Stemming Annoying Twitter Trends

December 5, 2009 § 2 Comments

Spammers are nothing if not creative. And the ways they invent to invade social media tools like Twitter threaten to ruin the party for those of us who are trying organically to build community there. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a trend among spammers that I find particularly disconcerting: unsolicited @ replies.

I have received a several of these in the last week. Sure, I can block them, and that will prevent me from seeing their replies in my reply feed. But if this becomes a trend among spammers, I can see blocking becoming unsustainable. I’m afraid I will be forced at some point to protect my tweets, which is something I’d rather not do.

I don’t know what the solution is. I assume that people wouldn’t spam if it didn’t pay off in some way, so it seems that they get enough of a positive response that they keep on doing it. What worries me now is that people might start spamming malware with @ replies. The trend of accounts getting hacked and by proliferating malware through direct tweets is bad enough.

I know that Twitter is trying to proactively deal with spammers, but spammers are elusive and slippery. While I hope that Twitter can lock it down more, I hope that more end users get smart about protecting themselves and their friends. I mean seriously, I never cease to be amazed when I receive a direct tweet with a phishing link to an IQ test from someone who should know better.

There are resources, folks. Educate yourselves and be a good Twittizen.

Appreciation and Hope for Ma.gnolia

February 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

As all Ma.gnolia users know, the wonderful social bookmarking site suffered a “catastrophic data loss” on January 30th. The first thing I thought of when I first learned this was “poor Larry!” Larry Halff, the founder of Ma.gnolia is a friend of mine from college, and Ma.gnolia is his life’s work, a real labor of love. I’m sure that his heart was breaking.

At first I assumed that like so many others, I had lost most of my bookmarks. Fortunately, between FriendFeed and my experiment with Delicious last summer, I have all of my bookmarks, and I have only lost tags and notes from everything I have saved since July of 2008.

Lesson learned here: Keep your own data backups. I’m going to continue to use Delicious even after Ma.gnolia relaunches (I’m optimistic that it will), just so that I know my bookmarks are saved somewhere else, and I will also do a periodic download for my own files.

I know that there are many users out there who are going to have trust issues when it is relaunched. I am confident that Larry is learning some hard lessons that he will carry forward into the Ma.gnolia 2.0, and he will take all precautions to ensure that this will never happen again. I am optimistic and hopeful for the return of Ma.gnolia.

Even at the moment I believed that my bookmarks were lost for ever, I was hoping for the rebirth of Ma.gnolia. While I am grateful that I have an alternative in Delicious to track my bookmarks, right now I am really missing the lovely design of the social networking features that are Ma.gnolia’s greatest strength. I was following and corresponding with some very interesting people with eclectic interests that were reflected in their saved bookmarks. The groups that I was following introduced me to even more people, resources, and ideas.

In addition to discovering interesting new websites and people, I learned many new things there, including Getting Things Done, which is an organizational and productivity method that I now employ, and the concept of tagging as an emerging method of information management, and the inspiring community of activists and professionals that are using social networking tools to foment positive social change, which is the theme of this blog.  Ma.gnolia opened a door for me to a world of resources and people who are promoting sustainable living, citizen journalism, civil rights, and getting people together for actions and projects, or just to have fun. I know that I likely would have encountered much of this without social networking tools, but it was facilitated with greater efficiency and speed.

I credit Larry and Ma.gnolia with my introduction to this world. I already had a penchant for it, but for me, it was Ma.gnolia that really clicked and made me appreciate how valuable these tools are for gathering and sharing information. Through Ma.gnolia, I was emboldened to try Facebook and Twitter among others, which have since become invaluable to me.

I have been using social networking tools since 2006. In 2007 I moved from the Bay Area to Chicago, and it immediately became apparent to me how useful these tools would be for me to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones, and even find long-lost friends I never thought I would hear from again. It has been a real gift, and it is only getting better as more and more friends and colleagues are starting to use them.

I wish Larry and his colleagues the very best, and I am anxiously awaiting the rebirth of Ma.gnolia!

Ning’s potential and annoyances

July 28, 2008 § 1 Comment

Purely by coincidence, I have recently had the occasion to join three different Ning networks, and while I think it’s super cool that this is a tool anyone can use to create a social network, I find the functionality lacking in many respects, not the least of which is the search capability. Its one of those simple searches that won’t allow for you to do any finessing whatsoever. You search for one term, fine. I did a search for “Yoga”, and came up with 27 pages of 20 results each. When I combined the search with “Chicago,” I got 17 pages. Better, but still too many, and I could see immediately that I was getting some identical hits from my first search. Still too many, and not what I’m looking for. It would be great if there were some advance search options that would let you search by region or combined terms or something.

Another problem is that one of my social networks doesn’t appear on my main page after several days. And it seems as though I have to keep logging in when I try to move back and forth from one window to another with my different networks open. This just doesn’t make sense to me, since I’m using the same Ning login for all of my networks. Very strange.

Finally, I found a group from my neighborhood that I wanted to join, the Uptown Chicago group, but you must be a member of a block club in order to be approved for membership. I’m not a member of a block club, and I wanted to email the founder of the group about it, but there is no way to do so if he is not my friend or if I am not a member of the group. Not helpful, and I would wager that the group is not intended solely for members of the neighborhood block groups (at least I hope not…doesn’t seem very neighborly).

With these limitations, Ning so far feels clunky and confusing. I wish that there were an easier way to move around from network to network, instead of having to login separately and needing to create a page and a blog for myself within each one.  Maybe I just need to give it more time before I get it.

On the surface, the groups that I have joined are small so far. I hope that they grow because the community is the important thing. But when I dug in a little deeper on some of the groups that I thought were interesting, many of them looked like they had died on the vine. I know that’s going to happy naturally with any social networking too, and perhaps there are some vibrant Ning communities out there. I’ll keep giving it a try because like I said, the community is the thing, and ultimately I’m trying to connect with people who have similar interests. Perhaps its functionality will improve, so I’m withholding judgment today as to how conducive Ning actually is to community building.

Is someone trying to tell me something?

June 26, 2008 § Leave a comment

Both my current and former employers have sent me letters within the last two weeks saying that my personal information may have been compromised. They each had separate laptop-theft incidents in their respective HR departments. It strikes me as just a little too coincidental that it would happen in two separate incidents so close in time.

I’m creeped out. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.

Twitter and The Like

June 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

There was lots of interesting chatter going on last night over Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed about a new Twitter competitor called Plurk. Haven’t tried it myself, but I was following a bit of the chat into to the wee hours (yes, I stayed up too late again).

What I have found through experimentation and following these tweets and conversations is that Twitter and FriendFeed work great in combination, that you can have more robust conversations via FriendFeed, and that Twhirl adds some really nice functionality to both Twitter and FriendFeed. I know now that I haven’t been using FriendFeed to its fullest potential. I haven’t been using tools like FriendFeed for their intended purpose: social networking. Duh! Again, its one of those tools that becomes more useful when you connect with more people.

I also learned that there are a number of companies out there that look like they’re going to give Twitter a run for their money. Twitterers are complaining that Twitter crashes all the time, and sometimes eats the tweets that they are putting out there. So you visit a site like When Twitter is Down to give you some advice about what to do: “Cry like a tiny little baby.”

Companies that are on the horizon: Plurk, ZobZee, and possibly Jaiku. There are probably others, but these are the ones I know about. Seems that people were going in droves over the Plurk last night, so much so that the system went down. Ha! One critic said aptly something like “if you’re going to position yourself as a competitor to Twitter, one thing you should make sure never happens are system outages.”

I couldn’t agree more. After the weekend I’ve had, that is especially true. Nothing was working for me all weekend. The RCN “customer service” representative actually said to me (and I quote) “I have no reason to speak with you further.” This after I thought we had been having such a nice conversation. Yes, my problem wasn’t solved, but we were chatting and laughing and he was asking me questions about Second Life. Very friendly, I thought, but then he totally dissed me! I was hurt. He left me high and dry with my problem unsolved. So I do not have the patience for another “cool” Internet tool that’s not going to function properly.

I’ll keep tabs on the Twitter and FriendFeed chatter and see what others say when these tools come online (most are still in beta) and see if any of them are truly viable.

No Tech Love

June 1, 2008 § Leave a comment

I am definitely feeling sorry for myself. This is one of those times where I really wish that I had some more tech skills. I have spent far too much time trying to log into Second Life, to no avail. So frustrating because I am not able to access any of the information I am seeking for my article. I decided to move on to doing my actual job (yeah, I know, pathetic on a Saturday night), and my Lexis-Nexis account is down!

I am really whiny. My poor spouse has to put up with me and my sullen mood. She really wishes that I had a beer in my hand.

I guess I’ll have to settle in for a more appropriate way to spend my Saturday night: watching a movie.

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