What Happens When Frozen And Exhaustion Meet On Twitter

Take one couple who are active on social media.  Mix in a generous helping of exhaustion.  Stir in a love for Disney in general, and for the songs from the movie Frozen in particular.  Blend and bake in Twitter.  What do you get?  A hilarious exchange that B & I had a few nights back.  At least it seemed hilarious at the time.  A well-rested mind might not find it funny which only goes to prove that well rested minds know less about humor than Olaf knows about summer!

Bye Bye Blocking Twitter Birdie

tweet_birs-2_small(NOTE: When I wrote this, Twitter was moving forward with their blocking changes. Overnight, though, they reverted the changes thanks to user outrage. I’m still posting this, though, in the hopes that Twitter doesn’t double-back and enact the Block changes.)

If you go on Twitter, it is almost inevitable.  Eventually, someone will bother you so much that you decide you don’t want to associate with them anymore.  If this happens, all you need to do is reach for the Block button.  Right?


It used to be that a blocked user couldn’t follow you, add you to lists, or favorite your tweets.  Now, thanks to Twitter’s new blocking policy, users who you block will be able to do all of these things.  The only thing that blocking will do is keep their tweets (including other users’ retweets of that user’s tweets) from showing up in your timeline.

To be fair, a blocked user could always see your tweets if they went to your main Twitter screen.  For example, someone I blocked could go to https://twitter.com/TechyDad to see my tweets.  If the tweets didn’t show because they were logged in, the person could start a private browsing session.  (Incognito in Chrome, InPrivate browsing in Internet Explorer, or Private Window in FireFox.)  This, change, however, removes this extra step from the blocked user’s process.

Thanks to this new blocking system, trolls and stalkers can continue to pursue their targets and users will have no recourse.  About the only thing a user can do is make their account private and most user’s won’t opt for this (especially if the user is a business’ account).

In short, this move turns Block into Ignore.  While targeted users might not directly see it, stalkers, harassers, and trolls can continue to spew their bile on Twitter at their targets.  These people can watch every word hat people write and every interaction that they make.  They can spread their horrible messages to everyone that the person interacts with in an attempt to isolate them.  Sadly, I think this move isn’t going to benefit the good, well-behaved users on Twitter but will hurt them.

NOTE: The "cutie bird" image above by Luen which is available on OpenClipArt.org.

The Intellectual Property of Tweets

Last week, GaltsGirl tweeted a question to her followers.  She asked "Are tweets entitled the same intellectual property courtesies as blog posts?"  My answer was "If I’m using someone’s tweet for something I usually ask first. That said, I don’t see it as the same as a blog post IP-wise."  Unfortunately, thanks to the limited nature of Twitter comments and my assumption that credit would always be given, this led to a bit of confusion.  While I cleared up that confusion on Twitter (or, at least, I hope I did).  The interaction did inspire me to write about it at length.

Tweets versus Blog Posts

Part of the problem stemmed from my use of the phrase "I don’t see it as the same as a blog post IP-wise."  By this I meant that blog posts can be quoted without using the entire post.  If you quoted this article in a blog post of your own, you could say that I wrote:

Unfortunately, thanks to the limited nature of Twitter comments and my assumption that credit would always be given, this led to a bit of confusion.

However, if you "quoted" me by copying my entire article word-for-word, that would be copyright infringement.  Furthermore, while you should properly credit this quote, there would be no need to compensate me or even ask for my permission to use this quote.  After all, while this entire post is my intellectual property, a quote falls under fair use.  So copying this entire post to your blog could result in DMCA takedown requests, legal threats if those were ignored, and even large fines if the entire affair proceeded to the courts.

A tweet, on the other hand, is usually too small to quote part of effectively.  To quote someone’s tweet, one usually has to use the entire thing.  This begs the question: If using an entire blog post without permission is copyright infringement, is using an entire tweet infringement as well?

RTs and Inviting Infringements

On the Twitter platform itself, I’d say that quoting someone’s tweets isn’t copyright infringement.  After all, Twitter itself gives a method for doing this: Retweets.  What about off of Twitter, though?  Is using someone’s tweet in a blog post, a book, or some other medium copyright infringement if explicit permission isn’t granted?

Let’ remove two obvious "fair use" cases immediately.  If the quote is used for news reporting purposes ("Lady Gaga tweeted to her followers…") or parody, then permission isn’t required.  It is good form to ask permission, of course, but it isn’t a requirement.

Let’s also assume that credit is given.  If credit isn’t given, then I might be willing call it as infringement.  If someone tweeted something so interesting, insightful, foolish, or otherwise useful to your larger project, it’s only fair that they should get credit for your words.  You wouldn’t quote a passage in a book without stating what book that passage came from.  Similarly, one should never quote a tweet without naming the user who tweeted it.

Beyond those cases, I have to admit that I’m torn.  I’ve blogged about how you just can’t take an image off of Google Images and use it however you like.  Grabbing someone’s tweet and sticking it in your post, at first glance, appears to be like grabbing a picture from Google Images and putting it in your post.  However, the effort invested in a single tweet hardly seems to compare to the effort invested in making an image.

More Flexible Copyright Law

I think this example highlights the need to reform copyright law (something I’ve written about before).  If copying a five hundred page book leads to a $750 fine, why would copying a one hundred forty character tweet hold the same potential fine?  If copying an MP3 – which has a market value of $0.99 – leads to a $80,000 per song verdict, why would copying a tweet (market value of $0) lead to a similar fine?

In addition, profit motive should be considered when potential fines are calculated.  If the quoted tweet is used in a non-profit manner (say, in a blog post such as this one), then any "infringement" fees should be minimal.  If the quoted tweet was used in a for profit manner (say, a book titled "250 Great Tweets"), then infringement fees would be higher.

Protection of Public Statements

In the end, I consider tweets to be short public statements.  One can’t stand in front of a big crowd of people, say something, and assume that *NOBODY* is going to quote them.  Taking words out of context or not crediting them is unacceptable as is making money off of the tweet (in a non-news reporting, non-parody manner) without compensating the person.  However, on the scale of copyright infringement, using someone’s tweet without permission isn’t anywhere near as bad as taking an entire blog post without permission.


During my Googling for this blog post, I ran into an article about a similar issue.  In this case, there was a lawsuit not over a tweet, but over a short quote from WIlliam Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun.  Sony Pictures used a nine word (97 character) quote from it ("The past is never dead. It’s not even past.") in the movie Midnight in Paris.  The Faulkner estate worried that the use of the quote in the movie might confuse people into thinking there was a relationship between the estate and Sony Pictures.  Sony Pictures, meanwhile, decried the lawsuit as frivolous.   On the day that GaltsGirl posed her question, July 19th 2013, a ruling was handed down stating that such a short quote didn’t constitute copyright infringement.

A little closer to the topic at hand, I found a TechDirt story about a journalist who claimed her tweets were "off the record" and thus weren’t allowed to be repeated by anyone.  When someone questioned her on this, she threatened a lawsuit.  It doesn’t look like she ever went through with it, but she did see the inside of a courtroom when she was convicted of harassing a former boyfriend’s daughter by posting her private journals online.  (Apparently she thought "off the record" tweets couldn’t be reposted, but private journals could be.)

This, in turn, led to more articles, including a 2009 blog post by Mark Cuban, all questioning just how copyrightable tweets are.

Another App Bites The Dust – Goodbye TweetDeck

tweet_birs-2_smallOn Friday, I was checking some news items when I stumbled upon a note about TweetDeck.  For those who don’t know, TweetDeck is a wonderful Twitter client that lets you read your stream easily as well as view additional columns for users, searches, or lists.  This is my preferred Twitter client.  I don’t know how I’d keep up to date with Twitter without it.

Unfortunately, it looks like I’m about to find out.

As of May 7th, TweetDeck’s Android, iPhone, and Adobe AIR versions will cease to function.  (The web app will continue to work.)  The reason behind this is the impending Twitter API upgrade.  The 1.0 version of the Twitter API is being retired in favor of the new 1.1 version.  TweetDeck is based on version 1.0.  TweetDeck’s team made the decision to focus all effort on the web version of the application and thus shut down the rest.

First, Google Reader and now this.

Of course, this meant that I went on a hunt for a new favorite Twitter client application.  My initial step was to list all of TweetDeck’s features that I liked and that I’d like to see in a new Twitter client.

1.  I like that TweetDeck allows me to show lists and searches as columns.  Users as columns is nice, but I don’t actually use it that often.  (Mostly during Twitter parties and then I can use TweetDeck’s web version.)

2.  I like getting notifications for updates not just for mentions or direct messages, but for said lists and searches as well.  (Notifications for my main timeline aren’t needed.  Since I’m following over 1,000 people, there’s no way I can keep up with everyone.)

3.  Handle multiple accounts.  (After all, I do have the @FollowerHQ account even if I don’t use it often.)

I began trying a few apps from the Google Play app store.  UberSocial looked nice initially, but wound up missing key features.  (Namely, it couldn’t save searches and lists as columns.)  Then, I decided to try out the official Twitter app, but found it extremely limiting.  (Which is odd since Twitter actually owns TweetDeck.  I’d think they’d want to fold TweetDeck’s features into the main Twitter client.  If they do, I’ll revisit the app, but for now it’s MUCH too limited feature-wise.)

I had a recommendation of Falcon Pro, but it costs $1.96.  I don’t mind paying, but I’d like to be able to try it first.  I’d hate to pay only to find out that I don’t like the application.  Besides, this review says that it doesn’t have push notifications.

For now, I’ve settled on Plume.  It’s not perfect.  For one thing, while it lets me use a list or search as a column, it won’t show me notifications on new tweets in these areas.

What Twitter app do you use?  If you are answering TweetDeck, what will you move to when TweetDeck shuts down.

NOTE: The "cutie bird" icon above is by Luen and is available from OpenClipArt.com.

FollowerHQ Launch and Mobile App

FollowerHQ Icon Large_250x250Back in November of 2011, after many months of development, I launched FollowerHQ.  This was my first major Twitter application.  For those who haven’t used FollowerHQ, it’s goal is to help you manage your Twitter followers.  Other tools will let you automatically follow everyone who follows you, but I didn’t want to do that.  If I did, companies that I’m not interested in might follow me only for the automatic follow back.  They could then pollute my Twitter stream with tweets that I don’t care about.

FollowerHQ shows you who is following you that you aren’t following back.  It lists detailed information such as how many followers they have and when their last tweet was.  You can use this information to determine whether or not you want to follow them back.  Perhaps you might ignore some followers because they haven’t tweeted in a long time.  Maybe you might pass over some others because they don’t have any followers or seem like spammers.  Or, perhaps, you will choose to follow some users who tweet about subjects that you find intriguing.

In addition, FollowerHQ will show you who isn’t following you back.  As with people you aren’t following back, you can decide to ignore this situation, or you can decide to unfollow the accounts.  Finally, FollowerHQ will track your followers and will show you who you have unfollowed.  This is useful for the seemingly all-too-frequent times when Twitter decides to automatically make you unfollow someone when you didn’t want to.

Major Upgrade

The previous version of FollowerHQ was good, but it had one major flaw.  It needed to work while the user was waiting.  The user would open the page and FollowerHQ would start pulling information from Twitter’s API.  Since Twitter limits how much data you can pull at once, this meant that the application could be slow at times.  If the person running FollowerHQ only had a thousand followers, it might not be too bad.  If they had a hundred thousand, however, it was unusable.  Even worse, if the browser crashed, you would lose all of your progress and would need to start from scratch.  Needless to say, this limited FollowerHQ’s usefulness.

For the new version of FollowerHQ, I ditched the "real time load" and went with a report request.  Once you request a FollowerHQ report, it will queue up in the system.  FollowerHQ will then process these report requests behind the scenes, completely separate from the users’ browsers.  You can close your browser and even shut down your computer because FollowerHQ is running on my server.

When FollowerHQ is done, it will e-mail the user to notify them.  They can then log in to view the report.  Since the report information is pulled from my database and not from Twitter, the report comes up nearly instantly.  (I also used Google’s PageSpeed analysis to speed up the site.)

Now Available as an Android App

I’m also testing out ways of packaging FollowerHQ as a mobile application.  The first of these attempts utilized AppsGeyser.  I’m very happy with this approach so far.  AppsGeyser: 1) packages a special web browser that has no controls of its own and points to my site by default, 2) bundles said browser into an Android app, and 3) gives it all of the usual app characteristics such as being able to put an icon on the device’s home screen.  As a bonus, there are no ads (unless I want to include some which would give me some revenue) and I can submit my app to the Google Play store.

I’ve wanted to get into app development for awhile so this is highly intriguing.  I might make a "mobile.FollowerHQ.com" version of my Twitter application for the app to launch, however.  I also want to find similar tools to utilize to create an iOS app.

With all of the changes I’ve made to FollowerHQ, I’ve love to hear what you think.  Head on over to http://www.FollowerHQ.com/ and give it a try.  Post what you think about it here.

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