social network

What is the use of Twitter? What to do with Twitter?

I am a Facebook user for years, but I can’t figure out what I can do with Twitter. What is the use of Twitter? This is probably the question most frequently asked by our cyber-readers.
The two social networks, Twitter and Facebook, gain popularity almost at the same time, but apart this, they don’t have much in common, even the user “type” who uses them has different abilities and behaviors.
Facebook is a simple tool very intuitive that provides a space where the user can openly share his thoughts, post images, make remarks, a sort of personal diary based especially on the bond between people, on the personal network of friendships and relatives.
The Facebook user can daily organise his own space sharing his own “post-thoughts” often enriched with images, commenting the posts of his friends, playing, creating albums with photos of his holiday and so on…
Twitter is a social tool as simple as Facebook, characterized by great potentialities, but whose principles (rules) of use are not immediately deducible. First of all the space to share the “tweet-thoughts” is not unlimited; the user has 140 characters to express a concept, a rather significant limit, especially for the “type” user Facebook, used to think (and post) limitless.
What shall we propose in 140 characters??? Short comments, value judgments, aphorisms, but above all, suggestions and references to other contents present online.
A tweet example?
“I have found this fantastic BLOG that reports the latest of internet #internet #sociology
This tweet is of 113 characters (there are 27 left!!) and contains a suggestion, two hashtags or rather words that mark it (tag it) and the link to be selected for reading the mentioned blog.
Therefore on Twitter we can insert “simple sentences” direct and immediate or “suggestions” to look into somewhere else, but we cannot tell anything we rather underline, “we launch“, we provide a further reading, points to be consider or discussed.
Other important rules to keep in mind on Twitter:

  • Every tweet must be meaningful, it can’t be written a text of 1.400 characters in ten tweets one after another because it doesn’t make sense; nobody will read in sequence your tweets.
  • Avoid the Q&A, if you want to answer to a tweet use the function “reply“.
  • If you want to quote a certain user in the tweet, you can write his name adding the character ‘@ ‘ before it. The user will receive a notification and maybe he will participate in the debate. You may quote our @Mondo2puntozero only to practice your twitter use.
  • If you have just read a tweet that you like and you want to share it, you can do it through the action called “retweet“. The retweet brings the original source without modifying it in any way.
  • Twitter is a tremendously fast tool and only the most reactive and trendy users keep up with it.

What are the strong points of this “synthetic” social network? The first one is exactly the hashtag, if a tweet is tagged, through one or more words preceded by the character “#”, your message will be aggregated with all the other tweets that have the same tag and it will be read by all the users who are interested in that precise topic (suggested by that tag). Our example tweet will be proposed together with all the tweets that contain the term #sociology along with all the tweets that contain the term #internet. The users who look for inspiration in the sociological or technological area may track it down with a simple search.
The aggregative power of a hashtag is very strong; for example I can write a comment with the tag #xf8 and right away get aggregate with all the tweets devoted to the TV Show XFactor , the eighth edition. Some of the radio transmissions and TV programs have found in this tool a “bridge” toward internet, every user has a say and the best tweets are made public during the transmission or, if they are lucky, in some of the TV programs they appear at the bottom of the video screen.
Then, of course, overturning the principle, I can look for the hashtags present online and read the most recent “tweet-thoughts” of other users, browse dynamic lists, always updated by suggestions on the matter; for instance regarding my favorite musical band (let’s say #queen) or my favorite football team or the current final (for instance #JuveLazio see the following image), or the gossip scandal of the moment, or the political reform under discussion in parliament and so on…
Twitter provides also a funny service, a sort of Hit of the most used tags of the last period, always up-to-date and available also per places, allowing us to participate in the most trendy, popular or “of the moment” debates. The service is visible on our twitter space, on the box “trends” as well as callable online as TwitterTrends (here also in mobile version).
Twitter allows us therefore to follow the latest trends, dynamically aggregated through the hashtags. Each of us can follow, on twitter, debates on topics of interest or just debates on trendy terms.

twitter_trendsAs a matter of fact, Facebook provides the possibility to insert hashtags into the text as well as to find them, but the application by users is until now very limited, also because the Facebook user likes above all to tell about himself and share everything with his friends, there is often a bond between the “posts”, while the aggregation for tag is extremely casual and extemporaneous, often functional with the current fashion.
What about our friends? With Twitter the plot of friendships is less determining comparing to Facebook, maybe for the characteristics listed before or rather for the shortness of the exchanged messages as well as the possibility that these ones may end up aggregated on many lists on the bases of the tags presence.
You can choose online the users who write the best tweets, similar to your interests, obviously your friends too, and follow them through the action called “following“. In this way on the central part of your space twitter, after the insertion of the password, you can read the tweets regarding the topics or persons you intend to follow. The list of the tweets sent by those who interest you is always updated.

lista_FOLLOWINGVice versa for those who consider your Twitter interesting; they may follow you becoming your followers.
Unlike Facebook, the absence of bonds and the failed popularity is not a big limit; I may not have friends (followers) and I may not want to follow anyone (followings), but I sure may quote online other users or through ‘@’ debate with them, or reply or retweet or comment on “trendy” arguments.
You don’t need virtual friends to use Twitter!! The important thing is to be, to browse attentively the other twitters and, of course, follow @Mondo2puntozero.
In essence, the element that characterizes the great Twitter users is the agility, the ability to read and move among topics.
Today the popularity starts with a tweet: politicians, men and women in the performing arts, journalists, sportspeople, eminent scientists, … everyone run after the “right” hashtag with the aim of reaching higher popularity.
So what are you waiting for? Create your Twitter user, insert your first tweet suggesting a site you like then try to follow the current trends and, above all, our @Mondo2puntozero.


Milgram and the social networks that make the world a smaller place

postinoWe are “way back” in 1967, where there is no personal computer, no smartphones and, above all, no internet and no social networks, at most, if we are NASA scientists, we have at our disposal a supermainframe (computer) big like a building and with the power of elaboration of a modern scientific calculator.
During the boom years of the 1950s and the 1960s, while the great Mike Bongiorno was creating the game show, on italian television, “Lascia o Raddoppia” (“Leave It or Double It“), another American was analising, with a simple experiment, the complexity of the American relational net of the Modern Age.
We are speaking of the sociologist Stanley Milgram and his visionary theory “of the small world”, visionary because of its capability to gather the complexity of the social fabric due to the processes of urbanization that took place during the twentieth century, visionary because able to underline the net’s evolution, the dense network among the people, visionary for the demonstration of an ample and complex phenomenon, the globalization.
To be more specific, the theory is not completely original; it is based on the story “Chain-links” published in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy. The story (we provide you the English version in PDF format), even if short, hypothesizes connections among people all over the world in a fast and global way, all this taking place against the 1929 great depression, the most catastrophic event in history on a global scale.
In 1967, Milgram selected, randomly, some Americans in the Midwest asking them to send a long distance package to a stranger of whom they knew only the name and the job, but not the address. In order to reach the goal, they were allowed to use their own personal network of acquaintances, sending the package to a mediator, considered by them closer, or rather, with greater possibility of identifying the receiver.
It is said that Stanley himself was surprised by the final result, the package had reached the “unknown” consignee through an average of five – seven passages, we may say very few.
Milgram was proving how the Modern Age with its (then) modern (now archaic) systems of communication had created a dense relational network, making “the world smaller”. The project got published on “Psychology Today”, where it became famous as “the theory of the six degrees of separation”, inflaming the International Scientific Community divided on the chosen method and the achievements.
The debate continued, on a purely theoretical level, until the internet’s advent; the experiments done in the 21st century had given a new and decisive impulse to the Milgram’s theory.
In 2001, thanks to the electronic mail’s accessibility, the first global and social tool (along with the SMS…), Duncan Watts, professor of Columbia University, repeated the research on a much more significant sample of users, around 50.000. The research did nothing but confirming Milgram’s theory, the degrees of separation proving to be exactly six.
In 2006 two researchers of Microsoft, studying algorithmically the conversations records of the chat MSN messenger, came to the hypothetical result of 6.6 levels of separation.
And then what? Then our world has become 2.0, the social networks have arrived.
In 2011 some of the researchers of the University of Milan in team with some of the Facebook’s experts had carried out a test which, had permitted to check the “degree of proximity” of two subjects on a planetary scale (see “The degrees of separation on Facebook“)
No possible controversy on this sample, certainly significant, 65 billion of relationships and no doubt on the final result, an average of 3,74 degrees of separation, even less than what found by Milgram.
In the first decade of the 21st Century the degrees of separation are less than four, the world (2.0), as Milgram had assumed, is “very small” indeed.
It is important to underline how this result has been obtained: there was a meticulous work carried out by an extremely heterogeneous team for both competences and the used tools: sociologists, university researchers, computer experts, email, log trace, “Big data” of social type and technical tools of the latest generation and last but not least, the involuntary complicity of a significant part of the earth’s population! As the old saying goes: unity is strength!
We believe that the release of smartphones and instant messengers over the last five years, could have only reduced subsequently such distance, in a very significant way. The new way of communication “one to many” of a broadcast type, sometimes even of “multicast” type, can only amplify our acquaintances network and confirm Milgram’s experiments and Karinthy’s vision.
What can we say, there is no doubt that “the global social network” is not the direct consequence of the Internet’s advent: the industrialization, the great urban movements, the release of the communication tools such as mail and telephone as well as of the means of transport such as automobile and airplane, had already created more than fifty years ago a dense network, even though invisible, among people well over the secular bonds among communities, markets, nations, banks, etc…
The advent of internet has probably made this network wider and more instant, always accessible, allowing us to be at the center of our friendships or acquaintances, visually and sentimentally as well.
Internet has not created the global social network, thanks to the imagination of Frigyes Karinthy and to the concreteness of Stanley Milgram we may truly say that in the 20th century the network was already global, even though not instant, multimedia and emotional as it is today.
We are all connected thanks to internet and smartphones, but Sociology, according to the numbers, shows us that this is not something new, many of our parents were already connected in the past.

WorldTwoDotZero cannot happen again that someone should  dare disturb me when I am at play, when I set free the phantoms of my imagination, when I think! (Frigyes Karinthy)

Estimote Stickers and the crumbs 2.0 of Tom Thumb

beaconsUp until now, our connection with internet has been active and receptive: we are the ones who decide when to connect, what to look for, whom to contact or simply when to check the news. We are active resources who use a global virtual system.
Internet is, from the interactive point of view, similar to our home phone. We contact or decide to answer to stimuli coming from other contacts, an autopoietic system whose confines have definite limits. It is necessary to use a device, an electronic device to be connected to internet, otherwise you cannot enter.
At the beginning such connection was possible only through a personal computer, a tool which still requires today, waiting times for power on and network connection. Subsequently, other devices came on the market, more immediate, such as smartphones and tablets, which can be activated in an instant and can be carried around in the pocket or purse allowing us to be often connected online during the day as many times as we want.
These devices represent only the first step to innovation, in the years to come new tools will permit us to mix, more and more, the real world with the cyber space.
The first tools which belong to this new generation are the already mentioned glasses. These glasses will increase our perception of reality adding helpful information such as: road signs, traffic data, medical information, other cybernauts’ comments on the restaurant or the hotel which we are interested in, danger alert or just the presence of one of our friends taking a walk in the vicinity and so on…
The reality will soon become a composition of real and virtual stimuli and situations.
The technology Bluetooth Smart or its natural evolution, it does not matter, will facilitate this interchange of information between our two universes, the real one and the virtual one.
In every shopping center, municipal office, school, library, coffee bar, cinema, etc, we will easily find small tools not only in condition to reveal our position GPS but also in condition to give us, immediately and consequently, potentially useful information.
The devices which have fulfilled this function up till now are the so-called iBeacon. The iBeacons are already active in all the American Apple stores; they are equipped to send to our own smart phone information concerning the device next to us, a kind of virtual salesclerk always to our disposal capable of explaining us the characteristics of the object of our interest.
Their use is even more important, although on an experimental basis, in San Francisco airport, in this case, the detectors intercept the passenger’s position and suggest to the blind and partially-sighted persons the direction to follow and the gate to reach, through the “VoiceOver” reader.
There are analogous experimentations in action or in progress among other international airports as well as in some subways, such as the one of London.
In short, a real tool, a small detector, crosses virtual lines with our (real) steps in order to provide us in real time (virtual) information on the surrounding real world. Obviously the promiscuity between real and virtual makes thinner and thinner the boundary between the two universes.
It is no coincidence that the literary translation of the term “beacon” it is “lighthouse”, because of the potential light that these tools can throw illuminating some aspects of our daily life.
This new technology reveals itself rather economical both in terms of installation and activation, around 20 dollars per location, as well as in terms of energetic consumptions for the devices that receive the information, for the time being smartphones and tablets, in the future smartwatches, digital glasses and who knows what else.
The last frontier is that of the “Estimote Stickers“, small sticky beacons, almost imperceptible which can be placed anywhere in order to allow the construction of uncountable virtual paths, unlimited situations in which our smartphones, smartwatches, google glasses,… receive additional information from internet.
The telepass, the ATM, the GPS receiver, the road signs on the highway, are all the precursors of this new symbiotic generation of tools. A surplus of digital information in a position to follow us step by step which is to be added to our social network. System that for some years already mixes real friendships with virtual friends met online.
Will we succeed in gaining from this jungle of virtual information?
Providing today useful information to blind persons is certainly an excellent result. Contrariwise, it is more difficult to hypothesize the effects of this bombardment of digital information on the next generations. There is a possible risk after all, useless to deny it, and that is ending up focusing a great part of our attention on digital contents, distracting it from concrete natural events.
But what I am sure of is that this technology will make enormous strides in the coming years because stimulated by the trading world which sees in the possibility of monitoring closely the consumer/user, the best way to incentivize a purchase.
We will become many Tom Thumbs 2.0 and in the deep forest we will switch on our smartphones and, thanks to the estimotes stickers positioned on every tree, we will easily find our way back home…

From post to pingbacks, how to communicate via network


In 1989 I was a young computer programmer and the only way to keep myself updated with latest technology news was to buy electronics and computer magazines. Therefore, each time I found an interesting article I photocopied it and took it to my friends and colleagues.
The information had a very slow spread process, very few of my colleagues would had the opportunity to deepen the topics covered in those articles or to discuss them with their computer technicians colleagues.
I would also like to underline the enormous waste of paper that took place in the past.
In fact, the innovation in those years was, both in terms of hardware and software, high-growth, even if the computer technicians didn’t have enough tools to follow and share the technological evolution.
Computer technology ran at 100 kilometers per hour, but the information ”stumbled” a lot, incapable of  moving at the same speed of innovation.
Everything has changed today, in no time everyone can spread an article on line, not only technicians and experts, but anyone can send it toward collaborators, friends, industry experts. It doesn’t matter if the item is with fee or a free-of-charge one.
The action of spreading  we are talking about is called “post”, it is the publication of a comment and one or more hypertext links that catapults the reader / friend / colleague directly on information. The information can be sent in a few moments and in a targeted manner to hundreds or thousands of people, these people can easily access to what is reported and even comment on it, or “post” it to other people.
The “post” is free, immediate, but above all is an “active alarm,” or rather, it reaches the targeted audience as fast as a ringing of a telephone. The “post” is the great grandson of the citation, bibliographic tool, with the big difference that, by posting, the information is immediately available with a simple click. But the “post” is also the natural heir of the “pub’s chat”, its simplicity allows you to quickly and easily bring in any kind of comment.
There is another technical term that can explain how the flow of communication is much more complex today than in the past, and that is “referer”. This term indicates the source address of the post sent.
On web it’s popular indicating as “referer” the site or the person who performs the role of amplifier, therefore of a “family agent”.
In summary, the information circulates now in a much faster and far-reaching way as before, and it can also be covered retroactively.
BLOG writers know very well the term “PingBack“, this is a kind of notice citation. When one of my articles is quoted, it gets “posted” on the network from another website and I receive an immediate notification related to the page that has decided to quote me.
The act of online contents diffusion can be carried out completely automatically and free-of-charge. The activation of a service RSS feed allows interested users to receive on their browser or on feed aggregator all the latest news: a feed for each new article in a blog or in an online newspaper, for each new recipe published on their favorite site, for each type of announcement published on net, and so on. Particularly interesting is the role of the icon that represents the feed service, easily recognizable it allows user to perceive immediately the possibility to subscribe updates from  Website / Portal / Blog he is reading. The RSS feed is also an example of how the standard rules application, coherently organized from the informatics point of view (XML), has facilitated the service spread.
Do not forget about Twitter, the best social network. Twitter is a combination of speed, practicality, diffusion. With Twitter you can implement both “post” actions manual and automatic. When this article will be published, a tweet will be automatically sent to my followers’ mobile smart phone, tablet or personal computer.
In the last ten years, even less, the spread of information has outpaced the time and space constraints, no more copies hand-delivered to a few friends. New patterns have emerged, simpler, automatic, faster and immediate.
The author can monitor the use of his information on network, he can counter the quote received, he even may respond to comments and requests. The user can spread what he wants, to anyone he wants, enriching it with quotes and personal suggestions.
All these changes and the passage of time, faded away the memory of me who once made photocopies.


Internet is changing our children’s method of study

Among   many questions I’ve been asked during my work as a computer’s designer and technical SEO, the most frequent one concerns the relationship that young people, adolescents and children, have with  internet and with the new web 2.0 tools. I can deal with such a delicate subject exclusively from my own experience as a designer of portals, taking account of my analysis based on the actual use of the portals, to which I add some personal conclusions. From these different experiences derive some simple tips.
I read for the first time the definition of “digital native” in the book “Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” wrote by J.Palfrey and U. Gasser, book that contains many interesting ideas to think about. In brief, in this category of digital natives, we find all those who are born having already available tools and electronic services such as video games, personal computers, mobile phones, etc. ..
The use of these tools had a first obvious effect, very evident, on us parents, and I refer to their rapidity of using these tools. The natives have another noticeable feature and that is the familiarity with which they manage their own universe 2.0. What we can infer in particular from the two behaviors is the easiness with which they expose themselves on  network along with the true belief in the virtual friendships as being on the same level with the real ones.
Young people, even children, demonstrate great rapidity in the digital devices and services use, besides the remarkable capacity for self-learning. The natives are often able to move quickly into a new portal, configure a computer, a digital decoder or copy photos (or videos) from one device to another, etc,  just observing the provision of services or the icons..
The difference between people who gather from digital tools and the ones that cannot make full use or even understand at all digital tools, is called “digital divide“, a term  very much in vogue and like all fashionable terms, it implies many different meanings and interpretations.
Beware digital natives have a dexterity that is not always guided by a rational ability to select contents or by good analytical skills or even by the patience needed to build that personal castle of knowledge” essential to judge the information found on Internet.
The act of cultural mediation that teachers, librarians, parents, also grandparents have to implement, is to look beyond the results proposed on the search engine’s first page.  We all have to teach the new generations a meditated analysis that can overtake the very convenient method of “cut and paste” from the huge amount of contents on network, a very commune students temptation from time immemorial.
It wasn’t better before and it is not better now, but what I’m sure of is that we need to create educational web 2.0 tools able to explain to young people how to use the 2.0. Certainly there are lots of intelligent young people on the net who will see the network as a great opportunity for their future.
The teaching method must be suitable for the social dimension, it must be efficiently fast and immediate, we cannot expect that a sixteen read  12 pages of instructions before using a network search or fill in 5 or 10 fields when he can find elsewhere with a mono-field and one click everything he needs.
The first step is the production of short instructional videos, each video must have a maximum duration of one or two minutes, easy to select, simple and immediate to display. The instructional videos, short and concise, must, of course, be posted on YouTube and not elsewhere, we should not reinvent the wheel.
The second step is to interact with social networks, teachers and mediators must be present on Twitter and Facebook, collect the needs and demands expressed by  students / users / readers and set the subsequent lessons / activities on that basis. The optimum would be to manage to interact in real time and to respond immediately to the questions proposed.
The third step is to allow students to “post” then to recommend other students or friends where to find the information and the method applied. Young people are  “network’s major users ”,  the best amplifiers of the network itself and therefore of the net culture . The network is collaborative and participatory and we must not forget that.
The fourth tip is to update frequently the content offered on the net in order to stimulate young people’s interest, to capture their attention with the support of tools capable of reporting any updates, such as RSS feeds.
We will win this challenge if our generation   will be able to transmit contents and cultural values ​​by presenting our own strategies of using the network: interactive didactic videos, social networks, RSS feeds, blogs, etc. … by standing beside the youngest and showing them the use of these tools and last but not least by collecting and responding to their needs in a smart fast way, as happens on the internet.