Tag Archives: twitter

Congratulations Andi Irsik, My 100th Facebook Fan! You Win Stuff! Wanna Win Stuff, Too?

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Click here to go to the Neal Jansons fan page on Facebook!

Andi will be receiving a free copy of the soon-to-be-released ebook of my novells “Dreams of Fire and Glass” (which you can read for free at the Lovecraft eZine) and has a chance to win a free signed PRINT copy of my soon-to-be-released collection of short stories and poetry “Our Story Up To Now”.

On that note I would like to remind you that all of my fans on Facebook are automatically entered to win a free signed PRINT copy of each of my works as they are released, and yes, that does include novels. 🙂 You’re automatically entered just by liking my page. It’s as easy as clicking the button over there on your right, so why not do it right now? And while you’re at it, why not follow me on Twitter as well? While people who follow me don’t get automatically entered to win stuff, they do get access to up-to-the minute information on my upcoming publications and new, special contests that I will be running via Twitter only. Besides, you get more of me in your life and, in the end, isn’t that what we all want?

So click those two little links, get a little bit more of me in your life, and win free stuff now!

How To Find New People On Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Well, as everyone has been noting, Twitter is now thoroughly mainstream. Once you have Oprah and her legions on a service, it has definitely left the exclusive realm of geeks and early adopters. Unlike some of my peers, I do not resent the presence and arrival of the celebrities and their virtual entourages. However, I do recognize that all these newcomers might be a bit overwhelmed. While Twitter itself is simple, the assorted applications and services built around it are most assuredly not, so newcomers might not know how to find new twitterers to follow. While there are many services out there trying to build a business model on top Twitter, many of them are poorly conceived or poorly implemented and are of little help. Since I have been through most of them and seperated much of the wheat from the chaff, I decided to share my favorite services for finding new people on Twitter.

Mr. Tweet

Mr. Tweet is a simple service. From their site:

Mr. Tweet is your personal networking agent who helps you expand your network easily. To do that, he helps you regularly:

1. Get relevant followers by recommending you to them
2. Discover great people relevant to your current needs
3. Improve your Twitter usage via useful statistics

All you do is follow Mr. Tweet on Twitter and a few days later he sends you a direct message with a link to a page with suggestions for you to follow. The app keeps various statistics on different users so you can intelligently decide whether or not to follow. Every few weeks thereafter you will get another DM with new users for you to follow. Mr. Tweet also works together with Topify, a great service for dealing with the abundance of email that a strong Twitter account can generate.

WeFollow

WeFollow is a user driven directory that uses hashtags to classify people and organizations on Twitter. It was started a little while back by Kevin Rose and already has a strong following. There you can add yourself under three tags (such as #writer #socialmedia #tech) and others will find you, or you can search for others based on their hashtags. The site also shows you top twitterers according to various standards and give links and details for their accounts.

Twitseeker

Twitseeker is a very simple search engine that allows you to seek out users based not on how they classify themselves, but what they are tweeting about. From their site:

TwitSeeker is basically an alternate search engine for finding twitter.com users – “twits” – and browsing the results all in one combined control panel. It works by using the twitter.com API, and finds twits not by what’s posted in their bios but rather based on what they’ve been tweeting about lately. It uses a custom tag cloud generator written by the author, and was created as an experimental tool to help users quickly build up a twitter community around specific topics.

As people find you and you find them, the service send you an @ reply which plugs them, you, and the person you found or found you, which is a nice what of spreading your social presence around.

TwitterPacks

I have written on TwitterPacks before, but I wanted to plug them again because of how awesome their site is. TwitterPacks is a wiki that allows people to add themselves and their information to packs sorted by location, interest, profession, company, and topic. What makes the site so awesome is their AutoPack script which allows you follow an entire pack at a time. A few caveats: the site is user-driven and thus can be a little slow and disorganized. The AutoPack script is sometimes slow, and if you don’t take yourself out of any pack before following it will cause an error. Additionally, because TwitterPacks is user-driven and hosted on a shared server, when there is a lot of traffic the site or the AutoPack script might simply fail to be served. Just wait a while and try again.

Twibes

Twibes is a neat little directory that allows you to form groups on Twitter similar to a social network like Facebook. You connect your account and you can either start or join a “twibe” (twitter tribe) based on similar interests. This is simple in concept, but is powerful in social media as it allows mini-communities to form within the larger community of Twitter. While this post is aimed at new Twitterers, old hats will recall that we have been asking for groups for a long time, and this service grew up in response to that demand.

Add your favorites to the list

I know many of my readers are already very involved in social media and probably are gnashing their teeth that I left out their favorite service…so make your voices heard and list your favorite way to find new twitterers in the comments and I will add them to the list.

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Find Twitterers by Topic, Interests, Company, and Location with TwitterPacks

Well, it finally had to happen. Twitter is mainstream.

Twitter, and social media in general, have become mainstream. It gets talked about on international television, reported on in the mainstream media, and the service is enjoying the surge in users that all this attention has brought. But there remains a problem for all these new users…how do you find who to follow and gain followers yourself who are going to tweet about things that interest you? The answers are out there, but being new to the social media scene, many of these new users get disillusioned quickly and end up leaving in frustration. Abandoned Twitter pages abound with 8 tweets, all along the lines of “Hello? Is anyone out there? Is this thing on?”, leaving a ghost-town where new microbloggers could have been.

Always use the right tools for the right job.

There are various tools out there for automatically finding new people to follow and to list yourself. Recently @kevinrose released WeFollow, a user-driven directory of twitterers using hashtags. Another popular tool is Mr. Tweet, which uses various methods for suggesting followers based on their streams. These tools have their place, but I dislike their simplicity and passiveness. I like to browse, and sometimes hashtags, however useful, are just not good categories for finding what you are interested in. Because of all of this I like Twitterpacks a great deal, and wanted to do a little write-up on it because I don’t see it mentioned or discussed very much and it really is a nice little project that deserves some mention and respect.

What Twitterpacks is.

TwitterPacks is a wiki (built on PBWiki) where users can register and add their own link to their Twitter page and a short line about who you are (if you wish). The wiki breaks people up into categories like topics they cover, interests, location, company, and whatever other categories people want to add. Like any wiki, it is what the users make it, and this wiki has a community of users that have built a simple directory that they keep as neat and clean as possible.

By itself, this would be nothing more than a list of links and, while better than just blindly following people, makes the task a chore, especially when you are getting started and want to follow a large group in a particular region or industry. However, TwitterPacks has dealt with that, supplying a script they call Autopack, which allows you to select an entire category and follow them (or unfollow them) all at once. While the script does require your password, it passes it off directly to the Twitter API without creating any kind of account or login on-site. I have used the site for months with no issues and no one has ever said a thing about security problems, so I don’t have a problem recommending the site, but be aware that any application that requires you to use your password can be a security risk. Be careful.

What TwitterPacks is not.

TwitterPacks is not a flashy, pretty, AJAX-driven service where you “set it and forget it”. It takes some work to find all the places you wish to be listed, make the entries, and save the edits for each page. You do have to actually find the topics you are interested in and use the Autopack feature manually. The Autopack script is also limited, as it is being served from a donated server, and can very slow in returning large requests. On very large follow or unfollow commands it can time-out, and if you don’t make sure your own account isn’t somewhere on the list it can produce errors. As a user-driven community, TwitterPacks is funded by donations, and we all know how problematic that can be. All of these things make Twitterpacks a bit of work, and while I highly recommend it, know that it is by no means perfect.

Any others?

Tools like this are invaluable in building a strong social media presence and personal brand, an ongoing concern for anyone who wants to be able to make it in new media. I mentioned a few of my favorite tools, but I know of dozens I didn’t mention and I am sure there are many more. What are your faves?

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Dynamic Fiction Through Microblogging

Twitter over-capacity image.As a follow up to my last post, “Picking a Genre in New Media “, where I listed out several of the major genres of writing common in blogs and other forms of new media, I thought I would approach some of the genres and try to share some writing tips. Then I saw this post over at Techcrunch: “Can Twitter Authors Capture The Magic Of LonelyGirl15?“, and decided I would start with my favorite genre: fiction.

Many readers might think that the online medium is not suited to telling a good story, but this is not true. Techcrunch cites the classic tale of LonelyGirl15 as a perfect example of the possibilities on online fiction. For those who are unfamiliar with the tale: LonelyGirl15 was Bree, a fictional character created for a series of YouTube videos which eventually unfolded into a rather epic tale of secret government conspiracies. This was a remarkable example of viral marketing: it turned out a creative agency created the interactive story. This highlights what is possible with fiction when the internet is used as the medium. What begins as a single person’s story can take on a life of its own, remixed, revamped, and expanded by other creative minds working in concert.

So let’s consider Twitter and other microbloggers. We have the possibility for small bursts of tale, added to and changed by followers and retweeted across the net. We also have the possibility for the return of the “serial” and “periodical” in a new form, where a string of updates over time can serve to create tension, invite speculation, and cause readers to experiment with their own explanations of events in the story.

So how can you write the kind fiction that would work through a medium like a microblogger?

  1. Consider your limit. 140 characters per update. You could consider posting a whole string of updates in a row, but each post should be complete and move the story all by itself.
  2. “Murder your darlings”. This quote from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch tells us to get rid of every word, every phrase, every bit of writing that does not move the story and is not the perfect words to express what you want to express, no matter how clever or pretty. While it is always good advice (and never easy), it becomes even more important in this medium. Never fall back on empty phrases, no matter how elegant, and never write platitudes or cliches. In the online world, anything that does not move the story is simply ignored.
  3. Allow for the responses you receive from followers to influence the story. This is perhaps the greatest strength of the online world: ease of collaboration. Thanks to the medium you can adjust your tale and answer the desires of your readers like no “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel could ever hope for.
  4. Allow for ambiguity. Part of what made LonelyGirl15 compelling was that no one was sure for awhile whether it was real or fiction. By the time every one knew it was fiction, no one cared and followed the story out of interest.
  5. Update regularly. Your followers need to know when the next installment will come, and they need to be able to pass that knowledge along. If you must miss an update, work the delay into the story.
  6. Avoid explanations. Explanations of the story don’t move the story and prevent it from being open-ended and ambiguous enough to draw virality.
  7. Avoid plot-twists. Plot-twists are cheap when done in serial form…consider the “cliffhangers” of old movie serials, where each episode placed the hero in some deadly danger…only to have it explained away in the first moments of the next installment. People see this tactic a mile away, and will quickly lose interest. Instead of going for overt plot-twists, go for lots of ambiguity where any number of explanations, twists, and turns could happen and make sense, causing your readers to attempt to figure out where it will go next only to be endlessly surprised. Think “Lost” rather than “The Village” and you can’t go wrong.

Final Word

These are only suggestions about how to tackle fiction through microbloggers…I have only begun considering the possibilities. I am very interested in seeing where people go with this as a medium and will be following mylifein140, the account mentioned in the Techcrunch post, as well as looking into “Twittories“, a group creating crowdsourced fiction using Twitter.

Questions for my readers:

  1. Are there any other writers attempting a similar experiment?
  2. Any thoughts on the possibilities of fiction in new media? Perhaps something I haven’t considered?
  3. Are the possibilities for pursing other forms of writing in this way, perhaps poetry or philosophy?

Ten Steps to Being Everywhere in Social Media

So you want to be everywhere?Social Media Service Logos

I think that to succeed in the social media world, a key concept is social density. I work towards this by constantly looking for new sites and services to maintain a presence on and being active in many different microblogging communities. I also manage to at times have a life and do the writing that pays the bills. I do this by using a few different techniques to streamline my interactions with the virtual world.

Recently I got a comment on this post and realized that it would be helpful to some of my readers to learn how I do this until something better comes along (any venture capitalists reading? :P).

1. Make a profile document

You are going to be entering certain information again and again for awhile. Get used to it, and get used to changing it. You can get a plugin for Firefox called Sxipper that can automate this process and also automate your logins. I very much recommend it.

Make a plain text document (use Notepad) and list the following information:

  1. First name
  2. Last name
  3. Nickname/Username (you won’t always get what you want, be prepared with alternatives)
  4. A single sentence that explains who you are and what you do
  5. A short bio that explains who you are and what you do with no links to your work or other profiles
  6. A slightly longer bio with links to your work or other profiles
  7. An even slightly longer bio that is pretty much your online resume
  8. Address
  9. IM accounts
  10. Main email account
  11. Three interests (separated by commas)
  12. Three musical genres or artists you like (separated by commas)
  13. Three favorite movies (separated by commas)
  14. Three favorite books (separated by commas)
  15. Three to seven tags (simple words or phrases people looking for a person like you might use in a search engine; for example, I commonly use “writer, freelance, social media”) (separated by commas)

2. Make a picture or logo

You will need a pic for many sites. Prepare three versions, one big, one small, one thumbnail.

3. Make accounts pt. 1

Go to the following sites and make accounts:

  1. Friendfeed
  2. Ping.fm
  3. Profilactic

4. Make accounts pt. 2

Go to Friendfeed and look at the different services they have that you can aggregate. Pick at least one site from each of the following categories:

  1. News (if you make just one choose Digg)
  2. Bookmarking (If you make just one choose StumbleUpon)
  3. Microblogging (if you make just one choose Twitter)
  4. Pictures (if you make just one choose Flickr)
  5. Social Profile (if you make just one choose Facebook)
  6. Business Profile (if you make just one choose LinkedIn)
  7. Music (if you make just one choose Last.fm)
  8. Video (if you make just one choose YouTube)
  9. Commenting (if you make just one choose Disqus)

5. Make accounts pt. 3

Go to Ping.fm. and there will be a list of services to which you can post updates. Go find each and every one of them except the blogs and make an account. That’s right. Every single one. Fill them out completely.

6. Aggregate your accounts

Go to your Friendfeed, Profilactic, and Ping.fm accounts and connect up all of your accounts. Make sure to put a feed from all your blogs on the lifestreams.

7. Downloads

Download and install:

  1. Adobe Air
  2. SocialAddict
  3. Twhirl

8. Use

Use SocialAddict to connect to Ping.fm. Use it for all normal microblogging. Use Twhirl to connect to your FriendFeed and Twitter accounts. You will then get updates from everyone you follow on both services and be able to interact with each service. Either put your Profilactic badge and lifestream on your blog or point people at them in your profiles so people can see what services you use. (The reason to use Profilactic is because it will aggregate services FriendFeed doesn’t).

9. Network

Use the search function on FriendFreed to find rooms and people you are interested in and follow them. Go to their profiles and add them on whatever you share in common. Some will add you, some will not. Get used to it. Do this at least once a week.

10. Be social!

Now use the service you have accounts with. When you read a post you like, submit it to news sites or vote for them. Peruse the news and bookmarks sites to find things you like and vote for them. Listen to music on your music site and favorite or scrobble or whatever the process is. Favorite your favorite videos. Comment on blogs. Live your online life in this social way. And most importantly, use the microbloggers.

Final words

This guide is tentative. The method is not as clean and easy as I would like, and the technologies and services offered change far too quickly for any guide to be definitive. Nonetheless, this is what I do, and I hope it helps at least the reader who asked the original question.

If you have any tips on further streamlining this process, please share! If you have any other similar questions, ask away and it might lead into a new post like this one!

Good luck and remember to be social!

Update:

I was reminded by Pamir of another great service that allows you to aggregate your services and create a dynamic online business card called Retaggr. Even though I have an account with them, I had completely forgotten about how useful it is. See, this why we need to be as social as possible: none of us can know everything or do everything, but working together we can succeed as if we do, and that is all that matters.

Update 2:

It occurs to me that a lot of people would like a Google link for searching for FriendFeed rooms. I got this from Andy Beard here so if you like it, give him some positive feedback.

Thanks for all the great comments and questions, everyone! Keep ’em coming!

Update 3:

Unless you are aching to be on every possible site, you can safely ignore my earlier advice about Profilactic and use FriendFeed for all your lifestreaming services. In the time since I wrote this post, FriendFeed has come leaps and bounds while Profilactic (sadly) has not. Sorry, Profilactic team, but I have to recommend the right tools for the job, and FriendFeed has most assuredly become the best tool.

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Twitter as Social Aggregator and Lifestreamer

Make Twitter Your Social Aggregator: Create An Extended Profile

I am a big fan of Twitter, and until now I have been living with FriendFeed, which doesn’t really meet all my needs, for a lifestreaming service. I am going to be trying out this template for making an extended Twitter profile I found at Mashable (of which I am also a big fan). I will present my findings. Hopefully, this will finally solve my lifestreaming issues.

Also: stay tuned for more changes in the website!