Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There is a scientific principle (okay, maybe it's not a principle, but I can't call it a "scientific thingy", now can I?) that describes how something with some size, and a head of steam, seems to keep on going without any additional effort. The term for that is 'momentum'. I suppose that's what we have here. With very little effort, our little experiment continues to keep right on rolling. Granted, it may be slowly losing its speed, but it's doing pretty well all on its own.

The frequency of posts and the attention to a 'follow anything that moves' strategy, has tended to tail off recently. Still, the follower count continues to climb. There is definitely a barrier around 2,000 that needs to be broken, and then the air thins, making continued movement easier. Actually, if I think about trying to climb a mountain in thin air, it seems pretty difficult, so maybe that's not a good example, but you know what I mean.

Twitter is becoming 'important' to marketers and anyone wanting to hold 'status' in this new social community. I don't think many people have found a way to monetize that status yet, but it's clearly coming.

Twitter continues to add new features. The most recent are 'lists', and formal support for 'retweets'. Any new feature needs to be examined carefully to understand how to 'play' it. Does following an entire list give you faster access to new followers? Is there a growing importance in your 'retweetability'? We'll play with them a bit, and keep score.

Speaking of's the latest stats...

Followers: 30,453
Following: 30,030
Tweets: 345
Rank: 2,254th

Oddly enough, while the number keeps growing, we've actually lost pace on the rank. This is likely due to the ever increasing numbers on the site, and their ever diligent fight to the top of the list. Still, our rank isn't bad (considering there are over 45 million accounts!) and our main number being over 30,000 is stunning! Remember, we hoped to get to 10,000 within the first year, and we've blown that out of the water. Perhaps it's time to jump over to the blog at ""? 10,000 just seems like such a last-month goal.

Let me know what you think. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm Gone...I'm Back!

Well, that was quick. This morning I woke up to the worst Twitter sight there is (no, not an ugly home page), the dreaded "ACCOUNT SUSPENDED" banner (again)! If you'll recall, I had this one other time as well. It seems that very active accounts tend to trigger alarm bells at Twitter, and somehow the bell tolled for thee...I Luckily, an emotioned plea to my favorite sysadmin (and a few tears) had my account up and running again within the day. Thanks (again) @delbius! You're the best!

It just goes to show how fragile this online world is. What if you spent months (years?) building your online presence and ....poof... it was gone? Your online Rolodex reduced to nothing. Starting from scratch. It's one of the concerns that enterprises have with 'cloud computing' services. If I can't feel it, and protect it, how do I know it will be safe? Should I really rely on it for mission critical applications? It's a tough call. But it's likely a call you'll be forced to make as the world shifts to online services. Time to get friendly with your local sysadmin! :-)

Followers: 24,367
Following: 23,795
Tweets: 316
Rank: 2,201st

Is anyone impressed by these numbers? Is it just me? We set out to try and reach 10,000 within a year and now, three and a half months later, we're over 24,000! Either we're REALLY good at accumulating followers, or REALLY bad at guessing how long it takes.

If you look at the rank, it tells an important story. Being in the top 2,200 in the Twitterverse (okay 2, shoot me for 1 stinking position) is an awesome feat! Given an estimated 45,000,000 accounts on Twitter (I got this number from a respected tech guru), that puts me in the top 0.005% and that's pretty lofty ground if I do say so myself. And I'm sure you know exactly what I should do with such a lofty status. Unfortunately, I haven't a clue! So feel free to post a comment and let me know what you think. Speaking of comments, special thanks to Udi and Tony for commenting on the last blog entry.

And most of all....don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


Sunday, August 23, 2009


Since we hit our goal of 10,000 followers some time ago, there's very little to keep me interested in continuing the journey. The only amusing part is when a milestone is obtained. I know it's not much, but it seems to amuse me. Today marked a couple of significant ones for me...

The first milestone was reaching 10,000 Direct Messages! Can you believe it? A few short months ago I had only 3 followers, and now I have people so enamoured with me that they need to seed me personal messages on Twitter. Not 1, not 100, but 10,000 of them! Wow, I must be special! As I've said before, my best guess is that 99.99% of these messages are pure spam, and I feel very sorry for the person who sends me a real messages through DM. How would I ever find it? Twitter doesn't even provide a search mechanism for DMs, so you might as well throw your message in the trash. What makes me laugh is that many of these Direct Messages are trying to sell me some new and creative tool for accumulating Twitter followers. No thanks, I'm doing pretty well on my own.

The second milestone occurring today, is that I passed the Prime Minister of Canada on number of followers. Luckily I live in Canada and not the U.S., as passing Obama would be a MUCH tougher task. Anyway, I was pretty amazed by it. I wonder if Prime Minister Harper knows I've passed him? Perhaps I should send him a tweet and let him know of my awesomeness. On the other hand, he might get so upset that he invades Poland or something. Guess I'd better not.

Followers: 18,076
Following: 17,587
Tweets: 292
Rank: 2,658th

Over 18,000 followers (and counting!) Notice too that Twitter changed the name of the stat formally called "Updates" to "Tweets". The 'hip' lingo of Twitter is something that has taken on a life of its own. Words or phrases like 'tweeps' (people you talk with on Twitter) and 'Fail Whale' (the page you see when the Twitter service is down) are the way to spot the really cool (kewl?) users. And of course, the hacking of words to take up fewer characters (like 'UR' for 'you are' and 'PPL' for people). I prefer the challenge of retaining as much of that old language....what's it called again?....oh yes, ENGLISH, as I can. Try being grammatically correct in 140 characters. It's rly tuff.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter!:


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Still Going

It's been two weeks since we reached our goal of 10,000 followers on Twitter. Now what? It appears there is a bit of a momentum effect as the numbers keep climbing. I have no intention to compete with the really serious number seekers, but I'm still amazed at how far we've come so fast. There's some fun and interesting mountains to climb that all of a sudden appear to be within reach. For instance, I'm currently only a few thousand followers away from toppling the Prime Minister of Canada. That would be cool!

Forget about the numbers for a moment. What about Twitter itself? I'm learning that the dynamic nature of Twitter is really its biggest success. I keep staring at my daily newspaper and it never seems to change, yet every time I refresh my browser I have new content waiting for me on Twitter. It is very much the way of the future. Information should be instantly available, and easily filtered. Add triggers and agents and text mining and all of a sudden you've got the world's knowledge at your fingertips. It's quite the power trip! Now if only we could eliminate server glitches and denial of service attacks that take down the system, we could actually start relying on this information as a serious life-sustaining infrastructure. Who thought that 140 characters could be so powerful?

Followers: 14,118
Following: 14,092
Updates: 278
Rank: 3,090

Cracking the upper echelon of the Twitterverse is a daunting task. There is a VERY sharp curve as you make your way towards the top (and Ashton Kutcher's 3-million+ legion of fans). The numbers start getting nose-bleed high, and it takes work (or a nationally syndicated tv show) to keep advancing. I know I should just gracefully accept 14,000 as my limit, but I can't help wondering how the air feels up there in the lofty heights of Twitter's elite. But is it worth the effort?

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter:


Sunday, July 26, 2009

10,000 Followers (and counting?)

Well, we did it! 10,000 followers! The momentous occasion happened at 1:27am this morning. I sat at my computer impatiently hitting the reload button on my browser (what a loser eh?) until I watched the "9,999" turn into "10,000". It was quite exciting, I suppose. Not exactly a Times Square ball-dropping party, but worth a 'woo-hoo' at least. And all the more impressive considering it all happened in less than 2 months. We started our little journey on May 30th with our original 3 followers, and here we are less than 60 days later with over 10,000 more. Wow! It shows the virality of the Internet (is 'virality' a word?).

Of course, our journey was not without its bumps in the road. The fact my account was suspended for several days caused a bit of anxiety and threatened the entire project. My bright idea to totally piss off my followers by dropping them from my following list gave us a few anxious moments, and sent our numbers into a temporary nose-dive. But in the end, I think we learned a thing or two and took some of the mystery out of what is essentially a pure numbers game. Want to learn what I know? Just buy my, I'm kidding. This was an 'experiment' and the results are worth sharing, free of charge. Read on....

Twitter is an excellent communications tool. It's brief and simple to use. It's easy to support on any Internet-connected device, including a mobile phone. That's its charm. Another thing that sets it apart, is that it supports a uni-directional following concept. By that, I mean that you can follow me regardless of whether or not I choose to follow you. This has its uses. I can choose to follow a celebrity, or a trusted information source, or a close friend. I can then easily see everything they post. Where this elegance breaks down is when you start to follow too many people. Why would you follow a large number of people? Well, the sad answer is that you can engage in a kind of mutual understanding that partners you with someone in a sort of "I'll follow you if you'll follow me" relationship. The only value this brings, is to increase your numbers, and your perceived popularity. What you do with this 'power' (sell it to marketers, lord it over your friends, whatever) is a totally different matter. Still, the seduction of having a large number of followers is a very real attraction.

If you choose to have a 'give me all the followers I can get' type of presence on Twitter, you can basically say goodbye to your 'friends' stream as having any value to you. It's too totally clogged with Internet marketing crap and all kinds of 'come to my web site' spam to be useful to you. Ditto for the Direct Message inbox. My DM inbox has 5,787 messages! That's right, 5,787. That means I get an average of 100 per day. I've looked, and basically NONE of these is sent to me by someone I know or care about. They're all junk. (This would be a good time to remind people that if you REALLY want me to read your DM, you might want to send me an @ message telling me so, or I'll never see it. I just don't bother looking at my DMs as a rule.)

If you choose to keep your friends list limited to your actual friends, you will have an entirely different experience on Twitter. But unless you're a popular celebrity, don't expect your follower numbers to be very high.

This dichotomy (big word eh?) of Twitter account types makes me curious about the other side. What if I dropped ALL my spam followers and only kept my real friends and those I cared to hear from? Would my follower list drop like a stone and balance itself with my friend count? Perhaps we should find out?

So this brings us to the interesting question of 'what to do next?' Should we keep building the follower count as high as it will go? How high is that anyway? Or have we proven the point that we could reach the target number by diligently concentrating on things that improve follower count? Is it time to knock down our sand castle (house of cards, etc.)? I'd love to hear your opinion on it. Either comment here, or send me a tweet.

Followers: 10,535
Following: 10,545
Updates: 256
Rank: 4,039th

Let's take a closer look at the numbers. Very impressive for 2 months if I do say so myself. 10,535 is a big number! The NY Islanders hockey team averaged 9,748 home fans in 2000. Imagine every person at an NHL game following everything you say online. Wow!

Notice how the TFF (Twitter Follower/Following) Ratio is almost exactly 1.0. It's clear that this equilibrium happens naturally. Note also that it appears you can accomplish this volume of followers with relatively few tweets. 256 (GREAT computer number, isn't it?) is a very small number compared to many in this class. Most Internet marketers tend to FLOOD the stream with comments and re-tweets in order to keep their name on your screen for as long as possible. Most have orders of magnitude more updates (tweets) than I do.

Another interesting observation is the rank. Being in the top 4,000 perhaps doesn't sound too impressive until you remember that we started at over 2.2 millionth! The public isn't privy to how many Twitter users exist (Twitter isn't telling), but since Ashton Kutcher has approximately 3 million followers, the number must conservatively be at least 4 million. To be in the top 4,000 out of 4 million is therefore being in the top 0.1%. If the Twitter number is 8 million, I would then be in the top 0.05%. I'll take being in the top 0.1% in the world at anything (well, anything good at least). In other words, put 1,000 random Twitter users in a large banquet hall, and I would likely have the most followers of any of them. (I know some stats geek is going to nail me on that one, but it makes my general point.) Again, it's a pretty impressive stat, although when I started this journey 2 months ago, a person with 10,000 followers was 1,500th on the list. It just goes to show how fast Twitter is growing.

So, the bottom line is.... If you're looking for a large number of followers, one way to do it is to find lists of other people with large numbers of friends and follow them (they're the most likely to follow you back). You won't know who they are or care about what they have to say, but chances are they will agree to follow you in this mutual follow relationship, and both your numbers will go up. Continue that as much as you can. Remember that once you hit 2,000 friends, you can only follow people if you have a similar number of followers. This will slow you down a bit. You'll have to stop following people that haven't followed you back until you regain that TFF ratio near 1.0. The other thing to remember is that if you're using automated tools to help you, you risk being nailed by the Twitter police (they don't like people 'gaming' the system strictly to drive their numbers up), and you only get 150 API calls to their server per hour, so use them wisely. You'll also hit limits on how many people you can follow per day. And finally, there's no substitute for being interesting and worth following. I like to think I got most of my 10,000 followers on my charm alone. :-)

I think that's about all you need to know. I'm happy to answer any specific questions you have, just post them here, or @ message me on Twitter. And don't forget to tell me what you think I should do with this blog. I do have "" reserved in case we feel like shooting for the next plateau!

Thanks for joining me on my journey and reading this blog. And as always, don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello Out There!

I'm not sure why this surprises me, but there really are people out there in Twitter-ville. With as many followers as I have (and we'll look at the numbers in a minute), I often don't think people are paying attention, so it amazes me when they actually respond to something I've tweeted. That's one of Twitter's charms... the social part. People can choose who they follow, and how they wish to do so. There's the 'fly on the wall' approach, merely listening to everything said but not responding. There's the 'I don't care what you tweet, I'm really not listening anyway' approach. But the most valuable approach involves a bi-directional conversation. Let's call it the 'human interaction' approach.

Twitter is a great place to find breaking information. The 'trending topics' area of the home page helps notify people of breaking news. Be it politically motivated, or a pop icon has just joined Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon on the "Pearly Gates Tour", you can find it out immediately via Twitter. Of course, you don't have to wait for news to happen, you can also use Twitter to ask for answers to your questions. That's where it helps to have lots of followers (and hope they're paying attention).

What kind of 'follower' are you on Twitter? Are you the kind that watches the stream go by, or do you jump in and get your feet wet? It's a lot more fun to me!

Followers: 8,428
Following: 8,637
Updates: 251
Rank: 4,488th

Ay Carumba! Those numbers are getting BIG! I know I haven't posted in a while, but it's amazing how far we've come in such a short time. Keeping the Twitter-Follower-Friend ratio near 1.0 is still our strategy, and we're doing pretty well at a solid .98 (No, I didn't do the math in my head. Somebody spent a long time coding and testing the calculator program that comes with the operating system and I'll be damned if I'm going to insult them by not using it). Once we reach our goal, I promise we'll have a little fun with this ratio, but now's not the time.

The numbers are getting big, which is also putting stress on the way Twitter exposes itself through its API. When collecting friend and follower information in blocks of 100, you bump into Twitter's 150 API calls per hour limit once you get over 15,000 total friends and followers. We're now over 17,000 so it's getting tricky. I'll let you know my technique for dealing with this as we go. The problem is only getting worse, but it's a good problem to have.

Until next time....Don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


P.S. I know I've just lectured you about contributing to conversations on Twitter, which got me thinking about how few comments I've received on this blog. When I looked at the settings, it appears that some ignorant blog administrator (I mean me by the way) forgot to enable anonymous comment posting. Hopefully it's fixed now, so please feel free to comment as much as you'd like. I highly encourage it (despite the fact that it appears I've locked you out in the past). I don't even require review before your comments become public. However, keep in mind that I still hold 'ultimate power' over the blog and I'm not above using it! -- Don

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don't Leave Me!

Whoa! I'm sorry! Come back, come back!

Okay, so I tried a little experiment where I let some of my friends go, even though they were following me. The idea was to see if anybody noticed. Perhaps I could get away with befriending people, who would follow me in return, then immediately stabbing them in the back and setting them free. Well, guess what? When you do that, people notice! And they don't take kindly to being rejected.

I dropped 100 friends who were following me, and then sat and watched the carnage. It didn't take long until my follower count started dropping...FAST! It was too late to undo the damage. It was like watching the stock market crash, and knowing there's nothing you can do about it. Eventually, the frenzy died down and I managed to hang on to some trusting (?) loyal (?) ignorant (?) fans. The strategy might work in aggregate, but I'm not sure it's worth taking the chance unless I really needed the room to friend some more people. For now, I'll stick with the mutual love style relationship.

Followers: 5,044
Following: 4,806
Updates: 213
Rank: 6,273rd

It's time for a (little) celebration! I'm half way to the magic 10,000 followers! We're less than 6 weeks into the project, which is pretty good progress. The interesting question is...Will the numbers continue their steady (linear) growth, or is the growth rate a function of the established base, in which case the rate should increase? Or is it a third option where everyone who would ever be silly enough to follow me has already done so, which means we're stuck? Only time will tell.

Stick with me and find out. And please remember to follow me on Twitter.