Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

An Exercise in Twitter Engagement

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Ghost Riders in the Sky - great opening number and photo shared via twitter to those following the #612hashtag

Much has been said of the ABC’s embracing of the Twitter phenomenon. We have even seen op ed pieces running in online news sites about how this focus is incorrect – with a Twitter only competition proof of discrimination against their regular listeners – and their re-reading tweets as giving people who tweet’s opinion more weight because they are shared with the public twice – once on twitter then once on the radio.

Anyway, I was part of that Twitter only competition.

It ran two different ways for two different presenters for ABC Brisbane 612 Radio. The prize was to participate in “Tweet Seats” at a theatre production – The Ultimate Rock and Roll Jam Session – being held at The Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane. The catch? For this double pass, you had to wear the @612Brisbane twitter tee and live tweet the show with the #612jam hashtag (you can see our efforts here by searching on the hashtag). To win a spot – you either had to tweet in a specific sentence (1st 6 got a double pass – I was first though I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing but it did get me awesome seats!) or review the radio show in a tweet (140 characters or less).

I can only speak from personal experience and what my friends tell me – but most of my friends who listen to 612 do so either via their phone/apps or via the blog – cherry picking the pieces they are interested in after the links are tweeted. I listen while driving, but at least 50% of my listening is on delay via an application that provides digital radio coverage to your iPhone/iPod. Given that this usually has a delay behind regular radio of what I am guessing is at least 10 seconds, I can’t actually win a dial in competition and I am certainly not going to try and quickly dial while driving 100kmph on the motorway. So for me, a twitter competition is most likely the only way I am going to win a prize (I did win movie tickets last month, but that was all timing – I was just settling into my car when the song you needed to hear came on – so I dialled in).

So let’s talk about the event.

Tweets from almost two years ago still on the most recent tweet list...

It was a great idea – to have people live tweeting a show – though there are a few things that I think should be taken into account in the future.
Make sure the venue has good coverage.
Sounds obvious, but at least 4 of us had real issues with coverage – with it dropping in and out or just unable to get reception.
The seats themselves – we were three rows back (and I and my friend were smack bang in the middle right in front of the “star” of the show). So for us to tweet, we had to “low tweet” so tweeting low in our laps with our brightness turned way down to try not to annoy the people behind us – though I am sure we were a real distraction. It was VERY weird to be at a show tweeting – and looking left I could see the white lights of the view screens standing out in the dark theatre.
The organiser of the event had a twitter account that had barely ever been used, and didn’t engage us. No asking us who we were, our user names – nadda. Let’s face it, someone who hasn’t even bothered to tweet more than a few times in over a year isn’t the best person to be driving this. She tried, but not understanding twitter was a hurdle – telling us what her twitter handle was would have been a start – I only stumbled on it by chance.
The show itself was lots of fun – a bit of a comedy of errors (I will get around to reviewing it shortly) and the cast tweeted during intermission and after the show – though it would have been good to get some engagement going in advance.
The 612Brisbane account was reweeting some of the tweets from the event, and this did engage the greater twitter audience – I received a few tweets asking what was going on – where I was etc after I was retweeted, plus a fair amount of communication from my regular followers asking for information from my #612jam’ing their stream – though nothing negative – which was good because I was concerned I would annoy some of my followers.

So what did we learn if anything from this exercise.
Check the reception at the venue before you commit.
Put together an engagement strategy and get the participants/show connected with each other.
It was a good choice of show – you didn’t have to think while watching and was easy to tweet – though not sure how transferable us talking about songs and events on stage translated to the greater audience. I can’t see us live tweeting King Lear any time soon.
Maybe place us before a break in the seating so we aren’t so distracting to the paying customers.

EDIT: I personally don’t see embracing Twitter as a new medium to connect with listeners/viewers as a bad thing. You can pretty much pick any group and say they have an advantage. I think the the ABC balances it well. For example, I love how Virginia Trioli will read out emails and Facebook comments then made jokey comments back to her followers on twitter during her off air time in the show. 612Brisbane  and some of their announcers really engage with their audience, and I do wonder whether there has been an increase in their blog traffic since they started tweeting segments. From my own andecdotal evidence based on a sample of one (me), I will tune in via my app at work if something is coming up that really interests me vs waiting to hear it later. How do I know what is coming up? Twitter tells me. So to have a competition to engage a particular segment of your audience isn’t discriminatory at all – I think it is merely responding to your market share and providing appropriate opportunities. Let’s not talk about the #fidlerannouncement.

I doubt this will be the last Tweet Seats event – and I would certainly enter to go again – and the event (not the show) I rate as

#twoandahalfpandas though I think with a little tweaks these could be highly coveted #fourpanda events.
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Update from Das Panda

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Hi Panda fans.

Sorry I have been horrendously busy. I have a number of reviews in the “can” but not time to post. I will make an effort before I get swamped in BIFF stuff.

Tonight I am off to the Opening Night of BIFF, so hopefully by this time tomorrow there will be a good number of fresh reviews on Smallville, Nikita, Stargate Universe, Caprica and Hawai Five-0, Sushi Train and Freestyle Tout – not to mention Canetoads: A Conquest.

Oh and super congrats to Lun Lun on her new baby.
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HowManyPandas on the Radio Again.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

All bikes, no racks. Status quo in New Farm/Fortitude Valley/Teneriffe/Merthyr

Well, one month in and people seem to be, if anything, more interested than ever in how CityCycle is going and amazingly my thoughts on it – I was even contacted for a TV news story on the gosh darn thing. I think I am one of the few people blogging about CityCycle, or I am the one who promotes their blog the most and also lucky enough to have some great readers who promote it on.

To celebrate CityCycle’s one month anniversary birthday on Monday, I was on Brisbane’s #1 Breakfast show again (go Spencer!), discussing some of the ongoing challenges faced by CityCycle and their users. You can hear the whole interview here care of 612Brisbane’s blog spot or by clicking on the picture on the right.
Monday broke my all time record for searches to find my site (people searched Pandas CityCycle or How Many Pandas CityCycle or variations – a direct consequence of my guest spot on 612 Brisbane), the record on hits on a an individual post, hits on my homepage, total overall views for a 24 hour period and links in… smashed them actually.
You can also read the whole entry in full here or read all of my CityCycle thoughts by clicking here.
HMP aka That chick on a CityCycle you see at Teneriffe and Merthyr all the time.
PS. And today it is back to normal with Smallville Bondage and TV Euthanasia topping my search links.

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Happy Anniversary CityCycle

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It has been one month since CityCycle commenced its roll out.

So how has it been traveling? If you read the local papers or online news sites, it is doomed to fail, taking the council’s money with it. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Really.

There has been much comparison to the failure of Melbourne’s bike hire scheme, and how they are now doing vending machines to provide helmets for riders. In my humble opinion, that isn’t the issue. Melbourne has less stations and it was also launched in Winter. Was someone not having a helmet the deal breaker on riding? Personally, I don’t think so.

CityCycle is designed to be an alternative to other forms of transport for commuters. Commuters know they are commuting. My helmet (in its yellow CityCycle bag) goes with me if I think I will use the scheme – just like my GoCard goes with me – there is a difference in size I must admit. On the very odd occasion that you are out and spontaneously wish you could ride a CityCycle from Roma Street to Fortitude Valley, yes it is a shame you can’t hit the vending machine for a helmet, swipe a credit card, and ride. But really, that is not the majority, and not what it was intended for – if this was me, I would just jump on a bus. CityCycle isn’t designed to replace other forms of transport, it compliments it.

Much has also been made of the $11 a day cost, comparing it to bus fares. I paid my $60 upfront, that is what, 17-18 cents a day. Six days in twelve months is all you would have to use it to break even (give or take) on the daily rate. The other way of looking at it is this – a year’s membership approximately equates to one zone trip on your GoCard every two weeks. I have used CityCycle 30+ times in the past month and that would have been much more had it not been for rain and the 10pm lock out. I also did nine hours more exercise last month than I would have otherwise, not including the walking to and from the stations.

It hasn’t all been puppies and chocolate… There are some problems.

CityCycle’s biggest problem is its own poor communication.

Its webpage is atrocious. Unnecessary clicks, hard to find information, woeful design etc. Their app is better, but has some problems. You really have to spend a bit of time to set it up with your stations to get the benefit of it, and live isn’t really live or always correct.

The Call Centre is either brilliant or hopeless. Some staff know what is going on, most don’t. Give them with a problem outside of “how do I register?” or “how do I use my card to hire a bike?” and they are stumped. Some of their staff are just downright hopeless at customer service. You can read more about this here.

Another problem are stations that look live, aren’t. An Opening Soon sign on the machine would be great – as the little one on the racks are also on live stations – so how can you tell, especially if someone has already racked a bike? Commercial Rd / Skyring Tce (Teneriffe CityCat, Cross River Ferry, Bus Hub) Station 66 is a great case in point – there were 9 bikes there recently, yet it is a closed station. I would love to know what happened to those people who left bikes there.

The biggest issue in my area, New Farm/Teneriffe/Merthyr, is lack of bikes or lack of racks – which probably contributed to the Station 66 problem. This morning (Sunday) at 8am I rode to Merthyr – my app said 2 racks available but figured I might jag one or at worst, rack at New Farm Park. Knowing the problem in my area, I counted how many racks were available along Macquarie St and Merthyr Rd – seven. Just seven free racks over four stations. Granted I was on the main drag and didn’t check New Farm CityCat or the Powerhouse, but lack of racks is a big issue. Because not all the stations are live yet, there are limited options to rack in popular areas. When I got to Merthyr Village this morning I got the last space, though the machine and my app still said there were two. Thankfully the lack of bikes issue has settled down, and I haven’t gone past a live empty station in the last week.

The Bikes:
Predominantly very good. I have had three dodgy bikes. Two with gear issues, one with a broken seat lever. 3 from 30 is a 10% fail rate, though only one was not ridable.
I love the basket – no hot and sweaty backpack! Fits my laptop perfectly and handles a baguette with some shopping no issues.
The lights come on automatically.
Seats are nice and wide.
Brakes are OK – not super, but as you aren’t going that fast, it isn’t much of an issue.
People who say the bikes look sissy just don’t get that it is for comfort and stability and not sleek racing in lycra. I have seen more guys on CityCycles than girls – so I don’t think any guy who is comfortable with their sexuality have a problem with the bikes.

Just one new station in the past two weeks.

The Stations:
One station at least, has real issues. Merthyr crashes itself and resets regularly. Some bikes are stuck. That is you can see the bike, but the rack number doesn’t come up as an option.
Station updates (and the app + webpage) aren’t really live. I have been to a station that had closed for service, yet was still listed as open (red) on the webpage. There is also a lag to updating numbers of bikes and racks.
Some stations are poorly designed with racks quite a distance from the machine. Sucks when you pick that bike, go to release it and it doesn’t. Walk back, repeat a few times till the machine resets.
The roll out of stations makes glaciers look like F1 cars. After two weeks, five more stations went live (including the reopening of a broken station). In the following two weeks, only one more.
Unless I can’t count, we still don’t have 50 stations open – given their current lag in opening stations, I doubt that they can do the rest by the end of the year – let alone another 100 in the new 14 months.
Stations in key areas are still not open – Southbank and the Northern end of The Valley are cases in point.

The Service:
When it works, it works brilliantly.
When it doesn’t, often staff don’t know how to solve the problem, or they don’t have the resources to do so. Being told that they don’t have the staff to move bikes when stations get full regularly isn’t what you want to hear. Being told they don’t have the staff to move bikes on the weekend is even worse.
The last official comment I can find states that subscriptions were increasing at around 60 a day. There was a little over 1000 by the end of the first weekend, so that would put membership at around 1,800 so far if registrations remained constant.  I was told today by a fellow CityCycler that there were just under 2,000.
The service does work. I came across bike #00001 on Saturday morning. I took her for three rides before she disappeared from Merthyr this morning. I had just picked a new bike and lo and behold a girl rides up to do her shopping on #00001. Someone had ridden it to another station and she had picked it up taking it on yet another journey. One bike had taken three people off the bus or out of their car in just the space of a few hours.

Riding in the early morning sun along the boardwalk at Teneriffe (frequently).
Having a chat with an old man about how much he loves CityCycle as we ran into eachother in a cafe, both with our CityCycle bags and helmets.
Hearing friends and acquaintances explain excitedly that their stations were getting closer to opening.
Seeing the same faces on the bikes… sometimes I am reminded of the Prius Smug episode in Southpark… we do look pretty pleased with ourselves.
Riding to meet friends for dinner, parties, coffee and picnics and not once having to wait for a bus or circle the block over and over for a park.
Seeing that I can ride to BIFF.
Getting fitter.

Low Lights:
Poor Customer Service at the Call Centre.
Almost getting taken out by a silver Audi that swerved in front of me, blocking the bike lane, to reverse park.
Almost riding into a silver BMW that braked through a stop sign into the bike lane at a T intersection.
Almost falling off my CityCycle when I was seeing if you could ride the bike into the rack.
Planning a night out, only to find out that there were still no stations live within 500m of the venue – I just ended up walking.

A month in, we are still at #twopandas though on some brilliant mornings it is a 5 star start to my day. We have a long way to go yet.

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Are the naysayers right about CityCycle?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

You can tell this station isn't in New Farm or Teneriffe - There are lots of spaces AND bikes.

I have been a vocal supporter of CityCycle, forgiving their many errors and tardiness as teething problems, but still doggedly showering love on the program. But are those who say CityCycle will fail actually correct? All that I see cite the helmet laws as the nail in the coffin for CityCycle, but I think CityCycle’s greatest challenge is CityCycle themselves.

Looking back, the signs were all there.

I remember the day before CityCycle went live, I called their Call Centre to confirm that my location stations would be open on the 1st of October, and that their use wouldn’t be delayed until after Senor CanDo had done his official (and I suggest only) ride. I was reassured that my stations would be opened at 5am. At 5.15am I went to hire a bike, no bikes. Infact, only one of the two stations opened (with no bikes until 2.30pm) and the second station still hasn’t opened. A third station (and my closest) still isn’t finished, though I do see workers every few days. I should say, station building isn’t JCD’s fault, it is done by the council.
It is now 3 weeks in. Stations are slowly (read very!) opening, but problems remain with existing stations and areas.

An ongoing issue in my area (Teneriffe/Powerhouse/Merthyr/New Farm) is either a lack of bikes or a lack of spaces, and given that not all stations are live, it can be a bit of a walk to the next station. I spoke about this a week ago, and if anything, the problem has become worse as the weather improves and more people start using the program.

On Sunday, I decided to ride to my favourite Chai hangout to do some word dumping, then take a long and leisurely ride home taking some shots. Firstly, at Merthyr Village, there was only 3 racks free when I arrived at 8am. Secondly, after a ride down to Sydney Street and then a cycle back to the Powerhouse there were no spaces available. This is 10am Sunday morning. New Farm Park/Powerhouse is one of the few places you actually can ride to (other than the Botanical Gardens) and hang out on the grass on a beautiful day and at 10am it was already full. I decided to just ride on, and reset my bike at Macquarie St so I didn’t’ get charged extra. However, when two friends rode to New Farm later that day – there were no spaces at all in the area of Powerhouse and New Farm. Late afternoon, two more friends went to the Powerhouse, only to again find no spaces to rack their bikes. They ended up using a station quite some distance from the Powerhouse and then walked back (I hope they made their show in time). My friend called the Call Centre to get an idea of what was going on. He was informed that during the week (read business days) teams are dispatched within the hour of a rack being full or empty to move the bikes around, though on weekends they were trying to work out how to do it. Read most likely, no staff moving bikes on the weekend. I decided to put it to the test yesterday (Wednesday).

You might say it was entrapment, but I did not provide the shovel for them to dig themselves into this hole.
I know that the busiest station in my area is Merthyr Village – so I monitored it throughout the afternoon. 2 spaces at 1pm. 1 space at 2pm. 1 space at 3pm. 1 space at 4pm. 0 spaces at 4.30pm. 0 spaces at 5.00pm. 0 spaces at 5.30pm. 0 spaces at 6pm. 0 spaces at 7pm.

I got home at 4.30pm and decided to ride down to Merthyr (I needed a baguette, really). I called CityCycle to confirm that the station was actually working – you may remember that this station was allowing people to rack bikes but not to borrow when CityCycle went live (read when the station finally opened in the afternoon of the 2nd). I explained that I was riding to Merthyr. Angela (yes, name and shame) informed me that the station was working fine (more on that later) and that I could borrow a bike no problems. I explained again that I was riding to Merthyr but there were no spaces. She helpfully told me it was full. I told Angela that I had been monitoring the station all afternoon, and I was curious why no team had been sent to Merthyr to shift the bikes and make room as it was such a high volume destination (I have never ridden to Merthyr without seeing another person doing the same or walking around the complex with their yellow eyesore). I said that I was under the impression that CityCycle had a team that moved bikes within the hour of no bikes or no spaces being flagged on their system. She put me on hold. When she came back about 3 mins later, she told me, with what I can only describe as lacking in grace, that they don’t have enough technicians to move the bikes – they may be able to get some moved at 6am tomorrow. No apologies for inconvenience. No explaining on how the system works if you ride to a station and it is full. She didn’t even offer me the location of the closest available station.

Knowing full well there were no spaces available, I decided to put their reswipe system to the test. For those not in the know, if you arrive at a station and there are no spaces, you swipe, it extends your hire for an extra 15mins at no charge and displays the closest alternative locations and rack availability.

Service Level Agreement? Pishposh!

So I ride to Merthyr. I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it, because I just knew it would be a balls up. I even tweeted that I was going for a ride and most likely have to drive back to go buy my baguette.

I arrive at Merthyr. 0 spaces available – however there are three racks with the red plastic guards on them (faulty/non-operational). I ride up onto the pavement and swipe. It helpfully tells me that there are actually 3 racks available. I helpfully inform the machine that actually I can’t use those three, so please rethink this answer.

I swipe again. Same result. I swear those stations don’t listen. The station does tell me that if I am having problems, to call CityCycle – they are actually set to a speed dial I call so often (again that should be a sign). I get a guy, Nick I think. I explain to him that there are no spaces at Merthyr, but that it won’t approve a swipe to extend to cycle to the next stop. He doesn’t know what to do or say. We decided to take it one step at a time. I explain where I am, the station number, and that the station won’t allow me to extend my ride.

He has NO idea what to do. I mean it, absolutely nothing. I tell him that the station thinks there are three available racks, yet the app (AllBikesNow) says there are none, and that I can see that there are three racks vacant but that they are blocked with the red plastic guards. Still no idea what to do. Now I know that I rode here pretty fast, didn’t take the leisurely route I normally take – I so I have a good 10 mins before it becomes a problem and I get fined (and I half wanted this to happen to see how they would go with it). He doesn’t ask for my membership number to make a note incase I get charged. He doesn’t suggest the closet stations (which won’t display because this station thinks there are three spaces), only confusion. He doesn’t even apologise for the inconvenience. Just as I hear him get to a whole new level of flustered and nervous laughing, a user comes up who wants to take out a bike. I say goodbye to Nick, who is thanking Mary McKillop, that someone showed up.

All does not go smoothly however. The rack won’t release. She swipes, picks a bike and it won’t release. You can hear the click but the bike won’t budge. We try three times on different bikes and finally get one out. One user had this happen recently, but the station thought that they HAD taken the bike even though they couldn’t remove it. Naturally, there was noone at the Call Centre, so they left a message and faced a 12 hour charge on their account. The next day, the problem was solved, but no ride for that user as planned. At least this time, I can lock my bike in.

I go buy my baguette and naturally run into an ex workmate while I have helmet hair, but that is ok… really.
As I am walking back towards the pavement, I see a woman on a CityCycle pushing her bike along the pavement to get back onto the road. Obviously she has just tried to rack her bike (still no spaces) and swipe her card. She jumps back onto the bike on the road and heads off at speed to New Farm CityCat Terminal (the closet operational station). I get my bike back out (I do have a favourite bike, though it isn’t at my local station anymore as I stupidly rode it on a one way trip last night after my shopping adventures – #881 best bike of all I have used – I have at least 10+ trips on her too #sadpanda) and headed back. I pass another CityCycler heading towards Merthyr (I assume) just around the corner. I wish them a silent “good luck” and ride home.

5 Stations Opened in 3 weeks (including 1 that was broken)

Shortly after I get home, I check again – it is now 6pm and still 0 spaces. At 6.45pm I head out again. As I mentioned, I went out again last night via CityCycle to a pizza place on Merthyr right by a station. As I was riding there, I saw a lady get onto a CityCycle with shopping bags at Macquarie St. When I got to Vespa I checked the app – 7pm and still no spaces. Her shopping trip won’t end as well as mine did I imagine.

So my question is, CityCycle, when are you going to pull your finger out and fix the busted stations? When are you going to train your call centre staff so they have information required by users? When are you going to have the staff numbers to service the program as promised so that people who are using can actually use it? And finally, what are you doing to compensate the people who subscribed but their stations still aren’t live almost a month in – and let’s not forget those who are waiting for stations that are are at the “hopefully by the end of the year.”

When it works it is great, but right now we are still sitting at just under a pass over all.
My rating for yesterday afternoon is:


Call for Suggestions

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Hey loyal Panda Fans!

Is there something, someone or somewhere you want Panda’ed?

Flip me an email (howmanypandas AT, post a comment of contact me via Twitter.

I can’t guarantee you will agree with what I have to say, but I will give it a stab – and everyone knows that Pandas are super stabby.


Review – Foursquare

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Queensland - Where Australia Shines (on Foursquare)

Surprisingly, I was speaking to someone who is quite into social networking who didn’t “get” Foursquare. He saw it just as spam and a track, I see it as so much more. I won’t name and shame, but let’s see if I can get this acquaintance (and hopefully you) see the positives of Foursquare.

Some background:
It was initially started as a mobile phone app for NYC (yes the Big Apple), and it transforms the way you enjoy not just exciting foreign destinations, but also your own home town. It is a combination guide, game and social networking application. I don’t know anyone who is “into” the whole points thing past their first week of Foursquaring.

Some thoughts:
Where its strengths lie isn’t in just telling someone where you are, it allows you to find out what venues are “trending” (read going off), to find popular locations with the locals, and must sees that are near by. On top of this, it gives you advice, entered by people you know (as a first preference) on what to order, where to park, what to avoid and how to get there by public transport. Imagine a Good Food Guide or a Lonely Planet Book, but with up to the minute information. That is the power of Foursquare. Also, more and more venues are offering Foursquare benefits. Eg, check in, buy a book and get a free coffee, buy one main, get one entree free, be the mayor at the end of the month and get free cocktails, free meal, voucher etc.

You can also use Foursquare as a search engine to find a great tapas restaurant, places with free wifi etc – you name it – if you can tag it you or tip it – you can find it, even providing you with a nifty Google Map.

Queensland Tourism have just got on the Foursquare bandwagon, with their Shine program. They have listed 50 must see/must do places in the Sunshine State (though they missed a LOT of awesome Central Queensland locations). There is information when you log in there (not to the level or interest that the History Channel has done in the States, but it is a start). Furthermore, if you are into collecting the badges, then after 5 checkins, you receive the spanky new “Shine Seeker” badge.

But why I love Foursquare? With push activated, it tells me things as I walk down the street. For example, I couldn’t make up my mind where to have breakfast one morning, opened the app and recommendations popped up. I found one that spoke of an awesome vegetarian breakfast at a cafe about 250m from where I was standing and headed there instead of the greasy spoon places I was surrounded by.

Obviously, it means that people can find you. Just yesterday I was in a certain Superstore which I knew that a friend was visiting later in the day, yet low and behold he checked in shortly after I arrived.  We worked out where to meet, and then ended up running into more friends, a spontaneous few hours of laughter, lunch and hilarity ensued – totally due to Foursquare.

Discover new places and things to do.
Run into people you like.
Spontaenous fun.
Know what to order and what to avoid.
Become the mayor of your favourite place for great prizes.

People can spam without adding anything useful.
People can find you when you don’t want to be found (you can hide your location).
Only as good as what is put into it.

I would like to suggest this unwritten rule (now written rule) for Foursquare, if you aren’t going to add a comment, don’t Tweet where you are.

As I said, it is only as good as what you put into it, so if you love somewhere, tell the world with a tip.


UPDATE: I have now got my own shiny 4sq badge for Queensland. Score!

Review – Quiz Meisters Trivia at Queens Arms (Fortitude Valley)

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Beer, beer, beer, cider, rum or beer.

The Other QANDA

It is an unwritten rule of pub trivia that there has to be the team with the unoriginal pun (Trivia Newton John, Cunning Linguists), the sexual and/or silly names (Jungle Sausage, Did Your Mum, Up the Bum No Babies, Who Farted), the making a point from last week names (Streets Makes Blue Ribbon Icecream, Last Last Week), locations (Teneriffic, Stabbed in Wynnum), ongoing rivalries (Elevenariffic, Twelveariffic) and those attempting to be current and witty (Out of the Mine and Into the Pub, I’m Only Here Because Virgin Blue Cancelled My Flight, The Silent Carriage, The Hung Parliament). In this way, Trivia, delivered by James Gauci (student and want-to-be stage actor) for Quiz Meisters Trivia at the Queens Arms (my local and yes I am the mayor on Foursquare) ticks all the boxes. It is also happens to be a fun and free night out. Unlike many pub trivias, this costs nothing to play!

James is often very amusing, frequently unintentionally.
$5 beer of the month.
2-4-1 Pizzas.
CityCycle Station 77 is across the road (don’t ride home after drinking).
Easy public transport 470 and CityGlider.
Great prizes (sometimes that wine comes with a label *gasp*).
Chances to win with no brain power.
Opportunity to win a mighty bar tab (that has never gone off since we have played there).

Combined IQ of the bar wenches < 100.
Often the food takes 45mins + to arrive.
Pizzas can be a bit hit and miss (same pizzas ordered same night 30 mins apart can be vastly different).
Can often be no space left in the bar area to play.
Gets cancelled for stupid boxing.

Quiz Meisters is very AV orientated so make sure you can see the TV – we made this mistake once and spent most of the night getting up and down. Questions cover such favourites as “Porn or Pony” (where you guess if it is a porn star or a My Little Pony – harder than you might think), Face Off with Nicholas Cage (whose face has been replaced with Nicholas Cage’s), Is It a Jim’s (pick the real Jim’s Franchise) and Opera Boy (an crowd favourite – where a character sings lyrics to a well known song in opera to a different tune). There are general knowledge, pop culture, geography, science and politics questions for those who actually are clever, but for the rest of us, we just go with the flow, and whether we win or lose, leave with sore cheeks from smiling and laughing so much.

Quiz Meisters Trivia runs trivia nights across the country. To find out if there is one near you, click here, but I can’t guarantee that your host will be as funny as James is, or that the food will be as slow and the bar girls as dumb.

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Two Weeks into CityCycle – Just how are we going?

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Still not enough of theseTwo Weeks In:

They say two weeks is a long time in politics, but in CityCycle time it doesn’t seem to be that long. Granted we have had a LOT of rain, but the pace of failed stations going live and new stations opening is progressing at a pace that is leaving even patient turtles drumming their claws.

I have been riding at every opportunity – whether it be a dash to Merthyr Village for a baguette (yes I did ride back with a baguette in my basket but forgot to wear my striped shirt and beret) – or just going for a leisurely cruise along the boardwalk at sunset, I have clocked up around 4.5 hours and just under 20 rides. I have had, on the whole very good experiences. Only one more bike has been dodgy, so I put it back with its seat back to front (that is what we are adopting right?) and another subscriber advised me that he grabbed a bike only to realise into the ride that his tyre was flat.

My closest station still isn’t finished, though they have at least started the station now. The station at Merthyr Village is still techy. They finally got it working again after a week, and people who lived in the area, couldn’t hire and called, or people like myself who called after riding there then unable get back without a walk to another station, got a few extra weeks added to their subscription

My biggest beef with CityCycle is just that stations that make PERFECT sense to be the first ones rolled out aren’t live. According to fellow subscriber, CityCycle responded to his enquiry regarding Southbank, and they advised that they hoped they would be ready by the end of the year. End of the year? Seriously?

Another problem has been with the lack of response in moving bikes around. More than once I have gone past a station multiple times with only 1 bike or past a station with only 1-2 free bases. Surely the team (with so few bases to monitor) can address this. Another problem are stations going live that aren’t finished – i.e.. No numbers on the bike racks – which makes working out which bike you are supposed to release kind of tricky. CityCycle did respond to my emails regarding this and have fixed up one already.

I have learnt a few tricks along the way. The most important one is how to reset a station. If you swipe your card and it gets stuck on Validating, hit V a few times, and it will bounce back to the Welcome Screen. Try and swipe again, repeat. After a few tries, the station with “close” with the red unavailable message. Fear not, in 30 seconds, it will reboot with a Welcome Screen and you can successfully swipe.

My biggest beefs about riding has nothing to do with CityCycle – it has to do with people who park so atrociously they force you out of the bike lane (I am looking at you people of Teneriffe). Pedestrians who just step out into the bike lane to check for cars. Let’s not forget cars that push through intersections into the bike lane before they can go, again forcing you out of the bike lane. My biggest beef though is reserved for bus drivers. Yes, I said it! Going through red lights, blocking intersections, cutting infront of you and half stopping against the curb so their tail sticks out, forcing you into traffic – or the classic pull out then indicate. I am half tempted to take my dive pad with me (you strap it on your arm and you can write underwater) so I can name and shame.

Must haves in your CityCycle bag – phone (for calling CityCycle), a small hand towel/face washer to dry the seat and hand grips, GoCard incase you get stuck, and a brush or comb. Baguette is optional.

CityCycle remains at the same PandaRating, though I certainly see light at the end of the tunnel. You can read my first review of CityCycle here.
PS. Apologies for the odd formatting – no idea what I clicked.
UPDATE: I want to add “Pedestrians who stroll along share paths 3-4 abreast or pushing strollers who think that the bell I ring isn’t directed at them. Often times there isn’t anyway to go around them, esp on the boardwalks. The bike is heavier so slower to stop and less manoeuvrable. Oh and parents who let toddlers run back and forth along the paths thinking it is funny/brilliant, then give you death looks when you almost fall off avoiding their kid.”  #bitterpanda

HowManyPandas on the Radio

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I talk about these!

As a follow up to my post on Brisbane’s new CityCycle program, I was ABC Radio this morning.

You can listen to me here via 612Brisbane.