Twitter aggregation and some statistics

I know some of you noticed a slight bug in the Taggloo site for the last month or so. Due to Twitter changing the API that I used to extract #Gaelg Twitter content, the Twitter aggregation hasn’t been working for a while.

Upon further investigation, this needed some fairly extensive refactoring. I had been relying quite heavily on the particular format that the data was previously published in. This was great as I could pretty much use the same code for blogs and YouTube, too. Unfortunately, Twitter were keen on developers using the full API and as such I have had to rewrite large portions of the community content aggregation code.

Alas, this has taken longer than I had hoped. As some of you will know, I’ve had good cause to be distracted lately. However, some discipline and Diet Coke has enabled me to fix the problem. Taggloo is now collecting Twitter content once again!

As a small apology, I thought I’d share some statistics with you:

  • Twitter contributes over 97% of aggregated community content.
  • Since May 2011, over 2,000 Tweets with #Manx #Gaelg content have been aggregated. Most of which has been within the current calendar year.
  • We’ve been trying to encourage users to show their support of the language in social media, which has been shown to be successful, with a significant increase in content aggregated since March this year.
  • Saving users’ blushes, it is obvious some users have contributed real value to the community, with the top 10 Twitter users (excluding bots) posting over 50% of #Manx #Gaelg tweets!
Chart showing Community Content Items aggregated over time

Community Content Items aggregated over time

Remember, tweet in Manx using the #Manx #Gaelg hash tags and contribute to the island’s heritage in modern media whilst building an even stronger Manx dictionary within Taggloo.

#Manx #Gaelg – now on Facebook

Hopefully you’ll have already read my previous post about using social media to reflect the increasingly vibrant nature of the Manx Gaelic language and cultural identity. Shortly after which, Facebook joined both Twitter and Instagram by adding support for hashtags too.

Whilst I’m sure the two aren’t related, this provides us with a further opportunity to aggregate #Manx #Gaelg content. Using hashtags in Facebook is as simple as tagging your friends in a post. Add the #hashtag and it becomes a clickable link.

Hashtagging in Facebook

Just as in Twitter, when your friends click on the hashtag, they can see your post amidst the rest of Facebook’s related content (well, at least their friends’ content).

#Gaelg hashtag content

This is also good for those users who cross-post, particularly from Twitter. Some Twitter clients and services such as Selective Tweets pick up your post on Twitter and repeat it on Facebook. This is a great way to reach both social networks, and therefore the types of user who use either. I use it myself to reach “casual” followers on Twitter across the world and my Facebook friends and I receive engagement from both. Add the #Manx #Gaelg hashtag on your Twitter post and it is reflected on Facebook. Yindyssagh!

Cross-posting from Twitter to Facebook

Cross-posting from Twitter to Facebook

Where Twitter excels is in its broadcast quality, with very limited privacy. Facebook, despite their tendency to make a mess of privacy, has a much stronger model. Whilst this can significantly reduce the reach of your hashtags and therefore aggregation opportunities, it is still worthwhile to use hashtags on Facebook. Users who click a hashtag will see mutual friends also posting with the hashtag, contributing to the community feel. You might be surprised of your friends’ interest in the language!

I’m sure most people understand the basics of Facebook privacy, particularly posts. The small cog/people/world icon at the bottom right of your textbox when posting controls who can see the post. Typically, this will be set to “Friends” or “Public”. Whilst I would never suggest opening your default posting settings to “Public”, selecting “Public” when posting non-personal Manx Gaelic can increase the visibility of the language to other Facebook users.

Modifying post privacy

Modifying post privacy (per post)

The great thing about Twitter is that the service has largely been driven by its users. As users start to grasp the capabilities of the platform, they invent their own ways of interacting with people. Retweeting and hashtags were both very much community driven and it is exciting to see these features being adopted by other platforms such as Facebook.

A new Twitter metric!

Today is the Isle of Man Social Media Club’s Third Thursday Dinner (if you’re northern), and a topic that often appears is individuals’ visibility on Twitter and Facebook. These are often quantified, calculated and coalesced by sites such as Grader and Klout. A new one has appeared which puts a new slant on it, particularly for the Isle of Man.

Fellow Manx Gaelic learner @NettyIOM pointed me to today, and specifically the Manx Gaelic page which performs a similar trick to Grader, listing the top n users who are tweeting in the Isle of Man, and what percentage of those tweets are in Manx Gaelic. Finally! A metric on which I can beat @OwenC!

Is Social Media powered by Lefties?

So today is the big day of the General Election and we’re just left to sit in a bizarre radio silence while the polls remain open that seems unearthly following the past hectic 4 weeks. I’ve been watching and participating in various social media channels to add my 2 cents (so to speak) on policy, parties, debates and discuss with fellow Tweeters and Facebookers. I’ve enjoyed the last four weeks, except for the distraction element!

We know that the opinion polls are essentially meaningless, and who knows anyone who knows anyone who has ever been polled anyway? Assuming there is some validity in them, over the past four weeks we have come to see a pattern. Starting with The Conservatives in front, they lost a number of points to the Liberal Democrats following the leader’s debates. This has been particularly fascinating, as we may now need to upgrade Peter Snow’s (well, it’ll always be Peter’s, Jeremy) Swingometer to the third dimension. Points have been traded between all three parties, but particularly between The Conservatives and The Liberal Democrats.

One party’s performance has remained consistent, however. Labour has been losing points and sat at third place across most polls taken last night (5 May 2010). Yet, if you look at Twitter, you’d not see that pattern. Yesterday, I pinned my flag to the post as far as my voting inclinations, and this resulted in a number of people replying to me telling me of their disappointment and whether they would unfollow me, or not. We had a bit of a debate and I imagine threats to unfollow me were in jest. I expect that only people who disagreed with my views would take the time to reply, but watching my stream today seems to be of the same opinion – that of the left of the political spectrum.

So is Twitter and Social Media in general, just a bunch of Lefties?

Consider a Twitter search for “Tory”. Run your eyes down there and count how many are pro and how many are against a Conservative government. It seems people go out of their way to actually tweet “not Tory”, as opposed to who they voted for.

So while people are possibly tweeting in a left-of-centre manner, that’s not necessarily due to lack of effort by other parties. TweetMinster has been an excellent service in the last few weeks and has profiled the live Twitter feed according to region, issue, party and MP. Their analysis shows that both top parties are more or less equally represented – bit this is in candidates and MPs, not the “public vote”. So while David Cameron has specifically used Social Media and his various MPs have actively engaged with the electorate on Twitter, in an “Obama-style” campaign, it doesn’t seem to be doing him any good. In fact, it seems to be turning against him.

I would be a fool to think that this identifies any patterns which may be played out this evening, but it is a question worth asking. Does Social Media attract a more left-of-centre userbase? At first sight, it appears it does.

Isle of Man TT: Rumour control

This year’s TT has been particularly enjoyable, mostly because I have been
able to take some time off and watch the racing. Until changing my employment, I
would have been involved in the publishing of the live timings over the internet
on the site. I would be in the middle of it all (physically and
metaphorically) and see very little of it.

Last night’s unfortunate incident involving Nick Crowe and Dan Cox reminded me of the problems involved with managing rumour control, particularly when potential injuries (or worse) may have been sustained. The racing and practice sessions were subject to delay due to typically bizarre Manx weather which included the sun “cracking the flags” in Douglas but the West of the island awash with severe rain, which included hailstones at one point. This resulted in quickly rescheduled sessions, the Sure Sidecar 2 race being moved to 18:15.

During the session, in the continuing and exciting competition between Dave
Molyneux and Dan Sayle’s outfit and Nick Crowe/Mark Cox’ outfit, Crowe fell
victim to more bad luck when first he appeared to disappear off the live timings
and then news came through that his outfit had caught fire. The exact details of
how this occurred are as yet unknown but may be linked to the poor reliability
of the outfit during the TT fortnight (and previous). Clearly, a fire on the
course is a serious issue and the Marshals were quick to red flag the race, that
segment of the track was sealed off and outfits sent back to the Granstand in
both directions (an interesting site for sure). No word came until later about
the condition of the two men, so rumour grew based on the actions of the Clerk
of the Course, helicopter dispatch and the ensuing “radio silence”.

Consider the timeline of events:

18:15: Race starts. Crowe and Cox are first off in #1, followed 10 seconds later by Molyneux and Sayle in #2.

18:28 (approx): Molyneux and Sayle appear at Ballaugh Bridge timings, ahead of Crowe and Cox. Crowe and Cox do not pass through Ballaugh Bridge. Clearly, something is wrong at this point. Live timings show a “disappeared” outfit which leads one to suspect further reliability problems (though this is not highlighted, you need to keep an eye out).

18:30: Red Flag is shown, terminating the race. So something serious has occured which may have caused or may cause harm to riders.

18:33: The cause of the red flag is confirmed to be a machine on fire at Ballacob (shortly before Ballaugh). Although no confirmation of which machine, it would be clear which one it would be most likely to be, that of Crowe and Cox in #1.

19:24: Helicopter carries riders to Nobles Hospital.

19:37: Sure Sidecar 2 race is confirmed to have been abandoned and will not re-run this year.

Rumour then started to get out of control, with speculation on the cause and
injuries sustained by the riders becoming uncontrollable. Traditionally, this
had started on the forums. Severe results were claimed, death/injuries, all of which were unsubstantiated. This post has now been removed, by a (ex)colleague who knows more on this than me and is very good at dealing with these issues. In previous years, particularly during the aftermath of the fatal incident on the final lap of the Senior race of 2007, this resulted in whoever was covering the race and the administration team for the forums to clamp down on the forums and attempt to control rumour.

The controlling of rumour tended to be clarification of actions and deletion
of posts which speculated or claimed to be aware of the aftermath of an
incident, which would include relatives or friends of the victims, even if they
were aware of the details. This would understandably create resentment that we
were “preventing discussion” and “being difficult” in wishing the affected
individuals well. What we were actually doing was working to prevent rumour
affecting the affected parties, those close to the affected parties and the
event and organisations attached to the event. I do remember in 2007 that posts
were posted that frequently claimed knowledge of the effects of the incident
which I had to delete using my mobile phone while inbetween internet

The interesting difference this year, however, was the Twitter effect.
Whereas a forum can be controlled by a moderation team, which may provide an
opportunity to provide some information to the users based on established fact,
Twitter is impossible to moderate, let alone control. At about 9pm, Twitter was
already carrying rumours from the site, which then started to create
another wave of unsubstantiated gossip. I then started to receive text messages
on my mobile from people telling me the riders were in a Liverpool Hospital
(this morning, news came that they were actually in Nobles).

Whereas previously, press agencies and “rumour control” could control the
channels of communication, publishing news only when they were confident
affected parties would not be offended or unnecassarily upset, the modern web
has moved away from this. From forums to Twitter to Live Timings, information is
being published and understood faster than ever before. The Live Timings service
is controlled, but the lack of times for Ballaugh and no news on the condition
of the riders only contributes to rumour. (That said, the person who updates the
news is very qualified and able – but it is a difficult job)

The site currently has this update.

By embracing new media such as web sites and live timing services, the
authorities need to consider that news travels much faster than ever before and
rumour can grow beyond established fact. This rumour needs to be controlled and
the only way to control rumour is to be up front and honest on the facts as soon
as possible. This puts the PR people in the driving seat by focussing attention
on an official source of information, which itself discredits claims of fact
from other sources. Maintaining a professional radio silence is not the answer.
Fans of motorsport follow their favoured riders religiously, particularly at the
TT where many fans know riders directly. Feeding correct information in a timely
fashion, even if in a drip-drip fashion, is essential to reducing the
opportunity for rumour to get beyond realty.

Facebook Home Page

I’m not going to be the first and I won’t be the last to write about this, so I won’t labour the point. Hopefully the graphic says it all. The new Facebook home page seems to be trying to be more like Twitter than actually bringing prople together, which it was previously very good at. With the posted items and “ancillary” activity being demoted to the right column, I am now no longer as immersed in what my friends are posting, doing or playing. Some of my friends posted articles of interest, which allowed me to comment there and then. Now I only see abbreviations. The core area is now trying to be a Twitter copy, being filled with everyone’s status updates … oh, sorry “whatever is on their mind”.

Facebook home page

Verdict: Meh.

Twitter at Work

Twittering at work raises interesting questions about security, commitment to work and protection of intellectual property; all questions raised by use of Instant Messenger applications. Whereas a company IT policy often (and I think, should) ban or actively prevent use of Instant Messengers such as Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, etc., how employers should approach Twitter use should be considered carefully.

Twitter provides two ways of communicating and participating with other Twitterers: the web, or their API which is used by Twitter clients such as Twhirl, blu (formerly known as *chirp), etc. Twitter is an ideal platform for participating in discussions with people you’d never dream of being able to reach in any other situation and the only way to really be a participant in this discussion is using a Twitter client which itself can look and behave almost as an Instant Messenger application does. So it would hardly be surprising if, on sight, an IT policy zealout would immediately object to its use. If it looks like IM, and feels like IM, then it must be IM.

Twitter is a distraction to work. Those seconds of distraction to your thought process as new notifications pop up or a couple of minutes here checking the current Twitter feed and establishing the flow of discussion, if any, can add up. In some jobs, such as my own, those seconds distraction cause more delays as I try and recover my train of thought, often along quite challenging lines.

So there seems very little reason why employers should allow or accept Twitter usage in the workplace.

Consider, however, the hidden benefit of Twitter as a training and awareness tool. By expanding your network to people within your industry sector, you can monitor others’ Tweets which are probably quite irrelavent, boring or even egotistical much of the time but sometimes there are gems that can help. For example, my current role is involved in developing a CRM system, so I add CRM users/developers to my network. I work with Sitecore, so I add Sitecore Twitterers. And so on. My network includes Journalists, Developers, Technology Evangelists, Product Area experts (CRM, BPR, etc) and you can learn a lot from this network. The development of this network is largely down to, which has really helped grow my network to be one of quality, with less noise.

This is what I learnt from Twitter this week:

  • The iPhone does not correctly use the mobile CSS stylesheet, which we knew, so our mobile interface didn’t work on iPhones. Turns out that you can add a tag to address this
  • Why WordPress removes tags from the XHTML in the Post Editor
  • Where Microsoft intends to add the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF)
  • How the new Microsoft Semblio could be used as a Training resource for our software

(actually, those 4 things were just in the last 24 hours)

This proves that Twitter is actually acting as a hidden trainer. Sure, this knowledge could be Google-d for, but we all have busy lives, often such searches fall by the way-side. In the case of the iPhone fix, I was not directly involved in that issue, but I remembered my team member had raised it so it helped him.

This knowledge comes both as a result of inviting response by my own posts, but also passively monitoring the Twitter feed. But you have to participate in the discussion. Participating shows that you are able to provide the time and attention to others, whether or not anything you contribute is useful or not. If users see you participate, they would be more willing to return the favour if you ever needed help.

Titbits of information can come from Twitterers working at their desk, re-posting information while in a seminar or presentation or even secretly tweeting in a boring meeting! The source may be an individual, or it may be a brand. Many brands are already on Twitter, which represents an additional channel from which to access useful material. Telerik (@telerikbuzz) tweets about upcoming product releases, hints and tips and suggestions that I have found useful on more than one occasion. This can provide an ideal opportunity to market your product, access new and existing customers and provide “passive” training. This could be a “Tip of the day”, or hidden features that may not be documented due to their support issues (promoting the idea that only Twitter users heard about it). Twitter provides an opportunity to create a training relationship between the brand/company and the end user, whatever their level of expertise. I intend to build on this idea in our next CRM version.

Things I’d like to see in 2009

At the Manx Third Thursday lunch today, Sherrilynne asked us “What is the next big thing going to be in 2009?”. A few good answers went around the table, but I found couldn’t really answer. If I.T. is fast, Social Media is even faster, I couldn’t come up with anything fast enough before it became old news.

But here’s what I would like to see:

Twitter is clearly the big thing at the moment, and a number of supporting services have popped up around its borders to complement the core Twitter service using its API. I’d like to see some consolidation of these services within one or more
sites or services. It doesn’t have to be Twitter itself, but I think the micro-blogging space is in need of some clarity. Twitterers use different picture, URL and syndication services, each with their own API. This leads to confusion – as fast as I get to grips with one site’s service, another one comes along and I’m out of fashion. In a “normal” business market, you might see one web site buying another web site in order to gain its intellectual property, and then build on it. Unfortunately, while Twitter seems to be able to perform acquisitions despite its quite dubious business model, I can’t see this happening. Some of the services provided by the complementary Twitter services such as TwitPic, MrTweet, Twollo, etc. are so obvious that either Twitter are waiting to see which services “take off” before buying or are focused on doing one thing – and doing it well (though their success in this respect, particularly with regards the current reluctance of the Facebook status update not working, is open to question).

Steve Burrows (while wielding his Google Android phone) suggested that social networking on mobile phones will be a big thing, particularly for location-based services. I’m inclined to agree. Putting aside the fancy smart phones which are often just style over substance (iPhone, anyone?) more phones and networks are coming out with the specific goal to provide access to social networks on the move. Maybe the days of quickly checking your Facebook as soon you get to a computer with an internet connection are numbered, instead, you’ll synchronise yourself with the social networks without even knowing it – while your phone is in your pocket, for example. Services such as location-based status updates, networked games (I’m thinking of Facebook Flash games, such as Tetris and Scrabble) and voice/webcam-based social networking using the phones hardware all become quite intriguing prospects. I’m already on the roadmap, with my planned upgrade from the Nokia N95 to the N97, itself social-network
based. The only weakness in the plan is data carrier rates, which if you’re
using one of our local carriers, offers less than competitive deals where you can access up to ONE WHOLE MEGABYTE a month on your mobile phone.

I would also like to see companies’ wings clipped with regards collection and
protection of data. The quiet acquisition of almost everything about your
computer experience by Google seems to have gone unnoticed by most, the current
focus being on the losing of personal data on trains and stolen laptops. The government is committed to collecting even more personal data, particularly for their contraversial ID card scheme. Most web sites you visit have the ability to collect personal data, in addition to their trend and usage acquisition software (also powered by Google), but which web sites are fully aware of their Data Protection responsibilities? I have personal knowledge of companies that have taken their data protection responsibilities less than seriously and I would like to see this trend reversed. The acquisition of data needs to be controlled, along with the subsequent storage and timely destruction of the data. Schemes like OpenID and Windows Live/Passport authentication mechanisms seem to be heading in the right direction, though neither is entirely there yet. I’d be happy to be proxy authenticated by a site that I could trust, and then contribute to a person’s blog safe in the knowledge that my personal data is safe. (How many passwords have you typed in to quickly register on sites that could be used elsewhere for more serious purposes and what gauantee have you that your password was encrypted from use by the web site developer and anyone who could potentially gain access to it?)

In other areas, I would like to see the Heathrow Third Runway ditched, in favour of a North-South High Speed Rail Link (though I suggest we would have to
wait a long time for the latter, like Christian Wolmar, I’m not convinced in the Tories’ claims that they would implement the scheme). I would like to see the BBC not to pander to the ultra-conservative tabloids that spoil broadcasting for younger people who like their comedy a little edgier than Morecambe and Wise. Finally, I would like to see The Isle of Man to build a tunnel under the Irish Sea that comes out in Liverpool so I can get to Manchester without paying the ridiculous anti-competitive fares by air and sea I currently have to pay. I can’t see this happening, though, not because a tunnel can’t be built but because the Manx government doesn’t seem to share its residents desire for increased competition and choice in services such as travel, television broadcast provision and fixed line rental.


I received a suggestion to try today, from one of the guys I am
following on Twitter, @jonpauldavies. His bio says he “help businesses communicate better with customers through innovation and automation”. I think that means he is into Social Media. An insightful follow, one nugget was that he was beta-testing, which is an automated follower/be-followed service that works with Twitter.

Basically, you submit your interests, so I submitted:

  • .NET (okay, a wide net)
  • Sitecore
  • CRM
  • WCF
  • Windows Workflow
  • Social Media (of course)

Initial results were not good. I added them and it just said “0 results”. Oh,
well, maybe I just had to wait a few moments. In the next few seconds, I had
found I was following 15 more people and my feed was being flooded. A very
useful feature, if you can tie your interests down.

I have tried using the tool in a similar manner
to try and weed out some interesting feeds, @a_rusakov, @mediauktv and @problogger and it works quite well. But it does need effort and you do sort of need to have a look at each feed before you follow to make sure you control the old noise to signal ratio.

Twollo automates all this for you. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work for
me. Based on my interests, I soon got flooded with feeds that were half-English,
half foreign (I’m talking European languages and Eastern languages – or
certainly characters sets), about 40 errors in my Twitter Feed (I presume that a
Twitter feed wasn’t working and was just spewing our errors into the
Twitter-sphere) and one or two useful posts. I’ve kept @WCF
but binned the rest and turned it off.

All in all a really good idea, but some more thought needs to go into it.
Principally, only serve me with content in my own language and from feeds that
work. Some form of gauge to throttle feed content would be great, too. I’ll
certainly come back to it, as it will surely help reduce my Twitter maintenance
which I find I have to keep returning to to maintain my feed quality and

Goodbye @redstarvip and @stephenfry

I’ve been expanding my Twitter circle recently, trying to find a bit more
content out there which is outside my normal line of interest. To my existing
contacts, which include Sitecore Professionals, CRM and .NET specialists and
Social Media bods, I have widened the net to philosophical and comedic

But today I am losing two of them.

First to go was @redstarvip, who decided he wanted to start a debate with:

Homophobic TweetNow I’m all for open debate, but this seemed to be asking for a fight and
inviting ill educated responses. There are ways to structure debate to try and
ensure that the debate remains an informed and stable one. The language he used
was just plain provocative. To be fair to him, he did reply back:

Didn’t seem like he was using much logic to me.

And I’m also losing @stephenfry. I actually do not agree with Stephen Fry’s online presence, having disagreed with him previously about his blog where he seems suddenly to be an authority in IT consumer electronics (He has one of those unhealthy hatreds of a certain operating system). Fair enough though, the man has an opinion, and everyone is entitled to an opinion. I started following him due to my colleagues/friends all appreciating his style on QI, and I have to admit I was a fan of Fry and Laurie, when he was funny. The man is a very clever man, and I do appreciate “clever” humour.

Stephen Fry

A very quick way for me to lose respect for someone. This highlights a
weakness of Twitter. It can be used to insult, lie and be downright rude across
the net with no consequence. My Grand-parents always used to tell me, “People
who swear do so because they aren’t intelligent enough to find the right words”.
Well, I don’t understand what’s going on here but I sure don’t want to listen
to/read this outburst just because an educated man can’t use an operating system
he doesn’t prefer.