The best Twitter names – who has them?

I have often wondered who owns all the best Twitter usernames.

Sure, the founder has the name @Jack. He deserves it. But what about @Ian? @Jenny? And who is @Sally and what right does she have to it?

So I’ve found out who these people are. I’ve listed the results below. And then I have nominated who I think should have them.

Because fair’s fair.

This is @Jerry


He’s into the NSA and random issues in the news.

He is not this guy – @JerrySeinfeld – the guy we all think of when someone says Jerry.


Comedy Central ranked Jerry Seinfeld 12th out of 100 as the greatest comedians of all time after his Seinfeld series’ 9-year run. He deserves @Jerry.


This guy has it.


He tweets from Oslo, Norway, about tech stuff, random guff and English football, to all of 300 followers.

Not this guy.


Funny, really, because the planet’s best known Gareth – over on @GarethBale11 – was recently sold to a football team in Spain for €100 million. He has 2.5million followers.



Another web nerd sprouting idea about gadgets, X-Box and mobile apps. Seriously.

Not @GreatBritain


Meet @Sally


Sally was savvy enough to get that handle. But she’s not savvy enough to tweet more than 28 times nor make her account public. 12 followers. How about laying down, Sally, and handing it over to Sally Field? Sally Jessy Raphael? Olympian Sally Pearson or world class surfer Sally Fitzgibbons? It could even be a great parody account dedicated to Sally from When Harry met Sally. Whenever anyone tweets “I’ll have what she’s having”, @Sally could retweet them with “I’m having [insert regular meal option]”.



Appears to be a Russian account, cybersquatting. Account protected. So much potential. So disappointing.


It’s not.


2 tweets. No followers.


Another squatter, protecting Barack Obama from what exactly? From someone pretending to be the leader of the free world with only 7,000 followers and an egg for a face? Gimme a break.


Not Sydney.  Not from Sydney. Not even tweeting about Sydney. Not even in English.


This hipster doofus hasn’t had a random thought in more than a year.


Accurate. Zero tweets.


This is Stephanie Vacher. She is from San Fran and is, literally, Awesome.

What’s the opposite of awesome? Oh I know, getting the name @Awesome then tweeting like a standard, everyday person. PLEASE be awesome, even slightly in a Meryl Streep-pretending-not-to-be-awesome-but-somehow-still-awesome way?


I like to think this is just the editors at @TheOnion having a laugh. They pretend to be an account representing the onion vegetable, and spend their days redirecting misguided tweeps to the official @TheOnion account. This is impersonation done right.


This account appears to have been saved by the government of Australia. Clever people. Yet it has not been used by any PM in the era of twitter. This would make some sense if your personal cache was worth saving. But the current PM had little of that on twitter when he was installed as PM, and he persists with an acronym of pomp that few tweeps would even understand @TonyaAbbottMHR (Member House of Representatives)

Still, sticking with his own @username allows him to keep his nonsensical selfies in a place that does not sully the inimitable username @AustralianPM.

Anyone else i missed? Tell me in the comments and I will look them up and add them.


The opportunity cost of photo opp’s – Social Media election Ep2

Abbott - a photo opportunity waiting to go wrong

Fairfax photographer Alex Ellinghausen captured this moment when, well, I am yet to hear any good explanation for what is happening.

As you can imagine, the bizarre photo has been gratefully received by political junkies on social media, myself included. Its is simply Abbott meeting a family as he toured a factory.

But if Rudd is a chronic nerd, Abbott is an expert at gawk. The leader of the Liberal Party seems to have a knack for leaving his mouth gaping, for showing his bare chest and for looking down his nose at journalists. To these skills, we can now add hair-sniffing.

If you re-live that horrendous minute of silence Abbott shared with Channel 7’s Mark Riley, you’ll notice Abbott can make at least two of those mistakes at once.

By this point, we must assume that no amount of media training will solve the dilemmas Tony brings to media appearances. His avoidance of an interview with Leigh Sales – he was eventually interviewed by Sales’s colleague Chris Uhlman after months of requests – suggests that the presence of women only exacerbates his problems.

The critics of Abbott on Reddit enjoy hashing over the moment, again on 7.30 Report, when he let his guard down and conceded some speeches are fudged, not a true reflection of his position, not ‘gospel truth’.

Go on, re-live it. The nodding?! Why is he nodding!

I feel certain that to meet Abbott is to encounter a man with good social skills but a poor sense of personal space. He may have more in common with Mark Latham than Kevin Rudd.

Abbott even reminds me of Bob Hawke, with his tendency to “aaahhhh” his way out of answering any question quickly.


It is time for One Nation to change their name to FacePalm.

Stephanie Banister, the One Nation candidate for the Queensland seat of Rankin has become this week’s real political star.

The only thing more astounding than her factual errors are the basting she has received from international media.

I can see Islam from my house

I can see Islam from my house

The Huffington Post's take on our own gaffetastic candidate

The Huffington Post’s take on our own gaffetastic candidate

SMall Brooklyn zine HEEB even picked up the story

SMall Brooklyn zine HEEB even picked up the story

This kind of merciless mocking could have happened just as dramatically without the great amplifier of social media, yet social media has enabled a few new angles to keep this rather entertaining story alive…

But unlike Palin, Banister’s gaffe tape is being cut short…

The social media election – Ep1

If the politicians are going to do some
electioneering in the social domain, it’s only fair that we cast judgment on their strategies (or lack thereof).

The potential for awkwardness, hilarity and/or humiliation is very high. And that’s just within this blog.


Channel 7 reporter Alex Hart uncovered a certain level of awkwardness in political videos previously reserved for Rudd’s off-the-record rants or Tony Abbott’s minutes of silence.

Enjoy it – or, at least, watch it.

What’s wrong with it?

Bernadette wants to be cool. Her first barrier to having us believe this is her first name. She’s your aunty who wants to be your best friend despite forgetting all your birthdays and re-gifting you some crap from CopperArt. She then describes your particularly non-rockstar lifestyle in ho-hum suburbia, punctuated only by realisation your dreams are unattainable (cue Liberal three-word slogans).

Also, she says ‘LOLCATS’ out loud.

Bernadette is big L Liberal with tragically small production values, broadcasting from a world of macro-suede, friends called Suzie and dreams of making a difference beyond her weekly bookstall down the arcade.



Despite the fact it was posted on his party’s Facebook page one week ago, Fred Nile’s Australian Christian Democratic Party gained considerably more attention today when it was spread more widely on twitter.

Before long, Fred’s post – nothing new for a group who likes to target the homosexual lobby’s ‘Equality’ slogan – was being compared to racist discrimination

What’s wrong with it?

Nile’s team pushes a very conservative Christianity agenda using techniques as old and tired as I imagine his average supporter is. The decision to focus on divisive issues and approach them with bitterness means that his efforts online will never resonate widely. Indeed, In the context of social media context where messages need to be truncated, Fred’s approach replaces any complexity or nuance with cheap, often offensive one-liners.

I think that the result of his approach will be to narrow his appeal – even while his posts may get enormous reach within social networks.

This is an example of a post everyone feels safe to retweet without fear of people thinking you endorse the views.

Let me know of you see any good or sensationally bad examples of social media campaigning in the next five weeks. Such a shame it’s not eighteen months like in the US.

5 reasons we can’t resist Rudd

“I’m the glasses-wearing kid in the library.” – Kevin Rudd.

Male nerds have an undeniable appeal to our society. Men with a mixture of oddness and sincerity are the focus of much fascination right now and this obsession with the nerd is reaching dangerous new levels.

Their awkwardness beguiles us as their quirks and smirks distract us from the chance they may not be as intelligent as they seem. Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy, Brett from Flight of the Conchords, media whore Joe Hildebrand and our spasmodic Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

In the case of Rudd, I don’t think many Australian men would aspire to his high-calibre dorkiness – the giggles, the hifalutin diplomatic vocabulary alongside the chummy teen-speak – yet we continue to embrace his personal limitations.

I belieb it is because of these tragically nerdy features…

  1. We need a leader with big, obvious, awe-inspiring flaws
    He swears, he works too hard, he likes seeing himself on TV. Sounds like most people I know.
  2. He’s a hopeless fan of his own family
    While Abbott can speak all he wants about family values, I know Rudd values family because he tweets it, they’re with him at the church gate and he won’t stop droppong them into conversation, sorry, press conferences.
  3. Rudd loves loves Jesus and supports gay marriage
    Most Christians I know can’t reconcile these two things. That doesn’t mean most Christians are against gay marriage but for many people it’s a difficult, complicated issue that is painted as black and white in the vitriol blasting from both sides of the debate. Rudd handed down a considered response with heart, soul and a supporting feature in Woman’s Day.
  4. The man speaks frankly and in tweetable soundbites
    Rudd is a master of the media moment.
    How many people do you know can send a tweet which fulfils none of the three tenants of viral content (funny, risque or original) and it still garners 1200 retweets?
  5. Rudd knows he is a nerd.
    Most nerds believe they are actually pretty cool, that they are not truly nerds. This group includes myself, Malcolm Turnbull, Kochie, Tony Jones, Tony Abbott and most male politicians. Now, ‘coolness’ is itself indescribable, except to say that once you think you are cool, it’s clear to everyone that you are not. Rudd is either uber-intelligent and overplays the nerdy card to precision, or he is a rare form of nerd who can walk the line of embracing his own nerdiness to the point of appearing cool.


Vinstagram: social media blessing or curse?

As millions of users jump on the latest social network feature – 6 and 15 second shareable videos – I’m wondering, how will this change the landscape of sharing? The skills needed to make a compelling video seems to be beyond most of us. So will our experience of social media be diminished? Do we actually want to watch these super-shortform videos as much as we enjoy browsing photos? Will our friends’ content be worth the wait to download?

When I heard about the addition of video to Instagram, I thought that Facebook needed to compete with Twitter’s bite-sized-video-sharing juggernaut Vine, but on the other hand, a photo app with video… wouldn’t that be like Twinings getting into the coffee business?

Instagram is a marvel. The simple app reminded us of what we appreciate about the still image, and it arrived just as digital cameras and smartphones seemed to be reducing all our precious moments to a flat, faded and blurry picture.

Now, video looks set to go the same way. With seamless sharing across social networks, we’ll soon be showing our friends where we are with a panorama, not just a single frame. There’ll be crappy, wind-blown audio, dimly-lit party videos and clips of cats being cute.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 12.52.41 AM

Then there is the time limit – 6 seconds on Vine and now 15-seconds on Instagram. Expect to see sentences cut short, holiday panoramas that pan too quickly and people talking at an absurd speed to describe what’s happening.

I find it difficult to create compelling content within such a short timeframe. Vine’s six-second restriction limits any genuine storytelling and instead encourages videos that lie on a spectrum of spontaneous to trivial. Vine seems to acknowledge the challenge by recommending posts which are usually excellent examples of stop-motion animations, a very time-consuming process most of us will never master.

I believe 15-seconds may be the sweet spot. And some reports claim it’s no accident that it’s also the length of short TV commercials. It certainly holds more hope than 6-second movie trailers, like this Wolverine clip (epileptics beware) that WIRED calls a ‘tweaser’.

Perhaps this insanely concentrated format is ideal for a generation bred on 140 characters, acronyms and snapchats. Did you know that on average, nearly 20% of the audience that starts watching a given video clip will abandon it within the first 10 seconds of playback? What’s more, a slow 3G connection kills all the spontaneity. Viewers start to leave after waiting just two seconds.

Working with a brand, I know that brands often need even longer to tease a piece of broadcast content effectively. So I’m loving the extension that lesser known competitor TOUT gives to brands who sign up for their app. It’s well built, offers video uploading from your camera gallery, sharing across all networks and some editing.

I prefer the still image and a caption, personally.

Stop Press: Twinings IS in the coffee business. But let’s not encourage them.

Could comedy save us?

Currently, our national conversation feels like being stuck at a dinner party full of people tweeting into their mobile phones.

I’m talking about our political debate and the current state of our election campaign, the stupidity of which is becoming intolerable. And we need relief.

Why does Australia linger on pathetic, trivial stories for as long as we do? I realise we are a small country but we are big enough to know better.

Our water cooler conversation is truly tepid. We make scandals out of misquotes and feature stories out of insults when we all know the topic will usually have blown over in 24 hours.

This campaign lurches from one petty scandal to another, this week focusing on a sexist menu, a shocking shock jock, and our nation’s co-dependent relationship with Kevin Rudd.

It’s a cycle more vicious than Howard Sattler’s camera face.


Perhaps what we need is a good comic to make light of the day’s events, someone to skew the national conversation, to spike the watercooler before the 24-hour news cycle is through.

We’ve not had a sharp-shooter like this since Graham Kennedy. (I am excluding half-baked attempts like Steve Vizard, Mick Molloy and Rove – do remind me if I have missed someone).

I’d back Adam Hills, The Chaser team in their CNNNN format, or News Limited’s Joe Hildebrand. (Give that man a talk show, seriously.)

Stephen Colbert and John Stewart have been doing this for years in the US (albeit to a much larger audience) bringing a hilarious new perspective to issues the nightly news will leave you thinking are actually important. (Scroll down for a good example)

We need talented writers and fast-working producers who will expose the shallowness of it all, shining a light on how pointless all the political hypocrisy really is.

John Clark and Brian Dawe did a great job of this but this stuff needs to be nightly. And sharp. And popular. Like, Daryl Somers popular.

Please, I can’t get no relief. Soon, the only option will be to ignore people discussing these trivialities, which I’ll probably do by tweeting into my mobile.

Print is dead and news websites are next

Not long ago I was all nostalgic about newspapers. Then, as most of us did, I got over it, I switched to reading the news online and I haven’t bought a paper since.

Now, in 2013, I am feeling nostalgic about newspaper websites, a format of news that is under constant attack from apps, syndication, aggregation and personalisation.

But I see a new future forming, where we can get access to headlines and stories with speed, ease, and in any format we want.

First, a quick review.

The paper era

I grew up with the father spreading the Sydney Morning Herald unhelpfully across the breakfast table each day. He would read from it aloud and with impunity. It didn’t matter if anyone was already talking… or even if anyone was listening. And the amount of paper used in a weekend was also overlooked. In retrospect, much of this glorifying of papers was absurd. In fact, kicking back with a paper used to act as a forcefield to any responsibility. That’s partly why it was so excellent.

I hit high school where one of the great schoolboy thrills of taking Economics was having the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) delivered to you each day.  It was as if you had arrived in adulthood a full two years before your peers. I flaunted it – I now realise – to people who couldn’t care less. But I loved it and consumed it like some of my friends drank Coke – recess, lunch and sometimes under the desk in class.

As a fully formed adult, I had The Australian delivered to my house. This routine was much less romantic than I had remembered when growing up in the Blue Mountains. Instead of venturing into the front garden to discover the paper under a shrub, my entire family would be woken at 6am with a thud the size of a bass drum on our front door. The newsagents were depressingly on target.

One day when I had had enough, I emailed to cancel my subscription, adding a note that News Ltd really should consider a digital-only option. (They replied quickly. It turns out they do.)

The website era

For some months now I have been able to access The Oz stories by putting in my password  – a process I repeat daily as I switch between devices – this is a major irritant). And I have now lost track and any memory of the what the subscription costs me. Both of these issues are deal-breakers when I consider signing up to multiple news websites.

Checking SMH used to be as routine as having breakfast. But thanks to their  sensationalised frontpage splashes, their bipolar design and their use of wires syndication, the Herald and other major Australian news sites have long since been replaced in my routine.

The SMH website – where content has, at times, been an afterthought. via/

I realise they’ve been forced to prioritise traffic and I hope the introduction of subscriptions may see a return to more meat and less milk.

Thanks to the web, I consume news from about ten different news websites around the world each day. Different days lead me to different topics and different news sources. While this remains my routine, I can safely say that while I do consider journalism to be an essential part of a democracy and needs to be paid for, I will never sign up for ten accounts. I don’t care if they offer me paywalls, metred models, apps with freemium or some kind of thrilling Shop-A-Docket BOGOF adventure. It is simply to much for one person to keep track of.

Thankfully, my habits are changing and I don’t think I will need to buy into all this.

The feed era

Technology has largely replaced my need for the web. Some days, I will not even touch a news website, thanks to apps and syndicated stories I read on site aggregators or a ‘Read It Later’ service such as Instapaper of Pocket. What I don’t find there I scroll passed on Twitter.

With the death of Google Reader, I now start my day at Google News. I will then skip to several different sites where I save links to read stories later, or I copy the text and paste it into an app that reads stories to me as I travel to and from work.

The Herald used to hold sway over the city, defining Sydney’s mood so accurately and charmingly that you wanted to save those big moments and photographic spreads for posterity. Then, the website you had to visit daily became a chore, with conflicting multiple typefaces, what seemed like more ads than content, hideous full-page ads and auto-playing videos. Now, even with an ad blocker, the Herald’s frontpage feels like gratuitous click-baiting: superficiality up front, quality if you can find it.

Will I pay for it when the Fairfax paywall finally appears? Possibly. If by paying I can avoid their entire website and just get to the stories and links I want, I will consider the cost worthwhile.

Here’s the rub – If I pay to avoid your paywall, I’d also be glad to avoid your website. What I want most of all is a direct route to your stories and journalists. Strip back the entire interaction between user and news and I will engage fully not in your site experience but the content. Which would you prefer?

I realise site design is there to distract me, tricking me into spending more time reading and clicking, but the time for this kind of manipulation is short. The kind of personalisation I am talking about not just for early-adopters.  My 70-year-old father loves Readability, and the most old-school producer at my former employer Channel 7, was using Flipboard well before I was. The word is out.

I need easy, quick consumption.

I don’t want your website – I’ll use a reader.

I don’t need your curation – I’ll use Flipboard or Zite.

I don’t need your production – I’ll strip out the ads with an ad-blocker, any formatting using Readable and personalise it my own way.

If you did all this for me, I’d consume your content more readily, more often, and if I do that then social sharing will follow.

The future

I am optimistic that paywalls and premium content will lead quickly into an era of consume-it-your-way news services.


I’m already on Twitter and using it as a news feed, so how about premium twitter feeds that users must pay to access? The story loads within the twitter eco-system. The point is I got to the news where I was. Facebook or other social platforms could implement a similar model and it could serve targeted ads.

An aggregator app that charges a single subscription but provides me paywalled news from sources I respect?  Awesome. It’s like iTunes but for news.  Think Flipboard – with a Freemium model.

For those times when I have to use a website – a practice I liken to having to cash a cheque of pick up a parcel from the post office – can  we please give the designs a genuine overhaul. We’ve done little more than remove serifs and rearrange pictures since 1996.

Frontpage editors, save all your features that let me save stories, drag sections, or pin the article to Pinterest (what?!). How about an update that genuinely modernises it like the HuffPo’s glorious NewsGlide or USA Today’s photo-led tablet-ready makeover. Those sites make me want to explore the news, not grab and run. Until then…

Me and news websites? We’re done.

More reading:
A paywall is not enough —Fairfax must become bespoke or fail – The Conversation
Fairfax gives a taste of what is to come for premium content charges – SMH (in 2010!)
Top 15 Most Popular News Websites – (June 2013)

If music is social, why can I only hear noise?

When U2 met with Steve Jobs in 2004, they came away with a deal for a rather baffling piece of cross-promotion. Apple would produce a piece of hardware designed to reflect the band’s latest album at the time, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. With 30 GB and the signatures of all four members of U2, the special edition iPod was priced at US$349. Source: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t just the kit that fans could love – if they bought the U2 iPod, they would also get a different version of the album to anyone buying it the old way, in the shops.

U2 iPods gave the owner special privileges, such as downloading songs for free, they also scored a US$50 coupon for a US$149 collection of U2’s entire back catalog.

Together, the band and the brand appeared were redefining the music industry. But if they did, where are all the follow-up music/hardware integrations? Why can’t I buy a Foo Fighters album pre-loaded on an iPhone or even a Ben Folds LP on a USB stick? The whole plan stalled at the starting line, leaving us buying CDs and downloading MP3s, occasionally with bonus videos or imagery in a ‘digital booklet’. This is not awe-inspiring stuff.

The biggest movements since then have seen Radiohead offering their song in your choice of format and at the price you think its worth. Beck offered his album in sheet music only in 2012 (hoping for a mash-up that never came), while last week, David Bowie was lauded as an innovator for streaming his album for free. Oh please.

While streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora may already have rendered the purchase of an album irrelevant for the next generation, I still like to have a physical object to show for my money. I make exceptions to this rule when the digital offering is far better than what I would get from a CD with its inserts. But this remains rare, and so, record stores still have kilometers of shelving dedicated to popular bands and their back catalogs. I am certain the CD wil not phase out until a new replacement comes.

Here’s one way things might play out, according to Bono…

Music apps – sounds good right?

The App as Music

I decide to buy an album … I download an app to my smartphone or tablet … I get a preview of songs and a teaser video of what else is on offer … I can then opt-in for the album (together with bonus extras, just like a DVD) or just select some singles to download and be done with it.

Sounds good so far.

But what if the app took me even further? Perhaps it could unlock a back-catalog of videos, or a list of demos and b-sides that took me into the studio like a producer, watching as the band developed each track and sifted through snippets, hooks and riffs to find the gold?

Here’s how Bono describes it, speaking, as he does every few years, of the band’s need to reinvent themselves.

He shrugs off the fact that the band have just recorded the biggest-grossing live tour in the history of popular music and wonders whether U2 can still be relevant. “We can play the big music in big places. But whether we can play the small music, meaning for the small speakers of the radio or clubs, where people are living, remains to be seen,” he says. “I think we have to go to that place again if we’re to survive.

“There are so many U2 albums out there. We need a reason for another one. The whole point of being in U2 is that we’re not here to be an art-house band. Our job, as we see it, is to bring the art house to the mainstream; our job is to puncture the mainstream.”

Earlier, he was using an iPad with the Achtung Baby songs and videos on it. “That’s probably what our new album will look like,” he says. “I’ve been talking about this for the past four years.

“Our last album was the first album to be made available as an app with BlackBerry devices, but it didn’t work: the functionality was not what it could have been. New formats are going to happen. I’m always banging on about this. The app format brings you back to that world of gatefold sleeves, of being able to read lyrics – and [now of] being able to play the album at home on your plasma TV.”
(c) Irish Times, 2011.

Socially, an app as an album could lift the experience to another level again. Imagine if, while listening, I can read other my friends’ comments on the songs, just as I should be able drop comments into the stream for others to see, if they so choose.

An in-built forum should also capture fans’ debate of the lyrics or the band’s missteps.

I should also be able to share it with a group of friends, having a virtual listening party, helping promote the songs to my friends.

I don’t really see why this is all yet to happen. I guess it could have something to do with the all-powerful triumvirate of record labels.

Right now, Spotify tells me – via Facebook and ad nausea – what some of my friends are listening to. But this form of socialised music listening fails at the first turn.

If I have never heard of the song or artist, there ends my interest… I’m done. I know I said I’d like to find out music recommended by my friends, but it turns out an automated feed of what they are listening to right now does not equal useful recommendations.   (Now, please leave me alone to continue sifting through the already mindless landscape of posts from ‘friends’ I barely know.)

Moreover, Spotify makes me annoyed not just at the technology but even at my real life friends who should know better. This is all little better than Apple’s Ping – an ill-fated foray into social music sharing. Nor is it any more user-friendly than the Washington Post ‘social reader‘ – a Facebook experiment that gained massive notoriety for increasing traffic then even more infamy following the mass exit of millions of users who felt violated by its sharing of all articles they had read.

Turns out we don’t need Bono or Steve Jobs. I am simply longing once more for music parties, where your friends came over, you put on a CD and you just discuss it; You tell why you like it, who it reminds you of, or you tear it apart because it’s rubbish.

If an app or online service can deliver that, sign me up.

me tweeting

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