WordPress 3.4 New Features and Performance Improvements

I have just upgraded to WordPress 3.4 and it is as easy as all the earlier version of WordPress. The simplest method still works — backup database, disable plugins, replace files, upgrade database, then you enable the plugins back again.

The highlights in this new incremental update of WordPress are theme customization, custom headers, Twitter embeds and HTML support on image captions. The rest is mostly under the hood improvements.

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Live Theme Preview

This is probably the answer to Bloggers template designer. There are a couple of WordPress themes in the market that use WYSIWYG editor for customizing theme but this is the first time that WordPress shipped with a theme editor out of the box. With Live Theme Preview, it is easier than ever to create a beautiful website even if you are a beginner.

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Better Custom Headers

At first I don\’t understand what\’s new with custom headers but after some testing I realized that it is just like the old custom headers but this time around, it follows the height of the image. So you don\’t need to edit CSS property anymore just to adjust the height of the header. As far I remember, you can\’t easily change the size of your header but now WordPress 3.4 offers the easiest header configuration available.

Twitter Embeds

I used to have Blackbird Pie installed but with this built-in support for embedding tweets, I think I will use the standard embed from now on. Take note that when you are embedding tweets, they should be just plain text, not links. It does not matter if you embed http or https. They will be embedded.

The advantage of Blackbird Pie is the inclusion of Twitter background along with the tweet but the native WordPress Twitter embed opted for a cleaner standard look.

HTML on Image Captions

This feature took almost an eternity to be included in the standard feature and I believe it should have been added many years ago. Nevertheless, it\’s better late than never.

I think due to the number of image-centric websites popping up, this feature had finally been given the green light. Now it\’s easier to link photo credit using captions.

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Do you agree it is more elegant to give credit using captions instead of footnote or  by linking the picture to an external link?

Under the Hood Improvements

There are many improvements included, and here is the list of what\’s new for WordPress 3.4 from a developer\’s perspective.

One of the most important changes under the hood is the improved WP_Query. The technical part is explained here.

This patch breaks default WP_Query queries into two parts – one to select a list of IDs with the given selection criteria, and a second to actually select the posts once the IDs have been determined. This vastly reduces the amount of data that has to be processed by the database, resulting in fewer context switches and vastly improved performance.

After upgrading to WordPress 3.4 I immediately see improved performance in the server and my blog felt more snappy. I will urge you to upgrade to WordPress 3.4 now just for this improvement.

Translation system is also more robust now as well as the API support.

Theme developers should be able to  use the added functionality in WordPress 3.4 to make themes more user-friendly just like the 2 default themes that comes with WordPress, Twenty-Ten and Twenty-Eleven.

Final Thoughts on WordPress 3.4

With the addition of neat features like Live Theme Preview and better custom header, themes supporting the new features can further enhance theme customization options. If you post a lot of pictures you can finally put links on your captions!

More importantly, if you have huge database (i.e. blogs with many posts) chances are you using a caching plug-in now. The improvement gain shouldn\’t be to obvious with caching enabled but if you disable the caching plugin then you should be able to feel the difference now that WP_Query is improved. As described by the contributing developer,  the benefit could range from good to dramatic.

Therefore I highly recommend to upgrade to this version soon.

Word of caution: Test your business-critical plugins first in a sandbox before upgrading your production (live) server. I had to disable one or two minor plugins that is not yet compatible with WordPress 3.4.

 

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8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 2)

The last episode for season 2 is just around the corner and it seems that I am already having a withdrawal syndrome just because I won’t be seeing Game of Thrones again in cable TV until next year. In the meantime I am reading A Game of Thrones, the first book of  A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin to catch up with the saga .

There are lots of lesson to learn from watching Game of Thrones and as  a blogger I thought that I share with you what bloggers can learn from Game of  Thrones.

I had to break the original post into two because it was too long. This is the second part of the post –

Read the first part here:

8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 1)

Now to continue…

5. Be Part of a Community or Tribe

 When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives. – Eddard Star (reference from the book)

There are many occasions in the book as well as in the TV series that one must pledge fealty or allegiance to the king. It is important to form alliance because a kingdom can\’t win a war without the support of its army and its people. If you are a lone blogger out there, there is a slim chance that people will discover your blog. You need to interact and engage with your fellow bloggers and readers.

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Some people are  in search of a movement or something to believe in.

Daenerys Targeryan was able to mobilize her tribe despite the harsh condition of the desert. The remaining Dothraki people believed in her as the Mother of Dragons and they continued to follow her wherever she will go.

It\’s human nature to be part of a group of people with same interest or goal. If you possess great talent and produce good content people will follow you when you contribute high value to the community or tribe.

 

6. Use Effective Call to Action

If Tyrion Lannister is born on the internet age, he is probably one the most successful internet marketing genius in Westeros. With wisely crafted words, he use call to action effectively like no other.

Here are  the guidelines he is using:

  • He gives tangible offer.
  • His offers are not empty words. He backs it up with good track record (A Lannister always pay his debts)
  • His offers are always relevant and timely
  • He is always willing to over-deliver offer to out-win competitors.

If you can pattern your call to action from the imp, you\’ll probably have ridiculously high conversion rate on your sales funnel.

 

7. Use A/B Testing

How do you think Tyrion found out who is leaking information to the Queen? That\’s right, by changing different variables and testing the members of the council, otherwise known as split testing or bucket testing.

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Through testing you will find out which part of your blog is performing best or worst and then you can decide if you want to improve them or eliminate them.

You might be surprised from the results.

 

8. Leverage on Available Resources Wisely

Not everyone can nurture and tame a dragon; not everyone can command a huge army. And there is a big chance that your pocket is not as deep as the Lannister\’s so you might as well use what\’s already available at your disposal. The good news is, there are many ways to win a war as there are many ways to create a successful blog.

Robb Stark might be a newbie at war but he was able to capitalize of the experience of his commanders and wits of his war council.

New bloggers are always daunted with plethora of options available and that could be a blessing in disguise. Learn from experienced bloggers. Observe how they create content and design their blogs. Know what technology they use that you can use also. WordPress is probably the best blogging tool available but there are other great options too like Blogger and Tumblr. Use what works best for you.

You don\’t even have to reinvent the wheel. Just throw in some personal branding, values you believe in, and you get a unique blog that could give your competition a run for their money . They may not even know what hit them until it\’s in front of them.

Daenerys has no army to command but 3 baby dragons and a few loyal followers. When the baby dragons grow they could prove to be  a formidable force but for now the only thing she can do is hide, train, and complain a lot while entrepreneurial people try to poach her dragons.

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Ideas are like baby dragons. You have to protect them specially at infancy stage.

Sometimes you have to risk everything just to protect your ideas until they mature. People will not believe in you until your ideas are fully developed so you must stick to your plan and just keep on going.

If you are like Dany, who only has baby dragons right now, just continue taking care of your dragons until they are ready. Continue blogging and don\’t let other people take your dragons away from you.

According to Darren Rowse, the average age of most successful blogs  was 33.8 months so if you are just starting to blog don\’t be discouraged.  You will see the fruit of success later.

One more example — the Battle of Blackwater. It is one of the most epic battle we have seen in television and probably the best in the series so far. Since I have never read the 2nd book yet, I have no expectation whatsoever from that episode. I thought they would use wildfire as catapult loads but the way they used wildfire was unprecedented .

The world needs innovators and the little trick Tyrion pulled off disrupted the plans of Stannis Baratheon.

If you have access to disruptive technology like wildfire, you should use it to your advantage.

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In the words of  Varys, \”Power resides where men believe it resides. It\’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.\”

No matter how small blogger you are, you can trick yourself as an influential blogger if you view yourself in a different perspective. The internet levels the playing field and even a no-name blogger can create a dent in the universe if you use your resources wisely.

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8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 1)

The last episode for season 2 is just around the corner and it seems that I am already having a withdrawal syndrome just because I won\’t be seeing Game of Thrones again in cable TV until next year. In the meantime I am reading A Game of Thrones, the first book of  A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin to catch up with the saga .

There are lots of lesson to learn from watching Game of Thrones and as  a blogger I thought that I share with you what bloggers can learn from this award-winning TV series and medieval fantasy novel.

If you have not read the book or watched the series yet, there are some spoilers here but I kept it to the minimum.

1. It\’s All About Branding

All houses in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire seems to have a motto. Here are the mottos of great houses:

  • House Baratheon: Ours Is the Fury
  • House Lannister: Hear Me Roar
  • House Stark: Winter Is Coming
  • House Tully: Family, Duty, Honor
  • House Targaryen: Fire and Blood
  • House Tyrell: Growing Stronger
  • House Greyjoy: We Do Not Sow
  • House Arryn: As High as Honor

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Having motto  forces you to focus on what really matters. For example during tough times, Catelyn Stark was hard pressed to make difficult decisions. The guiding principles of House Tully provided her guidance on what she should prioritize. Family, Duty, Honor. It had always been the order.

House Stark is known for their direwolf sigil while House Lannister is know for their lion sigil. When the banner-men are waving the flags of their houses, the sigil already speaks for itself even from afar. That is how a logo speaks for itself too. A logo does not only provide identity to your blog, it also makes your readers remember you.

You may not create a motto for your blog but you should be able to describe your blog in less than 15 words for elevator pitch or simple promotions. Knowing what your blog is all about helps you create content that is targeted for your audience and it helps you promote your blog easily.

Take note that a logo or a motto does not create a brand. It\’s more than that.

 

2. Always Have a Plan

Winter is coming (House Stark motto) — it\’s a way of saying that you should always be prepared.

You probably heard the saying that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Despite the young age, Robb commanded an army with combined forces of Stark, Tully and Frey.  How do you think they were able to capture Jamie Lannister from the Battle of Wispering Woods? It didn\’t happen by chance. Eddark Stark had been grooming Robb to be his replacement.

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Building a blog is like building a castle. If you know that winter is coming, you should be prepared to protect it at all times and be ready to conquer new territories in order to expand.

You should always try to make your blog relevant. Adapt to the needs of your readers.

Everyone knows that mobile is the buzzword these days and there are different studies pointing to that direction. So did you make your blog mobile friendly already? Social media is all around us. You can\’t deny its existence. Do you have social media plan, even a simple one? How can you keep on posting all year round? If you wish to join the ranks of the best blogs among your niche, you must be consistent. Do you have an editorial calendar to keep good ideas flowing?

How many times Google had changed algorithm? How many times must you follow Google\’s lead? If Google removes your blog from the first page of search results, can you still survive? You probably can\’t rely on just one strategy, do you? If you plan ahead, you can prepare alternate route for fall back to save you from complete wipe out when the odds turn against you. Manage your risk or risk will manage you.

 

3. Protect Your Blog

The Wall stretches for 300 miles and is about 700 feet high according to the TV adaptation and in the books.  The Wall is not there just for decoration. It was allegedly built using both magic and mundane means some thousand of years ago to defend the realm from what  are lurking beyond the wall — shadowcats, giants, ghouls, wild tribes and even White Walkers.

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Even Night\’s Watch gets fresh recruits every now and then to replenish the ranks and they have positions called builders, assigned to maintain the Wall in its pristine condition. If you are protecting a realm of blogs, I strongly believe you should do the same. Always update your blogs and backup.

If you are using WordPress and you can\’t backup your blog by yourself, you can hire someone or use services like VaultPress or BackupBuddy to have a peace of mind.

Last year I wrote about popular and best WordPress security plugins so you may want to check that out, too.

 

4. Think Before You Click

Most characters in Game of Thrones acts so quickly but thinks so slowly that they don\’t think through the consequences of their actions first.

How many times this happened in real life? You had a heated argument with a competitor online and started to throw nasty words on Twitter at each other. Then you realize  later you had acted on your emotions but you already sent the tweet to thousands of your followers and the tweet went viral. It reached your boss and he didn\’t like how you acted foolhardy.  The next morning you were jobless. You broke the social media policy of your company.

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Lady (the direwolf) should still be alive if Sansa did not lie about the direwolf incident with Joffrey and Arya.

The stubborn Viserys should have not suffered ill fate if he only used a little bit more patience and respect. He got what he wanted though — a gold crown — albeit in a form and fashion he least expected.

Jon Snow might have been dead by now when he planned to abandon his oath from the Night\’s Watch when the bad news about this father reached him. Thanks to his Night\’s Watch brothers, they were able to convince him to go back.

It\’s crazy how these young characters acted so carelessly.

With the internet and the notion of online anonymity, it\’s easy to defame one person or another. If you don\’t follow any social media policy on your day job, it\’s easy to forget that you are responsible not only for yourself but also for the company you work for. But even if you don\’t follow one — even if you only work for yourself — when you are writing a blog post, make sure that you are always objective when you are reporting a fact. Do not invent details or misquote people. Opinion is good in making a statement but you still have to back it up with facts and not sensualize it with gossips.

In the words of Cercei Lannister:  When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die; there is no middle ground.

Make sure that everything you do is based on your conscious choice, not swayed by emotions. Be proactive. Be responsible on whatever you do.

Read the second part here:

8 Blogging Lessons from Game of Thrones (Part 2)

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Increase Your Reach in Twitter and other Social Networks Effortlessly

I have talked about Triberr before as a custom Twitter client but it is much more than that. For beginners it\’s a great way to help increase your reach and make blogging more fun!

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Increase Your Reach With Triberr

You might have heard positive or negative things about it, or you may have not. Either way, let\’s set the record straight here. Triberr is a Reach Multiplier. What it does is help bloggers get more eyes on their content. Then these eyes are could be translated to readers or customers depending on the nature of your blog.

Triberr believes in the strength in numbers. Triberr creates group of bloggers  sharing each other content within their tribes.

The concept of tribes is not new. In fact Triberr was inspired by the book of Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. In the book, a tribe is describe as a group of people who are connected to one another, has a leader and has a common idea or interest. That is how Triberr works. It is a place to make new friends, new blog buddies and find other bloggers in your niche. It creates community for like-minded people.

So what\’s the benefit? One good example is how I am reaching more than 200,000 Twitter users  already even if I only have about 500 followers. I\’m getting 400 times more reach than I original have! Granted that some of those followers are not unique you can reduce the the reach multiplier by 20% margin and still get incredible amount of reach. I am also getting retweeted more often and I get to discover new stuffs easily within my interest.

Past Issues

For a long time, Triberr is focused on Twitter only but that is a long long time ago. During those hay days,  Triberr had made sharing automated for everyone. If you happen to follow several people from the same tribe you might be bombarded by repetitive tweets. For me it was not a problem because I use Twitter lists to manage my Twitter streams. Nonetheless, automatic sharing was highly discouraged by Twitter so in the end it was removed.

Overall, I think it is a good decision that Triberr removed automated tweets by default because you will be forced to check every post that your tribemates share and you can filter what you think is not appropriate for your audience with due diligence. Since you can also make a tribe that needs specific action or rule for just one social network like Facebook, StumbleUpon or Pinterest, a manual approval system is much more needed to ensure quality on the posts that you are sharing.

You can still semi-automate sharing but it costs a little fee and it is only approved per member,  not per tribe.

If you still worry about spam, content can be filtered by disallowing promotional words that is considered spammy like free, coupon, deal, discount, giveaway and more. This can be configured per user and is applied across all tribes that you join in.

It\’s getting better and better

What I like more about Triberr is that it keeps getting better and better. As more people voice out their experience and opinion about Triberr new features are added.

There is now a WordPress plugin available so that you can extend the functionality of Triberr in your blog.

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There are also occasional webinars held by Dino and company that talks about what works now in social media and how it can be applied inside and outside your tribes. In fact, there is a new 2-hour webinar called \”How to Pinterest for Bloggers\”  on April 3 at 11:00 AM to 01:00 PM EST. It will discuss how to repurpose old content for new traffic, build authority with a new audience, connect with influencers, make money with Pinterest, and much, much more.

Attendees will get early access to Pinterest button within Triberr before it is deployed globally. So what are you waiting for?

Triberr Resources

If you are completely new to Triberr you can join New Member Training every Monday at 6:00-8:00 pm CST so there really is no reason you can\’t start using it.

You can also read alltriberr.com for everything Triberr.

More importantly read the bonfires (group discussions) in Triberr to interact with other bloggers, learn from the discussions and join in more tribes to increase your reach in no time.

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Twitter Acquired Posterous – I Wish They Won\’t Screw it Up

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I don\’t like when acquisition happens. The company being acquired usually gets the worse end of the deal. I posted about PostRank and Google acquisition and I didn\’t like what will happened to PostRank soon. I wish they were just trolling.

Then here comes Posterous and Twitter acquisition. I use it mainly for cross-posting content on my other blogs and it is part of my daily blogging routines. All this while I am wishing Posterous good business because I want the service to succeed.

I like Twitter but I\’m worried that Posterous will go stale or will be shut down anytime soon. Recently Facebook shut down Gowalla because it became a redundant product after Facebook came up with Facebook Places. With the case of Twitter, there is no equivalent feature for cross-posting content in Twitter to other blogging platforms like WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger.

Posterous Spaces will remain up and running without disruption. We’ll give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service. For users who would like to back up their content or move to another service, we’ll share clear instructions for doing so in the coming weeks.

What I wish to happen is for Twitter to come up with better sharing integration with Posterous or they will keep Posterous as a totally different brand just like what they did with Tweetdeck.

And speaking of Tweetdeck I hope Twitter will put more innovation in that product. Maybe this new acquisition with Posterous will help them keep new features coming in. I really hope so.

All the best Posterous team. It\’s been a pleasure to use your service.

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Bot or Not Scans Twitter Profile for Human or Bot-like Behavior

Bot or Not?

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If you want to find out if you are following bots in Twitter here is a project that lets you scan any public Twitter profile and checks the Twitter account for any human or bot-like behavior.

The criteria used are simple and it the methodology used is explained here.

Let\’s check if my profile is human-like or bot-like below. As you can see, the reasons why Bot or Not think I am a human is because I retweet other users (I use the old school RT method), I also use dot replies to multiple users, I do reply to other tweeps, I use hashtags and I do not follow ridiculously large number of accounts.

One thing that Bot or Not doesn\’t appreciate as a human-like behavior is tweeting  lots of links. Most of my tweets have links because I share them on Twitter — with my comments. I think this tool does not consider what Twitter clients  were used. Obviously if you are using Twitter client meant for broadcasting blog posts, it will be automated and will fall under bot-like behavior. What is not clear to me is how they score the bot-like tendencies — is scheduled tweets consider bot-like? The human factor should be weighted when you schedule a post or when you use Buffer app because you still have to do it manually. Flooding your Twitter followers, whether you space your tweets evenly or not, seems to be not considered in the methodology, or may it is considered but it is not mentioned. Nevertheless, I find this project interesting and I appreciate this tool very much.

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Now let\’s look at Techcrunch. It was used in the study to develop Bot or Not and it\’s obviously  a bot.

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I also checked Lady Gaga\’s Twitter profile and Bot or Not tells us it\’s a bot but with human tendencies.

 

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If you\’re building a big number of followers, don\’t you think that this tool proves that it one way to build big number follower is to follow this approach — use automation tool and support human-like behavior like retweeting and replying when appropriate. I know there are lots of strategies to help you grow Twitter followers and this tool supports most of what I\’ve read so far.

 

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Twitterfeed Alternatives – 5 Ways to Publish Posts to Twitter

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Beyond Twitterfeed

Ever since Twitterfeed had been acquired by Bitly, I didn\’t search for any Twitterfeed alternatives because I was hoping there are more features that will be added afterwards.

To my disappointment, the only innovation that I saw is the integration of Bitly stats in Twitterfeed dashboard.  I can\’t even recall if the acquisition came first or the integrated statistics. I tried not to use other services out of loyalty.

Unfortunately, as I create more blogs it became more tedious to keep up with Twitterfeed configuration. I became tired of the page design as it was not user-friendly. Even when using the plain list view most of the options are still buried. There has to be a better way.

Twitterfeed Alternatives

1. FeedBurner Socialize

Even before I used Twitter I already used Feedburner and Feedburner included Socialize option to publish your blog post to Twitter. At first it was reliable but I completely migrated to Twitterfeed when posts did not publish for several weeks. I don\’t know if these bugs are still existing now.

2. Ping.fm

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The jack of all trades. Some how it manages to update 50+ networks properly so if you are going to update most of the social networks and services and not just Twitter, you may want to look at this service.

3. Dlvr.it

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This is what I am using now. It has user-friendly interface and it supports everything that Twitterfeed supports – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Statusnet, except Hellotxt. In addition, it supports Tumblr, MySpace and RSS feed too.

4. WordPress Plugins

If you are using WordPress blog then you can use WordPress as  a client for Twitter. Using WordPress as a client Twitter has its merits; however, you have to keep up with the plugin updates from time to time to make sure it is working properly and free from exploits. The initial setup will also need technical skills to get started.

5. Manual Posting

Of course, you can always post your latest blog post manually using your favorite Twitter client. From time to time manually posting old posts with your comments in combination with automated Twitter post can give your Twitter more personality. If you only stick to 100% automation then you will appear like a bot to Twitter and to anyone else.

Is Twitterfeed Fading Out?

When Bitly acquired Twitterfeed on August 2011, there is a slight bump of traffic in Twitterfeed but after that, it seems to have flattened out. Bit.ly growth seems to suffer the same problem despite having the lion share in URL shortening service.

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On the other hand if you look at at dlvr.it you\’ll see that the business had tremendous growth since September 2011. All traffic are estimates from Double Ad Planner.

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I hope to see more innovation from Twitterfeed since Bitly acquired it. At the moment I\’m only leaving some of my smaller blogs in Twitterfeed but I will move to dlvr.it for my bigger blogs.

Drop your comments below and let me know what do you think of the future of Twitterfeed and Twitterfeed alternatives.

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