It’s been four months since I started working to integrate Twitter and other tech into my website to create timely links to industry news and other topics of interest. Back in May, I posted a list of next steps for enhancing the news feed and weekly digest, improving the look and feel, and extending status updates to other outlets. Here’s where things stand today.
1. Creating and propogating news feed items. With all the options available today for entering and redirecting tweets and status updates, it was a challenge to settle on the right set of tools and to sort out what was “master” and what was “slave” in the tweet stream of news items and status updates. I could originate my status updates in Twitter, Ping.fm, HootSuite, Plaxo, or any number of other sites or desktop clients. What I’ve settled on is this approach:
Choosing to drive everything from Ping.fm has many advantages and few disadvantages. Ping has a wide selection of integrations and covers all the social networks I use, so I can use my tweets as status updates. Ping lets me create “groups” so I can do both personal and professional tweets from a common interface, and share selectively. I have a FaceBook page that I haven’t had time to do much with, so streaming status updates from Ping lets me reach my friends there when I’m busy. There are social networks that I use passively like Plaxo and FriendFeed, and Ping is a great way for me to reach friends and colleagues there, too.
Ping also lets me submit via mobile technology, whether I use the browser, email, SMS, or chat client on my BlackBerry. I like submitting through the BeeJive’s JiveTalk IM client, but have to count my keystrokes manually, which is a drag. I’ve actually tried every method except SMS with Ping. Email posting has truncated messages in the past so I avoid it (although that was the same day Twitter was melting down because of the Iranian elections so I’ll have to try again someday). None of the browsers I’ve tried (including Bolt) will run the script to count my keystrokes as I type into the Ping submission form, and logging in to get to the posting pages is more of a hassle than using an IM client.
I’ve also tried originating messages on HootSuite and relaying through Ping, but I’ve had some issues (hence the Xin the schematic). For example, I like to use [category tags] in square brackets at the lead of my tweets (more on why below), but if I post to HootSuite and relay through the Ping API the brackets and everything in between gets stripped. I think the issue is at the Ping API since the same posts arrive intact on Twitter.
The primary pathway for integrating status updates with the website itself is Twitter (hence the red arrow). Twitter Tools uses the feed from @twitcontentguy to populate the sidebar on the main page, the headlines section on the Headlines page, and a Weekly Digest blog posting every Friday morning. I decided not to automatically have Twitter Tools tweet every time my blog got updated for several reasons. First, as Mike Axelrod and I discussed, there is a stylistic difference between a headline, a blog post title, and a tweet of either of these, so by manually tweeting the URL of the blog post I get the editorial control I need. Second, Twitter Tools would only update Twitter, not the other social networks. Third, there was a bit of an echo chamber effect, since the post would show up in the blog, the sidebar, and the headlines page with the same title. As it is, my blog posts have a notification stream of their own, via the RSS feed. Blog posts show up in LinkedIn using the WordPress app, as well as on Plaxo and The Content Wrangler community site. Of course the blog posts now include the Weekly Digests of my Twitter activity.
As for using Ping for micro-blogging, I can’t since I haven’t integrated the Ping custom URL on my blog due to technical issues. I can do this now with my old WordPress.com blog (so I’ll do some testing there) but still need to get the custom URL working for my self-hosted blog. Also, I haven’t found a good use case yet for micro-blogging; digesting the tweets weekly and in real-time with the Twitter Tools sidebar works great for getting the content to my blog.
2. How I Tweet. After four months I’ve settled into a better pattern of how I use and format my tweets. There are several aspects I’ve thoughtfully considered: content, format, and frequency.
- Content. It’s pretty rare that I’ll share my personal status; when I do it’s usually because I’m participating in an event that others who follow the site care about, like a great webcast or speech. In that event I’ll try to relay a quote or other tidbit from the event itself, not just my status and location. More often I’m sharing content found elsewhere on the web. This can be news or other relevant information. Before I tweet about something, however, you can be sure I’ve actually read it and thought about it.
- Format. Early on I adopted a format for my tweets : [category] @attribution: content link #hashtags
- Category. I use [category tags] in square brackets at the start of most tweets, an idea that I borrowed from Scott Abel, the Content Wrangler. These have the advantage of setting off my tweet from any prefix a site might attach to my post. For example, LinkedIn affixes “Paul” in front of every status update, expecting us to write our status with a verb to follow our first name. E.g. “Paul is out fishing.” “Paul just saw a UFO. Again.” The square brackets buffer that, so it reads more like the character speaking in a script: “Paul [ECM] Big day of acquisitions in the ECM marketplace.” They also make it easy for someone to scan the Weekly Digest for articles of interest.
- Attribution. Most of what I tweet is a found item of interest. In the attribution I’ll site the source and the individual quoted, whether it’s a blog, news channel, or a retweet. E.g.
[ECM] RT @dgschultz: EMC adds e-discovery with Kazeon buy http://bit.ly/6n1VV or
[ECM] via ReadWriteWeb: Gartner VP Toby Bell – Six ways to save money on ECM http://ping.fm/BPdx7
- Content. This would be the actual content portion of the tweet vs. the rest, which is meta. Most of what makes it into my professional tweets is straight business (ECM news, events, etc.), but I do like to share the occasional funny bit or fishing success so that the tweets have some personality to them. Stuff meant just for friends and family never hits @twitcontentguy; I have other personal twitter accounts for that, or I use Ping groups to selectively update my status.
- Link.This is the shortened URL. I’d guess that 90% or more of my tweets have a link. Most often in the past I let Ping do the job of shortening the link. Starting this week I’ll be using j.mp to shorten my URLs. This is a new service from the great folks at Bit.ly.
- Hash tags. I started tweeting shortly before hash tags took hold, so I was a bit slow to adopt. I like putting them at the end of a post, as they fit. Not everyone who reads my tweets is Twitterate, so the odd # in the middle of the post can be jarring. E.g. compare these two posts for readability with mere mortals:
[Webcast] DITA, Metadata Maturity & the Case for Taxonomy. Wed 9/2 1-2 EDT. http://ping.fm/m107W #dita #taxonomy #metadata
[Webcast] #DITA, #Metadata Maturity & the Case for #Taxonomy. Wed 9/2 1-2 EDT. http://ping.fm/m107W
Sure, the second one is more concise but I just plain don’t like the look of it. Update: Now letting Ping.fm filter out the hash tags from the services that don’t use them (like LinkedIn or FaceBook), so putting them in-line (judiciously).
- Frequency. If I’m doing well I tweet once or twice a day, giving me 5-10 items a week in the Digest. I tend to tweet in spurts, because I tweet to share what I’m reading, and some days I’m in research mode and others not so much. Using HootSuite has made reading those I follow more of a daily routine, so now RTs are more routine. I still read the tweet streams I follow in batch mode, usually in the morning after email or over lunch. Having HootSuite or TweetDeck open and watching it all day for me is the equivalent of reading the crawl on CNN – addicting at first, but eventually nauseating to watch. I do keep it open but off to the side on my peripheral second monitor.
3. Getting my tweets to display inline. One goal of the Twitter integration was for an inline display of “headlines” on my blog. I embedded the Twitter Flash Widget code directly on my Headlines page and that’s working fine. I’m using that alongside the TextWise Gyzork feeds. I’m also considering experimenting on the Headlines page with the HootSuite embed widget for columns of tweet streams of interest based upon my Twitter follows.
4. New TextWise feeds for the news page. I haven’t done anything new with Gyzork yet, but I have to say the current feeds seeded with content from my first two blog postings are generating results that are very relevant. This in turn is doing an excellent job of bringing my attention to articles of interest, which I very often tweet about.
5. Cleaning up the XSLT to better format the news feed. I worked with the XSLT for inlineRSS and got it to format the Gyzork posts in a similar way similar to my blog meta data. I also hacked the PHP for Twitter Tools to apply some minor formatting to the sidebar and Headlines entries.
6. Experiment with other semantic technologies to create automatic feeds of interest. If any of you have other ideas for auto-generating news item listings for relevant content, please leave a comment or a pingback from your own blog posts.
I’d like to hear what you think about how this integration of Twitter with my site is working. Drop me a line or better yet leave a comment below or on your own blog. It would be great if you could share your best practices and favotire tools, tips, and tricks.