Superinjunctions and the Social Web

21 04 2011

It began in earnest with Trafigura but the freedom to publish now means that the superinjuction, a form of gagging order in which the press is prohibited from reporting even the existence of the injunction, or any details of it, is now almost impossible to enforce.

In the case of Trafigura The Guardian reported that it had been prevented from covering remarks made in Parliament by a superinjunction from libel lawyers Carter Ruck.   The Guido Fawkes blog identified that the question related to the allegations of waste dumping in the Ivory Coast by oil trader Trafigura.  Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian tweeted about it and Stephen Fry played a key role in spreading the story via twitter.

In recent weeks superinjunctions have been used by actors, TV presenters, bankers and footballers to prevent papers from revealing stories about their private lives.  A quick search for the word superinjuction on Twitter or using Google Realtime search and you will see the names of many of the alleged protagonists.   When I began my career in PR you needed to have good contact in a national newsroom to get the sort of information that never made it into print, now you just need a rudimentary knowledge of how to use a search engine.

The Curious Case of Connect.Me

9 03 2011

Earlier today San Francisco web developer Joe Johnston launched his contribution to the social web with a small post via his twitter account @simple10.  It said simply “ beta sign-up launched“.

He doesn’t have a huge following but within hours the twittersphere was buzzing and some high-profile people were registering profiles without actually knowing what was on offer.  Secrecy seemed to be at the heart of the launch strategy; “We’d love to share more” said the site “but we’re in ninja stealth mode and would regrettably have to kill you.”  Part of the sign-up process seems to have involved (personally I wouldn’t touch it without knowing more) granting access to your social networks with the promise “We’re a better way to manage your connections and a better way for online communities to discover and connect”.

I don’t know about you but it seems pretty asymmetric to me to grant access to your social graph with zero information on offer as to why or what for.  However the desire to register your user name seems to be a big driver as many people did just that.

It looks like has found ways to get various types of data, particularly from Facebook once the user has provided a one-off authentication.  It will also call on data from Twitter and LinkedIn.   That might provide an exciting way of linking your social networks but equally it seems pretty scary granting that kind of access without knowing why.

UberTwitter Now UberSocial After Block

20 02 2011

Users of the popular Blackberry Twitter app UberTwitter found themselves locked out this weekend when the famously open social network decided to crack down.

Twitter has claimed that UberTwitter was in breach of policies and trademarks. Specifically they cited the use of the tweet-elongation service which allows people to post  more than 140 characters, and significantly the use of the name UberTwitter.  The service has now been changed to UberSocial with immediate effect.  Tweetdeck which recently introduced to allow longer tweets must be watching with interest and concern. DestroyTwitter is also presumably on the radar.

Apart from the obvious inconvenience to users of the service Twitter has raised the suspicions of commentators by turning off the Blackberry application without notice and promoting their own Twitter for Blackberry service at the same time.

UberTwitter is owned by UberMedia which was recently bought by Bill Gross, who has raised $17.5m to build the Twitter platform.  Gross played a key role in building Google’s revenue mode and he’s applying a similar strategy with UberMedia and applying that to Twitter.  Potentially he has a  better way to make money out of Twitter than Twitter does and this is bound to cause concern for the micro-blogging service.

At the time of writing Twitter has not responded to the speedy changes and UberSocial remains unapproved ad offline.

Want Twitter Followers? Then Tweet More.

15 02 2011

When using Twittercounter recently I came across a great example showing that one of the most effective ways to build a following on Twitter is simply to provide content or put another way to tweet more.

I’d noticed in December that one of the people I follow, an inveterate tweeter had virtually stopped posting.

This is a graph that combines the number of daily tweets (orange bars) with follower numbers (red line).  The individual in question posts an average of around 20 tweets a day peaking at a hefty 75.  Look what happened when he stopped.  His net followers started dropping away immediately, then when his micro-blogging mojo returned in January follower numbers started growing again.

It goes to show that what’s true for blogging is true for its micro-me; if you want traffic then you’ve got to have content.

Pollution in the Twitter Stream

15 12 2010

Twitter has launched its advertising package with promoted tweets, promoted trends and promoted accounts available to all.  Whilst in various ways users have been able to boost their follower numbers for some time, now followers can simply be purchased via twitter itself, something that fundamentally alters the ecosystem.

“Whether you’re gearing up for a big product release or event, or just looking to expand your presence online, building a strong base of Twitter followers who will share your content and amplify your message makes all the difference…unlike a “like” action, a new follower stays with you.” says the twitter ad blurb.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out for Twitter.  My hunch is that it will turn established users away.  The growth of Twitter has been phenomenal, according to the official blog there have been 25 billion tweets this year.  That’s a pretty stunning total given that at the start of the year 7.3 billion tweets had been posted in three and a half years.   However the pace of growth is slowing.  There were 5 billion tweets between the 31st July and the 20th September, that’s 50 days. It took 52 days for another five billion to be posted.  Twitter has made it much more difficult to monitor tweet volume since they moved away from sequential numbering of tweets.

So if twitter has flatlined and in terms of tweet volume it appears that it has, adding adverts to our twitter stream is hardly likely to  boost loyalty and usage.

Should Advertising Regulate in Social Media?

1 09 2010

Today the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it extend its remit to cover “marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter”.  The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has decided to extend the digital remit of the ASA and has today published a document detailing the new remit and sanctions.

I have some serious and personal concerns about the document.  In justifying the extension of its remit ASA refers to 3,500 complaints in 2008 and 2009 about the content of organisation’s websites.  How does this relate to social networks or social media?  Throughout the document there is constant reference to “other marketing communication” (sixteen times on 14 pages) with only a very loose definition of what constitutes “other marketing communication” suggesting that it is concerned principally with the primary intention “to sell something”.  Marketing communications is so much broader than that.

The plan is to carry out a review of guidelines in 2013, two years after the implementation of the extended remit.  This shows a fundamental misunderstanding and disregard for the speed of change on-line; for example in two years Twitter went from zero to 10 million tweets per day.  Spotify, which is fundamentally changing the music business, is less than two years old.

There is also a contradiction in terms of definition.  The guidelines exclude “press releases and other public relations material” and yet the definition of “other marketing communications” includes items that could be considered to be public relations material, for example the promotion of unsolicited (or solicited) consumer endorsement.

I would endorse all of the objectives of the CAP code with regard to the prohibition of misleading advertising, the protection of children and social responsibility.  The intentions here are good there is no doubt of that.  I just can’t help feeling that in regulating the social media space, bodies that concern themselves with advertising and have advertising in their title feel more than a little out-of-place.

The World Cup, Hashtags and Monetizing Twitter

7 07 2010

Now that the World Cup is drawing to a close we can consider one of the most notable advances that the competition heralded and it’s not the Vuvuzela or the highly unpredictable Jubulani.

When it all kicked off in South Africa, twitter users discovered a subtle new feature alongside certain hashtags in their twitter streams.  World cup related tags generated tiny icons after the tag;  there were national flags for any tweet using a three letter tag for any of the participating countries and a tiny football for anyone typing the hashtag #worldcup .

This is far more than just a bit of fun. Twitter has unlocked an unobtrusive way of commercializing the twitter stream.  Each of these icons or annotations as they are described by Twitter has an embedded link.  For the world cup it takes you to a fairly anodyne aggregation of tweets albeit in a nicely designed page but these linked icons could take you anywhere and they could be ascribed to any hashtag or keyword on twitter.

At the moment the annotations just appear on but they will start to be included in the API which means they will appear in our favourite twitter clients.  What we are about to see is a deluge of paid for links that might be used to sell music, promote TV shows and sports events, all without polluting the stream.  Back of the net.

Twitter Hits 1000 Tweets per Second

1 07 2010


Twitter has been hovering close to milestone of the 1000 tweets a second for several days and in the last couple of days has broken through the barrier several times.  The number of tweets per second stayed above that figure between 2pm and 4pm UTC on Tuesday and passed it again at a similar time yesterday.

Twitter has also broken through another barrier, clocking up over 2 billion tweets in a month for the first time since its inception.  At midnight last night the figure was over 2.3 billion for June.

I verified the score for June using the unique twitter ID number that ever tweet carries.  These numbers are sequential so it makes the calculation straightforward. At midday on the 1st June Lance Armstrong tweeted “Hello June“.  Clearly this was not the first tweet of the day, but it was good enough for an accurate estimate.  The ID figure of 15162027303 for that tweet suggests that the first tweet in June was close to the 15130000000 mark.  Gigatweet had the last tweet in June at around test number at around 17440000000.   Although claims were made that the two billion barrier was passed in May the actual figure for that month was 1.99 billion.

There were suggestions late last year that Twitter had ‘jumped the shark’ but an apparent stalling in the numbers using was simply caused by users switching to third-party applications.  Gigatweet also estimates that the 20 billionth tweet will be posted in just a month’s time on the 1st August.

ManageTwitter is Dead Long Live ManageFlitter

5 05 2010

Last week I posted about the threatened demise of the best application for managing twitter follow lists, the excellent ManageTwitter.  Well after a cease and desist order it has gone…sort of.  A search for Manage Twitter will bring up a remarkably similar site called ManageFlitter, brought to you by the makers of ManageTwitter.  Apparently one of the things that the masters of the microblog didn’t like was the infringement of their trade mark.

A few other things are different too.  There is no longer a tab that allows you to bulk unfollow users whose accounts may be dormant or who don’t follow you back.  This can still be done but you have to select individual check boxes or drag and select multiple icons.   The application isn’t quite as versatile as it used to be but hopefully the changes will have satisfied the head honchos in San Francisco as this is the most useful tool around for managing your account without spending hours checking the activity of individual followers.

Will Manage Twitter Get a Reprieve?

30 04 2010

For the last few weeks I have been using a great application called ‘ManageTwitter’ to do exactly that for my multiple accounts.  Described by TechCrunch as a “must-use” it is one of the most practical twitter apps available.

ManageTwitter allows you to manage your Twitter followers in a variety of ways. It informs you os all the Twitter users you follow that aren’t following you back, those that have been inactive for over a month and those that are very talkative or very quiet.  You can then unfollow these groups of users individually or in bulk and that is the issue – twitter does not approve of bulk unfollow and as of last Friday a message appeared on the ManageTwitter home page indicating that it was to close in a week because it was breaking the microblogging site’s terms of service.  Today a different message appeared:

Save ManageTwitter Thank you for all your support! We are currently in negotiations with twitter regarding the future of ManageTwitter.  Updates will be posted to our blog.

This is a genuinely useful site that doesn’t encourage or facilitate spamming.  It just might get a reprieve but doubtless with modifications to its current functionality.

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