Twitter Madness! – a unique case-study

On Friday, 29th of April – Etisalat Misr announced a competition directed to Twitter users, the rules were very simple – use the #moretolife hashtag as much as you can “without SPAM” and the person with the most number of tweets by 5:00pm May 11th will be the winner.

As a social media strategist, I decided to enter this competition as a field experiment and address 2 issues, the competition itself, and the madness of Twitter-scape.

1) Choice of the #moretolife hashtag
Any competition should have a goal, usually this goal mainly benefits the owner (the brand) in some way and adds some value to the community through awareness, culture, charity, cause …etc. in Etisalat’s case, this could have been true if the campaign was mentioning @EtisalatMisr instead of the slogan #moretolife so as to increase followers or brand awareness, or they could have launched a parallel campaign offline using traditional media, and used a hashtag to promote this campaign.
However, the choice of #moretolife added no value to anyone, it didn’t relate directly to the brand, it didn’t increase awareness, and there was no rule to use the hashtag in a creative way so as to promote the Etisalat slogan – simply it was a meaningless choice.

2) Competition Duration
Have this type of competition over an extended period of time, which is 2 weeks only promotes SPAM, the top 10 were determined from the first few hours, and extending the competition more than 2 days only converted it into a game of musical chairs were the top 10 are exchanging ranks over the course of the day.

3) The Rules
One of the rules was that Repeatedly using, and thus abusing, the #moretolife hashtag will be considered SPAM, well almost 940 tweeps joined in on the competition generating around 45000 tweets within the first 5 days, the top 10 alone (1%) generated 64% of the tweets (almost 26,000 tweets) – check the chart below:

Summarizr Archive for the #moretolife hashtag

The question is how can (on average) a tweet every 3min not be considered as “Repeatedly using…”? if we take the top 3 alone, they are tweeting every 1 or 2min – yet they are legitimate contestants who are considered by Etisalat as not abusing or spamming.

Another strange rule was that a contestant will be considered SPAMming if and when the #moretolife hashtag in used in blank, empty, meaningless tweets, regardless of the confusion of trying to understand the difference between blank and empty, what is the definition of meaningless? see the below random sample of tweets from the top 5 contestants (I removed the account names for anonymousness):

Random tweets from the top 5 contestants

If Etisalat had another idea for meaningless, they really had to give us examples! – and do they expect to monitor almost 10,000 tweets per day to filter out meaningless tweets anyway?

4) Legitimacy
Only one main issue remains, the legitimacy of the competition itself – according to Twitter – a person is considered to spam If you post multiple unrelated updates to a topic using #!

Now, enough said about the competition, all the above is mostly straight forward logic to anyone using Twitter, the part that really surprised me was the reaction from twitter-scape, I was expecting a mass unfollow trend, mostly throughout the duration of the competition – which did happen, but what I never expected at all, was the even greater addition of new followers – I started out with only 690 followers on Friday April 29th, 5 days later I was 773 followers strong, taking into consideration that I almost lost 100 followers during the same time-period, that’s a really remarkable phenomena!

Twitter Statistics by

The above chart shows the sudden jump in number of followers towards the right end of the chart, which is when I started to Tweet every 2min or so, another jump was in my Klout score (, which is a measurement of my overall online influence, it too jumped suddenly once I started flooding my timeline with tweets, see below:

Klout score

So the question I would ask now: is the rate of gaining new followers directly proportional to the tweet rate? I kept the type of tweets mostly the same before and after engaging into the competition, yes I lost some followers, but I gained almost double the number I lost.
The conclusion I reached is that a steady and constant flow of tweets throughout the day is a guaranteed formula for gaining a good number of followers, of course 2min between tweets is extreme, but I would recommend around 10~20min between tweets (100~140 tweets daily) as a good rate.

I also highly recommend reading the post Social Media Use or Abuse? by Doha Shawky which is also related to the same topic. – by the way, I’m stopping my participation in the competition, not because I’m losing, I’m actually in the top 5 since the start, and stopped when I was in 3rd place  but because this is Twitter Madness 🙂

Visual Direction in Web Design

One of the big secrets of design is learning how to guide the visual direction of viewers; This principle is often overlooked by even the most experienced designers, so today we’re going to take a deeper look at how it works. Visual direction is controlling the eye movement of the user; this can be achieved by carefully selecting your images and by well-placed and aligned design elements.

It is greatly established that the default eye movement throughout the page (in an LTR – Left to Right – layout) is from the top left towards the bottom right, however; this can’t be further from the truth, by arranging the composition elements in a certain way, a designer can control and force the movement of the viewer’s eyes in and around the layout of the design. For example, the eye will travel along an actual path such as solid or dotted line, or it will move along more subtle paths such as from large elements to little elements, from dark elements to lighter elements, from color to non-color, from unusual shapes to usual shapes, etc. Graduation of size, and repeated shapes and size of related elements subtly leads the eye as well.

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Concept and Inspiration: Design Theory for Web Designers

Why Developing a Concept Matters in Web Design…

In my last article, The Gestalt Principle: Design Theory for Web Designers, we established the need to start any design with the containing shell design first before going into the details, in this part we will discuss the methodology of coming up with a shell design.

Any containing shape should have a concept behind it – but sadly, lots of designers focus only on a nice-looking shape that really has no meaning behind it. Or worse, they design an entire website based on pre-existing frameworks without even a moment’s thought for how an original design might bring some real meaning to the project.

“Truly great design has meaning behind it – it’s not just pretty shapes, filters or typography – each element should actually say something about the underlying project.”

At this stage, if you followed the methodology of creative requirements gathering (How to Get the Right Creative Requirements From Your Client), you should have enough input to build upon and work out what container shape or style your design will fit in.

Start By Collecting a Library of Reference Images

One of the easiest and simplest ways to find ideas is to have asked your client to give you some keywords to describe how he wants people to feel about his site…. energetic, fresh, young, solid….etc, by simply entering these keywords in any image search such as Google or Bing.

Choosing from these images the ones you like, you will easily find yourself with a large library of brainstorming ideas to start from…

Read the full article here:

How to Get the Right Creative Requirements From Your Client

Getting the correct creative requirements from your client can often be one of the biggest hurdles in any creative project… but it seems to be an especially difficult task in the field of web design, where clients often know a lot less about their actual needs for a website than we tend to give them credit for. Today’s article examines how to get accurate, meaningful, and actionable creative requirements from your clients.

There is a classic case in which the tenants of a large office building complained about the increasingly poor elevator service. A consulting firm specializing in elevator-related problems was employed to deal with the situation. It first established that average waiting time for elevators was too long. It then evaluated the possibilities of adding elevators, replacing existing elevators with faster ones, and introducing computer controls to improve utilization of elevators. For various reasons, none of these turned out to be satisfactory. The engineers declared the problem to be unsolvable.

When exposed to the problem, a young psychologist employed in the building’s personnel department made a simple suggestion that dissolved the problem. Unlike the engineers who saw the service as too slow, he saw the problem as one deriving from the boredom of those waiting for an elevator. So he decided they should be given something to do. He suggested putting mirrors in the elevator lobbies to occupy those waiting by enabling them to look at themselves and others without appearing to do so. The mirrors were put up and complaints stopped. In fact, some of the previously complaining tenants congratulated management on improvement of the elevator service.

Read full article here:

The Gestalt Principle: Design Theory for Web Designers

The way that people see our designs strongly effects the meaning that they take away from them. The Gestalt Principle examines this phenomena; As such, it’s one of the fundamental principles that each and every web designer should consider when moving through the design process. We’ll also examine how understanding gestalt will improve your own workflow!

 Trying to come up with a good and creative design may seem easy for someone who has attended a design school, but for the 90% of web designers out there who never attended any design course or school coming mostly from either development or generally non-design backgrounds. The question still remains… what really defines a good web design? Is it just talent? A person who possesses some kind of “special” eye that knows what works out and what doesn’t? Or is there logic and scientific methodology behind all of this that can guide designers, critics and even clients into coming up with a great design.

This is part of a series of design-theory articles that will guide you through the basic principles of the design process. We’ll be focusing on the most important fundamental ideas that can make great differences in the final design.

Read the full article on Web Design Tutsplus:

A couple of development tricks

Recently a member of my team encountered 2 development problems that in my opinion are not really complicated but it seems people get stuck in such small stuff all the time so I decided to add the solution here maybe someone else might find it useful:

Trick #1. Getting several columns to adjust their height together according to the one with most content:

here we want to make the red DIV extend to the bottom of the container when the blue DIV has extra content, the simple solution to this is to structure them as follows:

<div id="container" style="background:url(X) repeat-y;">
    <div id="redDIV" style="float:left;"> your content here </div>
    <div id="blueDIV" style="float:left;"> your other content here </div>
    <div style="clear:both;"></div>

the trick is to insert a background image in place of the big red “X”  in the code that displays the background for both the red and the blue DIV, that way any content that expand either will extend the container to fit because you have a clear:both DIV after the two floating red and blue DIVs and it works all the time on every modern browser.

Trick #2.  A YouTube content widget imports video who’s titles are either in English or in Arabic, the problem here is that the font does not display nicely in both cases, if you adjust for English the Arabic looks terrible, if you adjust for Arabic the Englsh looks huge, and there is no direct or simple way to know in what language the content is in… or is there?
well actually there is, English content will be coded in ASCII codes below 128 and Arabic will be coded in higher values so the trick is to get any non-numeric random sample character from the content stream and check the ASCII code for it, if higher than 128 the it’s Arabic and you can instruct your code to inject a suitable CSS class to match the case and vice-versa for English.
For a listing of the lower ascii codes check

let me know if you have similar cases and if my solutions worked for you (or not).

Color Usability (part 2)

Back in October 2008 I wrote about color usability, and recently during my lunch break on one of my business trips I noticed the below packets:

Mayonnaise & Ketchup Packets

Mayonnaise & Ketchup Packets

I had just put Mayo on my fries and Ketchup on my salad!!!, A white Ketchup packet and a red Mayo packet… how creative! According to the Gestalt theory, the mind easily views the whole of the object without really going into details, and according to this without reading the text, I assumed red=Ketchup, white=Mayo…

I would love to know if any of you have similar or related examples to both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, drop me a comment if you do…

The beauty of Adobe Acrobat Connect



Formerly known as Macromedia Breeze, Adobe Connect is a software used to create information and general presentations, online training materials, web conferencing, learning modules, and user desktop sharing. The product is entirely Adobe Flash based. All meeting workspaces are organized into ‘pods’; with each pod performing a specific role (i.e. chat, whiteboard, note, etc.)

You can rapidly create content, deploy custom training programs that mix and reuse a variety of training activities. Create self-paced courses right from Microsoft PowerPoint using Adobe® Presenter software. You can also capture screen recordings or create interactive simulations using Adobe Captivate® software. You can also record an Adobe Acrobat® Connect™ Pro Virtual Classroom session and download and edit it for reuse as a self-paced course. Curriculums can also include external events, such as management assessments. You can track training progress and generate training reports.

Connect comes in 3 levels

  • Adobe ConnectNow currently beta and free from Adobe on site, is a great way to share ideas, discuss details, and complete work together — all online. Reduce travel costs, save time, and increase productivity with a web conferencing solution that’s easy to access and simple to use.features
    With ConnectNow, you get screen sharing, whiteboard, remote control, video conferencing, chat pod, a unique meeting room URL, up to 3 concurrent participant seats … no software to install, all you need is your browser and Flash Player 9 or later.
  • Adobe Acrobat Connect features unlimited online meetings with up to 15 participants with only 39$/month. You get Always-On personal meeting rooms, hosts can expand the viewing area for shared applications, documents, and whiteboards to fill the entire screen of participants. Hosts can choose to synchronize the view of all participants. Share presentations, videos, or applications in full-screen mode. Annotate over screen sharing using standard whiteboarding tools and shapes.features2Hosts can view who is in the meeting room in addition to the participant’s role (host, presenter, or participant) and status (whether the participant is connected). Use the convenient Start Meeting feature to start an ad hoc meeting and invite participants from within Adobe Acrobat® 8 and Adobe Reader® 8 software. Meeting hosts can control attendee permissions either before the meeting or from within the meeting room. Rights can be assigned either by using predefined roles or by using the participant’s rights feature.
  • Adobe® Acrobat® Connect™ Pro software is a flexible web communication system with strong security features that provides enterprise solutions for training, marketing, sales, and enterprise collaboration. These solutions are available as a hosted subscription service or as licensed software that can be deployed on-site, behind a firewall. Explore the capabilities of Acrobat Connect Pro Server (licensed version or hosted service) and the three Acrobat Connect Pro modules: Acrobat Connect Pro Meeting, Acrobat Connect Pro Training, and Acrobat Connect Pro Events.5-28-2009 1-37-56 AM

    Connect Pro can support as many as 1500 users, and comes in 3 service plans, a 5-user starter pack, Everything you need to get started, with a budget-conscious price tag. Includes 5 concurrent participant seats and unlimited usage (optional). Available options include Voice over IP (VoIP) Audio and broadcast video, as well as teleconferencing. A 10-user starter pack, Gives your organization the flexibility to hold larger meetings on a regular basis. Includes 10 concurrent participant seats and unlimited usage (optional). Available options include Voice over IP (VoIP) Audio and broadcast video, as well as teleconferencing. And finally, a pay-per-use plan, For occasional online meeting needs, the Pay-Per-Use plan lets you hold full-featured Acrobat Connect Pro meetings on a per-minute/per-participant basis. Price includes Voice over IP (VoIP) Audio and broadcast video. Teleconferencing is available at an additional cost.

Adobe Acrobt Connect Pro system architecture diagram

How to sell your design, and get it signed-off…

One of the most difficult steps in any design is selling that design to your clients or stakeholders and getting an approval sign-off, and it is something that I have grown to really enjoy as I have gotten older and became more experienced.

A lot of people would think that if you’ve understood your client and project well enough, made the right decisions and put lots of hard work, your design should sell itself and the meeting will go on very smooth, but as much as you would like your design to speak for itself, walking a client through the design and discussing comments always has a stronger impact and a higher probability for approval.

This article gives a few tips and tricks to help you turn this fearful step into something you would enjoy and look forward to…

read the full article on WebDesign Tuts+