Suggestions for getting started with Twitter

twitter As a fan of Twitter, I often find myself telling others about the service (you might argue that me being a fan is not as relevant as me being addicted). I do my best to explain that you can’t really explain Twitter. It’s one of those things that you have to experience before you get it. Michael Martine does a good job of describing this in his post Twitter is like sex.

I also try to offer some advice on how to get started. The most important thing I mention is actually #8 on this list, but I wanted to approach it from the perspective of just registering for the site.

Here are my top ten suggestions for getting started with Twitter:

  1. Pick a good username. If you already have a username you tend to use around the web, stick with that. If you’re coming up with something new, make it easy to type and to say verbally. Try to avoid names that might look “spammy”, such as “john351” or something like that.
  2. Keep your tweets public. I’m not really sure what the point of joining Twitter is if you’re just going to keep everything private. Besides, Twitter truly shines when it can aggregate everyone’s tweets together, and it can only do that with public tweets.
  3. Change the default background/theme. I see that there are a bunch of new defaults, but I still think it’s a good idea to personalize your profile a little. It makes a difference when others are looking at your page deciding whether or not to follow you. Don’t go overboard here though. Some services let you create a background full of text and other information, but I think those look messy.
  4. Enter your website URL if you have one. One of the first things I’ll do when looking at a new profile is click the web link. It’s a great way to learn more about the person. It won’t drive a ton of traffic to your site, but it doesn’t hurt either.
  5. Set your location correctly. It might seem funny to set your location to something random like “my room” but setting your location properly makes it easier for others to find you. I think the format “city, state/province, country” works best because then others can search by all three criteria.
  6. Post some tweets before you follow others. Shortly after you follow someone, they’ll likely be looking at your profile. If it is empty or contains only a tweet or two, chances are they won’t follow you back.
  7. Go easy on the following at first. If you try to follow hundreds of people all at once, you’ll likely be flagged as a spammer by Twitter. Even if you aren’t, it looks bad to be following 500 people without any followers of your own.
  8. Follow users who live where you do. This is my favorite suggestion, because I think it’s the quickest way to get value out of Twitter. People often complain that a tweet like “Calgary Trail is a parking lot” seems mundane, but to others in the area it can be really useful (that’s a busy road here in Edmonton). By following other locals, you’ll reduce the number of tweets that seem mundane.
  9. Learn the lingo and etiquette. It’s quite simple really. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, an update is called a tweet. If you start your tweet with @username, then it’s a reply and it’ll show up on the replies tab for that user. Something like #yeg is called a hashtag, and it’s basically a way of categorizing your tweets. If someone tweets something that you’d like to reshare, start your tweet with RT @username (or you can use “retweet” instead of “RT” if you like).
  10. Start using Twitter Search right away. I can’t stress this enough – Twitter Search is what really makes Twitter useful. I always have a tab open with a search for “mastermaq”, so that I can see any tweets that reference me. I also use it to find out what people think of the latest movie, or to find links on a topic I’m interested in. Make Twitter Search your best friend – you won’t regret it!

Those are my suggestions. The only other thing I would mention is to be interesting, but that’s harder to define. I think the most interesting users on Twitter post a combination of random tweets, replies, and links. As with anything else, you can learn a lot by simply paying attention and observing others.

Have I missed anything? What are your suggestions? Let me know!

Happy Tweeting 🙂

Strange WordPress error

I was doing some work on the servers tonight, and as part of that installed the latest batch of Windows updates. Restarted the servers, and continued working on something else. A little while later my Dad texted me, and said the blogs were down. That’s strange I thought, everything looked like it was running fine. So I got on a test connection and loaded up my blog, only to find this message:

Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL which is required for WordPress.

Bizarre! I hadn’t changed anything with WordPress, PHP, or MySQL. So I entered the message in Google and started going through results. (As an aside, is it just me or is the sentence grammatically incorrect? Specifically the part that says “the MySQL”…)

Lots of people have had this problem, apparently, and I went through dozens of search results until I found this one. His first five steps are the same as many other solutions, but his sixth step was new, and it actually worked for me:

add an environment variable “PHPRC” with the value of your php directory, this is key

That was key indeed. I have no idea why I didn’t need that before, and I have no idea why it makes things work now, but I’m glad it does. If you are unsure of how to add an environment variable, see this Microsoft support page (the steps are the same in both XP and Server 2003).

I suspect the solution to this problem is slightly different for everyone, but hopefully if you stumble across this post the PHPRC suggestion will help.

Read: Fighting Monsters

A simple tip to make Outlook 2007 faster

Post ImageI use Outlook all the time, so the many problems I have found with the newest version drive me nuts. Especially the speed issue. As a result, I have spent far too much time looking for a solution. I think I finally found one though as Tris explains:

One of the big problems folks have been having with Office 2007 is Outlook. Frankly, it can be a serious dog. Sluggish, serious performance lags. All the things you don’t want in your “latest and greatest” e-mail client.

Looks like, thanks to Mack D. Male, there is a solution…I did this last night and I think it’s working.

I appreciate the nod Tris, but I’m just the messenger. Full thanks should go to Monty and Dell. Who’s Monty? Beats me. But he posted the message on the Microsoft discussion groups with the solution he got from Dell. Instructions are in the post, and in Tris’ post too, but basically the tip is to turn off all the addins in Outlook. You need to be running Outlook as an Administrator when you do this, and you should also restart Outlook after you turn them off.

I have tried this tip on two machines – one where Outlook is a POP3 client, and one where Outlook connects to Exchange. The biggest difference appears on the first one, but both seem faster when selecting messages, changing views, etc. Downloading mail doesn’t appear much faster yet. The only addin I left checked is the Windows Search Indexing.

Microsoft still needs to fix Outlook, but hopefully this tip will help you in the meantime. Let me know if it works for you!

Read: Pimp Your Work