Results tagged “trust”

What It's Like Being Verified on Twitter

March 1, 2013

Update: After this post was published, I had a chance to talk about Twitter verification at a live show of the Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Project, with Hari and Ashok Kondabolu. It turned out pretty well.

Twitter verification is an interesting phenomenon on the service; It's very visible since everybody sees and follows accounts which are verified, but also sort of secretive because nobody really knows how it works or how Twitter defines the criteria behind having one's account blessed.

It seems like Twitter verifies certain accounts in waves, bringing in new batches of verified users on an ongoing basis, with an obvious bias toward people who are famous, but also including those who might be impersonated or the occasional odd exception for people (like me) who aren't famous but happen to have a large following.

I can't explain how Twitter makes the decision to verify an account, but after seeing another recent spate of users being verified, I thought I'd give a little glimpse into what the experience looks like. (I'm told that some celebrities who are invited to use Twitter or coached on its use skip this process, but this is what us non-celebs see.)

  1. First, you wake up on a day that seems like any other day, but then, out of the blue: It's a direct message from the mysterious @verified account! It says "We at Twitter would like to verify your account. Please click this account and follow the instructions." and then gives you a link to a little guided setup process. I got this on my mobile phone, and wasn't surprised to find out the whole thing works just fine on an iPhone.

    We at Twitter would like to verify your account.
  2. The first thing the setup guide says is "Hi!" and then it explains "Twitter's verified badge is our way of making sure that this is you."

    Twitter's verified badge is our way of making sure that this is you.
  3. Then Twitter starts to give a few bits of advice on how to be a good tweeter; These are clearly aimed at people who aren't too familiar with the service. Interestingly, they're grouped under the heading of "Learn how to tweet effectively." Each one offers a sort of Goofus-and-Gallant version of "which one is better?" and the first asks explicitly, "Which Tweet will help double your rate of new followers for the day?". The choices in this first test are between a bland recitation of having watched the Oscars and a little more lively take on watching the show.

    Which Tweet will help double your rate of new followers for the day?
  4. The next step of the guide tells you when you've made the right choice about how to tweet effectively, offering the tidbit that "Live-tweeting a relevant event can increase your daily follower rate by 260%." Pretty heavy promotion of the Twitter-is-for-celebrities idea.

    Live-tweeting a relevant event can increase your daily follower rate by 260%.
  5. After that, there's another quiz question: "Which Tweet will more of your followers engage with?". Interestingly, this mimics one of the big things we've learned from working on ThinkUp — you have to ask answerable questions on Twitter. It seems obvious in retrospect, but lots of people don't do it.

    Which Tweet will more of your followers engage with?
  6. Again the indomitable Melisa provides the right answer to Twitter's training class, yielding the insight that "Your audience loves to interact with you. Invite questions for a Twitter Q&A to increase your followers and engagement!"

    Your audience loves to interact with you. Invite questions for a Twitter Q&A to increase your followers and engagement!
  7. A final question, fundamentally challenging the about-to-be-verified tweeter about whether they know how to drive their biggest stats on Twitter: "Which Tweet will get more clicks, favorites and retweets from your followers?" In addition to boldly eschewing the Oxford comma (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!), they provide two options on how to talk about running into Taylor Swift backstage at the Grammies, which happens to all of us blue checkmark people all the time. One choice is awesome and has a photo and the other choice is for idiots.

    Which Tweet will get more clicks, favorites and retweets from your followers?
  8. Okay, you did it! You passed the test. (I didn't grab a picture of whatever affirmation they offer after the third "Learn how to Tweet effectively" page.) So now it tells you to "Increase your trustworthiness by following other verified users", which in my case included Gavin Newsom, who was formerly the Mayor of the hair club for men. I did not follow him (instead I clicked "Next") but they let me become verified anyway, and I have not yet heard any complaints about my diminished trustworthiness.

    Increase your trustworthiness by following other verified users
  9. After all this setup, they get down to the nuts-and-bolts stuff, telling you to "Protect your account", by asking for your phone number. "Phone numbers allow us to contact you in case there is a security issue with your account", which made me think someone has the job at Twitter's office of calling celebrities and asking them "Is this stupid tweet really from you?"

    Protect your account
  10. Success at last. A happy little confirmation screen (which oddly didn't show up properly on my iPhone browser) affirms that you're now a proud new owner of one blue checkmark on your Twitter profile. Fawning followers sold separately. The very top of the screen says "Congratulations, [your name]! Your Twitter account is now verified!" The fine print says, "With your newly verified account, you will receive weekly activity reports with information about the number of people following you, and simple tips about how to increase that number. Stop getting the report by choosing 'unsubscribe' in the email footer, or uncheck the box in your email notification settings in your profile settings." That weekly email seems to be the same one that everybody else gets (I get it for my other Twitter accounts), but I was verified about six months ago, so maybe they just extended the verified email to everyone when they added those notifications.

    Congratulations, [your name]! Your Twitter account is now verified!
  11. And then a little postscript. This is the notification I received immediately after finishing the verification process. It let me know that the official @verified account was following me. I followed it back, which reminded me that I hadn't been following it in the first place, so how had it send me the DM to start the process?! Twitter Magic.

    @verified is now following you!

Life With the Blue Checkmark

Other than of course gaining membership to an exclusive worldwide Illuminati cabal, there really isn't any difference in using Twitter when you're verified. Some folks think it matters a lot, and there are definitely teenagers (and aspiring hip hop acts?) who desperately want a verified checkmark next to their name, judging by the rash of @ replies I got immediately after verification, from people asking how they could be verified.

One minor thing I've noticed is that verified accounts have access to Twitter's analytics, which I think are otherwise only accessible to advertisers. Users who got verified because Twitter officially brought them onto the service (who don't go through this setup process) have told me that Twitter actually showed them the analytics features. In my case, I didn't know I had access to it until I accidentally discovered that fact, and this setup process didn't give any hints to that fact.

In all, despite the oddly celebrity-centric nature of the tips they give users in the setup, I think Twitter's designed a good process for users that they want to verify. In fact, the coaching concept is terrific and should probably be incorporated into everybody's Twitter experience somehow. It's obviously far too intrusive to put into the signup flow for regular users, and the tips as written are only appropriate for bigger accounts, but the idea of teaching people how to tweet is a great one.

That fundamental idea, that we can teach people how to use social media more effectively, is in fact one of the big goals for what we're working on with ThinkUp. In our case, though, I think we assume users can have a more goals than simply increasing your daily follower rate or, um, your trustworthiness. Although those are fine goals, too, I think normal users have a broad range of things they're looking to get out of their networks.

Beyond Verification

I spend a lot of time around very digitally-savvy Twitter users, who sort of understand the Verified checkmark to be an arbitrary, Twitter-run program. But the less tech-savvy folks I talk to, if they're familiar with the Verified marker, see it as much more of a status symbol.

What I'd love to see is ways to either make more accounts have meaningful verification (I'm not sure how that would scale) or at least ways to indicate a Twitter account is an "official" one for a particular website or organization. Twitter's analytics tools already allow me to claim my domain name and get stats on tweets about it; Being able to verify that @anildash is the official Twitter account of might be a happy medium between verifying every account on Twitter and simply providing another layer of trust and identity on top of Twitter's existing account names.

One More Time: No NDAs

May 7, 2010

By unusual coincidence, this week I had a number of different folks ask me to sign NDAs about the new projects they're working on. It's great that we're in such a fertile phase for the tech industry that lots of people have new ideas, and I'm very flattered that people value my input or ideas enough to want to share their projects with me. But signing an NDA? It's a bum deal, so I don't do it.

I can explain why, but if you saw what Brad Feld or Alexander Muse or Fred Wilson or Joel Spolsky or (my favorite take) Andrew Warner write about why they don't sign NDAs, you can skip the rest of this post.

In case you missed all of those, here's a couple quick reasons I will probably decline to sign your NDA:

  • When you ask me to sign your NDA, you're basically saying, in writing, that you don't trust me. It's your prerogative to say that, but it's a pretty lousy context in which to ask for a favor.
  • I have to pay a lawyer to review a document without having any idea why I'm making that investment. No, I won't "just sign it" without having a lawyer look it over, because it's a legally binding document whether a lawyer reads it or not.
  • If your idea's that good, it's probably not that rare. I hate to be the one to point it out, but protecting your idea in general is a fool's errand — good execution is hard to find, but good ideas are cheap.
  • I could get screwed through no fault of my own if some other random person walks up to me and blurts out the same idea that you've had. Being exposed to the risk of a lawsuit even if I haven't done anything wrong sucks.
  • If I couldn't be trusted with your idea, you'd already know about it. There are folks who don't like me, or who are annoyed by me, but if I'd broken somebody's trust in regard to their work, I guarantee it'd be just about the first thing you'd find when you Google my name.
  • The biggest value I can probably offer you is that I would talk about what you're working on. If I honor your NDA, and I meet a great investor or potential employee or valuable partner for your new venture, I wouldn't be able to tell them about it.

Most other folks are too nice to actually mention it, but since I'm not a VC or big deal business tycoon, I'll just say the most important point outright: Asking for someone to sign an NDA also often makes you look amateurish. Not always, but too often.

Now, I've had clients ask for an NDA, which makes perfect sense, and I might ask contractors working for me to do the same. Or some big companies just have a boilerplate NDA that they throw in front of people as a matter of course. But for individual entrepreneurs who just have a good idea and big dreams, it's easy to be misled into thinking that walking in the door with a fancy legal document makes you look professional or "serious".

Frankly, though, you should only share your ideas with those whom you trust, if you're at a phase where disclosing an idea could negatively impact its success. Most ideas gain value when more people know about them and are rooting for them. If you can, design for circumstances where, once you're ready to start talking about your idea, you're encouraging people to "disclose" your efforts. And that shouldn't require a contract at all.