Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why Some People Think I’m Rude on Twitter (and I’m Sorry, to a Point)

There are some of you out there in the Twitter universe who likely think I’m a jerk. Or some kind of online bumpkin. Or just plain dumb.

As far as social-media etiquette goes, some of my Twitter behavior is definitely elbows-on-the-table territory. I’m not going to deny it, either – and, with apologies to the thousands of people I’m going to offend, I’ll explain why.

Blame it on three of the two-letter abbreviations you find throughout Twitter and anything written about it: RT, DM and FF. They stand for Re-Tweet, Direct Message and Follow Friday, and you can make someone on Twitter furious if you don’t follow the “rules” (and I’ll get to those quotation marks in short order).

Re-tweeting is pretty simple; you see something you like from someone else, and you resend it out to you own Twitter stream (or feed).  Someone else can RT your Twitter entry and you’ll get notice of that, since you’re likely following them.

The first couple of times I saw RTs of my Tweets, I sent a DM thanking those people. What I got back were answers in UPPER CASE and with plenty of exclamation points (!!!!) about the inappropriateness of “Automated DMs” and that they were cutting me out of their Twitter life permanently with an quick un-Follow.

What did I do wrong?

I found out, after scouring the ‘Net for a day or so, that some people view automated DMs as not much more than spam, as they might lead to something dirty, like a solicitation for business. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to clear spam out of any account, be it my personal email or my Twitter stream.

The problem is that I wasn’t sending an automated message – it usually noted a thanks for a specific item. But that didn’t mean anything to these people; they assumed (I could say, automatically) that a DM received like this is always some canned response to be shunned.

That’s where the “rules” for Twitter come in. The service itself is pretty loose about what’s allowed online, but a continuing development is the rise of independent users coming up with Twitter etiquette based mainly (as I see it) on their own personal likes/dislikes. These then get swept up in a wave of me-too/ditto/RT and gain traction.

I’ll offer two of these I found today here and here. It’s not to pick a fight; you can read ‘em and if you agree with their statements. go right ahead.

I found out in other places that the proper way to thank that RT, incidentally, was to send an open message on your own Twitter stream that included the re-tweeter’s Twitter name. (Personally, I find this as pretty extraneous and somewhat spam-like when I see it on other people’s streams, but again that’s my take.) A variant of this is to save all your RTs and group those names into catch-all Tweets on Friday.

This is different than Friday Follows, where a user gathers up the Twitter names of interesting streams seen that week and bunch them in separate Tweets. It’s the same as trading good advice or giving recommendations, which isn’t bad in theory.

Because of the short nature of Twitter messages, though, you rarely get a reason – even a three-word topic summary – on why the names on a FF are really worth following. Some FFs include a bunch of totally unrelated Twitter streams, which promotes eclecticism but doesn’t do much for people who really don’t have the time to click on name after name.

The real time-killer on Fridays are the Twitter users who’ll have 15 or 20 names to FF and another dozen or so to thank for RTs. The result is a string of four or five Tweets sent in a row, like a line of slow boxcars at the railroad crossing between the company parking lot and your home on a late Friday afternoon.

Frankly, if I find a Twitter stream worth a regular read, I tell the people following me immediately – no waiting for Fridays. I don’t waste their time doing an Alphonse/Gaston act in double-thanking on the stream, either. I can understand the concept of community-building and socially interactive “rules,” but I also value my folllowers’ time and patience.

So, please – for anyone that’s RT’d my stuff, or those doing it in the future, I offer a very large, collective and one-time Thank You. I really do appreciate it.

And sending me a direct message is fine … because, until proven otherwise, I’ll assume it’s you on the other end. It’s the polite thing to do.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

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How Tweet It Is

In 2010, social media on the Internet – especially the Twitter message service – became the buzz. And, this year, came the inevitable thumbs-down on social-media use, especially by business.

So, do you stop what you’re doing? Do you pat yourself on the back for never starting? Or do you forge ahead, because the naysayers are saying nay because it’s now fashionable to buck a trend?

Don’t look at me to give you a totally unbiased answer. I’m on the ‘Net with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and our Stone Business Online website daily. I think that social interaction online works … and if you don’t, maybe you ought to visit the community built by the Stone Fabricators Alliance.

This is Twitter as many portray it. Not a pretty sight.

This is Twitter as many portray it, with vapid content spewed out in a chopped-up language.

Let’s be fair, though. Many of you avoid the thought of using Twitter, mainly because it’ll tie up your mobile phone with thousands of messages. And it can, if you decide to use your cell for Twitter access; fortunately, you can shut that part of Twitter down (as I have) so it’s something you see only on your desktop or laptop computer.

A large number of you out there also believe – and it’s not without some cause – that Twitter is only a way to waste the day in 140-character increments as users babble on about nothing. The problem, though, is that most of you experience Twitter by hearing or seeing controversial or inane messages (or, yes, Tweets) plunked into some snarky commentary (as seen on web blogs) or equally inane reporting (as usually seen on CNN daytime broadcasts).

What if there was a way to see what’s on Twitter without being on Twitter? And what if you cut out the teenage OMG! argot and 3,000 comments on the future of Charlie Sheen – and filtered it to Twitter messages by and for the stone community?

For the past few months, we’ve been participating (along with thousands of other users) in a large online experiment of Small Rivers, hatched by some programmers in Lausanne, Switzerland. The result is a daily collection of Twitter messages about an assigned topic; the mini-messages are assembled into a Web-based newspaper. And, if a Tweet links to a video, there’s a picture on the page with the link.

It’s taken some fine-tuning, but we’ve developed several of these Twitter collections for the trade. Every day, you can see a new edition of:

Sample Twitter newspaperThe NEWEST Stone Tweets Daily, covering tweets of general interest to the stone industry. (The name comes from Twitter’s server computers devouring our first two attempts.)

Stone Tools & Equipment Daily, tracking the tweets from machine and tooling manufacturers worldwide.

Stone Products Update, which adds tweets from producers and manufacturers of surface materials, installation/renovation goods and other products allied to the trade.

And, then there’s:

The Daily Fabricator (Tweet Tally), tracking more than 140 fabricators (and the list keeps growing) with their Tweets.

All the papers are produced automatically by Small Rivers’ program, so there’s no editing by them or by me. Some of the Twitter accounts we follow offer something daily; others belch out something once every 13 months or so, when someone remembers that they have a Twitter account. And the messages can be random and eclectic, from a fabricator praising a tool to an Italian manufacturer linking to a great recipe for chicken salad.

If you’re on Twitter already, email me with your Twitter name. Ours, if you want to follow our regular feed, is @StoneBizMag.

twitter email mini bigYou can sign up to get a daily email reminding you when new issues of the newspaper appear on the ‘Net. This does NOT sign you up for some junk email list; in fact, Stone Business doesn’t even get a record of who’s signed up for the daily notices.

This isn’t a money-making proposition for us. It’s an attempt to tap into a vast flood of information, find the things that you can use, and deliver them in a clear and easy-to-use way.

The volume and value of the collected Tweets varies, but there’s usually something interesting every day. You can decide if Twitter’s worthwhile – and we’re glad to help.

Emerson Schwarzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

StatWatch: U.S. Stone Imports, March 2011

StatWatch is a snapshot of U.S. dimensional-stone imports, offering a summary and exclusive Stone Business analysis of data from the U.S. International Trade Commission. Comparisons are made mainly on an annual level to gauge market trends. Analysis is made on import figures of the latest month available.

All figures give are for March 2011 (change from March 2010 amounts in parentheses). “Worked” stone is material that’s shorn from boulders and blocks, and then cut in standard dimensional measures (such as slabs and tiles) and polished (at least once, one side).

WORKED GRANITE VALUE
Total:
$66.5 million (5.2%)
Sector leader: Brazil @ $31.8 million (27.1%)

Backfill: Take the good news and run with it, as India also makes a major move in March 2011 with $10.8 million (up 25.2% from last year). After that, worked-granite values get a bit rugged: China, $9.5 million (down 35.0%); Italy ($8.9 million, down 2.3%); Canada ($1.9 million, down 12.3%); Taiwan ($1.3 million, down 17.0%); Spain ($945,151, down 3.7%). It takes that long to find the next positive, with Saudi Arabia moving up 25.2% to $503,059.

WORKED GRANITE VOLUME
Total: 76,680 metric tons (-15.8%)
Sector leader: Brazil @  38,709 metric tons (21.4%)

Backfill: India offered the drag-anchor this February in curbing slab/tile granite shipments. In March, it’s China, with its 11,610 metric tons representing a 65.5% dive from last year (and a big swoon from this January’s 41,770 metric tons). India turns directions again, moving up 7.3% from last March with 13,756 metric tons; Italy, meanwhile, stays relatively steady at $5,969 (down only 1.2%).

WORKED MARBLE VALUE
Total:
$14.5 million (1.3%)
Sector leader: Italy @ $7.3 million (31.1%)

Backfill: The better news in marble slabs/tiles comes with volume, although most of the major exporters offer some positives in value; Spain grows by 10.3% from last March at $1.8 million, and Turkey gets a 13.5% lift to $1.5 million. It’s China that takes the sizzle down to the fizzle, dropping 33.5% to $2.08 million and recording its worst month in worked-marble values in two years ($2.04 million, March 2009).

WORKED MARBLE VOLUME
Total:
14,543 metric tons (5.4%)
Sector leader: Italy @ 4,664 metric tons (85.5%)

Backfill: Italy’s gain comes at China’s expense; after leading the category for four months running, China’s 2,474 metric tons in March 2011 marks a 41.1% slide from the previous year. Spain peps up its U.S. shipments from March 2010 by 19.8% with 2,335 metric tons, while fourth-place Turkey manages to match last year’s total – 1,858 metric tons – right on the button this March.

TRAVERTINE VALUE
Total: $22.0 million (4.7%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ $14.9 million (11.7%)

Backfill: This sector goes wherever Turkey takes it, and this month the direction is up. The increase in custom values comes in spite of declines from second-place Mexico ($4.4 million, down 3.5% from March 2010) and #3 Italy $918,807 (down 28.7%). As is often the case with stone imports, though, changes in value don’t turn into less volume.

TRAVERTINE VOLUME
Total: 38,411 metric tons (9.9%)
Sector leader: Turkey @ 29,232 metric tons (7.3%)

Backfill: Turkey gets a hand from most of the countries exporting travertine to the United States this month. Mexico increases shipments for the third month in a row (5,720 metric tons, up 12.2% from March 2010), and Peru’s 820 metric tons shows a 10.4% boost from last year. At 1,434 metric tons in March 2011, China scores a 193.3% increase from a low point last year … but down sharply from its shipments this February.

OTHER CALCAREOUS VALUE
Total: $7.6 million (-13.7%)
Sector leader: Portugal @ $1.07 million (0.3%)

Backfill: In two months, the usual notation about the mysterious disappearance of Lebanon from the market will disappear – but, until then, this is a sector where comparisons to 2010 hold dubious value. Portugal barely edges out Italy’s $1.03 million in March 2011; however, Italy also takes a 40.9% dive from last year. Mexico makes a nice recovery at $926,771 (up 38.4%). China’s $764,027, meanwhile looks good when compared to March 2011 (up 8.5%), but it’s far short of the country’s $1.1 million from this February.

OTHER CALCAREOUS VOLUME
Total: 15,875 metric tons (-77.7%)
Sector leader: Mexico @ 9,558 metric tons (1,647.3%)

Backfill: The best guess here is that somebody north of Nuevo Laredo really loves Mexican limestone; last year, the country rarely shipped more than 500 metric tons a month of other calcareous across the border. Without the Mexican bonanza, this category’s tonnage would reach near-mortal losses; #2 Spain weighs in at 1,063 metric tons (up 40.2% from March 2010). Point of interest in 2011: In February, China cut its tonnage to half of its January total … and did the same halving act from February to March.

SLATE VALUE
Total: $3.9 million (5.7%)
Sector leader: India @ $2.0 million (33.4%)

Backfill: After perking along as the market leader for the last 10 months, China hits the brakes; the $866,028 for this March is a 32.6% drop from a year ago. Along with sector leader India, the United Kingdom ($352,541, up 182.5%) helps to pick up the slack.

OTHER STONE VALUE
Total: $12.3 million (-23.8%)
Sector leader: India @ $4.5 million (-17.4%)

Backfill: This omnibus (i.e., “what’s left”) category used to be so moribund that it didn’t seem worth tracking. Now it’s an up-and-down journey, and this month’s it’s down. All the million-dollar-plus importers take the fall: Brazil (-51.0%), China (-20.3%), Canada (-42.6%) and Italy (-1.7%, and enough to knock it down to under $1 million).

OTHER STONE VOLUME
Total: 14,909 metric tons (-25.56%)
Sector leader: India @ 5,595 metric tons (-19.2%)

Backfill: When the top three importing countries to the United States fall off in shipments, the whole category’s going to slump. Brazil’s 2,867 metric tons (-57.0% from last March) is the worst since 2009; China also falls by 11.6 % to 1,538 metric tons. Turkey, at 1,284 metric tons, manages to far surpass last March – which isn’t hard, given the paltry 113 metric tons from a year ago.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

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