Twitter Fundamentals: Two Ways to Retweet

Which do you prefer?

Get more from your software.I spent most of this past week writing a new script for my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com. We update the course about once a year to account for changes in the Twitter.com interface, as well as new features. This will be the fourth edition of the course.

Yesterday, I wrote about retweeting. I faced a minor dilemma: Do I cover both ways to retweet — with the Retweet button and with the old-style RT shorthand? Or do I just cover the Retweet button, which I personally prefer?

Understand that retweeting is something that developed on its own long ago. A Twitter user would see a tweet he wanted to share. He’d copy and paste the tweet into a new tweet, including the characters RT to indicate that it was a retweet and an @mention of the person who he was retweeting. Because this added characters to the original tweet, editing was often necessary. Each time it was retweeted, more editing occurred. Sometimes editing completely removed the @mention of the originator of the tweet, thus removing credit for the tweet.

Then, a few years ago, the folks at Twitter created an “official” Retweet feature. They added a button available for each tweet that copied the entire tweet and placed it in the retweeter’s timeline with the source tweeter’s name and profile picture still attached. This made it very clear who was the source of the original tweet. It also prevented tweets from being edited into nonsense by forced abbreviations. It made it possible to keep track of who was retweeting good content. And it prevented the same tweet from appearing multiple times in the timelines of groups of people who follow each other.

In my mind, it was a win-win.

So I decided not to include instructions for the old-style retweeting in my revised course. I mentioned it, of course, and showed an example, but I didn’t show how to do it.

Fast forward to this morning. I check my Twitter stream and discover a perfect example of how a tweet can be degraded by multiple old-style retweets.

Here’s my original tweet:

(And yes, that first word is a typo. It should have been “Ah.” Damn you, autocorrect!)

Note that there’s one (at least right now) official retweet. (You can see this if you click the date in the tweet embedded above to view it on Twitter.com.) That means that one person has used the Retweet button to copy my tweet to his timeline. On his Twitter profile page, it looks like this:

A Retweet

Note that although my profile picture and name are attached to the tweet, his name appears at the bottom as the retweeter.

Now look at two old-style retweets. The first is from someone who follows me:

The second is from someone who follows her:

In order to keep her account and my account in the tweet, he had to edit the hell out of it, to the point where the second “RT” is just “R” and the bulk of the post title is removed. Huh?

Do you think this is right? Effective? Acceptable?

Why couldn’t either one of them simply use the Retweet button?

Most people who don’t like the Retweet button complain that it prevents them from including a comment with the retweet. But do you think an emoticon smiley face is a comment? The original tweet says it’s “too funny.” Does a smiley face add anything to it?

And what of the second retweet? There’s no comment added there at all. In fact, the first retweeter’s comment is removed.

So why?

Is it because they wanted their account names attached to the tweet? That’s the only reason I see.

And I’m left wondering if anyone else retweeted it but removed my account name because it didn’t fit.

The truth of the matter is, the Retweet button isn’t only a better way to retweet. It’s also an easier way. One or two clicks and it’s done. No copy and paste, no editing required. The tweet is shared in its entirety, the originator is given credit, the retweeter’s name is still clearly indicated.

What do you think? Which method do you use and why?

Publishing to the iBookstore: Avoiding Trademark Issues

Learn from my experience.

iBooks Author CoverSome readers may know that back in early March I submitted a “Special iBooks 2 Interactive Edition” of iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook to the Apple iBookstore. The 242-page book included many interactive elements, most notably a full three hours of original screencast video.

And then I waited for Apple to approve it.

And I waited.

And I waited.

Today, after nearly four weeks of waiting, I finally heard from Apple. But it wasn’t the approval I’d been hoping for. Instead, it was a pair of “tickets” for problem in the book file and cover art.

Apple’s complaints were all pretty much in the same vein. Here’s one of them:

Copyright Page, the following text appears: “iBooks 2 Special Interactive Edition”. Your book has been ticketed because of its use of the phrase “iBook” to describe it. iBooks is the trademark for Apple’s book reading software, and iBooks Author is the trademark for its electronic book creation software. Books created with Apple’s iBooks Author software and/or sold on the iBookstore should be described as a book, ebook, electronic book or interactive book, but not an “ibook.” Please use any Apple trademarks in compliance with the Apple Trademark Usage Guidelines available at http://www.apple.com/legal/trademark/guidelinesfor3rdparties.html. Note: Changing the phrase to “iBookstore Special Interactive Edition” would be acceptable.

So basically, I had described my book as a “special iBooks 2 interactive edition” and the folks at Apple didn’t like that. But they kindly suggested “iBookstore Special Interactive Edition” instead.

(I could argue here that iBookstore is just as much a trademark as iBooks, but where would that get me?)

This problem appeared twice in the book’s content, once on the cover, once on the cover art, and twice in the metadata. It took me 20 minutes to locate and fix all problems and then export new versions of the book and sample chapter. And then fix the meta data in iTunes Producer. The book is uploading as I type this.

So my point is this: be very careful about your use of the word iBooks when describing a book you create with iBooks Author. My main concern was being able to differentiate between the standard epub edition and the multimedia edition that blows it away.

Now I just hope they hurry it through the review process and don’t make me wait another four weeks.

March 31, 2012 Update: Although I addressed all issues of the tickets on my book and uploaded new files three days ago, there is still no indication that Apple has received my modified files. I don’t know if I screwed up on the resubmission or if Apple is so backlogged they haven’t marked them as received. Clearly Apple needs to rework both its iTunes Connect interface and its system for dealing with book approvals and revisions.

April 7, 2012 Update: One of the two tickets on my book has disappeared, but the other remains. Despite several attempts to contact Apple, it’s still unclear whether they realize that I have resolved this ticket. I keep getting canned responses that do not indicate whether they are following up on my problem. It seems to me as if they’re just sending out a response without even looking up the situation. I’m frustrated beyond belief at this point and angry about potential lost sales. And there’s no one at Apple who I can contact to get a definitive answer. Clearly, the iBooks Author publishing experience is broken and Apple is uninterested in fixing it.

May 28, 2012 Update: This continued to go on for quite some time, even after tickets disappeared. After a lot of nagging and nasty emails to Apple, my books finally appeared. One took 55 days for approval. The other took 75 days.

Making Movies Price and Availability Change

A quick update.

Book Cover ImageThis is just a quick note to let folks know about two changes to the first Maria’s Guides book, Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs:

  • We’ve dropped the price on the ebook editions of the book. It was $3.99; it’s now $2.99. This is a great price for this overview of the video creation process.
  • In addition the the Kindle Store, where it has been available since publication in October, the book is now also available on the Apple iBookstore and the Barnes & Noble NOOK store. Unfortunately, back in December we entered into an exclusive agreement with Amazon.com for the ebook distribution rights; that agreement expires today and we’re very pleased to be offering it through other retail outlets once again.

The book is also available in print from Amazon.com and BN.com.

We’re also waiting for the iBookstore to approve a special iBooks 2 Enhanced Edition of the book that includes actual video clips from the sample movie. When published — hopefully soon — it will be available for $4.99.

How to Prep a Video Clip for Inclusion in an iBooks Author Document

It’s a lot easier than you might expect.

iBooks Author’s Media Widget enables you to include video files in your books. I recently took advantage of this feature in the iBooks 2 Interactive Edition of my book, iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook by including a total of 53 videos in the book.

iBooks Author is picky about video formats, however. It only accepts videos encoded with the AAC and H.264 codecs with the .m4v filename extension. While this format isn’t uncommon, it’s not the QuickTime format you might have expected.

So how do you convert a movie file that isn’t in that format to the format iBooks Author can understand? Oddly enough, you can use QuickTime. There are a number of different ways to do this. The easiest is to use the Export command.

  1. Open the movie file in QuickTime Player 10.1 or later.
  2. Export DialogChoose File > Export or press Shift-Command-S to display the Export dialog.
  3. Enter a name and choose a disk location to save the new file.
  4. Choose a FormatChoose an option from the Format menu. I normally choose iPad, iPhone 4, & Apple TV. This gives me high enough resolution for the iPad’s screen without generating a very large file. You can experiment with other formats if you like.
  5. Click Export.
  6. Export ProgressWait while QuickTime Player exports the file. A progress dialog appears while the file is being exported. When it’s finished, the file is ready for use.

I’ve been very pleased with the size of the exported file. For example, the movies I created for my book were shot full screen on a MacBook Air set to 1280×800 screen resolution and encoded with Apple Animation/Linear PCM. The resulting movies were downsized only slightly to 1152×720 resolution when converted to AAC/H.264. A 53 second movie that was 59.9 megabytes was compressed down to 6 MB — with virtually no quality hit.

Although the new iPad announced today has a much higher resolution screen, it remains to be seen whether higher resolution files are really necessary in your iBooks Author documents. If you have a new iPad, why not experiment a bit and let us know?

Deciding Whether to Include a Twitter Feed on Your Blog

Should you do it? And why?

I got an interesting question on Twitter today from someone who learned how to use Twitter from my Twitter Essential Training course on Lynda.com. He asked:

Do you feel that there is a benefit to having a Twitter feed on a blog?

Twitter FeedI have my Twitter feed on my blog. It’s at the bottom of every page — a place that isn’t “in your face” but is persistent. The solution I use — the WordPress plugin HL Twitter — shows all of my Tweets, including @replies, and can show the tweets for as many accounts as I like. It also offers the option to archive tweets on your blog and tweet new blog posts. I don’t use either of those features, but they’re there. and, of course, there are other solutions that’ll put tweets on your blog or website.

My response was as lengthy as Twitter’s 140 characters allow:

Yes, but it depend on what you tweet about and what your blog is about. Should be similar or compatible. Nice question, BTW!

It is a good question. One that’s worth discussing here.

Why Your Might Put a Twitter Feed on Your Blog

Think about your blog for a moment. What is it like?

Is it a personal blog where you share your thoughts and opinions and personal news? My blog, An Eclectic Mind, is like that.

Or is it a business blog that you created primarily to provide additional information for existing and potential customers or clients? This blog-based site, Maria’s Guides, and the site I maintain for my helicopter charter business, Flying M Air, are like that.

Now think about the things you tweet about. Are those things complementary or compatible with your blog?

Examples

In my personal blog, I write about everything. On my personal Twitter account, I tweet about everything.

In my personal blog, I’m not afraid to voice my strong opinions on politics and religion. In Twitter, I often share links that support my opinions on politics and religion.

In my personal blog, I occasionally use foul language. On my personal Twitter account, I occasionally use foul language.

Obviously, my personal blog and my Twitter stream are a good match.

My Flying M Air site’s “blog” entries normally consist of company news and special offers. Even though Flying M Air is actually me — I am the sole owner/operator of the business — my personal tweets about everything under the sun would simply not be appropriate to display on Flying M Air’s site. Not only that, but my strong views about politics and religion and my occasional off-color language could seriously turn off some potential clients who have conflicting strong views and don’t like to read language like that.

As a result, I wouldn’t dream of listing my tweets on Flying M Air’s site.

As you can see, this isn’t the kind of question you can answer with a simple yes or no. You need to look at it on a case-by-case basis.

The Benefit

Of course, the original question focused on the benefit of including tweets on a blog. Once you decide whether it’s appropriate, you might still want to determine whether there’s a real benefit to doing this.

I think this depends a lot on whether your Twitter stream adds anything to your blog.

I’ll be honest with you — I don’t know if it adds anything to my blog. No one has ever commented on it. I don’t know if it’s gotten more more Twitter followers — which might be a good motive for including it. It certainly helps make me look more active in social networking circles. But is that a good thing? Who knows?

Your blog design has a lot to do with it, too. Do you have room to include a Twitter stream? Will the format you can display it in match the rest of your site. (Aesthetics is important!)

And why do you think it might benefit you? Do your perceived benefits outweigh your perceived drawbacks?

I’m not sure how helpful this is. I guess my point is, you need to think about it and, if you decide to go forward, try to determine how it helps or hurts you.

Remember, it’s always easy to remove if things don’t work out.

Lynda LogoLet me teach you more about Twitter!

You can watch seven videos from my Twitter Essential Training course for free. Click here to get started.