with that time nearly 3 years ago.

Although I’m not writing the prescriptions or ordering the blood tests, the business between my doctor and myself is very much a factor within my control. Collecting and presenting relevant information and complying with a doctor’s suggestions (including taking medications) is very much the patient’s responsibility. Doctors can’t work miracles.

Despite the best of intentions in both directions, things can go wrong. I have experienced a few occasions where everything started going wrong – fatigue started to get worse again, the weird eye problems that limit my work came back – almost like forgetting to take medications. It transpired that, on each of these occasions, there was a common factor: stale medication. A crucial, heat-sensitive, medication (hydrocortisone,) short-dated and sourced through a rural pharmacy which has no cold-chain deliveries seemed to be the culprit. Changing the source to an online supplier – which incidentally seems to have much longer-dated batches – and ordering for delivery during cooler weather has eliminated yet another unanticipated, external factor.

In addition to medication, I have also received several treatments from a massage therapist. This has certainly helped with various skeleto-muscular issues, which has helped with lifting weights. (Having a massage therapist who understands weight training is a big advantage.)

Lifestyle Management

That which isn’t from my doctor or lifting weights falls under the catch-all of Lifestyle Management. This I will break down into two sections: Eat Well and Don’t Overdo It.

Eat Well

I’m not going to give a nutrition lecture unless it’s “don’t eat processed food.” I tend to break my own rule here by eating the occasional protein bar.

Don’t Overdo It

You may need to push yourself a bit to get moving but, once moving, don’t keep pushing – you may end up crashing to a halt.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned through the time of my incapacity is to learn to gauge my limits and work within them – whether working, lifting weights, gardening or anything else. I won’t pretend otherwise – this can be incredibly frustrating; stopping a job half-way through because you’ve reached your fatigue threshold may be very hard. But then so is the crash from over-doing it and equally frustrating the week that you are unable to work due to poor body-management. I have been there many times. I think that I am finally getting the message and no longer exceeding my limits.

Conclusion: My Message

  • This article is all about me. If you see yourself or somebody you know in here, take heart, you are not alone.
  • Chronic fatigue is probably one of the biggest cop-out diagnoses being made by doctors in this day and age.
  • Don’t let your doctor write you off; if looks like they’re going to, write them off first and find one who really cares and wants to help you.
  • Sick people can lift weights – and doing so with care can help make them less sick.

Stupid Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, this article doesn’t constitute medical advice. If you want medical advice, go to a healthcare professional.

Smiffy’s Further Rules of Following

Preamble

Whilst this article stands alone in its own right, it follows on from Smiffy’s Rules of Following.  If you have not yet read this, I would suggest that you do so before returning to this text.

In the first article, I stated that:

Like fire and electricity, Twitter presents hazards if untamed; follow too many and/or indiscriminately, we risk information overload and excessive, unproductive, use of time.

Twitter has value, and I will justify this statement later in this article. Like many things of value, one needs to make a certain investment in order to obtain that value. Rather then the usual analogy using the likes of cars, football fields or Olympic swimming pools (none of which have much interest for me,) I will use a mining analogy instead. Consider gold. You have to prospect to find a suitable ore body, dig a big hole, take out the ore, refine it. Things we shouldn’t do include following the ore body when it becomes to dilute or awkward to get at to make it worth extracting. Yes, Twitter is like a goldmine; there is much of great value to be extracted, but we need to invest in prospecting, carting away spoil, and evaluating whether there really is enough gold in a particular place to continue delving for it. (I will no doubt be receiving comments from mining engineers saying that I’ve got this all wrong, but you can’t please everybody.)

My previous article was all about following promising seams – following being the active word. What about followers? (And here I will drop the analogy before some Slashdot reader comes up with witty remarks like “In Soviet Russia, gold seam follows YOU.”) Whilst we are carefully managing those whom we follow, our list of followers is steadily growing longer and longer. Does this matter? I believe it does.

Relationships Matter

The main reasons that I follow people on Twitter are that I either wish to interact with them in some way (business, social, combination of the two,) or that I regard them as a relevant/useful/interesting one-way information stream.  In the latter case, it is more generally the case that the twitterer in question is the voice of a body corporate rather than anyone identifying themselves as an individual.

With the latter case only consituting a small percentage of those I follow, the rest of it is really about interaction – relationships.

Going back to this ever-growing list of followers, let’s look at those I choose not to follow back.  Barring the obvious spammers whom I block immediately,  who are these people who remain, and what should I do about them?

Triage

I had a follower notification today that persuaded me to revise my Rules of Following and, as a knock-on effect, write this article which has been pending now for quite some time.  The reason that I was followed, I will go into in the section Attack of the Robots.  For now, it suffices to say that I was followed by a dealer in ammunition.  As in the stuff people put in guns so that they can shoot each other.  I am not going to get into a debate about the pros and cons of guns and neither will I respond to the pro-gun trolls that so often pop up in cases like this. Sufficient to say, I was not happy about being followed by someone in the munitions industry and wondered exactly what I should do about it.

After a brief, internal, debate I decided that there were quite a few people on my followers list that, in some way, made me uncomfortable (to put it plainer: gave me the creeps,) or annoyed me for whatever reason.  Whilst I am quite happy that some people may wish to read my ramblings but be too shy to interact I question why many followers follow me, other than in the hope that I follow them and get exposed to whatever product, service or scam that they happen to be peddling.

Up to this point, the only reason I had ever blocked anybody was because they were obvious spammers.  Only today did I realise that blocking is not necessarily a spam-reporting mechanism.

As a result of today’s cogitation, I have decided to change the result of my “should I follow this person?” process from the simple follow/don’t follow to a triage: follow, don’t follow, block.

Smiffy’s Further Rules of Following

Having introduced the triage process, my criteria for those I will follow remain unchanged.  The rest I will simply ignore (don’t follow) unless:

  • I feel that their morals conflict with mine in a way I find to be unacceptable.
  • I find them creepy.
  • I find them annoying.

These I will block.  Following is not a term I would use when the follower does not tend to interact; the term I use for this is ‘stalking’ and I do not relish the idea of being stalked.

Creepy 101

What do I mean by creepy? In the ‘Evaluating a Profile’ section of my original article, part of my scoring system included negative points for:

  • Creepy profile photos (really creepy, not just artistically creepy)
  • Updates that make me feel uncomfortable  (Hateful, bigoted, intolerant.)

These are what I have condensed into the ‘I find them creepy’ bullet-point above.  I will expand on ‘Updates that make me feel uncomfortable’, having just read a few.  I will most likely block anyone whose updates contain any significant evidence of:

  • Excessive bigotry (I have yet to meet anyone who is not, in some way, bigoted.)
  • The more unpleasant “isms” (racism, sexism, nationalism (that’s just non-specific racism,) etcetera-ism.)
  • Aggression (by word or reported/threatened deed.)
  • Intolerance of various things that don’t have their own “ism” words.
  • What I consider to be excessive (or obsessive?) enthusiasm for beliefs in what, for want of a better term, I will call “the Unprovable”, whether it be religion, the “paranormal”, little green men or over-elaborate conspiracy theories.  Belief is a fundamental part of human nature and can be the cornerstone of many peoples lives.  When I hear nothing but a certain belief from somebody, or that belief gets interwoven into every subject, that I find creepy.

These ‘creepies’ are very much personal to me.  However, everyone has their own ‘creepies’ (I may well be on some peoples lists) so I invite them to substitute their own when implementing their own Rules of Following.

Annoying, moi?

If I were to list everything I have found annoying on Twitter, I would still be writing this next Michaelmas.  Instead, I will single out Twitter users who:

  • Tweet nothing but quotations.
  • Tweet nothing but RGs.  (RGs, or regurgitations, are like RTs, re-tweets, except that they are done gratuitously.)
  • Tweet nothing but links that look suspiciously as though they have been pulled straight off someone else’s RSS feed.
  • Add no genuine content of their own.
  • Do not interact with others (no @replies) or interact without meaning (@replies for the sake of it, probably so they don’t get listed under the first part of this bullet point.)
  • Any combination of the above.

Talk to Me!

Not so much a Rule of Following but a Rule of Wanting Someone to Follow You: If you decide to follow someone with whom you would like to interact, contact them to say “hi!”  I sometimes miss new follower messages, so don’t be silent.  Whilst you can’t DM (Direct Message) someone who is not following you, you can always start a tweet with @smiffy (if it’s me you’re wanting!) and I will see it in my ‘Mentions’ (as it is called on Accessible Twitter.)

There is probably little point in doing this for accounts with vast numbers of followers (generally ghost-written anyway,) but if you want to network, the best way to introduce yourself is to – introduce yourself!  Be a talker, not a stalker!

On the flip-side, I try to make a point of sending a DM to all my new followers with whom I intend to interact.  Just a little courtesy that can make the whole experience more pleasant for all.

Attack of the Robots

Where do all those Twitter followers come from?  Many of the genuine ones (those wishing to interact) come as the result of #followfriday [mashable.com] tweets and reading what I call friend-of-a-friend tweets: @replies from those you follow to others unknown to you.  There are also folk out there who use Twitter search to try to find like-minded people.  And then there are the robots.  Some robots are useful things, working tirelessly for the betterment of mankind.  Others are Evil Robots, close relatives of the Spam Harvesters that haunt the web.

Simply by including certain terms in your tweets, you can attract the attention of the Evil Robots and their Dastardly Masters.  In fact, if you want to pick up a large number of worthless followers in a short time, just include some of the following terms in your tweets and watch the followers come flooding in!

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation.)  I am glad I am not in this industry as it seems to be getting a somewhat unwholesome reputation.
  • Affiliate Marketing.  This appears to be a modernisation of the old “Make $$$ in your spare time!!!” advertisements. And they’re on Twitter, looking for you.
  • MLM (Multi Level Marketing.) See Affiliate Marketing.  In fact, I’d steer clear of the term ‘marketing’ altogether.  If you need to use it, find a code word like “sheepdip” that you can share with your contacts.
  • Jesus Christ.  Yes, it seems that some Christians are giving Evil a shot and are in relentless pursuit of anyone who happens to mention JC, in any context.  (I would not be at all surpised if other Christians don’t get annoyed with these mavericks.)  Curiously enough, I can only attribute one follower to a tweet in which I used the word ‘atheism’.  He didn’t seem dastardly at all; I even followed him.

I have, unfortunately, mislaid some of the notes I was making on this subject during a fun game of Twitter-bot baiting.  Those above seem to come out tops though. Observation suggests to me that those that follow on the tips of Evil Robots tend to have some of the keywords in their Twitter profiles.

And the reason I was being followed by an ammunition seller?  As part of a tweet (actually an @reply to a contact,) I commented on the night’s rainfall: “… 18.9mm since midnight.”  As I am a very heavy user of regular expressions, it only took a couple of seconds to work out that the Evil Robot in question was looking for, amongst other terms, “9mm” – a common ammunition calibre.

There may be people out there using robots (the non-Evil kind) for what I would deem acceptable purposes, like watching out for mentions of a specific brand or business.  The Masters of Evil Robots just want volume; they will latch on to a term or fragment of term and then follow (or stalk) you indiscriminately.  With my Further Rules, these guys are going to get blocked.

Pruning for Health & Increase in Fruit

To mix metaphors/analogies, your gold mine will be healthier and yield more fruit with regular pruning.  In the previous article, I recommended regular review of those you are following.  Pruning your followers list – a repeat of the triage process – should help keep the list manageable.  You may even find the odd gold nugget that you decided not (or forgot) to follow previously.

Note: people who follow you who then get suspended (mostly spammers) will still appear in your followers list.  Having the list full of dead accounts gives all the more reason for a regular prune, until such time as Twitter fixes this issue.

Conclusion

It was probably the lack of a ‘Report Spam’ button on Twitter that caused me to regard ‘Block’ as having this function.  I now regard it as a ‘No, thank you, not today’ control instead – and I would advise others to do likewise.  Followers, like Following can be kept to manageable levels.  Remember, you want to own a gold mine, not just a spoil heap.

Dedication

I would like to dedicate this article to all those who said nice things about or re-tweeted my last one, and especially those brave souls who decided to adopt my Rules.  Special thanks to those to whom I promised a follow-up and have waited so patiently.  This one’s for you!

TinyURL for this page: http://tinyurl.com/lvavzd

Updated 2009-06-09: added sub-section ‘Creepy 101’, revised ‘Jesus Christ’ bullet point in section ‘Attack of the Robots’ after I realised I was being followed by a bot-wielding atheist.

Accessible Twitter, Accessible Tweets

Preamble

Twitter is one of a host of web-based social networking tools, excellent in concept, but (in my opinion) less-than-perfect in implementation – especially when it comes to usability/accessibility.  Whilst this article discusses Twitter and Twitter messages (updates, tweets,) certain aspects apply equally to other contexts.

Accessibility Through Alternative Interfaces

Like many of the web applications that I encounter, it appears to me that little (if any) thought has gone into the accessibility and usability of interface. I see little point in working through the issues and proposing possible solutions when this work has already been done and can be seen as Accessible Twitter. Accessible Twitter, the work of one Dennis Lembrée, is still in the alpha stage of development but is already everything that the Twitter web interface should be and more.

In a way, Twitter actually gains accessibility points through offering the API which Accessible Twitter and numerous other alternative interfaces operate – if one looks at the Big Picture. (My more cynical side looks at the API as a cop-out on the part of Twitter: Don’t like the interface? Here, go build your own.)

Could this be the modern-day “provide a text alternative” from WCAG10? (Which was also a cop-out.)

However one feels about this, APIs for many web applications are available and may be used as a Force for Good (or at least to provide more usable/accessible interfaces.)

What the Heck Did That Mean?

Twitter has one major limitation: 140 characters.  Historically, this was to allow messages to be sent by SMS; SMS messages can be up to 160 characters (or 2 lines of an 80 column terminal for those old enough to remember) long.  The 140 character Twitter limit is based on 20 characters of user name plus 140 characters of message.  I have always questioned the logic of this; if Twitter was designed to work via cellular telephones, why not use WAP which has no limits? (The sophistication of today’s cellular telephones – even the basic ones – offers a host of better ways to work than SMS.)

Here is not the place to debate this issue, nor is there any real point in doing so – Twitter has a 140 character limit: it is a given, we are stuck with it, end of story.

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

If this is so, oh, what a witty place Twitter must be!  (My attempt at humour in less than 140 characters.)  There are those who argue that the 140 character limit can make us better communicators.  This I dispute: if it takes me 20 seconds to type a message and then a further 5 minutes trying to re-phrase, remove punctuation, and (horrors!) abbreviate words to fit that message into the permissible 140 characters, I do not feel that this is effective use of my time.

Whilst many messages might fit into 140 characters without requiring any form of re-work or compression (“happy birthday!”, “dinner’s ready”, “war is peace”, “ignorance is strength”, “freedom is slavery”,) there is much that does get shortened into an oft-incomprehensible form of Newspeak. I read Twitter messages from people that I know beyond the realms of Twitter and frequently find myself mystified by industry-specific abbreviations which leave me thinking “what the heck did that mean?”  Generally I feel too embarrassed to ask.

Accessibility Implications

Consider this: however we access Twitter, it can be considered to be “on the web”.  Twitter messages are, therefore, web content.  If the various interfaces to Twitter are used to create web content, that makes them authoring tools.  Should these interfaces therefore be covered by the ATAG? No, that’s not part of the discussion.  Just thinking tangentially there.

Twitter messages are, nevertheless, web content.  By causing people to use degenerate (can’t think of a better term) language (2 for ‘to’, 4 for ‘for’, u for ‘you’ – and all the others that make me twitch and occasionally froth at the mouth,) the web content that is Twitter messages becomes anything but plain language – and thus becomes less accessible, especially to those for whom the language in question is not a first language, those with literacy issues, etcetera.

Answers?

I have no practical answers to this issue.  One can write a blog post with the required text and post a link with just a headline on Twitter.  This, however, is just too slow and inefficient.  A 200-word answer to a one-off question may not justify a blog post anyway.

Splitting a message into a series of Twitter messages is something that I have seen a few times but:

  • Twitter has very little support for message threading.
  • Messages may arrive with messages from others interspersed and thus lose sense due to the broken context.

Conclusion

This article seeks to raise awareness of the following:

  • Third-party applications may be used in place of Twitter’s less-than-perfect web interface.
  • The limitation in length of Twitter messages may create accessibility issues due to the use of abbreviations and degenerate language.

@smiffy

TinyURL for this article: http://tinyurl.com/cbxphx

Further Reading

Twitter: Smiffy’s Rules of Following

Preamble

Despite my initial reservations, I cannot deny the value of Twitter as both a (social/professional) networking tool and a source of news/information.

Like fire and electricity, Twitter presents hazards if untamed; follow too many and/or indiscriminately, we risk information overload and excessive, unproductive, use of time. If we use Twitter purely as a means of socialisation and have time to spare (dare I say waste?) this may not be an issue. As a professional tool, however, our Twitter usage needs careful management.

This article outlines some of the Rules of Following I use to manage my Twitter usage. Note that these rules are constantly evolving as they must – because the medium itself is evolving as more people use it and patterns of usage change.

Value and SNR

In my use of Twitter, I strive to gain data of the greatest value and highest Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR).

I estimate the value of data based on whether it:

  • Provides me with data relevant to my profession.
  • Improves communication with my existing ‘tribe’ (clients, vendors, peers).
  • Allows me to expand my tribe.
  • Stimulates me by making me feel interested or just generally good without excessive distraction. (Makes me more productive rather than less productive.)

Follow Your Tribe

As a rule, I don’t go out of my way to find people to follow on Twitter. The exception to this is members of my current tribe, which includes both those with whom I already communicate and also those whom I know through mailing lists and bodies such as the Web Access Initiative and the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS). I feel that these followings have already strengthened ties with several members of my tribe.

Follow Your Followers?

Unless you have some specific need (like you are doing some form of research,) I would advise that blindly following all who follow you is not a good idea.

When I receive a notification that “So-and-so is now following you on Twitter!” I will visit that person’s profile page (assuming that it is a person and not a ‘bot) and perform an evaluation before deciding to follow, ignore or block that person (or ‘bot.)

Evaluating a Profile

Until such time as there is a means of producing an accessible flow-chart in a web page, I will try to describe in words how I evaluate a follower from their profile.

  1. Do I know this person?
  2. Is this someone with whom I might want to network?
  3. Does this person provide data I might find valuable?

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, I will follow them. Other than the first point, I will attempt to assign a value score based on their profile. Given a high enough score, I will follow. If the value appears to be low, I will ignore. If this looks like a spammer or similar low-life, I will block.

  • Is the profile filled in? (Positive score.)
  • Are there any updates? (If no, negative score unless just joined.)
  • Are there a vast number of updates every day? (Probable zero score and ignore – too much information is too much time spent wading through it.)
  • Does the profile really tell me anything? (Positive score.)
  • Creepy profile photo? (Seriously; and I mean creepy, not just artistic. Negative score.)
  • Updates that make me feel uncomfortable. (Hateful, bigoted, intolerant. Zero value, ignore.)
  • Is there a link to web site? (Positive score.)
  • Are the profile or updates in a language/character set I cannot read? (Zero value, ignore.)
  • Does this look like a spammer? (Score set to minus infinity, blocked.)

Spotting Spammers

What makes me think that I have been followed by a spammer?

  • Very high number of following, small number of followers. (Remember what I said about not following automatically? Yep, that’s where that small number of followers came from.)
  • No posts
  • 1 or 2 posts with a link to something that they just got for “free”.
  • Link in the 1 or 2 posts is the same as the link in the profile.
  • Profile photograph is of a young woman (who would probably be unamused to find that her Flickr/Facebook/etcetera image is being used in this way.)
  • User name that makes little or no sense (looks like random characters.)

Follow Forever?

Whilst it is very unlikely that I would stop following anyone in my tribe, anyone else whom I may follow is subject to re-evaluation.  Some may think that this might sound like a brutal approach but it should be noted that:

  • Your time is precious.
  • You don’t really owe them anything.
  • It’s not like you’re going to give them a kicking or anything – you are just stopping a subscription to their feed.

Criteria for my ceasing to follow include:

  • Updates too frequent (most common reason for me)
  • Updates not relevant.
  • Updates make me feel uncomfortable.

If you are a follower of mine who I have ceased to follow, don’t take it personally – it’s most likely that you simply have more to to say than I have time to listen.

Conclusion

I hope this provides an insight into how I manage my Twitter followings.  This is what works for me; those who are overwhelmed by Twitter may find this useful for ideas but I would say this: Make your own rules, find what works, and be prepared to change them.

@smiffy

TinyURL for this article: http://tinyurl.com/d58rwy

Further Reading

BodyBlog

I have decided to separate any ramblings (as opposed to composed articles) on weight training from the Weighty Matters section of Smiffy’s Place so have started a BodyBlog at bodybuilding.com. (Note that this site is not just for bodybuilders – it’s for just about anyone lifting weights,  Even me.)

Update – the best-laid plans, etcetera. Like so many other blogging projects (I’m not just talking about my own,) after a couple of posts, my BodyBlog has been one long, loud, silence.

follow-u-tron

Automating #followfriday

This little programme allows me to manage a list of people that I follow on Twitter whom I feel that others might also to follow as well. When invoked without any parameters, it will draw a random name from the list and post a #followfriday message to Twitter.

The idea is that I just maintain the list and have this running on a cron job every Friday. Picks are random so the same person may be picked more than once in a row.

Thanks to @elpie for reminding me of what day Friday is in cron-speak!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Use it at your own risk, don’t blame me if it eats your computer, causes a Global Economic Meltdown (too late, someone’s already done that, thanks GWB,) etcetera.

The Code

Several attempts were made to copy and paste the code into this article; TinyMCE stuffed up the formatting every time, eating a load of essential backslashes. Rather than convert the whole thing to HTML entities by hand, I’ve given up and have just posted it in my files section.

Usage

Adding Members

follow-u-tron.pl @user1 @user2 @user3

Deleting Members

follow-u-tron.pl -@user2

Note that you can add and delete in the same command.

Listing Members

follow-u-tron list

Posting to Twitter

follow-u-tron

This may be put into a cron job.