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August 11, 2008

After the Twitter Blackout, part 1: Lessons Learned

A week ago today I was still reeling from having been banned on Twitter three days earlier (part 1, part 2). My account had been returned, in part, but still wasn't entirely functional. It would be Wednesday before everything worked again.

Blogpost number one about the Twitter blackout was mostly to show there was a mistake of some sort and more than a couple people were effected. The second post was to make an attempt at accurately describing what happened. The plan was that the third blogpost would describe the process of how the account got fixed, but to do that I really needed to wait for it to BE fixed! By the time it was working, it was the middle of a new work week and I had other things to do. During this time a lot of other folk had their say about the process of things getting fixed, and they did a very nice job of covering that angle well. You can find a collection of posts and more on this event here:

http://delicious.com/rosefirerising/twitter+banned

In particular, I'd like to highlight a five part series by Dave Delaney that culminated with "Why I Hate Twitter" (and included why he loves Twitter), a piece by Connie Crosby, and two thoughtful pieces about what Twitter could have done differently by Dave Fleet and EagleDawg (neither of whom were victims of the blockout!).

Dave Made That: Why I Hate Twitter: http://blog.davemadethat.com/2008/08/03/5-reasons-why-i-hate-twitter/

Connie Crosby's Day Off, or, How Twitter Decided We Needed a Break: http://conniecrosby.blogspot.com/2008/08/connie-crosbys-day-off-or-how-twitter.html

Dave Fleet: Four Lessons from Twitter’s Spam/Customer-Busting Episode: http://davefleet.com/2008/08/four-lessons-from-twitters-spamcustomer-busting-episode/

Eagle Dawg Blog: Blogger vs. Twitter account bans: Observations in communication clarity and confusion: http://eagledawg.blogspot.com/2008/08/blogger-vs-twitter-account-bans.html

There were also several voices making cogent recommendations at the original problem report page for this issue.

Get Satistifaction: Twitter: Account Deleted/banned with no reasoning: http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/account_deleted_banned_with_no_reasoning

So, since everyone else has done such a wonderful job, what I would like to do instead is to look at what I learned from the event, and suggest a few best practices for microblogging for consideration. You will notice, I said "microblogging" rather than "Twitter" although, last Friday morning, in my mind, they were virtually synonymous.

First, for lessons learned, this part could easily be modeled from today's post by Luis Suarez who was banned for a couple weeks from Google Search.

Suarez, Luis. 6 Things I Learned While Being Banned From Google Search: http://www.searchnewz.com/blog/talk/sn-6-200808116ThingsILearnedWhileBeingBannedfromGoogleSearch.html

To paraphrase Luis's list of six things:
1. I need a new provider
2. I need a new "look" (facelift)
3. It's all about the community
4. I have amazing friends
5. Don't procrastinate on adopting new tech
6. Twitter is still my friend.

I need a new provider

The real message here is don't put all your eggs in one basket. What was so devastating to me with the Twitter fiasco was that I depended on it so utterly. Twitter had, for me, replaced many of the functions of email and I had entirely quit using feed readers in favor of Twitter. I also used it to date-time stamp certain work functions for statistics and tracking. When my account was deleted I lost access to both the new information coming in and my archived data, as well as my primary communication device.
Take Home: Diversify where you stream

I need a new "look" (facelift)

Luis decided he needed to do some housekeeping on his site to make it credible to the 'oversight committee.' For me, it is second guessing what Twitter was looking for that made a human review my Twitter stream as spam. My best guess so far is that following so many news feeds instead of using my RSS feed reader contributed to my following/follower balance looking skewed. I was also following people who didn't post because once upon a time they said something of interest to me. I am now doing housekeeping, going back looking for people I can unfollow to bring the ratio toward a more equal balance.
Take Home: Who do you REALLY need to follow?

It's all about the community

The community is really what made me so dependent on Twitter in the first place. In the Twitter world, there are just too many amazing, brilliant, aware, creative, insightful, funny, human, compassionate, generous people. I wish I could follow them all. I wish I could meet them all. Meanwhile, they share so much that is valuable to me, both of practical utility for my job as well as bits of sparkle, humor and compassion that make day shine a little more. I try to reciprocate and do the same for them.
Take Home: It's all about the community. :)

I have amazing friends

No explanation needed here. Wow. I cried for help, and people answered. People I know, people I knew slightly, people I didn't know existed. And they helped. They tried, and they did. Wow.
Take Home: Take care of your friends, you don't know when you'll need them.

Don't procrastinate on adopting new tech

During the time my Twitter account was blocked, I found myself scrambling to learn and use a number of alternate tools that had been recommended widely on Twitter. I had already created accounts in many, but hadn't taken the time to figure them out and learn how to use them. I hadn't needed them, and was happy the way things were. Well, that changed, in a hurry. If I had already been actively using FriendFeed, Ping, Jaiku, Pownce, Identi.ca I might not have been so stressed. What initially actually got me help were the alternate tools I had taken the time to learn and use - Plurk, Summize, Delicious, etcetera.
Take Home: Don't wait until there is a crisis to learn the new tools.

Twitter is still my friend

Jake Goldman worked heroically in partnership with the Twitter tech team to find and fix the many problems created by the account deletions. It took long enough that I built new skills and habits, but I still find myself spending most of my microblogging time in conversations on Twitter.
Take Home: It's good to be back. :)

Posted by pfa at August 11, 2008 12:50 PM

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