How to get to Twitter’s ad dashboards without entering your credit card details

We’ve been playing with Twitter ads for a little while and, because we have a few accounts, I noticed an odd disparity. On the Crunch Twitter account we were able to access the full suite of Twitter ad products (Analytics, cards, website referrals, conversion tracking etc.), but on the Freelance Advisor account we couldn’t get to any of that, and were prompted to enter credit card details before we could access anything.

This is, obviously, very annoying. I shot Twitter support an email and a very nice lady called Marta told me that:

Twitter regularly runs experiments offering different features to certain groups of users.  As a result, the user experience and availability of features may differ slightly across individual accounts from time to time.

You must be a Twitter Ads customer to gain access to analytics. Please note that it may take up to 24 hours to see your analytics after you have entered your credit card payment information.

So basically our accounts were A/B tested into different buckets, and there’s no way to get out of them. Some people have full analytics access without entering credit cards details, some don’t. I’m not the only person to be annoyed by this.

However, you actually don’t need to enter your credit card details to access the full Twitter analytics suite. The pages aren’t blocked – they’re just hidden from the menu. You can append the correct information to the URL and you’ll be straight in.

The URL structure is:

Your account ID will be a random string of letters and numbers. Add the correct page after the Account ID slug and you can access the hidden pages. The URLs are (you’ll need to edit the bits in italics to match the information in your account) -

  • Account Dashboard -
  • Tweets -
  • Cards -
  • Followers -
  • Websites -

There are two other analytics dashboards with slightly different URL structures -

  • Tweet activity dashboard -
  • Card Analytics -

Happy tweeting!

How to add websites and apps to your Chrome OS shelf

Here’s a handy tip I picked up the other day. Adding bookmarks to Chrome is pretty damn easy, obviously, but for some reason Google haven’t added the ability to put them on your Chrome OS shelf yet (the shortcut bar at the bottom of the screen).

However, this feature is being built by Google and with a little under-the-hood tinkering you can make it happen!

Step 1

Visit chrome://flags/ on your Chromebook (copy + paste into your address bar – WordPress doesn’t like these links) – this is the page where all work-in-progress features of Chrome browser and OS are kept. Have a look around – there’s some fun stuff in there.

Step 2

Find the entry called ‘Enable experimental streamlined hosted apps’ (or paste this into your Chrome address bar - chrome://flags/#enable-streamlined-hosted-apps) and turn it on. This gives you the ability to turn normal websites into “apps” (they need to be apps because that’s what are kept on your shelf).

Step 3

Visit the page you want to add to your shelf – lets say The Guardian. Open the Chrome menu, go to More tools -> Add shortcut to this website…


Step 4

There isn’t really a step 4; that’s about it. The website is now in my shelf. You can drag it around or put it in a folder, just like a normal Chrome app.

App Shelf


Paym is the kind of mess you get when UK banks innovate

Paym launched today with wall-to-wall media coverage. It’s a new payment system developed by the Payments Council (the people in charge of making sure financial transactions in the UK work) that allows the sending and receiving of money using just a mobile number as identifying information.

PaymIt’s hardly the second coming – PayPal has been allowing the transfer of funds using a single identifier (in their case an email address) for fifteen years. Paym is built right on top of the UK payments system though, so funds can be sucked from a payer’s bank account and deposited into a recipient’s account quickly.

The press coverage is missing lots of the nitty-gritty detail of the system, though. Firstly, you must set it up with your bank to tie your mobile number to your bank account (as far as I can tell these two bits of info are then passed to a central Paym database, allowing the system to operate across multiple banks) which, as I discovered today, isn’t working quite as expected.

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Four things I didn’t know my Chromecast did, and four I wish it could do

ChromecastThe Chromecast is a great bit of kit, and we’ve been using it to stream everything from Formula 1 to This American Life to our TV since I picked one up a few weeks ago.

Chromecasting is already supported by all media-centric Google services (YouTube, Play Music etc.), and more apps are building in support on a weekly basis. Pocketcasts has become a firm favourite of ours, and we used a Photowall at our recent housewarming.

Google’s smart play here was creating a protocol and a cheap bit of hardware to receive it, rather than a whole streaming media system. It’s obvious from the current crop of set-top boxes that nobody has mastered making TVs “smart” yet, so flinging data to it from various devices quickly and easily is a good middle-ground, and also gives developers a lot more freedom to play around. This protocol-iness also means Chromecasts can be used for more than just streaming media.

So… what else can you do with this thing? Continue reading

When does PR become astroturfing?

Boundaries are all-but nonexistent in the world of writing today. Brands publish more content than publishers, writers do their own PR, PRs do SEO, and SEOs basically just annoy everybody else. So it’s not surprising that in this omnishambolic world companies are pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour to give themselves a leg-up. Two prime examples crossed my desk this week, which highlight the problems at both ends of the writing industry.

The first was the ludicrous conditions imposed by House PR in order for journalists to get accreditation for last night’s BRIT Awards. In order to get a press pass, journos were asked to agree to the following conditions (as per the email published by the Press Gazette):

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Happy 10th Birthday Facebook; you’re dead to me

The media is packed to the gills with swooning coverage of Facebook’s tenth anniversary today, which is lovely; they’ve built a highly successful tech business and deserve all the accolades they receive. However, for small publishers out there it seems Facebook has never been more useless.

More and more Facebook is artificially haemorrhaging audiences across the board, leaving many to up sticks entirely in the face of miniscule post reach, despite huge Page followings. Facebook has indirectly addressed these problems, basically placing the blame on the Page owners for not being engaging enough and regular Facebook users for sharing more stuff and drowning out Page updates.

The real story, of course, is that Facebook wants more people usings its advertising products, and now seems to assume paying to reach people (who have already opted-in to updates from you) forms a normal part of a publishing strategy -

“Page owners should continue using the most effective strategy to reach the right people: a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well.”

Lest we forget Facebook also advises Pages to use their advertising products to accumulate more Likes – you pay once to get a Like, and you pay again to (maybe) have that person see your update. It just doesn’t work.

Here are Freelance Advisor‘s Likes and Post Reach numbers – as you can see, the problem has become dramatically worse in recent weeks.

Facebook reach


In 2013 an average post reached 18% of our following, so far in 2014 we’re averaging 6% – Facebook has taken away two thirds of the audience they were giving us before, and expect us to pay to get it back.

The Facebook Cart, it seems, is firmly before the Horse. It’s an advertising network now – the social part comes second.

We’re not upping sticks just yet, but we’re damn close.

That summer when Scientology tried to sue me

While having a bit of a clear-out recently, I came across a bundle of old documents I’d saved from an interesting period of my life – when I was involved with, and writing about, a series of worldwide protests against the Church of Scientology.

The protests were organised (and I use that term loosely) by Anonymous, an online collective known for various Internet hijinks, and made headlines for several months both due to their popularity, and because it was one of the first times online chest-puffing had translated into real world action.

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How to check your bank balance by tapping your phone on your wallet

One simple (yet apparently unachievable) thing I’ve always wanted from my bank is an Android widget that displays my current balance. The Lloyds online banking system is an abject horror (as I’ve detailed at length before), and their mobile app is little more than a front end for their equally dire mobile site (as well as a chance for them to sell you shit you don’t need).

I’ve looked everywhere for a solution to this, and have so far come up with nothing. I have come up with a pleasing middle ground though – a way to check your bank balance by tapping your smartphone to your wallet. Now, for this to work you’ll need -

  • An NFC-equipped Android phone
  • An NFC tag

Continue reading

What are social share buttons really counting?

Every article online these days will sport the web-doohickey du jour,  social sharing buttons. Their purpose, ostensibly, is to let readers share that piece of content easily on their social network of choice – but they’re increasingly used in Internet dick-measuring contests to boast about ‘share counts’. However not all shares are equal.

Each social network has its own features and actions, some of which contribute to share counts, some of which don’t. The share counts for this very article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are mostly likely over to the left of this text. Outwardly this would appear to show, quite logically, the number of times this piece has been shared… but it’s not quite that simple. Here are some handy tables explaining which actions on the “big four” networks contribute to each social share count.



Effect on share count

Tweet a link +1
Manually Retweet a link +1
Retweet a link +1
Favourite a link 0
Reply to a link 0
Favourite a reply to a link 0
Retweet a reply to a link 0



Effect on share count

Share a link +1
Like a link +1
Reply to a link +1
Like a reply to a link 0
Recommend a link +1
Reshare a link +1
Reply to a reshared link +1
Like a reshared link +1
Like a reply to a reshared link 0
Share a link in a private message *see below +1

Updated 3/1/14 to add in details of private message sharing – apparently Facebook use that in their counts too (although I’ve not tested it myself).



Effect on share count

+1 +1 (obviously)
Share a link +1
+1 a shared link +1
Reshare a link +1
+1 a reshared link +1 (Unless already +1′d)
Comment on a shared link +1 (Limited to once per user)
+1 a comment 0



Effect on share count

Share a link +1
Like a link 0
Reply to a shared link 0
Reshare a link +1
Like a reshared link 0

Disclaimer: This is all based on my own testing – let me know if you’re seeing different counts.

You can see from these tables that Facebook has the most laissez faire policy when it comes to boosting share counts, while LinkedIn is the strictest.

An important quirk to consider is that on all networks, a single user can contribute multiple points to the share count.

This is especially troublesome on Facebook, where a user can share their content privately (using the “Only me” option), and add comments ad infinitum to artificially inflate their count. Twitter counts multiple tweets from the same user – although given how content is promoted on Twitter this makes perfect sense. Google+’s policy of capping an individual’s ability juice their +1s seems a sensible policy. LinkedIn’s is perhaps the most puritanical approach – you get a point for a share, and nothing more (although you can still share your stuff multiple times).


The main problem with this system, as I see it, is that Facebook mixes both the most freewheeling counting method with an emotive call to action (“Like”) – controversial articles will often pick up large Like counts from people commenting on sharing activity, many of whom will most likely not agree with the content at all. These users are commenting to express negative sentiment, but are inadvertently contributing to the popularity implied by a large Like count.

A Facebook argument between two people that runs and runs could add 50, or even 100 Likes to an article’s count, even though those two users may be the only people to ever read it.

So next time you see a controversial article with a Like count in the tens of thousands, just remember there’s a good likelihood that a large proportion of that number actually don’t “Like” it at all.

The problem with the Internet

Obviously this is adorable.

Dinosaurs larking about

“The answers to all the world’s questions are a web-search away”


Busted, quirky parents.