Monday Sep 28, 2009

George Carlin, John Ritter and Twitter ?

What do George Carlin, John Ritter and Twitter have in common ?

OK, not all that much. But I am a big fan of analogies and identity linkages, especially ones that relate to popular culture. Perhaps that is because I'm so un-pop as my daughter frequently reminds me. She does have a point though - a random person would recognize less than 1% of what's on my iPod and probable less than half of my DVD collection. That's what makes these types of connections so fascinating. I have to work at them.

For background, and a bit more un-pop admission, social media tools like Twitter and Facebook leave me scratching my head from time to time. Yes, I'm old school and would much rather grab a brew and some chicken wings with my buddies at the corner beverage consumption establishment than type at a web browser or squint at my iPhone. At the same time I've managed to find an great bunch of folks on Twitter (#stlcards) following the St. Louis Cardinals quest for their 11th World Series title (that's baseball for those of you in parts of the world that have other national sporting games). In an attempt to understand the full Twitter experience (#musicmonday, #followfriday, #battl), I've found that you can collect followers at an alarming rate. Without really trying.

The Six Words you can't say in a Tweet

George Carlin taught us the seven words you can't say on television and I think there should be a similar list for Twitter. Here is my list of the six words you should never use in a tweet.
  1. Insurance - This one comes up frequently in a close baseball game. Someone would tweet "We could sure use a couple of insurance runs here" and wham, you get followed by a dozen twitterbots all wanting to save you on home/car/health/whatever insurance. OK, the Geico gecko is sort of charming, but these insurance bots are annoying.
  2. iPhone - No thanks, I already have an iPhone. I don't need iPhone News either. I don't need to purchase a slightly used unlocked iPhone. And I don't want to sell my iPhone. I should have said Blackberry from a different account.
  3. Beatles - Didn't quite expect this one. I once replied that I grew up in the anti-Beatles era and I got swamped by a bunch of followers offering me everything from Beatles bootlegs to a great deal on Rock Band Beatles. And those are the ones I can repeat in public. No thanks.
  4. Money - This one should have been obvious. Ask how much money the Red Sox are contributing to the John Smoltz contract for the remainder of year ? All of a sudden I feel like I'm the only carbohydrate in a South Beach Diet celebration party.
  5. Tooth, teeth, dentist - Teeth whitening ? They chase you all over the web. And apparently they will follow you throughout the twitterverse. I thought all of our virtual selves had perfectly straight shiny white teeth. I guess not.
  6. Any word that can be used in an adult context - This is getting harder and harder as more of the vocabulary gets hijacked. I once tweeted about a great photo of a North American Cougar and I'll let your imagination guess what happened next. Apparently I need to keep up with the adult oriented jargon a bit more closely.

8 Simple Rules for Getting Blocked on Twitter

As for the John Ritter connection, the late actor last entertained us with the situational comedy 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter and that seemed oddly appropriate as I scanned my follower list. So here are my 8 Simple Rules for Getting Blocked on Twitter.
  1. You post from ABI. To borrow from one of the most memorable movie quotes (John Hurt as John Merrick in The Elephant Man), I am not a web browser, I am a human being. And as such I expect all of my followers to be in kind.
  2. The bio in your Twitter profile includes the phrase "making money off the internet", "social media", or "network marketing". You may be here to make money, but that's not why I'm here. So shoo and leave me alone.
  3. Your profile picture causes me to blush. Or maybe more specifically, if I quickly reach for the back or close button on my browser when I first see your profile picture, you will be blocked. I'm sure there are many out there that would appreciate your attention, so please go find one of them and leave me alone.
  4. The website listed in your Twitter profile is from a URL redirector such as This is the most basic phishing scam, and today I think I'd rather have the chicken. Bzzzz - you are the weakest follower, goodbye.
  5. Shelley Ryan. If you have been unfortunate enough to have been noticed by Shelley Ryan, you will understand why this gets a rule of its own. It actually passes all of the earlier tests for being blocked, but since this happens so often, it gets a special rule all by itself. Even the most dreadful of contagious diseases often have periods of remission or hibernation. Not so with Shelley Ryan. To be fair, I don't think there is a Shelley Ryan, but if you see your follower count increase suddenly and then feel an itching somewhere - it's probably a Shelley Ryan infestation. The cure is to hit the block button twice and check back in the morning. Repeat as needed.
  6. You tweet about teeth whitening. As has already been established, comments about teeth and dentistry invite all sorts of pesky marketing bots onto your followers list. If that happens, reach for the block button.
  7. You are following more people than I have CDs in my music library. I know there are all sorts of reasons that people use Twitter. If you are following 1,000 people then you aren't following anybody - understand ? Said differently, I'm not going to keep up with the cacophony of 1,000 people on a regular basis. If you are one of my followers then I would expect that I would want to follow you. Those dots should be relatively easy to connect. There are other tools where I can talk at you. I'm trying to use Twitter to talk with you.
  8. Would I want to follow you ? The final part of the social contract. I take a look at your tweets and ask if I would want to be associated with that dialog. With my friends following the St. Louis Cardinals, the answer is absolutely. And also with a slightly larger group of connected folks found through #followfriday. But it is still a rather small and relatively intimate community. And you still have to pass the spouse and daughter test. If my spouse or daughter were to pick up my iPhone and launch my Twitter application (Twitterific at present), would I be embarrassed or feel the need to explain. This is a good test for any sort of Internet activity, and certainly one that my daughter has to follow. Twitter is no exception.
Now, I've shared some of my Twitter blocking rules. Please feel free to share some of yours.

Bob Netherton is a Principal Sales Consultant for the North American Commercial Hardware group, specializing in Solaris, Virtualization and Engineered Systems. Bob is also a contributing author of Solaris 10 Virtualization Essentials.

This blog will contain information about all three, but primarily focused on topics for Solaris system administrators.

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