One more twitter detail

I’m writing these posts as a way of learning about twitter. If you’re looking for tutorials, check out:

In any event, one thing I just learned about was the “favorites” option. On your twitter home page, over on the right, there’s a set of “stats.” The ones you’ll use most often will likely be the “Following” and “Followers” — how many folks you’re following and how many are getting your tweets. Next is “Favorites.” I’d assumed that was “favorite people,” like “top friends” in Facebook, and I ignored it because I just don’t do ranking that way. But it’s not. It’s favorite tweets — a way of marking messages as ones you’d want to get back to later. Just click the dim star at the end of a message and it will be listed in your “favorites.”

Blog to twitter is working

Yes, yes. Focusing on using twitter for the very web 1.0-ish purpose of getting messages out from a central source seems to go against the grain. But again, remember the community I’m working with: A minuscule number of current stakeholders are on twitter. [I can only find 5 (count ’em) nationwide. Compare that with nearly 300 on Facebook. That about mirrors the stats I’ve heard of about 1,000,000 on twitter and 60,000,000 or so on Facebook. A social network/sub-network with such a small number of participants is, I think, doomed to fail — as we’ve learned from the various incarnations of]

The goal of this exercise is to put AAUW info into the SMS stream so the SMS “natives” (who might not be reached with e-mail) get at least a few pings (if they choose to connect). We’re months away from figuring out if this really works — I won’t have much time to publicize it until after July 1. One piece to evaluate will be whether this really does bring in new contacts — or just reaches, say, the Facebook contacts in a different way.

But, as I said in the comments on the previous post, I think we’re there. The missing piece was I’d heard of it before, and even got part way to setting up an account (had used my yahoo account to create an OpenID). But the full possibilities didn’t really register.  Here’s the summary:

  1. Set up an RSS feed for the items you want to send to twitter. [In AAUW NC we have an “announcements” category for items that appear on the front page of the WordPress-based That seemed like a good subset of all the news to share in twitter.]
  2. Choose an administrator for the twitter feed and set up an OpenID  for the administrator. Now this is my first experiment with OpenID, so it’s unlikely I understand all the implications here. One can use a Yahoo or AOL account to generate an OpenID (I used Yahoo). It also looks like it’s possible to link a or Blogger blog to set up an OpenID (if I’m reading the twitterfeed help correctly). I haven’t read the T&C’s carefully — if someone has a link to the OpenID basics (particularly OpenID for an organization rather than an individual), please post.
  3. Create a twitter account that will retweet the items in the RSS feed, or choose one that already exists to tweet information of interest to the expected audience.
  4. Login to with the OpenID and create a twitterfeed that links the RSS feed to the twitter account. There’s a minimal amount of configuration (titles only, include link).
  5. Tell people who want to get the messages through IM or SMS to follow the twitter user created in #3 and set “notifications” for that user to “on”. [The assumption is that such folks exist — otherwise everyone could just follow the RSS feed directly over the web.]

Now I’m not an SMS “native” (I can send and receive text messages on my phone, but it’s not something that I’ve integrated into my life). I haven’t drunk the Koolaid of IM (remembering the evil that was “write” back in the 80’s). I don’t use a PDA (paper DayTimer person, would you believe), let alone a smart phone. So I may have missed the point completely. If so, please do holler at me. But if you want to get AAUW NC announcements through twitter, follow “aauwnc”.

Other notes:

  • Twitterfeed puts a limit on the number of messages it will forward – currently a max of 5 messages an hour. Consider this when choosing your feed in #1, and don’t expect “real time” forwarding of the messages.
  • I “own” bbvx, so setting up was okay. I’m currently board chair for the all-volunteer AAUW NC, so I think I’m okay there, too. I do have a question, though, on what approval would be required to set up similar accounts for “aauw” and “nccwsl,” and what safeguards we should think about when passing, say, “aauwnc” from one person to another. [Yeah, yeah, I’ve been webmanager for nearly 10 years, but at some point …]
  • What happens to the tweets that are sent to the account set up in #3? If one uses an account that is set up just for that purpose, it, presumably won’t be “following” anyone, so there will be little motivation for anyone to check the twitter account. That means, I think, that direct messages will go into a black hole. Replies (@ messages) could be followed via RSS using an RSS reader that allows for authentication on the feed (I’m using RSSOwl).

Twitter tutorial for 08NTC

I’m not headed to New Orleans for next week’s NTEN conference (more’s the pity), but I did crash the twitter tutorial that Rosie de Fremery and Kari Peterson led this afternoon to prep attendees to use twitter at the conference. [The recording of the tutorial is available here.]

I’ve made some corrections to the previous post based on what I’ve learned, and I may have found the missing piece to the kludge I started in this post. [Follow bbvx on twitter to see if I’m right — should get notifications of new posts to this blog.] This may be the “hour delay” that Kari was talking about in the tutorial — or there may be some other solution that they’re working on.

The problem I’ve been trying to solve is how to use twitter to get info about an event out to folks who can’t attend the event. Kari’s concerned about twittering at NTC and needs a a way to get almost real-time messages (“cookies in the ballroom”) out to the attendees. I’m more concerned about getting highlights (“great speaker who made these points…”). Her solution (retweeting posts directed @08NTC) would be more general than mine.

That, I think, is the missing link in the instructions for “using Twitter for an event“. In thinking of 08NTC, I think the options for an attendee/non-attendee to get updates are:

  1. “All messages from 08NTC and its friends” is too much information (and is, perhaps reasonably, only available from the web, I think).
  2. “All messages from 08NTC” is too little (and puts the burden on the few 08NTC folks to keep everyone posted).
  3. Setting “track 08NTC” is close, but seems to have some bugs (ktlove’s recent message was cut off after just a few characters when it got to my phone) and has no web interface.
  4. Using #08NTC is close, but until just now, I hadn’t discovered any IM/phone interface. might provide that, but since the service’s forwarding is throttled (5 messages an  hour) it isn’t be appropriate for conferences with lots of tweeters.
  5. I think having 08NTC retweet all the @08NTC messages is “just right”. Even with the delay it’d be useful for the large number of folks who aren’t able to attend, and if the delay can be eliminated, and folks turn on “notifications” for 08NTC, I think you’ve got the “cookies in the ballroom” announcement scheme!

If #4 or #5 is feasible, then there’s probably no need to set up the “event” twitter account which is used now to provide a “with others” list of tweets. That list inevitably includes lots of messages that have nothing to do with the event. [This wasn’t a problem for the AAUW 2007 convention because the few of us following aauw07 were only there so we could tweet about the convention. But for NTC? Talk about information overload!]

I can’t really tell you why I’m not letting this go — but if the BBVX experiment works, maybe I’ll talk to Patty again about setting up something similar for NCCWSL.

Coming to terms with Twitter

Okay, if you’ve read earlier posts, you know I’ve had a problematic relationship with — from the service failure last summer, to security breaches earlier this month, to the general “what is it good for”?

One “aha!” moment is that I now realize that while the Twitter canonical question is “what are you doing?” the users in the twittersphere have morphed that to include:

  • What are you thinking about?
  • What key resource have you just discovered?
  • What problem are you having “right now”?
  • What solution can you offer to someone else’s problem?

Looked at that way, a Twitter “conversation” can be much more content rich than “I’m sitting down to a tuna sandwich” nonsense that might have provided workers in a virtual office with the “background chatter” they might miss — but which, to me, just seemed like so much noise.

Other things I’ve learned:

  • Track vs. Hashtags
    • You can “track” a term and get all tweets with that term sent to your phone or IM. [In about three weeks of tracking “aauw” and “nccwsl” there’s been one (count it!) tweet containing either. I did make a new acquaintance of the twitterer, but I’m not sure our community is ready for this yet.]
    • You can add a “hashtag” to a tweet. Examples would be “#aauw” or “#nccwsl”. [In some communities the # symbol is referred to as “hash” — anyone else ever use the term hashbang?] If you are also “following” the twitter user hashtags, then your posts will be accessible from, and folks can even subscribe to an RSS feed attached to a particular term (e.g. the #aauw feed is
    • Note that “track” gets messages to your phone. Hashtags can be followed over the web. Track follows “everyone,” Hashtags follows those who are also following Hashtags and who remember to use the hash character. I’d actually prefer to see Hashtags on my phone and follow tracks on the web: using the hash indicates an intentionality that, to me, improves the chances that I’d need to “see it right now”.
  • D vs. @: sending a message to a particular person
    • When you send a message to a particular person, you use the D command (e.g. “D nes49”), and it works pretty much like an ordinary text message. The benefit is that you remember their twitter name, not their phone number. The message isn’t stored, it just goes into the either –so, it’s okay to use this for posting private data. On the other hand, if the person is reading tweets over the web it still works. On the other other hand, if the person isn’t following you, you cannot use the “D” command.
    • When you use the @ in a message, you’re saying that the message is a specifically to someone, e.g. @nes49. It differs from D (which is just between you and the other person) in that this is a public message, and your followers can choose whether or not they want to see your messages to others. I find reading others’ @ messages pretty confusing (I’m rarely following the person to whom they are directed, so I’m seeing the reply out of context). But it’s a useful tool for those “let me help you with a problem messages” that are becoming a significant portion of the twittersphere, and you can send an @ message to someone who’s not following you.

So, some conclusions:

  • While I may continue to post AAUW and NCCWSL tweets (as nes49 and aauw07), the intersection of AAUW members and twitter users is so small that this is pretty much like spitting in the wind. If anyone (maybe from NCCWSL) disagrees and wants to take over the community building here, feel free.
  • I’m connected to a *very* few “real folks” in twitter — and have already had a seredipitous outcome through that connection:
    • He posted a query
    • I forwarded a link to a possible helpful item on
    • He noticed the spam problem that was announced there and sent me a link to a media wiki extension I hadn’t been able to find on my own.
    • All is now well on the wiki and rogue folks trying to register.

    Could the exchange have happened in e-mail — very unlikely. In Facebook — possibly, and it’s likely I saw his first question as a Facebook status update imported from twitter. In any event, it’s enough of a “good outcome” that I’ll stick it out awhile longer (though as I look at my twitterfox bug – I’ve got 22 unread tweets…).

3/14 update: clarifications to D vs @

Twitter *still* makes my head hurt

Okay. Found it. The “track” command — see this list of twitter commands

Sounds good, right? Follow the hashtag #aauw or #08NTC and we’re done.

So I test. And nothing. Nada.

More research. Turns out that’s not the only list of twitter commands — but it may have been an early one that prompted this at Ah, there’s the rub. Only works with IM and phone, and I’m using the TwitterFox extension to read the tweets.


If I want to follow #aauw on my computer, I can do it through RSS or I can climb another learning curve and get onto IM. [Eeks. “Talk” was deemed evil back in the 80’s. Can I overcome my resistance??]

Or do I go back and reinstate the unlimited text on the phone that I had during Phoenix?