This is Why I Unfollowed You

We still do not know how to use Twitter properly, we never had anything like it before and there are no solid social norms for using social media, but I think that there is a developing Twitter etiquette on how you frequently you should tweet, the content of your tweets, and the way you respond to others. Unlike Facebook, Twitter can operate as a one-way relationship between people, so you may be following people who don’t follow you, and those of your followers who decide to unfollow may do so without you easily noticing it.

The first thing to do if you want to make sure that others do not start unfollowing you, or even worse – start blocking you, is to make sure that you do not over-tweet. It is understandable that Twitter can be used among friends to update each other with the most mundane details of their lives, but making thirty updates in one go about random links and quotes is not something most people are willing to tolerate, especially when your showers of tweets bury all the tweets made by other people.

You also have to make sure that you do not use #hash #tags #for #every #single #word #you #type. The whole point of using hashtags is to be able to tag tweets with a certain topic or event to help make it easier for those interested in that topic or event to find your tweet. Tagging generic words in your tweet does not help anyone find your tweet – so hashtags should only be used for compound terms such as “#MuscatFestival” and not phrases such as “#Muscat #Festival” as the former would link only to MuscatFestival while the latter would link to any tweet that has the word Muscat or Festival. Having a hashtag for every single word makes it almost impossible to read a tweet and it doesn’t help anyone find your tweet.

DO NOT WRITE ALL YOUR TWEETS USING CAPITAL LETTERS. It might sound like common sense, but some people do not seem to be aware that using capital letters for whole sentences resembles shouting in regular speech. It is very annoying to have a conversation with a person who keeps on shouting, the same is true for people who write in all caps.

Use a photograph of yourself as your avatar or use a distinctive image which we can use to identify you. Nothing irritates me more than people who change their avatar every two days and put images similar to other people I follow making me confuse their tweets with those of other people. Nobody is going to like your tweets more just because you have a new avatar every two days, so please just pick one and stick to it.

Of course I am guilty of a number of my own twitter crimes such as using phani spelin (funny spelling) and over-tweeting on most days – which I am sure many people hate me for, but hey – nobody is perfect and just like you everyone else I am slowly learning what is acceptable and what isn’t on this new social media thing.

This post was originally published as a column on Muscat Daily.

The Twitter Craze

Twitter is the hottest thing on the Internet right now, yet people either do not understand, think it is silly, or are addicted to it. In Oman, Twitter is steadily gaining popularity as more people and companies join it. For those who still do not know what this is, Twitter is a service that lets you send very short messages (140 letters or less) to people who follow you. If you are on Facebook, think of it as a website dedicated to status updates, and instead of being restricted to friends you know, it is public.

The short messages of Twitter can be used in a number of ways. The most commonly understood method is to simply use it as an answer to the question “What are you doing right now?”. Your answer could be anything from “Having my famous cereal for breakfast” to “Running late for work as usual”. These are updates that enable your friends to know what you are doing at any moment.

The second function for Twitter is to use it as a chat platform. Twitter enables its users to reply to each other’s messages instantly using a myriad of devices. If you need a quick answer to a short question, like the location of a restaurant or an advice on something to buy, you can make an update on Twitter and get a short answer from any of your followers quickly.

The third function of Twitter is to use it as a source of real-time news, whether it came from professional industries or normal people. The concept of a “Retweet”, which is the equivalent to a rebroadcast of a twitter update, makes news spread across the whole of Twitter instantly, so if you found a tweet with breaking news, you can retweet it instantly to your friends who are likely to retweet it even further down the chain.

For people like myself who are officially addicted to service (I have made more than 10,000 status updates since I registered two years ago), Twitter has become part of the lifestyle we follow. My followers know about my life more than anybody else does, and I know a lot about the lives of those who I follow in return. I have used many different methods of communication over the years, but I had never before made a connection with so many people on such a personal level like I have on Twitter. It might sound unnatural to those who don’t use the service, but I now feel that I am part of a community which I cannot abandon easily.

I have been told that I no longer have any privacy because people know every single move I make from the minute I wake up until the minute I decide to stop reading my novel in bed and go off to sleep. I have to admit that I am no longer sure about the extent to which I should disclose personal information about myself, and I do not advise anyone to tweet as much as I do, but I believe that the whole world is still trying to understand social media and it will take us a while to establish a common etiquette for using such a service. Until that happens we will have to tweet using common sense to ensure that we do not harm ourselves and those close to us by exposing too much information to the rest of the world.

This post was originally published as a column on Muscat Daily.

Twitter Usename Room214 Infringes Trademark?

Twitter

A twitter user who goes under the username of room214 was recently contacted by a company called Room 214, Inc asking him to give up his twitter account or else they would ‘take it from him’. Can they take any legal action to retrieve the twitter account using trademark law?

First of all, in the US, trademarks law is regulated by the Lanham Act. This act does not only protect registered trademarks, but also unregistered ‘common law’ trademarks. A mark can be protected and will have rights under this act if this mark develops a certain level of ‘distinctiveness’ which makes it qualify for the common law trademark protection. This means that Room 214 can still get protection for its mark regardless of whether it was registered or not, if it can prove that the mark has been associated in the mind of the public with the certain service or product the company sells. This is a question of fact and will depend on the actual reputation the company has.

Now whether the company has a trademark or not, does this protection allow them to stop people from using a twitter account that contains their trademark? It must be noted that a trademark does not grant its own a monopoly over the use of a term, but instead it allows them to stop others from attaching the mark (1) to identical goods services or (2)  similar goods and serives if the public would be confused as to the source of the goods.

It cannot be said that the use of a trademark in a twitter account amounts to the use of a trademark in relation to any goods or services, especially because the user in this case was not using his twitter in the course of a business, and even if he did his will only be infringing if his use was (a) relating to goods and services similar ot those provided by the tradmark owner and (b) the public would be confused as to the source of the goods and services by that use.

Certain trademarks in the US attract special protection against trademark dilution through the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. This protection has a wider scope, but may only be conferred on ‘famous trademarks’ – trademarks which has established a strong connection in the minds of the public between the good or service and the source of that good or service. Examples of such trademarks include Coca Cola and Microsoft. It is extremely unlikely for Room 214, Inc to have such protection as nobody heard about this company.

I would confidently conclude that Room 214 Inc will not have a legal action under trademark law to stop another person from using the term “Room214” as part of their twitter username.