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.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Twitter: Understanding and Using the @ Sign

One of my friends here on Vancouver Island

I was away from Twitter for several months, and I have recently returned to it. I get very involved with it, and then I need a break for while.

Upon my return, I was startled to notice that often twitterers don't really understand how Twitter works or how to use Twitter to their advantage. If you care about increasing your number of followers, understanding how to word your tweets is key.

The first thing you can do is to get your name circulating in the Twittersphere. In order to get your name circulating, you have to understand the @ sign.

If you start a tweet with the @ sign, the only people who see your tweet are the people who follow you and the people who follow the person you're sending it to. By that I mean the intersecting set. If I haven't made myself clear, a follower has to be following *both* of you to see that tweet. This is invariably a very small number.

So if your tweet is this (I'm making this up):

@joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City.

You should instead, make it like this:

Hey @joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

or this:

.@joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

In the first example there's a word before the @ sign, and in the second example there's a period before the @ sign. If you put *anything* in front of the @ sign then *all* of your followers see the tweet.

But how does that help me, Cynthia?

It helps you in several ways.

A) It gets your name circulating. People get to know you and are more likely to initiate conversation with you. As you get to know people, it is more likely they will suggest others follow you.

B) People are more likely to retweet it (getting your name circulating more). Anyone who likes dining out, or who like the Rotten Fish Cafe, or is from Nowhere City will likely retweet it or initiate conversation with you. See A.

C) By adding the #hashtag, people who are searching for that #hashtag can find your tweet and you by association. They'll follow you because they learn that you know restaurants.

But, Cynthia, I was just having a conversation with my buddy, you may be thinking. I grasp that. However, many people have a long timeline of tweets that all start with the @ sign, so it's like you're living in a void on Twitter. A) Hardly anyone sees these tweets. B) Hardly anyone gets to know you. C) Other people would be interested in and enjoy these tweets, even if it's a long threaded conversation.

So how do I tweet the conversation so that others can understand and follow what's going on?

This is the method I use:

Let's say you tweeted this:

Hey @joeshmo I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe on Elm St. in Nowhere City. #restaurant

Joe Shmo replies to you, @nobody111:

I had some rotten fish there on thurs RT @nobody111 I had a great dinner last night at the @rottenfishcafe #restaurant

This is what happens:

All of your followers see your tweet, and all of @joeshmo's followers see his tweet, and they can follow the conversation. You get to see the conversation because @you is in there. Threaded conversations like this can be very amusing to read for everyone.

This is just one little thing that most people don't understand and don't use to your advantage.

But, Cynthia, isn't it disingenuous to try to show off my conversation to the Twitterverse?

No. That's why we're on Twitter in the first place. Did you forget? It's to read and enjoy the floating conversation from people everywhere. It's to get to know people and have them get to know you. Enjoy.

Whenever I write about Twitter, I always like to thank my Twitter buddies. @TweetSmarter is the source of all things Twitter. @dudeman718 is a treasure trove of information and a really nice guy. @suzesmuses @BudgetDude @ej_butler and @mswaichingliu81 were happy to see me when I came back after a few months. @goodwilljohnson and @ashvartsman are writer friends. @loremarlene is my real life local friend and @keithborgnet was instrumental in getting me from 200 followers to 4000.

Another new friend

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gardening Here I Come

Wisteria from last summer:

I haven't blogged for a while. Please forgive me.

Many things have happened since last summer. We finally fenced in our front yard to keep the deer out, so I will plant fruit trees this spring. My husband thinks that I'll be planting two evergreens. It will be more like 20 deciduous trees. I guess those nice neat diagonal rows he cuts in the grass will be gone forever. Alas.

So I'm scouring nursery catalogues and websites. This is a very complicated business, if you didn't know. Most fruit trees require one or more *other* similar fruit trees for pollination. What this means is that if you want 4 fruit trees to bear fruit, figure on planting 10. Don't plant them too close to the driveway or you will have apples falling on your friends' cars. This is not a problem for me because I don't have any friends.

Not only that, but those that will be pollinating each other need to flower at the same time. As you can guess, most nurseries don't tell you when the trees flower. Good luck finding that information. You can always contact me because I have researched flowering times for every fruit tree known to man.

Last month I had my first cataract surgery. It was actually quite painless, but scary thinking about someone digging around inside your eyeball. It was also a revolting development to learn that I had cataracts at age 48. (On surgery day I was in the OR waiting room with three 80-year-olds.) I lucked out and got a surgery date for the next eye in two weeks. I won't say more about this now because I'm trying to sell an article about the experience.

I've been doing a lot of writing. I'm now a regular contributor to Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement Magazine. I kid you not. Yes, the woodworking thing has borne fruit so to speak. I'm doing about one article per month for them. I've also started writing fiction. That's great fun because you get to make up stuff. You don't have to stick to the facts like in non-fiction. Your characters say whatever you want them to say.

My first fiction submission ever was accepted last week by MUSED, the BellaOnline Literary Review. It's not the New Yorker, but it's a respectable place for a short story and a website that gets a *lot* of traffic--we're talking more than half a million hits per month. When they accepted the piece, they also asked me for an essay on writing because they said my story was their favorite for that issue. So in horse races, I think you call that an Exacta. YES. (I will provide a link when the pieces are published).

Regarding writing, I participate in several online forums, but my favorite writing forum is Absolute Write. Duotrope is the best place to find fiction markets and keep track of them. Alex Shvartsman is new writing buddy of mine who does speculative fiction and does it really well. The Camel Saloon is a terrific place to read some fiction and poetry, see some neat photos (see postcards on the right), and just hang out. I also have an official fiction writing mentor now, Will Johnson, a brilliant, prize-winning MFA student at University of British Columbia. Keep your eyes open for Alex and Will whose works will be found in local bookstores before long.

My daughter is currently wandering around Australia avoiding sharks and spiders--I hope--and interviewing for grad school on SKYPE. My son is still in Argentina, but I hear on the Fruit Tree Wireless that he may be returning to Canada before long. Whatever happened to kids working around the corner at McDonald's like me? My husband is fine and, as usual, is very preoccupied with which garbage bag I put in the kitchen can. He just about went haywire on Sunday when I took the garbage out without discussing it with him first. You can read about my adventures with him here, if you missed that blog entry.

Last but not least and all kidding aside, I urge everyone to sign this petition to free Zhu Yufu from prison in China. He's a writer.

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