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Protect your Twitter account from Hackers, Twerps, Twolls & Twats

Good v Bad Twitter Followers
Good v Bad Twitter Followers

In a previous post I mentioned my Twop Twitter Twips for Tweeps. In this post, I’m going to make some recommendations for how to protect your Twitter account from Hackers, Twerps, Twolls & Twats.

Sooner of later, successful Twitter accounts become victims of their own popularity. When you stick your head above the parapet someone will try and shoot you. The same applies to social media. The more popular you become the more followers you attract. This makes you more visible and tempting to potential hackers, spammers, trolls and the downright twatty.

These anti-social media accounts can be all sorts of varying degrees of annoying and nasty, varying from the mildly time-consuming and distracting troll or hater, to the out-and-out nefarious hacker. Dealing with them can become a ball-ache of Buster Gonad-sized proportions, unless you take some sensible precautions.

Basic steps to protect your Twitter account

Basic steps to protect your Twitter account include:

  1. Create Strong Passwords
  2. Use Login Verifications
  3. Watch Out for Phishing
  4. Be Wary of 3rd-Party Apps & Websites
  5. Protect Your Phone

This is a “Def Con 3” level of alertness. Follow these steps and you might be lucky enough to avoid being hacked or becoming the victim of other security breeches. Don’t get complacent though.

Intermediate steps to protect your Twitter account

The next level of protection and alertness – “Def Con 2” – is to closely monitor who follows you and exercise due diligence.

There are several factors that help to identify the bad follower from the bona fide. These include, singly or in combination:

  1. No profile picture
  2. No header picture (although this in itself isn’t necessarily a sign of dodgyness, just laziness of the lack of a suitably large/hi-res picture)
  3. A header picture that is a stitched together collage of 5 or 5 photos “scraped” from another social media profile
  4. The username and profile name are a random string of letters and numbers and/or bear no correlation to each other
  5. Male profile picture and female username/profile name
  6. Profile picture is of a celebrity
  7. Profile picture is of an unfeasibly attractive individual
  8. The profile bio reads like the stream of consciousness rantings of someone mentally ill/a religious zealot or fanatic/someone with massively diverse and divergent interests
  9. The Twitter account only ever retweets/tweets randomness/tweets auto-generated quotes and nothing else/tweets crap
  10. They make no attempt to disguise the fact that they are dodgy by blatantly advertising that they can sell you 10,000 followers
  11. They have an unfeasibly large number of followers and/or they are following an unfeasibly large number themselves
  12. The following/follower numbers are the same

Etc. etc. You develop a spider sense that tingles in time with a bit of experience and knowledge. The follower might look kosher on the surface, but something might not ring true upon further investigation.

Anatomy of a Twitter Spammer
Anatomy of a Twitter Spammer

Don’t become a victim of vanity and assume that all followers are good followers because they increase your numbers.

Ask yourself:

  1. Why would this person follow me?
  2. Are they the sort of account I want to follow back?
  3. Do they potentially bring my account into disrepute or potentially put other legitimate followers off by appearing on my follower list?

Be cynical. Be cautious. Be suspicious. Be diligent.

Remember, yes, you do indeed get notifications when new followers follow you, but some slip through the net and you won’t be informed. Check your follower list periodically to make sure no nefarious nerks have followed you under your radar.

Advanced steps to protect your Twitter account

The next level of protection and alertness – “Def Con 1” – takes things to the maximum level of alert. Do this if you’ve already had your fingers burnt or it’s becoming too onerous and time-consuming to weed the bad followers out.

Def Con 1
Def Con 1

Lock your Twitter account down through the settings

  1. On your Twitter account home page, click the gear icon to see your Settings.
  2. On your Settings page, go to ‘Security and Privacy’ to view a wide range of options available.
  3. To enable protected Tweets and make your account private, tick ‘Protect My Tweets’.
  4. You’ll be asked to enter your Twitter password, just to double-check it’s definitely you making your account private, or public, if you’re unticking.
How to protect your twitter account
How to protect your twitter account

This means that all new followers have to request access to you and your tweets, and you can approve or reject follow requests on an individual basis. Allow the ones you want, reject those that you don’t.

What happens when I protect my Tweets?

  • When you protect your Tweets and make your Twitter account private, only your current followers will be able to see your Tweets.
  • Accounts with protected Tweets require each user to request to follow. You are able to manually approve and select who is able to see your Tweets.
  • The retweet function is disabled on Tweets you post, so anything you post remains entirely within your account. Your followers are NOT able to share your content, they can only favorite it. You are still able to retweet other public users though.
  • Protected Tweets do not appear in search engines like Google and third party sites, like Favstar, are not able to archive them. Protected Tweets are only searchable by you, the owner of the Twitter account, and your followers. Previously posted public Tweets will still be searchable in Google.
  • Unless the user in question follows you too, mentions (i.e. @KatyPerry I love you!!!) will not be seen by the user in question because they do not have permission to see your Tweets.

What to do if you get bad followers

Use “Block” and “Report” judiciously.

Click on the offender’s name. You can do so from your Twitter feed or from your Followers page. Their account will come up. Go to the “cog” icon for “More User Actions”, and click on “Block” and/or “Report”. The offending person won’t be able to see your tweets on his or her timeline, nor will you be able to see theirs; plus Twitter should look into the validity of the account if you report them and ultimately shut them down.

You could also consider installing an app to vet your followers, there are various ones out there, but look into it first and use your best judgement on whether it’s something you definitely want to do.

Still unsure whether or not to protect your Twitter account?

Still unsure whether or not to protect your Twitter account? Need more information or convincing further? See this article on PC World – Should I protect my Tweets.

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Have a cow, man

have a cow man
Have a cow, man

I’ve been fielding (pun intended) a lot of questions recently about why cows feature so much in my Tweets and visual identity. People seem genuinely baffled by it, until I refer them to my surname, which is Metcalfe. You know, Met -CALF-e? See what I did there? This blog post is a musing on visual identity and whether you can be too subtle, plus the origins of my surname.

In my previous blog post, Twop Twitter Twips for Tweeps, I said that:

Everyone needs a “gimmick” to stand out from the Twitter crowd (or should that be herd). My gimmick is the cow theme that runs through my Twitter and other social media channels, both visually and through puns and emojis. My surname is Metcalfe. Geddit?

Whilst this might not be to everyone’s taste, feedback given so far has been positive, and it gives another dimension to my Tweets and acts as a visual shorthand for brand recognition.

Whilst it seems obvious to me why I have cows as my visual identity – my logo is a stylised, minimalistic, almost tribal, cow graphic (which would make a cracking tattoo):

Giles Metcalfe Digital Cow Logo
Giles Metcalfe Digital Cow Logo

and I pepper my Tweets with pictures of and visual references to cows – the number of people who’ve asked me why recently has led me to think on.

Am I being too subtle with it? Am I being too obvious? Am I overdoing the cow references? Does it help or hinder my business? Do people like it or hate it? Is it me, or them?

Being prone to excoriating self-analysis, this sort of thing keeps me awake at night.

Feedback I’ve received so far has been positive though:

  • People like cows
  • People like the fact that I use cow imagery
  • People like me and my business
  • People say keep doing what you’re doing

All good. Validation from people really helps. Everyone needs some encouragement every now and then.

When individuals engage me in face-to-face conversation about it, I explain where the name “Metcalfe” comes from and the cow/calf connection. The story may be apocryphal, but it goes a little something like this. I quote at length from a great article on the legends and traditions of Yorkshire:

Take, for example, the story which explains the meaning of the name of Metcalf*, one of the oldest families of Yorkshire, of whose more ancient members it is recorded that one was High Forester of Wensleydale in the time of Richard I., that another fought at Agincourt, and that a third, when High Sheriff in the time of Queen Mary, met her judges at York with a cavalcade of three hundred attendants of his own name all mounted upon white horses of the Wensleydale breed.

In the Saxon time, when Wensleydale was a large forest, the dales- men of Rydale were thrown into a perfect panic by the hearing of strange sounds in a wood not far off, and the seeing of what seemed to be strange animals in the twilight.

In this emergency, a meeting of dalesmen was held, when the sug- gestion was made that two of their number should proceed to the wood and unravel the mystery. Oswald, an unmarried man of some position, volunteered for the service, and after a little hesitation, Wilfrid, another landowner, consented to join him.

Armed with boar-spears, the two men started on what seemed a perilous mission. By-and-by a sound was heard, which Wilfrid affirmed to be the roar of a lion, and finally an animal was seen moving slowly towards them.

Exclaiming ” It is a lion ! ” Wilfrid threw down his hunting-spear, fled through the wood, and on reaching the village, informed his fellow- dalesmen that he had seen an enormous lion, which was doubtless devouring Oswald by that time.

Oswald, however, proceeded cautiously forward, spear in position. ” e went on—it came on—and he met—what ! a calf ! a black, or, as some authorities say, a red calf !

From that time the courageous Oswald was known as Oswald Met-Calf, and the harmless animal, so boldly met, was given a place upon his armorial shield ; and, in like manner, the cowardly Wilfrid ever after bore about with him the token of his ignominious flight, in the name of Wilfrid Lightfoot.”

It would obviously be a great pity to disturb so delightfully childish a story as this,—to suggest that the name accounts for the story, and not the story for the name.

Indeed so. Always print the legend (you can read the article in full here).

*NB. The “e” at the end of Metcalf is interchangeable, and Medcalf, Medcalfe, Midcalfe, Midcalf and Mitcalf are also variants, depending on the spelling, the mood and the hearing of whoever wrote out the birth certificates.

My family directly descends from those original Yorkshire Metcalfs, and my ancestor is Jack Metcalf – ‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough‘, who was a notable Civil Engineer. He constructed roads all across the North of England, not just in Yorkshire, and was famed for the straightness of them and his mastery of Quantity Surveying, despite being blind.

There is a Barbara Asquith statue of him sitting on a bench in Knaresborough Market Place, across from the Blind Jack pub.

Blind Jack Metcalf statue
Blind Jack Metcalf statue

The aforementioned Metcalf/Metcalfe coat of arms shows three black cows, and – though it’s been enhanced over the years – looks like this.

Metcalfe Coat of Arms
Metcalfe Coat of Arms

There’s even a Metcalfe Society, with a Facebook page.

So there you have it. Still confused as to why I use cows? It really is as simple and basic as the fact that my surname is Metcalfe, I like them, and it makes me stand out. It’s become almost like visual shorthand.

Bart Simpson says “Don’t have a cow, man!” I disagree. I say have as many as you want.

don't have a man, cow
Don’t have a man, cow

Please tweet me at @GilesMDigital with your thoughts on this, and feel free to use the hashtag “#cowarmy”. Hopefully we’ll get it trending. I’d be really interested to get your opinion on the points raised here. Thank you.

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Being social at a distance

Being social from a distance
Being social from a distance

Social situations have always been problematic for me (see previous blog post – Social Anxiety & The Networking Event), not least in a business context, so it was with some trepidation that I set out for my marketing referral event on Wednesday the 14th. As things turned out, everything went well on the day and I even learnt something very interesting – that I was by no means the only one in the room who was nervous about these sort of business events.

A fellow attendee said that it was a massive effort for her to come to them too, even though the particular event is fortnightly and she’s been to loads of them. She went on to say that it’s even harder to find the motivation to attend for someone who’s a reluctant networker AND self-employed as there isn’t a Manager or boss to compel you to go! I was surprised to hear this coming from someone who outwardly seemed very confident in that environment, but also heartened by the fact that I was by no means alone in my unease about having to actually talk to people.

Aspergers & social anxiety

As an Aspergers (Aspie) male, I often find social situations very difficult. I’m not alone in this. Fellow Aspie and Staffordshire resident Paddy Considine used to stay in bed rather than face the day, and hide under the table when there was a knock on the door. Speaking to people was all too much.

There are many unwritten social rules that people without an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) seem to learn and put into practice instinctively. As these rules are unwritten, people with an ASD often have to work hard at learning them, and they can be confusing. Add in an Aspie’s fear of being anything less than perfect, worries about being judged negatively by others, and the feeling of dread about having to step outside our comfort zone into the mix too, all making the perceived lack of social skills and the inability to “fit in” and “mingle” a cause of much anxiety. Sometimes it’s an achievement to even get out of the door! Even if an Aspie appears to be doing well in a social situation, it could be that it’s taking so much effort on their part that they are eventually and inevitably going to crash. Hopefully this will be behind closed doors once they’re home and are able to “decompress”, but sometimes spectacular ‘meltdowns’ happen in public.

Networking for people who hate networking – business situations & social anxiety

Meltdowns are bad for all concerned at the best of times, but especially so when it happens in front of your work colleagues or potential clients.

I’ve shown my face at work functions only to flit ghost-like around the room, not say a word to anybody or be noticed by anyone, make for the door and then beat a hasty retreat to the sanctuary of my hotel room. The fact that I wasn’t missed as all of the extrovert Neurologically Typical (NTs) “had fun” spoke volumes.

I mentioned ‘Networking for People Who Hate Networking’ by Devora Zack (Berrett-Koehler, 2010) in my previous blog post, Social Anxiety & The Networking Event, and that book could just as well have been called ‘Networking for Aspies’. In fact, there are many other books on Aspies and business, as a quick Google search on the topic shows. We’re a niche and captive market. Such business luminaries as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are (suspected to be) Aspie too.

Why is it that Aspies fear social situations yet often excel at social media? Being social at a distance

All this leads me to ponder the key question at the heart of this blog post – why is it that Aspies fear and loathe social situations so much yet often excel at and revel in social media? In other words, being social at a distance.

Sherri Schultz, AKA Pensive Aspie, says in her blog post on Aspies and Social Media:

Online communities allow Aspies to make friends – real friends – for maybe the first time in their lives without the stress of being socially correct.  Being online removes the stress of eye contact, correct posture, correct tone and appearance.  You can sit in your favourite ratty pyjamas and make a friend without ever having to brush your hair or put on shoes… No painful conversations trying to find some mutual connection. No internal dialogue about remembering eye contact or not standing with your arms [folded]. There is safety behind the screen.

This also applies to the business sphere. In other words, you can just be you without having to concentrate on being you (or the more business-y version of you), whilst working from home wearing an old, comfy sweatshirt and joggers or remain safely ensconced in your bullpen cubicle in the far back corner of your open plan office floor.

In real life social situations, the back and forth of conversation doesn’t give you much time to process what someone has said to you and formulate an answer. If I pause during conversation to think about what I’m going to say next someone else often jumps in and fills the gap. It’s not an awkward silence, and I’m not lost for words, I’m thinking what I’m going to say next! I find it really irritating when I’m not allowed to finish what I’m trying to say, and I often come away from those sort of one-sided conversations feeling angry and frustrated.

You don’t have to react and reply instantaneously with social media. You have time to read someone’s Tweet or Facebook post, absorb and process it, then come up with a well-honed reply. We’re usually good with the written word you see, and we can delete and re-write our Tweets or posts before we hit the Enter button. You can’t rewind and re-phrase an actual verbal conversation.

Is social media killing the art of conversation?

However, some people think that Social Media is actually killing the art of conversation.

bunnies rabbiting
Social Media is killing the art of conversation

If you use Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, everybody already knows everything there is to know about you. That sailing trip you took? Liked. Breaking up with your girlfriend? Replied to on Twitter. All these over-sharing, always-on social networks create situations where there’s nothing left to talk about! [Shoebox Blog via Neatorama]

So, what’s the answer? Perhaps there’s a third way. If you know it, feel free to Tweet it to me; or, alternatively, arrange a 1-2-1 and we’ll have an actual real life, face-to-face chat. If I can make it out of the front door, that is.