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On Vine and Third-Party Use of Your Content

Vine logo

None of the commentary with respect to terms of service and legal agreements in this blog post can be taken as legal advice. If in doubt, ask someone who really knows their stuff.

I really like the medium of short, tweetable videos that Vine has made popular. It succeeds where other video-over-Twitter services, such as yfrog’s, failed. Once again, it is actually by imposing limitations that we find a unique way to express creativity.

So, I toyed with the idea of joining Vine, even despite it not supporting protected accounts like on Twitter. But being an unusual breed, I felt it necessary to read and at least attempt to understand the Terms of Service.

I didn’t like what I saw. (All emphasis is mine.)

You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. In order to make the Services available to you and other users, Vine needs a license from you. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

This is a standard kind of sentence you will see if you read many different ToSes. It is, apparently, the boilerplate for “we need your permission to display the stuff you are posting”. It seems fair enough.

You agree that this license includes the right for Vine to provide, promote, and improve the Services and to make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use. Such additional uses by Vine, or other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Vine, may be made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services.

Suddenly, this paragraph changes the tone — from “we’re needing a licence to actually display your stuff at all” to “we’ll reserve the right to exploit any commercial value in your creativity whenever we feel like it”.

It is not just about using your content to further promote Vine, it seems to leave the door open for them to sell your content to anybody at all, subject to some additional terms and conditions I didn’t find.

I am not naïve. I know these services will need to make money eventually, and that a ‘free’ service comes with an exchange of value, even if it is not you paying a monthly fee.

With that said, this is not an acceptable arrangement for me, and I would encourage others to examine the value of the content they expect to submit to Vine in the light of these words.

Contrast Vine’s ToS with similar verbiage in the YouTube ToS:

When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant: to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube’s business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;

In short, YouTube might use your stuff to further YouTube as a platform, on any medium, but they aren’t going to reserve the right to flog it off to some ‘partner’ who may not be as fair about compensating you. (Also, YouTube’s existing, long-term relationships with their content partners demonstrates, in my view, a much better mutual respect than the implication of Vine’s ToS.)

There seems to be a weird irony that it is exactly the fact that Google wants to jealously keep you and your content in their ecosystem that they aren’t going to pawn it off to someone else’s ecosystem who might not treat you right.

I’m not saying don’t use Vine. That is your decision, based on what you find an acceptable deal. But don’t be in the dark about the potential implications of these differences in that agreement that, on the surface, might appear subtle, but could be really important.

Today, if you put your stuff on YouTube, and it gets popular, you can join the Partner Program and get compensated for the value in your content. With Vine, however, maybe there would never be an opportunity to see any value from your work. I think they need to answer that question, even if the implementation is not here yet.

Protecting the value of the content you create, whilst always being respectful to your customers, is not just for big media organisations. We are all creators, and we all deserve to have mutually respectful relationships with those who publish our content on our behalf, and those who consume it.

Twitter Protected Account Limitations

Picture of megaphone

I like the fact that since the very early days, Twitter has offered you the ability to make your account ‘protected’. What this means is that unlike the default setting, your tweets are not publicly visible. Only people who are following you can see them, and any new followers you get after you protect your account have to be approved by you.

It is a great way to use Twitter if you don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing a lot if you know you are sharing it with the world. That’s why I like it, anyway.

However, there are some sacrificies you have to make when having a protected account — and at times it is not awfully clear what these are. Here are a list of some of the protected account restrictions you might come across, but might not be aware of.

  • If you send a tweet @ someone who is not following you, they cannot see that tweet. So if you do have a protected account and are trying to enter a competition with a business where their account is not following you, for example, or speak to anyone who is not already following you, that is why they aren’t responding to you!
  • Other people cannot retweet you (using the ‘official’ retweet mechanism). It is possible for others to use other ‘quote’ style manual retweets, but not the native retweet functionality. Trying to retweet anyone who is protected will throw an error message.
  • Your tweets are protected, but the list of those who you follow and the list of who follows you is still public. There is no way to make those lists private. This is something to bear in mind.
  • Another privacy point to remember is that if your account is protected, but you are conversing with someone whose account is public, their side of the conversation will be public (unless you converse via Direct Message).
  • It can be more difficult to meet new interesting people on Twitter if your account is protected. There are those on the service who won’t spend much time deciding whether to follow you if you are protected.

For some of these reasons, I now also have a public account, @PeterUpfold, which announces new blog posts here and also I use to make conversation with people who aren’t following my main, protected account, @strategyoracle.

This post is up-to-date as of 2010-12-11. Twitter can, and does, change its features and functionality iteratively. If you’re looking at this post at a later date, some of these restrictions may have changed!

‘Megaphone’ image is soundsky, by seungmina on Licensing information for that image.

Tweetie 2 for iPhone OS

Tweetie logo

I just wrote a review of Tweetie 2 for iPhone OS on the App Store. I republish it here; I’m extremely impressed with the new release.

Tweetie 2 has an impressive feature set, including retweeting, image and video (3GS only) uploading and almost every built-in Twitter feature that is exposed by the API.

The real star of the show here, however, is the interface. It feels iPhone-native and intuitive while also introducing some innovative features such as the flick-to-reload mechanism. The app’s simplicity isn’t hampered by the sheer volume of functions and features — things are kept out of the way until and unless you want access to them.

I’m not a fan of the somewhat bland icon, but otherwise I can’t fault this beautiful little app.

You may be reluctant to pay for a Twitter app, even at £1.79 — but if you appreciate great UI, you really should consider it.

» Read the rest of this post…

Twitter Principles

Twitter logo

Its status as a relatively novel communication medium means that Twitter doesn’t necessarily have a clearly defined set of social expectations attached to it just yet. I think even now, post mainstream popularity, it is very much a service that you can use in the way that works best for you. Everyone doesn’t have to participate in exactly the same way.

Twitter is a useful tool for businesses to promote their products and actually connect with their customers. I think it’s great when a brand steps into this space and really ‘gets’ the nature of the service. It can make a brand feel a lot more human, enhance how you feel towards it; it serves as a great advertisement.

There are some practices on Twitter that I really can’t stand, however.

Now, as I said, one of the great things about the service is that there aren’t necessarily set rules which everyone follows in the same way. I don’t intend this post to be telling people what they should and shouldn’t do with the service, but I do want to point some things that really bug me. In short, this is somewhat of a rant.

Competitions Done Wrong: Hashtag Abuse

Twitter competitions are a marketing device that is becoming increasingly common. You convince people to follow your business’ profile, or tweet about the business or product, in exchange for a chance to win said product. Simple enough concept.

Some competitions in recent weeks have encouraged Twitter users to tweet anything they would normally tweet, but add a hashtag to that tweet relating to the product or promotion. I disagree quite strongly with this.

A hashtag is a short word or phrase starting with the # character.* You can add a hashtag anywhere in your tweet if you want to associate that tweet with that particular topic. It makes searching for tweets on a particular topic or event easier; it’s a great tool for hearing a collective voice on something.

Screenshot of Twitter search results for #snowleopard

Hashtags work because tweets that are related to the tag are the only tweets tagged with it. Encouraging users to randomly tag unrelated tweets breaks this model. And you’re ‘selling out’ your thoughts!

Twitter competitions can be done right, and I actually don’t mind seeing people tweeting something that promotes a business or product. But I’d like it if those tweets are clearly separate from other stuff and that you actually do care about the product as well and don’t just want free stuff.

Automated and Excessive Re-Tweeting

If you have something cool you have to share, whether you made it or just stumbled across it, I’d love to hear about it via Twitter. But once or twice a day for each cool thing is enough.

If people consistently tweet exactly the same tweet, or constantly re-promote something in case others have missed the last tweet, I get pretty frustrated, pretty quickly.

People will miss tweets. That’s the nature of the service — it’s dip in and dip out. If they do, tough. It’s not fair to keep constantly banging on about something to the people that heard you the first time and the second time and the third time!

“Please, Sir, Retweet!”

This is somewhat less of an emotive issue than the other two, but I think it’s still worth me saying.

If you put “please retweet” in your tweet, I won’t. With maybe a couple of exceptions.

If I’m going to retweet something (which is pretty rare) it will be on its own merit. I might help promote something a friend has done, but that will be because I believe in it, not because I’m told to.

Wrapping Up

These issues have been on my mind for a while. Twitter is constantly evolving and I personally think there really are roads that we shouldn’t go down and principles that we should uphold.

Integrity, honesty and loyalty are very important to me. If I stop ranting for a moment about specific issues, what I really want is that principles like these be respected, upheld and defended in the online world, as they are offline.

* Which is most definitely pronounced ‘hash’, not ‘pound’. This is pronounced ‘pound’ — £.

Tweetie 1.0 for Mac and Privacy

Tweetie logo

Tweetie for Mac was released today, to much fanfare. Its interface on the iPhone is absolutely top notch (I happily paid the £1.79 for my iPod Touch) and the Mac interface also looks interesting as well.

I’m not going to go into a full review, because I really haven’t used it much yet. What I don’t want this post to come across as, however, is a rejection of it totally. There are just a couple of issues relating to privacy I have with this initial release.

SSL Connections

UPDATE: As of Tweetie 1.0.1, which was released minutes ago, this issue is fixed. Consider this paragraph obsolete.

For some reason, Tweetie for Mac does not send your Twitter username and password over a secure HTTPS connection. Quite frankly, I’ve come to expect this in any Twitter client. It surely takes no extra effort to implement this, it has a minimal performance overhead and even if you don’t really need it, does it really hurt to encrypt your password?

This really bugs me. I don’t really want to be throwing my credentials across the network in plain text every few minutes. It’s like shouting out your Twitter username and password to everyone in the street. Sure, probably no-one cares, but why do it if you don’t have to?

Advertising and the Lack of a Privacy Policy

UPDATE: I contacted Fusion Ads on this subject recently and as of this morning, 2009-04-23, the Tweetie for Mac page has been updated with a brief, but better-than-nothing privacy statement. I’m still interested in seeing something a bit more substantial, but this is a good step forward.

Tweetie for Mac costs $14.95 at the moment, going up to $19.95 later on. To get people to try it, there’s a free ad supported version, using ads provided by a company called Fusion Ads.

What alarms me is not the fact that it is ad-supported, or even that I’ve never heard of that ad company before today (although the latter is a little bit of an issue). The problem for me is that I can’t find a privacy policy detailing how this ad system works, what information it collects on you and what it does with that information.

It concerns me quite a lot that in a desktop application, where an advertising system can get a lot more information about you than it can within the constraints of a web browser environment, nothing is said about what is going on.

I have emailed the contact address on the Fusion Ads site asking where I can find a privacy policy, voicing this concern and asking them to make it more prominent if there is one. I will update this post when I get a reply.

Two Showstoppers

For me, these two issues stop me from using the client right now. I’m sure the SSL issue will be addressed in a future release if enough people ask for it, as I can’t imagine it being difficult to implement at all. It would also be nice to have a little bit of transparency in how the free model works as well, and hopefully this will come with time as well.

For the time being, however, I’m not entirely satisfied that I can use the app comfortably, so I am holding off for now.

Twitter vs IM from my (Introverted) Perspective

Twitter logo

I want to discuss something that has been on my mind for quite some time. I haven’t really discussed this before, at all, on the internet or maybe even in real life.

The internet has allowed us to communicate in brand new ways using innovative new media. It seems that in a very short time, the number of ways that I can choose to communicate with someone has shot up exponentially.

One of these new-fangled ways of communicating is Twitter (for the uninitiated, go read Wikipedia).

I find Twitter to be a very useful social tool for communication, conversation and keeping up with people. In contrast, I find traditional instant messaging (IM, such as AIM, MSN, XMPP/Jabber and the like) burdensome and difficult to use on a consistent basis.

My dislike of the traditional IM most likely stems from my introverted personality. Hopefully in this post I will explain exactly why and why Twitter is better.

Note that this is purely my opinion for what works for me. Everyone is different, which means that what might be true for me may not be for someone else, even with a similar personality. These are my personal views on Twitter vs IM.

» Read the rest of this post…