Screen Names vs. Real Names

Do you use a made up name for your online presence, or do you use your real name? When I got started on the Internet, back in 1997 or so, no one used their real names. Unable to think of a good handle, I was dubbed “SpiritGod21” by a friend, based on an inside joke, and began my foray into telnet and talkers. That became my identity for a while–my email address, handle, and eventually a Geocities page all used the same name. But what worked for me in junior high didn’t work as well in college, and I began casting around for a nickname that fit my changed personality better.

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Blogging at PAX

I’m flying out to PAX in Boston in a mere seven and a half hours, and the only electronics I am taking are my Kindle and my iPhone. I’m going to try something new this time around and blog exclusively through my phone, but I won’t be doing it here.

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Is it worth maintaining multiple Twitter accounts?

Do you have more than one Twitter account? Why?

Usually when people maintain more than one Twitter account, it is for reasons of branding. Let’s say someone owns a hotel and a hardware supply company. They’ve taken hardware supply to the Internet and ship all over the world, and that means they need an online presence and identity. They need the same for their hotel, but they don’t want these two identities to mix. The easiest solution is to create two Twitter accounts.

But for those of us who are writing online, and particularly when we’re starting out, is it necessary? I have my personal Twitter account, which displays on the right side of SilverPen, and then I have the echo linux account which shows up at the top right of that site. These two sites have different focuses and audiences, but I’m wondering if it’s worthwhile for me to have two accounts.

What do you think? Are multiple accounts for freelancers and bloggers worth starting early? Or should we pool our resources and use these tools to get the word out to as many people as possible?

It makes sense to create separate online identities for different brands, but what if the brand is ourselves and what we do?

Sore in all the wrong places

I can’t say I didn’t know the muscles existed. I’ve studied enough of the human form to know the major muscle groups. I’ve just never been sore in some of these places before–it’s a new experience, and not entirely to my liking.

Yesterday didn’t afford much of an opportunity for blogging. I woke up late so my walk was shorter than usual, and then the work day was ridiculous and busy to the effect that I only took a 20 minute lunch and then worked an hour late to get everything fixed and done. After work, I picked my bicycle up from Sunshine Bike Shop (who fixed it for free!) and bought a new helmet (since my old one was damaged) before coming home. It was worth it.

I was even more sore and slower today than I was yesterday.

April and I are heading up to Omaha, Nebraska today to visit her brother Eric and his girlfriend. I’m excited to get away for a couple of days, and then I have big plans for Monday (we’ll be back on Sunday) that will include some home improvements and maybe a photo blog.

I’ve disabled my work email on my iPhone for the weekend, so if you need to reach me, use the GMail address or text. (Note: the contact form on this site goes to GMail). I’m not sure if I’ll fitness blog while I’m in Nebraska, but if you’re really curious, my Runkeeper activities go to Twitter automatically so you can cheer me on there.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Making a custom Twitter background

Like most everyone I know, I wasn’t sure what to make of Twitter when I first began using it. I didn’t know anyone on it, and I wasn’t sure I’d really use it all that much… and now I’ve sent well over 4000 messages through it, it’s my only means of communication with PAXers, and I’m not sure I could survive without it.

What’s more, Twitter has become an extension of my website. Whenever I publish a blog entry, it pops onto Twitter. It’s primarily through Twitter that I keep in touch with people from PAX, and for many, it is only through Twitter that they know me. Like my site, it ought to reflect my personality a bit more than a stock background, and perhaps more to the point, it ought to match up with my site.

I’ve written before about the importance of branding, so even though I don’t run Twitter, I should put my personal stamp on it. The first place I turned for help was Google, and it led me to the article Make a Good Impression with a Custom Twitter Background on Twitip. This article has some excellent advice, so if you’re looking to make a custom Twitter background, this is pretty much all you need.

I would offer one additional tidbit, though: Darren writes about the potential screen resolution your visitors will be at, and how that can affect your Twitter background–while taking this into account, also take a look at your Google Analytics results (which you ought to have set up) where you can see what resolution visitors to your site are using (see screenshot). I ended up going with a 200px wide branding spot; 120px was simply too narrow, and I think it’ll work for enough people to be worthwhile.


Not much homework done today, and every time I looked at a blank page to write I felt unaccountably weary. Too many memories floating around
about 14 hours ago from TweetDeck

Matthew Stublefield

This is about all the greater Internet is getting out of me these days: Twitter messages. I haven’t blogged since I got home from vacation and I’m not sure I’m going to blog anytime soon now that work and class has re-entered my life.

I’ve got a test Friday and a paper to write this weekend (due Monday) in addition to work and trying to not burn out. My method for staying sane includes a decent amount of gaming during what one might term “free time,” and it is… that’s sort of the point, I guess. Part of me points with frustration at this time and says, “Look! Look how much writing you could be doing! You played WoW for what, 8 hours over the weekend? 9?! Why didn’t you spend that time writing?”

I could have also been storyboarding, recording podcasts, doing book reviews, etc. etc… but that would all be work. As I have lamented before, it’s work I enjoy, but it’s tiring nonetheless, and when I’m already tired I’m afraid piling more work on will only break me.

Therefore, I’ve been “microblogging,” something I’d never given conscious thought until Steve replied to a comment I sent him on Twitter. He’d been tweeting a lot in a short period of time (admittedly, his overall tweetage is higher than mine–where I average about 8 tweets a day, Steve’s at about 20) and I suggested that some of them might make good blog posts. He replied back that one blog post a week was about all he had time for, and looking at my own schedule, I can sympathize. I haven’t even managed one in the last week.

I’ve considered turning the feature on in Twitter Tools to have it make a daily digest of my tweets, but that seems a little overboard. If you want those updates, you can either sign up for Twitter and follow me or grab it via RSS. My updates are also on the right side of my homepage, if you prefer to check them there.

Someday I’ll have the time and energy to write again, but getting myself to accept that and just be is difficult. I keep wishing I could live comfortably; just play games without the feeling of guilt for whatever else I could be doing. On the plus side, when I get some balance back to my life and start writing again I’ve got over 50 notes with ideas and starters in Evernote, and that’s just going to keep growing. The larger my note pile becomes, the more uses I find for those tidbits. Rather than turning each into a blog entry, as I would have in the past, they’ll now become pieces of stories, off-handed comments or observations, and other spice for larger works. I’m excited to note this development in my thought/planning process and look forward to seeing how it works out.

One last, unrelated thing. I slept on my stomach last night for the first time since my bicycle accident. I’ve got another x-ray in a week and a day, hopefully my last, and I’m now able to walk/stand pretty much all day (compared to 15-30 minutes just a month ago). All-in-all, I seem to be on the mend 🙂

I Tweeted

There is more openness to new words these days than there once was. People seem more apt to jump to the argument that, “Hey, if I understood what he was saying, then it works!” and worry less about proper words or grammar. Whether the cause is a failure of the public school system or the rise of the Internet and text messaging, the general populace (and of particular note is the inclusion of those with some or total completion of a degree in higher education) are coining new words regularly that gain such traction they enter the popular lexicon. Dictionaries have added google as a verb and are considering lol. It’s only a matter of time.

As for me, I resist these trends. I continue to say that “I searched for something on Google,” and I avoid using acronyms in everyday conversation whenever possible. When I send a text message, I type it properly, character count be damned. Despite my best intentions, though, Twitter has broken my will.

I love this stupid little service, and it has been invaluable to me. Whenever I post a blog update, my Twitter status is updated. My Twitter updates are pushed to my Facebook status, and I have been able to follow a great many people attending the Penny Arcade Expo so I can communicate and connect with them. It has helped me professionally as I have received assistance on technical issues, and it has certainly increased the feedback I have gotten on life events and writing. In general, it has helped my communication with others online.

With a limit of 140 characters per message, though, space is at a premium. I realized early on that if I had something to say, or wanted to make note of something important (say a news article I had read), it was better to write about it on my blog and have Twitter post a link to my site. This not only earned me more traffic, it cut down on Twitter spam as compared to some people who just post message after message. In addition to this realization, however, I have also been working on concision in my messages and learning where I can cut unneeded words and characters. I maintain writing proper sentences (most of the time), but certain phrases are creeping into my vocabulary.

Hence the title of this post. For months I have kept on with the phrase, “I posted on Twitter,” or, “So-and-so posted on Twitter,” but I just don’t have the space for it anymore. Modern technology and its emphasis on concision and time-savings is wearing on me, and I must bend to its will.

I haven’t decided how this will affect my other writing yet. I lean towards concision as a general rule and don’t think a book need be 500 pages to be considered a novel. My rule of thumb is to shoot for 100 pages, and most blog posts are around 500 words where once they were over 3000. I focus on keeping things shorter and to the point, but will I take it even a step further and cut things down more? Only time will tell.

Twitter is down and we don’t know what to do

From the Penny Arcade forum:

PeasantDave: Is twitter totally down right now?
Captain Tapole: It is for me. And I woke up early for no reason then.

PeasantDave wrote: View Post
Is twitter totally down right now?

I believe it is, indeed, totally down.
ukiyo e:
I’m not getting updates.
Don’t Panic!
dmmagic: Oh thank goodness I still have a source for updates. I tried to go to Twitter to find out if Twitter was down and IT WAS DOWN!!1!
GPIA7R: I want to tweet about twitter being down.

But I can’t.

From instant messenger:

(09:23:06 AM) spiritg21: How can I do work when Twitter is down so I can’t Tweet about doing work?
(09:23:06 AM) scorpius42 <AUTO-REPLY> : I’m not here right now
(09:23:13 AM) spiritg21: is what I want to know
(09:23:21 AM) scorpius42: lol
(09:23:26 AM) scorpius42: I can’t function!
(09:23:41 AM) spiritg21: What’s the point of life if I can’t tell my hundreds of followers about it?!

So, of course, I’m writing a blog post about it. You know, just to make sure everyone else knows Twitter is down.

Why Twitter Getting You A Job Isn’t Awesome

I can’t type much without my left shoulder hurting tremendously, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Twitter isn’t a miracle cure. It is a one-to-many messaging service that allows you to cheaply and easily connect with people. For those who invest in its use, it reduces barriers of entry in forming relationships or communicating, but it isn’t a golden egg or magic pill. If you take poor skills/knowledge/execution and introduce Twitter to the mix, you’re not going to suddenly get a great outcome.

I keep seeing news stories about people who got jobs through Twitter, and I see exponentially more people trying to get jobs (or start businesses, or relabel themselves as “marketing consultants”) through Twitter, but there’s something that the news coverage and mass hopefuls seem to be missing. Twitter is just a tool, and there’s nothing magic about it.

Connecting with a potential boss through Twitter to let him know about you is no different than calling, showing up at the office, turning in cover letter and resume over and over until you finally get the job. It is another avenue for communication and it certainly makes it easier, but just because you’re on Twitter doesn’t mean there will be a positive outcome.

If someone got a job through Twitter, it’s because they deserved the job, not because Twitter is fantabulous. Rather, it’s akin to cold calling, which is something a lot of people seeking work don’t seem to do anymore. They don’t work to find a job, instead passively putting out resumes and hoping someone will pick them up. Out-of-workers will post on, reply to ads, and hope for the best, whereas the people using Twitter tend to be more forward. They actively contact executives and say, “Hey, I need a job!”

Twitter makes cold calling less intimidating by providing the foolishly false sense of anonymity and comfort that only the Internet or a dark room can provide. But if someone looking for a job were to start actively calling around, hammering at people, and more aggressively pursuing work (even though vacancies weren’t available at the time), they’d get a job more quickly. Twitter establishes that communication line, but it doesn’t do any good if you’ve got nothing to say.

The news hype of, “Sally Sue got a job by posting on Twitter!” is stupid. There’s no story there, other than that they used a suddenly popular tool to connect with an employer. The problem is that these stories make other people think, “Oh! If I use Twitter, I’ll get a job too!”

If you’re qualified and ambitious you’ll get a job, because when you get those two qualities together, you have a person who is willing to go out and push buttons to get results. They know they can do the job, they know they deserve the job, and so they’ll find a way to get it. Qualifications don’t come from being on Twitter. Twitter doesn’t get you a job.

It’s all about qualifications and connections. There’s nothing new or awesome about that–that’s just the way things work, and have for millennia.

In The Circus Ring: Strangers Notice You on Twitter

I did an experiment a couple of months ago on Twitter, beginning with the following observations:

  1. I use Bluehost for my web host and really like them. They provide good service and are cheap.
  2. GoDaddy sucks.
  3. People ask via Twitter messages about web hosts.

Therefore, I wanted to see what would happen if I advertised Bluehost (using my affiliate link, of course–if someone clicks on it then signs up, I get paid) on Twitter. More than that, though, I’d target my advertisements to those interested in it by sending them messages through Twitter.

To accomplish this, I searched Twitter for the terms webhost and godaddy and specifically targeted those seeking a new web host or who were using and/or complaining about GoDaddy, which was a fair amount of people. I wrote a couple of Twitter messages with embedded affiliate links and then sent them to 10-15 different people.

The people I was messaging were appreciative, and while some of the normal followers I have on Twitter were annoyed at the spam (though they found it amusing when I told them about the experiment and it was no big deal), the biggest surprise came from “professional advertisers.” It had occurred to me that other people might have the same idea as me, but I hadn’t realized how territorial they were.

Just as I was able to easily find people who were writing about GoDaddy and web hosting, I was easily found by other advertisers. They didn’t just message those to whom I was advertising to give them an alternative. They called me out, messaging the people I had and telling them that I was using an affiliate link to try and make money.

I found this all kinds of amusing, because these disgruntled Twits were calling me out for doing the same thing they do for a living. They sit around all day and send messages on Twitter, and were perhaps understandably upset that I was horning in on their turf. But they didn’t contact me, and their complaint wasn’t that I was stealing potential customers. Rather, they were highlighting how I was doing exactly what they do.

It was then that I realized how incredibly public Twitter is. This isn’t a messaging service for me and my friends, where we communicate semi-privately. When I send a message to someone, it’s not just me and them. Twitter is like standing in a crowded public square and yelling as load as you can at each other. Other people will hear, and they will take notice.

The realization was a bit unsettling, but that hasn’t stopped me from using Twitter. It does make me a bit more cautious about what I post, however, and I have begun using direct messages (which go through Twitter but can only be seen by you and the recipient) more.

But in the center ring
I’m safe from everything except for…

Pie in my face

Bozo’s Lament by Jonathan Coulton