Archive for March, 2009

How Do You Twitter: Niall Harbison?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

niall harbison twitter

Super chef, blogger and entrepreneur who has actually been in the Dragon’s Den! Without further ado, I give you Niall Harbison.

I guess a lot of people know you as ‘that fella who was on Dragon’s Den’. :) But who is @niallharbison?

niall harbison twitter
If I had a penny for every person who asked me was Peter Jones as tall in real like I could retire and lead a comfortable life. I used to work for billionaires as their private chef flying around the world cooking for them. While doing that I realized there was huge potential for online cooking videos so left the world of the rich and famous to move back to Ireland and launch Lookandtaste.

Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?

niall harbison twitter
I have a feeling we will and as the service evolves I can see it becoming a far more widespread manor of digesting news and sports events from all over the world in real time.

How has Twitter helped you in self promotion and business?

niall harbison twitter
I don’t like to think of it as promoting the business as I think that people who do that on Twitter inevitably fail. Where I do see the value is the massive amount of feedback I get on our site from developers, designers and expert marketers all 100% for free. I also love personalizing the business through Twitter. Smart brands have a human side to them on Twitter and engage with people rather than just trying to push stuff out.

Has benefitted a lot from Twitter?

niall harbison twitter
More than you could ever imagine.

Is it a crime for a business not to be on Twitter in 2009?

niall harbison twitter
The bigger crime is to be on there because you have heard you should be and start spamming people with links to your profile. You can do a lot of damage to your brand on Twitter by using it incorrectly. is a fantastic idea, and so well designed! Do you think there will be an even bigger surge in Twitter creations in 2009 or when will the bubble burst?

niall harbison twitter
I think they are fun to make but people trying to build an entire business out of a twitter app are playing a risky game as Twitter haven’t even monetized their own site yet! I think twitter is sexy at the moment but I can’t see a huge amount of financial gains to be had for 3rd parties.

How can a big name brand be trusted on Twitter?  You don’t know who is tweeting, it could be anyone from the CEO to an intern.

niall harbison twitter
As a rule I wouldn’t really follow big brands. The only area where I think they can add value through twitter is by using it for customer service and feedback. I see it more as a tool for the small boys like us to leverage ourselves up against the big boys.

Are we losing our ‘real life’ social skills because of the increase in social media tools?

niall harbison twitter
Not at all in fact I think it is the opposite in that I have met 100s of super interesting people through twitter at meet ups that I would never have normally met. I think it is super important to switch the internet off 100% the odd time and take a day off though.

How do you decide who to follow?

niall harbison twitter
I don’t really have any rules apart from I would never follow somebody following a couple of thousand people as I would be suspicious of their motives.

Any advice for someone who just signed up today?

niall harbison twitter
I was getting sick of trying to explain it to people as I would just ramble on and not really get the point across to people so I made this video to answer people’s questions.


Next time you’re in Belgium (which might be in the near future) Niall, there’s a few Duvels on me. Look out for some drunk tweeting then everyone. Also look out for, LookandTaste and Twecipe to find out what Niall is up to. I’m sure I will need to add to this site list as Niall is sure to come up with more fantastic ideas soon!

Further Interviews

I’ve interviewed a whole host of other Internet gurus over the past few weeks including Guy Kawasaki, Mr Tweet, Tim O’Reilly, ProBlogger, Smashing Magazine and Chris Coyier so don’t forget to check them out.

Be sure and follow me at @paddydonnelly if you want to find out first about more exciting Twitter interviews :)

Not Another ’10 Tips to get more Twitter Followers’ Post

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

twitter paddydonnelly

Ok, this is not one of these ’10 Tips to get more Twitter Followers’ posts that have been clogging the interwebs for the past few weeks. Think of it more as a wake up call.

Twitter and it’s users have undergone massive changes since going mainstream in 2009. People have become maniacally obsessed with numbers. Everyone is desperately seeking as many followers as possible, clawing at any of these crazy ‘sure fire’ methods out there in an effort to reach that unreachable high.

Here are some suggestions from how I use Twitter, which I feel helps me get the most out of it, while offering something of value.

Don’t follow back automatically.

Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean you have to follow back. This ‘courtesy followback’ thing that has developed is horrible and has created a generation of people just obsessed with numbers, not gaining anything from the people they follow. I can’t believe that there are people out there who will follow you and then unfollow you after a day if you don’t return the favour. Come on, are you serious?

Here’s the way I do it. If someone follows me, I always check out their profile and website if they have one. I base the decision to follow them on a variety of things such as their frequency of tweeting, content of tweets, whether I already know them, their location or whether they are in my industry. If I don’t follow you back, don’t take it personally. How could I follow everyone? I barely keep up with my current stream at the minute so I need to be selective.

I have literally been begged by some people for me to follow them. Begged! You know how desperate that sounds? The point of me following you is so that I get something out of your tweets, not to add 1 to your total.

Use DMs, Twitter isn’t a chat room.

Nothing turns me off more than reading a string of tweets between two people. What am I getting out of  ‘@name Thanks!’ ‘@name Hey!’? Golden Rule: If more than two people would get something out of your tweet then use an @, if not then use a DM. I fully understand and appreciate that Twitter is an amazing networking tool but have a think about who will be seeing your tweets.

Use Via instead of RT.

There’s so much Retweeting now that my mind has actually trained itself to ignore anything that begins with ‘RT @name‘, certainly anything that has a string of ‘RT@name RT@name RT@name’.  If someone tweets a link that I feel needs to have some recognition then I tend to write a new tweet with my thoughts, the link, then ‘via @name‘. Come on, it’s not hard to take 10 seconds to do.  It’s just laziness to Retweet other people all day and a personalised tweet has so much more value, both to you and the original linker.

Be valuable.

Add some value to your twitter stream by posting links that are genuinely interesting, reducing the amount of waffle and posting intelligent thoughts rather than just ‘At work’. Granted, I’m no stranger to tweeting absolute rubbish, but try to be valuable in your tweeting generally, without being too noisy.

Space your Tweets.

There are, and always will be, extremely noisy people on Twitter. You will find it hard to imagine how they get anything done in between tweeting every 2 minutes.  If you space out your tweets you will give people time to react, resulting in your tweets both gaining reactions and credibility.  Another Golden Rule: If you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing.

Never Use Auto DMs

I follow you because I have done the research and I’m genuinely interested in your tweets. I then get an auto DM spamming my inbox telling me to check out your site etc etc. This doesn’t need to happen. I click unfollow almost without fail after an auto DM.

Don’t use people

These tweeters who are desperate for numbers are trying to cash in on Twitter’s potential the fast and easy way.  There is a disgusting amount of ‘Please RT this, Please Digg this, Please Float this, Please abuse-your-followers-and-spam-them-with-my-stuff-every-time-I-make-a-blog-post‘ going around.  If you provide good content I will pimp it myself. Don’t spam me!

Provide Good Content and they will come.

I think this is the most important aspect. Just use Twitter sensibly, post your intelligent thoughts, post links you think are cool or worthy, follow people who influence you and you will gain twitter followers. It won’t happen overnight, but there are more important things in this world that that little number under your avatar.


Twitter is free to use whatever way you want so take my advice or ignore it. Follow me @paddydonnelly only if you want, but don’t be pressured and controlled by this numbers game that has reared it’s ugly head.

Holographic World

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Watched this with my architect girlfriend. We both were amazed. I think this is the future.

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Top 10 IMD Portfolios

Friday, March 6th, 2009

In an effort to ‘give back’ [cheesy phrase I know] to the degree that got me to where I am today, I wanted to pass on some words of wisdom to the current year group. Interactive Multimedia Design, a primarily web design focused degree offered at the University of Ulster in Belfast, continues to produce a steady stream of top quality web designers each year.


The students recently had to submit a portfolio site to promote themselves and their skills, so I thought I would display my chosen top 10 out of the 90 strong class to give them some praise and exposure for their work.  I didn’t judge them on any particular aspect but simply on overall quality, design and unique appeal. Hopefully the remarks I make about each will be of use to both the rest of the class and other web designers.

So in reverse order…

#10 – Chris Fearon



> Interesting design, a break from the norm.
> Chosen typeface and spacing indicates a sense of professionalism.
> Unique name is a selling point.



> The ‘tag cloud’ look for the about text is a bit unusual. Perhaps changing the colours instead of size to pull out the key words would be better.
> Content could be structured more effectively, some links are hidden within the page.

#9 – Brian Burns

brian burns imd


> Clear indication of identity. This site is definitely Brian Burns’. :)
> About text is short and instantly pulled out with the blue background.
> Striking image is attention grabbing.
> Individual projects are nicely sectioned.
> Belfast Banter holding page is fantastic.
> ‘Available’ status is a nice detailed feature.

brian burns imd


> Make sure alignment is perfect on every page element. A couple of pixels off can ruin a page’s professional look.
> Could push the Twitter, Virb, Delicious links more instead of just on the footer.

#8 – Shane McAstocker

shane mcastocker


> Refreshing, unique style. It hasn’t got the usual web 2.0 vibe so it stands out from the crowd.
> Small details, like the Adobe icons in watercolour style, are also good ways to subtly push Shane’s style.
> Twitter status’ prominent location will encourage people to follow.

shane mcastocker


> The ‘tweet tweet’ image could link to your twitter profile.
> Instead of scribbling out the active page link on the navigation you could circle it so it’s still readable.
> More alignment of the links at the bottom of the page keeps visual consistency.

#7 – Jonny Campbell

jonny campbell


> Clear, professional and clean layout.
> ‘About text’ length and size are perfect. Including a funny remark puts the viewer at ease. Offering more details below the short intro in a much smaller font size does not overwhelm the viewer with text.
> Pushes ‘Gonzo Design’ but does not neglect ‘Jonny Campbell’.
> Including ‘In Under 150 words’ is a nice idea, puts the viewer at ease before starting a long piece of text.

jonny campbell


> Strikethrough on visited links is a good idea for lists where you need to see where you’ve been, e.g. list of blog posts. Should not be used on navigation as people will come back to click multiple times.
> Perhaps larger images of your projects in the ‘work’ section, they should really speak for themselves with very little text.

#6 – Ryan Carlin

big panda


> Fun branding with the Panda, memorable.
> Great use of icons to illustrate your key points. Love the Panda ears through the helmet. :)
> Simple colour scheme is a plus.

big panda


> Too much text on the homepage. Should limit it to a few choice words with a ‘read more’ link.
> The capitalisation and 3 exclamation marks on the YOU!!! makes it look a little unprofessional along with the rest of the text, which is perfectly worded.
> The ‘check it out’ buttons could be improved visually.

#5 – Paul Wilsdon

paul wilsdon


> One page layout is a nice change among the other portfolios.
> Simply using black and white is refreshing.
> I like the visual style with things like ‘By 2010 Digital Advertising…’. You’re saying a lot by just structuring the text in a creative way.

paul wilsdon


> Scrolling could be smoother, would give it a nice finish and not make the viewer uneasy about using a different method of navigation.
> Perhaps the change in typeface is too drastic. Could be a better choice for the section headings.
> Could align up the text fields on the contact form.

#4 – Ciaran McGettigan

ciaran mcgettigan


> Love the header, makes your name very memorable which is a big factor in a portfolio site.
> Automatic appearing contact panel is a great idea, saves the user from losing the page they are currently on.
> Cow icon is nice, adds a little bit of fun to the site. :)
> By using few colours and a clean look you allow people to focus on the content.

ciaran mcgettigan


> Could perhaps make the navigation stand out a little more, perhaps with subtle rollovers.
> Seems to be nothing in the footer, perhaps you could put in contact details here also.
> You are missing a couple of link images on the right hand side links.

#3 – Caroline Smith

caroline smith


> Fantastic subliminal messaging with the word ‘Beautiful’ in huge type. A great change from typical words usually found to describe web design.
> Striking homepage content, all done with text, subtle colours and gradients and not one screenshot. Well done.
> Portfolio showreel is effective.
> ‘Hire Me’ as a section heading is a great idea, stands out to potential employers.

caroline smith


> Maybe make some distinction between the three call to action buttons on the homepage. Tell the user where you want them to go first by highlighting that button in particular otherwise they will always go for the leftmost one if they are all the same.
> The dark brown links and pinkish rollovers are a bit hard to read.

#2 – Suzy Johnston

suzy johnston


> Has to be the simplest site of the top ten. Amazing what you can achieve if you strip it back to the basics. Very effective.
> Fantastic use of space, especially above your name, makes it really stand out well.
> Large but light titles are perfect.
> Great self promotion in your footer.

suzy johnston


> A tiny piece of text with each project, even as a transparent rollover on the image would perhaps help out viewers.
> Apart from that it’s perfect. :)

#1 – SkipSkap

I had to choose SkipSkap as the number one portfolio. It’s superbly designed, very memorable and achieves everything it should.



> Getting your name out there straight away in the centre of the homepage, will be remembered.
> Great branding with the name and logo, also very memorable, and fun to say. SkipSkap!
> Contact form design is great.
> Ripped up image on homepage is very unique.
> Colour scheme and background textures are really well suited.
> Choice of font and style are very professional.



> Too much text on the about page. Strip it back to exactly what employers will want to know and pull out key words with colour.

Information to Everyone

Well that took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I think it was great to see what talent there is in IMD. I had it narrowed down to about 20 earlier and then scaled that back to a top 10. It was tough job and there are many other sites in the class that have fantastic features. These top 10 however have a great mixture of everything and deserve the credit in my opinion.

These choices are of course my opinion and everyone else would make different decisions about the best portfolio sites. I tried to make most of the suggested improvements useful for everybody.


If you want to find out more about the Masters course you can read either my blog post or Lee Munroe’s to find out some of our opinions and thoughts.

Talk to Me

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PaddyDonnelly and if any of you who weren’t chosen want me to talk about their site then just email me I’ll be more than glad to give my thoughts on how to improve.

How Do You Twitter: Mr Tweet?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009


Before you ask I have to tell you, yes, Mr Tweet is an actual owl. A 6 foot owl with a very smart shirt and tie. I had the pleasure of interviewing the legendary recommender in all his feathery glory. Here’s what he had to say about Twitter!

Who are you Mr Tweet? (In 140 characters or less :p)

mr tweet
Your personal networking agent, recommending you great people, and of course, recommending YOU to great people. All in all, helping you kick ass. (did i make it in 140?)

How exactly do you work? All complicated algorithms I’m sure but could you explain it to us simple folk?

mr tweet
Well, first and foremost, I think all our users are much smarter than we are. The smart comments and feedback constantly reiterate this again and again!

1) Essentially, we look at what you are tweeting, following to “guess” what your personal interests are.
2) Then we look at what everyone else is tweeting, following to assess who are the great people who are either reputable or sharing good content.

The most mainstream example I can think of is Amazon recommendations. As a side note, recommendations consists of a very significant driver of revenue for them. The vast majority of systems today drive people towards the “popular”, whether it is in terms of content (digg, tweetmeme) or people (check out Twitter’s suggested users feature).

We believe less in popularity, but much much more in personalized relevance. You can see more examples in Influence is in the eye of the audience, (not the beholder) and my Interview with Leo Laporte on MrTweet.

You have over 100,000 followers. Amazing! How did you grow to where you are now?

mr tweet
Haha, sorry to disappoint you, but there is no magic answer here. Mainly via word of mouth. Our users have been extremely active in recommending us to their friends, providing recommendations, etc.

Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?

mr tweet
I am 100% sure we will still be. Just who will be tweeting, and how often they will be tweeting. A quick scan of the landscape unveils sharp divides across both dimensions.

You have the average moms who are absolutely addicted to Twitter. You have social media folks who sign up, but do not use it ever again. You have the actors who use their “followers” to broadcast, and keep their “following’ list relatively clean.

The traditional definition of “mainstream'” users is already completely undermined. Twitter will be around forever, but it is impossible to predict in what form or shape.

Can a big name brand really be trusted when using Twitter and social media in general?

mr tweet
Haha, depends on who is tweeting and using social media, and how much power they get. Right now, some brands are on Twitter mainly to do damage control (if someone big complains, better respond. If someone small complains, who the $%^& cares). Some are on Twitter to really identify and solve problems for all users.

It is very early, and hence hard to tell who belongs where, but I think it will soon become more clear.

What are your thoughts on the power of the ‘Retweet’?

mr tweet
Very interesting, but vastly misjudged in the way people are looking at it now. A simplistic measure of “how many retweets @ABC gets” is completely wrong. For example, someone who built a big network regardless of tactics, post sensationalist postings (“McCain found with male hooker”) regardless of substance, and posts a lot will make it up the list, and fast

Internally, we are very careful to use this as a measure. It is much more important who RTs something.

Is there a Mrs Tweet? :)

mr tweet
Haha. Yes. we will reveal their identities in due time.

Do you feel we are losing our ‘real life’ social skills with the rise in social media?

mr tweet
Not at all. I still have coffee with real friends. Social media facilitates the ability to create and maintain weak ties, which means you are not very close, but does not necessarily mean that there is no value in there. In fact, if you look at this classic 1973 sociology paper by Mark Granovetter, most value is being driven by weak ties.

Do you have any exciting plans for 2009?

mr tweet
Haha, we think they are very exciting, but ultimately users will tell us whether these are exciting. =)   Will unveil them soon!

You make thousands of recommendations every second. Who would be your number one recommendation though?

mr tweet
On a purely personal basis, i think @andrew_chen has the best tweets on web apps and entrepreneurship. But once again, it is all about personal relevance. =).


Mr Tweet! It was an absolute pleasure to chat to you. I personally have found so many brilliant twitterers through following you. If you want to have some [amazingly relevant] recommendations then follow MrTweet.

Further Interviews

I’ve interviewed a whole host of other Internet gurus over the past few weeks including Guy Kawasaki, Tim O’Reilly, ProBlogger, Smashing Magazine and Chris Coyier so don’t forget to check them out.

Be sure and follow me at @paddydonnelly if you want to find out first about the next exciting Twitter interview.