Archive for the ‘Twitter’ tag
The internet, like real-life society, only really works if people refrain from behaving badly; if people are prepared for a little give-and-take, a little co-operations, politeness and common sense.
When they don’t the internet doesn’t work – or you get these ghastly corners of the internet like Comment Is Free, The Huffington Post or Youtube comments section. Revenge porn websites, hate-filled fora and, perhaps worst of all, those people who spam Twitter with proclamations of loyalty to Justin Bieber (as an aside, could Justin Bieber seriously mobilise an army to mount on attack on a government of his choosing?).
Twitter is often the battleground of choice for outbreaks of bad behaviour on the internet. Spam is hardly unknown on the platform, it frequently degenerates into a bitchfest in angry 140 mouthfuls and it’s full of shameless self-promoters (I’m definitely one of them, but it’s cute when I do it).
The most egregious thing on Twitter, however, is the rampant use of AutoFollow technology. The concept is fairly simple: you give your Twitter login details to some dodgy plugin, set your parameters and fire it off, like a chain letter wasting everyone’s time, patience and goodwill.
The idea behind this is that people will be flattered by the follow from someone they’ve never heard and follow back. So far so harmless? Well, perhaps, but it also reduces Twitter to a pointless scrum to gain followers for virtually no reason whatsoever: followers gained like this haven’t been earned, they’ve no loyalty to you or interest in you and will be disinclined to click on your banal links to get-rich-quick schemes and marketing wibble. They’re fundamentally followers that have no value to you. What’s more it reduces your stream to total nonsense – a cacophony of incoherent babbling. So it renders Twitter fundamentally useless to autofollowers as a communication tool.
It get worse, though. If you don’t follow back within a certain period of time you will be probably be automatically unfollowed; there’s a good chance you’ll be unfollowed even if you do follow back. It’s taking without giving.
The reason for this virtual arms war is simply to get as many people to follow you as is humanly – or robotically – possible, so you can wave your Twitter count at the ingenuous like an artificially-inflated virtual willy. This is frequently for reasons of simple vanity, but it’s also used to fool other followers into thinking you’re important – and this is where it becomes obnoxious – as opposed to simply idiotic, selfish or a bit rude.
There are a lot of people who have no idea how the Internet works. And that means there are vast markets for the unscrupulous, the bullshitters, the snake-oil sellers and the fast-buck merchants. I have been asked by many PRs and marketing execs whether I can give them some tips on getting ‘a Twitter’ or on getting to the front page of the SERPS (‘being high up in Google’ in their parlance).
I have, on occasion, run social media campaigns for clients, but it’s always come with the proviso that it needs to be part of an overall, long-term digital strategy that includes some genuinely useful and engaging content and is run in alignment with existing on- and offline strategies. People rarely like to hear that something is difficult and could be expensive, which may explain why I’ve never made a career out of it.
Making a career out of this axis of nonsense where SEO, digital marketing and social media intersect would be a piece of cake however, as there are simply so many companies out there who have a vague idea that they need to spend money in this area, without the slightest idea of how or why. Where there are clueless CEOs there are fat cheques for doing fuck all.
Which is where autofollow technology comes in. People who don’t understand Twitter may be impressed that you have 30,000 followers; they may believe that it shows that you know what you’re doing. “We want 30,000 Twitter followers,’” they think. “Perhaps @SEObiz2013 is the person to get me there; then we will have a Twitter and sell many more industrial heat-exchangers.”
Needless to say, this is totally bogus reasoning. But in the kingdom of the blind the 30K-Twitter account is King. And now that the arse-end has fallen out of SEO as the online chancer’s favoured hunting ground, the untapped landscape of social media is next up.
That’s why I will be blocking anyone I suspect of using autofollow technology. It reduces Twitter to a pointless popularity contest where everyone follows everyone and no-one interacts meaningfully any more. It ruins something that I happen to believe is a potentially brilliant medium, far more than Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or many others at present.
There may be reasons for using autofollow plugins on Twitter, but I can’t think of any good ones. Some innocents may get blocked in the process, some people who might genuinely be interested in what I have to say and share on Twitter might miss out – and I might miss out on whatever they have to say – but that’s what the thoughtless deployment of these witless widgets do. They ruin the internet for everyone.
Want to join in? Have a look below at how to spot people using autofollow technology – I recommend that you do the sensible thing and give them the virtual finger. It’s the only language they understand.
Follow these simple rules and we can make Twitter a better place for us, our children, our children’s children and… well, you get the idea.
How to spot autofollowers on Twitter
Never interacted with you
Excessive use of hashtags in bio
Excessive blind links in bio
Keywords in bio likely to include SEO, SEM, content marketing, content strategy, digital strategy, online marketing, maven, networker, hero, incubator, investor, guru
Closely similar amount of following and followers OR vast discrepancy between follower and following
Tens of thousands of tweets
Post links to vague ‘how to’-style videos or articles
Links posted are often via share buttons direct from websites, rather than manually entered
Use Twitter client to autopost, generally on the hour
Banal positive-thinking quotes posted on daily basis
Unlikely to have significant interest in what you’re tweeting (ie. they’re a Californian tech gadge tweeting about marketing, start-ups and their coffee; you live in Sunderland and tweet about football and TOWIE)
Live in a different country
Don’t interact with followers
Tweets include many variations on sharing the same link multiple times
Follower count at or around large round number (eg. 1,000 or 10,000)
No mutual followers
Dull logo, obvious stock portrait or Californian sunset as avatar
Header or background = generic aspirational image
• The images used in this article are from genuine Twitter accounts who recently followed me (apart from the one at the top) and I suspect of using autofollow software. No further implications are intended. It’s also come to my attention that there’s an actual website under the URL digitalsnakeoil.com – no association intended there either.
I love Twitter as a platform, though I occasionally despise the way that people use it. Still, I find it a fascinating and genuinely useful platform and have been evangelising to my social media students on its uses recently.
Let me count the ways: As a means to source opinion, quotes and contacts; as a platform from which to broadcast; as a much better replacement for RSS readers; as an unparalleled and unprecedented forum for following news and events live (more quickly, even, that 24-hour news channels); as a jumping-off point for all sorts of ideas for blog posts and articles.
Twitter is pretty open about sharing and its API allows for all sorts of uses – as a result there’s loads of functionality – embedding tweets has been quickly taken up by all sorts of news sites. I’ve previously used Hootsuite to embed searches, but Twitter also allows users to create a widget for particular phrases.
I couldn’t remember how to do it today, so thought I’d look it up. Here’s a Twitter search for #edballs using Twitter’s proprietary widget, followed by the Hootsuite widget:
Embarrassingly, the Twitter widget doesn’t work and the Hootsuite widget does. Moreover the Hootsuite widget is easy to create and the app even gives you prompts to save your searches as a stream. So, while I take my hat off to Twitter for allowing people to use data in this way, the Twitter client is far more user-friendly.
Browser software? Flash issues? Incorrect mark-up? Who cares? It doesn’t work. And who can be bothered to figure out why something isn’t working in these impatient interweb days? Not I. The moral? Use Hootsuite.
Anyway, why this search term? Well, I don’t think I’ve laughed quite so much at a tweet as the one below, released into the Twittersphere by the Shadow Chancellor today. Epic.
— Ed Balls (@edballsmp) April 28, 2011
I find myself making an effort these days to use Twitter. I never used to. Twitter used to be something I did so I didn’t have to do something else; work, take the bins out, confront terrifying existential angst, that sort of thing.
But the novelty has worn off, partly because so many people use it now. Watch sporting events and you’ll get the Twitter handles of presenters and commentators popping up on screen in much the same way that other unwelcome and unnecessary things pop up on screen. Red button alerts, adverts, Piers Morgan.
And not just in sport. Newsreaders ask us to follow or tweet them our news. Question Time wants us to hurl abuse at the goons on its panel. Things reached an absurd low recently when the Twitter handle of Batman massacre perp James Holmes was flashed up on screen whenever court reportings featured him on the news (that didn’t actually happen).
So, there are many more people on Twitter these days than there ever used to be. And Sartre tells us about other people. As Twitter’s usage has exploded, its IQ has imploded. Idiots like Chris Brown are routinely retweeted by thousands of people. A wife-beating, woman-hating, talent-free wankstain has a team of people bigging him up for any conceivable action – walking unaided, respiration, continence etc – ensuring that his every move is broadcast to millions of others who have no interest in him whatsoever.
Elsewhere a man who has been in a film has been cheated on by his wife, who is also in some films. Hence thousands of people who have never met them, and never will, firing invective at one another, and their respective idols, as a kind of surrogate poison dwarf.
My most recent experience of Twitter idiocy was a lot closer to home and on a rather smaller scale. In a moment both awkward and clumsy, a Scottish man known for running quickly and inventing lycra in the 80s made a reference to his skin colour in front of a man of a different skin colour.
I’m not quite sure what made Allan Wells, completely unprompted, observe that he was the last white guy to win the men’s 100m in the Olympics (back in 1980 in Moscow with no Americans around). It was a bit odd and understandably felt a little weird, especially with Johnson sitting alongside him.
But there are very good reasons why he might have introduced the topic, which is central to the modern paradigm of sprinting and athletics. Black men rule sprinting and have done since Wells’ victory 32 years ago. More and more research has come to light about the physiology of black athletes of certain origins that suggests an unusual biological quirk that concerns things like fast-twitch muscle reflexes and the like. Put simply, if you’re black and carry certain DNA you’re a lot more likely to be able to run fast than a little Scottish feller.
I thought it possible that Wells was referring to this – “It was very special,” he said; “You’re in a very select group,” replies Gaby Logan, which is surely the piont he was making; Michael Johnson doesn’t bat an eyelid – and was making his statement as a source of pride: I am biologically inferior to the best black sprinters, as are most white men, but I nicked that one.
Wells’ Olympic gold may also be seen as the last hurrah of an era of athletics where people became sprinters almost by accident. No widespread funding for athletics; no wide take-up of the sport in certain parts of the world; no modern training, facilities, dieticians or biokinetics.
Like with many things, TV brought fame, money and professionalism, for want of a better word. The game changed. The best physical specimens in the world were genuinely competing against one another after 1980. Look at Alan Wells, a quiet bloke from Edinburgh and then look at his successor as Olympic champion, Carl Lewis. The difference between them is symptomatic of the enormous change between athletics in the 70s and the 80s.
I find it not unreasonable that Wells may have been attempting to invoke this paradigm shift in the history of sprinting. Either way it was clearly not malicious, pointed or prejudicial. Did Twitter consider these inflections, these subtleties, these shades of grey and give Wells the benefit of the doubt? No, there was a deluge of sniffy, disapproving tweets, many of which essentially claimed that Wells was being racist.
Wells did not help himself when he later appeared to call a Chinese weightlifter ‘horrendous’, but it was again unclear what his intent was. On rewatching it it sounds like he’s claiming that receiving a massage from the weightlifter would be ‘horrendous’ – a reference to the fact that she is very strong, in all likelihood.
Yet the die was cast. Wells was not only making racial comments, he was a misogynist too! Complaints would be made; blowhards apologised to Johnson on behalf of Brits everywhere; the Twitter frenzy was upon us once again.
This is all rather boring and a little depressing. The faux outrage, the smug sniffiness and willingness to judge was insufferable. And worse, the other side defending Wells for his glorious ‘un-PC-ness’; revelling in what they took to be a blow for outspoken iconoclasts (translation: racists).
The whole affair made me question what I get out Twitter. But it made me feel sorry for Wells too; a man who, I suspect, would be mortified by the way his comment was taken by both sides. A man who – like sprinting when he was at his peak – is of a rather different time and may speak artlessly about race and more besides, but without any prejudice or intent whatsoever.
Hell may be other people, but Twitter is the dimensional aperture beaming it into our homes. And what a terrible vision it is. A cacophony of nothingess. A chasm of self-satisfied yawning. A parliament of tits.
I don’t follow Piers Morgan on Twitter because he’s a self-important blowhard hiding behind the pretence of being a simple wind-up merchant.
He’s like Wimbledon in the 80s but without the hardness. He’s like an internet warrior who’s been offered his own TV show. He’s not even a twat; he’s just a tit.
But he turns up with tiresome regularity on my Twitter feed, usually when people are RTing some tedious banter between him and Alan Sugar. More often the word ‘twat’ is associated’.
So, I got to wondering, just how often does Piers Morgan get called a twat on Twitter?
The answer, as far as I can work out, is once every 20 minutes or so. But don’t take my word for it, have a look below in this embedded Hootsuite search feed.
NB. This should refresh every ten minutes so think of it as a live insight into the world’s view of Piers. You might need to install Flash if you can’t see it.
It’s been a funny old week for me in the online world. First MotorTorque, which I curate, was named the 25th best Twitter influencer in the UK automotive industry, then AdTurds was named in the top 200 ad/marketing/PR blogs (Clarkson-like pause)… in the world.
That’s all quite heartening especially as AdTurds is little more than a hobby that I do virtually nothing promote (although I’ll no doubt be bumped off the latter next month, when 455 Soho-based bloggers submit their own websites to Brand Republic).
But, really, what do these lists tell us? Very little for my money. The Twitter auto industry list was compiled using Klout (a Twitter metric I have little faith in) and used some other UK auto industry-specific peer group list I didn’t know existed.
Those not on the latter didn’t find their way onto the list – and a fair few people rather took their bats home. Understandably to some extent; the list had Automotive PR (list compiled by… Automotive PR) at the top and featured a knowledgeable, friendly guy who does not work in the car industry in the top ten.
While it was an interesting experiment I’m not sure what we learned from it, beyond the thin skins of some journos. The last word on the whole affair, which somewhat dominated auto journo gossip last week, was this brilliant Downfall skit by Sam Burnett.
On the second front there’s an explanation of a more thorough methodology behind the Brand Republic 200 that appears, at first glance, much more comprehensive. However, some of the blogs that have been included haven’t been updated for a year. One has not been updated for over three years. Quite how they got through the filters I don’t know.
People compiling lists like this always add plenty of caveats to them. They’re not about quality or personal favourites and no list is comprehensive. Still, they’re likely to cop a lot of flack – from people not named in the list or unhappy with results or those who simply don’t think the numbers stack up; both lists I’ve recently featured in have qualified on both counts.
So, what’s in it for the compilers? Plenty of free, cheap publicity – at least 50 or 200 retweets or Facebook shares from those in the list and more from those wanting in – and an opportunity to style onesself as an industry expert. Cheap and easy copy…
And what of those named in these lists? Well, they’re a nice little ego boost but not much more besides in my opinion. MotorTorque gained a few Twitter followers and AdTurds had a very small increase in traffic – an inbound link here and there is always good too – but appearances on these lists amounts to little more to flattery.
Having said all of that I’ll be fuming next month when I’m not placed. Such is the fickle world of the influencer list.
I noticed a splurge of new followers the other day, and a few new messages from people telling me their experiences of Twitter.
This sort of thing happens every now and then when something I’ve written on the subject gets shared by a social media maven, or whatever they’re calling themselves nowadays.
Sure enough something called Tweethelper and then TweetSmarter had sent the link to my really, really simple guide to using Twitter out into the ether, where it got retweeted another 80 or so times, probably more, and often by people with six-figure follower, er, followings.
So I dived into Analytics, expecting a deluge of traffic and some high bounce rates. The bounce rates were certainly there but the traffic? Around 600 hits that appeared to come from the shared Twitter links. 600 hits from 80 retweets? And, at a guess, a potential audience of around 200,000? Not a great return.
What does this say for Twitter’s ability to generate traffic? Not much. Could it be that, since businesses and spammers took to Twitter there’s a spot of link fatigue going on? Was it ever that useful?
I’ve become more and more sceptical about the ability of Twitter to generate significant traffic unless, perhaps, you have large, targeted followings already and really hammer the links.
Perhaps it’s another sign that people don’t really want much more than the usual internet diet of celebs, free stuff and sex – even on Twitter. And, already, people have started to filter out the stuff that’s not immediately of interest to them, like they did with display adverts.
So, if 140 chars isn’t enough for WILFers, where do we go from here?
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton was just one of the Tories at the Conservative Party conference asked about controversial cuts to child benefit today, and hit upon a novel, and some may say wizard, wheeze to avoid answering any of the questions the millions of people affected by the cuts may have had for him.
Toeing a furious ‘tough but fair’ party line, Loughton decided that the best way to head off any awkward questions was simply to say ‘end of’ repeatedly; like a youth announcing that further discussion is unlikely to bear fruit, after stating his intention to avoid cleaning up his room.
Quite what Dave Cameron, trying his best to put an end to the public image of Tories as arrogant – nay ‘nasty’ – politicians, makes of it is anyone’s guess.
It’s a little more imaginative – not to say rather more out-of-place – than John Nott’s response to Robin Day’s assertion that he was a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ sort of politician, which was to walk out of a live interview, but not much more.
Unfortunately Twitter wasn’t around 30 years ago, so we’ll never know what the Twitterati would have made of that historial broadcasting spat.
Luckily for us, the response of dozens of voters on Twitter to Loughton’s bizarre performance, can be enjoyed again and again.
Here’s the video, scroll down for Twitter judgement.
ColRichardKemp: Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister, to BBC on child benefit: “End of, end of, end of.” Astonishing arrogance from one who is paid to serve us
That was “street” innit !RT @ColRichardKemp Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister, to BBC on child http://tl.gd/6bmfpv
Tory Minister Tim Loughton – most entertaining piece on @BBCNewsnight for some time “end of, end of, end of” – what a twat #toryfail
Tim Loughton MP… You completely arrogant prick… “end of…end of…” we’re paying this guy to be a Minister? #Timloughton
*End of, End of, End of* – Tim Loughton says. Just what Ive been thinking about you. Sorry but you’ve never been an asset #ukpolitics
#tim loughton#newsnight….end of, end of, should have been a cue for a cameraman to banjo him
Tory Tim Loughton MP, Children’s Minister needs to widen his vocabulary and get a bit of media training! #ChildBenefit @Newsnight
Convenient that Tim Loughton is Childrens Minister. His ‘Thick of it’ style interview on #newsnight was reminiscent of a small child
Tim Loughton sounds like such a knob bleating ‘end of’ on #newsnight
tim loughton got a scratch? #endof
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton, defending Osborne child benefit cuts, says “end of” 3 times, Bizarre. Like a yoof saying “fiddlesticks!”.
Conservative Tim Loughton MP. His view of fairness as a tradition of the party END OF.
Tim Loughton MP thinks he is on The Jeremy Kyle Show. End of.
Tim Loughton is an arrogant prick. “End of”.
I can’t believe Tim Loughton just used “end of.” – repeatedly on the news. What a smug little cockdribble
Rt Hon. Tim ‘end of’ Loughton says Child Benefit ‘sorted, nuff said alrite geez’
In the grand scheme of things, what Twitter client you use on your mobile device is small beer by anyone’s standards, but it’s recently become a big deal to me.
Having taken the plunge with the iPhone, the search was on for a decent Twitter client so I could enjoy sitting in pubs, ignoring my friends and e-wanking away on my shiny new Apple thing (shamefully, one of five products I now have from the company).
Hootsuite, which I use on my computers, was discarded as being rather too clunky and busy: Echofon, used previously, didn’t do it for me either. Having asked on Twitter – where else? – someone suggested I use Twitterrific.
It was by far the simplest and most user-friendly of all the applications. It looked nice; it was simple; you could change the font sizes and themes; you could have multiple accounts; it made a tweeting noise when it updated. I particularly noticed that.
There were problems. The Twitter API seemed to be at lunch half the time, and this became more and more of a problem as Twitter began cutting back on third-party app API use.
Then, without warning, Twitterrific just stopped working completely. It said my login details were incorrect, but I re-entered them several times to no avail. I noticed an update, but that didn’t help either.
So I went to Twitter – where else? – to see what was wrong and learned there was a new version. They’d simply switched the old one off. Pretty poor, I thought to myself, but hey ho.
I downloaded the new version. But it looked confusing: I couldn’t change the font size; I couldn’t add more than one account; and I couldn’t work out how to do anything. It still made the tweeting noise, but that wasn’t quite enough to swing it.
I browsed the reviews on the new application to see a column of one-star reviews. And what made it so frustrating was that everyone, like me, loved the previous version.
The new version costs £2.99 but that doesn’t bother me in itself. If it was as good as the previous version, with a few more bells and whistles, I’d have gladly swallowed the expense.
But the way the previous version was simply turned off annoys me, and I’m not the only one. Have a look at some of these reviews from iTunes.
People who used V2 of Twitterrific loved it. They were classic brand evangelists; people who would recommend an app to someone else simply because they really liked it.
With its cack-handed upgrade and attempts to monetise the new version, Twitterrific has gone from a social media success story to a villain almost overnight. Those evangelists have lost their faith, and they’ll be more than happy to tell you about it.
Seriously, what is it with Sky at the moment? While the press has, on the whole, thrown a bit of a wobbler because it didn’t get its own way over Cameron during this election, the broadcast media – Sky specifically – has suffered something akin to a nervous breakdown.
I think this is a crisis of confidence and direction on the Beeb, ITN and Sky, as they increasingly search for lines that are engaging to viewers yet don’t break any rules over impartiality.
As I’ve outlined before, I don’t believe the media really has an idea of how to do political reporting anymore, unless it can find hooks that it believes it needs to maintain the interest of the idiot population.
As has been evident throughout, the UK’s population has been far from passive – or idiotic – in the election; with Twitter protests, protests against the media and protests against Sky specifically, following Kay Burley’s bizarre outburst against David Babbs for daring to engage in his democratic right to protest.
For my money, Burley is simply an idiot who has no place anywhere near political reporting, and I don’t have much time for Adam Boulton either.
However, Boulton does have the right pedigree and seems to be generally respected as a political correspondent – until today.
Boulton absolutely lost it in an interview with Alastair Campbell today, who gently teased Boulton in the way that only he and Peter Mandelson truly can, over Boulton being secretly angry that Cameron may find his anointed path to Number 10 blocked by a brilliant bit of political chicanery by Gordon Brown.
Campbell is voicing what has been whispered less and stated openly more and more during the election campaign – that Sky’s coverage has been less than impartial.
Perhaps that’s what touched a nerve with Boulton, though I personally have found Nick Robinson’s punditry more and more intriguing during the election. Campbell was again present in a live round table – with David Steel, Huw Edwards and Andrew Adonis – responding to the news of Brown’s resignation hit the airwaves today and, again, seemed to fluster Robinson.
So, what is it? The media suddenly angry that their previously-unchallenged position as interlocutors is threatened by social media and pressure groups? Or the cracks showing in the political dead bat of political correspondents as the situation becomes more volatile? Or is it evidence that some in the broadcast media, Sky specifically, are testing the waters of the UK’s objectivity rules, perhaps in preparation for a more Fox News-like controversial stance on politics?
I’m not sure. I do sense that Sky may attempt a more entertainment-news approach in the future that may test the barriers of what Ofcom deems acceptable. And I do sense that a few correspondents, Boulton most obviously, have found it hard to disguise their true feelings.
But I suspect it’s more a case of political correspondents finding it tough to keep up with the twists and turns of a genuinely incredible campaign, and trying to keep pace with social media, in tandem with the demands of 24-hour rolling news.
So, Sky cracks first. And maybe there’s not a grand conspiracy to get Cameron into Number 10, maybe it’s just a case of folding under the pressure. Boulon certainly seems to be feeling it at the moment
Apart from the shrieking Burley. I think, more prosaically, she’s a fool.
NB. Seems Boulton nearly lost it again with Ben Bradshaw
EDITED TO ADD:
Journalism.co.uk has a good account of Campbell’s run-in with Boulton, which makes the Sky correspondent’s behaviour seem even more bizarre. This bit is particularly good:
Why hasn’t he had a Cabinet meeting before making this offer?
He is about to have a Cabinet meeting now.
Yes, but now he has made the offer, what can the Cabinet do, why haven’t you had a meeting with the parliamentary Labour party like the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have had?
He’s having one tomorrow, he’s having one tomorrow.
In other words it’s you, totally unelected have plotted this with …
Yes. You are happiest speaking about him …
That’s because the Ministers are going to a Cabinet meeting …
He has got a parliamentary party, you’re the one that cooked it up, you’re the one that’s cooked it up with Peter Mandelson.
Oh my God, unbelievable. Adam, calm down.
Gentlemen, gentlemen, let this debate carry on later. Let’s just remind you that Gordon Brown said a few minutes ago…
I actually care about this country.
You think I don’t care about it, you think I don’t care about it.
I don’t think the evidence is there.
Campbell’s predictably amusing response, later posted on his blog:
Adam gets very touchy at any suggestion that he is anything other than an independent, hugely respected, totally impartial and very important journalist whose personal views never see the light of day, and who works for an organisation that is a superior form of public service than anything the BBC can deliver.
I’m fairly dubious about claims that GPS-based social networking show-off app Foursquare could lead burglars to empty houses, prompting insurance claims for thousands of iMacs, X-Boxes and Garage Band kit as nerds around the country fall prey to social media criminals.
The idea that any of the smackheads who lurk at the road at the end of my street might be checking out my Crunked Badge status before jemmying open the back door and making off with my collection of Doctor Who DVDs strikes me as fairly remote.
But there is a significant downside to Foursquare that no-one has really discussed. It’s the fact that my heavy drinking has been exposed to me in terrifyingly irrefutable binary data.
What all of those dots and code and pixels add up to is the fact that I have a significant drinking problem*, my check-ins forming an accusatory dot-to-dot around Liverpool like interconnecting veins on a discolored liver.
In under a month I’ve checked in at at least twelve different pubs, bars and clubs, more than once in many instances. And I’ve been unable to check in on several occasions due to lack of iPhone, lack of reception, or – bafflingly – lack of the kind of social media twattery that compels me to start fiddling about with my phone the second I enter a building.
This adds up to a very sorry state of affairs, from the perspective of anyone viewing my life through lens of my Foursquare status updates.
Where are the check-ins of the galleries, theatres, cafes, parks and restaurants I’ve visited? Why did I not check in at those places? I’m just glad I didn’t check in at the off-licenses I’ve visited over the last month.
All of this does raise the possibility of new apps that use a FourSquare API to pretty much create a kind of location-based tapestry of your life – which could reveal all sorts of unsavoury information if you allow your phone to merrily pass on your location to all and sundry.
All of a sudden those unexplained visits to a house on the other side of town could start looking suspicious; that day spent at a rival business could need some explaining; the repeat trips to the bookies; those lonely late-night visits to a brothel, a late-night garage or a crack den…
The possibilities are endless. There’s probably a pleasant upside to these tools, but it’s not immediately clear what they are. As it is, I’m probably lucky to escape looking only like a rather hapless boozehound.
• You can find Robin on Foursquare here
* I’d like to make it clear that, as far as I’m concerned, I have no such drinking problem. Then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?