Category Archives: social media

Decluttering and reclaiming my Twitter account

I opened my Twitter account on 19 February 2009, which means that I am heading for my 9th TwitterVersary. Until recently, my aim has been to increase my followers as much as possible, with the aim of having maximum impact. The best way to hold on to new followers is (usually) to follow them back, so as well as maximising my number of followers, inevitably that led to me following a lot of accounts. I did have a more-or-less annual clear out of inactive accounts, but this had a fairly minimal effect on my statistics. The net result was a steady increase in the number of accounts I was following.

Partly as a result of following all these accounts, my main Twitter timeline became swamped with tweets I was not interested in. Although I do use groups for specific areas of interest (e.g. Chemistry Tweeters etc.), even these were becoming hard to manage. Increasingly I felt I was losing control, so it was time for action!

On 21 November this year I reached 7000 followers (see screenshot below), and in the process of reaching that number, I had followed 5478 accounts! These included authors and eBook services, accounts from web optimisation services (including those ubiquitous SEO services), and ‘lifestyle bloggers’. So, what to do? I decided to limit my following back to accounts concerned with (broadly) science, HE/academia generally, music (mainly classical), favourite authors, and politics, with a few additions (people I actually know, etc.) My aim is to bring the number of accounts I am following down to about 1000 by the end of the year, although at the moment I don’t know if that will be easily achievable with these numbers! (The motivation to begin this process was partly catalysed by the theft of my phone in London in the early hours of 25 November (described in a separate post). Setting up Twitter on my new phone provided an extra incentive for a clean-up!)

There are a number of ways of managing a Twitter account, apart from just following and unfollowing accounts on an app or the web page. For several years I used the FriendOrFollow service, which kept me up to date with my follow/unfollow statistics. But, almost coincidentally, they recently lost their link to Twitter (who withdrew access to its API), so I could no longer use their service. I had been doing my annual clear out of inactive accounts using a site called ManageFlitter, and my intention was to use that to help me in this mass cull of accounts. However, it seems that many of these Twitter management services have woken up to the fact that they can get more revenue from their offerings, and ManageFlitter was no exception, restricting the use of its free service to a small number of daily unfollows, etc. So I signed up for a Pro account, which costs $12 a month, but which you can cancel once you have finished using it. Combining this with simple unfollowing has reduced the number of accounts I am following to 2126. Progress is being made, and I will update at the end of the month.

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Are third party alternatives to Facebook apps on Android worth considering?

As someone who uses Facebook a lot, both for social reasons but also as an administrator of 5 Facebook pages and 2 Facebook groups (and counting !), having access to Facebook on my smartphone is essential. When Facebook decided to make it necessary to install the Messenger app separately, I started looking at the considerable memory real estate these apps occupy.

I currently have a Sony Xperia Z3, which has 16 Gb memory in the device, and which I have expanded with a 32 Gb SD card. However, as Android users will be aware, not all apps will run on the card, meaning that the 16 Gb can potentially get filled quickly.

The first thing I tried was to replace the Messenger app (109 Mb) by a less memory intensive third party app. After some research, I installed Trillian which occupies considerably less memory, and initially seemed to be fine. It can be configured for other messenging services, like Google Hangouts, but since Hangouts is a permanent fixture on my phone, I didn’t configure Trillian to replace it. The only minor irritation with Trillian is that it is advertisement supported, (the pro version is subscription based rather than a one-off payment). I also found that sometimes one can’t send a message to an offline user, which I do need to do quite often.

I then took the bold step of uninstalling the Facebook app (256 Mb) and replacing it by the third party app Fast for Android. It certainly takes up less memory, and can do most of the things the native app can do. But there are things it struggles with, like adding a comment to a photo being uploaded to Facebook. Also, it’s really a front end to the mobile Facebook web site, and I often found myself having to go there to complete some tasks.

Trillian and Fast certainly saved memory, and both resided on the SD card without complaint. But after a while (a month or so), I began to get irritated by the things they couldn’t do! I went back to the native Facebook app first, and about a week ago, relented and reinstalled Messenger. I have found that the Facebook app will go on the SD card, but (annoyingly) Messenger doesn’t work well unless it is installed in the main phone memory.

My conclusion is, if you are a heavy mobile user of Facebook, and need to use the messenging service, there is no substitute for the native apps. Let’s hope that future smartphones are built with more memory on the device, as this was one of the reasons I tried the alternatives!

Foursquare/Swarm: return of badges, and mayorships (but not yet)

It’s almost exactly a year since Foursquare changed from its old form, and introduced the Swarm app for checking in. Since then both apps have evolved, but when mayorships were removed, Foursquare lost one of its best features.

I’ve continued to use both apps, checking in on Swarm, and occasionally adding reviews etc on Foursquare.  I have more or less got used to the new system, but now change appears to be in the air!

Last week, Swarm’s update on Android included some quite big changes. Full details are here, but essentially old badges that you gained from checking in are back (but now called stickers), and when you check-in somewhere you can search through your stickers to see if there is one to add to a particular check-in. And you can get new stickers through checking in to particular places (it didn’t take me long to get a bar-related one, for example!) The local crown stickers, for the most check-ins at a location among your friends, seem to have gone, but they were pretty meaningless anyway. Finally, the blog promises that mayorships will return ‘soon’. It seems that (at last), the Foursquare team realised that they had missed a beat by withdrawing them. I look forward to their return!

Using Swarm and the new Foursquare app

I promised an update on using Swarm/Foursquare, and since I’ve been doing some travelling on the last week or so, I’ve had a chance to put both apps through their paces.

The first point is that I don’t use the actual Foursquare app much. I check in to places using Swarm, and only go into Foursquare to wrote reviews, or to check who else has checked in at a particular location.

Secondly, Swarm is easy to use, and seems to work better in poor signal locations than the old Foursquare did (which is definitely a situation that I encounter regularly). I would like more ‘stickers’ (which give information about what you’re doing at a given time, e.g. working or drinking coffee!), but apparently you unlock these by checking into different places.

So I conclude that it is still possible to use Swarm/Foursquare to record my travels, which was my main aim with the previous app. Adding reviews of places is something I’m happy to do. All the lists I set up are still there, and I can still add places to them. Having invested over 4 years in using the app there was no question of uninstalling it. (Many of the new features, like ‘plans’ on Swarm, and local search on Foursquare, are of no interest to me, so I don’t see myself using them).

I’m sorry about the loss of points and mayorships, but don’t see them coming back any time soon, sadly. Judging from the various discussion groups, the Facebook page etc., it seemed that a significant number of users were going to uninstall Foursquare, but whether this is enough to persuade the company to reverse some of these changes is questionable!  We’ll have to watch this space and see.

The new Foursquare Android app: initial reaction

The new Foursquare Android app became available from the Google Play Store last Wednesday, 6th August. I’ve been using it pretty continuously since then, and can offer an initial appraisal.

I’ve already discussed at length my disappointment that Mayorships, badges and (finally) points were lost, so I judge the app as it is and not as I hoped it might be!

For a start, checking in has to be done via Swarm. I held off using Swarm for as long as possible, but now I’ve used it for a bit I don’t mind it. At least it still taps into the Foursquare past checkin database, and comments when you return to a location, etc. That was essential for me, since I use Foursquare as a travel diary, and was one reason why there was no question of uninstalling Foursquare! The Swarm app itself seems nicely put together and I have no issues with it yet.

Returning to the Foursquare app, the emphasis is now on local search and writing tips and reviews of places. In general I don’t need local search as I normally know where I want to go (!), but I can see that it could be useful if I’m in a place I don’t know. As for writing reviews, I did a few with the old Foursquare, but now I will do more, since the app provides motivation with its expertise ratings.

I am just returning from 2 days in London, and while there I did a lot of check-ins and wrote some reviews. The experience was good, and Swarm and Foursquare do work seamlessly together.

Finally, the changes to Foursquare have changed my check-in habits. While there were points to be gained (and especially when there were Mayorships to retain), I would go out of my way to check in at lots of locations. Now that motivation has gone, I’m more sparing with check-ins, so it’s a less time-consuming process. I’m still sorry that the points have gone, but in general I can make the changes work for me.

I’m doing some more travelling next week, so I’ll have more opportunities to test the app. Expect an update in due course!

Waiting for the ‘new’ Foursquare …

While the wait for the new Foursquare continues, news comes that ‘gamification’ is being ‘reintroduced’ into the new app – details here. This sounds complicated, and how many users will engage with it is an open question! In the meantime, I’m continuing to check-in via Swarm, and getting my points tally on Foursquare (yes, this still works). What will be interesting to see is if it is still possible to find your points on the new app, and whether lists will be preserved (since there’s no sign of either of these on Swarm). I’ll be travelling quite a bit in the coming week, and normally this would be a ‘check-in fest’! But whether it still is remains to be seen.

Foursquare closes another door

With the latest update to its Android app, Foursquare now forces check ins to be done via Swarm (my workround involving uninstalling Swarm no longer works). This means that points are harder to get for frequently checked in locations. It’s still possible to get them if Foursquare itself recognises the location you’re at and invites a check in. But otherwise you have to check in via Swarm, and it’s a points lottery. It remains to be seen if, when the new Foursquare app is finally rolled out, it’s possible to earn points at all!