Twitter question: I have a protected account. How do I approve my follower requests?

Yesterday someone asked me how to approve follower requests from an iPhone. It turns out that you can’t approve follower requests from the iPhone app. You need to approve followers via the web or email:

If you have protected your Tweets, you can approve followers from your account home page or profile page (see screenshots below).
You can also approve followers by clicking the link in the follower request email notification.

Twitter for the masses

I saw this retweet pointing to Jeremy Toeman’s article Will normal folks ever use Twitter?”. (By default that makes me un-normal….)


He makes an excellent point which matches my own experience. Most people don’t see the added benefit of using Twitter. The uses are difficult to grasp. Especially since Twitter turned off the SMS service for the rest of the world, which is the single feature that got me started on Twitter. Connecting the mobile world with the web world – at no extra cost – was a killer app in 2007. Unfortunately it didn’t last. Read this 2008 article, What Twitter’s global failure means for Africa by @whiteafrican.

In addition to not understanding Twitter uses, many people don’t like reading online. Reading deadwood media is more relaxing for the eyes, still more portable, less battery-dependent.

My suggested uses
Listed below are some of my Twitter use cases.

Twitter Search is great for non-mainstream, niche topics. Many bloggers have added Twitter to their publishing toolset. Un-normal people everywhere in the world that are at the scene, on the ground have access to mobile phones and send out tweets. The data is raw, not confirmed, and unfiltered, but it gives a voice to the unheard and a different opinion from mainstream media outlets that dominate western opinion (commonly known as the gatekeepers). Google now searches Twitter and displays recent tweets:


The use:
In addition to all the mainstream media I hear and read, I read tweets on currents affairs as a supplement.

Twitter generates traffic for your website, photo stream, blog, online shop. If you want to be noticed by the early adopter market segment, Twitter is the place to be. I would compare it with blogging in 2004 to 2005, when it was easy to google bomb yourself into the top 10 search results. One thing is certain, web traffic streams are constantly changing. Maybe Twitter will be discarded. The key is good content. Regurgitating or copying content that is not your own will not help you in the long run. Writing yet another review on an over-hyped topic is destined for oblivion. A good example how to build a web audience in a consistent way is Handmade 2.0.

The use:
Since generating traffic for websites is part of my day job, hanging out on Twitter helps me to figure out the changing traffic streams.

Tech help
I use Twitter to get feedback and help on technical topics. I share my knowledge and experience.

The use:
Share knowledge, learn!

Still fascinating after 14 years on the Internetz: connecting with others. Discussing. Reviewing.

For example, every Sunday evening on German TV there is a murder mystery called Tatort. It’s an institution for some. A distraction for others, ironing clothes for the work week ahead. With Twitter you can review the latest Tatort in real-time.

The use:
As in the C.S. Lewis quote: We read to know, we are not alone.

Malawi Twitterers

As Malawi celebrates independence day tomorrow, here is a list of Malawi twitterers you might like to follow:

Vincent Kumwenda – currently at Muloza border, Mulanje; topics include Malawi news, world news, interesting Malawi web pages, and soccer. He also writes a blog.

Fred Bvalani – in Blantyre; tweets about mobile applications and phones, Oracle training in freezing cold Cape Town, Manchester United, movies, church, Escom power cuts, and Malawi news and websites. Check out his blog.

Dannie Grant Phiri – first started twittering during the recent Malawi elections; writes about Malawi and soccer in his blog at

Soyapi Mumba – well-known Malawi blogger and twitterer, software developer, volunteer developer at Ushahidi, lives in Lilongwe. He writes about software development, interesting mobile and web applications, Malawi news. He is the programmer behind Owinna – a web app on Malawi football league fixtures and results, as well as the Premier league and other international championships. You can access this information through the website or SMS by texting FOLLOW owinna to +447624801423 or on Twitter.

Clement Nyirenda – blogs and twitters from Tokyo, where he is doing a PhD in computer science. He covers many IT and development topics related to Malawi. A good resource to learn about projects such as Seacom. He discusses entrepreneurial ventures and their effect on Malawi. Read his blog post on Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter stunt to raise awareness about malaria.

There are many more, which I might mention in a second blog post.

On Twitter

Excellent talk.

Presenter Laura Fitton says good content is noticed and forwarded even if there are only a few followers.

Another strength of Twitter is that it supports multi-interfaces and devices. Not limited to a browser.

Ten Differences between Skype and Twitter

On the train to northern Germany. Three more hours to go.

It’s been a long day and my motivation to get some work done is kind of missing. So here’s a text message from the train. Longer than 140 characters. Maybe.

Two doctors across the aisle are loudly discussing other doctors, Basel hospitals, the Swiss health system, politics and other details. They are code switching between Swiss German and Arabic (or something that sounds similar). They are getting out now. They were talking non-stop for two hours.

Der Trend zu mehr als einem Betriebssystem:
BTW, I finally ordered a new 13 inch MacBook with 4GB RAM. I really like the size. I guess I am officially a Mac fan. I even tweeted about it!

Twitter vs. Skype:
How do you explain the difference between Twitter and Skype? I was talking about the Twitter Dinner I attended on Monday and a work colleague asked “What’s the difference to instant messaging?”

For the casual observer, none really. Nothing revolutionary. 140 characters organized chronological on a webpage. Like the first webpages, nothing truly spectacular.

Yet again, it is another way to publish even faster. Faster than a static HTML-based webpage or a dynamic server-side based blog.

The future of Twitter will be exciting to watch. Maybe it will just dwindle and die. Maybe new business models will emerge and it will become commercial like websites. Maybe it’s just a stepping stone to something new.

Anyway here we go, my first list in a long time. Here are:

Ten differences between Skype and Twitter:

  1. One to many vs one to one or one to two: I have more Twitter followers than Skype contacts. I don’t follow all of my Twitter followers, while Skype is more or less reciprocal and if somebody doesn’t add me as a contact, I start wondering why.
  2. Public With Twitter I can view the stream, and the faves before clicking the ominous Follow button. By default Skype messages are not public.
  3. More options Skype is direct and immediate between me and another person or a second person. Twitter can be direct and immediate between my friends and me, but it doesn’t have to be. I can post a tweet message without any follow-up or call to action. On the other hand Skypers expect a more immediate reaction. And tend to follow general conversational patterns.
  4. Easier to search thru I can search thru Tweet streams much more easily, thanks to add-on services such as Twitter Search/Summize.
  5. Monitor Like with Google, or Flickr, I use Summize/Twitter Search to find new content on topics of interest, c.f comments on the famous Nutella Alternatives group (funny!) or on a more serious note tweets from Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the same way, companies can find what people are saying about their products. Consumers are more likely to write a 140 character message than a full A4 review on your product. I.e. Twitter forms opinions on products. And unlike statements at a cocktail party, these mini-reviews are searchable.
  6. Unfiltered news from strangers With Twitter I can get raw, unfiltered messages on current news as they happen, c.f the recent bombings in Mumbai. Following “breaking news” on Twitter is more exciting than on CNN and co, as they scramble to get a correspondent online and show the same video sequence over and over again.
  7. Mobile Cos it’s so simple, Twitter offers better mobile phone integration from the start. Unfortunately, the best Twitter feature by far was shut down in September 08. What I call the downstream, i.e. the forwarding of Twitter messages to my cell phone.
  8. Ubiquituous software All I need is a browser and my login data. And browsers are everywhere. I think there’s a possibility to use a Skype widget within a browser, but so far I have never used this feature.
  9. Faves I can store Twitter messages I like by fav’ing them.
  10. Fun I use Skype for work-related stuff. Twitter is for fun. I’m not twittering for the marketing effect. Just fun. I don’t care if 1000 people follow me or not.

And finally it’s art:
I learnt at LIFT 08, that I’m part of a giganormous art project.

Where else can you follow the different time zones having their first cup of coffee in the morning?

On Following Tweet Streams

I recently talked to Persillie on the difficulty of following people’s tweet streams. Esp. if you have a limited time budget and can only tune into Twitter every so often.

For example, I follow Kathy Sierra’s stream at Twitter. You can see quite a few of her 140 character statements in my Twitter Favorites.

Re: “PR is Dead?” meme–PR has same issue as UI design: it’s NOT something you can slap on afterward. Must be baked into product.

“Job happiness” should not have a single point of failure… but too often it ALL depends on your current boss. Bad managers REALLY suck.

Things Smart People Do: Martin Fowler (software dev pioneer) said he went to a ‘passionate users’ talk *because* he “doesn’t like the topic”

Powerful template 4 learning: “I will do Project A, to ‘force’ myself to learn Skill B” rather than “I must/will learn Skill B” @hrheingold

PR/marketing should fail when it’s about “getting word out”. If they’re about helping “users kick ass”, we’re good. Less pitch, more teach.

I see a huge overestimation of the importance of “social” in marketing/PR or product dev in general today.

etc, etc…

The difficulty arises when other Twitterers ask questions and Kathy responds. I don’t see the question and it gets much more difficult to follow.

Twitter is like a cocktail party. The music is so loud, sometimes you only hear parts of the answer.

Are there Twitter tools that help with this? The only tool I can think of is Twitter Search (formerly Summize).

Twitter, SMS and Africa

This recent Twitter announcement is disappointing on a personal level, but also on a more global level as White African discusses:

Twitter represents a change in communication. By acting as a global gateway for updates via SMS (or the web), that then updates all of your followers, Twitter succeeded in breaking ground in one-to-many messaging. There have been a couple times over the past year where Twitter was used in Africa to get news out that wasn’t possible in any other format.

And in the comment thread he explains:

What’s missing for it to work in Africa is not just the sending of updates, but the receiving of your contacts updates. That really is what created the network effect for Twitter, and why it can’t succeed where it’s not available.

In Africa, not having SMS is a deal killer. Though there would undoubtedly be users who access it through the web – as is true throughout the rest of the world, true penetration in Africa can only come through services that can be fully operational using only SMS. Why I think this is particularly disappointing is that those third generation Twitter services that could really serve the needs of both ordinary Africans and humanitarians globally will not be built now.

The really interesting thing to me, so that Twitter doesn’t have to shoulder the load by itself, is the opportunity to build services that are separate and independent, but also equal. I guess the closest analogy I have would be to Jabber in this case – where anyone can run a server and that makes the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.

A very interesting thread, which I’d like to recommend here.

My observations in Blantyre:

  • Despite the relative high cost, nearly everybody has a cell phone.
  • The top present to get for your girlfriend is a cell phone (!).
  • Most people use prepaid cards. See the current tariff plans at Zain (previously Celtel) and tnm.
  • Cell phones are helping to connect remote places, that never had a telephone connection. Villagers can hear more often and directly from family members that have moved to the cities or emigrated to SA, the USA and other countries. Farmers can compare market prices, receive weather updates. See Cy’s video.
  • Internet services are relatively expensive. Out of reach for personal use. Connecting via fixed line is slow and error prone. The way forward is wifi. Despite these encouraging developments, Internet will remain out of reach for most people for many years to come.


Web to SMS

for future reference:

I use Twitter’s direct messages to send out an occasional text message. I’m trying to set up a Twitter account for my family in Blantyre. The idea would be to DM them via Twitter. But somehow, the cell phone authentication is *not* working. (Any ideas?)

As an alternative, I found this page listing services that offer free text messages from a web interface, mostly for Switzerland:

A third alternative is to upload a couple of Euro/$/CHF to my Skype account and text directly from my Skype client. I’ve used this in the past for text messages and voice. Works great.

In search of power plugs

(start of yesterday’s train journey notes, pêle-mêle off the top of my head, unsorted)

Longer weekend ahead…

I’m sitting in a train to Mannheim and have some time to write a longer blog post and reflect on stuff that happened this week.

Somehow this week went by crazily fast and my todo list decreased by one item and increased by 456 items. Inwardly I’ve switched to turbo output mode.

But I did manage to go running twice. Yay. I’m twittering my jogging experiences. Before dissing Twitter, remember at all times that my tweets could be part of a bigger art project.

Is twittering art?

Since Twittervision is being exhibited at the MoMA in NYC, one of my tweets might display!

And incidentally if secondary scientific literature makes a book rise into the
hallowed ranks of literature studies, doesn’t an exhibition at the MoMA have at least the same “it is art” effect?

MacBook and Meetings

I need to improve my presentation skills on the MacBook. Couldn’t get the MacBook to display on the screen and the overhead simultaneously today. Don’t know if it’s linked to last weekend’s Leopard upgrade, but usually it auto-detects the projector. Aargh.

I’m thinking a lot about leadership. And how it differs from management. And how unsettling/unnerving/disorientating/frustrating it is to get different signals depending on the time of day or type of situation or who else is in the meeting. Reminds me of an old John C. Maxwell book I read many years ago how important it is to be people person leader.

(i’m sitting close to the train restaurant = smell of food)

(pause to find Swiss to German plug adapter and hook up power supply)

(just got hit on the arm by a huge white cello case walking by)

Things to do in Hannover:

Go to library (I miss Hannover libraries)
Go jogging on my old routes (che nostalgia!)
I might attend the BarCamp if i find some time

(pause to change trains in Mannheim)

I detect an over-use of cheap over-sweet perfume somewhere in my vicinity. Aaargh. My tip: Never ever save on perfume. Mi da’ veramente fastidio….

At least i found another seat with a power plug. Life is not getting easier with all of the devices and power cables and battery chargers. Half of my back pack is full of tech equipment.

(end of train journey notes)

Unfortunately all of the power plugs were out of order in the train compartment I was sitting in…
Weather is grey and wet. Planning to go see a show on Street Photography at the Sprengel Museum this afternoon.