Twitter users are in one of these 3 categories

Steven Van Belleghem wrote a post on the SocialMediaToday blog that is really on the mark.

The Bar Crowd 

In his post, Steve describes a typical bar scenario. People talking in groups about all sorts of things. The topics change frequently, and every now and then one particular subject of discussion goes through the whole bar.

And like any bar, there is usually a diverse bunch of people:


  • Seen frequently and have something useful, or interesting to offer to the conversation.
  • Move easily between groups.


  • Usually in the bar just to sell something.
  • May enter a conversation,but usually, it has one purpose,
  • Easy to spot.


  • Appear in the bar every three months or so with the one goal of promoting themselves.
  • Leave straight away.


Here’s Steven’s original post: When on Twitter, Act Like You’re in a Bar

Want to learn more?

Below are a selection of resources that I personally feel are relevant to this blog post, and will allow you to get more in-depth knowledge. I do earn a commission if you purchase any of these, and for that I am grateful. Thank you. (Important Disclosure)

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How to do a Data Scrape on the Titanic

In an earlier post, I talked about the MOOC Data Journalism course that I did. Part of that course covers how to do a data scrape of information from other sites for reporting purposes.

In this post, I want to share what I learnt.

What is a Data Scrape

Scraping data is, essentially, a way of grabbing content from lists and tables on other websites.

And with this information, you can the really study it, and twist it and turn it to see what other insights you can draw out of it.


As an example, consider the passengers on the Titanic. You might want to do some analysis on who there was on the ship, who survived, ages, etc.

By scraping the data from a reliable source, you can then put it into a spreadsheet and sorting, and grouping, etc, in a way that will give you the information that you want.

How to do a Data Scrape

There are several tools that you can use to do a data scrape.

The tool that I am going to describe is Google Sheets.

As described above, I’m going to scrape the list of Titanic passengers from Wikipedia.

The Titanic

Wikipedia has a list of the passengers that were on the Titanic.

The address of the Wikipedia page is:

If you visit that link, you see a large list of everyone who was on board the Titanic on her maiden voyage. (It can be quite disheartening to read.)

Scraping the Data

I am going to show you how to data scrape of the passenger information so that you can put it into a spreadsheet.

  1. In your browser, go to Google Drive. (You will need to have a Google account for this.)
  2. Click on New and then select Google Sheets

    The Google Sheet will be displayed.
  3. In the first cell, enter the following:

    Google will autosuggest as you are typing.

  4. Continue typing the following
    (“, “Table”, 1)
  5. Press enter.

Here’s the full command. You can also copy this and paste it into the spreadsheet:

=importhtml(", "Table", 1)

Initially, you’ll see “loading”, and then the list of passengers in First Class can be seen.

Quick Explanation of IMPORTHTML

As seen above, the command to use is IMPORTHTML

Then, between brackets, you need the following:

url the URL of the page that has the information that you want to scrape
query “Table” or “List” depending on whether the information you want is in a table, or a list.
index this is the number of the table or list that is on the web page.


In our case, we used:

query “Table”
index 1

Here’s an actual example of a Google spreadsheet with the list of passengers.

And the other passengers?

As you might have noticed, the list has only the First Class passengers.

This is because the Second Class passengers and Third Class passenger are in separate tables.

So to get that data we’ll do the following:

Adding the Second Class passengers

First – let’s add an extra column so that we know which passengers are First class

  1. Go to the first empty column after the data. (In my case, it was Column H)
  2. Enter “Class” on the first row.
  3. Enter “1” on the next row.
  4. Copy that value into each cell down to the end of the table.

Now let’s add the Second Class passengers

  1. Go to the first empty row at the bottom of the table.
  2. Again, enter =importHTML
  3. And follow with
    (“, “Table”, 2)
    (note that the index is now “2”).
  4. Press Enter

Here’s the Example table with the Second Class passengers

In the Class column (that we created above), add the number “2”

Treating the Third Class passengers Differently

You read that right. We are going to have to handle the Third Class passengers differently.


Because, if you look closely on the Wikipedia page, the table for the Third Class passengers has an extra column.

In the tables for the First and Second Class passengers, the column “Hometown” included both the town, and the country. In the table for the Third Class passengers, the “Hometown” column has the “Town”, and there is a separate column for “Home Country”.

The extra column makes it difficult to combine it with the other data.

However, there is a workaround for this. I will be covering that in a later post.


Want to learn more?
(Important Disclosure)

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The best no-bullshit "Rules of Networking"


The question was asked, on Quora,  “How do I get better at networking?

There were 38 answers. The response that got the most upvotes, was the one by Zach Freedman. Someone who tells it like it is. His response was certainly different from the other responses, and garnered the most comments (and, as mentioned, upvotes)…

  1. Networking is bullshit. You don’t “network”, you meet people. Get out of the results-oriented mindset and enjoy the conversations. Be a goddamn human about it. Put down your phone, because…
  2. Comfort zones are bullshit. The only network worth having is one that has a diverse group. Wide and shallow is the name of the game. With a wide network, you have more interesting conversations, more options for solving problems, and more ears on the ground to spot trends. Grow some balls, leave your silo, and make friends with people who are utterly unlike you. Twitter and Facebook shield you, which is why…
  3. Social media is bullshit. Talk to people in the real world. A lot. Expand your options using meetups, clubs, mixers, and getting friends to drag you along to their social stuff. Try and talk to everyone at the event. Ignore your business cards, because…
    Business cards are bullshit. There’s exactly one reason to use a card – you take their card because you want to follow up on something they said. They like old Benzes and you have a friend who collects them? Ask for their card, write “Connect w Jeff re Benzes” on the front, pocket the card, and follow up with it. Don’t give out your card unless asked, because…
  4. “Let’s talk later” is bullshit. They’ll never follow up with you. The ball is firmly in your court. If the conversation went well, call them back within two days, link them with what you wrote down, and check in every two weeks or so. Two weeks?! Yes, because…
  5. You never stop selling. You never stop shipping. Your life is vibrant, fascinating, and fast-moving. Every week, you have new people to connect and new developments to tell others about. And you do so.

Your regular contact builds friends. Your excitement makes them want to listen. Your activity spreads the word that you get things done.

Conversations aren’t “How are you doing? Fine, how are you?” They’re real, visceral, and worthwhile. Most importantly, you’re actually helping people, and that’s why you start networking in the first place.

 You can read the original in Quora here.

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A insightful observation on communicating with technology, or "What's better than texting"?


Text-speak came into existence in December 1992.  It was a quick way of typing SMS messages on mobile phones, back in the days when it was slow and laborious, having to bash away at the keypad with your thumbs.

Thanks to more modern phones, texting has been on the decline. There are, however, still people who use it. Even adults! They claim that it’s quick to type. That may be true, but it takes longer to read it….

An adult I know insists on sending out cryptic messages using Viber, an instant messaging/VoIP app. I often have trouble translating these. And they annoy me – effectively, the responsibility is upon me to work out what the message is about. It should be that the responsibility is on the sender to make sure that their message is clear.

After partaking in a transfers of messages with this person (in which I pointed out that txt-speak is very dated), the person sent me a voice message that I actually had to listen to. Her message was…

As I see it, technology has moved forward so much that we can now actually talk with each other.”

I smiled.

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Asking the question: GOOD; asking it over and over: BAD – where social engagement in the workplace fails.


Using social tools within the enterprise is a valuable thing. It lets people ask questions to a bigger audience than just those sitting within hearing distance of their desk.

I’ve discussed this in earlier posts (ESS (Enterprise Social Software) – user adoption, and Let’s share!). It’s incredibly valuable to be able to draw on the knowledge of others. That’s why it’s good to be able to ask questions. The answer given helps not just the asker, but can help others, and at the same time, others can add to the answer creating even more value.

Where I feel this all falls down though is that, often, there is no real way to capture that knowledge that came about from the questions asked. Continue reading

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Introducing…the Internet SuperHeroes

Thanks to CollegeHumor

Here they are to save the world … maybe.

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Look Down

In a recent post (“Is being Socially Connected online really that damaging?“), I discussed a response to a video on YouTube that preached the sadness of the way people are constantly online.

I’ve just discovered another response to “Look Up”. This one is called “Look Down“.

And here’s the link to another good one:


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Is Social Connection online really that damaging?

On the Scientific American website, I came across an excellent article that discussed some of the common grumbles that people have about social connection online. (“I don’t care what you had for breakfast!“, “How about talking to some real people!“, etc.)

I don’t care what you had for breakfast!


The article was written by Dr. Elizabeth L. Cohen, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at West Virginia University, and Dr. Rachel Kowert, an Associate Researcher in the Department of Communication at the University of Munster.

The article was in reaction to a video that talked about the damage that online social connection has

I really liked the article because I also feel that being socially connected is not bad. Or wrong. It is just another way of being social.

I have been in touch with Dr Cohen, and Dr Kowert, asking them if I could reproduce their article here. They have graciously agreed…


Look Up Exaggerates Damages of Social Media

In his viral video, Look Up, Gary Turk emotionally appeals to viewers to unplug from their social media (just as soon as they finish watching the video, of course). Cell phones, online games and social network sites are all depicted as distracting us from intimate human contact and a cause of loneliness.

The video, which has racked up more than 37 million views on YouTube, appears to have struck a chord with many people feeling disillusioned with being constantly connected. But before you get all sentimental and throw away a perfectly good iPhone in a pool of your tears, let’s take a step back for a minute.

Current communication and psychology research paints a much more complicated picture of how these technologies affect our social well-being. A full refutation of all the arguments implied by the Look Up video would be worthy of a dissertation, but inappropriate for the scope of this blog. Instead, we’ve picked seven claims to compare against current research.

Claim 1:
We are connected to lots of friends on social media, but we don’t really know each other.

While it’s true enough that we can’t know everybody that we are digitally connected to intimately, we don’t think that’s the point.

Social technology plays an important role in helping to maintain our strong-tie relationships with people we already know. Social network sites also enhance our weak-tie connections and raise our social capital, which can lead to a number of positive outcomes such as improved health and civic engagement.

Claim 2:
We share frivolous bits of ourselves on social media, but leave out anything meaningful.

This is the classic, nobody-cares-about-what-you-had-for-breakfast complaint. But why should you care? Because what we had for breakfast is valuable, potentially meaningful social information. One status update can be frivolous on its own, but over time, these seemingly insignificant bits of information about what people are doing, what they like and where they are can coalesce into a sense of others’ presence, providing a peripheral but intimate awareness of that person.

What’s more, posting status updates on social media isn’t just valuable for followers, it’s also good for the posters. Experimental evidence suggests that just the act of leaving a status update can make people feel less lonely, presumably because posting reminds us that we are part of a larger network.

Claim 3:
The community, companionship and sense of inclusion provided by social media are illusions.

The community companionship and sense of inclusion provided by social media are real. 
recent study found that people who use social network sites to interact with existing friends felt a greater sense of connection to them and reported a greater sense of belonging than those who don’t. Our own research also provides preliminary evidence that simply monitoring other people’s activity on social media can help fulfill basic human needs for belonging.

Claim 4:
Online games are socially isolating and not a worthwhile way to spend time.

Our research suggests that online game players are often stereotyped as being 
anti-social, reclusive and isolated, but online gaming is actually highly social, requiring players to interact with, coordinate, lead and compete against hundreds of other players in a shared space. In many games, socializing is actually rewarded because player coordination eases the difficulty of in-game tasks. Research also indicates that gaming can support pre-existing relationships and help people develop new relationships.

Claim 5:
Kids don’t play outside any more because they are always on their technologies.

Nobody can deny that digital games can be more fun to play than hopscotch at the park. But is staying indoors to play really so bad? These days, digital games 
promote exercise and social interaction with others.

But social technology might not have anything to do with kids staying inside. In her new book, It’s Complicated, danah boyd discusses the influence of technology on teens and “tweens.” Her anthropological study suggests that the real culprit behind the empty playgrounds after school has more to do with parent culture than it does teen culture. Over-scheduled and over-protected children don’t have much time for free play outside. In fact, connecting through social media is sometimes the only way kids can connect with their friends outside of teacher and parent supervision these days.

Claim 6:
It’s become abnormal to talk to strangers on commuter trains because people are too involved with their personal technologies.

For those of you who can remember riding a train, bus or elevator when people didn’t have mobile devices, ask yourself how often you remember looking up, making eye contact with strangers and talking to them. The truth is, it’s always been taboo to talk to strangers, and as long as there have been trains, we’ve found 
things to look at besides other people.

Claim 7:
If you look down, you could miss the love of your life.

Perhaps. But if you don’t also look down at your
 online dating profile you can also miss the love of your life.

Of course, Look Up didn’t get everything wrong. Never looking up can be both rude and dangerous. Because our technologies develop more quickly than we do, we definitely have some catching up to do on developing social etiquette and public policies that will keep us courteous and safe.

Still, suffice it to say that we think the video stretched the truth about how damaging media use is for our relationships. Turk’s fears are nothing new, though. Virtually every technology innovation has been met with some trepidation about how it will affect our social well-being. Even the Walkman was accused of making listeners more narcissistic and detached from other people. But in the long run, it was nothing to be frightened of.

We’re willing to bet that your iPhone is probably safe too.

Click on image for a larger version (800pxx800px)

What do you think of that? Do you agree?  Don’t agree? What are your thoughts?

Want to learn more?

Below is a selection of resources that I personally feel are relevant to this blog post, and will allow you to get more in-depth knowledge. I do earn a commission if you purchase any of these, and for that I am grateful. Thank you. (Important Disclosure)

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Why I hate CAPTCHA (or "I am a Human!")

I think that most people have, at one point, come across CAPTCHA (or similar), that small box that contains a distorted word that you have to type correctly.

Kill Captchas

This is done to prevent bots, or automated software from logging into sites, or filling in forms, etc.

What really bugs me about this approach (from a User Experience point of view) is “Why do I have to prove that I am human?! It’s putting the onus on me, as a visitor. The system should be putting the demand for proof on the bots!

Here are two excellent articles that cover exactly what I am referring to:

  • Time to Kill Off Captchas (Scientific American)

  • Beyond CAPTCHA: No Bots Allowed!

The Scientific American article discusses how, whenever there’s a problem in the modern world, we counter it by building barriers. Barriers that provide more inconvenience to genuine users, than for the “bad guys”.

Beyond CAPTCHA: No Bots Allowed!” goes into the problems that are encountered with CAPTCHA. How the distorted text is so hard to read, etc. It carries on describing alternatives that can be put in place. It was, however, in its conclusion that the author showed that he understood my pain, with this sentence:

Don’t make users take responsibility for our (site owners) problems.

This followed up with the succinct:

Bots, and the damage they cause, are not the fault or responsibility of individual users, and it’s totally unfair to expect them to take the responsibility. They’re not the fault of site owners either, but like it or not they are our responsibility — it’s we who suffer from them, we who benefit from their eradication, and therefore we who should shoulder the burden. And using interactive authentication systems such as CAPTCHA effectively passes the buck from us to our users.


Kapow!! There it is…don’t make the problem with bots, the responsibility of the users!

I agree totally! Do you?

(What are your thoughts on CAPTCHA?)


  • Street View and reCAPTCHA technology just got smarter
  • A Gaming Replacement for Those Annoying CAPTCHAs
  • How Captcha Turned You Into a Data Entry Robot
  • The ‘CAPTCHA’
  • Apparently reCAPTCHA has Digitized All the Books
  • I hate captchas!

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The best time to review…

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