5 Descriptions of What Makes a Great Tweet on Twitter

What Makes a Great Tweet

This Actually is My 20,000th Tweet

This post is actually going to mark my 20,000th tweet on Twitter since I joined back on November 1st, 2007. Over that period of 5 years I have tweeted approximately 10 times a day, from 3 different countries, on 3 different continents, posted approximately 1,000 original images, and 1,000 original blog posts, while following around 1,000 unique very specific individuals. In honor of this pointless historical marker I have published my next list, 50 Reasons Why I Still Love Twitter, and give you 5 examples of what makes up my favorite tweets below. By the way, the Twitter favorites (star) is the greatest ever feature of twitter, and you can even create your own rss feed for your favorites list.

Twitter as an Essential Tool

Twitter has become an essential tool of our culture, and that’s where Twitter gets it’s power, it’s a tool, and a useful one. My very first post about Twitter on my blog back in 2008 asked just that question, Is Twitter Really a Useful Tool for Your Business? While that post is now far outdated, at the time, I really didn’t know the answer to that question. Back then people would tell me I don’t want to know what you are having for lunch, but now Twitter can facilitate changes to governments like we saw in Egypt and elsewhere, it’s gone beyond expectations. Many still choose to ignore it’s significance, but the power of Twitter has an almost undeniable usefulness the world has never seen.

What Makes a Great Tweet

So what makes a great tweet? Harvard Business Review did this study on just that very subject, and provided their results in this superb graphic shown above on what makes a great tweet and what makes the worst tweet. Overall, their conclusions seem to be spot on, but it can also be summed up in saying the overall best tweet is one that leads to something else. It provides some useful piece of information, or some unique insight such as this post I came across yesterday, What Would Peter Tweet?, and then leads the reader to take some action. So here are five descriptions that makes an overall great tweet.

  1. One that calls you to an action of some kind
    This can be anything from going to buy a pair of shoes from Toms because they do good things to doing the mundane
  2. A tweet that sends you to something bigger than the tweet itself
    Many times this can be as simple as providing a link to a book that the majority of your readers may not be familiar with, often this is a link to a news article or a blog post that will send the reader off to another site other than twitter
  3. A message that gives the reader some unique insight into your own personal life
    Too many tweets are party line tweets, whatever that party line is for you. It could be theology, it could be politics, or just pick something, but this is meaningless without being able to get to know the writer. All business and no play makes for a boring repetitive tweets.
  4. One that asks a question of the reader
    It doesn’t have to be a hard question, it just needs to invoke a response from the reader. This can be totally overdone, but this creates interaction, and that creates community, and Twitter is a community of followers and followees.
  5. One that shares a general piece of knowledge or information
    This is the biggie for me. There is so much noise on the internet and in the world today. Provide me with some useful knowledge about my faith, about the world we live in, about how other people live, about different unfamiliar communities. Twitter’s greatest power comes from its free flow sharing of information and knowledge, and this is the great advantage to society as a whole.

The worst tweets, totally not worth reading, are those that are complaining about something else or someone else. I personally can’t stand reading tweets from my followers who only say what’s wrong with this person or that (even if that actually is the case), and I will often quickly unfollow that user. Give us some insight into your life, in a positive way, and send us on our way better than when we came.

Some Recent Examples of Great Tweets

Those are just a few examples of great tweets from my most recent favorites list, and there you have it. My 20,000th tweet 740 words instead of 140 characters. Coincidentally, much of what makes a great tweet also makes a great blog post as well, but that’s for another day.

Look in the Rearview Mirror God is Pursuing a Relationship With You

I love this shot, it just feels like my life over the past few months, and it makes a great photo of the day today. I took this shot with my iPhone on the way to work in the rain a few weeks ago, and in a blur of motion, when I looked in the mirror this fog and bright sun filled the road behind me. It reminded me right then that God is chasing me, pursuing me to a deeper relationship with Him, not to be able to get more things checked off my to-do list. It’s a constant battle to slow down when we live in one of the fastest paced cultures in the world, but the second I took this shot that’s what I felt. Not that God couldn’t catch up with me, but that I was trying to outrun God in some way.

Thanks be to God that He is always pursuing His people, even when we are trying to run away, whether on purpose or just from being too busy. In real brief theological terms, we call this sanctification, or the process of being made into God’s likeness (see Romans 8.26-30). All throughout Scripture this is what it tells us, over and over again, God is in fast pursuit of His people. One place this is evident in particular is in John 17 in the middle of the High Priestly Prayer. Jesus is praying for us, in pursuit of us starting in verse 9 He says “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me… keep them in your name… I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost… keep them from the evil one… sanctify them in the truth… so even as we are one, they may be one.”

How great is that, to know that Jesus actually prayed for his people, and is continuing to pursue us every day. The flip side of course is when we continue to ignore that relationship, and continue to try to outrun God’s pursuit. Still, we are assured that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” and intercedes for us just when we need it.

The Management and Passage of Time Measured in Breaths

I was tasked months ago at work with completing a plan of how I spend my time, and visioning for the future. It has taken me a while to do this, and I’m still not totally done, but I finished a section of it this week. Typically I have never really been the best at time management, and that’s mainly because I’m a rabbit chaser (which has it’s own great benefits as well), but the busier I get the more important it has become. Everyone’s week is carved out into three 56 hours segments that roughly translate into Work, Home-Life, and Sleep, which then makes up one 168 hour week. I like to think of time not in minutes, or hours, but in breaths, given to us by God, and if given to us by God, I’m continually asking myself, what am I doing that is not honoring that breath I just took?

Scripture of course spends a great deal of it’s text dealing with time, and about the brevity of life on earth on this side of eternity. Moses wrote in Psalm 90.12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” and Paul in Romans 13.11 says “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed,” just to name two. Time is mentioned about 750 times in the Bible, and money (as currency) is mentioned only about 150 times, so Scripture is packed full of wisdom about time and how we spend it.

With this in mind, using time, or spending time, should be a huge focus on our life. I have attempted to look at this a few different ways. One is by doing the Life Plan Hyatt has presented on his site, and the other is to simply map out how my time is spent each week, and each day of the week (this was actually a segment of the Life Plan by Hyatt).

With this actually written down, it is possible to eliminate things that are unnecessary, not beneficial, or not Biblical. It is also an eyeopener to see how much time we actually do spend in pursuit of God (or how little), and to see if our plans and goals line up with our time. You may not need to see how your time is spent, but for me, as a professional rabbit chaser, it helped quite a bit to make sure my priorities line up as God first, family second, and ministry third. In attempt to be quite open, for what it’s worth, here is how my full week came out. For the spontaneous people out there they might be about to throw up, but for the easily distracted like me, it was well worth the time to look at this in a more serious way.

So, what did I actually learn from this little section? These are ten totally random items that I got out of looking at my own time.

  • It’s important to go through the steps of writing out what you spend your time doing
  • Evaluate this often and see how it can be improved
  • Eliminate things that are not beneficial to God’s plan for your life
  • Do not do tasks, even though they may be good, that distract
  • Try not to chase so many rabbits
  • Stay focused
  • Do not put more than you can do on your calendar, put less
  • Allow for open time that doesn’t have anything scheduled
  • Learn to say no
  • Observe the Sabbath, it’s meant for our own rest, God doesn’t need the rest, we do

Ministering to the Church At the Expense of the Family

This is an old topic, but one that never goes away, for good reason. Below is basically an excerpt from an assignment in one of my evangelism classes on Servant-Leadership and innovations in the Church, and also serves as a very short review of the book InnovateChurch by Jonathan Falwell. In a three part discussion on leadership, this was topic number one, learning how to minister to the church, but not at the expense of your family.

There are four non-negotiable commitments presented by Jonathan Falwell in InnovateChurch that pastors (and I would add church staff) need to make to themselves, and to God, for effective leadership in the church. As an administrative staff member I will admit, the one I found most difficult to keep is number two: I will not minister to my church at the expense of my family. On the surface, this probably sounds like an easy one to keep, and when I entered into ministry work in 2008 I was committed to this very statement right from the start.

In fact, if your ministry is to be more successful, however that is quantified, it must start with managing your household well. (1 Tim 3.5) There are a few basic things that have kept me focused on the proper balance, or margin if you will. It doesn’t always work in ministry as something, or someone, can always quickly pull you right back in with an “important” issue, or something that needs to be completed right away if you are not diligent.

  1. It is important to make our priorities line up properly, as stated in InnovateChurch
  2. God should be first, our family second, and our ministry third.[1] Saying or writing this isn’t good enough. This actually has to be lived out, and as such, will be proof of its importance in our lives.  How are we making God our first priority? How are we managing our household well, and where do we need to change or improve what we are doing day by day.

  3. We have to learn how to manage our time well
  4. This means learning how to say no without feeling guilty about saying no, even if it is something important. Often times in church ministry, everything is of the utmost importance, mainly because it is most important to the person asking. We cannot get into the habit of allowing our schedule or calendar to control our life in idol-like fashion.

  5. We have to learn how to focus on a few things we do well, and let the others go

This means learning how to delegate without looking back. Learning how to give tasks away is hard, especially if they will not be done as well as if we did them ourselves. This includes learning how to enlist volunteers, and building teams of people who can accomplish what we can’t simply because we can’t work 24 hours a day. Rarely is one person only gifted with the ability to do only one task, but God has gifted us with the ability to do a few things very well. This strikes in the face of our multi-tasking 21st century culture, but delegating allows us to focus on those things we can do very well, or are at least our highest priority.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means of course. I do know that when I have built in margin, giving time to my family, I am more productive, and better focused as a staff member. Sometimes that means the most important place I can be, especially in the evening, is in that chair next to Deborah (and Ebby) in our living room.

[1] Jonathan Falwell, ed., Innovate Church, ed. Jonathan Falwell (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 14.

I AM Lenten Reader, Bread of Life :: Lent Day 5

Today our reading comes from the common book of prayer. In case you are wondering why I am on day 5 and the reader is on day 6, I am just going by the traditional “40 days” of Lent, which does not include the Sunday’s of Lent. I did it this way because there is no reading for the day on that day, it’s in the service and I’m also not posting a blog post.

Day 5 :: Friday, March 14, 2011, Bread of Life

Gracious Father, Whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world:
Evermore give us this bread, that He may live in us, and we in Him;
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)

Read John 6:1-15. In this passage, Jesus is providing for a physical necessity of the people who are following Him. Begin this week by worshiping God for His provision in your life.

Contemplation Over Day 5

It’s amazing how we look to Jesus for our physical needs when ultimately he was there for our spiritual eternity. Just a little bit farther down in John’s gospel, in John 6:26, Jesus says “I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves”, and often that is what we need from Jesus, to be fed and have our physical needs met. But once those physical needs are met, Jesus offers us so much more.

Living in the United States has given us what many in other countries do not have, a security in our daily physical needs, but it isn’t the government or an employer that provides us with those physical needs, even if we are trained by our culture today to think so. While it’s wonderful our physical needs for the most part are met, it doesn’t leave much room for God, nor do I think it gives us much of a reason to give God thanks for our daily needs.

Today I try to recognize that all of our physical and spiritual needs are fulfilled by God alone.

I AM Lenten Reader, Journaling :: Lent Day 4

Day 4 :: Friday, March 11, 2011, Journaling

Journaling has been a practice throughout the history of the church. Prophets, philosophers, theologians wrote down their thoughts as they sought to understand God and grow in their relationship with Him. Throughout scripture, God commanded people to write things down and keep a record of what He had done so that the coming generations would know what He had done.

Psalm 119:15-16 says, I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Journaling is active meditation on the Word of God and what He is doing in your life.

When we make a practice of journaling, it not only allows us to remember what God has done in our life, but also gives us the opportunity to reflect upon what He has done. It reminds us of His faithfulness throughout our life and serves as a tool in the growth of our relationship with Him.

Journaling is a discipline, and it may take some time to get into a good habit. This reader is a tool for you to develop the practice of journaling. There is space throughout this book for you to write your thoughts, prayers, confessions and ideas.

Take time now to begin the practice of journaling.

Contemplation Over Day 4

Journaling is something I have tried to do for many years now, but it’s also something that takes effort, time, and discipline. Journaling is quite close to blogging so it’s something I talk about with people all the time and the biggest reason I hear why people don’t do this is (1) I have nothing to say anyone would want to read (or I just have nothing to say), and (2) I don’t have time to just sit and write. Both of those reasons are quite valid but I could probably make a pretty strong argument that neither of those reasons should keep you, or myself, from writing.

The first point is a misconception about journaling or blogging, and really the only difference between journaling and blogging is one is private and one is public. Even the most mundane points or details can and do become very interesting months down the road. One reason to write down your thoughts is to specifically go back after some time has passed and reflect on your own thoughts. You will be amazed at what details you found to be important enough to write down at the time. The only regret I have in my own journaling process (and it is a process to get into the habit of writing) is not writing more, and more often.

Besides the two points listed above, the words of the Lenten Reader today couldn’t be more accurate. For me, gradually over the years, writing down my questions and thoughts about my faith have become a wonderful way to better understand my own faith, and what God’s word has to say directly to me at any given point in time. Jonathan Edwards was a master at this, and I have learned quite a bit from Edwards on how to journal, but you don’t have to be Edwards to write.

Some suggestions I might make for getting started would be:

  • Start off slow, try to write a little each day
  • Write down raw thoughts and questions
  • Use whatever format is easiest and fastest (pen and paper or digital)
  • Don’t worry about grammar or spelling
  • Write for yourself, not filtered for what others might think

Journaling is certainly a slow, long, continuous process that takes effort to develop, but is so well worth the time it takes. I have been working on this habit for years and feel like I have only scratched the surface.

Processing Life Like Watson on Jeopardy or World Community Grid

This is sort of a quasi review slash life contemplation post, and really ended up just being a really random article, so stick with it, but I still don’t promise a coherent application at the end this time.  The title could just as easily been “How Can We Harness our Power for God’s Glory”, so maybe this is just part 1 or maybe I’m just rambling today.

A while back when Watson won on Jeopardy! (video) I watched as each “person” explained a little about the charity they would donate their winnings to if they won. IBM was to donate 100% of their winnings to a group called World Community Grid (a “charity” actually run and sponsored by IBM, so in essence they gave their $1 million winnings to themselves, but that’s another post, see also their wiki-page).

Since Watson won I have been running a pseudo test-run on the World Community Grid (WCG) system, which helps non-profits process images to fight cancer, find water to drill a well, and so on, by using the unused processing power of an idle computer user. This is almost identical to the early SETI@home project that was so popular about 10 years ago and now processes things like FightAIDS@home and “Computing for Clean Water”.

It’s a fantastic idea. Use the unused and idle time on a computer’s processor to crunch gigantic data streams that single computers just can’t do and are extremely expensive to run on mainframe computers. After running their system on a few different computers for several weeks my short personal pros/cons for WCG are:

  • The system is unobtrusive
  • Runs in the background
  • Is customizable to your computer’s system requirements
  • Does help fight cancer etc but it’s “in the cloud” and impersonal
  • Uses a TON more system resources than normal use (more heat, wear and tear etc)

Can We Harness Our Time and Mind Like WCG?

I still think this is such a great idea for computers that are just sitting there doing nothing almost all of the time, but so is donating those computers to non-profits that REALLY need them? This reminded me of the Toomer’s Oaks when over $30,000 was raised in a few days and thousands and thousands rallied for a few trees.  It came up during the the conversations that week as well. Can’t we somehow utilize or harness this pent up man-power or money for something REALLY productive like fighting the underage sex trade going on all over the world or helping people in our own state who need food?

That’s what brought me to WCG.  They do this.  So why can’t we as people, as followers of Christ, do what WCG is doing with computers? I quickly came to at least a few reasons why we can’t do this.

  1. There is No Down Time at All – I really think this is something that we, especially as Christians, need to build into our life, margin. We can use all our extra spare unused processing brain power or time to do great things but that leaves no margin in our life whatsoever.
  2. Eventually We Would Overheat – my test computers never overheated but they were averaging cpu temps around 175*F with cooling fans blowing at 2,000+ RPM’s continually, 24-7, heating up the casings, monitors, etc.  Eventually we would overheat, or burn out.  Burnout is something we should fight against all the time, it robs us of times we can be productive.
  3. Just Because it Works on a Computer – I heard a podcast sermon recently that said one of the greatest tragedies in our culture today is our school teaching children they are just pieces of matter thrown together that happened to form a human being. As advanced as science is now, we are unique, individually special people, made in God’s image, we are not random pieces of matter or even computers.

So I guess my ultimate question is one I have asked myself for years now. How can we utilize the power of the Internet, social media, our spare time, to glorify God, and do so in a way that makes an impact on someone else’s life for Christ, so they will in turn do the same?

What's Saint Valentine's Day Minus Commercialization?

So it’s Valentine’s Day again, and while I would like to say I go all out on Valentine’s Day, I usually do not.  Not only that, but I am also not a gift buyer for this day, and much of it specifically has to do with how commercialized every single possible holiday day has become.  There is no man alive in this country that has an excuse for forgetting this holiday, or any holiday, at this point, we have been bombarded since New Year’s that this day was coming.  I hate force buying something that isn’t really asked for in the first place, and is usually something over-manufactured for cheap pennies overseas (made in China).

So if you take away the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, where did the day come from and why do we celebrate it?  As is now standard in our post-mondern society, we have taken a day once commemorating a specific day on the Christian calendar and turned it into cheap plastic toys for lack of a better phrase.

Started in A.D. 496 by Pope Gelasius I (and then later deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI), it was originally placed on the calendar on February 14th to “celebrate” the martyrdom of Saint Valentine (or Valentinus in Latin) the Patron of Love, which was actually around 14 different martyrs, not one specific person or saint. The total number of martyred saints is not completely known, and the reasons for their deaths range as well. First written about in Nuremberg, Saint Valentine supposedly was caught marrying Christian couples who were being persecuted by under Emperor Claudius in Rome (which was a crime). He was then imprisoned, where he also gained almost 50 converts to Christianity before he was executed.

So there you have it. Nothing to do with a box of chocolates, stuffed animals from Walmart, or pajamas from TV mail order.

Some may call it cheap, but I will make a public “Happy Valentine’s Day” wish to the true love of my life, Deborah.  I hope I can live out the remainder of our days together as the husband you expect me to be, always ready to show you the love you deserve.  Even though I didn’t buy you a box of chocolates today, I still love you very much.

Tick Tock Goes the Clock by Jacques Marciano :: Poem

Today I have a guest author, one of my nephews (published here under my given pen name for him), graciously offered one of his poems for this Saturday sidenote post. After reading several of his poems I realized that poetry is certainly not dependent on age for elegance and beauty.  My first thought was, not bad at all for a 12 year old poet, but I am not sure age has anything to do with well written poetry.  When Edgar Allan Poe wrote “To Helen” in 1831 he was only 14 years old, and it still to this day it is referred to by some as one of the greatest American lyrical poems ever written.

Tick Tock Goes the Clock was the first of several he offered, which will probably grace these pages for the next few Saturday’s.  I am sure he would appreciate any comments you might want to leave.

Tick Tock Goes the Clock

Tick tock goes the clock,
Twenty-four hours in a day.
Tick tock goes the clock,
Little time do we have to play.
Tick tock goes the clock,
Working, toiling, and laboring.
Tick tock goes the clock,
Getting up in early this morning,
Tick tock goes the clock.
Every second just flies away,
Tick tock goes the clock
Watching the sun’s bright leaving rays,
Tick tock goes the clock.

Photo-Video Year in Review for 2009

2009 was a busy year that saw a lot of changes in our household.  Throughout each month of each year for the past 15-18 years or so I have taken photos every chance I get, but it has only been in the past several years where I have taken photos of just about everything my wife and I do as we go about the year.  This puts a new perspective on the year when you look back at an entire year of photos and see what all we were able to do.

People often think you need special equipment or expertise to be a good photographer, and in some cases that is probably true, but for every day events, any picture is better than no picture.  Most cell phones have cameras now and they are around the 2MP range which is certainly good enough to shoot a passing smile.  In fact, a good majority of the photos you will see in the video below came right out of my iPhone camera.  It has taken some practice but I have gotten very good results with just using my iPhone camera, and there are many photographers that have made a point to compose a gallery here and there using their iPhone camera.

This video below is a combination of about 1,200 photos over about a 5 minute period, hope you enjoy it, happy new year to everyone.  If you want to watch the video in a larger window just click 2009 Year End Photo-Video.