Why my dog has a twitter account but my daughter does not

I have been meaning to write this post for some time but to be honest time has escaped me this last month. Little things like being the technical director for TEDxDetroit, running the Chicago Marathon, hiring a project manager, hiring a full time developer, and the birth of my first child have kept my attention. It has been a fun ride filled with a lot of unexpected surprises.


As a lot of you know, my dog Foxy has her own twitter account, it is a great way to extend her personality to the world. Twitter is a source for instant information, asking questions and giving feedback to others. Almost immediately upon creating Foxy’s Twitter account she was followed by a handful of other whippets and greyhounds. They have been a great resource of information; twitter connects her to a larger community that just isn’t available in our immediate area.

I wanted something similar for Cecilia. Thinking about the people who would be following her I knew a Twitter account would not work. Only a handful of our family have Twitter accounts and frankly the user experience of Twitter if you are not familiar with it is intimidating. Long term I want Cecilia to choose the social networks she would be interacting with. Who knows if Twitter will be around in 5-10 years and I didn’t want to put her social capital in to a service that could be gone at any moment.


I’m a huge fan of owning yourname.com, no matter what it should always be a destination to give public insights about yourself. For me, yourname.com is your resume, it is how the world sees you. Buying ceciliadenardis.com is the least I could do to give her an identity beyond our household.

I was reminded about this while listening to a talk by Clay Hebert at LessConf. The point he makes is when your child is graduating high school with a 4.0 and involved in three sports what is going to make him/her stand out? There will be thirty or forty other students graduating with the same credentials. Having a website where they can develop their writing skills, post about projects they worked on, and be able to explain to the world that what they are doing matters. There is no better way to know someone than exploring someones strengths than to see a history of them.

Using a domain as a single destination give us/her flexibility to what goes on it. Right now I choose to use Tumblr since it requires basically zero setup and is perfect for posting photos, this is what we plan to use it for until she can type. The other great thing about Tumblr is it allows people to subscribe how they want, via the dashboard, RSS or email. A side benefit is each post gets emailed from my email address (looks like I sent it personally) which allows family to reply directly to me. This may seem insignificant but in the past few weeks I have talked to and learned more about distant friends/family members than ever before. Twitter is a great tool but for this audience they just don’t understand it, talk to them about websites and email though and they know exactly what to do.

If you have a child I think the single best thing you can give them is theirname.com. It is cheap and has the potential to significantly help them in the future.

What tools are you using to document your child/children’s lives? Anything public? I would love to hear about what is and is not working for you.

Follow Cecilia DeNardis at: http://ceciliadenardis.com/

Twitter follow spam is getting smarter, but still making mistakes


Twitter spammers are getting smarter but they still make dumb mistakes. All of these accounts don’t look suspicious at first glance.

It’s in the details

  • No bio is a tip off
  • No website is another big tip off
  • All followed in a row which is a little weird
  • All have just a state name as their location
  • Three of the accounts all have the same recent three tweets
  • The top two tweets repeat words “restaurant steak” and “discounted concert tickets” twice. No people talk that way on Twitter. (humans try to save characters)
  • Lastly all the accounts use the same short URL’s. Just going to the + in bit.ly shows all the other accounts using that URL. Take a look at http://bit.ly/grGEgg+, anything look familiar in the conversations area?

Come on spam, I know you are learning but really? I give the people props for being more subtle but they still have a long way to go before fooling a real human.

New Twitter Homepage Launches

New Login Page

I also discovered a new download page when I logged out

The feel of the site is clean with far more prominent calls to action. Personally I like the direction they are going, focus on discovery instead of trying to spoon feed suggested topics to a new user.

What do you think?

Twitter A/B Testing “Find People”

I oversee a few different Twitter accounts, @nickdenardis, @educheckup, and @waynestate just to name a few and usually have them all open throughout the day. I noticed something interesting today, they are running an A/B test on the wording of a link in the top bar.

The feature, although recently reactivated on the #newtwitter design, has yet to get an announcement on the Twitter Blog. The old “who to follow” feature got it’s fair share of criticism and was removed for a while. My personal opinion is that it was horribly implemented and didn’t really help anybody. The new “who to follow” is actually pretty good and I’ve used it a few times to discover people.

“Find People” vs. “Who To Follow”

Going in between two accounts today I noticed a difference in wording on the top bar. I ended up trying all my accounts and could only find two different wordings, their might be more though. It looks like Twitter is doing an A/B test with the link title, “Find People” vs. “Who To Follow”. I have included some screen shots below.

Personally I prefer “Find People” since it is implies an action and I am being proactive about it. But I can see for Twitter newbies that “who to follow” is more about discovering and that is what would be a more enticing action.

I hope Twitter decides to share some statistics about the test on their official announcement of the feature.

Update (Nov 22, 2010 at 3:30pm)

I was just alerted by Jesse Lavery via Twitter that he has a variation that just says “People”

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/jesselavery/status/6800198248439809″]

Update (Nov 29, 2010 at 11:40pm)

And apparently some accounts, like Mallory Wood‘s don’t have any link at all to “Find People”

Do you have a different variation? Feel free to post it in the comments.

IUE 2009 Social Media Panel Discussion

After the January Refresh Detroit meeting where I was on a panel talking about social media, I was asked to be on a similar panel for the then upcoming Internet User Experience 2009 conference. This week I attended IUE 2009 and the panel was a great success!

The panel consisted of

  • Christopher Barger, Director, GM Global Communications Technology.
  • Nick DeNardis, Associate Director, Web Communications, Wayne State University.
  • Kelly LaVaute, Social Media Director, Quicken Loans.
  • Shauna Nicholson, Marketing Manager/Ingenuity Engine, Biznet Internet Solutions.
  • Steve Schwartz, CEO Guy, RateMyStudentRental.com, and Co-Founder, Alfa Jango, LLC Software & Marketing.
  • Moderator: Tim Kiernan, Co-Host for the wildly popular Design Critique podcast.

There was no live stream or recording of the panel but Zachary Spencer rocked out an almost word by word transcript of the whole discussion.

In preparing for the panel they asked for a position statement from each of us. I decided to post mine below to get your thoughts.

Position Statement

Higher education institutions are working to understand the best way to leverage social networks to get the attention of prospective students. High school and even middle school age students are spending more time on social networks interacting with peers and companies they trust.

The more time prospective students spend online the more they ignore traditional media and commercials. DVR’s and MP3 players are letting these users bypass traditional advertisements. Companies and universities now need to start evaluating where they spend their ad dollars and resources.

Social media exposes the truths about a company or university regardless if it is good or bad. In the social space users are in control and are not afraid to speak their mind. University administration may not be open to exposing these truths. Because of the traditional nature of universities getting buy in is tough. Spending the already limited resources on an untested and unknown ROI of social media can be a difficult task.

The universities that do embrace this media and can navigate it appropriately, have the ability to tap into a wealth of motivated advocates that can essentially promote the university for them. On the other hand universities that go into the social space without a game plan or by thinking too traditional, have the potential to be pushed out and their advocates could turn into protesters.

The simplest thing for a universities to do is search and discover what is already being said and posted about them. Some administrators would be amazed at the content that is already out there.

Without being present in the social space, any negative comments or posts will go unanswered and all the user’s followers will see them as truth. Being in the social space allows universities to control their brand and respond to any misconceptions or answer any questions users may pose.

The best recommendations for a product or service are ones by friends or family. When a user has 800+ friends online and they post a message, it goes out to those 800+ friends as a recommendation. It is scary to think but news that use to take weeks to tell all their friends now only takes seconds online.

With the high spam detector that middle school and high school students have, universities have started creating positions for community managers and social media experts. Ensuring they are using the most appropriate tactics to interact with prospective students. The social space is essential for universities to be apart of, but strategy and experimentation are key to their success.