Posts tagged ‘Twitter’

Uktrains twitter app getting up steam

A few weeks back, Ben Smith (@bensmithuk) released the first few parts of a Twitter feed for UK train service information. His application takes disruption and other service information feeds from the BBC, processes them through Yahoo! Pipes, and feeds a set of train company-specific Twitter feeds with the result.  An interested user simply has to follow the feed for the train company they’re interested in.

As with all these things, it ain’t rocket science. But it *is* a great idea, well implemented. And it’s something that NRES (National Rail Enquiry Service) or some other rail industry body really should be doing themselves. As Ben explains on the Uktrains wiki, he can’t even source the information directly from NRES because of their copyright restrictions – instead, he uses the BBC Backstage license to get the same information second-hand from the BBC instead. Madness.

However – Ben’s latest feature is something that NRES would never do themselves. The service is now 2-way. Passengers experiencing delays can send a tweet to Ben’s application, which will re-tweet an alert to all users following the relevant train company feed.

Again, this seems like a simple enhancement. But my bet is that it will catch on like wildfire, and deliver a near realtime train running information service directly from affected passengers to others. You can read about the service on the wiki, and try it out yourself.

That’s what the internet’s for.


February 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Facebook goes public, kills Twitter?

Facebook announced recently that they’re opening up public access to their users’ status feeds – meaning that users and applications outside of the Facebook walled garden can ‘follow’ a Facebook user’s updates. A bit like Twitter, you might think – and you’d be mostly right.

But as Mike Butcher points out on Techcrunch, there are a number of good reasons why it won’t work the same way.  Facebook is still an inherently closed platform, even though they’ve opened a small window. Twitter is inherently public, and thrives on users reading non-private directed communication between others. Facebook’s a long way from delivering that.

February 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm Leave a comment

Crowdsourced snow reports on Twitter

Twitter is proving fascinating for yet another unexpected application this evening. Along with many other people, I’m sat glued to the snow reports coming in from around the country, using the hashtag #uksnow. The topic is vying for top slot on the ‘trending topics’ list with the Superbowl – quite some achievement!

Many contributors are using a standard format, which should, if anyone’s so inclined, make it dead easy to extract the feed and drive a map mashup. Realtime weather status via Twitter – brilliant.

Why not join in? to follow the #uksnow tweets on Twitterfall.

Update: The map mashup has materialised here. Huge props to @benmarsh.

February 1, 2009 at 5:32 pm 3 comments

Twitter stops texting in Europe

Is this the end of the world as we know it? Twitter has announced that they’re no longer providing outbound SMS notifications in Europe – well, anywhere outside the US Canada and India actually.

To anyone with any knowledge of mobile operators’ pricing models and how they vary across continents, this will come as no surprise. Even though it’s capped at 250 messages per user per week, this service has been leaking money for Twitter since it started. You simply can’t terminate an SMS in Europe for free. Bulk pricing through any of the big aggregators will get you a little under $0.10 / £0.05 per message but no lower. So that’s $25 a week, or $1300 a year at the capped level. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Twitter gets no revenue from your tweets. They’re potentially writing a $1300 cheque every year for each SMS user. How could they possibly continue to fund this?

The Twitterverse will be up in arms about this. The Aussies have already made their presence felt on Twitter’s GetSatisfaction site. Whilst I’m sure they can weather the storm, the PR won’t be good. Many Twitter users depend on SMS as part of the social experience, and won’t be satisfied with Twitter’s suggestion to use a mobile Twitter client or the interface.

What can be done? Premium-rate mobile-terminated SMS schemes are popular, alowing the recipient of the message to pay through their phone bill per message received, but setting one of these up is not for the faint hearted – blanket coverage of all the networks across a continent can take months or years to sort out; customer on-boarding and billing will be different wherever you go; regulatory issues may constrain the service in some countries. Hard work and very expensive. It’s something Twitter could consider, but I doubt they have the capability to do it in-house. They’re a social network, not a telco. And a premium service by subscription isn’t something they could set up overnight, either.

So again, Twitter is the victim of its own success. As they say in their blog

When we launched our free SMS service to the world, we set the clock ticking. As the service grew in popularity, so too would the price.

For some, this will mean Twitter’s no longer useful. Probably not for most, though – personally I’ll barely notice. But this is a setback in Twitter’s progress towards world domination. SMS is an insanely popular way of communicating, and they need to find a stable financial model to bring it back into the fold. If they don’t, someone else will.

August 14, 2008 at 5:43 am 2 comments meets twitter meets IM at

It’s a real-time with IM, Google Notebook and Twitter built in. No, really. That’s what feels like. It’s a browser within a browser, in which you do your everyday surfing, but round the outside you see what your friends and the public are browsing. And they see yours. You get lists of the most popular sites (which you can vote thumbs-up and thumbs-down on), you can clip a site to your personal notebook, and leave comments against a site. There’s an IM facility to send real-time messages to fellow browsers, too.

What’s it for? Well I’ve found a few interesting sites already, been reminded about some that have dropped off my radar, and generally had fun following other people around the web.

You’d probably not use it for visiting stuff that you don’t want the world to know about – but for formal or informal collaboration it’s a great new way to approach the same kind of sharing that, Google Reader and Twitter provide.

Go on, have a go. And add me as a friend so I can see what you’re up to.

July 30, 2008 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

Twitter Deficiency Syndrome

I’ve got all the symptoms. Sweaty palms, fidgeting, increased caffeine consumption. Feeling of isolation, fear of rejection.

Why? Because everyone’s favourite corporate time-waster of the moment, Twitter, is undergoing unscheduled maintenance (= something broke badly) this morning.

There’s nothing for it. I’ve caught up on my RSS feeds, arranged my social calendar for the next few weeks, even phoned my Mum.

I’ll just have to do some work!

Happy Friday.

July 18, 2008 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

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