Ten years twittering

Ten years ago today:

Yep, ten years ago today I joined Twitter.

As you can see, my second Tweet was just as compelling:

This was all pre-smartphone (at least for me) though some the Nokia phones I had until 2011 could do Twitter.

At the time, I don’t think Twitter could do pictures. And links took up a lot of space from the 140 character limit unless you used a 3rd-party URL shortener — many of these have since gone bust or dumped those early links, so many old Twitter links are now dead.

Here’s what my Twitter timeline looked about a year later, in late 2008. Looks like I was still sometimes posting in “Daniel is” IRC-style. (This is via the Web Archive, so the timestamps are all wrong.)

My Twitter page in November 2008 (courtesy of the Web Archive)

Critical mass

Social media networks tend to reach a critical mass of users that encourages more people to get on board and post.

What’s fascinating to see is Twitter has become ubiquitous in areas such as breaking news. Journalists in particular love it – I assume as a trend it spread from the USA. Looking at Australian journalist profiles, there seems to have been a rush onto Twitter in about 2009-10.

These days, most Australian TV news services show their reporters’ Twitter handles on-screen. (In fact ABC TV news usually shows journos’ Twitter handles, but not the reporter’s name!)

No doubt thanks to PTUA work, I’ve got about 5800 followers. This is nowhere near as many as a lot of other people have, but apparently it is in the 99th percentile of active Twitter accounts.

Then again, on a system where apparently 391 million accounts have no followers at all, perhaps it reflects how many fake or robot accounts there are on the system. That’s okay, TwitterAudit reckons most of mine are real!

How to use social media is up to you

I’m personally not keen on the lengthy threads some people post on Twitter – they can get initial attention, but long-term are very difficult to find later — which can be frustrating as often they are full of excellent insights into the issue at hand. My view is post it on a blog somewhere, and link to that.

But ultimately, how you use social media is up to you. And who you follow will obviously influence what you see.

The major social networking systems each have their place, and I use them in different ways:

I use Twitter for following news, and “public” stuff.

I use Facebook purely for friends and family (though I also have a public Facebook page – you can follow it for blog updates).

I glance at LinkedIn sometimes, but restrict it to people I know via work and PTUA interactions.

Google Plus? I barely ever look at it.

I suspect more people use Facebook everyday than Twitter, but I probably like Twitter more. It seems more open than Facebook’s and the others, which try to keep you on their site/app.

10 years on Twitter

One side-effect of Twitter is that I’m probably blogging less. Often I’ll fire off thoughts as one-liners rather than develop them more fully into blog posts. Kind of a shame, but it also reflects that I’m far busier now than I have been in the past.

Something I do like is a lot of prominent people are on Twitter, and many of them will respond to questions from randoms like me. (In turn, I try to respond to others, but sometimes there just isn’t the time.)

And if you’re wondering, apparently this is my most re-tweeted ever — a comment on US conservatives’ reactions to the US Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is legal. Apparently it was pushed along by being included in a Buzzfield article.

As a time-waster, social media is probably unparalleled. But it’s fun, and informative.

So I’ll keep on using Twitter, and if you’re on there too, feel free to follow me!

Glenhuntly level crossing and the vanishing petition

Liberal Caulfield MP David Southwick has a campaign running to get the Glen Huntly level crossing grade separated. I somewhat cringe at the “Blame Labor” rhetoric, but the rest of it I agree with completely.

A 2014 report by VicRoads found the Glen Huntly Rd level crossing to be of the highest priority for removal with boom gates expected to drop for 82 per cent of the morning peak between 7am and 9am within seven years, rendering the crossing virtually impassable. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing is also traversed by trams on route 67 between Melbourne University and Carnegie that are also subjected to significant delays. The Glen Huntly Rd level crossing needs to be removed for safety and to prevent gridlock.


Remove Glen Huntly Road Level Crossing from David Southwick on Vimeo.

I lived in the area for 8 years, and know only too well that the train/tram crossing causes suburban and freight trains to slow to a crawl, delaying pedestrians, trams, cyclists, buses (on nearby Neerim Road), ambulances (there’s an ambulance station further west on Glen Huntly Road) — as well as train passengers both trying to get in and out of the station, and on the trains themselves. Even express trains have to slow down to 20 km/h.

So I went to sign the petition… onto David Southwick’s web site:
David Southwick web site: Glenhuntly level crossing petition

At the bottom it says: Sign the petition here: http://doublecrossed.com.au/

But clicking through, what do we find?

It’s the Liberals’ anti-Skyrail web site:
Double Crossed web site, February 2016

That’s not what I want to support. I want to support removing the Glen Huntly level crossing.

Indeed, thanks to the reclaimed swampland in the area, it’s possible that the only practical way of doing it might be to use elevated “Skyrail”.

So what’s happened here?

It seems when David launched his campaign, the initial Double Crossed web site was indeed a petition in support of more level crossing removals:
Double Crossed web site, mid-2015

Early this year when it was revealed the government planned the Caulfield to Dandenong crossings to be elevated, the Libs changed tack and the Double Crossed web site became the “anti high rise rail” petition you see today.

But nobody updated David Southwick’s links. And I wonder how many other Liberal MPs have similar campaigns now inadvertently linking to anti-Skyrail petitions?

Perhaps not many. The only one I could find was Christine Fyfe (MP for Evelyn): “Sign the petition if you want your local level crossing removed – instead of a broken promise.”

Other Liberals have links to it, but they are clearly about Skyrail.

So where do I sign in support of removing the Glenhuntly crossing, but keeping a neutral stance on Skyrail? Perhaps I’ll need to go into his office to sign.

Blog template

After the mess of the last attempt, and noting the large number of people reading on mobile devices (phones 39%, tablet 10%), I’ve switched to a plain but hopefully more mobile-friendly blog template.

Here is a photo of some people doing geeky things to test the pictures.

Computers at Pax

I’ll probably do some tweaking, but any feedback on how it looks (particularly on phones and tablets) is very welcome!

Update: Testing a photo from Flickr:

Melbourne city, viewed from Regional Rail Link near Tarneit

11/2/2016: The ads aren’t really in good spots on mobile — this requires some customisation. But most of the other mobile layout looks pretty good.

14/2/2016: Via a child theme and a plugin, I’ve enabled numbering on the comments. This was nowhere near as straightforward as I thought it would be. The instructions for creating the child theme in particular to keep the modifications separate from the parent theme were particularly geeky, but it seems to have worked.

The need for speed part 1: Internet uploads

Not to pre-empt anything, but this year I expect to have two film and television students in the house.

For this, I’m considering upgrading my Internet.

We’re currently on iiNet Naked ADSL2+ costing $69.99 per month (for 1000 Gb of data, of which, to my surprise, we’re using about a quarter). Actually I’m paying an additional $10 for VOIP, but I’m planning to ditch it because we rarely use it, and it seems quite unreliable — the handset frequently can’t get a signal. I don’t know precisely where the problem is, but given everyone in the house has a mobile phone, it seems an unnecessary cost.

Why upgrade the Internet? Well one of the things the boys have highlighted is the relatively slow upload speeds.

This is important for film students, because these days everything is digital, and moving big video files around quickly is important.

Computers at PAX 2014

Current speeds

Our download speeds are okay. Our upload speeds… aren’t.

Using the iiNet broadband test:

  • Latency 12ms
  • Jitter 3ms
  • Download 7.63 Mbps
  • Upload 0.68 Mbps

Using the Department of Communications My Broadband test:

  • Latency 15ms
  • Jitter 0ms
  • Download 7.54 Mbps
  • Upload 0.53 Mbps

This isn’t good. By my calculations it means that a 50 Mb file (which is not that big by modern video standards) would take 12 minutes, and that’s assuming no other bottlenecks.

A 500 Mb file would take over two hours.

Theoretical speeds

This explainer web page from Optus compares theoretical speeds, and notes that the limit of ADSL2+ upload is 820 Kbps (eg 0.82 Mbps).

The ADSL upload speed is so slow that when Isaac wants to send a big file to Dropbox (or whatever), it’s often quicker to go into campus (about an hour’s trip away) and do it there, then come home again. I suppose it gets him out of the house, but it’s not brilliant, is it.

It’s not just study. He’s starting to do post-production work as a part-time job. This is the kind of agile digital economy PM Turnbull often drones on about.

Cable internet is faster; around 3 times faster for uploads. DOCSIS theoretically allows faster upload, but queries from customers were answered in a vague way by Telstra. The speculation is the Telstra and Optus cable internet networks are set up for cable TV, which are pretty much all download.

If only we had some kind of universal super-fast internet service providing a future-proof fibre connection to everywhere. Some kind of Network of Broadband right across the Nation.

Well, I checked. NBN (especially proper NBN, fibre-to-the-premise/home, but even fibre-to-the-node) would be great, and would improve upload speeds by up to 50 times, but isn’t getting to my area anytime soon.

So what are the options?

Given their enlightened social media operative Dan, I’d be more than pleased to sign up for Optus Cable… if they serve my street. This is confusing as their web site variously says Yes or No depending on how I enter the address. I suppose I’m going to have to ring them up.

Also notable: complaints about speed from local Optus cable users.

Telstra cable does serve my street. Theoretically may get me about a threefold increase in upload speeds (around 2.4 Mbps), for $95/month for 500 Gb or $115/month for 1000 Gb — and appears to include a home phone service.

Importantly, with cable there are no guarantees about speed — it depends on network congestion.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. Assuming I don’t want to pay a heap of money for a fibre connection myself, are there any other options?

Update 22/3/2016:

I finally made the switch, to Optus Cable. Comparing the My Broadband test old and new results:

Old: Latency 15ms / Jitter 0 ms / Download 7.54 Mbps / Upload 0.53 Mbps

New (at lunchtime): Latency 1 ms / Jitter 12 ms / Download 27.61 Mbps / Upload 1.96 Mbps.

New (at 6:15pm): Latency 78ms / Jitter 24 ms / Download 19.80 Mbps / Upload 1.29 Mbps. So download and upload speeds have both increased by about 3-4 times.

Some blog stats for 2015

Here are a few blog stats from 2015…

Posts: 166 — more than I thought, but I suppose there’s been a post every few days.

Comments: 1,692

Top ten commenters:

  • Daniel 176 (seems I still like commenting on my own posts)
  • Roger 132
  • TranzitJim 69
  • Llib 52
  • David Stosser 48
  • Andrew 47
  • enno 45
  • John of Melbourne 44
  • Tom the first and best 44
  • Kiwi Nick 41

The following are from Google Analytics…

Google Analytics graphs

Across the year: 470,650 page views / 347,223 sessions

Per day that’s an average of 1289 page views per day, up from 986 the year before. More than I’d expect.

Busiest day of 2015 was March 24th: 13,754 sessions (15,123 page views), with 11,000 of them coming from Social Media — and almost as high for each of the following two days. It appears I got a lot of hits from Facebook that day onto the Hidden message in train seats post… I assume the post got linked from somewhere popular. (It currently has 1100 Likes in Facebook)

English language users: 95.71%

Countries: Australia 86.12%, USA 3.88%, UK 2.21%

Cities: Melbourne 68.23%, Sydney 8.60%, Brisbane 2.92%, followed by Perth, Adelaide, London, Canberra

Browsers

  • Chrome 42.75%
  • Safari 23.73%
  • Safari (in-app) 11.26%
  • Firefox 10.72%
  • Internet Explorer 7.34%

Operating Systems:

  • Windows 37.91%
  • iOS 30.29%
  • Android 17.15%
  • Mac/OSX 12.16%
  • Linux 1.15%

— that seems to indicate a huge number of users on mobile, which reminds me that I need to fix the quirks in my small screen blog template.

In fact, Google Analytics also tells me that desktop is 51.14%, mobile is 38.85%, tablet is 10.01%.

Most popular pages (apart from home page): Hidden message in train seats 10.82%, Identity card options 2.48%, How much power a kettle uses 1.89%. Some of these old pages seem to live on via Google.

The most popular 2015 posts were the one with detail on the Bentleigh area grade separations 1.32% (6,226 page views) and the one with detail about the next generation High Capacity Metro Trains 1.01% (4,776 page views) and the updated list of current Melbourne train types 0.84% (3,962 page views).

Search engine referrals:

  • myki top up 33,687
  • melbourne train map 32,827
  • daniel bowen 14,092
  • flagstaff station 6,412
  • melbourne free tram zone 6,329
  • keypass 5,844
  • melbourne airport to city 4,897
  • free tram zone melbourne 4,156
  • proof of age card vic 3,576
  • top up myki 3,501

Social media referrals:

  • Facebook 44,831
  • Twitter 33,649
  • Reddit 18,919
  • Blogger 740
  • Google+ 84

— wow, this really says something about the relative use of Google+, doesn’t it… though of course it’d be higher if I posted links there more often.

I’d love to pull some stats on which categorie(s) of posts are the most popular, but attempts to work that out via the number of comments in each post category had me baffled — WordPress has changed the database design around to make it quite difficult. I’ll keep researching. Certainly in terms of page views, the transport-related posts dominated, but they seem to be most of my posts these days…

What other metrics are worth noting?