Tag Archives: Twitter

Lily Allen, the Ashes, Twitter and the big fight

agnewAmongst all the post-Ashes euphoria, it’s been easy to miss the feud that’s developed between Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew and Observer sports writer Will Buckley. As it all revolves around Lily Allen it’s pretty interesting. What makes it very interesting is how important Twitter has been in fuelling it.

The spat started when Buckley wrote a comment piece about Agnew’s interview with Allen on Saturday. You can read the piece for yourself, but the long and short of it is that Buckley described Agnew’s interview technique as “firmly on the pervy side of things.”

Agnew took offence at being labelled a ‘pervert’ (though strictly speaking that’s not true), and demanded an apology from Buckley. With an apology unforthcoming, he then used Twitter to launch a viral campaign against his tormentor:

“I gave Will Buckley 24 hrs to apologise for calling me a pervert, and he has declined. If you feel moved by this….

“his boss is brian.oliver@observer.co.uk”

The background to the whole story is that Agnew has spent the summer delivering potted updates from the Ashes on Twitter. When Allen mentioned she was watching the cricket in one of her own Twitter posts, Agnew invited her to appear on A View from the boundary. Her upcoming appearance then became Twitter’s worst kept secret as she Tweeted about the attractiveness of Graham Onions, Stuart Broad and anyone else who owns a thigh-pad.

The interview itself featured Agnew playing up his love-struck schoolboy act and asking lots of questions that weren’t entirely about cricket. It was exactly what you’d expect of an interview between a middle-aged cricket correspondent, and a 24-year-old pop star who had only recently started watching the game.

I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of the interview or of Buckley’s article, but I will say that the interview was entirely harmless and that most people seemed to enjoy it. Buckley then wrote it up using language that was probably more inflammatory than was wise. However, I don’t see Buckley’s article as a personal attack – it was meant to be funny, and it only really exaggerated a persona that Agnew himself had adopted during the interview.

What has been astonishing though is the reaction of the Twitter community to Buckley’s piece. At the last count 235 people had left mostly negative comments on the Observer website, and Agnew’s Twitter feed has been inundated with messages of support.

But interestingly, the article itself isn’t the only thing Buckley has done to cause offence. The Twitter community seems to have taken umbrage with Buckley because he hadn’t bothered to find out the back-story of how Allen and Agnew had regularly sent each other Tweets before the show.

Agnew is on Twitter, and has won the hearts of the community by answering their questions and taking part. As Buckley isn’t on Twitter (as far as anyone knows), there seems to be a general feeling that he shouldn’t be attacking one of Twitter’s best beloved. Here are just a couple of posters on the first page of Buckley’s comments section:

“It’s terrible when a story like this is written when the author doesn’t know or understand the background. Everyone who regularly follows TMS and @aggerscricket would know how Aggers (and Tuffers and David Lloyd) has built up this interview for the last week.”

“As regards Buckley’s piece above, it is a nasty, jealous dig typical of journalists who are scared that Twitter and Web 2.0 will put them out of a job.”

Which just goes to show the power that Twitter has at the moment. If such a groundswell of opinion can be generated by some fairly harmless remarks, imagine what could happen if something serious was to occur. Not being on Twitter to take part in the conversation seems – in some Twitter users’ eyes – to be a serious offence, and one that renders non-participants unworthy of even expressing an opinion.

This is probably because everyone likes to feel part of something, and once they do they’ll angrily pounce on anyone who attacks one of their crew. This is clearly a massive over-reaction from the Twitterati, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

So watch out – Twitter is powerful, and it’s very easily offended.


The first rule of Twitter

fight club

What with me being new to Twitter, I’m not claiming for a second to be an expert. But what has struck me since I started using it is how many tweets I read which are exclusively about Twitter itself. You know the type – Twitter tips, how to get more followers, isn’t it great that we’re all connecting etc. etc.

I’m well aware that in my wide-eyed eagerness I did follow far too many ‘social media experts’ when I first started. So it’s likely I get more Twitter-related tweets than most. But I defy anyone to visit their Twitter profile at any one time and not see at least three or four messages referring solely to Twitter.

This completely self-referential form of communication seems to be unique. Facebook, for example, is not filled with groups telling you how to use Facebook more effectively. It’s for sharing pictures or sending party invites. Going back further, I’m pretty sure the Pony Express didn’t just carry lists of celebrities who used the Pony Express, messages saying how great it was that there was a Pony Express in the first place, and tips for grooming your pony better. It was a means to an end, and 90% of the time it pointed back to the real world. That doesn’t seem to apply to Twitter.

Now there’s nothing wrong with doing something for it’s own sake. People with cars sometimes just ‘go for a drive.’ But they also use their car for ‘real world’ tasks – going to work, collecting shopping, bank robberies. The car was an invention that solved a problem. Since Twitter has been invented, ‘real world’ uses for it have been a bit thin on the ground.

Social media that achieves nothing except the creation of more social media is a bit of a bugbear of mine. So I’m going to introduce a new rule. It’s copied shamelessly from Fight Club and I’m sure I’ll be the only person who follows it. But I’m hoping it will transform my Twitter experience into the kind of thing the evangelists bang on about.

The first rule of Twitter: You don’t talk about Twitter.

That means no more talking about Twitter online or in person (after this blog, obviously. I’m aware of the crippling irony). That also means unfollowing anyone who bangs on about Twitter tips all the time (sorry socmediaguru73). And it also means finding a way for it to help me, rather than just experimenting with it because everybody else is. I’ll let you know how I get on.

You say you want a revolution


According to John Lennon, peace will exist when enough people do it: ‘War is over, if you want it.’ It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy of course, is Twitter. It only exists because everyone uses it – stop tweeting and it will be no more.

Which brings me to the fact that the whole Web 2.0 experience (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, RSS feeds) hasn’t achieved much of any value yet. It has spawned a million ‘social media experts,’ and it has ensured that John Sergeant stayed in Strictly Come Dancing a few weeks longer than his dubious sense of rhythm warranted.

But that doesn’t seem very worthwhile for a network of millions of like-minded people. The French got ‘fraternity, libertie and egalitie’ without most of them being able to read. Mother Teresa nursed thousands without once referencing her BlackBerry Curve.

So it’s about time someone used all this technology to actually change the world. Yoko Ono is making an effort on Twitter (@yokoono). One of her tweets this afternoon was ‘War is over, if you want it,’ which got me thinking about all this in the first place. But she’s too much of a lunatic hippy to be effective, so I’m going to have make most of the changes myself.

Promoting this site – www.freerice.com – seems like a good start. It helps feed the hungry and also teaches you lots of nifty words – a win-win for a copywriting / world –changing blog like this one.

I’ve not got any other great ideas for my new movement at the moment, but keep checking back. And get in touch if you’ve got any others you think I should know about – there are plenty of ways to get hold of me these days.

The most boring man on Twitter


Let me make something clear first – I love this guy. I love the way he goes out of his way to talk to fans, I love his earnest passion for his job, and I especially love his incredibly appropriate surname. But the most boring man on Twitter? Nick Swisher.

As a baseball fan who’s lived in England all my life, I was genuinely excited when the Suggested Users page told me I could follow dear Nick. I’m not quite sure what I expected from him, but I think I was hoping for some insight into what being a baseball player was actually like.  Clearly, I didn’t think I’d signed up for the inside scoop on A-Rod and Jete’s latest heart to heart. But I did think I might get something that was, well, interesting. Here instead, are his latest tweets:

Busy morning…got tons done. Happy to be back in NY

Great win last night! Let’s keep it going!

Good game last night and something to build on for tonight. Heading to park. Can’t wait to get back home to NY.

Morning folks.

Nice win for us tonight! Great 7th!

Now I’m not saying that these stunningly matter-of-fact tweets aren’t useful for those of us who didn’t get a chance to check the score last night. Or who weren’t sure whether we’d made it into the afternoon yet. But they’re about as insightful as a man who leaves a bulldog and a plate of sausages in a locked room and then comes back an hour later and wonders where his lunch has gone.

I’m certain that Nick lives a life that’s incredibly interesting to his fans. His everyday routine – how he stays fresh over an epic schedule, what he thinks about an hour before a game, what the players talk about in the dugout – may not thrill him, but his thousands of followers would love to hear the details. That’s why they followed him in the first place.

Unfortunately Nick’s playing it safe at the moment, and sticking so close to the party line that even the Yankees’ PR department must be getting bored. I don’t blame him – sportsmen get so much media training these days that every trace of personality is washed out before they reach puberty.

But Twitter isn’t a medium that allows you to be bland or innocuous. You’re competing against 1000s of other voices and you’ve got 140 characters to send out a hook to your followers. They want news, gossip, a joke or some personality. Send an automated response and they just won’t bother.

I’m going to keep following Nick because he’s a Yankee and he keeps hitting home runs. But I hope he develops a bit of confidence and starts to tell us the things we didn’t see. Otherwise, he’s going to remain as Twitter’s most glorified scoreboard.

How to fit your Tweets into 140 characters


There are plenty of blogs about how to use fewer characters and fit more into your Tweets. But I’ve not come across many guides that deal with this problem from a copywriting perspective. Here are a few simple tricks that can help you write more concisely and cram more of your brilliance into each Tweet. And to show you how easy it to fit an idea into a Tweet, each tip is less than 140 characters long.

1. Keep yourself out of it

Don’t say ‘my’ or ‘I am’. If you’re writing a tweet it’s a fairly safe bet you’re talking about yourself. So don’t reiterate.

2. Hyphens – are quicker

Use hyphens to skip to another idea mid-sentence – you’ll save words as you don’t have to finish the sentence formally.

3. Keep superlatives short

When using superlatives, save space by only writing the superlative. Awesome. In a short tweet it’s obvious what you’re praising. Fantastic.

4. Make common phrases shorter

Turn longer phrases into shorter ones: ‘In order to’ > ‘to’. ‘Because’ > ‘as’. ‘At the moment’ > ‘now’. ‘Unable to’ > ‘Can’t’.

5. Get rid of ‘that’

You’ll usually find that you can get rid of ‘that’. Read the last sentence again without the first ‘that’. See – you can. So eliminate ‘that’.

6. Save words with descriptive verbs

Use descriptive verbs to paint a picture with one word. So ‘stormed’ instead of ‘walked quickly’, ‘promote’ instead of ‘tell people’.

I’m Yammering away…


We’ve just started using Yammer at work. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s very similar to Twitter. Users write a question or a short update on what they’re doing that can be read by everyone who ‘follows’ them. Everyone who reads the update can write their own response and gradually a community conversation starts. A bit like in the picture above.

Unlike Twitter however, Yammer is only for internal communications within one company – you must have a Carphone Warehouse email address to sign up for our group. In theory this eliminates the background noise and constant interruptions from Stephen Fry that can make using Twitter a bit like wading through a pile of someone else’s mail.

And so far I’m very impressed. Carphone is a big company based in several sites across the country. Obviously, this can make communication difficult – no one who works on our Preston site is going to ‘pop down for a quick chat’ with me in London. But on Yammer such geographical trifles aren’t a problem.

The other day I needed some feedback on a web page I’m writing about BlackBerry App World. I wanted to know if customers were having problems using it and what sort of questions they were calling our contact centre to ask. Previously getting this sort of feedback would have been a nightmare – I’d have had to track down the right person and then exchange a series of emails or phone calls with someone hundreds of miles away.

Instead of all that, Yammer let me type out a short question and chuck it out to everyone who was logged on. Within half an hour three or four people (several of whom I didn’t know before) had come back to me with suggestions about what I needed to consider.

It wasn’t just the speed that impressed me. The inclusive nature of Yammer means that everyone who could help with my problem did – even if I didn’t know who they were. That’s some pretty efficient social networking – if only someone could find a similar use for Facebook.