E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Tools and Gadgets

Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Winter

Over three years ago I wrote a blog entry over here about Twitter under the provocative heading: ‘Twitter is where conversations go to die’. It was a cathartic article I needed to get out of my system in order to re-find my love with that social networking tool. I wasn’t enjoying it much back in those days. Three years later, here I am again, writing about it, once more, but this time around with a different twist. I still love Twitter, as I wrote just recently. I use it every single day of the week, it’s my favourite personal learning network by far, but I am starting to question the value of connections over there. Why? Well, no-one seems to care anymore, apparently.

I have been on Twitter since early 2007 and I keep remembering fondly the time when people would eagerly connect with one another; when they would share lots of interesting tidbits just for the sake of adding further value into the network(s) and the overall conversation; when they would converse with one another and learn from each other (even from total strangers); when people didn’t have double agendas nor were just they tooting their own horn by blasting out marketing messages whole day long repeatedly. Over and over again, all over the place and time, because, you know, you need to get your message out, or so we are told. Essentially, yes, I am still missing the days when Twitter was The Pulse of the Planet: The Global Conversation. The place to be.

Still is today, in my opinion, but all of the things we cherished and loved about Twitter seemed to have been long gone and lost, and, probably, not returning back any time soon. Unless we do something about it. Twitter, on its own, it’s just one of the many hundreds of different digital tools within the Social Web. It’s our smart use of the tool that makes the difference, like in pretty much anything technology related. Always. So when you know it is no longer working out for you there are a few things you can do:

  1. Let inertia run its course and stick around just because everyone else is still in there anyway and continue on the path to get bored to death over time.
  2. Move on to the next shiny object where you think everyone else is hanging out usually (Nowadays, it’s Facebook, apparently #Meh)
  3. Or do something about it, break the chain, challenge the status quo and redefine a completely new user experience. See if it works and, if it does, stick around with it. Move on. 

About a month and a half ago I decided to go for #3 and see whether it would work or not. Indeed, over 6 weeks ago I decided to run #elsuahackstwitter. An experiment where I’d be challenging not only how I make good use of Twitter, but those around me as well. I decided to unfollow everyone. Yes, everyone. No exceptions. From one day to another. And instead of relying on a combination of Twitter Lists and my home timeline, which is what I have been doing for years already, I decided to be brave enough and see whether I could survive just with Twitter Lists and following zero people and witness, first hand, whether the conversations moved elsewhere. Or not. Eventually, I wanted to see how disruptive such bold move would be like on how we use Twitter today.

Why Did I Do It Then?

Essentially, I wanted to challenge our basic perception of how we use Twitter nowadays and whether it would make sense without it or not. Everyone has got followers and their own following, but what happens when your following is no longer there? When you decide to stop following everyone and question the purpose of that connection in the first place? Is it still worth it, is it just a vanity metric, is it an influence metric you can make good use of? Why do we follow people on Twitter in the first place? To show off anticipating reciprocation, perhaps because of what they share across or maybe because of the conversations they host? I had to run the experiment and see what the fuss was all about.

What if Twitter decided to drop off the count of both followers and following? Would you still make use of it, like you are doing today? Imagine if Twitter decided get rid of that vanity metric, so that we would focus more on the conversations themselves, i.e. on topics, hashtags, events, etc., etc., do you think you would still be making use of Twitter and enjoy the overall experience as much as you are doing nowadays? Or maybe not much really. That’s exactly what I wanted to try out, whether I could live without that ego centric metric we all seem to be very keen on nurturing to prove and validate our own so-called influence and take my Twitter experience on to a different level. That’s how #elsuahackstwitter got started over a month and a half ago and I must confess, after a few weeks have gone by, I am quite enjoying the results and the overall experience. Although not too sure about what everyone else would think for that matter!

What Has Actually Happened?

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, I can tell you. An emotional journey of sorts, testing how far I could tame my own ego, that one of others, my reactions, their reactions, our two-way conversations and see whether after all that I would still be able to survive and not want to come back to the old model of following and be followed.

Six weeks later things are back to normal. In fact, after the initial frenzy of interactions with a bunch of folks who wanted to know why I was doing such thing the craze started to fade away to the point where I am back to where I was before, but with zero following. Perhaps vast majority of people who still follow me on Twitter didn’t even notice a single bit the crack I tried to provoke in the system 😉 as plenty of people keep saying, you know, that no-one reads Twitter anymore anyway. It’s just the place where we go to broadcast our messages and toot our very own horn without hearing others’ opinions, thoughts and experiences, so why bother, right?

The thing is that, on its own, it’s transformed entirely the way not only I see Twitter as my own personal learning network, but also how I use it on a regular basis and, although I can’t tell for others, it’s helped me find a new way of making it more personal, more conversational, more topic driven (while still keeping in touch with people), in short, overall more engaging and much less stressful altogether. And that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve with this experiment of #elsuahackstwitter.

In order for me to be able to conduct this experiment successfully though I had to continue running a parallel one I eventually got started with a while ago already and with some very good results altogether. I had to open my Twitter Direct Messages to everyone. Yes, that is right, if I was going to stop following everyone sending a direct message without opening them up first would have been a challenge. So before I got things started with that I opened DMs to everyone and played with it over the course of a few weeks to see whether I would be constantly abused by this new capability with lots of spam from whoever.

And the results from that other bold move have been, if anything, rather surprising, because contrary to the perception from everyone else out there, I haven’t been spammed to the point where I’d be needing to turn it off. Currently, I am getting about 1 DM per week unsolicited from anyone whom I typically don’t even know. Very doable, if you ask me. And now that we no longer have the 140 character limitation for those DMs even all the better! I can now send DMs to folks without having to use multiple 1/N messages to get the overall message across. And it’s also working very well. Oh, don’t worry, I haven’t even come close to the 10k character we are allowed to share across in a direct message on Twitter so far, and I doubt I’d ever come close to it. 

What Have I Learned?

So, with all of that said, let’s do a quick recap of the overall experiment I have been running with #elsuahackstwitter:

  1. I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter and instead rely on three Public Twitter Lists (I will blog about them in a follow-up entry to explain what they are and why I picked up the names for them that I did)
  2. I opened up my Twitter Direct Messages, so everyone of the potential 300+ million Twitter users could send me a DM, if they so wish to.
  3. I love the now expanded 10k limit for direct messages and for a good simple reason: I am still doing #noemail every single day, I deleted my Facebook account over 5 years ago, I deleted my LinkedIn profile nearly 18 months ago, I am currently going through a hate relationship with Google Plus (As I have recently talked about), so I was running out of options to exchange messages longer than 140 characters. Yes, I know, I am weird, but who isn’t, right? heh

Anyway, over the course of the first few weeks, I took plenty of copious notes (on the side) about what I was learning along the way with this experiment. I have shared a good number of them already under the hashtag #elsuahackstwitter on Twitter itself. 45 in total, as of the last count, and there may well be some more coming up to round up on 50. We shall see. Since I am not too sure how long they would be there anyway, that is, on Twitter, I thought I would add them all to this blog entry as well. Each and everyone of them, why not? More than anything else to remind me of not only what I learned about it, but also how I (and others) felt about it as well.

I will probably just share a single one-liner, or two, hopefully, not too long, for each of them and, where needed, and for very specific reasons, I may be able to pick up some of them and expand them further in upcoming blog posts over the course of time to explain some more about them and why I wrote what I wrote in the moment.

So without much further ado, here is what I learned, over six weeks ago, from having unfollowed the 1220 people I was following on Twitter back in the day:

  1. People I used to follow back in the day started to follow me back again once I unfollowed them. I haven’t followed them back again, of course, so they are still in one of the three public lists I put together. I guess it highlights the power of sending signals across as social gestures :-)
  2. Number of reciprocal unfollows was rather significant in the first three weeks (About 10% of those 1220 folks). Ouch! My ego hurt and a lot! Oh, yes!, it was also part of the experiment to figure out how my own ego will react from being brutally unfollowed the moment I did as well. Very emotional at first, but, lucky enough, it’s now dead, for good.
  3. Originally, I decided to create a Public List with all of those 1220 folks. In doing so I knew it would be sending out a notification (another social gesture), where I’d be pointing to a tweet which explained what I was doing. The unexpected result: A few folks (about 25) subscribed to the Public List itself. It felt weird.
  4. I knew I could unfollow everyone with a single click using a Chrome plugin, but, instead, I decided to unfollow everyone manually, one by one. Soon enough I was immersed on a superb trip down the memory lane of the folks I used to follow from over the years (I can highly recommend it, for sure!), and whom I am still in touch with, but also others where the contact was no more. I guess it was time to unfollow for good, I suppose. Life goes on, for all of us :-)
  5. As mentioned above in #3, by creating that public list of those folks I used to follow, I was exposing my own timeline and making it public to everyone for the first time. Before, it was just too cumbersome to do so. Now people could take a sneak peek into what I am getting exposed to myself daily. And that is still happening today with the three public lists I created and that I will be talking about in a new blog entry.
  6. Ever since I started with this experiment, lots of reactions & intriguing conversations have come through. Plenty of folks seem to be rather interested in the experiment itself, what I may have learned and whether it will work, or not. That’s why during the first three weeks the engagement in Twitter was just phenomenal, till things settled back in on the fourth week and we are now, once more, back to normal.
  7. Apparently, adding people to Public Lists allows them to automate a response back to you. Who knew? Oh, yes, that deserves an Unfollow for good! That was my first reaction AND action. Pretty much like when you generate an auto DM response if I would start following someone. No, thanks! Not interested in interacting with bots, but with humans.
  8. Was it something I said? :)’ eventually came about with a smiley at the end. I knew, from other folks doing similar experiments that this reaction would come along. I was ready for it :) Like I said, folks, it’s never been personal. At least, from me. It’s about finding a way to redefine how I use certain social tools. Nothing more, nothing less. And this time around Twitter was the chosen one. Not you, as individuals. 
  9. This is perhaps one of my favourite highlights from the whole experiment, the fact that I got exposed to a whole bunch of great memories while going through each unfollow manually. Remembering the when, the how, the why, the what for, the good fun. It’s amazing what 8 years of building your networks through Twitter can do to your brain. A highly recommended exercise for real!
  10. Apart from the initial rush of reactions from different people, there were a whole bunch of other folks who decided to use other social gestures to acknowledge what I was doing. Indeed, lots of those additional responses came by as Favourites from the original tweet to share a gesture of awareness, perhaps, even consent to the experiment. I surely loved the succinct method of engagement, as it confirmed the signal ‘Hi there, I know what you are doing, go ahead and enjoy it. It sounds interesting…’
  11. The word ‘friend’ also came up. And it was coming from a good friend of mine, too! ‘Yeah, you know, but we were friends all along, right? Right?’ Oh dear. No exceptions! 😀 (Yes, we will still be friends, as I know plenty of other places, whether offline and online, where I can find you, don’t worry!)
  12. First issue I bumped into, I still haven’t figured out just yet, is how to handle Private Twitter handles as Lists can’t follow their tweets :-( Apparently, you need to follow them, they need to approve your request and off you go, but with lists following people with private accounts is a dead end. So long, folks! Sad. Very sad, indeed. But, like I said, this was an exercise of no exceptions. Unfollow everyone.
  13. Something interesting I learned about setting up the right expectations, so things wouldn’t come up as a surprise: Creating a Public List to alert folks was a hit! A keeper! People were informed ahead of time of what I was about to start and became aware what was going on, without having to get asked multiple times what was going on …
  14. Some folks indicated they didn’t like being ‘an experiment’, after all. This was probably triggered by the name of the initial Public List I used: ‘Unfollowing Experiment‘. Lesson learned for next time around: avoid using the word ‘experiment‘ at all costs!
  15. Another favourite highlight and key learning is how, all along, it’s been a rather emotional experience for me, but also for some of the folks I used to follow. Somehow it feels like detaching one self from something, or someone. Will it come back after a while? I don’t know, but, originally, this was part of the experiment in terms of finding out for myself how much of my own ego was driving those Twitter interactions in the first place vs. everything else. It felt like being an orphan at first, for real! But then again you get to shake off that ego and move on to better things, i.e. the conversations. And I can now confirm that six weeks later, that emotional detach is no longer there. 
  16. Your Twitter home timeline becomes, all of a sudden, a weird thing on its own where only your own tweets will show along with recommendations to follow people who are already following you to entice you to build the network, again. One sided, really. Twitter needs to start getting their act together on Lists as it’s perhaps its most powerful, yet often ignored, capability. There is just so much potential that we haven’t discovered just yet about Lists…
  17. To my surprise and pure delight, there are already a number of people who are already doing exactly this very same thing of working with Twitter lists and zero following: Stephen Downes, a.k.a. @downes (See https://twitter.com/Downes/status/628575174309318656), Simon Calder, a.k.a. @simoncalder, as examples, etc., confirming that nowadays it’s very hard to be the very first one at doing something you think it’s new. There will always be someone way ahead of you, no matter what. And you know what is the best part? Well, it looks like for those folks it’s working out really well. Who knew?
  18. At the beginning, I was worried that several other systems I use on a regular basis to make the most out of Twitter would break, but so far I haven’t noticed any real impact from Nuzzle, Twitter’s email digest and bunch of other Twitter Tools, as they are based on my followers and not my following, apparently. Good news! Phew!
  19. If you are wondering about the number of new followers and whether it has started to decrease a little bit or not, I can definitely confirm your new followers count will drop off dramatically. As an example, overall, in the last six weeks I have had 236 new followers and 269 unfollows. It looks like if people notice you are not following anyone, you are not interested in conversing with anyone anymore and therefore only care about tooting your horn. Beep, wrong assumption. A quick check of the timeline, the Mentions and conversation threads will confirm whether you’re there for the broadcast or the engaging dialogue and overall conversation. I am much more interested in the latter, even if I decide not to follow anyone for that matter. The conversations will still flow along, if you care to dive in, that is… It just requires nowadays a bit more effort. That’s all. 
  20. An unintended (social) gesture I am re-discovering due to the experiment: using Favourites much more discretionarily as an opportunity to highlight ‘I’m here, listening, I haven’t gone away that far’. Eventually, showing I still care about what you tweet, no matter whether I’m following you or not. See where breaking off the mold was coming from? Who knew that Favourites could be used for that?
  21. Interestingly enough, plenty of people view Following as a personal touch, as a ‘connection’, even if they have never exchanged a single tweet with you! How weird is that? Seriously. When did it happen we all became just numbers in a counter?!?! Really sorry, but that’s not what, to me, makes up for a ‘connection’, if we have never exchanged a single tweet! Conversations are the new connections, I am afraid. That simple.
  22. Here is something that I wasn’t expecting either, and that I am finding fascinating to no end: those folks I know & have followed for a long long time haven’t said a single thing throughout all of these weeks about this experiment. Silence = consent? I don’t know. We are still conversing as much as we used to, although they all probably think I’m weirder than originally thought! Bless them for sticking around all along! :)
  23. Oh, and the so-called ‘Celebrities’ (those people with thousands of followers and following), as usual, will still keep ignoring you, just as ever, whether you follow them or not. It’s not their game. Their game is to keep bloating away their followers and following numbers even if they cannot longer even grasp what’s going on around them. But here is a little secret: they will never admit to it, but, they, too, make heavy use of Twitter Lists. It’s how they keep ignoring vast majority of what goes around while they focus on rather small niches. Off they go … Pretending is their currency, apparently. Not ours. 
  24. In case you are wondering what Twitter tools I am using to handle my Lists, so far the one that rules them all, at least, for me, is Tweetbot (On the Mac) or Tweetbot v2 & v3 (on my iPad & iPhone, respectively). You can make a single list your new home timeline and then work with the others as additional ‘sections / columns’ with the overall UI and quite like that approach, specially, when travelling on my iPhone. It’s like, all of a sudden, I have gone from a single timeline to three of them: one for each public list. I have said this many many times in the past, but it’s worth repeating: I love fragmentation. Helps me make better sense of the world around me, including Twitter, for that matter.
  25. It’s probably hard to believe, but using Public Lists makes conversations more organised and focused, therefore much more productive, and effective and overall much more engaging. To the point where two or three weeks into the experiment I started to question why go back then? One of the biggest issues with Twitter’s Following timeline is that it’s got a limit, imposed by the system, whereas with lists I am the one who sets the limit, helping me decide what goes and what doesn’t, what I read and what I don’t. Finally, the Personal Learning Network is defined by the end-user, not by the system.
  26. Roughly on the 4th day, after a few hectic days of full throttle, non stop, conversations, peace and quiet, finally, came back. Very much needed and appreciated, so I could catch up my breath and come back to business as usual :) Here is the thing though, if you are going to start doing something similar, set aside plenty of time, because you will be spending that time having plenty of conversations to explain, and somehow justify, why you are doing that and what you expect to get out of it. Get ready! Be prepared for the adrenaline rush and constant beeps.
  27. Oh, remember the good old days when we used to blog on a more or less regular basis and we didn’t care much about vanity metrics, but about conversations and ideas we shared across? That’s what I want back. After all, Twitter is all about microblogging, right? It was never framed as micro-following (or be followed), so why keep bothering with it eventually?
  28. By focusing so much more on conversations nowadays, it means I have to get my own act together and become more effective in terms of what content I get to share. It’s no longer oversharing for the sake of oversharing, but sharing with intent, with a purpose, that one of starting a conversation, of sparking an idea through dialogue, not just sharing across to demonstrate my presence. It’s the main reason why I never cared about being on Twitter constantly, or automating my interactions, or just simply pretending I was constantly living there. Back then, I wasn’t, and I am not going to start now either!
  29. Another intriguing highlight from this experiment so far is how it is making me question more and more by the day whether I’m valued because of what I know and share across through conversations and interesting links or who I am: one more number in a follower / following list? Somehow, I keep wanting to fight the notion I am just another number. No, I am not. I am a human being with an eagerness to learn through dialogue, through conversation. Curiosity will never be replaced by a number. Not today, not ever.
  30. For the record, and perhaps I’m writing this down once and for all, emotional blackmail will never work on yours truly. Ever. The ‘Why did you unfollow me after all of this time we have been together? I would have never done that to you’ is never going to work, specially, if a couple of days later you end up being the one unfollowing me as punishment. I’d rather prefer to quit Twitter altogether (or whatever other social tool) and move on. Please, please, don’t play that game. It never ends well. That is not how you should build your social capital and your networks, regardless of the digital tool you make use of. 
  31. Moving on to the next highlight, but still, perhaps, somewhat related: What’s more valuable eventually from our ‘relationship’? A conversation where we both learn something new, or, at least, give it try, or my following you? If the latter, really? I mean, seriously? Convince me otherwise, please. Again, we are not numbers, we are people, human beings, thriving in dialogue and always keen on wanting to learn more and more by the day. 
  32. It’s been, if anything, a liberating experience altogether, because of tweets like this one:
  33. Or this other one: 

  34. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have realised I am now much more conscious and aware of my own use of social gestures, like Likes / Favourites, Add to Lists, Mentions, etc. etc. More engaging altogether. It helps me bring forward, time and time again, a specific purpose of what I want to get out of Twitter by not being in there just for the sake of it, but always try to add some additional value others may as well benefit from, not just myself. That, to me, is where the magic happens.
  35. This is definitely one of my favourite highlights from the whole lot. By having moved my interactions into Lists, Twitter has turned itself to be pretty much like Slack where a List becomes a channel. No vanity metrics, just conversations, just learning, just work. How many people do you follow, or follow you, in Slack? Exactly what I mean! Just perfect!
  36. Earlier on in this blog entry I mentioned what an emotional experience it has been altogether. One other thing I can add though is that it helped me learn, probably the hard way, how to let go of my ego from the vanity metric and think of Twitter as just another collaboration, conversation and learning tool, pretty much like Slack, blogs, face to face, etc. where vanity metrics are just non-existent. After letting my ego go, and be torn down to pieces, I feel I’m, finally, getting the better of me out there as I keep using Twitter more purposefully and with plenty more intent, that one of adding value to the overall dialogue without expecting anything in between. If it comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. Time for me to work harder on it. 
  37. Six weeks have now passed and after having adjusted to that new flow of timelines, to having let go of my ego forgetting about the vanity metrics and, frankly, after enjoying the overall Twitter user experience ever so much more, my initial gut feeling is there is a great chance I’m going to stick around with the exclusive use of Lists, although next step would be to create 3 different public lists and group people in there, so they can see how I see them based on perceptions of our interactions. Six weeks later, those public lists are already up and running, even though it was quite a challenge to come up with names that would be both relevant and non offending at the same time and, judging from the reactions from people, it looks like the choice of words was just right: Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From (In an upcoming blog post I will detail further how each of them is positioned against one another to build up my new Twitter timeline(s)) from scratch.
  38. I am getting close to the end of highlights and key things learned with this experiment and I think I am starting to come to terms with the fact that perhaps what I really wanted to do, all along, was to, eventually, disrupt not just my use of Twitter, but also everyone else’s of those whom I followed and see how we would all react collectively about something we might have never experienced ourselves, and see if it would have something to bring forward on to the table. For instance, a big question that keeps coming up in my mind is the following: imagine if Twitter would not have followers / following and not even show it, would you still use it daily? And if so, what’s stopping us from jumping forward and destroy Twitter’s elitism of super power users that keeps deterring new comers from jumping in and participating further along? We must make an effort in helping democratise the tool again by engaging in conversations and topics of interest vs. being purely driven pretty much by our very own bloated egos than anything else. 
  39. There have been tons of different reactions from folks over the course of last few weeks, so it’d be difficult to try to summarise them all. However, there is one in particular that pretty much nails it for me in terms of what I am trying to do. It comes from my very good friend Anne Marie McEwan (a.k.a. @smartco) who tweeted back in the day: ‘You are just paying attention to people in a different way’. And that is exactly right! Now, how many people can, actually, say that? When was the last time you read your entire timeline of wonderful tweets, insights, thoughts and ideas coming through? Yes, I know, I know, it’s just the river of news and we dip in and out as we may see fit, but, seriously, when was the last time you did that vs. just tooting your own horn and move on to the next thing;-)? And then we still wonder as to why people don’t read our tweets any more. Probably if we would make the effort to read theirs and engage accordingly, we may get some of that back as well… Who knows … 
  40. Here is another key learning that took me a while to digest and make some sense out of it: using Lists forces me to be more human, more conversational, focusing on people and what they share rather than just interactions, transactions, even, of tweets flying by. Somehow, the world of Twitter has stopped for me from pouring away like a firehose, to then re-gain a certain pause where I’m enjoying much more what people share across and have a better way of reacting accordingly adding my two cents worth of value, where I possibly can. Boy, I can assure you, if anything, how the massive quality of the conversation has hit a higher notch of awesomeness. Food for the brain and for the soul altogether! Just brilliant!
  41. Here’s another key insight shared across that describes pretty much the shift some of us have gone through while embarking on this new exciting journey: 

  42. Ohhh, and did I tell you how much people do appreciate being put in Lists whose names AND descriptions mean a whole lot more than just vague concepts, or over hyped buzzwords and lots of mumbo jumbo (i.e. gurus, ninjas, #socbiz, experts, etc. etc. )? Show them how you care and there is a great chance that they will be caring back in return. Just saying … :)
  43. Moving to Lists, if anything, has resulted in helping me focus so much more on Learning by Topic & than Learning by Following XYZ. Learning becomes more intentional and resourceful, as one idea sparks another, then another, and another one, and, before you know it, you are down a wonderfully spiral of no return that may help you achieve something you just didn’t expect all along from the beginning. Oh, yes, the magic wonders of serendipity, in case you are wondering out loud, are still pretty much intact, or, if anything, enhanced tremendously.
  44. Now, with all of this said, there is a bit of uncertainty, a rather mysterious one, but one of wonder and edginess. Why? Well, you no longer know for certain who is following you or not, who adds you into Lists or who isn’t, because people can very well add you to their public lists, or, to their private ones, which makes it even more interesting, as it results in embracing uncertainty by which the focus is the overall learning experience itself: Can I learn something from what you share when we both hit the conversation without knowing each other who is who and how we might be connected? I quite like that unexpected effect of conversations you never know where they will take you till you bump into them and dive right in. 
  45. And, finally, one final insight, which is perhaps the most rewarding so far, from what I can tell. In that exercise of becoming more observant of how people get to use Twitter around you, one can’t but notice, how, with learning by doing, after a short while, people start doing their own thing with lists, sort their following, conference speakers, attendees, folks they usually hang out with, etc. into lists. Proving, if anything, that walking the talk when trying to influence a change of sorts in other folks, actually, works! Each and every single time. How cool is that?!?

And here we are, coming close to the end of a rather long blog post that pretty much tries to explain what I have been up to last 6 weeks of running an experiment on Twitter that has certainly helped me gain new perspectives in terms of how I view certain social networking tools. Perhaps there is just one last question waiting for an answer at this point in time, I bet, from all of you: Will I go back and start following people on Twitter or will I stick around in this brave new world of human relationships and conversations rather than pure metrics and numbers? 

Well, if I judge by how much my own perception of Twitter, and how I make use of it on a daily basis (Remember, it’s still my number #1 social networking tool out there on the Social Web), has shifted for the better since I first got started with this experiment, I guess I can now conclude with these few words to try to answer that question: Yes, the Unfollowing Experiment is no longer an experiment. It’s my new reality. It’s how I plan to continue making use of Twitter from here onwards, more than anything because it helps me, tremendously, to up the game in working out loud, and therefore become more effective at what I do, and even more so than ever before (I will explain what I mean with this in a follow-up post) and, essentially, because it’s helped me understand how social networking is a whole lot more profound and soul feeding than just a meagre, worthless vanity metric. Twitter may well be the place where connections go to die. To me, Twitter is where a bloody good conversation (or two) just begins … 

Want to join me? 

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How Do I Make Sense of Social Networking Tools

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Sunset

In one of my earlier blog posts from last week, I got asked the following question: “So, what we all want to know is what have you been doing and what/where can we find you in the future?” and while I will be answering the first part over the course of time with the various blog entries I’m currently drafting along, I thought for today I’d focus on trying to answer the second part: how do I make sense of social networking tools today? More than anything else because I realise that my heavy use of social tools has shifted over the course of the years, and I guess I’m not the only one having gone through pretty much the same, and even more so since I went independent nearly two years ago. So it’s probably a good time now to revisit where do I get most of my learning nowadays and what digital tools do I rely on, or not, to get my daily work done. 

Every year Jane Hart does this absolutely wonderful exercise of putting together the Top 100 Tools for Learning (here’s the list for 2015 as a highly recommended read), and while I won’t be listing my Top 100 I will definitely try to put together some thoughts as to where I usually hang out nowadays, what I stopped using and why, and what I’m currently working on, specially, a very specific experiment that’s caused quite a stir over a month and a half ago, although that would be the story of the next blog post… 

So, here are my Top Learning Tools (for now), where ‘work is learning, learning is the work’, that my good friend Harold Jarche would say and that he wrote back in the day in a beautiful article. Mind you, it’s not a full list, since, to me, context is what defines what I will use at one point or another, so that very same context is what will define a whole bunch of other digital tools I make use of, often enough, but for very specific reasons. There may well be a time where I’ll write about them, specially, in the mobility scenario when both my iPhone and iPad Air have become my not so new anymore workplace. 

  • IBM Connections: Even though I left IBM nearly 2 years ago IBM Connections still remains my #1 business tool for work with my clients, specially, when they ask me their data to remain within the European Union borders. And IBM Connections Cloud does that beautifully. You know what some folks say, you need to be able to walk the talk, so if the vast majority of my clients are on IBM Connections at the moment, I better make good use of it as well so we can co-create together some really cool stuff along the way to help out with their own Digital Transformation journey(s).
  • Slack:  For all of the work I get to do with other clients, work groups, project teams, small niche networks on a given topic where I usually hang out on a daily basis, etc. Slack does the trick. And very much so! I truly heart it. In fact, any business tool that aims to improve both the way we communicate AND collaborate AND kill email in the process will always have my full attention. Slack has it. I use it for everything, as a personal knowledge sharing hub, as my operating system, and a whole lot more than just chat. In an upcoming blog entry I will explain plenty more how I make use of it on a daily basis, but for those of you who may be new to it, check out this stunning article put together by my good friend Thomas van der Wal that pretty much explains the nuts and bolts of what it is, what it does and why you would need to pay attention to it pretty soon, if not today already.
  • Twitter: From the Social Web, Twitter still remains my #1 tool for networking, for socialising, for (personal) learning, for getting a good sense of the pulse of the planet and, eventually, my preferred method of meeting up new people (whether online or after face to face conversations) and for social selling. Mostly accessed through Tweetbot (whether on iOS or Mac), is where I spend most of my online time on social networks today, even more so nowadays after nearly 6 weeks of running a rather fascinating experiment that’s certainly helped me challenge the status quo of how we all use it. Next blog post will talk about it in more detail, but here’s the gist of it: imagine no-one follows you on Twitter; now imagine if *you* don’t follow anyone on Twitter either, would you still use it? [Hint: Yes, I surely do!]
  • Google Plus: I wasn’t really sure whether to include G+ on this blog post, or not, initially, even though it’s one of the most powerful social networking tools out there that I have been exposed to in the last few years. However, lately, I am having a bit of a hate relationship with it witnessing, first hand, how it’s started cannibalising itself removing what once were really helpful and nifty features or splitting itself up in multiple parts (Hangouts, Photos, etc.). Some people call it re-focus. I call it, not knowing what to do with it when there isn’t a company directive in place showcasing commitment to it while listening and engaging with the community of practitioners who make it what it is today. So I continue to question its purpose and my overall use of it. I wouldn’t like it, at all, if, after 4 years of regular use, it would fall apart for good. I have gone through that path far too many times with other social tools and it’s never been pretty. One gets to learn, mostly, the hard way and, in this case, I want to do a bit of damage control this time around till things clear themselves a bit more.
  • Instagram: Ok, I confess. I still make use of some Apps from the darker side of the Social Web. In this case, Instagram. I’m totally hooked up with it and while I know and I fully understand I’m playing with the evil Facebook I don’t think I can escape from it any time soon. More than anything else because of something that Jason Fried also described quite nicely on this particularly interesting and refreshing blog post of what the original Open Social Web was supposed to be: ‘The important feel is how it makes *you* feel’… Oh, yes, using IG makes me feel good! Read Jason’s article and you will understand fully what I mean. 
  • Flickr: Despite being described as Zombie Land, it still is the main repository for the vast majority of my pictures shared across online through multiple other venues, including the source of imagery for this very same blog. And the almost daily reminder of what the Social Web was all about back in the day. Openness. Earlier on this year, it marked my 10th year anniversary as a very happy Flickr user, which means it’s the longest running social networking tool I have been using on the Internet and I don’t think I will be abandoning it any time soon. Even if just for nostalgic purposes.
  • WordPress Blog: Yes, I know, it’s not the first time we hear about the death of blogging mostly due to social networking tools, and it probably won’t be the last either, but even then, 21 years on, blogging still is a thing. More alive and kicking than ever before and perhaps still one of the most delightful self-empowering tools to help you build your digital brand over the course of the years that’s available out there, as I have been blogging about for a good while now. Later on, in October, I’ll be celebrating the 10th year anniversary of this blog and towards early December my 13th year overall of blogging since I first started my corporate blog back in 2002. 13 years of self-publishing online can give you tons of opportunities to build your own voice and writing style and eventually the perfect opportunity to keep demonstrating your thought leadership, expertise and abilities day in day out, year after year. That’s the reason why I came back to blogging after this year’s long hiatus. And why I am still in love with this medium.
  • WhatsApp and Telegram (Messaging Apps): Ok, confession #2: I still make use of some Apps from the darker side of the Social Web. In this case, WhatsApp for messaging purposes. I keep using it both for work and for personal use as it helps me keep in touch with some of my clients, business partners, family and loved ones. And when folks don’t want to make use of WhatsApp, because, you know, after all, it’s still Facebook, I basically switch to Telegram, which is an extremely decent substitute doing a really good job at it! If you already have my business mobile number, and don’t want to give me a call, but still get in touch for whatever reason, using either of those Apps will guarantee you a very speedy response from yours truly.
  • Skype / Hangouts (Instant Messaging): These are, currently, the main two options I still keep using, mostly on my desktop, for real-time, online communications. Good old Instant Messaging, and although I still rely somewhat on Skype, slowly, but, steadily, I am moving, mostly, into Hangouts, specially, for audio and video conversations where both quality and performance seem to be way better than Skype’s. So, if you need to get hold of me to check something quickly, and you may not have Twitter readily available to do so, reaching out through Hangouts IM is probably the best option to get hold of me, as I am also starting to use it much more often while I’m on the road on my phone. 
  • YouTube: No, don’t worry, I’m not one of those very talented YouTubers who earns their living making YouTube videos, although you never know. I have been known to do even way crazier things than that! But I still make use of it every now and then. Mostly through Google Hangouts on Air for the #noemail vodcasting series I’m currently co-hosting with the wonderful and rather smart Claire Burge). At the time I’m writing this we already have got 16 different episodes now in the books that we host every two weeks where we are trying to change the world to transition from #toomuchemail to #lessemail to #noemail altogether. Thus if you want to learn further more how to break free from the email yoke, or learn, at the same time, how other 2.0 practitioners (guest speakers), businesses and organisations have finally broken free, go and have a watch. I bet you will enjoy it.
  • Haiku Deck: I know, I know, while most folks are perhaps making heavy use of Slideshare to share their presentations online for whatever the speaking or customer engagement, I’m a rebel at heart, an outlier, so, instead, I use Haiku Deck. And I quite like it! You know, when putting together a presentation, most of the times the words are already there, somewhere inside one’s head, but not necessarily the imagery, so having such a superb tool as Haiku Deck to put images to your words and build your story line makes it a whole lot easier. So, if you want to check out some of the recent public presentations I have done at various events, that’s where you will find them. Not in Slideshare anymore, I am afraid.
  • Reeder: Of course, I still use RSS feeds. Daily. Remember them? Everyone thought that when Google terminated Google Reader that RSS newsfeeds would die a slow and painful death. Not likely! Quite the opposite, most probably. Gosh, while putting together this article, I realise I’m being very nostalgic by making use of social software tools that, in most cases, are considered pretty much dead, but, then again, there they are alive and kicking. RSS newsfeeds is another one to add into that pile. Yet, they are so critically and fundamentally important to curate content stored all over the Web that not only would you want to read, but also re-share over the course of time. That’s how I use my RSS feeds at the moment: for curation purposes. The reading part is mostly done when I’m disconnected, specially, when travelling for a good number of hours on plains, trains, etc. etc. That’s where Reeder kicks in as my preferred Mac App as newsfeed reader.

    Ohhh, and when I am online Twitter becomes my living, rather dynamic, and collaboratively filtered RSS newsfeed.

  • Pocket: And talking about reading content offline, curating it accordingly, and overall enjoy a superb user experience, that’s why I use Pocket and why I’m such a huge fan of it. In an upcoming blog post I will share a productivity tip of how I make use of Twitter (Through Tweetbot) and Pocket to curate an outstanding list of links I then re-share here and there into my Twitter stream over the course of time, once I have processed them. Pocket is like your extended urge to want to read all of the really cool tidbits shared across with you but not have the time right there, right then to do it. Will read it later takes a completely new meaning: Pocket.
  • Trello / Asana: For task management purposes, and where work items don’t usually take place elsewhere there are two options out there, out of perhaps far too many!, that keep dragging me back. Both Trello and Asana are the main social tools I use when I need to get work done with multiple people who may not have chosen a particular tool to keep track of those tasks. Whenever I ask if folks are familiar with either of them, the answer I get back, time and time again, is they are familiar with one or the other, or both, which makes it really easy. Mind you, they are not the only task management tools that I use, but they are definitely the ones I keep using the most in a collaborative manner. Effective Group Task Management, if you wish to call it that way.
  • Spotify: And, finally, one of my all time favourite productivity tools, which I know is going to sound very weird, pun intended, but, hey, you will know what I mean with that after you read this bunch of rather suggestive and thought-provoking articles on the power of music for getting work done, and not just to listen to it leisurely. And, yes, from all of the online / streaming services available out there, Spotify Premium is the one that does the trick for me, whether on my Mac, my iPad Air or my phone (usually, when I’m travelling or working out). 

After having gone through that list, I am pretty certain you may have noticed how there are number of different social software tools out there, some of the bit hitters, to some extent, that I haven’t mentioned above on my list of Top Learning Tools and there is a good reason for that. In fact, multiple reasons, so I thought I would mention a few usual suspects to close off this blog entry with a single liner, or two, as to why I’m no longer using them anymore or why they haven’t had enough traction to make me want to use them in the first place. Hopefully, that will help folks understand why they can’t, and won’t, find me there any time soon… So here we go: 

  • eMail: Yes, for those of you who have known me over the years, this one still is a no brainer. I’m still the #noemail guy. The think #outsidetheinbox lad who nearly 8 years ago decided to ditch email for work once and for all and still going strong at it. I know, it’s been over 18 months since the last blog post I shared across over here on the topic with some updates, but, over time, I’ll be sharing some more details, not to worry. For now, suffice to say that ever since I left my former employer, IBM, where I was averaging 16 emails received per week, and went independent, as a freelance adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation, I’m now down to 5, yes!, I know, FIVE emails received per week, which, to me, that’s pretty much just that: #noemail.
  • Facebook: Apparently, everyone seems to be flocking away from Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and what not, and return back to the borg: Facebook, in this case, because, apparently, that’s where everyone is getting the most engagement at the moment. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who are eagerly waiting for me to come back to it. It won’t happen. It’s not the kind of Social Web I want to live in and spend my time on and after having deleted my account in there over 5 years ago, it’s one of those decisions I don’t regret a single day. Even if it were the last and only social networking tool out there I still wouldn’t come back to it. Some times, you need to make a stand for what you believe in and somehow both Facebook and myself have got different beliefs at this point in time that are irreconcilable. If you are a frequent user, I’m pretty sure you know which ones at this stage. 
  • LinkedIn: Pretty much the very same thing as what I mentioned for Facebook above. Although it’s been nearly 18 months since I deleted my LinkedIn account, there isn’t a chance I will be coming back to it any time soon. Like I said, some times you need to make a stand in terms of the kind of Social Web you would want to live and thrive in and LI isn’t one of those places for me. And the same would apply to Slideshare, Pulse, and everything else that LI may contaminate over time.
  • Medium: No, thanks! I already have a lovely online publishing home where most of my articles will continue to become available over time, and that’s my personal business blog. No matter how beautiful someone else’s home may well be, your own home will always be special. It’s yours, no one else’s. Whatever happens, it will always remain your unadulterated, open window, your voice, to the world and that matters. A lot.
  • Tumblr: Same thing as for Medium. Just because you have pretty good looks and a good, decent user experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll grant you the pleasure of hosting my own content, just in case, after a while, you decide to shut down, like Posterous did back in the day, for instance. Remember? I think I learned my lessons here.  
  • Ello: I tried it and I failed, for the very same reasons as Medium and Tumblr. 
  • Meerkat & Periscope: Unfortunately, I live in a part of the world where free wifi is everything but pervasive and widely available and my mobile data has got a monthly cap of a ridiculous 2GB at a rather pricey tag, so as long as Europe doesn’t enter the 21st century in terms of pervasive, inexpensive connectivity across the entire region, I’ll be staying away from those two. For my own sanity and wallet. 
  • Snapchat: I am not enough hipster to have an account in there, I have been told, so I am staying away and probably for a good while, since I have never bought into the idea of content disappearing just like that into oblivion for no apparent reason.

I am pretty sure there are tons of other social software tools, apps and services out there I’m missing from including in this blog entry that you think I should have a presence in. Well, I might as well have it already, since I have a tendency to claim my brand name in them early in the game, but perhaps I don’t regularly use it, because I haven’t found a specific reason for it, which was the main purpose of writing this article in the first place: to give you all a glimpse of where I spend most of my online time nowadays when making heavy use of social / digital tools not just to get work done, but also to keep learning, with plenty of sensemaking, along the way. #PKMastery, as Harold Jarche himself blogged about a while ago, as one of the must-have 21st century digital skills.

If you feel there is a social software tool I should be aware of to start making use of it, feel free to comment below your suggestion and perhaps share with us the why as well. Somehow one thing I have learned over time is that I have stopped making use of social tools without having a clear purpose about what to get out of them. Because just using them for the sake of using them not only is it boring, but it won’t take you / us anywhere.

Finding the right purpose (for each!) is where the magic happens. For the rest, life is just too short!

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Productivity Tips for the Mobile (Social) Knowledge Web Worker – Mophie, Gum Max and Logitech

As I have mentioned on my last blog post, here’s a follow-up entry for today where I’m going to pick things up from where I left them around some additional Productivity Tips for the Mobile (Social) Knowledge Web Worker. This time around not so much on software per se, but on hardware and, more specifically, for two different types of devices: iPhones and iPads. Over the course of the last couple of years I seem to have developed a bit of an addiction with regards to accessories for both of these types of devices, but things seem to have calmed lately now that I feel I may have found just what I wanted: Mophie, Gum Max and Logitech.

Indeed, as a mobile knowledge Web worker, always on the move, one learns to appreciate quite a bit those small pleasures of staying connected to a power outlet whenever, or wherever!, you may be working, just to keep up with your productive day work. Yet, time and time again, we keep failing bumping into those pocket sockets, whether at airports, at bars, restaurants, coffee shops, at customer sites, conference venues, etc. etc. You name it. Yet we know that we need to keep things going, because we have to. It’s our job as mobile workers. So how do we do it? How do we keep our productivity levels up while on the road? 

Well, in my own case, and after having acquired a whole bunch of accessories, that didn’t quite make the mark, by the way!, t think I may have landed on the Top 3 that have certainly boosted my effectiveness and efficiency, while I am travelling, to levels I probably thought in the past were not possible. Two of them are battery accessories (For my iPhone and iPad, respectively) and the last one is a keyboard / case for my iPad. 

You would remember how one of the main key issues we all get to experience, and suffer from!, with our mobile devices, whether smartphones or tablets, is the poor performance of the battery life from each and everyone of them. To the point where we all take for granted that while the battery would be, and should be, better, here we are, in 2012, and the innovation happening around that space is not as rampant, and fruitful as in other areas. So while we keep awaiting for that magic bullet that would revolutionalise the entire market in this area, we continue looking for workarounds that would be good enough to make us move forward. 

And after such a long search I think I may have bumped into the perfect combination that has worked really well, for myself, in the last few weeks. And therefore the reason why I thought it would be a good thing to put together this blog post over here to share the experiences of what’s been like finding new tricks to battery life, as well as one of my biggest productivity boosts when using an iPad: an ultrathin keyboard cover. 

That’s right, on my last couple of business trips that I have done over the course of the last few weeks I never leave home without my fully charged Mophie Juice Pack Plus, my Just Mobile Gum Max and my Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the iPad. They have pretty much become indispensable for yours truly and I wouldn’t know what things would be like without them, as a mobile knowledge worker, because all of that stress trying to find and locate a power socket or all of that frenzy typing with your bare fingers on the touch screen are now things of the past! And very happy to report they are and haven’t walked back ever since! 

The Mophie Juice Pack Plus is that super nifty gadget for the iPhone 4 or 4S that acts as a rock solid battery case that allows you to protect your iPhone from damage, i.e. if it falls down or whatever else, at the same time that it gives you a full one and a half time charge of your smartphone regular battery life, which is just tremendously powerful when you are on the road for an extensive period of time and you don’t have a power socket nearby. Not a problem anymore! That Mophie Juice Pack Plus gadget will solve it once and for all. Now, instead of charging my iPhone every single day I only have got to do it every other day, and, if I am lucky, perhaps even 2 or 3 times per week! Again, priceless, if you don’t have access to AV current right away while travelling. 

But it gets better, because even if I run out of battery life both on my iPhone 4S and my Mophie Juice Pack Plus I still have got another little gadget that has transformed the way I interact with both my iPhone and my iPad: of course, I am talking about Just Mobile’s Gum Max external battery, which, although originally designed for the iPad, also allows you to charge your iPhone’s battery, should you need to. But then again Gum Max was designed to help you amplify and augment the battery life of your iPad, even the New iPad. And it rocks, just as much!

Giving you “a colossal 10,400 mAh capacity, and 2.1A current“, it allows you to charge the iPhone battery up to 6 times, and about one and a half the iPad, at tremendous speeds altogether, so you wouldn’t have to wait much before getting back into action. Even more so, you can continue working while charging the devices. So, as you can imagine, long gone are the times where I have to wait for that power outlet to be freed up, or to hunt down that power socket while at a conference venue, right before running out of juice. Now, it’s all back to keep things going, knowing that battery life is no longer a problem for yours truly. Both Mophie and Just Mobile’s smart and elegant solutions have helped me address and fix that growing pain of running out of battery life far too soon, at the most inconvenient of times. And if I’m traveling across the pond, it’s always refreshing to know that I will be over 20 hours in transit without noticing a single glitch of a failing battery life and instead just keep working along! 

Yes, I would probably agree with you that both of those gadgets are certainly not very cheap, but I can tell you that if you spend more time on the road than what you do at your home / remote office, it’s definitely one of the best investments that you could ever make as a remote knowledge worker. Highly recommended both of them!

And talking about best investments how about if we move on with what I feel has been one of the best purchases that I have done in a long while with regards to anything tech based. At least, for my mobile devices. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, over the course of the last couple of years I seem to have developed an addiction towards accessories, specially, for the iPad, mainly iPad Cases and external Keyboards. I think at this stage I may have tried out about a dozen of them of all sorts, shapes, product specs, capabilities, that you can imagine. And it is something that I haven’t grown tired of just yet. It keeps building up! Although, I no longer feel the same urge as I did before… And all of that thanks to the absolutely delightful, and incredibly powerful altogether!, Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

I first read about it on Twitter, of course, where folks were raving around how powerful, yet smart it was; then I saw my good friend Dennis Howlett putting together a lovely blog post where he talked about how good it was, where he also included a short video clip on it. And that was it! I knew it right there that I wanted to have it. No further convincing needed. So while I was in Boston, for the Enterprise 2.0 conference event, I escaped for a few minutes to the nearest Best Buy shop and got myself one. And, boy, did it make a difference on how I do productive work on my iPad ever since! Tremendous!

Indeed, over the last couple of weeks I have been using my iPad quite extensively, even while at home!!, definitely much more than with other keyboard / cases I have tried out so far, just because of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, because it allows me to do extensive typing away on an instant access device I can take anywhere! So now I actually get to draft entire blog posts, work much more often than ever with Evernote, or whatever other note taking App, with my photos, with file sharing Apps, mindmapping along quite happily, Twitter and other Social Networking Sites Apps, with work related Apps, too! etc. etc. Goodness, it’s transformed the way I interact with the iPad in ways I never thought I would. It’s like combining the best of both worlds: a laptop computer, and a tablet, which for reduced spaces it’s just perfect! Even when inside the plane! It just works without having to self-inflict yourself painful postures!

So there you have it. As I continue to keep reshaping my mobile (social) knowledge Web worker user experience in order to get the most out of my productivity, while on the road, I’m finding out it’s a combination of both software and hardware the bits and pieces, here and there, that are helping me reach new levels of effectiveness and efficiency that I never thought I would be able to on mobile devices like my iPhone 4S or my new iPad. Thus, perhaps, it’s also a really good time to resume  that rather interesting initiative I kept going for a good while, but that I left go dormant for perhaps far too long, because I didn’t think it would prove too useful over the course of time. Well, I think I was wrong.

And it’s probably a good time to confirm that, don’t you think? It’s about time that I resume again bringing up to live #elsuapps, specially, since I already tried it out, once more, in Google Plus and maybe now I have got a much better chance of sustaining it in the medium / long term, as I keep spending more and more time on the road using all of those super nifty iOS Apps, with the perfect hardware companion to make it relatively easy to roll things up again, I guess! Thus stay tuned for plenty more coolness and usefulness to come along! I am sure you will all enjoy it just as much as I am doing it myself with all of these hardware accessories. It’s like being at a candy store, except perhaps that I have already got my sweets… 

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The Tribulations of Customer Service with Opera

Opera Logo
Over the last few days I have been relatively quiet on this blog, more than anything else because I have been doing plenty of thinking, along with drafting a bunch of blog entries, on venturing to re-design and redefine the corporate workplace as we know it seeing the huge impact social computing is causing on how we get work done. I already ventured to share some of those insights on previous blog posts, as you may have already noticed, but I’m now ready to share plenty more. So it’s time to pick up my regular blogging schedule and get down to business. How about if we take a look at the state of one of the most powerful use cases and success stories behind social networking and social media out there, Customer Service, and see whether we have got another winner or not… Hummm … not really. Colour me an skeptic then: “I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me” [by Charles Townshend]

For a good number of years, actually, for as long as I remember, my all time favourite default Web browser has been Opera. I know that may sound as pure heresy by those who live on Internet Explorer, FireFox or Chrome, for that matter, but, it’s true. I have always been in love with that browser from the very first moment that I used it on Windows and now on Mac. Something that I cannot say for any of the others, as they have taught me, over the course of the years, to not trust them much for doing an effective job or for making my Web work any easier. Opera did though.

For those folks who may not be familiar with Opera it’s that massive swiss knife-like Web browser that allows you to do a bunch of various different tasks and activities without leaving the application itself: email (Ha! Before you run into the wrong conclusions, like when I mentioned this over on Twitter, I still use *personal* email for private exchanges, specially, with those folks who loathe social networking tools or for those other who haven’t bought into it just yet, but it’s still my personal email, not work related); newsgroups and forums; Internet Relay Chat (a.k.a. I.R.C.); RSS / Atom newsfeeds; torrents, etc. etc. It’s all you need in a browser to help you become a powerful knowledge Web worker. And it works. It *does* certainly work. Till you lose 7 years of history. 

That’s right! Last week, I got a prompt to upgrade Opera v 11.62 to v 11.63 on the Mac through the Mac App Store. Free upgrade, as usual, rightly embedded into the App Store experience for the first time *ever* and ready to take the plunge. And there I went, and there I lost 7 years of both personal and some work related stuff. Ouch!!! The upgrade went all right, or so I thought. No glitches noticed and in a matter of minutes I was upgraded. The problem though became apparent when, after starting the browser, I could have access to everything (Bookmarks, links, speed-dial options, etc. etc.), except the Mail folder. The folder that contained all of those personal private email messages, several hundreds, if not thousands, of RSS feed items, newsgroups, forum posts, and so forth. All of that completely wiped out. Gone! 1.76GB of data smashed as if they never happened. 

Initially, I thought that the folder may have just been misplaced, or it may have been located elsewhere, but when trying to use Grand Perspective and WhatSize I just couldn’t locate that 1.76GB of disk space anywhere. Just anywhere. I looked and looked for a couple of days and nothing to be found. All deleted. Wiped out. Completely. No more available and slowly entering into panic mode at that time! One of the reasons why I have delayed blogging about it because you know how it goes as one of the golden rules for blogging: never blog when you are upset or angry. But I was. I *certainly* was. Right there, last week, I was prompted to upgrade to a new version of my all time favourite browser and right there it managed to destroy that trustworthy relationship of the last 7 years. Panic mode growing stronger by the minute. So I turned to Opera’s customer service hoping they might be able to help out. But, no, they couldn’t. In fact, they didn’t. Or worse, they never ever even responded! Talking about the power of Social Media in providing good customer support / service… Not!

I opened a Forum post at the Opera Forums for Mac users. 4 days later I’m waiting for the first response / reply from any of the support folks from Opera itself. Nothing has happened so far. So in an effort to get back to normal, I decided to reach out to them on Twitter and experience their customer support through social media channels. Just as inexistent, and still waiting for a response through a Mention, Forum Reply or whatever else. Yet, nothing: 



I know at this point in time most of you folks may have been thinking that I’m making too much of a fuss with all of this, since I could just fire up my most recent copy of my data stored in my Time Machine, copy it across and move along. I did do that already and I managed to recover almost entirely from it, having lost only two weeks of data, but I still think it’s beyond the point. If I am a customer, and end-user of your product, and I have run into trouble because of an upgrade you are advising me to take upon, the least I’m going to expect is for you to be there when I need you. When I need your help to get me back in business, because something may well go wrong, like it did. What I was not expecting at all was not perhaps a feedback comment that I had too much of bad luck, but the fact that there hasn’t been a single reaction, *at all*. Again, talking about customer service in the era of Social Media engaging through social channels. Colour me skeptic once again, because it’s just not happening!

And Opera is not just the only recent occurrence of this lack of customer service through social channels. In the past, and just through my own personal experiences, although my good friend Euan Semple has also got a recent, rather interesting, upsetting story on poor quality customer service from an ISP provider: Orange, other businesses like Delta Airlines, Movistar, Swisscom & NH Hotels have been running into the same issues of poor customer service and they have never gotten in touch. Months have gone by without anything happening and, at this point in time, I won’t expect a response either. And the same would apply for Opera. Thus just like I did with all of those businesses (No longer flying with Delta, no longer supporting Movistar, no longer staying at NH Hotels who employ Swisscom as their wi-fi providers), over the weekend I recovered fully from the huge mess the upgrade caused and I have now stopped using Opera altogether and have moved on to RSS feed readers, specific mail clients (Sparrow), and both FireFox and Chrome as my new browsers. 

Now, I know I won’t be trusting them to do the right job, since they never have done it properly in the first place, the browsers, I mean, but I already know that. I’m on guard with both of them and keeping an eye on my data to ensure it’s all there in a consistent manner. However, I trusted Opera. I have trusted it for over 7 years to do the right thing and it has done so all along, but for one instance where a big mess was caused the last thing I expected was a lack of response. Not a single comment, not a single reaction. Sorry, but that hurts. Customer loyalty takes years to build effectively, just as much as trust does, but it just takes a split second to destroy and to not recover it again. So time for me to move on and don’t look back, since they have done so just the same. 

I can imagine that plenty of businesses are buying into the whole mantra of using social media to be closer to their customers and help support them accordingly. The thing though is that you eventually need to do that. If you are going to be there, be there, be willing to actively listen to not only the wonderful, positive feedback that you get from your customers about your products, but also the rough commentary, the constructive feedback that people share kindly with you without expecting any kind of compensation except than you fixing your own problems with your products so that they can be happy customers again. If you are only willing to listen through social media to the kool-aid and how great your products are, you are just use social technologies as another marketing thingy, whatever name you would want to insert there, and we all know how much we, dear customers, loathe that kind of cheating behaviour. End result? What I started this blog post with: 

“I cannot go to the Opera, because I have forsworn all expense which does not end in pleasing me”

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@Janetter or How I Started to Enjoy Twitter Once Again


There used to be a time when I was very much in love with Twitter. It was my favourite social networking tool by far. It was quite an exhilarating experience being constantly exposed to some of the most amazing conversations and informal learning at its best. To me, it was *the* place to provoke plenty of facilitated serendipity to take place and keep in the know with all of that stuff one gets passionate about over the course of time. But then, after a short while, I started hating Twitter. Perhaps a bit too harsh of a word, maybe loathe could do.

Over the course of just a few weeks Twitter managed to destroy, in a very pernicious manner, not only the overall user experience, but the entire ecosystem as well that made it a success in the first place: Third party apps. And it totally hit me when I saw my all time favourite Twitter client (Nambu) disappear into thin air just because of that series of misbehaviours. Fast forward to the end of 2011 and I am back in love with Twitter again, not because of all of the various different new features and capabilities they have been putting together, but because I have finally found The Best Twitter Client On The Net: Janetter.

Yes, that’s right! It surely looks like Twitter continues to be keen on destroying not just the Third Part Apps ecosystem that made it incredibly popular in the first place, but also some of its own desktop clients like Twitter for Mac or TweetDeck, where the latest upgrades have deteriorated the user experience for both of them tremendously altogether! Or so I am told. The thing is though that ever since I started making use of Janetter my overall user experience has seen quite a profound transformation.

It was through my good friend Rachel Happe that I first heard (Of course, on Twitter!) about this very special Twitter client that works both in Windows and on the Mac. She liked the experience and right away I thought about giving it a try myself, after having been actively searching for a good substitute for Nambu throughout all of this time playing with a bunch of other Twitter clients whether on the Mac or on iOS devices. And right off, within the first few hours I knew that Janetter would be my new, much preferred, default Twitter client on the Mac. What a beautiful experience, indeed!

I realise most of you folks would notice how I hardly ever get to talk about (Productivity) Tools and such on this blog, since I have always thought that they usually come and go and it’s very hard to get attached to any of them over the course of time, because you never know when they will go ahead and disappear. But since a bunch of people have been asking me what I like so much about this particular Twitter client why not put together this blog post and share some of the most compelling reasons why I have been enjoying it since day one that I installed it. At the same time, there have been a few other folks who have tried it out themselves, after I mentioned on Twitter myself how much I enjoyed it, and they didn’t like it at all. They actually thought it was a horrendous experience, so perhaps this article would help me share across some of the main reasons why Janetter is, to me, as good as it gets with regards to Twitter clients on whatever the platform. Hopefully, with that input it would give you a pretty good idea on whether you may want to give it a try or not.

So here are some of the most compelling reasons why I heart Janetter as my all time favourite Twitter client, even way above than Nambu, from back in the day:

  • Cross-Platform: Indeed, no matter whether you may be using Windows, or Mac, it would work in both just beautifully! Time and time again I kept finding it a challenge recommending a Windows client that would not be TweetDeck, which is, I guess, what most folks tend to use at the moment. And now we have got a pretty good and rather impressive rival: Janetter. (Yes, I do realise there isn’t a version for Linux users at the moment, so those folks may need to continue using whatever tool they may have at the moment)
  • Scalability: You could probably say that I’m a power user of Twitter, and perhaps of several other social networking sites, too, and one of my favourite features from Janetter itself is how scalable it is! It’s amazing! I have been using it rather heavily over the course of a few weeks now, with large networks and rather complex searches, and not a single glitch to be observed with the overall performance of the application or the machine altogether, which is not the same I could say about a bunch of other Twitter clients or even other social networking sites’ Apps. That’s a winner for me, specially, if you are a heavy user of Twitter yourself. Worth while a try just for that!
  • Reliability: Another one of my favourite features from this Twitter App. Like I said, I use it daily rather heavily and, probably, in the most extreme of circumstances hacking different behaviours and I have yet to see, and experience!, the first crash on the Mac! And that’s been weeks of long and lasting use already! Like I said, not a single one!! Not sure what you would think about it, but that’s what reliability is all about in my books, don’t you think?
  • The Look & Feel: This may well just apply to Mac Fanboys, but one of the things you would very much like from this Twitter App is that it behaves and works in pretty much the same way than any other native Mac App, which is a lot to be said for an application that’s developed to work cross-platforms. The time dedicated to make it look and feel like a native Mac App is just priceless. It doesn’t give you the impression, at all!, that you may be using a Windows copy! No way! A big Yes!!
  • Customisation: This is an area that I know most folks would not care much about it, but I love it. Being capable of customising my own user experience of what I see and play with is just a tremendous bonus! The wide range of Skins with multiple colours, displays, fonts, etc. etc. and the extensive User Preferences to tame the experience to your own likes and dislikes, needs and requirements surely is quite a treat! And something that you hardly ever see on Twitter Apps at all these days.
  • Like TweetDeck: But … without the hassle. That’s pretty much how I basically describe Janetter when people ask me about it. It’s like TweetDeck but without all of those issues that keep crumbling the overall experience of Adobe AIR Apps (I had enough of the Kernel Panics, so I no longer use AIR on my MacBook Air and everything running smooth again!). Any kind of problem or issue you can find in TweetDeck it’s fixed in this Twitter App, for real! Seriously, if you are looking for a pretty impressive alternatively to TweetDeck on the Mac, or on Windows, take it for a spin and see how it would work out for you. I can probably guarantee you won’t be back ever since…
  • The Timeline: I guess at some point I should probably go ahead and put together a short screencast of how I use the Twitter Timeline to quickly scan through tweets and pause through those I would really want to digest and muse further about and when to speed up and move on. But if you try out Janetter youself you will see what that experience looks like to me at the moment. As easy as it can get and using something so relatively simple, yet so powerful as keyboard strokes to advance on reading tweets, as well as natural scrolling (Up or down or both!) without seeing the application come to a hault! No matter how fast you go! Just brilliant!

  • The Groups: This is probably the one single feature that most folks who use TweetDeck today, or any other Twitter client that allows you to gather twitterers by groups, would enjoy very much and by far! Creating groups in Janetter is just such a breeze! Groups as in Twitter Lists, obviously; if you have created them already, it’s just as simple as displaying them and they will stick around pulling a bunch of initial updates to let you know how things are going, and then move from there. You can mark them all as read, if you would wish to as well, and you can have a whole bunch of columns without a single glitch on the overall performance itself. Very powerful and strongly recommended for power users, for sure! 

  • The Mentions: If you have been following me on Twitter for a while, over at @elsua, you would probably know how Twitter Mentions is my most simple, and long standing, grieving of my overall Twitter use. I have been complaining about how poor the accuracy of the Mentions is overall and time and time again we have seen how Twitter itself seems to be not very keen on wanting to address the issues and fix them. Well, no longer needed. Janetter did just that for me, allowing me again to catch up properly with those Mentions by not missing any of them! Pretty consistent and rather reliable! Not sure how they do it, but it just works! And thanks much for that!!
  • The Searching Capabilities: Whether you are searching for specific terms, whatever those may well be, even with complex searches, or following a particular hashtag (Like I am about to do with #ls12 and #connect12 when I get back to work – More on that soon!) Janetter’s searching capabilities and real-time searches are just superb! Not matter how busy the Search timeline may well be, it will keep up with it and provide you with all you need. Just like that. No need to figure why this or that search doesn’t work, or why it doesn’t pull off updates. It just does it and beautifully! And in columns, too!! Which means that’s rather easy to keep up with them in a single view without having to go click, click, click.
  • Following Conversations in Context: For those of us who have always considered Twitter one of the hottest places out there in the social networking sites realm for holding conversations on a wide range of topics, this Twitter client would be incredibly helpful and very powerful, because as you engage in conversations with other twitterers you would have an opportunity to catch up with them without having to go elsewhere. They are right there, embedded as part of the tweet stream, and in a rather beautiful and elegant manner, which is certainly everything, but disruptive, and that is what it should all be about! No longer will you be missing out on conversations in context while you are tweeting away! Fantastic and very much needed altogether!
  • An ecosystem on its own: Where viewing and displaying Twitter related data from other Twitterers, like their profiles, their latest tweets, the following, etc. etc. or the pictures and videos they keep sharing along works like a charm; embedded right there within the same window and with an opportunity of, once again, not having to go anywhere else, which means you can keep tweeting along without having to worry as to which window you were at at that very moment. Love how it takes tweeting in context into a new level altogether!
  • Muting Options: Yes, I know, I know, plenty of times I have been enjoying some serious rounds of twitterrhea myself, specially, when I am live tweeting conference events, and time and time again folks keep wondering how to mute me for a (long) while. Well, Janetter offers that opportunity, right there, in the Application itself and with a good number of options. So if you ever need to mute any of your social networks it will do the job just beautifully, which means you can keep your focus where you would want it to be, instead of getting distracted unnecessarily. Priceless, don’t you think?
  • Support of Multiple Accounts: Ohhh, and if you have multiple Twitter accounts, this App would help you manage each of them rather elegantly as well. Now, I now longer need to worry about that one myself, but if I were, I would surely make use of it, instead of having to go for more costly options to try to achieve the very same thing. Very nicely done altogether!
  • Local Cache: This is perhaps my all time favourite feature from any of the Twitter clients I have used over the course of the years. From what I know it’s not even available for the vast majority of them, but, to me, it’s become an essential key feature I cannot longer live without. We all know that it’s almost impossible to keep up with the Twitter streams, so we eventually get to dive in every so often to see what’s happening. Well, Janetter takes that into a new level. It allows you to cache all of the tweets, so you can catch up with them, if you would want to!, at your own pace and rhythm. If you have got a special group of twitterers that you would always want to read all of their tweets this client would allow you to do that easily!

    I love it particularly when I’m travelling, or away from the computer for an extended period of time, and would come back wanting to learn what’s happened on my Twitter streams and there it goes… all of them (In the hundreds, or the thousands!) available with a single scroll! Yes, I know you are not supposed to read them all, but sometimes, whenever time allows you to, you do, and it’s just such a treat having an App that fully supports it that overtime it’s become the one single main reason why I couldn’t live now without Janetter to keep up with those folks I’m keen on following up with. 

    Really powerful altogether to give you, the end-user, the ability to decide how much you would want to dive into your tweet streams without going crazy, but having a good grasp of what’s happening. Can you imagine Twitter allowing you to do that natively on their Apps or the Web interface? No, indeed, not a single chance! Massive kudos to Janetter in this regard, for sure!!

And, finally, perhaps the one single key favourite feature of them all. After all of what I have mentioned above, all of the reasons, features, capabilities and huge potential it offers to us heavy twitterers, I still find it quite amazing that Janetter is made free, as in FREE!!, for all of us. No doubt, even if they would ask us for money I think it’d be the best money spent on any Twitter client out there by far, I would buy a copy of it in a split second and without thinking too much about it!, but the folks behind it have made it available to us all free of charge, which is just probably as good as it gets!

That’s about it, folks, here you have got in a single blog post the various many reasons why I’m now back in love with Twitter, not because of Twitter itself, or the technology behind it, but because thanks to the absolutely delightful user experience of Janetter I’m capable of doing something that in the last few months I kept struggling with time and time again: following, digesting, and learning plenty more in good context from the tweet streams of my favourite social networks, which, eventually, is the main reason of why Twitter exists for most of us and I am happy to see how this Twitter App is making that possible. At least, for me. Hope for you, too! If you have found this blog entry useful enough to take it for a spin, let me know in the comments what you think and whether it’s helping you transform the way you interact with Twitter, like it has done with me so far and big time …


Ohhh, and in case you may be wondering what would be my favourite iOS clients for both iPad and iPhone, for when I am on the road, away from my MacBook Air, that would be Osfoora HD for the iPad and the native Twitter for iPhone client. But, once again, they are not the same as the real thing, which is why I do seriously hope that some day we would be able to see Janetter entering the iOS world helping us redefine that mobile Twitter user experience once again! I very much look forward to that!

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Staying Healthy – 11 Ergonomic Tips for Avoiding RSI

Gran Canaria - On the Way to Artenara with Mount Teide in the HorizonOne of the biggest challenges we, knowledge (Web) workers, keep facing over the course of time, as we get more and more heavily involved with knowledge work being carried out through both traditional and emergent collaboration and knowledge sharing tools out there on the Social Web, is the fact that, now more than ever, we need to stay healthy, specially, as we tend to spend plenty of our time in front of a (computer) screen typing away for a good number of hours in our work day. We no longer have a choice at this point, more than anything else, because if we don’t do it for ourselves, no-one else would! It’s our responsibility, to a great extent, that we strive to remain healthy in this 2.0 world as much as we possibly can. Just think of it, what would happen if all of a sudden you end up suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury, a.k.a. RSI, for instance, at the worst timing ever during your current project(s)? Could you afford falling sick for a good number of months while trying to recover? Probably not, right?

Well, this is one of those times where we all need to be very grateful to Charles Hamilton for putting together an amazing set of hints and tips, gathered by Wimsey Cherrington, over at GigaOm‘s WebWorkerDaily11 Ergonomic Tips for Avoiding RSI” that will act as excellent reminders for what we can do actively to help avoid falling into the trap of RSI. The article itself references as well a couple of rather interesting and very helpful entries on this very same topic: “How to Keep Your Wrists Healthy” and “DIY Home and Mobile Office Ergonomics“. Both of them highly recommended reads as well, mainly because of the whole bunch of pragmatic ideas shared across that you can put into practice right away.

It’s been nearly two years since my last blog entry on this important and rather relevant topic of RSI, and since this is also a blog that talks a bit about productivity and, most importantly, how to stay productive, I thought I would spend a few minutes referencing Charles’ article sharing a couple of other tips that have worked with me wonderfully over the course of the last few months. So, to get started let’s go ahead and list those 11 tips that he collected from Wimsey:

  1. Take frequent breaks: Indeed! I already do this with a couple of tips… First, my all time favourite preferred productivity tool to help me stay away from RSI by giving me plenty of reminders throughout the day to take frequent breaks. On the Mac, of course, I am talking about MacBreakZ, which I already blogged about it over two years ago as well. And just recently, another technique that has helped me tremendously with taking frequent breaks, regardless of what I am doing, is The Pomodoro Technique, where I have got it set up to give me a 5 minute break every 25 minutes of a particular task I may be doing. So far combining both of these tips has proved to be rather successful altogether, so if you are looking for a couple of options to help you take more frequent breaks you could have a look into those. They have worked wonders with me so far!
  2. Relax: No brainer, I know, but how many of us do that during the course of the week? Read further on the tip to see what I mean…
  3. Exercise: Charles shares a link to these wonderful exercises worth while having a look at, but I have also read just recently how activities like walking your dog, or, better said, asking your dog to take you for a long walk, can be very effective as well in your overall fitness program(s). Yes, indeed, I can vouch that one works, too!
  4. Keep your feet comfortable: i didn’t realise about the importance of this one, but it surely does make sense. We need to be aware as to where our feet are while sitting in front of the computer for so long!
  5. Position yourself for comfort: Nothing more to add to that one, I am afraid.
  6. Lose the back pocket: I never had to worry about this one, but good to know, just in case!
  7. Find the right keyboard and mouse: I have never used an external mouse, but ever since I was introduced to the TouchPad from MacBook Pros, and now with MacBook Air, I haven’t been back ever since and the native keyboard on the MBAir is working really well with me so far.
  8. Use a stand for your laptop or tablet: Check! For both the MBAir and for the iPad; so much better to work with anyway, specially, since I can fall back into natural postures versus having to curve my body unnecessarily.
  9. Check your eyeglass prescription: our eyes are critical for our work, so the better we look after them, the better we will be eventually.
  10. Look for ergonomic hotel space: As a road warrior, one of the things I have built a good habit of is to take breaks even more frequently in this scenario of working remotely, more than anything else because those ergonomics are really lacking and taking breaks and going for long walks helps make up for that lack of a better workspace. Thank goodness it’s just temporary. Important to go back to the usual routines when coming back!
  11. Get regular tune-ups: This is going along the lines of what I have been saying to myself as well for a while; as soon as it starts “hurting” a bit, even the slightest discomfort, time to stop and check with the specialists. They know better than you do.

As you may have seen above, lots of great tips shared across by both Wimsey and Charles. Read further their article as you are bound to find plenty more golden nuggets. For now, I would want to leave you folks with a couple of extra bonus tips on a couple of other Productivity Tools that I make use of quite heavily and which I have found incredibly helpful over the course of months. The first one is called TextExpander, where I have been capable of building up a whole bunch of macros that I run constantly that help me save lots of typing for repetitive sentences, phrases, common URLs, long pieces of the same text that you know you need to copy and paste all over the place, like online forms, etc. etc. According to TextExpander’s statistics so far I have saved over 155k characters! Yes, I know! That’s a lot of typing saved right there with just a couple of key strokes here and there! One of those essential applications every writer should have at their desktops! Oh, and there are versions of it as well for both iPhone and iPad, too! :)

And, finally, the last productivity tip for this blog entry that will surely help you decrease, substantially, the amount of time we all spend typing away in front of computers. It’s one that’s taken me quite a bit of time to get used to and master, but once I have managed to make it through it’s a huge time saver when you need to type large amounts of text. Of course, I am talking about MacSpeech Dictate, now rebranded to Dragon Dictate for Mac, which, basically, allows you to use natural speech to “talk to the computer” and have all of those words written down for you in a breeze and amazingly accurate, although, like I said, it took me a while to figure out what accent I would be using within the application itself, which I thought was just too funny, as a non-native English speaker! hehe

Either way, while reading this blog post I am sure you may be wondering that taking care of your health to help avoid RSI with some of the tools I have mentioned above is perhaps a little bit of an expensive treat, and probably I would have to agree with you on that, but then again, think how much more expensive it could well be, if you don’t invest in providing yourself with the tooling, techniques, hints and tips and whatever other tricks to stay healthy and avoid further trouble. I think I am going to stick around with these, don’t you think?

What other tips have you been employing over the course of time to help you avoid RSI? I am always willing to learn more useful tips and further advice on such an important topic! Would love to hear from you all in the comments!

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