Twitter has become a nationwide phenomenon, and like any phenom, all the Twitter talk grows quickly tiresome. But despite what you may think, Twitter isn't just for narcissists; it's actually insanely useful.
So let's assume that you already know about the navel-gazing uses of Twitter—the aspects of Twitter that most people criticize when they complain about the site. Discounting Twitter altogether because you think it's ridiculous that people tweet about what they had for breakfast is like claiming that email is useless because of forward chains. It's a mistake, and you'd be missing out on a great tool if you let that put you off Twitter completely.
Twitter is as useful as you make it. In fact, Twitter does several very worthwhile things better than any other tool.
1. Instant, Real-Time Search Results Search is hands down the most useful feature of Twitter—whether or not you actually participate by posting anything to the site. Consider, for example, a very trivial example: I live on the West coast, so when the American Idol results show ends every Wednesday on the East coast, it's only 7pm here. I could wait two hours, then suffer through another hour of the Wednesday night, up-with-people variety show, but I really just want to know who was voted off. News sites move too slowly, and at one point blogs had aimed to fill this instant-answers void, but guess what: When you want to find out who was voted off Idol as soon as the results are available, Twitter is the quickest and easiest way to get this answer. Try it sometime. Within seconds of the announcement on Idol, Twitter fills with hundreds of posts answering this question for me.
The real-time search applies to so much more. If the signal on my cell phone goes out, I check Twitter to see if there's some sort of AT&T outage in my area. If I want to know what people are saying about something important to me, I hit up Twitter. What you get is like a centralized, searchable, real-time comment-thread for everything. Yes, like all comment threads, you'll find a good amount of crap. But that doesn't render the entire thread worthless. Bookmark Twitter Search now and use it next time Google or your favorite blog search engine fails you.
2. Monitoring Something You Care About Virtually every company has a Twitter account these days, which means if there's a product you really care about, following them on Twitter is often the easiest way to stay up to date with the latest developments. But more often than not (in the context of Twitter, at least), the thing we care about most is ourselves. We've already shown you how to create an ego search to monitor what's being said about you on the web, but now Twitter is another must-use tool for getting your ego fix.
Still, even if you're not an ego-maniac, surely there's something that you care about that you could monitor on Twitter. Do yourself a favor and download one of the free desktop Twitter clients to help you create persistent Twitter searches so you can keep track of whatever your want without always hitting up the main Twitter search page. We'd recommend checking out TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop.
3. News Updates We've been using newsreaders to subscribe to RSS feeds for years now, but newsreaders still haven't completely caught on with the world at large. It seems less manageable to us, but many people are perfectly happy using Twitter as a tool to keep up with the latest news—which is partly why CNN has over 1 million followers. Likewise, re-tweeting (the process of copying and re-posting someone else's tweet) spreads news like wildfire—so breaking news can reach you on Twitter a million times faster than through any of the old methods. (For what it's worth, here at Lifehacker we have our own Twitter feed that pushes out all of our top stories.)
4. Instant Communication with Friends This is closer to what people think about when they think Twitter. But, as I said above, Twitter communication doesn't have to be a cesspool of "what I ate this morning" and "just flushed the toilet." You can choose whose updates you want to be notified of and how you get those updates. Upshot: If you and your pals use Twitter well, it can be a fantastic communication tool. If not, of course it's useless—but that's not really Twitter's fault. Also, if privacy is a concern, you can always protect your updates.
5. Twitter as a Productivity Command Line Whether you want to add a new event to Google Calendar, a new to-do to Remember the Milk, or a new note to Evernote, you can do it all via Twitter. It took us a while to warm up to Twitter from a productivity angle, but this kind of integration made us admit that Twitter may yet boost your productivity, too.
6. Ask Questions, Get Answers Provided you have enough followers (with enough knowledge), Twitter is also a powerful place to ask questions and get answers. Before I started writing this post, for example, I asked my followers what they think Twitter's best uses are—the answers to which helped inform this entire post.
Recently, I was subcontracting for an ad agency when things went unexpectedly wrong. There had been points in the process when I felt things weren’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. In retrospect, I can see that those moments were actually blatant warning signs that the project was going awry.
Now I keep these warning signs in mind. They’re indicators that I need to take immediate action to keep my project on track. If you’re working remotely, that can be much harder to do than if you have daily face-to-face contact with your colleagues, but hopefully these tips will help you avoid the trap I fell into.
The project had started in the normal way. I took the brief, produced the work, and sent it off in draft form for review with the words, “I look forward to your amendments.” But there were no amendments. My contact at the agency asked for my invoice the same day. I wound up having to chase payment, my contact was avoiding me, and in the end, I only got paid for half the job.
Here are the five warning signs that should have alerted me to the danger.
Warning Sign 1: Moving Away from the Agreed Plan
When I emailed my contact the copy his client had commissioned — a 30-second radio ad — and he had no amendments, I thought it was very odd. I’d included time for client amendments in my project estimate, which he’d approved. We’d also discussed the turnaround time for amendments, so we were both expecting that my ad copy wouldn’t be spot-on the first time. When his only response to my submission of the draft ad was to ask me to send the invoice, I thought it was weird. Weirder still was that he emailed me this instruction: most of my clients will call to discuss draft copy. In an office, body language and behavior indicates clearly if a colleague is uncomfortable. But even email and phone conversations provide limited feedback. What I should have done was called my contact immediately after I received his email to confirm that he and his client really had no amendments, and that both were happy to wrap the project up. But at the time I dismissed my unease, telling myself he was probably just busy.
Warning Sign 2: Unprecedented Behavior
No one I’ve ever worked with has accepted copy straight up, without amendments. Ever. So this should have been a huge red flag for me. If a person you’re working with does something you’ve never seen before — and their behavior affects you — check it out with them. Before you do anything else, give them a call to get clarification about what’s going on. If their behavior has made you at all nervous or uneasy, let them know. By raising the topic, you give them the opportunity to talk about any issues they have — issues that, as in my contact’s case, they may otherwise be uncomfortable raising with you.
Warning Sign 3: Silence
A sudden silence can mean that your colleague has been called out of the office unexpectedly. Or it can mean that they have a problem that they don’t know how to discuss with you. After I sent my 14-day invoice, I heard nothing from my client — not even an acknowledgment that he’d received it. Again, slightly uneasy, I reassured myself that he was probably busy. What I should have been doing was calling to follow up my invoice and make sure he’d received it. As it turned out, when I called after the invoice due date and left a message, he didn’t respond. I emailed; no reply. When I called the following week, I was told he’d gone on leave for two weeks. When I was put through to Accounts, they told me there was a problem with the invoice and they’d been instructed not to pay it.
Warning Sign 4: Fast Talking
When I finally spoke to my contact, it was over the phone, and he told me that his client hadn’t liked the copy and they’d had to rewrite it. But he was going into a meeting and couldn’t talk now. He’d see that I “got paid at least part of the invoice,” and then he was gone.
By this time, I knew he wasn’t going to pay. I also knew he didn’t have a meeting. But there was still time to salvage things, had I wanted to. If this happened to me now, I’d ask to stop by the client’s office for ten minutes and discuss the problems with my work. Don’t let a client try to bamboozle you with fast talk or excuses — no matter how much they sugar-coat their story.
Discussing the problems can also give you a chance to rectify the situation.
Warning Sign 5: General Unease
It won’t surprise you that all through this process I felt a general sense of unease — one that grew as matters progressed.
Now, whenever I get that feeling, I know I need to try to work out the cause of the discomfort. As my experience showed, it’s tempting to ignore your instincts and hope that things will go the way you’d like. No one likes to be uncomfortable, after all. But if you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it for a reason. Don’t ever ignore it!
If you look at your discomfort more closely, you can usually identify the source of the issue. Then, you can formulate a plan to right matters. Perhaps you’ll explain your concerns, point by point, in an email, and then call your contact to discuss those concerns. Or maybe you’ll make a few decisions about how you’ll move forward on the project, setting boundaries you will and won’t cross, or creating a series of requirements you’ll need to have met before you progress through each deliverable.
These five warning signs now ring alarm bells whenever I encounter them. Being aware of them, and acting on them, has kept me out of trouble since The Job That Went Bad. What warning signs do you watch for in your projects?
Samson denied British visa after incident with teen girl in Berkshire
AMERICAN president Barack Obama's half brother was REFUSED a visa to enter the UK after being accused of an attempted sex attack on a young girl in Berkshire.
The News of the World can reveal that Kenya-based Samson Obama tried to get into Britain on his way to Washington for his family's big day, the historic inauguration in January.
But eagle-eyed immigration officials at East Midlands Airport, using the latest biometric tests, discovered he was linked to an incident here last November. The hi-tech database revealed that Samson - who manages a mobile phone shop just outside Nairobi - was the same man arrested by British police after he approached a group of young girls, including a 13 year-old, and allegedly tried to sexually assault one of them.
He then followed them into a cafe where he became aggressive and was asked to leave by the owner. That's when police were called and Samson was arrested. He supplied officers with his mother's address in Bracknell but gave them a false ID, claiming to be Henry Aloo, believed to be a genuine asylum seeker.Mum Kezia, 67, has lived in Bracknell for six years. She married the US president's father Barack Obama Snr in Kenya when she was a teenager.
Following Samson's arrest he was fingerprinted but not charged, then left the country. However, all his details were stored on the Home Office's new database of prints and biometric details. And that's what finally pinpointed Samson's link to the world's most powerful leader - as he tried to slip back into Britain to visit relatives en route to the swearing-in ceremony.
The White House was informed and a Home Office source told the News of the World: "This was obviously an extremely sensitive issue when it was flashed up by the database. "But the system is designed to flag up people who have come to the attention of the police in the UK and are then trying to return."
It is thought that Samson - one of the President's 11 half brothers and sisters by his father who had four partners - managed to travel on to Washington by boarding a connecting flight to the US from East Midlands.
He was able to do so despite not having a UK visa because he remained in transit and never left the airport. A stewardess from nearby Nottingham told her local newspaper how she met him on his flight to America. Dawn Stewart, of Sherwood, described how Samson told her his nickname was Abo and said he was on his way to the US capital for the presidential swearing-in. She recalled: "I asked him how he feels being the brother of the next president and he said, 'I can't tell you the depth of excitement we feel.'
"I asked what Barack was like as a teenager and he said he was always charismatic and calm." The flight attendant said Samson claimed he had never travelled before and proudly showed her a headed letter from his half-brother requesting his three-week visa to the USA. Last night a Home Office spokesman confirmed Samson Obama was refused a visa after immigration officers noticed one of the documents he supplied with his visa application was false. That led to further inquiries.
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "We consider all visa applications based on their merits. We will oppose the entry of individuals to the UK where we believe their presence is not conducive to the public good.
MILLIONS of us will go on an Easter egg hunt or tuck into hot cross buns tomorrow. But other countries have very different Easter Weekend traditions — and not all are related to Christianity.
In NORWAY, families gather round the television to watch an Agatha Christie movie or TV whodunnit. It follows an ancient tradition of acting out a murder mystery play over Easter.
Great British tradition ... Easter traffic
On Easter Monday in the CZECH REPUBLIC, young males make whips from willow branches and tour the streets looking for young women and girls to smack on the legs. The women later get their revenge by pouring buckets of cold water over the men. In POLAND, parents creep into their children’s bedrooms on Good Friday morning and wake them by tapping them with switches made of twigs while reciting “the wounds of God” from an Easter prayer.
SPANISH adults and children dress up in the kinds of costumes favoured in the US by the Ku Klux Klan — but there is nothing racist about this celebration. In the PHILIPPINES, every Good Friday dozens of men re-enact Christ’s crucifixion by having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.
ROMANIANS sweep the house, have a ritual bath and put on new clothes before going to church on Easter Sunday, and in BERMUDA people fly kites to celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb. Families in BULGARIA throw eggs at each other, with the oldest women smearing the first broken egg over the face of the youngest children. On Easter Monday, the EGYPTIANS eat fish that has been buried underground, in a tradition that can be traced back to 2700BC.
FINNS, SWEDES and DANES hold Halloween celebrations at Easter. And in IRELAND people eat simnel cake topped with 11 balls of marzipan in honour of Jesus’s faithful Apostles. But perhaps the strangest Easter fact of all is that Christians cannot agree when the festival falls. This year Catholics and Protestants celebrate Easter Sunday tomorrow while most Orthodox Christians will wait until next Sunday.
ALEX FERGUSON has told Cristiano Ronaldo: "You can't get everything your own way." The Manchester United winger gave the ball away in the lead-up to goals for Aston Villa and Porto last week.
Ronaldo was the key figure in United's march to the Premier League and Champions League double last season.
But United boss Ferguson has made sure the Portuguese star knows what is expected. He said: "No, I don't accept that he will give goals away because of the player he is, I speak to him about it.
"I don't accept that from anyone. "In European football, if you give the ball away it takes a long time to get it back. "He always feels he's not getting the proper protection from referees and I think that, maybe, in quite a few cases he is right, and a few cases he is not right. "It's hard when a player who wants to entertain doesn't get everything his own way. But you can't get everything your own way. "He understands that and there's not a problem with that. "It's just a frustration that he feels he doesn't get the decision and he gets upset about it. "I think, obviously, he doesn't enjoy that and he knows he's letting himself down more than anything. "He holds his hands up. I have had to remind him about that but I'm not getting into what has been said."