End User social networking

Never, ever change your Twitter handle by @LindseyAnnison

twitter online profile Here is my experience of handing over my beloved and much-used Twitter handle, plus associated domain names, email addresses and contacts, to a good cause.

To cut a very long story into one (longish) paragraph, Digital Dales started out as a voluntary organisation helping Yorkshire Dales businesses to go online in 1999-ish; watched all our tourist businesses, agriculture and industry nearly be dragged into oblivion by the stinking, greasy smoke of the Foot & Mouth pyres in 2001; morphed into a broadband event organiser, run by a rural broadband obsessive, to try to get everyone online firstly whilst the countryside was shut, and then because it was and is vital to rural survival anyway. In 2013, wanting a change of direction in my own life, I decided to hand over the name to a community group doing Digital in the Dales – Fibregarden, who are installing fibre optics (FTTH) to every home and farm in Garsdale and Dent because BT didn’t feel like doing IT.

I thought it would just be a matter of transferring the domain names, and handing over the Twitter account – change the password, start tweeting, folks. Oh, how naïve!

End User social networking

happy birthday to me – blog is 5 today & I celebrate with a Twitter story

harbour lights cafeHard to believe but exactly five years ago today I posted my first blog piece on It coincides very closely with my fifth anniversary on Twitter. Since then I’ve written 1,616 posts – also hard to believe. 30,517 tweets in that time. I’m not going to dwell on the interim five years. The world has changed.

Even though it is the sabbath I’m going to celebrate with a nice Twitter story:

peel sunriseThis weekend I’m staying with me dear old mam and dad in the Isle of Man. On Saturday morning I wandered down into a drizzling Peel and made for The Harbour Lights Café. It’s one of my faves. A classic seaside café with a quality product and a very relaxing atmosphere. It’s the sort of place to go when it’s raining out and there isn’t that much else to do. You can almost picture the scene: the occasional umbrella walks past the window, the raindrops saunter down the glass, every now and then a car whooshes by, a pot of tea and a plate of crumpets arrive at your table.

On this occasion the Harbour Lights was closed. You can’t imagine my disappointment. A real wave of emotion came over me. I looked in through the windows and walked around the outside of the building. It took me a while to realise that I was early. It opened at 10am. The time was exactly 10am and it being, as you know, one of my fave caffs I was quite prepared to give it some leeway, forgiveness. As I crossed the road to the promenade a car pulled up and a girl got out and proceeded to unlock the front door.

I walked off and crossed to Fenella Beach and the breakwater. Not many people around. It was classic Manx weather. The day before had been beautifully sunny. Today we were back to mists and white topped seas. I was comfortable with this. At the beach there were some kids kitted out in safety gear clambering over the rocks with an instructor type. I wandered on to the breakwater and climbed the steps to look out over the water.

On other occasions I’ve been able to spot a basking shark from that position. Not today. Even the basking sharks were staying away. A couple of bikers, helmets in hand, walked around the castle and a bloke in an old Rover sat there smoking with the engine on. Turn it off man!

A fisherman was lowering scallop dredging kit onto his boat. I stopped for a chat. There are only two weeks left of the season. It starts again on November 1st. When you think about it the sea floor needs time to recover and for the creatures to bring on the next generation. A good haul is twenty bags on a trip but at this time of year you are lucky to come in with ten.

The rain spotted the lenses of my specs and I figured it was time to move on and back to the Harbour Lights. I got there at the same time as a young couple and sat at a table looking out onto the promenade. Tea and crumpets ordered I settled in to Twitter availing myself of the caff’s free WiFi.

At this point I’ll let my tweets tell the story:

@tref: Live tweeting from @harbour_lights cafe on the prom in Peel using their free wifi. Crumpets & tea for brunch

@tref: @harbour_lights is one of my fave caffs.nice sitting here in the window watching the rain run down the glass

@tref: Listening to beegees muzak @harbour_lights – almost nodding off

@tref: Just seen the size of @harbour_lights special breakfast-huge. (I should be on commission here) 🙂

That one was retweeted by @harbour_lights which was nice –  I felt that the café was reaching out and engaging with me its customer. The young couple who had arrived at the same time as me were tucking into huge plate of “full Manx” – the Harbour Lights special.

@tref: There is no rush

@tref: This reminds me of my student days – sitting around all day drinking tea

At this point the waitress came and asked me if everything was ok and did I want some more hot water in my tea pot. I declined and said she could bring the bill whenever she was ready. A short while later she came back and said that the bill had been taken care of. The boss had rung up and said it was all on the house having seen my tweets.

@tref: Thanks @harbour_lights for brightening up a dank day & thanks for the tea and crumpets  )

I left the café with a smile on may face. That was a great experience.  My suggestion of commission was a bit of fun – tongue in cheek. @harbour_lights is a good business. They understand how to build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The smile stayed on my face all the way home through the rain.

It’s amazing the effect that a smile has you know. I passed one woman who smiled back at me. As I got towards the White House pub there was a bloke stood outside in his work gear having a cigarette. He smiled back at me. Not normally the sort of thing a grown bloke does to another bloke he doesn’t know.


In a nutshell that is how the world has changed since I started to write this blog.

End User social networking

twitter follower building strategies

Follow tref on Twitterfwiw I have at the time of writing 2,271 followers and am followedTrefor Davies by 1,388. The reason that I have more followers than I follow is that I only follow back real people with something to say or a business that is in my area of interest where I think I might learn something. I also follow back businesses local to where I live unless their tweets just focus on saying “buy my left handed widget” on a repetitive basis. I’ve blogged all this before so nothing new here for regular readers.

Last week I was sat at my desk trying to upgrade to Widows8 and whilst the machine was doing its stuff I gave our IT guy Jared a driving lesson on Twitter. I had a new follower! Oo 🙂

Looking at this follower I noted that he had 9,000 followers but only followed less than 1,000 himself (actually it wasn’t a he it was a company). This was very suspicious. I could understand if it was a celebrity account. I had never heard of this company before, had no reason to engage with them but they had followed me. I was unlikely that they were particularly interested in me. Their intent was almost certainly for me to follow then back and very likely, having gained a new follower, proceed to unfollow me. That could be the only reason they had a 9:1 ratio of followers to follows.

As an experiment I followed them back and made a note to check on Monday (today) whether they were still following me. Lo and behold, surprise surprise, knock me down with a feather they weren’t.

I have now unfollowed them – there is no reason for me to stay with them because they aren’t interested in me as a person. They just want me to be interested in them. There is something wrong somewhere with that business model. How can a business succeed if it just wants to take and not give anything back.

Anyway that’s my missive for a Monday morning. Gotta go.  Awards entries to write and customer meetings to prepare for.


Business social networking

Twitter customer service models – @metoffice is great

Over the last two weekends I have had two experiences with customer support using Twitter which I shall relate to you.

The bank holiday weekend was it’s usually showery with sunny spells and I was lying in my tent in Woodhall Spa watching the Twitter stream, albeit in stops and starts due to the terrible  mobile data connectivity you get in parts of the countryside.

I follow the @metoffice  twitter account and noticed the handover from the night shift. Every time this happens the new “duty tweeter” asks people to tweet in questions about the weather. For me this has always been a one way twitter account but on this occasion I asked whether the rain forecast for the Monday would stay away long enough for me to dry the tens and pack it away.

This is the engagement:

(me 08.09am) @metoffice I’m in woodhall spa.will the tent have time to dry out before it rains again?

(response 08.38am) @tref Yes just about, although soon becoming cloudy… you can expect rain later this afternoon, about 2pm ish ^JVS

Last night. ie Sunday evening, I was trying to book a train ticket and the website kept grinding to a halt whenever I got to the point of paying.

(me 20.41pm) @eastcoastuk your payment gateway is so slow it’s going backwards tonight. I’m trying to buy a load of advance tix

(response 10.44 next day) @tref Apologies, if you are experiencing problems using your rewards, contact Web Support 08457225111

Now I happen to like I frequent London quite regularly (frequently) and the train firm, by and large, provides me with a good service.

It is interesting however to note the difference in twitter response. The @metoffice response left me thinking “wow what a great service” and that of @eastcoastuk didn’t.  Moreover I was trying to spend money with and the MetOffice provides me with everything free of charge. Also @metoffice is manned by people who tell you their names. Clearly @eastcoastuk is not a 24*7 twitter account. I’m not saying they need to change , they run their own business the way they want to run it. I’m just highlighting the difference.

I have the MetOffice app running on my GalaxyS3. I’d get it if I were you, especially if you like camping.

PS the Met Office is looking for advertisers – their app has a small banner space that always seems to read “Advertise Here”. Worth taking a look if you are selling to people who rely on the weather for work or play.

agricultural Business social networking

Hreodburna – a Twittersphere tour with farmer Christopher Day – some images not for those with weak constitutions

The Red Lion Inn in Redbourne Lincolnshire has a fire stationI met Christopher Day on Twitter. I’ve no idea when.The wooden cross on the green in Redbourne People follow you. You follow people. You start to connect. Connect often enough you begin to notice and engage with them which is what I’ve done with Christopher. His Twitter name is @themanorhousebb.

I’ve met him a couple of times before today, once at LincUpLive and then again at LincsTweetMeet. During some online conversation I mentioned that my favourite vegetable is the pea.  Christopher grows peas and he invited me to see some pea picking in action.

Hreodburna, which in Old English means reedy burn, is as you may know, the historical name for  Redbourne in Lincolnshire. Redbourne is your idyllic English village and was to me only previously known for its pub.  The Red Lion is a wonderful  17th Century coaching Inn and a stopping off point for LincolnThe old Hadley, Simpkin and Lott fire engine in redbourne RFC on the way back from away matches in the North of the county.

The car park of the Red Lion on this occasion was the place that I had arranged to meet Christopher to go and see some vining action.

What I would never have noticed in my rugby playing days was the fact that attached to the Red Lion is a fire station containing an original horse drawn fire engine (click on the header photo for a better view of the fire station). Made in 1831The paddock at the Red Lion Inn in Redbourne Lincolnshire used to hold the horse that pulled the fire engine by Hadley, Simpkin and Lott of London the engine is manually operated with bars on either side that were raised and lowered to pump water.

The sign in the fire station window informs the enquiring mind:  “The rural disturbances of 1830-1 provoked at least 28 cases of Arson in Lincolnshire. The owner of the Redbourne Estate, the Duke of St Albans certainly owned an engine by 1834 and it is reasonable to presume that this is the same engine, bought to protect his property. There was no county fire service in Lincolnshire until 1948.”fishing in Lincolnshire

The horse for the fire engine lived in a paddock at the back of the Inn and the first job the firemen  had before attending an incident was to catch it.

Things have moved on from those days. We moved on to see the pea harvest which is going to be the subject of another post. In the meantime Christopher was kind enough to show me around his farm which includes some carp fishing lakes. I offer here some photos of one of the lakes – a hugely relaxing place to spend a day. Note the bait set up. Click on the thumbnail photo for a close up shot of somebait (maggots) do not click if you have a medical condition of the bait – not for the faint of heart.

Alternatively watch the short video (18 years and over only). Amazing where you can get using Twitter isn’t it?

End User social networking

Twitter engagement – Lincolnshire Police & Lincoln Prison

All is at peace at dawn outside Lincoln PrisonWe can see Lincoln prison from the back of our house. Last night there was a helicopter out there circling for some time. I took a a pic but it was too dark.

I tweeted “helicopter circling Lincoln prison – wonder what’s going on”.

This morning I got a reply from @Lincspolice (ie Lincolnshire Police) saying “@tref We were searching for a missing person”

Pretty good proactive PR I’d say. Lots of organisations could learn from them. I’ve followed them. I’m follower number 5,592.

Header photo is the view at dawn from our house over towards Lincoln prison – v arty I think.

End User mobile connectivity social networking

Zen and the art of battery conservation

I’m sat in a pub in Covent Garden in a race against time. I’m meeting Dr Sue Black at 4pm for a chat about stuff. She is, unfortunately, on a train stuck in the sidings at Wimbledon because someone is trying to commit suicide in Wimbledon station.

These things happen. V sad. The problem is that my phone is running low on juice as is Sue’s. I have the laptop but nowhere to plug it in. I could probably move to find somewhere to charge my phone (I only have a USB cable to attach it to the laptop) but I then run the risk that Sue’s phone battery will run out and she won’t know where I am. I don’t actually need the phone at my end as long as I have power left in the laptop because we are staying in touch using Twitter.

I have plenty of time. It is now 4.48 and my train is not until 7.06 (pm). I can plug both phone and laptop in on the train so I just need to husband resources until then. Also there are only so many glasses of mineral water a man can take…

Little glimpses of life in the early days of the mobile internet – real life drama lived out in Twittercolour on the www.

End User social networking

Simple guide to being a real person who someone might want to engage with on Twitter

For me one of life’s little disappointments is to see that I have lots of new Twitter “followers” only to find that they aren’t worth following back. Sounds a little high and mighty?

My approach to life is that I am only here the once so I might as well make the most of it. Because of that I treat all waking hours as potentially time to be doing work but because I enjoy what I do I don’t necessarily consider it to be a chore. In addition I try to make my workplace a fun place to be.

Also I have a major vested interest in the success of the business I work for because I am a shareholder. It is in my interest to be on the case more often than not and I am not therefore a someone who switches off when I leave the office.
I use Twitter a lot – for much of my waking day. The platform suits my natural gregariousness and it gets used for a mix of purposes that reflects my approach to life – that is a mix of work and play.

On it I tweet:

  • work stuff – usually blog posts on but also links to online articles that I think relevant to the business, industry or things I cover on the blog
  • non work stuff – usually creative writing posted on – latest post here 🙂
  • and inanities that perhaps reflect my personality and which people can either gel or identify with or chose to ignore/unfollow – it’s a free world and a reflection of what happens in real life and not just online.

It is always exciting to get new followers on Twitter. At the time of writing I have 1,777 followers. However I only follow 1,058 people back. So what do I (quite reasonably) hear you say?

The point is that it is such a source of disappointment to see that you have new followers but not to think it is worth following them back. I’m a fairly easy going bloke so why don’t I follow these people?

To some extent this is because, just like in real life, you wouldn’t “be friends” with everybody you meet. The criteria for making this decision are however somewhat wider when applied to Twitter.

Whilst I do use Twitter to sell as part of the mix described above I don’t want a constant stream of sales pitches. In fact any sales pitch has to be so soft as to be almost not discernible (feel free to knock me down at this point if you think this cynically doesn’t reflect my own tweets).

Of my last 40 followers I only follow 18 of them back. The ones I don’t follow have profiles that suggests they can help me with things. These include:

  • finding a mortgage
  • finding a job
  • finding a franchise to run
  • making a fast buck
  • helping me market my business
  • etc etc etc

Drilling into the tweets of these followers they are invariably one way broadcasts offering advice, thanking new followers for the follow, selling left handed widgets (for example) or simply retweeting “interesting” stuff posted by others.

If someone wants to be followed back they need to be seen to be someone interesting or engaging enough to chat with in a pub or coffee shop. In fact one of the wonders of the Twitter world is that if you have already chatted with someone on Twitter then when you meet them in real life they seem to be very easy to get on with – you already have many things in common to talk about.

Sometimes “real people” don’t get followed back. Often their profile has no information on the person and not much in the way of tweets at all giving me no help with deciding whether to follow them. Also if someone looks implausibly attractive (I get suspicious – no offence intended girls) or as in one recent case, only tweets in Chinese, then they probably won’t get followed.

Although there are some journalists and news accounts I follow but who don’t follow me back I don’t usually follow people for long if they don’t follow back. It isn’t a personal thing. It’s just that I feel social networking isn’t a one way medium.

In the same way many of the accounts that follow me but don’t get followed back unfollow me after a week or two. Quite satisfying really. These are often accounts that simply seem collect followers because they presumably feel this is the right way to build influence. You have to question this when you see people who follow 70,000 people and have 70,000 followers in return. Who is going to notice anything in that stream? Also I often wonder how on earth do some people go about finding me on Twitter! Businesses advice in the Minneapolis area? No thanks.

The rules aren’t hard and fast. I often follow local businesses even if they are “just selling”. It seems reasonable to support your local businesses online in the same way as you might buy stuff from local high street shops. I also follow some businesses in my industry for competitive information purposes.

This has been a longer than usual post and many may not have stuck with it to this point. I understand:)

I will finish the rambling though with the observation/fact that I get many cold calls and unsolicited emails from people wanting to engage (sell). Most of them get filtered out because otherwise I would spend my whole day listening to pitches.

If you want to make it past the gatekeeper the best way is to first develop a non work relationship on Twitter. A subsequent work related approach via email is then less likely to be ignored because of course we will already know each other. Twitter isn’t a medium for selling but it is great for warming up the contact.

To help facilitate this my business card nowadays contains only my Twitter username (@tref) and no email or phone contact details. All the contact info you need is in any case findable online.

I have just realised Twitter is short for Tref’s witterings.  Better go.

That’s all folks 🙂

charitable Cloud datacentre End User social networking surveillance & privacy

The social media summary of the world record attempt

UK trending for @tref & #comment24 on twitter The world record attempt started at 6am on Thursday 5th Feb and ended at 6am the following day. There are three stories to tell here. The first is the charity fundraising aspect that was covered on Friday.

Second is the social media story. This was an event largely promoted using the #comment24 hashtag on twitter but the story was also posted on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. The effort also caught the imagination of a good number of friendly journalists as the list of names in the table of top referrers for 5th Jan illustrates.

referring site

# visits


time on site

1 (Twitter)





























































In all according to Google Analytics there were 162 referring sites over the 5th and 6th January. A Google search for

Engineer internet online safety security

Vint Cerf, Internet 2, Project Phoenix, Twitter, BYOD & #ITDF

Jonathan Radford our CFO is one of the least techy guys you could hope to meet.  He is often also the source of ideas for this “technical” blog because technology now reaches absolutely everyone on this planet one way or another.

Today he came up for a chat about Internet 2 and Project Phoenix and left me with a newspaper clipping from the FT (I said he wasn’t a techy – anyone else would have sent me a link). The point is though that the technology related article interested him because he could understand its implications for him personally.

The article concerned internet pioneer Vint Cerf’s comments re the need to start again with internet security. The internet is an open network currently running on the basis of trust. Starting again Cerf says he “would have put a much stronger focus on authenticity or authentication” and quoted Ori Eisen’s Project Phoenix as an example of the way forward (see original FT article for more on this).

You only have to note the recent spate of

End User Regs social networking

We must take care not to destroy the civil liberties we value when considering a response to the riots

We live, always, in interesting times. The global finance system is in crisis, again. There have been riots on the streets, again, with courts working through the night to process the cases of criminals caught breaking, stealing, committing acts of arson, violence, disturbing the peace, assault and grievous bodily harm.

It is natural to react strongly against this and I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone particularly busting a gut to defend the perpetrators. A petition has been started asking that anyone found involved in these illegal activities be deprived of their benefits.

Social media seems to have played a part in the organisation of these riots as does BlackBerry Messenger and the Prime Minister in his speech to the commons today said:

Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

This is great in principle but of course not as easy to implement. Also how do we know in advance that they are plotting violence? Do we monitor everybody’s social networks one on the off chance that someone is plotting to do wrong?

For what the PM is asking for there is a parallel in the world of mobile communications. During times of emergency the cellular network can be switched off for everyone except the Emergency Services.  This is down to the need to keep the low call carrying capacity network open for priority communications rather than a desire to stop miscreants using the service.

The situation is slightly different as regards social networking and we have to take great care that we don’t overreact. Twitter, for example, was being used to channel help just as much as BBM may have been used to coordinate the riots. Moreover the fact that these people are communicating using social media tools is likely to be a means to actually tracking them down and arresting them. People have already started being reported for telling friends on Facebook what they have been up to.

There are other parallels concerning internet technologies and the desire of government to control them – website blocking and filtering for example. Where do you draw the line and who decides when a website should be blocked? It has to be a judge. The same applies when considering situations of social unrest as we have just been seeing.

On balance I suggest that we must take great care when considering the application of control over social networks that the PM is calling for.

Note that at the time of writing the HM Government e-petition site has crashed and you get the following message:

competitions End User

Guess the name of the Beckham baby competition – big prize

I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of the Beckhams and have been following all the latest news about the imminent birth of their fourth baby. I’m a big softie really.

Anyway we have been speculating around the office as to what the name might be. Milton Keynes,  Northampton, or even Peckham? Of course I’m not sure I even know what sex it is going to be (even though I have MarieClaire and Hello Magazine bookmarked) although that probably won’t matter when it comes to a name.

So in the interest in participating in the fun around the birthday I have decided to run a guess the baby’s name competition. Please enter your guesses as comments. The winner will receive a fine Timico mug in the post. I’m sure that this will be something they will cherish as a memento of the birth for years to come.

On this occasion, because it is such a happy event, entries are also open to Timico employees, their families and anyone they have ever met – even very casual acquaintances  whose name you can’t actually remember.

I’m looking forward to following the birth live on Twitter – If I know those clever folks at @hellomag they will have secured the tweeting rights. Follow the #hellomag or #beckhambaby hashtags to stay up to the minute with all the contractions (or incisions).

To get the ball rolling I am going to suggest Brian if it is a boy and Catherine if it is a girl. Good luck. It’s a great mug to win. Note if there are any issues re spelling etc my decision is final 🙂

PS I wonder if the Beckhams would like a Timico mug. They always come in handy you know and with 4 kids…

PPS I met David Beckham once you know at the launch of Virgin Media Business – photo here.


End User social networking

Is #Google+ going to be the answer to my social media management problems?

The Twitter stream started up this morning with a favoured few people talking about their initial reactions to Google+. This is the new Facebook competitor from Google. I am not on the Google+ trials. There is a modicum of envy in this post but not too much.

I want to play with Google+ as a new toy. Something that will allow me to drop into conversation “Oh haven’t you got it yet? I’ll see if I can get you an invite” 🙂

However there is also an element of trepidation.  “Oh no not another social networking platform”.

Clearly Google wants a competitor to Facebook that will stop any erosion of marketing money away from its own coffers. Not so far back it tried Google Wave, the new email experience. As I recall it was meant to be a step in the Facebook direction. That product was far too clunky and I dropped it very quickly. I don’t know anyone that uses it now.

The initial comments from the cognoscenti (ie those give trial accounts) seem favourable but notwithstanding this  I truly hope that it will be easy to populate a friends list.  I spent a long time tracking down old friends on Facebook and the idea of having to rebuild the list on a new platform seems daunting to the point of not wanting to do it.  Somehow though I can’t see Facebook just letting Google extract a whole data set in order to make it easier for them to compete.

My networked life is now partitioned thus:

  • Twitter is my main means of communication – to the extent that my next batch of business cards will only read “@tref”. It’s all anyone should need to find me.
  • Facebook is constrained to people I actually know and in truth I now only use it to keep in touch with my kids
  • LinkedIn – I have changed my views on LinkedIn. This site has evolved and I can see that it could be quite a useful business tool.  I don’t use it much and in fact I don’t see why a super platform that allowed me to have a single list of friends but enables me to partition them into work and play should not be possible. Might Google+ be this? Don’t know yet but it would get around the need to have too many sites to manage.

Otherwise the other communications methods available to me are Microsoft Exchange email for work and gmail for (play!?”).  My phone integrates both these platforms including contacts. It can also do the same for Facebook and LinkedIn. I already find multiple address book entries an issue though. Using a single social networking platform would get around this.

So there you go.  I want Google+ to be Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all in one giving me a single platform to manage everything including my emails.

Who thinks this is what Google+ is going to be? I guess we will find out soon enough. You can put a request to be a trialist here.


End User social networking surveillance & privacy

My personal guidelines for following people on Twitter

I have been using Twitter for over three years now. Although there seems to be a huge industry and ecosystem building up around the platform I view it all simply as

  1. an alternative to a newspaper (I often hear news first on Twitter) and
  2. a social networking tool – basically what it says on the tin.

Whilst there is no real science as to how I go about using Twitter I have surprised myself and evolved a few rules of thumb to help manage my timeline.

By and large I only follow people, not businesses – usually characterised by “we are having an offer on left handed widgets this week” or similar. This is not a hard rule because there are some businesses there that I take an interest in – competitors and suppliers typically. It might also be a business local to where I live. Sometimes these factors outweigh the fact that their tweets might not be that interesting.

I also typically don’t follow people who are clearly trying to sell me something; “marketing experts”, “financial services experts” or people offering “advice to business”. Usually the timelines of these twitter accounts have one way selling advice/messages. I have sometimes taken a gamble here and found that I made a mistake (eg timeline gets filled with advice, often repeats) and subsequently unfollowed that person. Usually they unfollow me back very soon after. This isn’t a personal thing.

Basically I feel it is a two way street. Normal people that I can have normal conversations with are ok. So if someone follows me who is a “normal person” I follow them back after taking a look at their tweets. I often come across people I follow through specific hashtags (eg #deappg, #deact or #digitalbritain). Birds of a feather and all that.

I sometimes follow people who then don’t follow me back. This is ok – I have taken to following people who’s judgement / comments I am interested in. I don’t look for reciprocity though it is nice if they do follow back.

I tend not to follow celebrities. Usually they have enough followers anyway and are unlikely to be particularly interested in engaging with me.

I recently started to look to see who was unfollowing me, largely to try and understand whether I was annoying people (I’m a great believer in live and let live – life is too short to go round being an irritant). The vast majority are the businesses and “experts” who I haven’t followed back recently – a result really. No harm done.

Sometimes normal people unfollow me. This does make you think a bit but actually in real life you don’t make friends with everyone you know – some people just don’t gell. It’s normal and it must be said that not everyone can cope with the stream of drivel that sometimes comes out of @tref. My Twitter stream is just an extension of my personality – like it or lump it.

It’s a simple philosophy. I am here to engage and to learn and to have fun and occasionally to promote my blog posts and my business. That’s all folks.

End User social networking

The Train – an unfolding drama starring Twitter @EmmaFirth @JamesFirth #swt and a cast of characters

Last night I was chatting to a friend on Twitter and suddenly found myself watching a real life drama unfold. Emma Firth The leadinglady was EmmaFirth, journalist with the Daily Telegraph and also heavily pregnant. Her husband JamesFirth played the part of the 7th Cavalry and the cast of characters included #swt (South West Trains) and other Twitter users too many to mention.

The tweets below represent an abbreviated history of the story in which dozens of commuter trains were stranded for hours with no apparent plan to rescue them. In the end some of them, including our pregnant heroine, broke out of their carriage and made a daring and adventurous dash down the railway line to safety in the arms of her man.

This incident has today made major headlines on the BBC and I present for you below the action as it James Firthhappened on Twitter. Some of the tweets are absent but you can easily follow the story line.

The curtains open and we find EmmaFirth in a crowded railway carriage somewhere outside Woking:

EmmaFirth Bloody stupid trains. Been stuck outside woking for 40 mins on second delay of evening. Grr

tref @EmmaFirth oh dear. You need to relax – try some breathing exercises etc.

EmmaFirth Now 50 mins not moving. At least cavalry of @jamesfirth charging to woking on his ford focus on off chance i ever get to station!

tref @EmmaFirth @jamesfirth If I strain my ears I can hear the bugle sound the cavalry charge

EmmaFirth @tref sods law says his charger breaks down. I’m so going for pizza if that happens!

End User social networking

Lincoln – jewel in a sea of tweets #BBCLincolnshire @thelincolnite

sundial on Lincoln Cathedral's South Face represents the "old order"

Lincoln, for those billions1 of you that have never been, is a beautiful romano-medieval backwater towards the right hand middle bit of England, on the way to Skegness.

During the middle ages it was an important financial centre but the bridge across the river Trent at Newark put paid to that as all the traffic shifted eighteen miles to the West. It’s the same old story – people head West to where the money is.

In recent times the good citizens of Lincoln have tried to rectify that centuries old mistake and have built a high speed dual carriageway connecting them with Newark. Also we now have a fine new University that is attracting both money and talent into the heart of the city.

It can truly be said that today Lincoln is a gem set in the rich agricultural heartland that is the county of Lincolnshire. This gem, however is not one content to sit still, to bask in the glare of the flash of the tourist cameras. Lincoln wants to shine out beyond its natural boundaries of river, sea and Great North Road (A1).

Lincoln is now on the digital map and even has a list of top ten local Twitter users (for 2011). This list, which was assembled by the LINCOLNITE, represents a collection of the finest thought leaders2 the city has to offer and despite the author’s claims to the contrary, must surely be an authoritative and conclusive voice on this subject.

Please take some time to ponder on this list and to absorb its undoubted wisdom3

1 I realise the billions bit might give the wrong impression regarding visitor numbers to this blog.  Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and French versions of the site due soon – I’m just waiting for that multi-million pound sponsorship deal.

2 In this case for thought “leaders” read “people who waste considerable amounts of their lives online – the idle Twitterati”

3 I come in at a modest fifth place which of course I am delighted with – just high enough to be noticed but not so high as to give the impression that I spend all my time on Twitter 🙂

End User social networking

Nokia 97 twitter bot retweets negative Nokia PR

twitter screenshot from @tref showing careless retweet

Amusingly the post I wrote this morning, which basically said that people I knew were by and large moving away from Nokia to Android or Apple, was retweeted by a bot from an account called @luv_nokia_n97. I don’t know if this is an official Nokia twitter account but it certainly shows that there is a lot to consider when treading the social networking path.

Clearly the post was not checked out and brands need to either be careful how they implement such “tools” or how they police others’ use of their name on the internet.

PS I’ve left the Nokia N97 name in the post title again – I’m not averse to some free retweeting 🙂

End User social networking

social media – have you got your uniform yet? #twitter #facebook #linkedin #blog


I’ve been involved at first hand in a couple of revolutions. The first was VoIP which took 10 – 15 years to develop into full scale engagement. The second is social networking which has covered the same ground in about 3 years.

Today I went to a social networking master class conducted by Pirate Glenn @lesanto. People attended because this revolution is happening so quickly. Today felt like a WW1 recruiting session with volunteers standing in line to take up arms. Everyone needs to know where they fit in – it is unpatriotic not to be seen in uniform.

The biggest challenge for businesses is that social networking represents a totally new discipline to embrace. It covers sales, marketing, customer service, tech support, PR and more I’m sure. There may be some overlap in this list but it gives you an idea of the scope.

I’m not about to expound on how each of these disciplines should use social media but one of the problems for a business is deciding exactly how to go about it. This is new territory.

The skills required can be learned and in most cases will have to be because there aren’t many people around that might be called social media experts – witness the fact that Tesco is willing to pay £60k for someone with the right experience.

Most businesses can’t afford to take on more people just to handle social media. They have to reuse existing staff that are already working on something else.

For example a marketing department might have a team of people working on print media production. It takes a serious decision to change the way you work to stop doing one activity in order to concentrate on another but diverting resource from print media to social networking might be one of these.

I picked an easy one there – print media is on the way out but the same issue applies to other areas. Customer service for example. Big businesses are already known for the amount of effort they put in to engaging with customers using twitter. Dell supposedly had 50 people on their virtual social media team.

It’s all very well for a giant multinational but if you are a small business doing this from scratch there has to be an element of faith involved – you will be betting some of your scarce resource on the effort.

I think I’m going to explore this a bit more. If anyone wants to come along to a “workshop” I’ll happily host one and provide refreshments. Drop me a line or leave a comment. I think we can aim for a February get together. Look out a date/announcement next week.

Exit to the sound of “Two Tribes  – Frankie Goes To Hollywood”…

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog

Apps Cloud Engineer storage backup & dr

@tref on Twitter…Tweetnest Archive, For Future Archaeologists

Picturing the scene in centuries to come, when Internet archaeologists are able to sift through the zillions of trivial minutiae — including @tref on Twitter — to try and piece together evidence of the early life on the internet.

"Victorious" was made by William Foster & Co of Lincoln

For the very few of you interested – the uberest of geeks – you can now view my twitter archive, created using tweetnest and stored on the growing more useful every day resource

I am somewhat gutted that the first 2k or so tweets are not listed – presumably a “feature” of twitter.  That’s a part of my online life lost forever (I can hear a few uhuh!s already).

I can picture the scene in centuries to come. There will be internet archaeologists expert in sifting through the zillions of trivial minutiae to try and piece together evidence of the early life on the internet. Where are the lost tweets? they will say.

Someone will no doubt come across some DVDs (or floppy disks) and have to take them to the science museum to have them read. Who was @tref? Presumably the guy that started the pangalactic blogging revolution that is Bearded professors will hold conference sessions discussing the subject and one day one of them will rush into the room crying “I have just found out who discovered the Third Law“.

I dream. It is dark on a Thursday afternoon and nearly time to go home 🙂

PS the header photo is just something I dug out that seemed to be remotely technologically archaeological. It is a steam traction engine that I saw at the British Ploughing Championships held in Lincoln last month. The “Victorious” was made by William Foster & Co of Lincoln sometime after ww1. Quality.

End User social networking

best use for Ping is on the golf course

When I was a lad I used to sit around listening to music, chewing the fat with my pals. Nowadays I hardly listen to any music other than on the rare occasional night in on my own with a steak and a bottle of red wine.

It may be a generational thing but I don’t actually have time for it. I don’t often watch TV so in the evenings I am on my laptop doing whatever I am doing. Most of the time music would break my concentration so I don’t have it on.

I use twitter a lot in the evenings. That’s instead of Facebook which I now only dip into every now and again. Sometimes I note that people I follow on twitter are listening to music. @jobsworth for example commutes into London and often tells us what he is listening to.

So when Apple announced a new TV service and Ping, a new social network based around music I found it difficult to get excited.

datacentre End User internet social networking

@tref on Twitter…Two Years, Ten Weeks, Two Days and Counting

I joined twitter 802 days ago on 17th May 2008. Since then as @tref on Twitter I have sent 2,623 tweets, an average of just over three a day. Not too bad for anyone who thinks I spend too long on the site.

In June, according to twitter COO Dick Costolo twitter had 190 million users, growing by 300 thousand a day. These users were generating 65million tweets a day – that’s enough for twitter to be building its own brand new datacentre to handle all the traffic.

End User media mobile connectivity

#Glastonbury – people at the back were watching online on mobiles #glasto

I’m told that some people at Glastonbury found it easier to watch the event streaming video to their mobile phones even though they were at the gig itself.

If you were stood at the back apparently the picture on your mobile phone was bigger than the live view of the stage. I remember once going to a Bruce Springsteen gig in Roundhay Park in Leeds (some time ago now I should add). If I held up my little finger horizontally at arms length Bruce was about half the height of the fingernail.

I’d be surprised if there was much bandwidth available to stream to a mobile at Glastonbury though I suppose with the

Business internet social networking

Online instant poll results for #leadersdebate Guardian Times and Telegraph

Interesting to flit round the various online poll results for some of the newspapers, taken 15 minutes after the end of the debate:

                                        Guardian         Telegraph           Times

Gordon Brown                28.5%           16%                        15%

Nick Clegg                        62.1%            38%                     59.9%

David Cameron                 9.4%           47%                       25.1%

I think I will wait for an independent poll –  the above are somewhat partisan.

Interesting to watch technology in action though.  I followed the debate on line with SkyNews and with Twitter.

Business internet piracy Regs

Social Networking in action #debill

#debill actually made it to a trending topic on twitter today.  This reflects the huge amount of interest around the country on the subject of the Digital Economy Bill.

I watched it both on iPlayer and via Tweetdeck where I could see real time comments on what was being debated.  MPs inside the chamber were also following twitter – you could see them referring to their mobile phones whilst others were speaking.

I’ve actually changed my view on twitter since getting involved in #debill.  It is a hugely powerful medium and one that can spread messages globally very quickly.  For example one of my blog posts was retweeted by Jeff Pulver who has somewhere in the region of 355 thousand followers.  If you have a message to get across and push the right buttons twitter is huge.

Interestingly because #debill was a trending topic on twitter, ie one of the top topics being followed by people it also attracted its fair share of spam – people jumping on the bandwagon – notably today by people trying to flog iPad.

We are all still finding our way in this connected world.

PS there can’t have been more than 20 MPs in the house debating such an important subject – democracy in action. It is getting harder and harder to decide which way to vote.

End User social networking

Ryan Seacrest unfollow

I’m doing a bit of tidying up on twitter. In the early days of twitter I thought it would be a good idea to follow as many people as possible. What a mistake that was! I now get so much rubbish that it makes twitter unusable as a browsing machine.

So now I’m sat on tweetdeck “unfollowing” people with whom I feel I have nothing in common. It’s amazing who I find I am following. I’ve just deleted someone called Ryan Seacrest who has 2,411,465 followers despite only following 124 people himself. I obviously live sheltered life because I have never heard of him! 2,411,464 people clearly have!

End User social networking

twitter follower

When I started to use twitter a little more earnestly I took a look at some other twitterers and determined that there was a pattern in getting lots of followers.  These Tweeters (if that is the right word) were also following lots of people.

So I did the same.  I randomly started to follow people and found that half of them then began to follow me. Of course the downside to this is I get a lot of traffic in my “in tray” with comments from people who I really have no interest in. So much so that it is hardly worth looking at the feed.

I now periodically unfollow people who, after looking their profile, I feel I have nothing in common with. I’m trying to narrow it down to a useful set of “follows”. My criteria are I keep a friend if they are in the UK and look “normal”, in my business space or do seem to have something interesting to say.  There are a lot of people out there spouting rubbish and a lot of “services” that are no use to me – local news alerts in other parts of the world for example.

Spending a little time “unfollowing”  in the early hours this morning I am astounded to come across some accounts that have huge followers.  One, @DigitalRoyalty, had more than a million! Drilling into her profile I found that she was an online PR specialist. Clearly good at her job.

This is a new world. I feel a little like Captain James Cook setting out on his first voyage of exploration.

Engineer internet social networking

Twitter downed by ddos attack

I have to apologise to Dave Ward who manages the firewall at Timico HQ in Newark.  I complained to him that he was blocking me from accessing Twitter and he scurried off to check having denied it all. (it’s not a criminal offence in my book anyway).

I just read that Twitter was this afternoon hit by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack which took out the service for a few hours from around 2pm.  Sorry Dave.  Whenever I publish a blog post Wordpress automatically sends a tweet on the subject which in turn updates my Facebook status. What would we do without Twitter eh?

Business social networking

Last post for a week but twitter updates will keep coming

I’m off on rugby tour to South Africa tomorrow so no blog posts until Thursday 2nd April at the very earliest. Not only would I not trust myself with a laptop on tour but I won’t actually have much time to write as we have a very busy schedule.

That isn’t to say though that the blog will be inactive.  On in the sidebar to the right of this post you will see a stream of tweets that will keep people posted re my progress.  Provided there is mobile phone coverage, and I can’t always be sure of that out in the wild, I will keep the updates coming including how I get on in the two matches we are playing.

You might also, if you are going to be watching the Lions v South Africa second test at Loftus Veersfeld on Saturday, keep your eyes open for me in the crowd.  Thanks to all those who have wished me well on this trip and I look forward to telling you all about it in person at some stage this summer.

I’ll post some pics on Facebook when I get back.

End User internet scams security

Email scams

I went in to BBC Radio Lincolnshire this morning, as is my occasional wont, this time to talk about email scams. I am not particularly a security expert but I guess being in the ISP game I would get more exposure to this than your average Radio Lincolnshire listener.

It was all about phishing emails from people after your bank account details, and especially spoof emails notionally from people you know. As a bit of background research I googled “how to hack MSN” and I was astounded to find 952,000 websites on the subject.

Similarly there was plenty on Twitter and no doubt there will be stuff out there on Facebook and others. I didn’t follow more than a couple of links and the first article had already been removed. It does certainly highlight the vulnerabilities of the web.

I get phishing email daily, mostly caught in my spam quarantine folder, and all of which get ignored/deleted. I do get some very genuine looking spam though appearing to come from reputable contacts.  In one example a business partner of Timico’s had its contact databased copied a number of years ago.  I still get spam appearing to come from this partner.  There is nothing they can do about it. The data is gone.

I have never personally met someone who has been caught out by one of these phishing attempts. Not that is until last night when a friend rang me up and during the conversation mentioned that it had only just happened to him. He was busy and stupidly responded to an email and typed in his bank account details!

Luckily for him the bank spotted an unusual transaction and refunded the cash after calling him to check. It just goes to show how easily it can happen – to the unwary.

Business voip hardware

Ideal mobile VoIP client runs on a Blackberry

  1. Runs on a Blackberry. In my experience Microsoft push email isn’t reliable enough and I am seriously thinking of changing back to RIM
  2. Can call using any available network – wifi, GSM or 3G – deally can detect least cost route or allow you to set preferred network connection
  3. Has the same inbound number as my work desktop phone so I can seamlessly take the same calls wherever I am – this realistically has to be a fixed line number as you have to be a mobile operator to do it otherwise.
  4. Detects the presence status of my friends and allows me to send Instant Messages to any network.
  5. Active directory lookup for corporate users to avoid having to store all the numbers locally.
  6. High definition voice codec available for use on wide bandwidth connections (ie wifi)
  7. High quality speakerphone.
  8. Multiple VoIP subscriptions so that I can have both work and personal services on the same device.
  9. Front and back facing video (I’m not sure whether I’m kidding myself here!)
  10. All the usual touchscreen/music/GPS/integration with Twitter/Facebook and other social networking websites gadgetty stuff.
  11. Unlimited battery life (hey – I did say ideal mobile VoIP client 🙂 )

If anyone wants to add to this list feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.