Tag Archives: twitter

Blog post from the past: Why “Thoughtcat”?

A Twitter friend asked me the other day where my name came from. I wrote about the origin of “Thoughtcat” on the original website some years ago, but as with most other pages there, it’s a tad difficult to find now. So here’s the story…

One of my all-time favourite poems is Ted Hughes’s The Thought-Fox, which draws an analogy between a fox prowling for food through a forest and a writer sitting up at midnight on a similar hunt for thoughts, or a poem, in his head; the poem has been a part of my own head ever since I first read it as a teenager. A few years later I was browsing in the poetry section of a bookshop and came across An Unusual Cat Poem by Wendy Cope. Various other (feline) influences came to bear, including a few poems by Brian Patten, and an observation my late grandad once made: “They’re contrary buggers, aren’t they, cats? You feed ’em and look after ’em and give ’em a home, and then they turn round, give you a filthy look and bugger off.” Eventually all this coalesced into my own version of Ted Hughes’s poem (below): inspiration is contrary, it comes and goes; you have a moment of sublime profundity when you can write absolutely anything – and the next moment you’re back, as Leonard Cohen once put it, crawling across the carpet in your underwear searching for a rhyme for “orange”. Russell Hoban has called this “normal work panic”, an essential respect for the “thing-in-itself” which you may think is your idea but actually exists outside of you. Even though you’re the one putting the words on a sheet of paper or the screen of a word-processor, you need to recognise yourself as a kind of channel for this thing, be patient and let it come of its own accord. Like cats, ideas don’t respond well to being forced or told what to do. If you want the love of an idea, you need to keep it sweet by providing a nice home for it and cultivating the circumstances under which it will be fruitful – but even if you do, sometimes it’ll just up and disappear and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to wait until it comes back – if it does come back, that is. To mix my metaphors, Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, once said about writing a bestselling novel in middle-age that it’s a bit like being chased by a dog: you come across a stream and somehow you manage to jump the stream and escape, but when you look back from the other side you wonder to yourself whether you were just lucky, or if could you do it again… anyway, here’s the poem that, for better or worse, started it all off.

The Thought-Cat

A cat wandered into my garden.
I was charmed.  “Hello,” I said.
“Miaow,” it said.
I petted it and chatted to it.
“Miaow,” it said again.

It kept on miaowing until I fed it.
Food was the only thing that kept it quiet.
Then it came indoors, curled up in my lap
and purred itself to sleep.

Next morning the cat was still there,
still hungry, still miaowing.
I fed and petted it some more.
It seemed to like me.  It stayed.

By now I was flattered as well as charmed.
“Wow,” I thought, “I have a cat now.
What a lovely thing to have in a life.”
Having a cat made me feel more human.

We became good friends, the cat and I,
and then one day it disappeared.  Vanished.
Just upped and went of its own accord.
I was very upset.  I had grown very attached to that cat.

But I tried not to take it personally.
Easy come, easy go, I thought – reminding myself
that it wasn’t even my cat to begin with.
This is just the way cats are, I said –
independent, self-sufficient, unsentimental.
I wished I could be more like that myself.

I looked for that cat everywhere, tried staking it out
with bowls of food in the garden, calling its name.
It didn’t have a name so I called out “Cat!  Cat!”
But it didn’t come.

I thought of buying a cat of my own.
I went to the pet shop, was charmed and seduced
by a whole range of kittens and their tiny miaows.
But it broke my heart to have to choose one.
I was afraid that even if I did, it would only leave me one day
just like the first had done.
And anyway, that first one was impossible to replace.
I left the shop empty-handed.

These days I raggedly wander the streets,
still calling out “Cat!” from behind my straggly beard.
The passing children point at me and laugh.
“There goes the cat man!” they say.
I just smile, and they go on their way.

I loiter around pet shops,
stroke and chat to any cat I meet,
beg for pennies and spend them all on cans of Felix
in case the cat ever decides to come back.
I hope it does.  Because if nothing else,
this poem will end rather badly.


(c) Thoughtcat Poetry Inc 1999 or thereabouts.

The government, the NHS Risk Register, the comedian and the cat

The other day there were news reports that this shambles of a government had again formally refused to publish the NHS Risk Register, despite being instructed to by an Information Tribunal back in March. (What on earth is the point of the Information Commissioner, then, if the government can just do what it likes?) I heard about the story via Twitter where comedian and writer Graham Linehan, amongst others, was lamenting this latest episode of coalition numskullery and joined him in requesting that the register be released without any further bullshit. However, in the absence of Cameron, Lansley & co listening to us (who would’ve guessed?) I announced that the register had in fact been leaked… to me!

NHS Risk Register, as seen by Thoughtcat
NHS Risk Register, as seen by Thoughtcat.

I tweeted this via Lockerz and tried my best not to look at the stats every few minutes, although I couldn’t help noticing it was gradually getting views. That’s not saying much though, as anything uploaded to Lockerz gets a few dozen views regardless of what it is. Stats crawled up to about 19 or something and at that point a non-celebrity Twitter friend retweeted it, this time adding some hashtags which I should have added myself to begin with. It got a few more views and I then unashamedly decided to RT my friend’s tweet at Graham Linehan to see if he’d RT it himself. He didn’t seem to notice it for a while, which is understandable as he has about 170,000 followers and must get mentions all the time. But then, suddenly, he did. What a guy! I watched as the views went quickly into three figures, and the RT was itself RT’d about 50 more times over the course of the next two hours. By that time, views of the photo had exceeded 4,000, and at the peak of the RTing I got a tweet from an account I’d never heard of called @TrendsUK saying that I was, er, trending in the UK. I couldn’t quite believe this and when I looked at the official Twitter there was nothing there to back up this claim, but it was a nice feeling while it lasted.

I am only joking, of course. None of this is “nice” at all. The way the government is behaving over the NHS is appalling. I don’t for a moment fail to see the irony of a photo like this getting retweeted dozens of times. But it’s the sort of thing that happens when a government lies to the electorate. Shame on the government for propagating this sort of satire.

NB: I’ve still not heard from any of the Lib Dem peers I emailed back in March asking them to vote against the Health & Social Care bill. Not a single one.

Twitter: My part in Ian Hislop’s only tweet

As a long time fan of topical TV comedy quiz Have I Got News For You, I was tickled to see in this week’s extended edition an item about Twitter. In one of the bits not broadcast in the initial 30-minute show last Friday night, the delightful Kirsty Young pulled the “one-armed bandit of news” to reveal a photo of Stephen Fry checking his phone. The news item it referred to, as the fabulous Ross Noble correctly identified, was Fry’s recent tete-a-twit with one of his followers who had called his tweets “boring”, resulting in the bipolar Fry threatening to quit Twitter altogether. Fry of course did no such thing and the two were back on tweeting terms the next day. (How this came to be national news incidentally baffles me, but that’s by-the-by.)

At the end of the item, Young contrived a link to another celebrity tweet, this one supposedly by HIGNFY stalwart Ian Hislop saying he “got caught shoplifting in French Connection”. The joke is, it’s not by *the* Ian Hislop but someone passing himself off as him. Some of this guy’s tweets are quite funny (the one in question among them) but some of them are clearly not the work of the editor of Private Eye.

I first noticed the fake Hislop’s Twitter feed back in May of this year and, fairly alarmed at the fact that the faker had nearly 9,000 followers, not all of whom would realise the feed was a fraud, decided to drop Hislop a line at the magazine to bring it to his attention. I had a nice email back from him asking how he could “snap up” the username “realianhislop” which I’d suggested he do to ensure he got himself an official Twitter presence. I wrote back explaining how to do it, and on 1st June the Real Ian Hislop signed up and tweeted: “I am the real Ian Hislop. Anyone else claiming to be me twittering is, unsurprisingly, a fake. This should be my only tweet. Thankyou.”

This tweet was shown in all its 140-character glory on the other night’s HIGNFY, raising a modest titter. Hislop commented, “I was told that if I did it, the person pretending to be me, who has millions of followers – more even than the Dalai Lama – would go away. But he didn’t.” I didn’t tell Hislop this would happen, but I do note that the faker hasn’t tweeted since the end of May, so something seems to have happened (whether he was explicitly told to cease and desist, I don’t know). The irony though is that in the past five months, the fake Hislop has managed to *increase* his followers to over 15,000! This compares with the real Hislop’s more sedate 200 follower count (albeit up from 177 when I first checked on Monday) – not that it means much anyway because he’s not tweeting, even though that’s the whole joke.

I’d like to think this incident demonstrates that even if you’re the real McCoy, nobody will follow you on Twitter if you don’t tweet, as that’s the point of the exercise. You don’t even need to tweet very often – it’s the content that counts, as the excellent Justin Halpern of @shitmydadsays fame goes to show, having amassed over 750,000 followers in a few months with just a few dozen brilliant tweets. (On that note there was a lovely little news item on the BBC site yesterday reporting that Halpern has landed a TV show on the back of his feed, the coy Auntie Beeb managing not to mention its name. I bet Halpern is wishing he’d called it “stuffmydadsays” instead now.)

Anyway I am happy to have encouraged Ian Hislop (the real one) to use Twitter, even if he has only tweeted the once, and even happier that HIGNFY used it on the show. (I should own up that I might have *slightly* emailed Hat Trick Productions back in the summer to bring the whole thing to their attention, but I shouldn’t claim full responsibility as I’m sure they would’ve been aware of it anyway.) You can see the whole hilarious exchange (Noble riffs on his own Twitter experience brilliantly) on the video below between 6:00 and 9:17 (sorry, I’d love to have the facilities to edit the vid to be able to post just the relevant 3-minute section, but I don’t, so if anyone’s offering please let me know, as the item is well deserving of isolation for the Twitter archives!)


Posted via email from Thoughtcat’s Posterous

11 essential tips for promoting your event on Twitter

If you’re running an event or conference, why not set up a Twitter account for it? You may of course already have a Twitter account for your firm or brand – so why set up a separate feed? True, it can be more work to update and maintain several accounts, and you might also argue that it dilutes your brand to separate an event you’re running from your main account. But it can also work in your favour, as people who are attending the event can “follow” it, not only because it’s an easy way for them to receive updates on it but also to show their support and interest. Here are my suggestions for things you can do to build an effective event Twitter feed. (Several of these points also apply to any kind of commercial Twitter feed/brand.)

1) Choose a good username as close as possible to the name of the event you’re running. In fact, when you’re planning your event, try to think of a name for it (or a version of the name) that is catchy and Twitter-friendly. ScienceWeekUK springs to mind – you know immediately that it’s about science, it lasts a week and it’s in the UK. Remember Twitter usernames are limited to 15 characters. Try not to use acronyms unless they’re memorable – NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was invented in 1999, way before Twitter.

2) For your picture, use your event logo. Again, when first designing your logo, try to pick something that’s going to stand out not only when it’s on a huge banner outside your venue but also when it’s displaying as a mere 24×24 pixels (the size of the user pictures on a follower’s Twitter feed page). Look at other users’ pictures – you’ll find it surprising how distinctive many of them remain even in those dimensions. If you can’t manage that, find one element of your logo that people will associate with your event/brand/firm. Avoid using long text in your picture – words longer than around five letters will display in a font too small to read in 24×24.

3) Edit your design colours to match the branding of your event, or of your company. Avoid whacky colour combinations; yellow text on a pink background may make you “stand out” but people do want to actually be able to read what you have to say. You may argue that colours don’t matter since your tweets will end up in your followers’ chosen colour schemes on their own home page or Twitter client, but remember you’re trying to attract followers in the first place, and if the first thing they see about you is some garish feed page they can’t read they’ll go elsewhere. You don’t have to use a Twitter standard background image: instead design a skyscraper banner with the key details of your event (logo, title, strapline/slogan, venue, dates, web address) to be 100 pixels wide and 768 pixels tall (for best results use a regular 768×100 horizontal banner turned 90 degrees counter-clockwise). This will mean those details will always be visible to the vast majority of web users in the left sidebar of your Twitter home page regardless of users’ screen resolution. Although most people do have wider screens now than they did a few years ago, many users who may be interested in your feed are still viewing in 1024×768, so using a larger banner risks it being obscured behind your actual Twitter updates and the bottom cut off. Finally, don’t tile your banner! It’ll look horrible!

4) If you don’t already know, use Twitter’s search and “find people” features to see whether any of your event sponsors/partners are already tweeting, and follow them. Drop a line to your contact at the sponsor and let them know you have a Twitter feed, to be sure they follow you in return.

5) Also do a search for keywords and hashtags related to your event and follow users who tweet those keywords frequently, or who are running similar companies or events of their own. Listen to what those users have to say, especially about events they are attending which are similar to yours. One user who followed an event Twitter I was involved with complained about the venue being difficult to navigate; bear that sort of feedback in mind during your planning/research stage and be prepared to address those kinds of public comments – doing so will enhance the bond between you and your delegates/customers/audience; not doing so will alienate you from them.

6) A key question – what are you actually going to tweet? What is there to say about your event, apart from the fact that it’s happening at Great Yarmouth Town Hall next Tuesday afternoon? Plenty! Has a date or venue changed? Tweet it. Registration deadline looming? Tweet it (several times). Earlybird or other concessions available? Tweet them. Great new speaker come on board? Tweet their name and other events they’ve spoken at. New sponsor? Tweet it (that’ll keep the sponsor happy too). Press coverage? Tweet a link to the online article. (You will of course be wanting to update your website with most of these things, but when an update doesn’t necessitate a major announcement on your site, a tweet usefully fills that gap.) Obviously you’ll want to tweet when the event is about to happen – only a week to go! Three days! Two! It starts tomorrow!!! During the event itself (if you have time) you can be tweeting live about today’s programme, what sessions are available, feedback from ground level. After the event has happened you can tweet links to reports by yourself and others, or when conference proceedings or video presentations are available. No actual news for the moment? Break down the facts about your event into bite-sized chunks (programme, location, purpose, dates) and tweet each one as a standalone update, promoting or highlighting whatever aspects of the event you want to at any given time.

7) Having said that, as with all Twitter feeds, don’t over- or under-tweet. Tweeting is always a fine balance – too many updates and users become swamped and stop following you; too few and they won’t be encouraged to follow you in the first place as you have nothing to say. Users tend to be less keen to follow people who don’t tweet regularly (the average is 4 tweets a day, but even one a day is better than none, or 20). Frequency and number of tweets is one of the main criteria, along with content itself, that people use when deciding whether to follow someone for the first time.

8) No time to tweet? Get a free account with SocialOomph (formerly TweetLater) which allows you to schedule tweets in advance, so instead of having to find time to tweet something every day you can sit down for 20 minutes on Monday morning and line up a whole week’s worth of tweets, then sit back and get on with your work. You can also save tweets as templates with this system so you can repeat the same tweet or variations on a theme without having to retype them. Try not to tweet exactly the same thing all the time though, as that also turns users off. Remember that you should still tweet anything manually that comes up unexpectedly in real time e.g. venue/speaker/date change.

9) When tweeting, if you can’t contrive an update to contain a keyword you want to get across in order to catch the attention of your audience, add it at the end as a hashtag – these are keywords preceded by # e.g. #sustainability #climate #design – these automatically turn into links that when clicked, become a set of search results matching the hashtag. Hashtags and keywords get picked up by users who are generally interested in these topics and so may take an interest in your event, and not only attend but also re-tweet your tweets, which is a major way of circulating info about your event/brand.

10) As much as possible include a link in each tweet to a page on your website that expands on what the tweet says. If you’ve followed my tips in point 6, you will be updating your website with any actual news, so each tweet consists of a summary of that update with a link to the relevant page. Links take up a lot of room in tweets so you’ll need to shorten them; use a client such as Echofon (formerly Twitterfox) to automatically truncate long links, otherwise you’ll find you have to manually paste URLs in to a service such as TinyURL to get the shortened version. Or, if your website puts out an RSS feed, you can save yourself time on both tweeting and linking by signing up with Twitterfeed and having it broadcast each update from the RSS feed as an individual tweet – so that updating your site automatically generates a tweet, which in turn contains a link back to the item you just updated. If your site doesn’t put out an RSS feed, look into developing a blog with something like WordPress or, if you don’t like content management systems, simply email your content to Posterous which you can easily configure to “autopost” to Twitter, Facebook and your regular blog.

11) And finally, having said all of that, don’t even think of setting up a Twitter account for your event (or your company, come to that) if you can’t (a) get your head around at least some of the above or (b) devote the time to tweeting (or setting up an automatic feed as in points 8 and 10). Many Twitter accounts start off with great intentions only to fizzle out when the user finds he or she hasn’t got the time to maintain it. Having a Twitter account with hardly any followers or tweets can weaken your brand; worst of all, if you haven’t got time to listen to what your followers (and even people who are not followers) are saying about you, you won’t know if they are criticising it – in which case you should be replying publicly to address their concerns – or praising it, in which case you should be replying publicly to thank them!

(c) Thoughtcat 2009 ~ Digg this

Posted via email from Thoughtcat’s Posterous

Why I opposed Leonard Cohen’s Israel show today

I guess it seems churlish to post this now the show has happened and some 55,000 people have gone home happy, and some good may have been done. But a principle’s a principle and I still think today’s Tel Aviv concert by Leonard Cohen was wrong.

This is how it started. Some months ago I had an email from an old friend expressing her dismay that Cohen, of whom we are both longtime fans, was to play a show in Israel as part of his enormously successful world tour. I hadn’t really given much thought to cultural boycotts before but I agreed that it did seem questionable judgment on Cohen’s behalf to play a show in a country that only months before had launched a devastating attack on the West Bank, causing the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

My friend wrote a letter to Cohen, emailing it to his manager Robert Kory, and set up an online petition calling for Cohen to reconsider his decision or at least offer to play a show on the West Bank in addition to the Israel concert, or to donate the proceeds to a charitable organisation working for peace on both sides. A second friend became involved and the three of us became the first signatories to the petition. We called ourselves the Leonard Cohen Boycott Israel Coalition (and then the Campaign), I set up a blog to host our letter and various links, and also a Twitter feed and a Facebook group. We put something of a disclaimer on the blog saying “We take no pleasure is asking Leonard and his management to deprive Israeli fans of their long awaited moment to see him live, but feel that with circumstances as they are in the Palestinian territories and Gaza in particular, the priority must be to appeal to them to refrain from giving credibility to the Israeli state by playing there.”

This didn’t seem unreasonable to me, even though it felt fundamentally weird to be opposing anything Leonard Cohen was doing. My love for the man and his work is profound; I first discovered him in the late 1980s during a pretty bad period in my life; someone lent me his Greatest Hits and his first novel The Favourite Game, and they turned me around. I wouldn’t necessarily be so grandiose as to say they saved my life but they did make me a different person. Nonetheless, we all make mistakes, and I felt Leonard – especially being Jewish – could have made more of an impact on the situation in Israel by refusing to play there given its politicians’ horrendous foreign policy.

To be honest though I was pretty surprised at what happened next. My first friend had thought the petition might receive one or two thousand signatures; although we got a reassuring 30 in the first few days, to date the total still stands at less than 100. I circulated the details to selected friends on Facebook and by email, and although I would describe all my friends as liberal, only two of them actually signed the petition. One friend, who also happened to be Jewish, rang me up within hours of receiving the email to express his own dismay at the idea of such a boycott, saying that whatever you think of Israeli foreign policy, it was impossible to separate Israel from Jewishness, and thus our campaign seemed anti-semitic. He went on to quote an article in that day’s Times by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks repeating this weary and depressing argument.

I have to say I was disappointed by the silence and staggered by the response of my Jewish friend; such thoughts couldn’t have been further from my mind or those of my campaign colleagues. When the campaign was later attacked by commenters on the blog for targetting Cohen, rather than the more “obvious” (and also, coincidentally, gentile) artists who have also played Israel recently such as Madonna or Depeche Mode, I began to realise how much hypocrisy and bullshit there is in all of this – and also how much fear. The possibility of being called an anti-semite is too much of a risk for most people to bear, and this is precisely why Israel gets away with flouting international law and bombing the crap out of Arab schoolchildren.

While further friends maintained an awkward silence, someone else also declined to sign the petition, saying, “I think, morally, at least, [Cohen] is more than entitled to [play the show]; his own humanity, I think, speaks more than eloquently about any predispositions it encounters along the way… and if people still don’t get it, then LC not playing won’t make a scrap of difference; positively, therefore, he may just channel a thought or two in the right direction.” I admit I agreed with that. But I also hoped Leonard would come to his senses. I didn’t think he would, but I hoped so.

I stuck with it, and as the months progressed other groups from around the world joined in the opposition (even though probably hardly any had heard of our campaign). The Facebook group rose steadily despite a few stupid comments from both extremes (one person who joined had a swastika as his profile picture) but topped out at around 130 members. (A Swedish version which predated mine scored several hundred though.) The Israel show appeared on Cohen’s official tour schedule, then inexplicably dropped off it; nobody was really sure whether the pressure groups had won or not. We didn’t get a reply from Cohen’s manager, but didn’t really expect one, especially as he’s on record in various places criticising the boycotters. Then it was announced that the show would go on and Cohen would also be playing a small gig in Ramallah after the Tel Aviv show; this seemed positive, but the Palestinians arguably shot themselves in the foot by withdrawing their support for the gig as long as Cohen insisted on also playing Tel Aviv. Various charities were mooted to receive donations from proceeds of the show, and this was denied. Amnesty International was reported as supporting the show, and it then pulled out, saying it never took a side in boycotts. The tickets for Ramat Gan stadium went on sale and sold out within minutes; protesters demonstrated in New York and Montreal. Academics wrote letters and Alexei Sayle recorded an embarrassing video of himself singing a comedy song poking fun at his own Jewish heritage with parody lyrics.

So anyway, here we are today and the show has passed without incident. Leonard greeted the audience in Hebrew, sang his great songs (including Famous Blue Raincot, apparently – grr, wish I’d been there), people Twittered about it, and The Parents Circle is set to receive a large donation. So maybe some good has come of it. But as my friend whose idea the whole LCBI campaign was said today in her post, “there can be no real and lasting peace for everyone and justice for the Palestinians until all the walls, real and metaphorical, are torn down and the Palestinians can be assured of their place alongside the Israelis with all their lands restored to them. Therefore a continuing international boycott of Israel is unfortunately necessary.”

The only thing left for me to say is that I regret not blogging earlier about this. I hope nobody has gone away thinking I’m a hypocrite or disingenuous for not owning up to my involvement from the start. It’s true that I and my two friends didn’t exactly splash our names across the LCBI blog, although we did use our real names when we signed the petition and all my Facebook friends knew I supported the cause.

I’m not bitter, though; a principle’s a principle and I think this was a damn good one.

April fools

This week’s April Fools’ Day is already starting to look like old hat (my excuse for not posting on the day itself being that I was in London – working, not protesting, although sympathising with most of the protesters, while thinking it was a shame that Barack Obama’s first visit to the UK couldn’t have been more of a celebration).

Even so, my favourite was the Guardian’s story that it would no longer be available in print but only on Twitter, with every story compressed to 140 characters. This included its 188-year news archive: “JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?” The claim that “Currently, 17.8% of all Twitter traffic in the United Kingdom consists of status updates from Stephen Fry” may well not have been a spoof, and the paper gets extra marks for its combination of the Guardian and Twitter into “Gutter” and then with WordPress into “GutterPress”.

Later in the day the Guardian also published a useful round-up of April foolishness (I didn’t spot the upside-down YouTube pages, probably because every time I tried getting on to YT on Wednesday my T-Mobile broadband blocked it with its new content lock feature which I had to unlock by entering my credit card details – quite why YT content is classed as dodgy I don’t know).

My second favourite fool was the BBC’s item on the rising cost of tea, which, being the BBC, was so well done (or just so conservatively done) it was frighteningly plausible. The only other “may actually be true” candidate I spotted was a report on a comparatively obscure website that the Leonard Cohen songs Suzanne and Bird on a Wire were coming soon for the Guitar Hero video game (maybe next year I’ll remember to do a spoof combining the game with my version of Hallelujah and call it Ukulele Hero).

I’m sure there were many more but that’s all I saw. Oh, and apparently over at SA4QE there was something silly about a new dating service for Russell Hoban fans called SA4QrelatE, but I shouldn’t imagine too many people were taken in by it…

Putting Private Eye right on Twitter and the internet

A couple of weeks back I emailed a letter to Private Eye about two items that appeared in their issue number 1230 (the one that’s just gone off sale). I have now received a reply from ‘The Ed’ saying ‘Thank you for your letter. I am sorry not to publish it in Private Eye.’ So as not to lose this essential correspondence, here is my letter, slightly edited for clarity.

Dear Sir,

At the risk of appearing in Pedants’ Corner, the Stephen Fry Twitter column in this issue is wrong in a number of ways.

You only use the @ sign when *you* are addressing another Twitter user, not when they address you. So I was confused to read in Fry’s twitterstream ‘@Wossy’, expecting this to prefix a typically erudite Fry remark directed at Jonathan Ross, when it was actually a knob gag from Wossy to Fry. Next time just drop the @ sign for remarks sent to Fry by other Twitterers and only use it when Stevie tweets at them. Or better still, do the world a favour and drop Wossy’s knob.

Also, a couple of tweets are longer than the maximum 140 characters allowed by Twitter. The one about ‘Getting stuck in one lift may be considered a misfortune; getting stuck in two lifts starts to look like carelessness’ is actually 153 characters. (Sad, aren’t I?)

Finally, the whole thing is back-to-front, as on the real Twitter the most recent tweets appear at the top of the page, not the bottom. That said, your version is designed to be read by humans, which Twitter frankly isn’t, so that’s actually a vast improvement on the original.

Twitter aside, there also appear to be some misconceptions in the ‘Telegraph twits’ article on page 7 of the same issue. You don’t ‘surf’ ‘popular internet search keywords when writing copy for the online edition’, you just ‘use’ the terms or ‘include’ them. One ‘surfs’ the web as a whole, i.e. to find out information. In any case, criticising this behaviour as an example of the dumbing-down of journalism is more than a little naive in these days of the information superhighway. If you don’t include relevant keywords in your online content, then people won’t find it – it’s as simple as that. It only becomes dubious if you contrive to include terms which have nothing to do with what you’re actually writing about – for instance if I were to gratuitously insert the keywords sex, drugs and rock’n’roll in this paragraph. Then again, it wouldn’t make any difference, as your letters don’t go on your website.*

I’ll shut up now.

Yours etc.

* This one is going on mine though 🙂

Posted via email from Thoughtcat’s Posterous

Blackout? How would I know?

Woke up this morning, as the old blues singers used to sing, got no electricity. Lights, kettle, toaster, even the central heating all off. Check the fusebox, but all in order there. Maybe it’s a power cut! Haven’t had one of those in years. Look out the window – no lights on in any of the houses in the street. It must be a power cut, or powercut, or blackout (he says in a transparent attempt to get as many searchable homonyms into one post). Excitement of same quickly replaced by fear as I realise that practically everything in the house, and my life, is totally dependent on electricity. No internet connection, as we have cable, and our computers are connected via a router anyway (oh for the simple old days of plugging your PC direct into your phone socket). No landline, indeed, as phone is of cordless variety. Can’t have a shower. Can boil water for a cup of tea, if I can find the matches. The only gadget working is my mobile phone, and that only because I remembered to charge it yesterday. But the web being down is the worrying thing. How am I going to get news about whether the power cut is local, regional, nationwide, global?? How would I know if there had been an alien invasion and the world is already at the green ones’ mercy? Note to self: invest in wind-up radio sharpish. And possibly wind-up internet connection.

Cover the kids with extra blankets and go back to bed. Not something I’d normally do but it’s the only source of heat. Turn on bedside lamp so that when (if!) electric comes back on I will know about it. Lay in the dark wondering at what point I should start to worry, call the landlord, call the council, call work, sign up with a ragged army of freedom-fighters to beat the invasion. Actually, thinking about it, if it was an alien attack, they would surely be clever enough to disable all electricity and web connections precisely so that nobody would know what was going on. Catch us underwears, as it were. They didn’t get our mobiles though – maybe they can’t control the batteries. But surely they’ll have the networks down any second?? Oh come on, it’s not aliens. There are no ships in the sky. So how did it happen? This is the 21st century. Are we rationing electricity now? Has the economic crisis brought us to this already? I blame Gordon Brown.

And then suddenly, with a flash of bedside table-lamp, a beep of cordless phone recharge and a whoosh! of central heating, everything snaps on again, at exactly 7am, as if someone at the National Grid had everything on a timer. Maybe that’s not far from the truth. The rationing of juice suddenly seems quite rational.

Normally I would be up, showered, shaved, dressed and working by now but I’m typing this instead in my pyjamas, with tea and toast, hoping it doesn’t all snap off again. My excuse is the house is cold, got to wait for it to warm up again before I jump in the shower.

Go straight to Twitter when turn on PC. Stephen Fry‘s latest tweet is at the top of my feed, referring to a blackout. His avatar, normally his cheery boat-race, is a black square. What?! Has the National Grid’s reach stretched to Twitter avatars too now? But he’s not in the midlands, surely? He lives in London, when he’s in the UK. Was this a national crisis? Hang on, I don’t think he’s even in the country. He’s travelling somewhere. It is a global crisis! The whole world is blacked out! It IS an alien invasion, and it’s still Gordon Brown’s fault! Actually, not – he’s blacked it out in protest against a draconian New Zealand copyright law. That sounds bad, but I have to admit I breath a sigh of relief. Such excitement of a Monday, and I’m not even dressed yet.

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous