Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

The multiple personalities of Twitter

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with Twitter. In that article, I talked about what I see as being the big downfall of Twitter, which is that it is hard to quickly and easily get people using and understanding it. Twitter is hard to explain, there is no key selling proposition, people sign up and then leave, and the language of Twitter is hard to understand.

People moving quicklyBut now I am starting to grasp what I think is the real reason that it’s so hard to catch onto Twitter – everyone uses it for something different. And because there is no standard way of using Twitter, it’s hard to watch the Twitter stream (the flow of posts to Twitter) and figure out what’s going on and how you should participate. When users sign up, they have to just jump right in and start posting and participating.

The flexibility of Twitter is both its genius and its downfall.

It’s unlikely that anyone sticks with just one way of using Twitter all the time. Most people bounce back and forth between the various ways of using the service. But for me, my Twitter epiphany happened when I picked one primary way of using the service – the way that “fit” me and felt right – and stuck primarily with that. Now, about 6 months and 284 updates into my own use of Twitter, I’m finally starting to hit my Twitter groove.

Here are just a few of the many ways that people use Twitter. If you are someone who has used Twitter and quit, of if you are trying to get started, but just can’t figure out how, try picking one of these that feels best to you and go with it for a week – and see what happens.

Talking to people. If you see a post with an @ sign in it, that post is directed to the Twitter user whose name follows the @ sign. So if you write a post and include @mchang16 in that post, you’re talking to me. Not only do people use this for talking to people they know, but also to respond to other people’s Twitter thoughts and comments – it’s a way to have a conversation. Amanda Chapel (@AmandaChapel) does this quite a bit.

Promotional tool. People post links to their own stuff. The most prominent of these is probably Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (@TechCrunch), who posts a link to a new article every time one goes up on his site. My friend Denise (@ddubie), who is a writer at Network World, also does this very effectively.

Information gathering. If you see someone post a question looking for input or feedback on a specific topic, they are likely using Twitter for information gathering. Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) uses Twitter to post questions fairly frequently, sometimes for blog posts he’s working on and often just to stir up conversation.

To cover events. Because Twitter is easy to use on a mobile phone, people can easily use the service to report on live events. This happens quite a bit at technology conferences (where many Twitter users converge), as well as during natural disasters (San Diego fires) or sporting events (Celtics vs. Lakers – GO CELTICS!!) Sometimes people use a # sign to indicate that they are writing a post about a specific topic/event. (Those are called Hashtags – and you can read more about them here if you’re interested in following or covering an event.)

Create a group of like-minded people. It’s possible to set up an account at Twitter that multiple people can participate in – creating a group. The one I’m most familiar with is Lyric of the Day, which was set up by Fred Wilson (@FredWilson). Members of the group submit a lyric every day, starting the message with @lotd. Check it out here.

Linking to cool stuff on the Web. Many people post cool, interesting or helpful links that they find elsewhere on the Web in Twitter for others to see. This type of post is a way to share the knowledge. Steve Rubel (@SteveRubel) is a Twitter user who often posts interesting links to articles, stories, etc. (A quick aside – my one pet peeve with this type of post is that Twitter changes URLs into TinyURLs to save on space, but I like to be able to see the URL to identify what site I’ll be going to if I click a link.)

Answer the question “What are you doing?” This seems to be the original reason that Twitter came into existence – to let people comment on what they are doing so that people they know can follow them and what they’re up to. Two of my favorite bloggers use Twitter this way Dooce (@dooce) and Penelope Trunk (@PenelopeTrunk).

It’s with this last type of Twitter posts that I’ve mostly settled. You’ll see the occasional promotional Twitter, or conversational Twitter, or link to something cool and interesting Twitter coming from me. But the majority of my posts now answer the question “What are you doing?”

Follow me at @mchang.

Photo by sonictk

"You should write about this on your blog"

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

One of the best ways that I get new ideas for businesses is to listen to what people suggest I should write about on my blog.

The following scene happens all the time. 

wine glassI’m out with friends, having dinner, a couple of glasses of wine. We start talking about something, which leads to something else, which leads to a topic of interest that everyone at the table knows a little bit about – but not enough to be a real authority on the topic. Once that happens, someone usually pulls out an iPhone to look some stuff up. We either find out the answer to the question and it’s incredibly interesting, or we don’t. Either way, someone turns to me and says: ”You should write about this on your blog.”

Sometimes I manage to figure out a way to work the topic into my blog – such as when I wrote about avatars, Web 2.0 and Twitter. But most of the time I don’t because the topics are so random that I can’t immediately figure out a good way to incorporate them – or I don’t have the time to do the research to write an adequate blog post.

And sometimes, when everything comes together perfectly, the topics get turned into ideas for businesses.

Think about it – the ideas that are coming from your friends and family and acquaintances are ideas that are coming straight from your future target audience. And one of the best ways to come up with an idea for a new business is to discover a need and work to fill it. Or to determine an area of widespread interest, and attempt to provide information or a tool or a service to fill in the gap.

Of course, the kernel of the idea isn’t enough substance around which to start a business. And I am certainly not suggesting that anyone should quit their job and start a company after a night out on the town with friends, based on a harebrained scheme cooked up over cocktails. My only point is that if you listen, and filter, you might be able to glean some really good ideas – not only for your blog, but also for your business.

<<As a side note, here is one random thing that someone suggested I write about on my blog, which came up recently during a discussion about the outrageous price of gas. If you look at your dashboard, where the gas gauge is located, there is a small arrow that points to the side of the car that the gas tank is on. No more straining to look in your side mirrors as you pull up to the gas station. Anyone see a business idea here? I didn’t, which is why I picked this one to share. >>

Gas gauge

 Gas gauge 2

Wine glass photo by emdot

Slow technology adoption = adoption nonetheless

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I spent the weekend in my hometown with my family. It was a great weekend filled with events. Not surprisingly, the hot topic of conversation was my cousin’s newborn triplets.

Anytime someone has three babies in one shot, it’s probably big news. But the conversations about my cousin and her babies were incredibly detailed and informed – because she and her husband kept a blog about their experiences. Every event I attended this weekend, another family member was asking me to pull out my iPhone to show pictures of the triplets “on the blog.”

Blog. My family now uses the word “blog” in everyday conversation. I have a very smart family, but not one that is at the bleeding-edge of technology adoption. But they now use the word blog (and know how to scroll through a Web page on the iPhone).

Book coverI have one other cousin with a blog. Hers is about writing romance novels. (By the way, her latest book was just released, please go buy it, read it and somehow give me the credit. This weekend she was signing autographs and happened to mention that I wasn’t her favorite cousin and I’m on a campaign to correct that terrible error.) At the family’s Memorial Day picnic, a conversation about “stripper names” broke out because of this post on her blog.

Blogs are beginning to become more mainstream. This will happen more and more quickly as people’s sisters, friends and fathers start blogging, and as more and more people see the benefits of being able to stay connected to each other – and involved in the conversation – by reading what each other writes.

There was an article in Business Week last week titled “Beyond Blogs,” about the social media phenomenon and how it no longer involves just blogs. I have written in the past that Twitter might be too difficult to use to get mainstream adoption. But after this weekend, I think that I’m changing my mind. My family might not know what RSS is yet, but they know what blogs are. And many of them were talking about how they visited the triplet’s site multiple times per day to find out what was new – they are only a small step away from finding out about the joys of RSS. From there, it’s not too far to Twitter and FriendFeed. Granted, the services will have to exist for many more years for widespread adoption to happen, but if the services make it that long, I predict that the masses will catch on.

Because my family is interested and informed, they will follow the conversation, wherever it takes them.

Which brings up another point about conversations – they aren’t just happening online. Conversations are happening on blogs, on Twitter, on FriendFeed, as well as in bars, at grocery stores and on walks through the woods. People who try to own or control the conversation, whether by requiring a complicated registration processes or demanding that the conversation happens when and where they want it to, are going to fail.

Why I am becoming a FriendFeed believer

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

FriendFeed logoMy first experience with FriendFeed was similar to my first experience with Twitter - the site was a little difficult to get into it, kind of hard to see the value. But like with Twitter, once I started “friending” people, extending my network, and working the site into my daily routine, FriendFeed started becoming more useful.

And then yesterday happened.

Turns out that Steve Rubel, author of the popular Micro Persuasion blog, shared one of my stories in Google Reader – specifically, Why I’m Kissing Tumblr a Sad, Sad Good-bye. That story ended up on FriendFeed (along with all the other articles that Rubel shares).

Rubel is a popular guy on the Web, has a lot of followers. So the post got a much wider distribution than it would otherwise have gotten. And the comments on FriendFeed were outstanding and lively. You can read the stream here. That sparked many other articles about the topic herehere, here and here.

And that discussion, in turn, caused the folks at Tumblr to make some changes.

That is powerful. And fun! The conversations that are happening in FriendFeed are often interesting, many of the current thought-leaders about things related to the Internet and Web 2.0 hang out there, and if companies are listening and taking action because of the dialog – well, that’s incredibly exciting.

Friend me at FriendFeed here: http://friendfeed.com/16thletter.

And I would love to know your impressions of using the service – or if you have similar stories of a company “hearing you” and taking some action.

Don't sacrifice your blog in the name of productivity

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I have been working more than ever lately, but my blog posts have been scarce. This is no accident. But it is a mistake.

A couple of weeks back I wrote this post about productivity on Tuesdays. That realy got me thinking about my own productivity and what days of the week I am able to get work done. The initial inspiration for the post was this one by Penelope Trunk, which suggested, among other things, that if Tuesdays are the most productive day of the week, we should focus more on Wednesdays and Thursdays to try to make those days equally productive.

So I’ve been trying to consciously think about my productivity. And I have hit upon a great way to make myself productive. The past two weeks I have been picking one major (or difficult) item on my to-do list, and working on it the entire day until it’s done. That way, at the end of the week I will be able to cross five major items off my list. Any time that I have left in a given day, I work on the odds-and-ends that are left. Including my blog.

This strategy has worked great for getting those major projects done. (I finished four last week, one was so big that it took two days.) But the problem is, the other stuff – the everyday work – isn’t getting done. As evidenced by the sparse posts to this blog.

GrowingSo this week I am going to try a new tactic. I’m going to schedule only 3 major things to get done this week and see if I can get caught up on the rest of my stuff. Because sacrificing my blog in the name of productivity is a bad idea.

This blog may be fairly insignificant in the scheme of things, but as far as my business goes, it has been essential in ways that I couldn’t imagine.

1. I have gotten consulting jobs because of my blog. Multiple jobs. When I hand out my business card, it has my company Website and my blog URL. People usually go to both. When they read the Pure Incubation site, the first question is usually “What do you do?” Followed by the statement “I don’t get it.” This is understandable because what I’m trying to do is uncommon and unusual, and I am trying to be vague on my site until I launch some products. But people get my blog. And my blog gets me jobs.

2. I am more engaged with the business community because of my blog. I don’t live in Silicon Valley, arguably the heart of the Internet Web 2.0 world that I’m trying to play in. But by blogging, and commenting on other people’s blogs (and have them commenting on mine), I am able to get involved in the conversation in a way that I wouldn’t be able to be involved if I wasn’t saying something. This recent post about women technology start-up founders sparked conversation from lots of interesting folks, including two who I really admire: Sarah Lacy, who released her first book last week: Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0; and Penelope Trunk, who I mention all the time in this blog and who is really my blogging idol, if there is such a thing.

3. My family and friends read my blog. Not everyone I know reads my blog, but the people who do have a better understanding of what I’m doing. I talked to my dad last night, and he told me that he follows what I’m up to with my business through the blog. And my Aunt Mary told me that she feels like she is more connected to me because she reads what I’m up to and thinking about at work. I’m glad that my dad and aunt are reading. When I go home to visit this weekend, they won’t look at me with blank stares when I talk about my business and how things are going. I like that.

4. Blogging helps me be more creative. I love writing, I always have, so the process of coming up with a topic and writing about it helps to get all of my creativity churning. I find that the process of writing a blog post often helps me think of new things to work on for my business, and often helps me discover new business models and stuff that’s out there that I wouldn’t otherwise have found – like Gary Vaynerchuk and Wine Library TV. If you’re not watching, you should be.

5. When I write a blog post, things happen. I’ve noticed this past week that my email from random people has slowed down, my traffic stats are a bit stagnant and I feel generally down about my business. This is a normal feeling for entrepreneurs to have on occassion, but I realize now that posting to my blog helps to lessen this. Because when I blog, I reconnect with my community, get support from the other entrepreneurs out there, and things happen. And it’s that thrill of activity that keeps me going when things get hard with the business, which happens all the time.

It turns out that I learned a bigger lesson this week than just the one on productivity – I realized just how important my blog is to my business. So if you have a blog, keep writing! If you don’t have a blog, go get one today. And then check back in three months to let me know how it changed your business (or life). I know it will.

Photo by Editor B

Why I'm kissing Tumblr a sad, sad good-bye

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

My company has a lot of blogs for the various businesses that I’m starting - 52 to be exact. Most of them are run on WordPress, which I really like, one is run on an old install of TypePad (which is clunky, but might be because I need to update), and one is run on Tumblr.

I love Tumblr. I love the user interface, the way that you can post quick snippets of things. Quotes, pictures, text, links…it is fun to use. And the templates are awesome. The Cara Austin blog is on Tumblr, and it’s a delight to update every day.

Sad Good ByeBut there is a fundamental problem with Tumblr that I wasn’t aware of before I started using it – the search engines don’t seem to like it. In the two months since I have been posting (every weekday starting March 13, 123 posts total), the blog has only received 17 visitors from Google. Every one of those visits, except one, had the term “Cara Austin blog” or “Cara Austin Tumblr” as the search term.

This is a major problem for a commercial blog. I have a personal Tumblr that I use for my own things, notes, things I want to remember – and I don’t care if no one ever comes to that site. But for Cara Austin, a musician who needs to get her name out there and needs to sell albums, this is a big issue.

I didn’t know this about Tumblr. I didn’t know that the pages wouldn’t be indexed well (or show up high) on Google. I knew that Tumblr doesn’t have comments. And I knew that Tumblr didn’t have a search engine built in. These things I decided to live with.

But I didn’t know that Tumblr had a search engine optimization (SEO) problem.

I could no longer ignore the fact after I launched another new blog on WordPress on April 23, put up a few posts, and that blog starting receiving more traffic, from a wider variety of search terms, in a much shorter time period.

Here’s a little chart to illustrate:

Tumblr SEO chart

And so I’m leaving Tumblr. I’m leaving with a tear in my eye, but I’m leaving nonetheless.

Photo by Jaye_Elle

Blogging while delivering triplets!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

This post is obviously off the topic of work, but my cousin is very close to giving birth to triplets, and she is blogging from her hospital room! That’s right, she is scheduled to give birth on Wednesday, was admitted into the hospital last night, and she and her husband have been able to post about the pending-birth from their room. Their blog has really been cool for our family, which is spread all over the U.S. and is obviously very interested in how everything is going.

Count this as just one more way that the Internet has completely changed how people are living their lives.

I want my OpenID

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Today I was on the AllThingsD Web site because I wanted to comment on a post from Kara Swisher’s BoomTown blog – Twitter: Where Nobody Knows Your Name.

After I got to the post…

  1. I scroll to the end of the comments, discover that I need to login. Click the “sign in here link.”
  2. Enter user name, first and last name, email address.
  3. Arrive at a page that says “Before you can use your new user name, you must first activate it. Check your inbox and click the link.”
  4. Go to my email.
  5. Open the message.
  6. The message says “To activate your user, please click the link. After you activate, you’ll receive “another email” with your login.” (The quotes around “another email” are theirs, not mine)
  7. Click the link in the email.
  8. Arrive on a page that says “Your account is now active!” My username and password are on that page. But where is the post that I was originally trying to comment on?
  9. Go to the home page and try to get back to the article on which I originally wanted to comment.
  10. Scroll to the bottom of the comments section.
  11. See that I still need to login. Realize that I didn’t copy my password before and I don’t know what it is.
  12. Go to my inbox and open the second message from AllThingsD.
  13. Login to the site & post my comment.

This was a tedious process that could be simplified, but I’m not even upset about it. I understand the reasons behind requiring registration on a Website, and I’m not opposed to giving up some data for the privilege of using a site for free. It’s what happened next that really got me thinking.

After I successfully posted my comment, I went to my passwords spreadsheet – the one that I keep on my computer (the one that is a massive security risk) to update it with my latest username and password information. I entered the information for AllThingsD - on line 49.

ConfusionThat’s when I realized that I am up to 49 separate username/ password combinations. And this is just for the sites that I track on my spreadsheet (I don’t have my Gmail account on there, for example, because I for some reason don’t think that I could ever forget my Gmail username/password). I would consider my Web usage to be on the high side, so most people probably have fewer passwords to remember; but I would say that my organizational skills are above average, so most people probably don’t keep a neat spreadsheet of all their user names and passwords in it.

If I’m having trouble managing all my combos, other people must be too.

OpenID logoOpenID, which aims to eliminate the need for multiple user names and passwords across multiple Websites, will hopefully be the answer to the password crisis, but there are still too many problems with OpenID for it to currently be a viable solution. OpenID poses some security risks, many companies that claim to have adopted it haven’t really, and OpenID doesn’t allow companies that use the system to “own” the data of each and every site visitor, which is good for the users but bad for the companies (and what’s bad for the companies, they will hesitate to implement).

But OpenID – or something like it – is desperately needed. By me.

Photo by Erik Charlton

Two sites where you can get great free images for your blog

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

People ask me all the time where I get the images that I use on my blog. There are two sources – and one tool – that I use to find and manipulate the images.

1. Flickr – This is by far my favorite site for free images because of the wide variety and types of images that are available. The community of users that upload their pictures to Flickr – from all over the world – ensures that there is a vast collection of images of varying quality (some are incredibly good). The trick with using Flickr images, however, is that you need to use images that are governed by the Creative Commons license that fits with what you’re doing.

Attribution licenseHere is a list of Flickr’s Creative Common licensing policies. Basically, the “Attribution License” is the most liberal, and allows you to use anyone’s image, manipulate it how you want to, and do most things that you would want to do with it – as long as you give the author of the image credit. My suggestion if you don’t want to get into the intricacies of Creative Commons licensing is to stick with these images. As of today, there are more than 7.5 million images with this license on Flickr, which is certainly a big pool of images to choose from.

Here’s the link to the images with that license.

Just make sure that whatever you do, you give credit back to the photographer. I use “Photo by photographer” with a link to the Flickr page at the bottom of posts. You can do that attribution any way that you want, however. (Hat tip to Skelliewag.org)

Young photographer
Photo by muha…

2. stock.xchg - This site has a database of very good free images that you can use for your blog. Just type in your search, and look to see what you can find. You will have to register to download images, and make sure that you check the “Availability” of each photo. If it says that “standard restrictions apply,” you can use the image. Sometimes, however, the photographer must be notified or approve the use of the image before you post it. So be careful to check this out.

BONUS- A great cheap tool for screenshots and minor editing of photos

If you have Photoshop or another major image editing tool, use that. But if you don’t have a great image editing tool, consider using SnagIt from TechSmith. There is a free 30-day trial and the tool is only $39.95 for a single-user license. I use this tool ALL THE TIME and it’s been really helpful. The learning curve is short and it can handle all the simple editing tasks that I do on my blog.

Do any of you have any other great free image sites that you use? If so, please post them in the comments.

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Really, I’m sure that Twitter has more than a single problem – most companies/concepts/new technologies do. But I think that the main issue with Twitter is that it will never gain mainstream adoption until there is an easier way to get new people understanding and using the technology – a quick and easy way.

Twitter logoHere are the issues that I think make Twitter so difficult to start using:

1) It’s hard to explain. I have been in a number of business meetings in the past month where the topic of Twitter came up. In one meeting (about social media) the person doing the presentation hadn’t heard of Twitter and everyone in the room looked at me like I had two heads when I brought it up. In another meeting, the president of a content creation company told me that his company “Looked into Twitter, didn’t get it, and figured that it would never have mainstream adoption.” I tried to tell these people why they should care about Twitter, why people telling each other “what they’re doing” in 140 characters or less was important, but they just didn’t get it. And I’m sure that was my fault because I did a terrible job explaining. There MUST be a better way to explain. I think this video was awesome and helpful, but what about when I don’t have a video handy?

2) There is no “key selling proposition.” Lovers of Twitter will tell me that I am crazy, that Twitter is so great because it does so many things for so many people. But I would tell you that to get mainstream adoption, it needs a key selling proposition. How do I get people to use Facebook? I tell them that it’s a low-key way to connect with friends I’ve lost touch with (and I give examples). How do I get people to use Tumblr? I explain how I can link to things and pictures and stories and all the stuff that I find interesting on the Web and that I can set it up in about 1 minute.

I don’t have ONE good way to get people to start using Twitter. Some people say that they get immediate and great input on restaurants when they are traveling. Twitter birdOthers say that they use it when they’re lost or to get answers to questions. But I haven’t effectively used Twitter in any of those ways (although I’ve tried). I am not sure if that is because you have to have a certain number of people following you, a certain level of celebrity within the group that is following you, or if you actually need to know the people in your Twitter network, but those uses clearly don’t work for everyone. I am left without a great way to convince everyone that I know that they should use Twitter (and people I know using Twitter would be the one way that the service would actually begin to be extremely useful to me).

3) People sign up and then leave. This almost happened to me. I started using Twitter, had a bad experience, left, came back and managed to stick with it (although I’m hardly a Twitter power-user.) Here’s my embarrassing story:

I started using Twitter on October 18, 2007, with this Tweet: “Joining twitter, trying to figure out how it works” 

My fourth Tweet was this: “There’s never been a better time to do a startup http://www.scribemedia.org/…” Followed quickly by my fifth Tweet: “I should get a tatoo”

Of course, I meant for my fifth post to be connected to the fourth post, but I got tripped up by the 140 character limit. So I quickly went in to try to delete the fifth post and couldn’t – there’s no delete. So then I was horrified because I was trying to establish my professional Internet presence and not only did my Tweet say “I should get a tatoo” but I didn’t even spell tattoo correctly. I quickly made a couple of other posts in hopes of covering up the embarrassing post, and then bailed.

I came back again on January 4, 2008, with this message: “Trying Twitter again. I wish I could get into it.”

My next Tweet: “about to throw twitter out the window. just tried to send a direct message, dont think it worked. grrrr ”

Thank God for @tylerwillis who quickly replied “it worked if it was the one to me.” He might have saved my Twitter life. I kept going.

Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started ”following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked. I currently follow 585 people, most of whom I started following on January 4th or 5th.

Then I started getting input from people about how I shouldn’t follow so many people and how I was incorrectly using Twitter. This is a gem that I received that day (via email):

“Saw you follow me on twitter, and you seem really interesting but.. can I respectfully refer you to this document http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/twitter-guide/ . ( i.e #3). Sorry just telling it like it is :-(

I had no idea what this guy (who I didn’t know) was talking about. I went to the link and this is what the link said:

Twitter Guide Part #3: Using Twitter Properly

So I figured that I made a mistake, that I broke some “Twitetiquette” but I had no idea what. So I wrote my new email buddy back to ask what my issue was. This is what he told me in reply:

“I know from your blogs that you are a top person. intelligent and info source. When I looked at your twitter follow I checked it out and simply you were not someone I would want to follow. … Bottom line, would you want to read and follow your own twitter posts? Maybe you would? …

With twitter you get flooded with feeds and if feeds are pointless crap, then people don’t have the time to follow them, unless they already know and are interested in the pointless crap of that person….

I can only tell you that when I looked at your twitters, you offered me “nothing” of interest.”

OUCH. I was a brand-new Twitter user being shown the door for writing “pointless crap” on Twitter.

I clearly am someone of outstanding stubbornness (or stupidity) because I stuck with Twitter. And I still use it, although not as much as some people. But I have a feeling that this experience that I had, this barrier to entry that was almost impossible to overcome, is probably holding people back from adoption.

When I went through the phase (lasting 2 days) of trying to add a lot of people at once, I had some strategies. One of those was to add all the people named “Melissa.” I typed the name into the search box and found that most people named Melissa have quit on Twitter after joining. Here’s the “Recently” timeframes of the first 19 Melissa’s that show up:

2 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
11 months ago
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
protected
3 months ago
15 hours ago
11 months ago
protected
9 months ago
10 months ago
protected
21 days ago
9 months ago
9 months ago
4 months ago
13 hours ago

If I consider “current” Twitter users as anyone who has sent a message in the past month, and I eliminate the Melissa’s who have protected updates, only 3 out of 16 (19%) are still current users of Twitter. I thought this might be an issue between female/male users of Twitter, so I did the same thing with my husband’s name (Christopher). I found this:

about 1 year ago
5 months ago
3 days ago
8 months ago
10 months ago
19 days ago
protected
2 days ago
20 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
2 hours ago
about 1 year ago
protected
about 1 year ago
11 months ago
10 months ago
10 months ago
protected

The results were a little better – 5 out of 16 (31%) were recent Twitter users. But in my unscientific study, there is clearly a huge drop off from the number of people who sign up to Twitter compared to the number of people who continue to use the service.

4) The people who don’t use Twitter don’t understand the language of it. Anyone who reads this post who doesn’t use Twitter will not know the following terms and what they mean to Twitter or how to use them:

@mchang16 (the @ symbol is the biggest because it’s all over Twitter, and not intuitive)
Follow
Tweet
Twitetiquette
Recently

Something needs to be done to make it easier to get people to use Twitter, and to get them to stick around to learn how to use (and keep using) it after signing up. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no widespread future for the service.

Follow me on Twitter (if you dare!) @mchang16.

(As a footnote to this story, my email buddy and I became Facebook friends, although he still doesn’t follow me on Twitter.)