Posted by: rolfsky | June 20, 2010

10 tips for identifying fake twitter accounts

these tweets are from bot accounts, referencing events from the past as if they haven't happened yetToday, my wife replied to a tweet of mine and a few minutes later, I noticed an odd retweet of her response.

“@rolfsky The OpenOffice version is worse, though”

Without the context that I was wrestling with Microsoft Office’s bulleted list implementation, it didn’t make a lot of sense to RT. Something only a bot would do.

Another curious element was that the retweet by “unixland” was made with the Perl Net::Twitter package, not by any recognized twitter client. Suspicious.

A quick check of unixland’s feed shows a fair number of retweets that seem to have little common thread, and then liberal inclusions of links to “Computerhulp” in Amsterdam, and the owner’s personal photography website. Bogus.

This got me digging a little deeper, and I clicked on the hashtag for eBay’s recent developers conference, #eBayDC10. Bizarrely, though the conference had ended, there were several tweets about it not having happened yet. Bizarre.

10 Tips for Identifying Fake Twitter Accounts

  1. tweets seem to follow no central theme or narrative, perhaps referencing conflicting locales or geographies
  2. tweets reference items in the past as if they haven’t happened yet
  3. many tweets begin with an ascending series of letters (an attempt to fake uniqueness)
  4. first name is filled out as “Name” or username is in the form of “firstName_lastName” or a string followed by digits “fooBar1234”
  5. posting application is some type of automated or command line driven method such as just “API” or “Perl Net::Twitter” (needed for automation)
  6. many/most of the tweets contain links
  7. the recurring links lead the same place (or even the same tweets, repeated!)
  8. no web, bio, or location information
  9. are only following popular individuals
  10. are only followed by other accounts that have very few/no tweets

Of course, this is now a cat-and-mouse arms race, escalating the conflict between the virtuous Twitterers, and the despicable spammers that want to profit off everything. And even writing down this list will help the spammers, as a number of these items are easily resolved, such as adding in additional stolen information for web, bio, and location links, creating more varied tweet schemes, and automating via the web instead of API.

I say, bring it on spammers. (Because at the very least, that will create at least one anti-spam job position at Twitter.)

Posted by: rolfsky | June 4, 2010

there is no glory in “I told you so”


Why are moaners jerks? Because they’re not adding anything to the conversation, they’re merely causing strife because they can.

Even when they see the problem coming, what do they do in their moment of power? Whine, warn, and admonish?

If everybody recognizes the problem already exists, they’re just stealing valuable time and air when we could be getting real work on a solution done. If nobody else recognizes the problem, then what they should really be doing is trying to convince.

Convincing is not restating your assessment of the situation repeatedly in louder and louder words. I’ve been there, it doesn’t work. Really.

The word “convince” has two Latin roots:

  • con- /(com-)  – “with”, or “a lot”
  • vincere – “to conquer”

Now, you can read the “con” prefix as an “intensive” so the word means “to conquer resolutely”, of you can read the other meaning as “with”. This would change the meaning of convince to mean “mutual victory”.

In order to win this fight, you’re going to have to work with your opponent and come to a mutual conclusion. This may mean changing your method, your media, your language or even your dress if it’s important enough.

Just because you are right, doesn’t mean anybody has to listen to you. Any more than you are required to listen to them.

Al Gore is not a jerk, because he believes we’re destroying our planet with greenhouse gases, and he’s doing something about it. To get his message across, he created a new piece of media in the form of a lecture and a movie, accessible to entirely new audiences. He did this while maintaining his credibility with a different generation, by dressing in a suit and tie to deliver his message. Clever, eh?

Because ultimately, what good is “knowing” what’s going to happen, if you don’t do anything about it? The “I told you so”, is a joyless victory shared by gumbling I-told-you-so-er’s on the porch of a house in a world they saw coming, and did nothing to stop.

PDAs I've loved, oldest to newest.

And what do we call these things anyway? PDAs? Handhelds?

Since 1999, I’ve had 4 devices with a touchscreen, which ostensibly keep track of what I should be doing, but usually were just a way for me to read the news.

The PalmPilot and the iPod/iPhone may not look related, but Apple owes a lot of “inspiration” to Palm. The concept of “swipe”? Palm did it first. Installable apps, check. No qwerty? Check. No multi-tasking, but fast switching? Check. No directory structure of files? Check. Clean-slate designed experience? Check.

If you think installable apps are the sole invention of Steve Jobs, think again. Palm had thousands of developers writing a myriad of apps for their platform, even if they never really grasped the concept of supporting a sanctioned app store. Because of this, various 3rd party sites sprung up to support the app market, (including individual developers), leading to a fractured marketplace.

On the far left is my venerable PalmPilot Professional. Released in 1997, it still merrily springs to life with a fresh set of 2 x AAA’s and gleefully powers the 160×160 pixel monochrome screen in the deep-purple/light-green scheme that I remember. This was my introduction to handheld computing, and the best thing about this device? Battery life. I could literally go 3 months on one set of non-rechargeable AAAs.

My Sony Clie from 2002 was a replacement for my PalmPilot, with a sharper display and more memory. Honestly, if this device had wifi, it’d still be very serviceable today. There’s even a native Facebook app and a perfectly usable web-browser which can be used to access any current mobile site.

With the iPhone, Apple brought to the table a responsive processor, delicious graphics, a refined input method, and a rationalized app store. I would say that the iPhone/iPod Touch is the spiritual successor of the Palm line, just better. I haven’t had a chance to demo a Palm Pre, but it looks like that’s what they were going for.

On the far right is my latest communicator, the Nokia 5800 Music Express Navigation Edition. Let’s be clear, this is no iPhone 3G, not by a longshot. Why? all the things I mentioned above as improvements to the Palm line that Apple has done, none of them are part of this device. It’s slow, dark, tedious, and has a very poor app store.

So why’d I buy the Nokia 5800?

The most obvious difference here is price.  An unlocked iPhone 3G is between $600 and $700. The Nokia 5800 MusicExpress Navigation Edition only cost $250. And since I was already carrying the iPod touch with me everywhere, the Nokia just has to stand in when I actually want to receive a call, navigate via GPS, or take a photo. And if I get really desperate, I can always use the wifi sharing to give my 3G connection to the iPod Touch and get some real work done.

Posted by: rolfsky | May 20, 2010

why I’m unfollowing @barackobama


why I’m unfollowing @barackObama: a social contract broken.

It’s in sad contrast to this hope I felt watching astonished through the morning of President Obama’s swearing in ceremony, that I now am going to unfollow @barackObama.

Quite simply put:

  • it’s not Barack tweeting
  • it’s boring, impersonal news from the DNC

While I understand that it may be some type of national security risk for the man himself to be tweeting,

“Michelle, Sasha, and I are having a great game of croquet on the South Lawn…”

I honestly have to admit that it’s a little bit of what I expected when I followed @barackObama.

I expected that, because that’s what Twitter is for.

Let’s be clear, I haven’t gone out and renounced my faith in the man or the President, I’m just really disappointed in what his twitter feed is delivering to me. Instead of the more personal, timely communication, tweets can deliver, today I got this tweet from Obama,

“With tonight’s Senate vote on Wall St. reform, we’re a step closer to protecting consumers & our economy, and holding big banks accountable.”

Blarg, whatever.

To be sure, this is a great message, but ultimately not why I’m into Twitter. Perhaps you noticed how I phrased the intro, “today I got this tweet from Obama”, as if this had been whispered to me in passing down a long hallway.

A quick visit to @barackObama clears up my confusion:

This Twitter account is run by Organizing For America, the grassroots organization for President Obama’s agenda for change. To follow the Whitehouse Twitter account, go to:

OFA is a special project of the Democratic National Committee.

There’s frequent references to “I” and “we”, which implies that it’s actually Obama doing the tweeting but instead of an inside view into the life of the president, I get a recounting of news which someone else is implying that Barack himself would be interested in. There’s also a problem here where someone is speaking with the voice of a public figure, and in a sense, impersonating them.

To quote more intelligent folks than myself, “ur doin it wrong”.

And that’s sad.

(Because, seriously, how awesome would it be to see pictures of the dog, and drawings from the fridge, and to hear Obama complaining about Mondays, how lame the American Idol contestants are, and how much he could totally eat a cookie right now?)

Posted by: rolfsky | April 19, 2010

is innovation nature or nurture?

When I speak at conferences, I am often posed with questions like:

  • how can I be more innovative?
  • how can my company innovate more?

In that question there is another question hiding, is “innovation” something born, or something bred?

Can you learn to be innovative, or only ‘have it from the start’?

Innovation is the combination of both the knack, and the skills.

With the knack only, you will get great ideas and fail to make anything come of them. With the skills only, you will be forever waiting for inspiration.

In the corporate world, we often see companies with the skills, but no knack for great ideas slowly wasting away into mediocrity. This is a problem of selection bias, as few companies with great ideas and no skills ever progress beyond conversations in the pub. The few who are left, if stagnating in their industry, are clinging to optimizing one good idea they had a long time ago.

Individual innovators and innovative companies share something in common: the capacity to embrace the trend-setting, mold-breaking, mind-bending concept brought forth in innovation and then execute on that idea with passion, flair, and speed.

If you want to build amazing houses, you need amazing architects, and amazing builders.

Whether by accident or intent, successful innovative companies and innovative individuals have found a way of balance both the nature and the nurture of great ideas. The incredible is heard with welcoming ears, prioritized against the current goals, and swiftly put in place if possible. Having the idea is one step, making it happen is another one all together.

Luckily, great ideas and innovators are easy to spot if we know where to look (just look for wild gesturing and a fire in their eyes); and once we know who they are, we can build a team around them if need be.

As both employers and employees, we can focus on the setting up the structure upon which great ideas can happen; helping the nature along with a little nurturing of our own.

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