Author Archives: Tom Raftery

About Tom Raftery

Irish Sustainability and IT guy in Spain

Word Cloud of all my Tweets to-date

Word cloud of my 42,051 tweets to-date Word cloud of my 42,051 tweets to-date

Twitter announced last December that they were going to make it possible for any Twitter user to download a full archive of all their tweets.

Since then I have been occasionally checking my Settings in Twitter to see if the Your Twitter archive option had yet appeared, and today it did. Wohoo! The option when clicked, creates your archive, and then emails you a link to download it in zipped form.

I downloaded the archive and was delighted to find all my Tweets there (right back to my less than profound first Tweet!). *cringe*

Even more useful is that the archive is searchable and it contains links to the original tweets on Twitter.

I mentioned this on Facebook where Darren Barefoot spotted it and commented that he’d created a word cloud from his archive. Nice idea I thought.

He wrote a blog post on how to do this which boils down to:

  1. Concatenate the csv files in the data->csv folder into a single file (you can do this on a Mac by issuing “cat *.csv > outputfile” in Terminal)
  2. Sort and delete the surplus headings from your concatenated file and
  3. Copy the text of your tweets into the Create field in Wordle*

I was interested to see in the word cloud which emerged just how much I use the old style RT.

Other nice take-aways for me from this are that my Twitter stream seems to use mostly positive words (Thanks, good and great are some of the most used words in my stream), and that I seem to talk to @dahowlett, and @monkchips most of all (and for some reason I seem to talk to myself (@tomraftery) a lot too – first sign of madness?

Ok, now I have my archive down, I may need to do some more slicing and dicing on the Tweets – anyone have any suggestions for interesting things to look for?

Also, I need to check if the archive download link which Twitter emailed me is a perpetually updating archive, or if it was a point in time link. Hopefully the former.

*You will need to have Java turned on for this to work

My Twitter ‘Magic Number” is 16, what’s yours?

Twitter post

Twitter is a superb medium for getting a message out.

And it’s RT (ReTweet) convention means that tweets can go viral very quickly. However, if you want to be ReTweeted, you need to make it easy or people won’t do it.

What do I mean?

Well, if you have a tendency to fill up your 140 character allowance in your tweets, the chances are that you won’t be ReTweeted much – why? Because people wanting to ReTweet you will have to do work (edit the post) to get it to fit within their own 140 character limit! Reduce that workload by ensuring that your Tweet will fit within their 140 characters effortlessly and you will be ReTweeted more often.

Hence the Twitter “Magic Number”. What is the Twitter “Magic Number”? It is the number of unused characters you need to leave at the end of your tweet so people don’t have to edit your post if they want to ReTweet it.

My Twitter ‘magic number’ is 16 – I always try to write my tweets leaving at least 16 characters free at the end. this allows people to do a “RT @tomraftery: ” – so they can easily RT my tweets without having to edit the content to get it to fit in 140. Of course, leaving more than 16 spaces at the end of my tweets allows people to add a comment or bit of context to their RT which is even better.

How do you calculate your Twitter ‘Magic Number”? It is the number of characters in your username (11 for @tomraftery) + 5 (for the RT, the : and the requisite spaces).

Now might be a good time to take another look at your Twitter username and see if you can find a shorter one that works – obviously the smaller your ‘Magic Number’ the more you can fit in your own Tweet, while still facilitating easy RT’ing!

You should follow me on Twitter here.

How to use LinkedIn to land your dream job

Adrian Weckler Twitter Post

I was scanning Twitter this morning when I spotted a question from Adrian Weckler of the Sunday Business Post asking if anyone found LinkedIn useful and what for.

I emailed Adrian the following story of how I used LinkedIn to help me get my current job. I’ve told this story quite a few times now but having finally typed it out, I might as well blog it as well, then I could point ppl to it!!!

My wife is Spanish. She lived in Ireland with me for over 10 years before losing her head completely and saying she wanted to move back to Spain. That was in June 07. We had just enrolled our 4yr old in school for the coming Sept so we decided to give ourselves 12 months to organise the move – that way he’d also finish out his first year in school before we moved (don’t worry, I’m getting there!).

I was involved in a couple of businesses in Cork at the time, but nothing that would move with me, so I knew I needed to cast around for a new job. One that would allow me to work from Spain in English as my Spanish was poor (still is, but that’s another story!!!).

I put the word out on Twitter – but Tweets have a short half-life and that didn’t elicit much response. I also put the word out on FaceBook and I did receive on half-hearted offer of a possibility of a part-time position from a friend (but I think that was more a pity thing, than anything else tbh).

Then I decided to try LinkedIn. I took a slightly different tack there. I had built up quite a decent network there of very well known people in the Web 2.0 space internationally. I went through the list and cherry-picked about 70 of them. I sent them an email saying that I would soon be moving to Spain (this was around March 08), and that as I’d be looking for a new position, it’d be great if they would consider writing a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile.

Within a few short days I had over 20 stellar recommendations on my profile. And four job offers. I interviewed with the four and narrowed it down to two I was really interested in.

Then RedMonk came along, matched the offers, and the rest as they say, is history!!!

The secret to following lots of people on Twitter

Tom Raftery Twitter profile Feb 14 2011

Twitter is a fantastic tool for disseminating information, and the obvious corollary of that is that Twitter is a superb app for consuming information as well – depending on how you use it.

What is the best way to make sure you get the most information out of Twitter? Follow lots of relevant, interesting people!

It sounds obvious (if you aren’t following people, you won’t see their posts) but I see lots of people on Twitter who are following 100 people or less. Many of those 100 will be friends and family, others will be infrequent posters so out of 100 accounts, you are lucky if 20 are regular sources of good information.

Now, what if you increase the number of people you follow to 200? Or 2,000 (I’m currently following 2778)? Well then, the number of friends/family type accounts you’re following is unlikely to increase proportionally, so as long as you chose the people to follow wisely, you will vastly increase the amount of interesting news you will be receiving from Twitter.

Now, I often hear people say they have difficulty keeping up with the number of people they are following and asking me how I follow over 2,000. The simple answer is I don’t try to keep up with all the people I follow! I dip in and out of Twitter and if the people I follow happen to post, I will likely see the post. If they post when I am not looking at Twitter, I probably won’t see their post.

And that’s fine.

The major limiting factor in trying to follow more people on Twitter is obsessively attempting to catch every tweet. Let go. Learn to live in the now and more than likely if you do miss an important tweet, it will be re-tweeted anyway.

Of course, a flipside to this is that you shouldn’t follow people simply to increase the number of people you are following. Only follow people who will bring you useful/interesting information – otherwise you are reducing the signal-to-noise ratio and similarly if you realise that someone you followed is not bringing you any value, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.

So, how do you find interesting people to follow on Twitter? That’s a topic for another blog post – stay tuned!

You should follow me on Twitter here

15 Twitter tips for beginners – updated

Twitter home page

I wrote a post a couple of years back called 15 Twitter tips for beginners which, though two years old, still has useful information for Twitter users – especially if you make sure to read all the comments as well.

Needless to say, things have moved on considerably in the intervening period – bear in mind that post was written over a year before the launch of the iPad and seven months before version 1.0 of Android was released!

So here’s a quick updated version of the tips:

  1. Start off easy by posting a few innocuous posts introducing yourself and your interests, “I’m Tom, a Social Media and Sustainability expert”, “I recently moved to Seville, anyone on here from Seville?”, – that kind of thing. Then be sure to mention why you’re using Twitter, e.g. “I hope to learn more about cleantech”, or whatever it is you are hoping to get from it.
  2. Then build up your network. Start with friends who you know to be on Twitter. Start following them. But also look at the list of people they are following. You may know some of them too, if so, follow them as well.
  3. If you precede someone’s username with the @ symbol in a post on Twitter (i.e. “@tomraftery how is it going?”) then your post appears in the @Mentions tab on their Twitter page. This works whether they are following you or not. When you @reply to someone, and they see you appear in their @Mentions tab, they are likely to check out your profile and posts and may decide to follow you. This is a very powerful way to build up your network with people who don’t necessarily know you but with whom you want to connect.
  4. Check out the TwitterGrader page for your area, for instance, if you are based in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, like me, check the TwitterGrader page for Andalucia and you’ll find some interesting people you may want to connect to, to get into the local scene.
  5. Follow some of the people there, check who they are following and talking to (@ replying to) and consider following them too.
  6. Sidenote: if you precede someone’s username with “d ” (i.e. “d tomraftery how is it going?”) this sends a private message only to them – called a direct message or DM. You can only send DMs to people who have chosen to follow you.
  7. Also, don’t be shy about asking your friends to pimp you to their followers!

  8. Then, using Twitter:

  9. On the computer use either Seesmic Desktop or TweetDeck for posting/reading posts. I prefer TweetDeck. Having said that, the Twitter web interface is still prob the best for checking people’s profiles and seeing who they follow.
  10. On the iPad /iPhone I use the Twitter iPhone client; On Android, I’m told Tweetdeck is best; and on Blackberry I hear Seesmic, Tweetcaster and Socialscope are good (though Socialscope is still in private beta) and
  11. On any phone the Twitter mobile interface and dabr – are great web-based mobile Twitter clients
  12. Always remember, if you @reply someone looking to get their attention or hoping they will follow you, they will likely click through to check out your Twitter page. There are many bots on Twitter so to weed out real/interesting users from bots I always look at a persons most recent posts to see what they are talking about (if their posts are all links to one site, forget it!), I look at the number of people they follow vs the number of people following them. If they are following 1,000 say and have very few followers, it is a sure sign that they are a bot who just auto-followed lots of people.
  13. I also check out what the person says about themselves in the bio (so, if you want people to follow you, be sure to fill in your own bio!) and click to view their website site, if they have one .
  14. If you want people to follow you, then ensure your updates are not protected. Someone coming to your Twitter page and seeing Protected Updates is very unlikely to see any reason to follow you.
  15. Purely a personal preference, but I think it is far better to use your own name on your Twitter account than a handle. It is a matter of personal branding but to my mind, a Twitter account called @JohnDoe tells me more about the user than @stargazr49!
  16. Finally, a photo is also very important on your account, be sure to add one to your profile
  17. BONUS EXTRA TIP!!! – Use your Twitter username everywhere – add it to your email sig, put it on your business cards, leave it in blog comments – don’t spam, just do it where appropriate.

FWIW I’ll be writing many more posts about Twitter best practices, with a special emphasis on Twitter for Sustainability obviously, in the coming weeks and months – stay tuned!

You should follow me on Twitter here

Video production basics for social sustainability

Recording equipment

Of course, blogging should be only one of the weapons in your Social Sustainability arsenal.

Other tools you should be using include, FaceBook, Twitter (obviously), LinkedIn (their Groups feature particularly), Flickr and YouTube. I will be dealing with all of these tools in future posts – for now I’m going to have a quick talk about my video setup.

I publish videos for GreenMonk reasonably regularly over on the RedMonk TV channel on YouTube.

I’m often asked about the equipment I use to create the videos and, to be honest it is quite basic.

For remote interview videos, where the interviewee and I are not together, I typically use Skype video calling and a plug-in for Skype called Call Recorder which allows me to record both sides of the call. I then edit the video using iMovie – all very cheap and simple to deploy and yet the results can be surprisingly good.

But for higher quality videos you really need to be there with a decent video camera.

My video camera up to recently was my Sony Handycam (seen above on the right). I used it with a bluetooth wireless microphone to capture the audio and the resulting audio and video was quite good to be honest.

However, when I recently upgraded my personal camera for photographs, I chose a Canon EOS 7D (above in middle – see also on Amazon). This camera, as well as taking stills, can take full HD video so I now use this for stills and video and have one less camera to carry with me. Also, the camera, when coupled with a good lens like the EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 (see also on Amazon) on it in this picture, takes excellent quality video.

The biggest drawback of using the 7D as a video camera is that its inbuilt audio recording is poor. There are a number of ways of getting over this, such as the use of shotgun microphones connected to the audio input of the camera but I heard mixed reports on the quality from that.

I decided instead to opt for an external audio recorder. After a bit of research, I went with the Zoom H4n (seen above on left).

Now I record the audio on the H4n and the video on the 7D. I then import both the audio and video tracks into iMovie and splice them together. It’s a little bit extra work but the results are great.

Recently Adobe were good enough to comp me a copy of their video editing software Premiere Pro – I’m currently learning my way around that and looking forward to trying to use it for some real video work.

If you have any questions on video production, feel free to leave them in the comments – I can’t promise to be able to answer them but, if I can’t, perhaps someone else reading the question will!!!

You should follow me on Twitter here

Blogging for social sustainability – the why’s and how’s

WordPress.com blog's Add New Post Screen

In my first post on Social Sustainability, where I talked about the importance of sharing, I mentioned that I had been thinking of writing a post about blogging – well, here it is!

I know this will be the proverbial “teaching granny to suck eggs” posting but seeing as blogs are such a fundamental tool in your social media armoury, I couldn’t leave them unaddressed. In fact, there are so many things to write about blogs and blogging that I can see many more posts on the topic in my future. This brings me to a question – what aspect of blogging would you like me to write about next?

I’m going to start off though with a quick ‘why blog’ and then a discussion of whether to go for a hosted or a self-hosted blog (and the differences between the two).

I won’t spend too much time on the ‘why blog’ question – I’m assuming if you are reading this it is because you are interested in Social Sustainability – if that is the case, then you probably already know that the primary tool of social media is a blog. I wrote a bunch of posts a few years ago on the advantages of blogging for a business – here’s one to have a firkle through if you are still not convinced (read down through the comments as well to get full value).

On the question of whether to go for a hosted or self-hosted blog, I’m not going to make a recommendation either way – rather, I’ll list their relative advantages and let you decide which is more appropriate for you:

Hosted blogs (like WordPress.com which this blog runs on, and Blogger.com) advantages:

  • Speed – a hosted blog can be setup in a matter of seconds
  • Reliability – hosted blogs are very rarely offline (the last time WordPress.com had an outage was in June 2010)
  • Simplicity – hosted blog providers generally look after hosting, updating, security, spam and malware protection
  • Branding – hosted blogs now allow you to brand your blog with your own domain name (e.g. no longer tomraftery.wordpress.com, now simply tomraftery.com) and
  • Price – most hosted blog platforms are free

On the other hand Self-hosted blogs (such as GreenMonk.net)have these advantages:

  • Flexibility – With your self-hosted blog you can extend the functionality of the blog with themes and plug-ins
  • Ad free – most hosted blogs will display ads in your blog – with self-hosted, you can go Ad-free, or roll out Ads and benefit from the revenue yourself!
  • Cheap – although you have to pay for the hosting – there are free blog platforms (such as WordPress.org) you can download to run your blog and
  • Security – if you can control the country and hoster your blog is hosted with, you run far less risk of falling foul of spurious (or otherwise) take-down notices

One possible suggestion, if you are still undecided, is to start off with a hosted blog. If, after a while, you find the limitations of your hosted blog too frustrating, you can always export all your blog posts and comments and import them into a self-hosted one and go from there.

Either way, happy blogging.

You should follow me on Twitter here
Photo credit Tom Raftery