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!

I be influential in piracy, me hearties (according to Klout)

Some interesting stuff on social media in the Financial Review the other week:

This month, Cathay Pacific partnered with Klout to offer to anyone with a score over 40 free entry to the airline’s business class and first class lounge at San Francisco International Airport, the key hub for those working in Silicon Valley.

Neat, but it appears you had to show your Klout score on an iPhone app. Difficult if you don’t have an iPhone, though I expect the vast majority in Silicon Valley do.

The managing director of recruiter Kelly Services Australia, Karen Colfer, is not on Klout, but says everyone should have a LinkedIn profile.

“If you are not on LinkedIn, you are not serious about your job,” she says.

With a 23-year career in recruitment, Colfer says background checking is becoming increasingly thorough and information is easier to get. Google, LinkedIn and blogs are all fair game, she says.

How much Klout do you have online?

I’m not a big Klout user, though I admit to being curious, so I did take a look. Mine is 51% (to be precise, 50.97) — a bare pass, I guess.

I’m faintly amused that Klout believes I am influential in piracy. Arrrrrr, me hearties.

Klout thinks I'm influential in Piracy?!

Piracy eh? Well… it’s true that one of my eyes doesn’t work.

Also in the Fin, in a separate article on Twitter:

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen tweets a lot and follows a mix of people from diverse areas. “Depending on who you follow, it’s obviously highly customisable to what your different interests are,” he says, before warning. “It is addictive … I have to curb my usage, otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.”

Not too tweet to be scrutinised

Too true.

Now get back to work.

Metro Trains and their Twitter feed

Amidst the outrage about changes to Metro’s Twitter feed, there are claims that it used to include train cancellations.

This was not so. They did not tweet individual train cancellations or diversions. These only went out on SMS to subscribers, and on the web site.

(Alas Metro have now deleted the evidence of this that would be in their favour.)

But what they did tweet was disruptions/delays (whether minor or major) to multiple trains. Since this week, they’ve held back on most of these.

Metro argue that people don’t want to be swamped by tweets of limited relevance to them. But the 10,000+ followers didn’t seem phased by that — perhaps because Twitter is such that (within reason) it’s pretty easy to skim through tweets as they’re posted. If you see one that doesn’t apply to a train line you use, you can easily not read it.

Of course, it might have been a problem if the Twitter feed had included individual cancellations. That might have swamped people with too many updates. But as I say, these weren’t posted on Twitter.

So the real issues with the change are:

1. Many disruptions previously posted to Twitter are no longer tweeted, such as on Wednesday when what was described on their web site as “major” (eg more than 15 minute) delays on the Craigieburn and Ringwood lines went unmentioned on Twitter — likewise this afternoon’s “Minor Delays … outbound (earlier train fault at Parliament). Delays up to 15 minutes” affecting three lines (Craigieburn, Sydenham and Upfield), visible only on the web…

2. And that they instead post messages that claim all is running smoothly, even when there are cancellations or “minor” delays on some lines — such as this morning’s effort: “Train services running smoothly so far this morning. We’ll tweet any major disruptions if they occur. #MetroTrains” — when in fact there had been at least three cancellations.

They are recommending people sign up for SMS alerts, which can be quite good (and give people’s personal station times, rather than what the web site does, which is make you work out what time a cancelled train would have passed your station) and genuinely alerts you, even if you’re not looking at Twitter or the web. But it’s a bugger to sign up to, especially if your regular travel times vary… and it’s costing them a bomb to send out all the alerts. Oh, and there’s the minor detail that it doesn’t work after 8pm or on weekends.

What they should probably do is what V/Line have done, and set up individual Twitter feeds for each line. These could list every cancellation, disruption and delay (as per the web site) — in fact like this unofficial set of feeds* (which scrapes the web page). Then Metro can go ahead and use the main MetroTrains account for just feedback and major disruptions. People can then follow what they want, and get information pushed to them as they need it. Everybody wins.

More broadly, once the PTDA starts up (and subsumes Metlink), it would arguably be better to put all operator updates under their umbrella branding (whatever that will end up being) — provided the information can be posted quickly and efficiently, of course. That’s what Translink South East Queensland does (though at first glance they don’t appear to be posting bus updates).

By the way, Metro deserve credit for actually engaging with people on this issue on Twitter. Hopefully they’ll move to continue providing the information people want to see through Twitter (and through other avenues). There’s no reason they can’t be both informative and chatty.

*This list is linked from the PTUA Twitter account, but not run by the PTUA

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