Twitter turns eight: First tweets from the great and good of the tech world

21 Mar 2014


It is now eight years since the world was given the ability to share what was on its mind in 140-character snippets. Since then world leaders, pop stars, sporting heroes and top tech talents have all joined the bandwagon.

To celebrate eight years of success Twitter has created a nifty tool to help you easily find your first ever post on the site. V3 thought it would be fun to use the site to find out what some of the tech luminaries had to say for themselves. Some are more inspiring than others.

Bill Gates was snappy and to the point.

Oracle's Larry Ellison was his usual bullish self.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was late to the party and in typical business mode.

Security hero Eugene Kaspersky set about offering pearls of wisdom on staying safe online.

We're not sure what was going on when Sir Tim Berners-Lee first posted, but as he invented the web, we'll forgive him.

We here at V3 can't criticise too much, though, as our first effort was hardly the stuff of legend. Still, we like to think we've got a little better since then.

Our favourite, though, is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who kicked-off with a message about dancing and has never looked back.

Happy birthday Twitter. Here's to the next eight years.

Twitter 'lie detector' aims to catch out malicious rumour-mongers

21 Feb 2014


A new "lie detector" for Twitter is currently in development, and while the prospect of knowing whether your colleagues really enjoyed the delightfully Instagrammed salad may seem exciting, its true benefits could actually solve one of the biggest problems public social media platforms cause society: malicious untruths.

In the 2011 London riots, for example, rumours began to spread of tigers having escaped from London Zoo causing an uncomfortable mix of confusion, terror and humour. Could a machine-based lie detector, analysing language and context, have saved us from this bizarre state of affairs? According to the University of Sheffield's Kalina Bontcheva, lead researcher on project PHEME: perhaps.

There are four categories of tweets that misinform people, according to the project team:

  • Speculation – such as financial guesswork
  • Controversy – unproven accusations
  • Misinformation – accidental untruths
  • Disinformation – malicious untruths

The technology would take into account a number of tweet characteristics, including the authority of the user and their history on the site. A well-respected, verified journalist would be more authoritative than a brand new account which is spamming scandalous political rumours, for example.

There is no word on whether the analysis extends to metadata such as the location from which the tweet was sent, and the researchers currently have no plans to include media such as images in the analysis, which often form a key part of corroborating or dispelling rumours.

The results of searches looking at current events would then display on a "visual dashboard" to let the user know whether a rumour was likely to be true or not.

It's an interesting project which is expected to take three years to come to fruition. It would be reasonable to expect Twitter is doing exactly the same thing as it looks to serve one of its most active userbases: journalists and organisations like emergency services and charities.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who promises to tweet the twuth, the whole twuth and nothing but the twuth.

Twitter dabbles in e-commerce

03 Feb 2014

Twitter IPO

Twitter appears to be looking at some new revenue streams that could see users buying products using buttons embedded in Tweets.

The potential new product, reported by Recode, appears in the form of designs pitched by online retailer Fancy. It shows a button embedded in a Tweet that advertises a product. While nobody from Twitter or Fancy has acknowledged the images, it suggests a sensible exploration of other revenue streams from Twitter, which makes a large part of its cash from advertising.

By introducing the sale of physical goods into tweets themselves, Twitter is looking at an area of social media-based retail that has been explored before. Facebook tried, tested and eventually mothballed its own attempts to sell products on its site, instead concentrating on cashing in on smileys and virtual coins.

But Twitter is fundamentally different from Facebook. Its advertising model allows businesses to buy into certain keywords and trends, making adverts that are hyper relevant but only last for a few seconds. With this new model, a business could conceivably use the #CoronationStreet hashtag to promote an item currently being featured in the advert break, for example.

One potential problem for Twitter, however, will be savvy consumers. While this system may be great for unique, hand-crafted items that can only be bought from a particular niche site, if firms attempt to advertise products that are more widely available, consumers will probably do a quick search to find the best price available and bypass Twitter entirely.

Nonetheless, investors will undoubtedly welcome speculation that Twitter is looking to create a new revenue stream as it tries to work its way out of the red.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who would sell his soul for a few more followers

Andy Murray takes Twitter tittle-tattle title, also wins Wimbledon final

08 Jul 2013

Last night, tennis took over Twitter, as lifetime and one-time tennis fans came together to produce an onslaught of tennis tweets that in previous years would have stretched Twitter's service to its limits.

At its peak, Twitter users were sending over 120,000 Wimbledon-related tweets per minute. To put that in perspective, Centre Court holds 15,000 people, and they were loud enough by themselves; the racket created by 120,000 shouts and whoops per minute would have been a little much. The below graph shows the huge flurry of mentions right after Murray won the tournament.

In terms of what was actually being said in those tweets, the ball was in IBM's court to work out who was the favoured player. A foregone conclusion you might say. And you'd be right: Andy Murray dominated the Twitter rankings, receiving 1.1 million tweets throughout the Wimbledon competition. Second in the men's ranking was Serbian Novak Djokovic, with a respectable 868,000 mentions.

However, Murray will be appalled to discover that his approval rating wasn't the highest of all players. Indeed, most of the love went to fellow Brit Laura Robson whose twitter mentions were 94.7 percent positive. Murray could only manage a paltry 93.3 percent.

Elsewhere, the women's singles champion France's Marion Bartoli didn't top the Twitter rankings, despite the controversy caused by John Inverdale's infamous comments proclaiming her not to be ‘a looker'. She racked up 208,000 mentions and while she beat German Sabine Lisicki in the final, Lisicki can go home with the knowledge that she received 301,000 mentions throughout the tournament (and the £800,000 prize pot just for showing up to the final).

Murray, ever the outgoing attention seeker, took to Twitter after the match to express his happiness, and received a cool 90,000 retweets as a result.

Eight of the ten trending topics on Twitter last night were Wimbledon related, although how many of those were "I wish everybody would stop posting about tennis" wasn't clear at the time of publishing.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who isn't a tennis fan

Tweet enters dictionary as both a noun and verb

17 Jun 2013


When Twitter first exploded into the public consciousness a few years ago there was a rush to add the letters ‘Tw’ to everything related to the site, resulting in some awful words such as Twestival and Twitterati.

While this craze seems to have, thankfully, disappeared, some other key words that Twiter spawned remain part of our daily lexicon. Hashtag is now completely understood with reference to a topic that’s trending, while ‘following’ someone is no longer a creepy term that could land you in hot water with the fuzz.

Now another common word, 'tweet', has received the seal of approval as a new noun and verb with relation to Twitter, after the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, John Simpson, confirmed it will appear in the next edition of the esteemed work.

“The noun and verb tweet (in the social-networking sense) has just been added to the OED. This breaks at least one OED rule, namely that a new word needs to be current for ten years before consideration for inclusion. But it seems to be catching on,” he said.

The influence of Twitter is clear, as the venerable institution OED is willing to bend its own rules and allow a term be added to its tome because of its huge prominence in the wider world.

One other notable new edition set to enter is the wonderful, “to have a cow” because, as the aptly named Simpson explained: “This American slang term meaning, essentially ‘to have a fit’, is often associated with the character Bart from the animated series The Simpsons, but it is much older than the television show. The new OED entry traces the phrase back to 1959.”

That's definitely something worth tweeting about.

#FollowMe: Twitter offers highlights video via Vizify

14 Jun 2013

Twitter has teamed up with Vizify to launch #Followme, a video tool that lets users create a short clip of their highlights on the social site.

The video shows which topics you tweet about the most, a selection of your pictures, the people you interact with the most, when you're most active on Twitter and even your most popular Vine post. And best of all, you can edit all of these to portray yourself in the best possible light, including the choice of musical soundtrack from rock to jazz.

Here at V3, we've had a busy and productive morning trying out the Vizify service and while it's not the most ground-breaking tool, it's a handy way of getting a quick view of your top followers and topics.

You can see our #FollowMe video clips below, which include kittens and onesies to Windows and security gurus.

Twitter hack on the Onion makes for comedy gold

06 May 2013

Twitter Logo

The Syrian Electronic Army has hacked the Twitter account of satirical news website the Onion.

Early reports had the hack pegged as a bit of satirical comedy from the site. However, a picture from the Syrian Electronic Army seems to validate reports that the Onion was indeed hacked.

Among the villainy performed by the hackers was a picture of the group's logo posted on the Onions Twitter page. The Syrian Electronic Army also tweeted out a slew of tweets displaying Onion articles before their actual posting.

The Onion being the comedy site that it is took the hack in good fun. Following the hack, the site posted stories recommending the best practices to avoid getting hacked and a reminder that the firm had changed its password.

"Reduce interest in your website by cutting down on stories about very popular subjects, such as Syria," read one of the websites anti-hacking tips.

The Syrian Electronic Army has been busy in recent months. The pro-Assad hacking regime has already hacked the Twitter accounts of the Associated Press and the BBC in recent months.

Hacks on Twitter have led to calls for two-factor authentication on the social networking site. Following the requests, Twitter has been said to be working towards bringing the feature into the fold later this year.

While two-factor authentication is a good option, we don't think the Onion will mind going without for a few months. The satirical news site seems like a terrible company to go after with a hack. The Onion, more than any other site, seems capable of turning a cyber attack to its advantage.

Twitter mulls two-factor authentication in wake of AP hack

25 Apr 2013

twitter-screenFollowing the high-profile compromise of the Associated Press Twitter account, the microblogging service is said to be mulling some major security changes.

According to a Wired report citing company sources, Twitter is now working to introduce a two-factor authentication option which can help to prevent account theft from phishing attacks. After hearing how the AP incident occurred, such protections are more than welcome.

In the aftermath of the breach, which resulted in fraudulent claims that the White House had been bombed and president Obama had been injured, staffers reported receiving some suspicious emails which were later found to be connected to a phishing attack.

It seems that the Syrian Electronic Army used a series of targeted phishing emails to harvest the credentials of AP staffers and eventually gain access to the company's main Twitter account. The stolen password was then used to access the account and launch a hoax that managed to temporarily disrupt the stock market.

If the reported series of events is true, then the AP hack could have been easily thwarted, and if reports on new developments are to be believed, it soon will be.

Wired has posted a report which claims that Twitter will soon be launching a two-factor authentication platform. The site uncovered a job report from earlier this year which would suggest that additional protections would soon be arriving.

Why is that so important? Two-factor authentication ties the account credentials and log-in to actual holder. The platform not only requires a username and login, but also a numerical code which is randomly generated and then sent to a user's mobile phone for one-time use.

It's not easy to see how this can help to protect users. Even when a username and password are harvested, the attacker would have to steal the mobile device of a user in order to access an account. This can dramatically reduce the number of attacks, especially high profile breaches, which result from phishing.

Of course, in order to be effective, these efforts have to be put in place. Corporate accounts will have to identify a single manager who can receive and provide the one-time credentials for protected accounts, and that may prove to be another headache for corporate marketing and public relations teams who share an 'official' Twitter feed.

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