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Friday, August 21, 2009

How to update twitter for free on your mobile phone

For information, this 'how to' will also be useful to people who just want to update twitter from Windows Live Messenger; just ignore the bits about phones if that's you.

Being somewhat behind certain parts of the ongoing technological revolution*, I have just this week signed up to twitter. At first, I quite enjoyed finding people I know who are already on twitter - so far I have reached the dizzy heights of 13 followers! Then I was pointed towards some celebrity twitter profiles. Now, I'm not one for celebrity culture**, but I have been introduced to the delights that are Stephen Fry's and Eddie Izzard's twitter posts.

Earlier today, Stephen Fry posted some brief comments about a new wristphone he was playing with, and a couple of hours later, Eddie Izzard posted a photograph of a rather nice butterfly he met as he continues with his Sport Relief Challenge for Comic Relief. The important thing about these comments, for me, was that they were about what they were doing at that moment in time. It was a window into their respective worlds, which is kind of what twitter (and other social networking tools) is about. They both tweet*** whenever they feel like it; whenever they have something to say or share. I wanted to be able to that too. They can do it because they both have iphones. I could buy one, but I don't want to. I just don't use my phone often enough to justify the (at least) 100% increase on my current monthly contract price in order to get one.

I googled the subject, and found out pretty quickly that twitter have a text update service, but that this was charged at international rates by most of the UK's mobile service providers (I understand that o2 don't treat twitter's update number as an international one, but don't quote me on that). This meant that I couldn't do something as simple as sending a text message to update without paying on top of my monthly contract for it.

But I found another way. And the best thing is that it involved zero extra expenditure on my part.


Will it work for everyone?
No. You need to have the following things in place to use my method for updating twitter for free via your mobile phone:
  1. You need to be a 3 mobile customer (I pay £15/month and they sometimes have cheaper deals for new customers).
  2. You need to have a phone model that will run Windows Live Messenger (go to this page, scroll down, enter your phone's make and model, click 'submit' and it'll tell you whether WLM can be used on it)
If you're o.k with these two conditions, read on (if not, sorry I can't help you!)


How do I update twitter for free, then?
Follow these steps (if you already have Windows Live Messenger on your mobile, you can skip steps 1 & 2, and I'm assuming you already have an account at twitter):
  1. If you don't have one already, get yourself a Windows Live login.
  2. Go to this page, scroll down and enter your mobile number. Click 'submit' and you'll receive a text message from 3 with a link in it (it arrived pretty quickly for me). Navigate to this link (on your phone) and download Windows Live Messenger. It should install automatically once the download finishes.
  3. Create an account at Ping.fm. Follow the instructions to add your twitter account to your social networks list.
  4. Go to 'your dashboard' at ping.fm, scroll down and find Windows Live Messenger under 'Services / Tools'. Click it, and follow the instructions.
  5. Log in to your Windows Live Messenger account (you can do this on your phone or on your computer; makes no difference) and add 'pingdotfm@live.com' as a contact. This is a 'bot'.
  6. When you set up Windows Live Messenger at your ping.fm account (step 4), it will have given you a verification code. Send this to the bot you have just added to your Windows Live Messenger list. The bot will appear to be offline, but send it anyway. You should get a rather polite message to say that your code has been accepted.
  7. You're done! Whenever you want to update twitter while you're away from a computer, just open up WLM on your phone and send a message to the bot. It'll send a confirmation message back, and update twitter for you!
If you've found this useful, feel free to pass it on (retweet, share on Facebook etc- there are a couple of links towards the top right of this page!)


More information

Ping.fm can be used to update many different social networks from many different sources; the how-to above is just one application.

You could, for example, set up your ping.fm account so that when you send an update to your Windows Live Messenger bot, it sends the same update not only to your twitter feed, but also to Facebook, myspace, yahoo, photobucket, flickr... and many more.

Or, if WLM isn't your bag, you could update the same sites and more from google talk, jabber, skype, AOL or even via email or text message.

Also, as far as I understand it, you can set up different groups to do different things. For example, you could set up a bot that will update all of your blogs, but leave your social networking statuses alone. And then you could send a text that updated some of your social networking profiles. Or you could send a message from skype that updates all of your public profiles, and then a separate email that automatically updates your public ones. The possibilities appear to be all but endless.




* I put this down to being a teacher. Something about leather elbow patches just takes you back in time
** I don't care who Jordan is divorcing this week, or who has been getting out of a taxi without any underwear on. Nor do I care who Jenifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are not seeing any more, or whether George Michael's been caught driving under the influence of Lucozade again
*** Look, I'm learning the lingo!