While killing time the other day, I ran into a weird little “feature” on Twitter that, I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand.

Twitter's FInd FriendsAs part of their new interface, there’s a tab at the top titled “Who to Follow”, when then has a tab called “Find Friends” that allows you to hook into your Gmail (or Yahoo, MSN/Hotmail, AOL, or LinkedIn) address book to discover people that you might not know are already on Twitter. So far, so good.

So, I pop my email address in, authorize with Gmail, and let Twitter think for a moment. After a moment of thinking, I get a long list of Twitter accounts that are associated with the email addresses in my address book (most of which I was already following). Once again, so far so good — this is all what I would expect to have happen.

But as I scrolled down, things got a little more odd. I started getting hits for a bunch of people with the cryptic message, “This person is on Twitter, but isn’t yet findable by email. Let them know you’d like to follow them.” When I clicked the “Follow” button on a few of those entries, Twitter kindly let me know that it had sent a message to let them know I was interested in following them.

Not Findable?

This morning, I got a note from one of the people behind those accounts letting me know that that account was unused. They were kind enough to forward the message that Twitter sends, however:

On Jan 28, 2011 11:13 PM, “Twitter” discover-wrejneera=tznvy.pbz-5591e@postmaster.twitter.com wrote:

Michael Hanscom (@djwudi) would like to follow your tweets (@—–) on Twitter.

Michael Hanscom knows your email address: @—–@—–.com. But Twitter can’t suggest you to users like Michael Hanscom because your account (@—–) isn’t configured to let users find you if they know your email address.

So here’s what I don’t understand. These accounts are set to hide their email address, and to not be searchable by email address. This is even mentioned twice, once in the listing after Twitter read through my address book, and again in the email sent out after I hit the “Follow” button. However, that’s exactly how I found the accounts: by their email address.

Sure, Twitter isn’t showing me the account name, so I can’t follow directly. Instead, I have to send a request, and the account owner then has to approve (or disapprove) the request. It does, however, let me know that there is a Twitter account associated with that email address…which seems to run counter to the intent of the account owners who have set their accounts to not be findable by email address.

Is this a bug? A feature? A privacy concern? Or is there something that I’m just not grokking, and this actually makes perfect sense and is how things should work?

Anybody want to toss their two cents in the ring (yes, mixed metaphor, I know)?

My Google account just got set up with Google Buzz, the new social networking addition to Google’s stable. One of the first things I noticed was that this could be a recipe for inbox overload, as every new reply to something I’ve posted or replied to ends up as a new message in my inbox.

Inbox Overload

Simple solution: set up a filter. Here’s the settings I used…

  1. Click the “Create a filter” option just to the right of the search box and related buttons towards the top of the screen.

    Create a Filter

  2. Enter “Buzz” in the “Subject” field of the filter options box, then run a test search. Unfortunately, this will catch any message that uses the word “buzz” in the subject line, and from my testing, neither adding a colon (“Buzz:”) or surrounding the word with quotation marks makes a difference. I can’t currently find a way to force the filter to grab only messages that begin with the word “Buzz” so caveat emptor. If your test search looks acceptable, click “Next Step”.

    As has been pointed out to me by a few people, and posted here: Enter “label:buzz” in the “Has the words:” field of the options box. Google will pop up a warning, but go ahead and ignore it.

    Filter Options Screen One

  3. In the next screen, activate “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)” and “Apply the label:”, then create a new label titled “Buzzes” (or whatever you want, but you can’t use “Buzz”). If you want, click the checkbox to apply the filter retroactively to the messages caught by the filter’s test run. Then click “Create Filter”.

    Filter Options Screen Two

  4. You’re done!

From now on, rather than getting flooded with inbox messages every time a new Buzz response pops up, you’ll have a little ‘Buzzes’ filter sitting to the left of your screen. If it’s bold, you’ve got a response waiting for you. And that’s it!

I got this e-mailed to me at work today:

Warning regarding new virus:

Hi – This looks like a bad one that’s coming.
Forward this to others.
Please read and forward to everyone you know……

DO NOT OPEN “NEW PICTURES OF FAMILY” It is a virus that will erase your whole “C” drive. It will come to you in the form of an E-Mail from a familiar person. I repeat a friend sent it to me, but called & warned me before I opened it. He was not so lucky and now he can’t even start his computer!

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I would rather receive this 25 times than not at all.

Also: Intel announced that a new and very destructive virus was discovered recently. If you receive an email called “FAMILY PICTURES,” do not open it. Delete it right away! This virus removes all dynamic link libraries (.dll files) from your computer. Your computer will not be able to boot up.

Okay, let’s take a look at this, shall we?

Please read and forward to everyone you know…I would rather receive this 25 times than not at all.

Please do not blindly forward every ‘alert’, ‘warning’, or whatever else to “everyone you know.” I don’t know about you, but I would much rather not receive anything twenty-five times. There’s quite a few good reasons not to do this, most of which really shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but people persist in doing these things anyway. If everyone actually did pass something on to everyone they knew, then each of those people did the same, everyone would instantly be getting multiple copies of every alert out there in their e-mail box. Oh, wait…we already do get multiple copies of this junk, don’t we? Hmmm….

Check to see if the information is accurate. No, I don’t mean open a suspected virus to see if it crashes your system. This ‘alert’ describes a virus that comes as an e-mail with a certain subject line, and when opened, erases your entire C:/ drive. A second virus (with a very similar distribution method and subject line) is also detailed, only this one erases all .dll files on your hard drive.

The easiest way to check the validity of the claims is to go to Symantec‘s website. Symantec is the maker of the most popular anti-virus programs for both Windows and Macintosh computers, so it stands to reason that they would have a pretty good handle on any new virii (incidentally, as one of the more popular anti-virus programs is Norton’s Antivirus, the web address www.norton.com also points to Symantec’s site). Their site does currently show a high security alert for a new virus — W32.Nimda.A@mm — however, the listed symptoms and affects do not match either of the virii described in this e-mail. The closest listed virus to either of those in the e-mail is Trojan.ZeroBoot, which writes zeros over the boot sector of a drive — this will prevent a computer from booting, and to a novice computer user, could look like the entire C:/ drive has been wiped.

Intel announced that a new and very destructive virus was discovered recently.

Think about what the e-mail is telling you. Why would Intel — a chip-maker, most known for the 80×86 line of processors (from the 286 up to and including the P4) — be releasing information about a virus? A quick check of Intel’s press releases shows nothing detailing anything about a virus. In general, virus alerts are released by either very few people (like Symantec) that you can trust, or by every bleedin’ moron with a keyboard at his fingertips (like anybody with ‘l33t’, ‘haX0r’, ‘d00d’, ’69’, or ‘420’ in their e-mail address), which you should take with a grain of salt.

Buy and use one of the many Anti-Virus/Firewall/Security products from Symantec, or any other reputable software company. This will save a lot of problems and headaches in the long run — you won’t get hit with virii, and I won’t have to wade through mass e-mails about the virii that are loose.

If you think you’ve been hit with a virus: Contact Symantec and/or any decently savvy computer geek (i.e., someone who knows how to do more than click away at the World Wide Web) to see if there is information or a patch for your particular virus. Then go out, buy, and install one of the Anti-Virus/Firewall/Security products I mentioned above.

One last little thing: If you do ignore all the rest of my little diatribe…one little thing about my computers. I’m a Mac fan for many reasons. Like, for instance — no .dll files. No C:/ drive. And — while we’re not virus free — there are far, far fewer virii out there for us to contend with. Sending me your alerts does nothing but fill up my mailbox, waste bandwidth on the ‘net, and give me a minor annoyance to deal with, which I then relieve by ranting and raving on my website for the world to see.

Let’s avoid that next time.