You've come to right place if you're looking for some good stories, reliable recipes, interesting photos (if ever I figure out how to use my new camera), household tips, book recommendations, advice and discussion on everything from aquariums to zabaglione, and you'd like to read about the world according to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

8 Tips for Quickly Evaluating Twitter Accounts

To Follow Or Not To Follow, That Is The Question

Now that I've been doing this Twitter thing for a while, I'm able to do quickly what used to take me forever. I thought I'd share a few tips on how to evaluate different peeps on Twitter just by taking a quick look at their profile. The profile gives you a lot of information if you know what to look for. Here's my mental checklist for when I'm deciding whether or not to follow someone.

1. Do they have a picture/avatar or are they using a default Twitter one? In my opinion, if someone doesn't put up a picture, any kind of picture, that's a red flag. It's easy to put up a picture, so either they're very new or not serious about Twitter. I want to see a picture. No picture = 1 Anti-point.

2. Do they have a bio? Anything in the bio? No bio = yellow flag = 2 Anti-points. This means they're either A) very new B) not serious about Twitter or C) they are a nefarious entity who doesn't want to tell you about themselves because they'll scare you off if they do.

3. What's in the bio? A lot of swear words, obvious porn, or obvious hard sales tactics like "I'm going to help you make money fast" = 3 Anti-points and a red flag.

4. Do they have a custom background? Again, this is real easy to do, and you can do it for free. I used these guys. No custom background is like #1: very new or not serious. 1/2 Anti-point.

5. Do they have any tweets in their stream? This is what the number of tweets tells you. Zero tweets means they have nothing to say or are very very very new. Zero tweets is a red flag = 3 Anti-points. I don't mind if they follow me, but I don't follow people who don't say anything.

6. What about very few tweets? Sometimes you see an account that has maybe 5 tweets and 1000 followers. What's wrong with that picture? Did they say such brilliant things in 5 tweets that they attracted 1000 followers? I think not. Most likely they bought their followers. Red flag = 3 Anti-points. I don't follow these accounts; they look hinky.

7. They are following more people than are following them. This is a good sign to me because it indicates that there's a good chance they will follow me back. Green flag and +1 point.

8. They have many more followers than people they are following. Yellow flag and 2 Anti-points. This is how I view it: if they follow me first, I will follow back. If they have not followed me first, then I won't follow them because I know it's unlikely they will follow me back. I follow very few people who don't follow back, about 50 out of close to 4000 or about 1%. This is a personal choice, but to me it's like having a friend that won't let you get a word in. I don't want to listen to people who don't want to listen to me. It's that simple. I'm on Twitter to interact with people and have fun.

So who do you recommend following even if they don't follow back? Well, people are on Twitter for different reasons, and it's a personal choice. I don't follow movie/TV stars because I don't care what Tori Spelling wore to take her kids to school. A few I recommend are @TweetSmarter because you'll learn more from them about Twitter than from anyone else, @GuyKawasaki because he has a continuous stream of varied treasures, and @MrsStephenFry and @BorowitzReport because they're just plain funny. I follow @MikkoHypponen who is a computer virus and hacking expert, and @Mashable is *the* account to follow for up-to-date tech news.

So you see that with practice, you can tell a lot about a Twitter presence with quick look at the account. I add up the points or Anti-points, and 3 or more Anti-points is an automatic no follow. Less that 3 Anti-points and I will have to think about it some more.

As always, I like to give credit where credit is due. Special thanks to @Agrevet who helped me get off the ground; and @KeithBorgnet who has been an enormous help to me on Twitter and is an all-around nice guy. Thanks to @janfromholland @veritable_virgo @detaildevils @cupboards @dogstoyevsky @harryporker who missed me while I was away from Twitter and noticed when I came back. And a quick mention to @Traddski who is brand new but learning fast!

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Casey Anthony Trial—Why You Should Be Following This Case

I haven’t posted in my blog for about a year. So to my devoted readers, I sincerely apologize. Let’s just say a lot of stuff has been going on, but I’m going to get back in the saddle and start posting again regularly. So let’s get to it.


Unless you’ve been trapped in a Chilean mine for the last 3 years, you must know that there is a well-publicized Capital Murder Trial going on right now in Orlando, Florida. The Casey Anthony Trial.

For the benefit of the few stragglers out there who don’t know anything about this case, I’ll give you the $0.25 version to bring you up to speed.

June 16, 2008, Caylee Anthony, a little girl just under 3, went missing in Orlando, FL.

July 15, 2008, Caylee was reported missing by her grandmother.

July 16, 2008, Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, was arrested for Neglect of a Child, False Official Statements, and Obstructing a Criminal Investigation.

August 29, 2008, while out on bail, Casey is re-arrested for theft and forgery.

September 15, 2008, she is charged with additional economic crimes.

October 14, 2008, a Grand Jury indicts Casey (the child’s mother) with first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and 4 counts of providing false information to law enforcement.

December 11, 2008, the remains of a small child are found in Orlando.

December 19, 2008, the remains are identified as Caylee Anthony.

January 25, 2010, Casey pleads guilty to 13 economic crimes and is sentenced to time served (412 days).

June 2011: Casey is still in jail, and the jury trial for 1st degree murder is going on right now; and don’t forget that Florida has the death penalty.

Cynthia, why are you interested in this trial, and why should I follow it, you must be thinking.

I’m interested because it’s a fascinating story, and the case against Casey Anthony is a circumstantial one. There is still a lot of mystery in the story. There is a Dickensian cast of characters including The Accused who is the most phenomenal liar you’ll ever come across; a bumbling but well-intended Defense Attorney, Jose Baez, the lawyer everyone loves to hate; scores of young, carefree, party-hearty (former) girlfriends and boyfriends of Casey, Casey’s parents who go above and beyond to support Casey and who are constantly at odds with the media; a tough and pragmatic Detective, Yuri Melich, and an innocent little girl who wound up dead in Florida swamp. While I live in Canada, I am both American and Canadian, and I did used to live in Florida when I was a teenager. What happens in Florida interests me.

I have heard and read that some people think the only reason this case is so high profile is because Caylee was a pretty little white girl. I disagree. I think the reason why this case is so high-profile is because a constellation of factors created a perfect storm of interest and intrigue: first, a pretty little girl goes missing, a pretty mother with a big variety of charges against her doesn’t cooperate with the police at all, the little girl is found dead, the case is populated with a long list of supporting characters some of whom are caricatures of themselves (I won’t mention any names but one of them sits at the defense table, he’s got a beard, and he thinks bloggers are “idiots.” We’ll see who has the last laugh, Fur-Face), devastated grandparents, a capital murder trial, a judge forced to recuse himself, a new judge stricter than the previous one, and the list goes on. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather follow this case then listen to news about the 99 trillion dollar debt or keep tabs on Pippa Middleton’s ass. By the way, I think Duchess Kate’s wedding dress was ugly.

Because of Florida’s “Sunshine Laws”, freedom of information is more extensive in Florida than in any other state, so almost everything going on in this case is available to the public, and a lot of it is online. Court documents, depositions, motions, police interviews, trial coverage, etc. etc. etc. So this case has taken on a life of its own. In the past few weeks, I’ve discovered that there is live coverage of the trial daily, a la the O.J. Simpson debacle; there are discussion forums that talk extensively about this trial, and there are blogs solely devoted to this case.

I read a lot. A LOT. This Casey/Caylee Anthony story is more interesting and more gripping than the best mystery/crime books—both fiction and non-fiction—that I’ve ever read. My mother always said that fact was stranger than fiction. Forgive me while I digress for a moment. If you want to know which books I’m thinking of, the ones that I consider the best in their class, they include the following:

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (non-fiction)

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (non-fiction)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (non-fiction)

The Blooding by Joseph Wambaugh (non-fiction)

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Travers (fiction--probably out of print)

The Detective by Roderick Thorp (fiction—out of print, but worth the trouble of finding it)

True Confessions by John Gregory Dunne (fiction)

The Deep Blue Good-Bye and later, Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald (fiction)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (trilogy) by John le Carre (fiction)

I’m not going to provide links to all those books. Any book you can’t find on Amazon, you can find on Abebooks. In my opinion, none of the books published so far about Casey Anthony’s case are any good.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I don’t—for a second—want anyone to think I am minimizing the gravity of this case. Not at all. I think this story is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. This story is not light-hearted titillation. It’s a story of hope, death, conflict, revenge?, shattered lives, and forgotten dreams. I don’t follow this case only because Nancy Grace screeches about it nightly. In fact, I don’t watch Nancy Grace if I can help it; I follow it because it’s hang-on-to-your-seat unbelievable.

If you would like to learn more about this case, below are the websites I recommend in order of importance. But I must warn you. When you start reading about the case, you’ll feel like you walked into the middle of a movie. Just keep at it, and eventually things will start to make sense.

The Hinky Meter, a blog written by someone who attends the court proceedings almost daily. The best most comprehensive, well-organized, and easy-to-navigate information that I’ve found about the case. There is also a discussion forum.

Web Sleuths, A very busy discussion forum on this crime and other high-profile crimes as well.

Richard Hornsby's Blog, a criminal defense lawyer in Orlando who has arguably the best lawyer-written blog about the case. Can get somewhat technical, but it is mostly engaging, literate, articulate, and occasionally witty. He’s also a real live person—I emailed him and got an email back, which I didn’t expect. He gets extra points for that.

WFTV, Bill Schaeffer is a well-known Florida criminal defense lawyer who is a commentator for WFTV. He also writes a blog but doesn’t update it as much as he should (as if I should talk). Bill is intelligent, soft-spoken with a kindly manner, and is easy to listen to (and read). Richard Hornsby and Bill Schaeffer do not always agree on courtroom strategy which is why it’s worth reading both of their blogs.

The JB Mission, An unusual blog, worth taking a look at. This blog takes the idea “innocent until proven guilty” seriously……perhaps to a fault. I don’t agree with everything said, but it’s thoughtful and interesting.

Marinade Dave, No article on following the Casey Anthony case is complete without a mention of MarinadeDave (Knechel). Dave Knechel is a local. He lives in Orlando and has been following and blogging about this case for years. Dave’s claim to fame is that he was inadvertently central to Judge Strickland having to recuse himself from the case. His blog is not my personal favorite; but he merits a nod, and I have read all his blog entries on this case. I emailed him and got no reply—2 anti-points for him.

Live coverage of the trial is available all over the internet. I watch it over the net because there are no commercial interruptions. I watch it here on WESH because there’s a picture-in-picture. There’s the big camera on the main courtroom action and also another camera on Casey, so you can watch them both at the same time. This site also has a running Twitter feed, so you can also read what other people are saying. Of special interest are the tweets coming from those inside the courtroom.

Before closing, I have to mention that there are a lot of “fired up” individuals following this case, and there have been some flame wars over Casey Anthony commentary. I “manage” my comments. I’m delighted to get (and print) your comments whether you agree with me or disagree with me. However, I will not print any comments that are rude, vulgar, and/or mean-spirited.

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