You've come to right place if you're looking for some good stories, reliable recipes, interesting photos (if ever I figure out how to use my new camera), household tips, book recommendations, advice and discussion on everything from aquariums to zabaglione, and you'd like to read about the world according to me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Twitter: Understanding and Using the @ Sign

One of my friends here on Vancouver Island

I was away from Twitter for several months, and I have recently returned to it. I get very involved with it, and then I need a break for while.

Upon my return, I was startled to notice that often twitterers don't really understand how Twitter works or how to use Twitter to their advantage. If you care about increasing your number of followers, understanding how to word your tweets is key.

The first thing you can do is to get your name circulating in the Twittersphere. In order to get your name circulating, you have to understand the @ sign.

If you start a tweet with the @ sign, the only people who see your tweet are the people who follow you and the people who follow the person you're sending it to. By that I mean the intersecting set. If I haven't made myself clear, a follower has to be following *both* of you to see that tweet. This is invariably a very small number.

So if your tweet is this (I'm making this up):

@joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City.

You should instead, make it like this:

Hey @joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

or this:

.@joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

In the first example there's a word before the @ sign, and in the second example there's a period before the @ sign. If you put *anything* in front of the @ sign then *all* of your followers see the tweet.

But how does that help me, Cynthia?

It helps you in several ways.

A) It gets your name circulating. People get to know you and are more likely to initiate conversation with you. As you get to know people, it is more likely they will suggest others follow you.

B) People are more likely to retweet it (getting your name circulating more). Anyone who likes dining out, or who like the Rotten Fish Cafe, or is from Nowhere City will likely retweet it or initiate conversation with you. See A.

C) By adding the #hashtag, people who are searching for that #hashtag can find your tweet and you by association. They'll follow you because they learn that you know restaurants.

But, Cynthia, I was just having a conversation with my buddy, you may be thinking. I grasp that. However, many people have a long timeline of tweets that all start with the @ sign, so it's like you're living in a void on Twitter. A) Hardly anyone sees these tweets. B) Hardly anyone gets to know you. C) Other people would be interested in and enjoy these tweets, even if it's a long threaded conversation.

So how do I tweet the conversation so that others can understand and follow what's going on?

This is the method I use:

Let's say you tweeted this:

Hey @joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

Joe Shmo replies to you, @nobody111:

I had some rotten fish there on thurs RT @nobody111 I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe #restaurant

This is what happens:

All of your followers see your tweet, and all of @joeshmo's followers see his tweet, and they can follow the conversation. You get to see the conversation because @you is in there. Threaded conversations like this can be very amusing to read for everyone.

This is just one little thing that most people don't understand and don't use to your advantage.

But, Cynthia, isn't it disingenuous to try to show off my conversation to the Twitterverse?

No. That's why we're on Twitter in the first place. Did you forget? It's to read and enjoy the floating conversation from people everywhere. It's to get to know people and have them get to know you. Enjoy.

Whenever I write about Twitter, I always like to thank my Twitter buddies. @TweetSmarter is the source of all things Twitter. @dudeman718 is a treasure trove of information and a really nice guy. @suzesmuses @BudgetDude @ej_butler and @mswaichingliu81 were happy to see me when I came back after a few months. @goodwilljohnson and @ashvartsman are writer friends. @loremarlene is my real life local friend and @keithborgnet was instrumental in getting me from 200 followers to 4000.

Another new friend

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gardening Here I Come

Wisteria from last summer:

I haven't blogged for a while. Please forgive me.

Many things have happened since last summer. We finally fenced in our front yard to keep the deer out, so I will plant fruit trees this spring. My husband thinks that I'll be planting two evergreens. It will be more like 20 deciduous trees. I guess those nice neat diagonal rows he cuts in the grass will be gone forever. Alas.

So I'm scouring nursery catalogues and websites. This is a very complicated business, if you didn't know. Most fruit trees require one or more *other* similar fruit trees for pollination. What this means is that if you want 4 fruit trees to bear fruit, figure on planting 10. Don't plant them too close to the driveway or you will have apples falling on your friends' cars. This is not a problem for me because I don't have any friends.

Not only that, but those that will be pollinating each other need to flower at the same time. As you can guess, most nurseries don't tell you when the trees flower. Good luck finding that information. You can always contact me because I have researched flowering times for every fruit tree known to man.

Last month I had my first cataract surgery. It was actually quite painless, but scary thinking about someone digging around inside your eyeball. It was also a revolting development to learn that I had cataracts at age 48. (On surgery day I was in the OR waiting room with three 80-year-olds.) I lucked out and got a surgery date for the next eye in two weeks. I won't say more about this now because I'm trying to sell an article about the experience.

I've been doing a lot of writing. I'm now a regular contributor to Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement Magazine. I kid you not. Yes, the woodworking thing has borne fruit so to speak. I'm doing about one article per month for them. I've also started writing fiction. That's great fun because you get to make up stuff. You don't have to stick to the facts like in non-fiction. Your characters say whatever you want them to say.

My first fiction submission ever was accepted last week by MUSED, the BellaOnline Literary Review. It's not the New Yorker, but it's a respectable place for a short story and a website that gets a *lot* of traffic--we're talking more than half a million hits per month. When they accepted the piece, they also asked me for an essay on writing because they said my story was their favorite for that issue. So in horse races, I think you call that an Exacta. YES. (I will provide a link when the pieces are published).

Regarding writing, I participate in several online forums, but my favorite writing forum is Absolute Write. Duotrope is the best place to find fiction markets and keep track of them. Alex Shvartsman is new writing buddy of mine who does speculative fiction and does it really well. The Camel Saloon is a terrific place to read some fiction and poetry, see some neat photos (see postcards on the right), and just hang out. I also have an official fiction writing mentor now, Will Johnson, a brilliant, prize-winning MFA student at University of British Columbia. Keep your eyes open for Alex and Will whose works will be found in local bookstores before long.

My daughter is currently wandering around Australia avoiding sharks and spiders--I hope--and interviewing for grad school on SKYPE. My son is still in Argentina, but I hear on the Fruit Tree Wireless that he may be returning to Canada before long. Whatever happened to kids working around the corner at McDonald's like me? My husband is fine and, as usual, is very preoccupied with which garbage bag I put in the kitchen can. He just about went haywire on Sunday when I took the garbage out without discussing it with him first. You can read about my adventures with him here, if you missed that blog entry.

Last but not least and all kidding aside, I urge everyone to sign this petition to free Zhu Yufu from prison in China. He's a writer.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

8 Tips for Quickly Evaluating Twitter Accounts

To Follow Or Not To Follow, That Is The Question

Now that I've been doing this Twitter thing for a while, I'm able to do quickly what used to take me forever. I thought I'd share a few tips on how to evaluate different peeps on Twitter just by taking a quick look at their profile. The profile gives you a lot of information if you know what to look for. Here's my mental checklist for when I'm deciding whether or not to follow someone.

1. Do they have a picture/avatar or are they using a default Twitter one? In my opinion, if someone doesn't put up a picture, any kind of picture, that's a red flag. It's easy to put up a picture, so either they're very new or not serious about Twitter. I want to see a picture. No picture = 1 Anti-point.

2. Do they have a bio? Anything in the bio? No bio = yellow flag = 2 Anti-points. This means they're either A) very new B) not serious about Twitter or C) they are a nefarious entity who doesn't want to tell you about themselves because they'll scare you off if they do.

3. What's in the bio? A lot of swear words, obvious porn, or obvious hard sales tactics like "I'm going to help you make money fast" = 3 Anti-points and a red flag.

4. Do they have a custom background? Again, this is real easy to do, and you can do it for free. I used these guys. No custom background is like #1: very new or not serious. 1/2 Anti-point.

5. Do they have any tweets in their stream? This is what the number of tweets tells you. Zero tweets means they have nothing to say or are very very very new. Zero tweets is a red flag = 3 Anti-points. I don't mind if they follow me, but I don't follow people who don't say anything.

6. What about very few tweets? Sometimes you see an account that has maybe 5 tweets and 1000 followers. What's wrong with that picture? Did they say such brilliant things in 5 tweets that they attracted 1000 followers? I think not. Most likely they bought their followers. Red flag = 3 Anti-points. I don't follow these accounts; they look hinky.

7. They are following more people than are following them. This is a good sign to me because it indicates that there's a good chance they will follow me back. Green flag and +1 point.

8. They have many more followers than people they are following. Yellow flag and 2 Anti-points. This is how I view it: if they follow me first, I will follow back. If they have not followed me first, then I won't follow them because I know it's unlikely they will follow me back. I follow very few people who don't follow back, about 50 out of close to 4000 or about 1%. This is a personal choice, but to me it's like having a friend that won't let you get a word in. I don't want to listen to people who don't want to listen to me. It's that simple. I'm on Twitter to interact with people and have fun.

So who do you recommend following even if they don't follow back? Well, people are on Twitter for different reasons, and it's a personal choice. I don't follow movie/TV stars because I don't care what Tori Spelling wore to take her kids to school. A few I recommend are @TweetSmarter because you'll learn more from them about Twitter than from anyone else, @GuyKawasaki because he has a continuous stream of varied treasures, and @MrsStephenFry and @BorowitzReport because they're just plain funny. I follow @MikkoHypponen who is a computer virus and hacking expert, and @Mashable is *the* account to follow for up-to-date tech news.

So you see that with practice, you can tell a lot about a Twitter presence with quick look at the account. I add up the points or Anti-points, and 3 or more Anti-points is an automatic no follow. Less that 3 Anti-points and I will have to think about it some more.

As always, I like to give credit where credit is due. Special thanks to @Agrevet who helped me get off the ground; and @KeithBorgnet who has been an enormous help to me on Twitter and is an all-around nice guy. Thanks to @janfromholland @veritable_virgo @detaildevils @cupboards @dogstoyevsky @harryporker who missed me while I was away from Twitter and noticed when I came back. And a quick mention to @Traddski who is brand new but learning fast!

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