Net Politics and activism

My federal MP’s Twitter feed: relentlessly negative

Because I’m interested in politics, I make it my practice to follow various politicians on Twitter, whether I agree with them or not, including all the local ones I can find.

Andrew Robb on Twitter

My local federal MP Andrew Robb would have to have the single most relentlessly negative Twitter feed of any of them.

Here’s all his Tweets for the past week (excluding retweets and also those addressed to other people, therefore not showing up in most users’ timelines).

  • I see Wayne Swan has a juvenile petition out on cruel cuts, I presume he’s referring to his cruel cuts to community grants. #hypocrite.
  • Swan and Wong need to stop the spin and explain Labor’s $120 BILLION BLACK HOLE.
  • Labor has reached the dangerous stage, saying and promising anything to save political skin. #Labor’s$120billionblackhole.
  • Chickens come home to roost – Labor’s $120 billion budget black hole revealed in Fin Review.
  • Financial Review reveals Labor’s $120 billion black hole.
  • Is there a policy Labor has implemented without botching it?? Think pink batts, NBN, mining tax, carbon tax, live cattle, border protection.
  • Let’s judge Labor’s record debt by Australian standards, rather than against the basket cases of the world. It leaves us vulnerable.
  • If Labor is returning to surplus why in budget did they raise the Commonwealth debt ceiling to an unprecedented $250 BILLION??
  • Why did Labor tell us net debt would peak at $94.4 billion two years ago, but now it’s $145 billion? Only $50 BILLION out!
  • $4.1 billion unfunded dental promise, part of Labor’s $100 BILLION BLACK HOLE of unfunded or hidden budget liabilities.
  • Labor promises $4.1 billion for dental scheme but can’t say how it will be funded. That means higher taxes or more record debt.
  • Labor has reached the dangerous stage. $100 billion worth of commitments either hidden or unfunded. #Laborblackhole
  • Penny Wong’s credibility through the ‘floor’, see what she said before & after Labor’s carbon tax floor price backdown.
  • Labor told us the carbon tax floor price was needed for certainty, now they tell us the opposite. They are a shambles.
  • Labor’s carbon tax chaos recipe for budget black hole but Combet says trust our modelling!!!
  • At last election Penny Wong said net debt would peak at $94.4 billion; now that figure is $145 billion. A $50 BILLION blow-out in 2 years!
  • Penny Wong fails to lock in prosperity as under Labor Australia has become a less attractive place to do business. [link]
  • Penny Wong in denial. BHP has warned for months investment climate is being crippled by carbon & mining taxes & other sovereign risk issues.

It’s all attacking Labor. EVERY. SINGLE. TWEET.

Not a single comment about what he would do in government.

Not even a single comment on what he thinks Labor should do.

Even Tony Abbott, derided by Labor as “Doctor No”, often tweets about the people he meets and the events he attends.

As the next generation of voters increasingly get their information from social media rather than mainstream media, it’s going to become important for politicians to represent themselves better through avenues like Twitter. With a growing and changing population, even Goldstein won’t be blue-ribbon Liberal forever.

C’mon Andrew, surely you can do better than this. Just for a moment, stop telling us why you think the other guys are idiots, and instead tell us why we should vote for you.


Why are Twitter messages 140 characters?

Did I post this already? I don’t think I did. Hopefully not.

Why are Twitter messages 140 characters?

Because they were designed to fit into the 160 characters of a text message, with some characters filled up with header information and so on.

So why are text messages 160 characters?

Because they fit into 140 bytes, or 160 7-bit characters.

That, in turn, was so the messages could fit into unused space within the signalling formats used by phone networks.

Net Twitter

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.

transport Twitter

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

Also on the blogs:

Net Politics and activism

The importance of context (even on Twitter)

I’m not having a go at anybody in particular here, but making a point.

I tweeted what I thought was an amusing comment from someone I don’t always find myself in thorough agreement with, Roads Minister Tim Pallas:

Tim Pallas’s pledge: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.” #vicvotesdanielbowen

A couple of people re-tweeted it, with this one adding a comment.

RT… @danielbowen Tim Pallas: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public” #vicvotes WTF is wrong with Lycra?! FO Tim

You know, I think before you blast someone’s comment (apart from the fact that it was clearly meant to be taken in jest), you might want to read the context by following the link provided. Here’s the full paragraph:

While some people look good in lycra, It is perhaps appropriate here that I reiterate my pledge to the Victorian people that I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.

So in fact Pallas didn’t say anything was wrong with lycra. He just made a funny, self-deprecating comment that he shouldn’t wear it.

Foolishly I decided to point this out to the Tweeter:

Maybe you should read the full quote?

…and got this response back:

I did and the issue isn’t even worth answering. It just gives credence to the doped on the other side.

Does that actually make any sense? I’m seeing words there, but I can’t comprehend the meaning.

I didn’t bother taking it any further.

But my point is that while I love using Twitter, the brevity of messages shouldn’t be an excuse for wilfully ignoring context, nor blasting away with both barrels when you make an assumption as a result of that lack of context, particularly when the link to all the information is merely a click away.


Why I prefer Twitter to Facebook

Twitter and Facebook have some similarities. Both offer a micro-blogging feature via status updates.

Of the two, I think I prefer Twitter.

Why Twitter’s better

Twitter’s public. You don’t need a logon to see my Twitter feed. (It can also be made private, if one prefers.)

Twitter’s open. You don’t need to log onto a web site to use it. Thanks to a published API, Twitter has lots of different applications that can post to it, and you can also post via text message.

Twitter displays things in strict time order. Facebook’s News Feed does some weird crap with what it shows you, sometimes sometimes (and often annoyingly) showing you stuff from days ago, and seemingly hiding other updates until it feels like showing them. Which leads me into…

Twitter keeps its history, and it’s very visible. You can link straight back to that killer post. Facebook… well, I’m not sure I trust it to keep everything, because I can’t easily find it. (But given there’s always an inherent risk with keeping your data with external companies, I keep copies of significant posts myself.)

No offence to my Facebook friends, but Twitter has cooler people on it, publicly tweeting. In most cases you don’t need to go through the rigmarole of getting permission to watch their Tweets, so it’s easier to find and follow who you want. In fact it’s helped get me interested in Federal politics again.

Twitter doesn’t try to integrate every bloody app, and keep asking you for permissions to use them. Nor does it have overt advertising or keep making suggestions about things that will just waste your time.

Why Facebook’s better

Facebook has the advantage of including easier methods for posting pictures and video. Twitter gets these via addon sites such as Twitpic, or via separate services such as Flickr or Youtube.

You never see this in Facebook:
Argh! Twitter is down for maintenance!

You can’t play Scrabble in Twitter. Mind you, those new adverts are pretty annoying.

How others see you

Facebook has the Like button. Twitter has a way to make a Tweet your favourite, though that’s not really an equivalent to Like.

But Twitter also has Retweets, allowing people to pass on your comments to their followers, should they wish. Facebook doesn’t really have an equivalent to that.

And Twitter has Lists, which I find interesting.

How do others categorise me? Checking the lists, I show up as:

  • everythingaussie
  • random-goings-on
  • state
  • melbourne (x 7)
  • aunewsnotsportnottech
  • people
  • railpage
  • irl
  • news (x 2)
  • faves
  • openstreetmap
  • people-of-interest
  • real-people
  • local-news-sport
  • favs
  • melbourne1
  • auspolitics
  • geeky


So anyway, I’m more likely to post on Twitter than FB. Follow my Twitter feed if you want to.

(I should add that although I dip into Facebook every so often, I am pretty strict there about only “friending” people I actually know in real life.)

Which do you prefer?


Twitter highlights part 4

This post in a continuing series covers the first half of 2009. (Why?)

January 2009

noted a lot of joggers about. New year’s resolutions? There’s a few people out on the roads who should resolve to indicate. 5:28 PM Jan 1st from txt

watching Marita beat up virtual people in Wii boxing. 12:23 PM Jan 3rd from web

is not the new Doctor Who. 7:59 PM Jan 5th from web

barrelled over to Bunnings on the bus to replace a blown bathroom bulb. 4:55 PM Jan 8th from web

wishing wasn’t using the Sandy line today: delays earlier due to equipment failure, and now “police operations” at Balaclava. Wish me luck. 4:46 PM Jan 13th from web

With other Sandy line refugees on packed sweaty tram. 5:10 PM Jan 13th from txt

Girl on tram fainted, she’s ok now though, her fellow commuters came to her aid with water and first aid advice. 5:29 PM Jan 13th from txt

is seeing which clowns are quoted in this morning’s Age editorial 7:32 AM Jan 15th from web


Local goss via Twitter

Twitter allows one to search, and provides RSS for search results, so you can feed it into RSS readers like Google Reader to keep track of Twitter references to your preferred keyword.

So I thought I’d set up one for Bentleigh, which tells me what’s going on in my neighbourhood.

Happily I don’t live in Springfield or somewhere with a name that’s very common, and most of the Tweets I see are about Bentleigh.

With one major exception: There’s a lady out there in cyberspace (in Charlotte, North Carolina, to be precise) who owns a dog called Bentleigh, and she loves Tweeting about him.

So amongst the updates discussing the pros and cons of the neighbourhood, or highlighting the presence of jobs, property, traffic snarls due to tow trucks, speed cameras, and really important FourSquare posts, there’ll be something like:

“I love bentleigh! His furry ass keeps me entertained!”


“Throwin on my uggs! Puttin bentleigh in his jacket! Quick walk before the snow sticks! :/ brrrrrr”


Fortunately I’ve found that as with a Google Search, you can include a minus sign and a word you want to exclude from your results, so I’ve been able to filter out most of the dog references.

No offence to the dog, of course.

transport Twitter

Myki newsflash

This was my favourite Twitter post of the week, which I’m repeating here while it’s still timely:

NEWSFLASH: Govt to change state to the Assyrian Calendar, giving 3 more months to get #Myki right “by the end of the year”

(W00t — Retweets!)

And yes if you’re wondering, I had done some research before posting it. Perhaps appropriately, the end of the Assyrian calendar year is the “Month of evil spirits”, or ܐܕܪ.

(Your computer will need to be configured to display non-Western alphabets to display that properly.)

Best #Myki machine display yet! GHY #fb on TwitpicThere is speculation of an imminent launch for Myki in Melbourne, but there’s been those kinds of rumours flying around for the last month or so.

Meanwhile it appears there are still a lot of evil spirits in the system, with scanners responding slowly or not at all, and on Wednesday for the second time I saw a Myki vending machine doing its weirdo update thing in the middle of the evening rush hour.

Bendigo 2009 Twitter

Who are these clowns whose Twitter posts get into the paper?

From last Saturday’s Herald Sun Weekend section:

Herald Sun Street Tweet 10/10/2009: Kangaroo Flat: apparently NOT named after an unfortunate wildlife accident.

It was sent when we were passing through Kangaroo Flat on the way to Bendigo the other week.

Train at Kangaroo Flat

(Thanks for spotting it, onegirlinmelb)