Ideas of March

As much as I want it to be, the title you see above is not my own. It comes from Chris Shiflett, a wholly interesting person, whose blog I have been following ever since he spoke of Svbtle and Obtvse last year, which I found because of an article Daniel Howells wrote which I have no idea how I found, but I remember thinking it was worth my while.

Ideas of March

In any case, things like these are what define blogs: in essence, peepholes into people’s minds. This made me want to re-visit an article Chris Shiflett had written almost exactly three years ago, where he spoke of a “blog revival” that was needed as a result of many conversations (for good or bad) moving from blogs to Twitter.

Dustin Curtis wrote about something similar happening on his own blog as a result of Twitter. While I tweet too, I have thankfully not been drawn away entirely from my blog (for some of the reasons I will mention below). The ‘idea’, for lack of a better word, is to write a post called the “Ideas of March”, list why you like blogs, pledge to blog more and use the hashtag #IdeasofMarch elsewhere on the web.

Why do I like blogs?

There are many reasons why I like blogs. First of all, I would not be blogging if I did not like to do it. But here are some deeper thoughts:

  1. A blog is your house on the internet. You may be on Twitter, Google+, Facebook or wherever else, but none of those websites are truly ‘yours’. You have your space, much like you do in a pub or a library, but you still have a home do you not?
  2. A blog can be deep with utter disregard for public opinion. You do not need to sway with the public because on your blog you speak your ideas like they are yours. And they are, so why not? On social media, you invite shallow criticism that is really a dime a dozen, but on your blog, you can rest assured whoever comments or contacts you cares deeply for or against your ideas. They may not agree, but if they have nothing useful to say, it is highly unlikely they would spew meaningless words — something not uncommon on social networks.
  3. Blogs let you have meaningful discussions. I have often found that while I can comment on a fellow blogger’s article, some comments I have to make start looking dangerously longer than the original article itself. Then I chose to write an article in reply instead: on the one hand, it shows the other writer I care enough about their words to take the time to write my views in depth; on the other it helps create a rapport and link between blogs and people the way no social network can.
  4. Blogs hold you responsible; and that is a good thing. Your profile elsewhere on the web may not be sterling. But on your blog? As bloggers, we are rarely careless enough to paste something we are not very fond of for the rest of the world to see. Oftentimes, what we write are our finer thoughts spoken in finer words than usual. So a blog chronicles our better moments, expressions, times and thoughts. Should anybody stumble upon our blog, they would most certainly get a better impression of us than, for instance, an image our social networking profiles may paint of us.

I am not going to round of this list with a fifth point, because I think these four quite clearly state why I value anyone’s (your) blog over their (your) Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc.

Pledging to blog more?

Although one of the requirements of ‘Ideas of March’ is taking a pledge to blog more, I will not be doing that. If you have time, you can leisurely read my previous article on why, starting 2014, I have decided to join the slow blogging movement.

For those who would rather have me condense that blogging manifesto of mine, the points are simple: I have blogged far too long (seven years, including my sub-domain on WordPress) sometimes trying harder than necessary to blog on a strict schedule. While it paid off in terms of my website visitors, pretty low bounce rates and a fairly high subscriber count on both email and RSS, I decided to call such furious blogging quits.

Instead I opted to write more slowly and carefully thought-out articles, regardless of length, fewer times a month, but still often enough to be considered ‘regular’ by any definition of the word. In brief, slow blogging is to blog only when you really want to and have an idea, opinion, or thought you really want to share, as opposed to blogging just to stick to a schedule — which I fear is what pledging to blog more will make me do.

I think, like slow blogging, the ‘Ideas of March’ movement is something every blogger should do. If nothing, it helps you pause and reconsider why you have a blog at all; at its peak, it’ll help you love your blog more. The way I see it, if Voltaire or Galileo or Leonardo DaVinci or even Nietzsche were here today, they would have embraced blogging wildly. And half the internet would have disagreed with them by principle.

VHBsign

10 people to follow on Twitter and add value to your stream

Twitter is here to stay. Many spoke of how Google+ may be a threat to Twitter–or words to that effect–but my own belief is that Twitter is something along entirely different lines and Google+ has nothing to do with it. With this in mind, I can safely state that Twitter is the only other social network I am active in, besides Google+, and if you have not tasted the network much or, like thousands of others, have created an account you probably do not even remember, I strongly suggest you go back start becoming active.

Ready?

This list I have built up is of ten of those who have added value to my Twitter stream and to yours too if you will start following them. While this can serve as a starting point to people who are new to Twitter, it is also a checklist for the others to make sure they are not missing out on some great stuff by not following these awesome people.

Needless to say, I follow all of them. But let us not spend too much time on chatter; head over to the list ((If you cannot see the images above, the list includes these people: Marsha Collier,  Alexis Madrigal, Jeff Elder, Ed Yong, Maria Popova, Phil Plait, Michael Merced, Tilly Blyth, Robert Reibold and Andrew Cohen.))below (which is in no particular order.)

Before you jump in, click here to start following me on Twitter if you like!

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Think before you tweet: 16 ethics on Twitter

CNBC’s blog, flopping out, gave me the ‘think before you tweet.’ Given that Twitter is fast becoming the ultimate source of information exchange online, it is not surprising if you find yourself one day following President Obama or Gaddafi or the guy in the corner of your street… or even me! The important thing to know in such times is that as tweeters we have certain unspoken of, yet unanimously accepted, set of rules—or rather ethics—to keep up to. But how many of us actually do that? Below I have listed few that I could think of and you are most welcome to add to them as you please.

  1. Tweets are read by others so if you don’t want even one of them to know what you think of an international political crisis, there is no point in sharing it with the others.
  2. Nobody wants to know what you dined on so please do not take the trouble of tweeting that you are at such a restaurant, eating such a dish and paying so much for it.
  3. Tweet what other will benefit from and not the fact that a coin has two faces. How many of them do not actually know that? I doubt they would find themselves on Twitter even accidentally.
  4. Tweeting is not letter writing so do not say thank you through tweets. Or hello or good-bye or any such courtesy for that matter, unless it is so important that it will surge your tweeting community ahead in some manner. Use Direct Messages if it is really necessary.
  5. Re-tweets are not to exchange pleasantries and neither are mentions. <Celebrity’s name here> re-tweet me! It would mean a lot to me! Of course it would, but how useful would you be as part of an active tweeting community which actually has serious tweeters? (Yes, such tweeters do exist.)
  6. Not knowing when to tweet can help you lose your job. ’Nuff said.
  7. A simple rule of thumb that can take you a long way, safely, is do not tweet anything you would not actually want to tell your followers to their face.
  8. Twitter is not a backyard for your musings so stop thinking aloud on twitter.
  9. Stop marketing your product or self on Twitter because, if you have not already bothered to read through it, one of the first terms you agree to when joining Twitter goes so: [You will not] sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to Twitter or Twitter Content to any third-party without prior written approval from Twitter.
  10. Just because the term Twitter stemmed from meaning ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,it does not mean you can tweet useless collections of words.
  11. Stop trying to create trends by hash-tagging every word in your tweet. If it is worth it, it will become a trend with no help from your part.
  12. Do not converse on Twitter or cuss around because, while Twitter is not a chat room, it is not any more private than a humungous ball everybody in the world attends.
  13. Direct Messages are not cheap marketing solutions so stop asking people to buy your product or get a membership with your company. Say thanks for following instead or, better yet, do not send Direct Messages unless you know that person and are sure you will not be wasting their time sending such private messages.
  14. Nobody need follow you back. Get it out of your head that someone needs to follow you because you followed them. It is not a favour they owe you, nor an action you ought to expect. Remember that you followed them out of your own free will and not with them holding a gun to your head. You wanted to read their tweets, and they are glad to share it. If they do not want to read yours, stop forcing them and—childishly—stop unfollowing them!
  15. Twitter is not all about followers rather about quality tweets. It is better to have ten followers and thousand quality, useful tweets rather than thousand followers and ten rotten tweets.
  16. Twitter account monitoring softwares play spoil sport because they are only interested in followers. Automatically following tweeters and unfollowing them if they do not follow you back is lame. See my 14th point. And if you are on Twitter for followers, you would be better of taking my advice and deleting your account. You will then do many people a great favour.

Have you thought of more such Twitter ethics? Share them below!

Why I prefer Twitter over Facebook. And why you might want to.

Like everyone dedicated enough to technology to have multiple accounts on websites across the internet (and I refer to the years when the convenient Login with Facebook button was not around) I am an economical user of both Facebook and Twitter—and more recently, Google+, but let me not go into that right now.

Facebook was created to promote ease in linking with your friends and acquaintances and, as it later turned out, bosses and never-before-seen people. But I need hardly say that here considering there are people who make far greateruse of Facebook than I do—including my mother. For one, I do not put up photographs on Facebook; and, frankly, the only reason I am on Facebook—apart from to promote my website—is because, in society nowadays, to whose expectations you have to tiresomely bend, if you are not on Facebook you are unanymously considered technologically backward and outdated.

That said, I use Twitter more extensively. You will find the Twitter application adorning the home screen on my phone, and you will not find the Facebook application at all. That was just to give you a comparison. But many wonder why I am so. The point is simple: Facebook is an obligation, and Twitter meets my needs.

What Facebook is for 

Before you decide to skip this section, you might want to hold back and read through it. I am not going to give you a detailed picture of Zuckerberg’s magnum opus; instead, I am going to state my perspective of it and why it is of no use to me.

Everybody knows that someone (I do not wish to jog my memory at this point) gave Mark Zuckerberg a bravery award. It was because he values his privacy more than [yours.] Facebook was opened for elitists with a .edu email address but it has come far from there. Apparently, Facebook is to connect with the people you wished to get away from.

To hide my skepticism and bias, let me rephrase myself: Facebook is to connect with people. One connects with old friends and new enemies and unknown people who, clearly, are a far safer group to chat with. But that is not why I use the Internet. I use it—and in fact this is the only genuine reason I ever do anything—to expand my knowledge base. And, frankly, one fact strewn in between a hundred status updates that are of absolutely no use to me is a waste of time.

I do not want to know where one went or what one is doing when and how. That is not what Facebook is for, or is it? This is analogous to amateur tweeters (whom I followed for a period of two months as a little experiment I was performing—more on that later) who sit at the breakfast table and tweet what is on their plate; and then do the same thing again for lunch and dinner and a few more times in-between. Their followers, those who are not of the same feather, could not care less about others’ diet.


How many friends do I have on Facebook? 

There are, on the other hand, genuine pages that provide update after update of interesting stuff worth a read in the true sense of the phrase. These are what keep me on Facebook.

To the general public, my Facebook profile does not reveal how any friends I have (or who they are, for that matter) and this seems to catalyse one very prominent question: how many friends do I have on Facebook?

Fair enough, considering everybody is on a race to have more friends than the others and Zuckerberg and co. noticed this soon enough to put a limit to how many people you can call your friends.

But I never have answered the question. I have not dodged it either; I merely say, ‘no comments’ (or something to that effect.) Today comes the revelation. And, no, I do not have more friends that you. I have twelve friends on Facebook—including my parents, which means ten friends, really. And I only got the tenth one today.

Understandably, the follow-up question is why?

I believe—and ask anybody who is around me for quite some time—that the words we speak actually mean something. And every time we say friends, we spell responsibility. Needless to say, one is responsible for the friend one makes and one is responsible for the friend one keeps. The point is, I know many Facebook users who boast hundreds of friends on Facebook and they cannot even recall all their names (let alone other details.)

The way I see it—and the reason why I have so many friends on Facebook—is because, if I were to (say) alienate myself from the Internet for a decade, I believe these are the people that are worth remembering once I come back.

An honest question at this point would be whether I get any friend requests at all, or, if I do, what do I do with them. I ignore them. No, not literally; I do remember almost everybody who has sent me a friend request, but I click the ignore button just to prevent a piling up of my notifications.

Tweeting your way to recognition

Apparently, a school teacher in a wealthy suburb in the US (whose name he wished to be withheld according to an article I read recently) knew that his students all had Facebook accounts. They even had MySpace accounts; but when he mentioned Twitter, nobody knew what it was. They had heard of it, but the question still remained: what is it? And how does one work on it?

Surprisingly, this is true of many people. While everybody has heard of Twitter, and many have an account in it, not many knew how to use it to its full potential (which is far greater than one can imagine at first.)

Steve Thornton, in a guest article for Twitip, puts it beautifully: (pardon me for not resisting the urge to copy an entire section from his article. It just cannot be put in a better way!)

Let’s say you go to a wedding or other social gathering where lots of people know each other. The style and tone of communication there will be more like using Facebook; you chat with old friends and acquaintances, mixing and mingling in an intimate manner. In this setting, people tend to feel more relaxed and “in their element”. Conversations are familiar and center on shared experiences and connections.

Now, when you go to a large party or social event where you don’t know most of the people in attendance, you will use a very different style of communication, more like Twitter; you want to meet people and somehow make yourself known, stand out from the crowd, make an impression, self promote and make new connections. Twitter is like getting the podium and not everyone feels comfortable or knows how to stand comfortably in the spotlight.

In fact, almost all of us, when first approaching Twitter, tend to use it to post useless updates like “Going to lunch”, thinking of it as a another tool to communicate with friends, when in fact, it is more like stepping on to a stage, where you are communicating with an audience and quickly find that you need to find a voice and say something useful and interesting or quickly lose the attention of your audience. People refer to Twitter as a mini or micro blogging platform.

Why do I prefer Twitter?

If it has not already revealed itself to you, you might want me to expand on why I prefer Twitter to Facebook any day.

For starters, one cannot survive on Twitter if one does not post tweet regularly, and tweet things others will find useful, at that. You cannot, for instance, signal to the world when you had dinner and hope to get even half-a-hundred followers.

The Twitter community (so long as you do not build one attributing it to stuff like friendship and whatever else while sacrificing on practicality) is far more scientific—or at least serious—minded and the entire platform moves fast. One moment you have the limelight, the next moment somebody has it. And it is not the kind where you despise the thought of losing it. You are joyous and you have gained a lot from this transition.

Twitter is a cross between e-mail and blogs. You can share stuff, be it links, articles or even photographs, as the latest version allows exclusively; and you can tweet to get almost instant replies. Of course there is the Direct Message feature and URL shortening that most Twitter clients too have built into them.

When asked why they love Twitter, users say like “I can ask a question and get an instantaneous response”. They crave the ability to “tap into the collective consciousness” of others on the network, bouncing ideas off others with whom they would otherwise have no means of connecting. Twitter addicts claim it’s like the old fashioned water cooler, where people can gather to shoot the breeze on whatever topic is on their minds.

As Thornton puts it, “Twitter is like a communications stream you dive into for an invigorating swim..”

As one Mike put it, following Google’s successful search engine race back in the 90s, Twitter is most likely to win the race of the social networks and not Facebook, simply because it keeps things simple and does not offer too many choices.

The fact remains that Twitter is where you can build your personal brand. Although Facebook is not a platform any company would leave out in their ad campaigns, it is clearly Twitter that they use at a fast pace, all day long, reaching out to their fans in realtime. And for my own small part, I feel more at home in Twitter. After all, it is a mere 140 characters away!

Have your say below.

Related:

Three elements your blog can’t live without

Special thanks go to Angie Bowen of Pro Blog Design and Mark Thompson of 1st Web Designer for most of the resources cited in this article.

Blog design and beginner tips for blogging are a dime a dozen; so why would you want to read this? Because it is different.

Years ago, as a newbie blogger myself, it was certainly very hard to analyse and come to a conclusion as to what the most important elements in a blog design were. Indeed it was not until now, close to five years later, that I believe I am in a position to give a judgement on this topic and guide other bloggers, like yourself, in the process.

I used the term blog design. Now, even a one-day old blogger can tell you that the most important thing in a weblog is the content itself; but what he cannot possibly tell you is that if the blog does not visually appeal to a reader at first sight, statistics have shown that over 80% of potential readers simply walk away. Continue reading

16 Ethics on Twitter: Think Before you Tweet

CNBC’s blog, flopping out, gave me the ‘think before you tweet.’ Given that Twitter is fast becoming the ultimate source of information exchange online, it is not surprising if you find yourself one day following President Obama or Gaddafi or the guy in the corner of your street… or even me! The important thing to know in such times is that as tweeters we have certain unspoken of, yet unanimously accepted, set of rules–or rather ethics–to keep up to. But how many of us actually do that? Below I have listed few that I could think of and you are most welcome to add to them as you please.

  1. Tweets are read by others so if you don’t want even one of them to know what you think of an international political crisis, there is no point in sharing it with the others.
  2. Nobody wants to know what you dined on so please do not take the trouble of tweeting that you are at such a restaurant, eating such a dish and paying so much for it.
  3. Tweet what other will benefit from and not the fact that a coin has two faces. How many of them do not actually know that? I doubt they would find themselves on Twitter even accidentally.
  4. Tweeting is not letter writing so do not say thank you through tweets. Or hello or good-bye or any such courtesy for that matter, unless it is so important that it will surge your tweeting community ahead in some manner. Use Direct Messages if it is really necessary.
  5. Re-tweets are not to exchange pleasantries and neither are mentions. <Celebrity’s name here> re-tweet me! It would mean a lot to me! Of course it would, but how useful would you be as part of an active tweeting community which actually has serious tweeters? (Yes, such tweeters do exist.)
  6. Not knowing when to tweet can help you lose your job. ‘Nuff said.
  7. A simple rule of thumb that can take you a long way, safely, is do not tweet anything you would not actually want to tell your followers to their face.
  8. Twitter is not a backyard for your musings so stop thinking aloud on twitter.
  9. Stop marketing your product or self on Twitter because, if you have not already bothered to read through it, one of the first terms you agree to when joining Twitter goes so: [You will not] sell, rent, lease, sublicense, redistribute, or syndicate access to Twitter or Twitter Content to any third-party without prior written approval from Twitter.
  10. Just because the term Twitter stemmed from meaning ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,it does not mean you can tweet useless collections of words.
  11. Stop trying to create trends by hash-tagging every word in your tweet. If it is worth it, it will become a trend with no help from your part.
  12. Do not converse on Twitter or cuss around because, while Twitter is not a chat room, it is not any more private than a humungous ball everybody in the world attends.
  13. Direct Messages are not cheap marketing solutions so stop asking people to buy your product or get a membership with your company. Say thanks for following instead or, better yet, do not send Direct Messages unless you know that person and are sure you will not be wasting their time sending such private messages.
  14. Nobody need follow you back. Get it out of your head that someone needs to follow you because you followed them. It is not a favour they owe you, nor an action you ought to expect. Remember that you followed them out of your own free will and not with them holding a gun to your head. You wanted to read their tweets, and they are glad to share it. If they do not want to read yours, stop forcing them and–childishly–stop unfollowing them!
  15. Twitter is not all about followers rather about quality tweets. It is better to have ten followers and thousand quality, useful tweets rather than thousand followers and ten rotten tweets.
  16. Twitter account monitoring softwares play spoil sport because they are only interested in followers. Automatically following tweeters and unfollowing them if they do not follow you back is lame. See my 14th point. And if you are on Twitter for followers, you would be better of taking my advice and deleting your account. You will then do many people a great favour.
Have you thought of more such Twitter ethics? Share it below!