Twitter Pictures Run Amuck

Back in the early days when Twitter created the ability to add photos to tweets, people used it in a useful and meaningful way. I, for one, use it the way it was intended to be used. I’ll take a photo of something, then tweet it and attach the photo.

Over time, news outlets and other organizations have begun abusing the feature as a way to attract attention to their news links, which are usually just click bait, but that’s a topic in and of itself. I can potentially see a little value of including a photo if it is directly related to what they are tweeting about.

For example, a tech site may write an article about a company CEO who has a big announcement coming later that day. They will likely attach a photo to the tweet of that person speaking at a previous announcement, or something along those lines.

Overall, I think it’s fairly useless. If for no other reason, they have to shorten the tweet to make room for the photo URL that Twitter adds at the end. I’ve seen abbreviated or fragmented tweets crafted in order to make room for the address space needed for the photo.

Lately, this entire practice has reached the point of absurdity.

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed today and saw the most ridiculous example that I’ve seen to date. It comes in a tweet from Business Insider.

I took a screenshot of the tweet and have posted it below. Take a look. This is exactly what I’m talking about. There is absolutely no sense in this. What a blatant waste of time and resources this is. This crap needs to stop.

Business Insider Tweet Example

My Twitter Bio Explained

I’ve been on Twitter for almost six years now. A Twitter bio is essentially a permanent tweet on your user profile where you briefly describe yourself. The bio is limited to a length of 160 characters, which is slightly higher than the 140 character limit of regular tweets.

For the vast majority of my Twitter tenure, my bio has remained unchanged.

I don’t remember what I entered for my bio when I first created my account in 2008. I think I used a simple single-word placeholder like “Hello” at the time. Not long after creating my account, I began making the appropriate customizations. I soon settled on a clever bio for myself, which is in fact the same bio that still I use to this day.

I have been asked what my bio is supposed to mean. I shall explain.

My bio reads: “I’m a bluebird on a telegraph line, I hope I’m happy now.”

The line was taken from a song recorded by Elton John in 1973 called “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” The lyric appears in the following verse:

I wonder if those changes
Have left a scar on you
Like all the burning hoops of fire
That you and I passed through

You’re a bluebird on a telegraph line
I hope you’re happy now
Well if the wind of change comes down your way girl
You’ll make it back somehow

I found the line rather fitting for Twitter. As you know, the Twitter logo is a blue bird. Combine that with the reference to a telegraph line, and it began to make sense. In addition, I had toyed with the idea of joining Twitter for months before actually creating my account, hence the “I hope I’m happy now” element.

Using this for my bio was far more about the above references than anything to do with the mood of the song itself. That said, I have long been a fan of the song, and know the lyrics from memory.

I think my bio is a keeper. I don’t foresee changing it, even after all these years. And on a personal note, I am happy now. Twitter has been a great community that I’m proud to be involved in. Now you know.

Craig’s Guide to Profile Pictures

I think that too many Internet users are careless about the content and quality of their profile picture. It’s an issue that drives me crazy. It has for years. Let me lay it all out for you.

It doesn’t matter which social network or online service you are using, selecting a good profile picture to represent yourself is very important. It’s the one picture that the people you interact with will see every day. For someone that does not already know you, this is the first image they will see of you.

As I write this, I’m thinking of a social network along the lines of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or Google+. Twitter is slightly different because it’s filled with a lot of parody accounts and people aren’t expected to post under their true identity. It’s not uncommon to see a lot of inanimate objects as profile pictures there. Therefore, I’ll exclude that from my decree of what a profile picture should contain because anything goes in the land of Twitter.

Content

Let me take a moment to explain what a profile picture should be. A profile picture is a picture of you, and you only. Not your spouse, not your kid, and not your pet. It should be a picture with a single human being in it, and that human can only be you. Not a picture of you amongst a group of five people, or you posing with your best friend, or anyone else for that matter. Just you! The instant that you post a profile picture with your significant other, you have effectively jumped the shark.

In fact, I am friends with a couple that individually use the exact same profile picture of the two of them. Such behavior is not only gag inducing, but when either of them writes a post or a comment, it becomes a little confusing as to who wrote what I’m reading. Everyone should unfollow them until they are able to make better decisions for themselves.

I’ll mention some examples of ridiculous things that I’ve seen used as actual profile pictures. For one, a full comic strip. Yes, someone I know on Facebook used an actual four-pane comic strip as their single profile picture. I couldn’t even tell what I was looking at until I blew it up full-screen, let alone be able to read it. What would possess someone to think that this would be a good idea? Sheer lunacy.

If you use a generic profile picture such as a flower or a butterfly, the message you are sending is that you are unhappy with your appearance and have something to hide. Your friends can already see all of your other pictures, so you can go ahead and stop doing this.

I do not participate in any call to change my profile picture to show support for something. That is something I will not do. I don’t care how serious or unserious the cause is. A few times in the past, I’ve seen a trend in the month of May where some dope will put out a call on Facebook for everyone to change their profile picture to a picture of their mom for Mothers Day. What? Get real. Only a moron would do something like that.

This brings me to the worst type of profile picture of them all. Pardon me, expectant mothers, but using a sonogram photo is the absolute worst thing you can post as your profile picture. Completely unacceptable! When I read your posts, I want to see a picture of your face next to them. Not a blurred, black and white, two-dimensional x-ray of an underdeveloped baby that looks more like an unfinished balloon animal stuffed in a pillowcase. Stop this right now.

Size

Your profile picture must be a perfect square. It needs to be the same number of pixels tall as it is wide. Please use photo editing software on your computer to create this exact square image before attempting to upload it to the social network. Do not use an existing photo that you uploaded eighteen months ago and attempt to crop out other people by using the shoddy online profile photo cropping tool. This ends up looking careless and sloppy.

When it comes to pixel count, do not attempt to use a picture that is a tiny 100 or 200 pixels. That image size may look acceptable in a comments section, but when someone pulls up your profile picture to see an expanded view, the result is a jagged, pixelated mess.

Disclaimer

I need to toss in a disclaimer about my own profile picture. Every year, around October 30, I’ve been in the habit of changing my Facebook profile picture to the Halloween mask of Michael Myers. This is a clear violation of rule #1. However, it’s fun and witty. I only have it up for about two days, and I think it amuses people. It’s festive and I’ll allow it. Is that hypocritical of me? Yep.

I’m sure that the condescending tone of this blog post isn’t going to win friends or influence people, but I had to make it understood how I feel about the business of profile pictures. In my experience, people really need to get their act together.

I’m willing to go so far as to say that if I were in charge of my own social network, a.k.a. “Craigbook,” I would make it my policy to choose everyone’s profile picture for them. A pop-up box would appear that says, “I don’t trust your decision-making skills. I’ll choose from your existing photos one that I think is best for you.” Of course, no one would want to be a part of a service like that, but it sure would make for a pleasant online utopia, at least in my eyes.

PS — The domain “Craigbook” is not available. Believe me, I already checked.

Tweetbot: A Polished Twitter App

Tapbots, a creative iOS app developer, recently released version 2 of their Twitter client called Tweetbot. Nerds rejoiced. Along with the new version for the iPhone, they released a version for the iPad as well. I haven’t used the iPad version, so I’m not going to comment about that in this article. I will say that Tweetbot on the iPhone is excellent. I am not alone in that sentiment. Macworld magazine rated it 5 full stars in their review, a rating that is very uncommon. Their stellar review is what convinced me to purchase the app.

I have already been using another Tapbots app called Convertbot, a super sick conversion tool for any type of measurement you can imagine. Its creative interface and attention to detail made me confident that Tweetbot would be a worthwhile purchase, even before I read any product reviews.

Tweetbot is indeed a beautifully designed app. I love the font, layout, and overall interface polish that make it such a pleasure to use. There are also subtle sound effects for common tasks that give the app a lifelike experience. This extra polish is what sets Tweetbot apart from the other Twitter apps.

I think that its greatest feature is the ability to mute specific hashtags. Tap and hold on any hashtag and options appear that allow you to mute them for an hour, a day, a week, or forever. This is going to be handy for those annoying #FF (Follow Friday) hashtags which I’ve grown rather tired of week after week. I can now temporarily mute them and not have to see any more of those. Clever.

Gestures are very well implemented in this app. Swipe to the right on any tweet to see replies to it. If you’re looking at a reply, swipe to the left to see the originating tweet. You’ll have to experiment with the gestures. I’ve been using the app for a week and am still finding new ways to navigate.

I often find myself emailing tweets, sometimes to friends, but often to myself. If I see a link to an interesting article, I’ll email myself the tweet to read later on my computer. When you email a tweet with Tweetbot, the email that is generated contains much more information than other Twitter clients, including a link to the tweet itself on the twitter.com website.

As I mentioned above, I purchased the app. Purchased? Yes. Unlike the official Twitter app, Tweetbot isn’t free. In fact, it’s rather pricey at $2.99. I paid for it because I was interested in its feature set, but I admit that the price is a bit expensive. I think they should have priced it at $1.99, tops. What’s more, the iPhone and iPad apps are not a single universal app, but are sold separately. That strikes me as being a little greedy on Tapbot’s part. I see no reason why they couldn’t have made a single universal app for both devices, except to intentionally try to make more money. Still, if the public is willing to pay the price, I can’t blame the company for trying to make a buck. Perhaps they will promote a free download day or reduce the price after it has been on the market for a while.

If I can find one thing to complain about, it would be Tweetbot’s cartoonish-looking app icon. I’m not sure what the inspiration for the icon was, but I find it to be slightly off-putting. Despite that, Tweetbot is a superb app all around. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can always use the free official Twitter app, which does 80% of what Tweetbot does, minus the elegance.

Tweetbot icon

My Apology to Chobani

This morning I was in an outlandish mood and posted to Twitter the following comments about the yogurt I was eating for breakfast:

If a homeless man defecated into a cup it would probably taste better than this Chobani non-fat yogurt. Just awful.

I laughed out loud as my finger tapped to tweet that remark. But after checking Twitter during my lunch break I saw that the Chobani company had written me a public message about what I’d said. Their response? “Ouch.” They went on to ask what I didn’t like about their yogurt. I immediately felt like an ass. A feeling of shame washed over me. I was only upset at having bought the non-fat version of their product.

Someone at Chobani had apparently searched Twitter for mentions of their brand and read what I said. What I had posted was truly over-the-top and absurd. I compared their food product not only to the taste of human feces, but I threw gasoline on the fire by adding that it tasted like a homeless man had shat in a cup. Instead of ignoring my searing remark, the company replied with a friendly “ouch” and asked why was I unhappy with my meal. It was completely unexpected. I was impressed.

Chobani went on to reply to me twice more in a friendly back-and-forth I’d had with them via Twitter today. They told me that they were not offended by my tweet. I apologized to them for what I’d said and thanked them for their sense of humor. In turn, they wrote me back and said they liked my sense of humor too. I was floored with how they handled my vile tweet. I’ll certainly buy more of their yogurt; even more so now, thanks to their delightful exchange. I have a new respect for them and their company. I’ll just have to make sure to not buy the non-fat variety next time. Hehe.

Well done, Chobani. I wholeheartedly take back what I said this morning. I offer my sincere apologies.

My Advice To Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for over two years now. It is one of my favorite online services. However, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated lately with some of its shortcomings. My frustration reached a point that I recently posted this tweet: “Sometimes I get the feeling that if I entered the Twitter headquarters, all I’ll find is an empty room with a hamster on a spinning wheel.”

My tweet was clearly over-the-top, as I often am, but I do have genuine thoughts on this matter. Therefore, I have crafted and submitted the following list of advice and suggestions to the “powers-that-be” at Twitter.

Faster Page Loads

I would like the “New Twitter” site to be a little more responsive and serve faster page loads. I can’t help but feel like the Twitter website as a whole has gotten slower over time; even more so since the redesign this year. I am well aware that their servers process a mind-boggling mass of data every second, but the end-user experience at my computer can be less than ideal at times. This is one reason why I like to use external Twitter applications like Tweetie, and not use the website unless I need to.

Exporting Features

Twitter seriously needs to offer better exporting options for users accounts. I want to be able to download a complete archive of all of my current Twitter data in a variety of different formats at any given time. I’ve grown tired of fiddling with Twitter backup companies, and I’ve used several of them. I’ll say outright that Tweetbackup doesn’t work at all. I’ve never had that service work for me even once! Backupify is a reliable service that conveniently archives all of my tweets on a schedule, but I can only download that data in CSV format, which I have to load as a huge spreadsheet in Excel.

More importantly, exporting in general is currently limited by Twitter to your last 3,200 tweets. That is all you can view or access, period! They promised some time ago that this artificial cap would ultimately be lifted. To date, that hasn’t happened. As users accounts grow ever larger, this issue needs to be addressed. Longtime users can have upward of 10,000 tweets. Today, those users are left in the cold if they want to roll back to the tweets in their early years. Fix this now!

Archive View

I would like for the Twitter website to add a new dimension where you can view all of the tweets in your entire archive in an elegant presentation. One example of this today is Tweet Nest, a solution to archive your tweets on your own web server and display them on a page. The resulting page looks clean and has a wealth of information. Twitter doesn’t have to copy this model, but it is an example of what I’d like to see them create for its users. Users could access this theoretical new archive display by adding the world “archive” to their URL. For example: twitter.com/username/archive. I think this is a fantastic idea, and long overdue.

Longer Tweets

I still insist that tweets could be a little longer to make use for longer links and retweets. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’d like to see the current 140-character limit raised to 160 (thereby matching the traditional phone text message limit), or even all the way to 200. I’ve already mentioned this in detail in the past, so I won’t go on about that again here.

Tweet Counts

In my experience, Twitter’s total tweet count for me is fluid and seldom completely accurate. This is especially noticeable with the count in the Favorites feature. I can log in on the site and have 25 favorite tweets that I’ve previously starred. After I’m finished reading some of them and unstar a few, it takes a very long time (hours) for my Favorites count to show lower than the original count of 25. It’s annoying, and I wish something could be done about it.

Having said the above, the count numbers get even whackier when using the Twitter iPhone app, where it sometimes takes days to reflect a profile picture change or update my total tweet count. Why this this? Surely Twitter itself must be deliberately limiting calls for this data in its API structure. Can’t this policy be changed to allow more accurate information?

In Closing…

This is just a few of the ideas and suggestions I’ve sent to Twitter. The tweet count issue is complex and really not a big deal, but account exporting and a complete archive view are both essential. I’m growing tired of relying on countless third party solutions to compensate for Twitter’s built-in limitations. I hope they heed my words and make my suggestions a reality.

Twitter Favorites Feature

As an avid Twitter user, I make use of the Favorites feature of their service. There is a Favorites feature built-in to several Twitter clients that is often overlooked. I use the official Twitter for iPhone app, and it allows me to star important tweets as favorites. This can be especially useful for tweets that contain links to a web page that is best viewed on a full computer screen.

Twitter recently completely revamped their website, dubbed “New Twitter” by many of its users. Among the many great new features of the new site is that tweets you’ve flagged as favorites are clearly visible in their own group on the website. For example, if I read a tweet from a tech site that links to a page listing the top ten newest WordPress themes, I can simply star that particular tweet as a favorite in my phone. When I later pull up the Twitter website on my computer, it cleverly appears in my list of favorite tweets for me to review at my convenience.

Twitter Favorites are a very useful and handy feature. If you haven’t been putting them to use, you’ve been missing out.