Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Automated list generated by your mentions

So if you've been on twitter at all in the last few months you will by now be familiar with the lists function.  Lists are great in that they allow you to create a list of people (who you don't need to be following) with like interests.  Then more recently I found a great service called listwatcher.  If you follow @listwatcher you will be alerted by DM (Direct Message) of any changes to lists that have you as a member - rename of the list, drop from the list, if you are added to any list.

I have found listwatcher to be helpful in that it monitors the lists I'm on or put on for me.  Hence when I was informed that I had been put on a list called "hotnsassy" I immediately checked it out and found to my relief that it was a list that consisted of social media types.

More recently, I was informed that I had been removed from a list called "conversationlist" (the misspelling is on purpose) maintained by a tweep I frequently converse with @yonitdm.  So I checked it out and found that the list was auto generated by something called conversationlist.com.  The list is regenerated depending on your settings and interactions everyday.  Here is what they say on their website:
To be a little more specific, a "conversationlist" is a Twitter list of the people that you talk to (and about) on Twitter. The list is automatically updated daily, so that it always reflects the people that you are paying attention to right now. If you @reply (or @mention) someone, they're added to your list. If you stop talking to that person, they drop off your list.
I created one of these myself, or actually the website did it for me, based on the settings I am still tweaking.  So if you are anything like me and have a toolbox of twitter related stuff, here's another tool to add.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Styrofoam as an Art Form - Turning a cup inside out

I was just reading Diana Adams' Blog on artwork with a foam cup and a sharpie and was reminded of when I used to be very bored and would sit and very very carefully turn a styrofoam cup inside out.  It wasn't easy, and unfortunately I don't have any pictures, but it was time consuming.

I told my daughter about this the other night and she insisted I was kidding (which I do a lot) and that it was impossible.  Even after her mother confirmed the truth of what I was saying she still insisted it was impossible.  I guess it's time to do it again, except I no longer have time to kill and cups to waste.

I did find these references (now I know I'm not crazy):

Vimeo video of how to turn a styrofoam cup inside out
YouTube video
Blog for when you're bored

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Grisoft's AVG 9 - My experience updated

AVG Internet SecurityImage via Wikipedia
Not long ago I wrote a blog on my disastrous update to AVG 9.0 from 8.5 (paid version).  Since then I have come to a conclusion about the software in question.  Even though I provided a number of different logs and information to the AVG support group, they said they couldn't help me with my problem unless I reinstalled AVG and sent them the minidump log from another BSOD.  That's all well and good for them, but I can't afford to keep blue screening my work computer so that they can solve their software problems. 

I decided that as good as AVG 9 looked (and thank goodness it is less of a resource hog than 8.5), I could do without it and immediately replaced it with 2 other pieces of software.

When Grisoft gets AVG 9 in better shape I will revisit it as a antivirus/firewall alternative.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, November 9, 2009

Top Portable Application Suites

PortableApps.comImage by valentin.d via Flickr

I've been working with portable applications for too many years to count. Since I started I've written a help file which tries to explain the basics and gives brief reviews of a few launchers. At one point I started using LupoPensuite which was based on the ASuite launcher. As I noted in the my help file, ASuite has some problems, which is why I stopped using it. Anything based on Asuite, including the recent runner up in Lifehacker's Poll of best portable suites, LiberKey, seems to put all of the applications in an apps folder with subsequent applications in a separate folder. This is fine if you never look at the underlying structure of the directories, but if you care at all, it's a mess. Having hundreds of folders, each a seaparate application, to deal with when they are not categorized is a recipe for disaster.

The best part about LiberKey, in my opinion, is that it updates the suite and the applications automatically. This is an excellent feature and should be part of every launcher suite.

Lifehackers first place portable application suite, Portableapps.com, is an excellent platform, but it has the same problem as the ASuite launcher; all the applications must be in a subfolders of the portableapps folder. Again there is no categorization and worse there is no way to categorize the menu system itself (ASuite breaks down everything into categories in the menu system, even if they are a hodgepodge in reality). There is no doubt that the portableapps.com format is excellent (.paf.exe), but the fact that it will display all .exe files (although a recent change allows you to hide some applications you don't wish to display, this is a slightly backwards way of doing things in my opinion) in the main directory of each program makes adding portable applications that are not in a portable wrapper from their website confusing. Many times executables, like config apps will show up even if you don't want them to.

I found that the PStart menu system, although not bundled with a slew of software, is highly preferable. It allows you to specify your own directory structure on the portable device you are using. You can also decide which files you want to show up in the menu system. It certainly doesn't have the glitz or glamour that portableapps does, but it is much easier to configure and use, especially when you have more than 15 or so apps. I have 8 gigabytes worth of applications from all over the web on my stick. Pstart keeps everything categorized both in the menu and on my stick in the correct directories. All the portable programs I find work with this menu. (the only trouble I've run into so far has been portableapps .paf files of Google Chrome and Skype, both of these had to be installed in an upper level directory because the path was too long where I wanted to install them - u:\utility cd\usbportable\internet\browsers\googlechrome and u:\utility cd\usbportable\internet\misc\skype. They ended up in u:\)

Bottom line is that if I could have voted for PStart in the lifehacker poll, I would have, unfortunately PStart is not a suite, just a launcher.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

AVG Upgrade to 9.0 and the Blue Screen Of Death

AVG Internet SecurityImage via Wikipedia

I use AVG anti-virus / anti-malware software, among others, on my work computer. I like to keep everything up to date to make sure my computer doesn't get infected. So when the AVG software popped up a notice saying I could get a free upgrade to version 9 from version 8.5, I went for it - my bad!

AVG is excellent software, don't get me wrong. But when I upgraded to version 9 (which is said to be 6x faster and uses less resources than 8.x), it recommended uninstalling my other software, Symantec AV Corporate edition (which my college requires) and Sophos AV (which I was testing).

Once I uninstalled those pieces of software (this should be done automatically from the installer - I had to remove the software and restart the installer). I restarted the installer which then upgraded my version 8.5 to version 9.00. That's when my problems started.

I was going through the various components (it looked really really good - even had it's own firewall - which turns off windows firewall BTW), when I came upon the Rootkit scanner. I decided to try it out - That's when I got the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD)! I recovered from that and started researching the problem. AVG had some suggestions on their website, which turned out to be okay. Microsoft came back with a message after the error reporting went in that I had a bad driver (hardware or software) on my system.

When I came in this morning - another BSOD awaited me. After recovering from that I saw that a message I sent to AVG tech support was waiting for me in my inbox. I started to answer it when I got another BSOD. I restored my system to an earlier state (before the upgrade) and finished answering the email to AVG then started straitening out my system.

I'm hoping that AVG will be able to solve this quickly, because what I saw of the 9.00 version looked really nice and I like AVG a lot better than the Symantec product we are using here.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rootkit detectors

I work at a cancer center as the IT guy.  One of the things I run into regularly is infected computers.  Many times these infections are NOT minor, so I've collected a slew of tools to deal with them.  One type of infection is the Rootkit.  I have a bunch of FREE tools I use to clean these.  These are portable tools, so that you don't have install anything on the computer in question.

A rootkit is a program or programs designed to make it so the user does not relize the system is infected in some way.  Rootkits are tenacious, they tend to install themselves in system files and rewrite themselves into other files when they are attempted to be cleaned by normal methods.  There are many methods by which infection occurs and that is another blog.  Because of the way a rootkit works it makes it very difficult to get rid of.

F-Secure CorporationImage via Wikipedia

F-Secure has an excellent program called Blacklight.  It is very easy to use, just accept the caveats and click scan.

Sophos also makes a great application.  Their anti-rootkit program does require you to supply some basic information before downloading here, but it is worth it.  The sophos software is relatively easy to use just choose the type of scan and click scan.

Panda anti rootkit, Run Pavark.exe.  Accept the first screen, check deep scan, click scan, this will schedule a scan the next time your system restarts (you can restart right away or later).

Spybot Search & Destroy 1.6.2,  has a rootkit section.  Note that you must choose "advanced" from the mode menu, then choose rootkit scan.

Gmer is a more complicated application.  It is extremely good, but is aimed at the information Technology professional or at least someone more conversant with computers.  The GUI (Graphical User Interface) is not as easy to use as the other programs.

With anti-rootkits you should run at least 3 before feeling safe.  Some of these applications will identify false positives - things that seem like rootkits but are not - so be careful.  After running your anti-rootkit programs, if you found something, be sure to run an antivirus /malware application with up to date virus definition file to be sure to get rid of any vestiges that were left behind.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Twitter - Startup #11 - Other resources

There are many other twitter resources users should be aware of. Many of these I have used in putting together the previous 10 blog entries on twitter. Here are just a few of them:

MakeUseOf Guide to Twitter
My Delicious.com Twittertools bookmarks
Twitter for Business, Twitter for Friends , by Mark Murnahan (@murnahan)
Presentation on Starting to use twitter
Just about anything on Bitrebels.com about twitter

Thanks to Ahad Bokhari (@featureblend) for suggesting this series to me.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Twitter - Startup #9 - Twitter Clients

Everyone will tell you something different when it comes to what the best way to access twitter is. A lot depends on your personal tastes, the platform you are using (operating system) and what you want to do. Here are a couple of things I came up with to decide what twitter client to use:
  • The way in which the organization has decided to use twitter
  • Who is going to be tweeting, which includes how many people will tweet on the same account
  • How the tweeting will be done
  • The time investment which you want to put in or can put in
CoTweet (cotweet.com)
  • the twitter client that is the choice of many businesses
  • Web based client
  • best for use when more than one person is tweeting the same account
  • can schedule tweets
  • uses "CoTags" to identify person tweeting (^TZ) for Tom Zucker-Scharff
  • Integrates bit.ly URL shortener
  • can have multiple twitter accounts
  • Stand alone Adobe Air client
  • Can have multiple accounts
  • Can NOT schedule tweets
  • does not lend itself to multiple users
  • has iphone app that syncs with it
Seesmic Desktop
  • Stand alone Adobe Air client
  • Manages multiple accounts
  • Does not lend itself to multiple users
  • More Media friendly
  • There is a web version of the client called Seesmic Web
Twitter website (twitter.com)
  • The way a majority of tweeters use twitter
  • must have a browser to use in this manner
  • Fewer capabilities than the stand alone apps
  • While stand alones access twitter through the site's API which will work many times when the site itself isn't working, if you are using the website it must be working for you to do anything.
Peoplebrowser (peoplebrowsr.com)
  • Can be either a stand alone Adobe Air app or a web app
  • does many of the things other apps do

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Twitter - Startup #8 - Backup

Once you have all this information and setup online, what happens if you have to recreate it all? As with everything else computer related, three words say it all - Backup, backup, backup! But since this primarily exists on the internet this could be a problem. Luckily there are at least four tools that will help.
  • Tweecious - (tweecious.com) provides a service that will put all your tweets with l
    Backup and Restore CenterImage via Wikipedia
    inks in them into your delicious account. Delicious.com is a social bookmarking site.
  • Backupify - although only in it's infancy, backupify.com provides an extremely useful service. The free online acccount let's you backup as many twitter accounts as you like (as long as you have the credentials for them) into xml files. Although I haven't tried this myself, the website does boast the ability to restore your account from these files. The pay account lets you backup your other online information.
  • Tweetake - (tweetake.com) This website also lets you backup your twitter account for free. While backupify creates xml files, tweetake creates and downloads a comma delimeted file (csv) importable to excel. The only downside is currently there is no way to restore the data via the file.
  • TweetBackup - (tweetbackup.com) provides backup for your twitter accounts (I backed three up to test it). The interface is easy to use and there is even a restore tab (untested by me). This looks to be an excellent service.
So far none of these services have included the lists, but that is probably only a matter of time.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twitter - Startup #7 - Searches

Once you start using twitter you won't feel the full power until you try some searches. You can use searches, either within a client, or outside of twitter, to find out almost anything about what is being said about you or your institution. It doesn't matter whether you are on twitter or not - your business will still be spoken about and wouldn't you rather be there to answer questions?

Here are just a few of the powerful search tools that will let you keep an "eye in the sky":
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twitter - Startup #6 - Using Feeds

Some twitter accounts, you will learn to recognize them, use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to automatically tweet new information from designated sources as it becomes available. Beware, there are several pitfalls to using this as your sole approach to tweeting.
  • Social Media is meant to be Social, so if you aren't going to interact, maybe your best bet is to go elsewhere, or change how you are approaching this
  • The more you fill someone's stream (the replies they see in twitter) with possibly irrelevant information, the less likely they are to be interested in following and interacting with you
  • You might get marked as SPAM and your account could be discontinued by twitter.

Any number of tools can be use to do this and new ones are popping up all the time. Here are just a few:
  • Yahoo Pipes - This tool lets you aggregate infomation from various sources filter what you want and create an RSS feed from it. This is a powerful tool.
  • Feedburner - part of google this tool is a great tool for organizing your feeds
  • Twitterfeed - With an account on this site you can name your feeds (best to use feedburner feeds) assign when you want them to search for new information (how often), even assign a twitter account to tweet from and a bit.ly account to shorten links and track from.
Next: Searches
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Twitter - Startup #5 - URL Shorteners

Image representing bit.ly as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Because twitter limits the length of any post to 140 characters, a plethora of URL shorteners have popped up. This allows you to shorten a really long URL to something relatively short like http://tweepml.org/NCI-designated-Cancer-Center-on-Twitter/ to http://bit.ly/NCI_CC_List (because I made this one a vanity URL, it's a little longer than it would normally be). This is handy when you are trying to conserve every character.

One of the better URL shorteners, IMO, is http://bit.ly. If you have an account on bit.ly you can track the number of people who have clicked on your link since you tweeted it (click-throughs), where they are from (identifies generally geographic areas / countries) and when they clicked on your link. It's a great tool.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Twitter - Startup #4 - Creating a Biography

Now you've created a name, an avatar and a background. It's time to create a brief biography that many twitter clients and twitter users use to check you out.

  • Other users use this to decide if you are worth their time
  • About 160 character limit
  • Remember that the bio is searched for relevant terms when people are looking for various services or type s of tweeters
You may wish to add something to the effect that you opinions are your own or they do not reflect your employers opinions - it's up to you.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Twitter - Startup #3 - Making a background

custom twitter backgroundImage by EMMEALCUBO via Flickr

Once you've created your name and avatar, it's now time to create a background.

Look around at other backgrounds before creating your own. Your background, rightly or wrongly, will influence whether people follow you or not.
  • Branding - As with other attributes of your twitter profile, your background should be consistent with what you perceive your brand to be and how you want others to see you.
  • Be careful of the width - as the browser gets smaller in width the center area of tweets (white area with tweets in it in picture) will move to the right. If you have information you want people to see, it might get obscured. This is also true of height since your background will NOT scroll you need to check it looks okay when you upload it.
  • Your background is generally the second impression a person looking to follow you gets. There is a lot of room to make it a great one.
  • When creating your background be innovative, creative and impressive
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Twitter - Startup #2 - Making an Avatar

Observe how much better an avatar can look in ...Image by Torley via Flickr

Previously I spoke just about choosing a name on twitter. In this post I'll address choosing an avatar.

An avatar is a picture you choose to represent you online. It can be of you (most often) or of anything else. The avatar I use on twitter is a picture of me put through a photoshop like website (befunky.com).

When choosing an avatar there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
  • Branding - if this is a company account you want to remember to make an avatar that is not only recognizable, but is consistent with your company brand / logo. If this is a personal account, remember that a personal brand is just as important as a corporate one. Make it yours.
  • Recognizability - this may be slightly redundant, but it is important enough that it deserves to be its own point. Your avatar is how people will first see you and recognize you afterwards. They look at your name as well, but that's the second thing most tweeters look at.
  • Do not Change lightly - this is a whole blog by itself (it's already been written by someone else - Diana Adams @ bitrebels.com), but to put it succinctly, once you establish yourself on twitter changing your avatar, will confuse people.
  • Remember that your avatar determines the first impression other tweeters will get of you.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Twitter - Startup #1 - picking a name

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

I was asked to put together a presentation about getting started on twitter. So after culling it all together, it was suggested I might blog it as well. Here goes ...

First things first. Getting started on twitter you need to pick an appropriate name. I don't say this lightly. Depending on why you are tweeting and for who, depends on how you handle this. If you are tweeting for your company this may be handled in one of two ways. Either your name will reflect the company - it will be a company account, or it will be a persaonal account that tweets for the company. sometimes there is a combination thereof. A classic example is how Dell decided to handle twitter names.

If your first name is Charles and you work at Dell, then your twitter name is @CharlesAtDell.

What has to be kept in mind is that one's following / reputation stays with the name. Hence if some establishes a good rapport with your customers but then moves to another company - their followers (your customers) go with them. So many companies will go for the company name accompanied by an appropriate logo.

Next, when choosing / crafting a name, keep length in mind. On twitter you only have 140 characters to say what you want and add a link. One of the ways you are recognized on twitter is by the amount you are retweeted (your content is shared by others to their followers). You will be retweeted more if your name is shorter. Retweeting adds 4 (RT @) + the length of your name - known as the "My number" rule. If your name is 8 characters long, when someone retweets you they are adding at least 12 characters to your original tweet (8+4). That means if you want to get retweeted you should leave AT LEAST that amount of characters available (140-mynumber), preferably leave double your number.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flock - the social media web browser

I'm trying out a new browser called Flock. It is touted as a social media web browser. And it lives up to it's advertising. Currently I am in Flock. I clicked on the blogger link to get to this page (you do have to set up all your accounts first). The first con I see about this is that my zemanta plugin from firefox didn't transfer over - this made blogging a lot easier.

Otherwise I've seen some great things so far (I've only been using Flock for a couple of hours). Flock has a sidebar with my twitter feed and my facebook feed. I can see them together or separately. I can access twitter replies, direct messages, or the whole stream. In facebook I can access notifications, inbox, pokes, friend requests, group requests, and event requests.

There is a web clipboard, just drag and drop a graphic from a web page to the clipboard for use later on.

On the top of the screen just below the location bar and bookmark bar, is a media strip which display available media from youtube, facebook, digg bebo flickr, etc. The media can be from your account or from someone elses. as long as it's public.

There is just so much going on here it is impossible to quantify it all. I must admit to being a little bit overwhelmed by everything this app does. But Flock makes it easy for you by providing a how to video.

I ran Flock while running the latest version of Seesmic Desktop, Firefox (with about 50 tabs open), Iron - unbranded version of chrome - opened up as an app for gmail, AVG 8 scanning, sophos AV, syncback, roboform, google talk/notifier. Despite all that Flcok ran like a gem. Most people will not over tax their system with all that! But I thought it best to see what kind of a resource hog it was. Private Byte usage was about 230mb. Commit charge was not too bad and cpu usage was surprisingly low. (stats courtesy of process explorer)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another way to do Followfriday

So I found this great site that will allow me to make lists of people I would recommend on Follow friday on Twitter. It is called TweepML.org. I can easily make a list of say all the Social Media tweeps I follow then post that list on twitter as a link.

The only problem is that the peeps you are recommending are not mentioned explicityly in your tweet. This means that anyone who wants to see your recommendations has to click on the link in your tweet:
The nice thing is that you can follow all my recommendations with one click. It also gives an abbreviated description from the user's twitter account.

One the best part is you can actually see how many people have follows from this link:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
The downside to this site is that the people you are recommending may have no idea because their twitter names are not being mentioned in the tweet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A walk in the woods - The New York Botanical Gardens

Last September, my wife and i started volunteering at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). We agreed to participate in a national study of tree development as Citizen Scientists. Since last September we have been going to the garden once a week to record the changes in certain designated trees. This data is submitted to the national phrenology network to be studied and collated with other data collected by others here and throughout the US.

Scientists use this data to see what changes are taking place in the normal development of the various tree species. This is reflective of global warming.

Committing to two years of this was a wise idea, otherwise we would have never gone every single week. It is also very enjoyable. There is an easy way for anyone to get involved by contacting the national phrenology network.

Friendfeed and the Tweecious plugin - users beware

I was pointed to a great tool for twitter. It is called tweecious. Tweecious combines twitter and delicious by searching your tweets and saving all the links you have tweeted to your delicious account. This seemed like a really good idea to me, but there was a catch. It works very well and when you first set it up it searches your last 1000 tweets. The problem was that I have friendfeed set up to autotweet anything I bookmark using delicious. This is usually a handy thing to do, but in this case, it was a disaster.

I finished setting everything up and suddenly my twitter stream was deluged with posts from my friendfeed account! Anyone who was following me must have been baffled as to what was going on. I tweeted the problem and stopped it after 30 or 40 tweets.

Here is what you need to do if you have friendfeed set up to autotweet and would like to use tweecious.

  1. go to your friendfeed account
  2. click on the settings link right next to your avatar
  3. click on "Twitter publishing preferences"
  4. You should be on a screen that says "Advanced Twitter Settings"
  5. Under "Post Entries From:" UNCHECK delicious
  6. Click "Save Changes"
Now you can set up tweecious. Follow the instructions on the tweecious site and you should be fine. For good measure you should probably leave that setting unchecked for 24 hours, then go back and recheck the delicious setting in friendfeed.

CORRECTION: I thought this was how it worked, but when I rechecked the delicious box in friendfeed after a long delay my twitter stream was once again bombarded with posts I had already made - only the posts with links. So if you use tweecious, you can't in all good conscience check the delicious box in friendfeeds twitter prefs.

The take away: You'll need to tweet the bookmarks you tag with delicious manually.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How "social" is social media?

The question occurred to me while I was on vacation. I hadn't brought a laptop, after all it was my vacation. I looked up from my reading to see the three other people I was with all typing on laptops and could only wonder 'Is that how I look?' Are we being anti-social when participating in social media online?

I guess when I am at the office and the only one there any way, I'm being more social when fraternizing online, but when there is more than one person in the room one must remember to not only be social online, but to remember the social niceties of society. This is not always easy, especially in this electronically tethered world.

We must keep in mind the people around us as well as our online family. I know from personal experience that it is all too easy to get caught up in something like twitter, facebook, or even email and suddenly realize that you've been at it for a few hours without relief. Sometimes I'll see someone in my family sit down to "just check email", or "just check my wall" and I know that extricating them will be a herculean task.

So, remember to take the actual people around you into account.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Restless Leg Syndrome

I have a mild case of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Normally I wouldn't even mention it, but a recent visit to my neurologist concerning this begs for a blog entry. I have had this for some time and have tried to ignore it. The doctor said I could take either one of two medicines that have been shown to treat RLS.

The first medicine I have been taking for something else for quite some time and it was possible that all I needed to do was up the dose. On the other hand the second choice was a widely used alternative but the side effects were a little odd. It lessens your inhibitions so that people who do experience side effects have been known to gamble uncontrollably, or one person who was fiscally responsible all his life starting writing bad checks (as soon as he went off the medicine he stopped the bad check writing).

So I guess if your too inhibited to go to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and blow a bunch of money, just take this medicine!

Peace in the Home or Shalom Bayit

I have tried to imbue many different values in my children, as all parents do. One value I felt extremely important for any adult is the idea of Shalom Bayit or peace in the house. I've been the peacemaker in our family since it's inception. Sometimes the only way to resolve differences in a dispute is to take the peacekeeper's role, to find a compromise that everyone can live with.

I've told my children more times than I care to remember that there are times when you have to know when to stop pressing your point and compromise. There are of course other times when you should maintain your position no matter what, wisdom is knowing the difference.

I seem to have always been the ref in my house, continually trying to find a middle ground to which everyone can agree. I had always hoped that one day my kids would "get it" and I would no longer have to be the bringer of peace. But now my daughter is heading into her senior year in high school and soon we will no longer need a ref in the house. Hopefully, my kids will take the lesson of Shalom Bayit to heart and someday be the peacemaker in their own homes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Social Media - Think long term (5 in a series of 5)

In the previous post in the series I went over what to say, or possibly what not to say. Now that you've gotten started, many ask the question of how do I measure the results of my efforts in social media. The easy answer is it is much harder to measure it quantitatively than say the impact of a website (how many hits/unique visitors/length of stay on page/etc). You won't be able to measure impact immediately no matter what. It takes some time to build up that trust that is so necessary and to make all the connections that will make your social media foray a big hit.

So what can you do. There are metrics you can use. There are things like twitanalyzer, twitttergrader, twittercounter, mrtweet, and others that measure various different things on a twitter profile. A great tool I highly suggest using is bit.ly. Bitly is a URL shortener, but it is much, much more. If you register for an account at bit.ly, all your shortened URLs can be tracked and you can see how many people clicked on them, when, and from where (approx). This is a great tool that can be integrated into other twitter tools to automatically shorten and track your URLs. A word of warning: even if you do this well, it will take time to build up the amount of click backs (clicks on your URLs) that you would like to see.

I have a list of sites and articles on social media metrics on my delicious account at: social media metrics.

Series of 5: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

Social Media - What to say (4 in a series of 5)

To recap: in the first in this series we addressed how to listen. We then went on to talk about getting involved in the second part. In the third part I spoke about the need to give up control. These posts are meant to be read in sequence.

In the fourth part of the series I'll address what you say. It is fairly easy, no matter what platform you are using (twitter, facebook, myspace, ning, blog, etc) be completely honest.

The reason is that in the end the truth will out. If you have not been honest it will come back to haunt you. Remember that unlike the vegas axiom that "what happens in vegas stays in vegas" what happens in social media networks will haunt you forever. A twitter example may be appropriate here. You may spend a significant amount of time and energy building your brand on twitter and acquiring the right kind of followers. One wrong tweet may sully your reputation for quite a long time and lose many of those followers.

Also don't try to sell something to a new follower, get to know them first. You'll get a feel for who would be open to a link to your site and who won't. In the second part in this series I talked about giving more than you get. This means yes you can post a link to your blog or website, but make sure you share 3x more information that isn't about you.

For instance, deciding to set up an auto DM (direct message) for new followers with a plug for your product in it. This is a definite no-no. Although a DM is only seen by you and the person you sent it to, there is a very good chance that the receiver will unfollow you.

Series of 5: Parts 1, 2, 3, 5

Social Media - Giving up control (3 in a series of 5)

In the first of this series I described how to start your social media experience by learning how to listen. If you have read that post, you can catch it here. It is truly important to take that first step seriously.

The second blog post in the series spoke about getting involved. Again, this is a sequential "how-to" so it would be good to read that before this post.

In this post we will move on to the next step in your growth in the social media milieu, giving up control. Social media is all about conversation and community. The old school way of using PR to spread your message by telling people what you are about and presenting your brand must be modified to work in the social media world. If you want people to spread your message in the viral way it can be spread you need to trust them.

Once your message leaves your computer, you will no longer have control over it and if you attempt to control it, there is a good chance that you will counteract any chance you had of getting that message out to a wider audience.

So listen to what people are saying, write copy that is inspiring, truly engage others in your communications and let go.

Series of 5: Parts 1, 2, 4, 5

Retaggr all your social media sites in one place

Retaggr is a service that lets you put all (more than friendfeed offers) your social media sites or logins in one place and it creates an embedded card you can place on your blog (see the bottom of this page). The card is clickable and updates like the friendfeed embedded piece on the side of this blog.

First let's check out the site. Retaggr.com does, of course, have a pay version. The pay version let's you do a lot more customizing. When you first go to the site you are greeted by this screen:

Once you create an account, the site walks you through set up. You can even start by importing all your friendfeed info. The edit profile page is your starting area. Fill in the information to start your profile:

The next tab is the profile photo tab. You can upload a profile photo or use your gravatar.

The tab after that is the heart of retaggr. Here you enter all your sites. They are listed in categories

or you can click on the link to list them alphabetically.

There are more than you can imagine. And if the site you want is not there, which happened to me with a forum site, there is another place to enter that. Remember, you can import your friendfeed sites first then add more.

On the next tab you can add those profiles that weren't listed in the previous tab. Note that retaggr will even check out the site for you and try to capture an icon.

In the Blog tab you can add any blogs you have by entering the blog name, blog URL and Feed URL (this automatically puts a subscribe button next to the blog listing).

You can then add more widgets, professional information, and any affiliations.

When you are done, you can preview the retaggr card

And the retaggr profile page

Wakoopa the social software site

I recently started using another aspect of social media, a social software site called wakoopa. As with so many of the other social media sites I use, I was introduced to this by my son @chronotope on twitter. This site analyzes and tracks the software you are using on the computer you run it on. It tracks both the active application and the background applications. Not only can you review the applications you use, but you can also see other reviews and find other software. One of the options lets you set the site to alert you of software updates.

When you log in and start tracking your profile will look something like this. The top half shows your favorite applications and what you say about each one (you can mark anything as a favorite app), below that are the top ten pieces of software, according to your usage, divided into categories of the past week, past month, and newly used apps. Next to that is some basic info about your software usage and your level of usage according to how much you contribute, how many different apps you use, reviews you write, screenshots and icons you upload, etc.

The next part of the screen shows a usage history graph and some recently used apps (note that most stats are 1-2 days old). You will also see a message section, which can be used to communicate with people you have friended, and some of the point awards you have received to change your level. Below the Awards section is a section showing the most recent reviews you have submitted.

You can see what new software is being used and what people think about it. When you check out a piece of software on wakoopa, it lists other software that does the same thing. this can be real handy if you know a piece of commercial software but want a similar free version. Or if you are having trouble with a certain piece of software another app may do the same thing without giving you problems.

Other users reviews can be quite instructive and helpful in finding the appropriate app to use in any circumstance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Using an aggregator in twitter

I'm not a fan of bots on twitter. As a matter of fact I generally try to stay away from them. It can be rather annoying to get 20 tweets from some bot that takes up your stream so you can't see anything else that's going on. That said there are things that I do like about bots. For instance I follow @alfie6 an artificial Intelligence Agent. It constantly crawls the web looking for bioscience related news, which are published on Life Sciences Blogs. Since I work in bioscience this information is relevant to me and it is not like following @snakelicious which may send 10 tweets at a time.

I thought about the work account I manage. If I set up some basic filters it would make that so much easier. I started out by setting up a aggregator of RSS feeds with filters using Yahoo! pipes.

After clicking save, to save your pipe, a new button appears at the top of the screen

When you click "Run pipe" the results are shown and next to those results are a couple of choices.

If you click "Get as RSS" it generates an RSS feed page for the search.

Copy the URL for this page. Next I went to feedburner pasted the URL in there and followed the prompts. I copied the URL of the feed from feedburner and then created an account on twitterfeed.com. I went to twitterfeed and created a new feed there. If you follow the steps it is fairly easy.

On the first page you have to allow access to your twitter account. Next give the Feed a name and paste the URL from either feedburner (better) or directly from yahoo pipes' get as RSS page. Click "Test RSS feed" to make sure it works. Next click "Advanced Settings":

Here you set the frequency and how many updates at a time, what is included in the post, shortening URL info (if you have a bit.ly account put the info in here - see below), sorting, if you want to put something before or after a post (like a hastag), and finally if you want to use keyword filtering.

The final screen, when you are done, should look something like this:

As I mentioned, if you open a bit.ly account you can integrate the shortened URLS into your feed and track them. Otherwise you can still track them but you can't easily see all the shortened URL's in one place.

Twitterfeed feeds your twitter account tweets that you captured with the pipe and then filtered. So all the information I want to capture about cancer from my work site and the NCI site, I feed to my work twitter account. I do this a little bit with my personal account, but not nearly as much. I let twitterfeed tweet things that I would normally tweet anyway.