Posts Tagged ‘Op Ed’

CityCycle 4 months in

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

CityCycles in the city during the Flood by Jono Haysom

In most of my previous blog entries regarding CityCycle, I have repeatedly stated that CityCycle is its own worst enemy – with their terrible communication skills being their biggest challenge. Things haven’t changed. It is still all about Communication.

In four months, I have taken around 120 trips – everything from swinging down to the shops, to riding to events, commuting to the CityCat/CityFerry network and just riding cause it is a gorgeous day/evening. Even on the most conservative of estimates I would have saved 80 plus bus or car trips. I doubt I am the most frequent user; just maybe one of the more vocal ones, but before I get into the challenges, let me share some of those great benefits of the scheme. I have had some great rides – Teneriffe to Orleigh Park along the river at sunset was just wonderful! I have saved a heap of money on Translink, and kept my car off the road – and most importantly, not had to drive around finding a park, or even worse, paying for the right to park. This was especially true during the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. I would just grab a CityCycle, ride there, rack it and shop. I especially enjoyed riding past the line ups of cars to just get into car parks! There’s a lot of extra exercise in there as well. I for one certainly see the benefits of the scheme and continue to use it as my primary mode of transportation for inner city living.

There are some hiccups.

I will get to CityCycleMailFail shortly, but let’s talk about the how the service has been performing.

Still a lot of white.

Even before the floods, CityCycle was around 40 stations behind schedule (just ignore the fact that the whole scheme was a year late). As you may recall, they were to be 100 stations up and running by the end of 2010 – they hit the 60’s in December, but stagnated there. It should be noted though, that those extra 10+ stations had a huge impact on the “ridability” of the scheme. More stations opening up meant more locations to hire and rack – thereby increasing the number of routes available to users.This was especially true for the Northern end of The Valley, Newstead and West End, with locations opening up in potentially high traffic areas. Post floods we are now at 63 live stations.

Unfortunately, station locations that users are desperate for (especially SouthBank which was caught up in the brouhaha between Brisbane City Council and SouthBank Corporation – You may recall I broke the SouthBank Corporation story before the media in my last blog post on CityCycle) are still not active and some of the placement of stations makes you wonder why they chose that position at all. As one cynical reader of mine suggested, it is more for the advertising placement that the convenience or suitability of those locations.

You would THINK that a station at Central would be a high priority, right?

Another hurdle to the success of CityCycle is the lack of bikes at Train Stations – such as Fortitude Valley, Central, South Brisbane and yes, SouthBank. Initially the main focus was to have the stations up and running around the CityCat/CityFerry system and the bike paths – and this did work well, with New Farm Park being the busiest station on the board – however, with the CityCat/CityFerry network down, and the upriver terminals out for an extended period of time, we need to focus on the trains to get this scheme moving along again. According to CityCycle, there were unexpected structural delays in the building of these stations, but when asked why completed stations aren’t live, there was no definitive answer, just that they are opening shortly (read in the next couple of months). I have recently moved from CityCycle Central (New Farm, Valley and Teneriffe) to the city end of Spring Hill and the closest stations are closed – the one at Central Station hasn’t even had building works commenced yet. Interestingly though, the completed yet closed stations still say they are opening in late 2010. We know from the rapid opening of stations at Teneriffe Ferry after the temporary closing of the only open site due to building construction, that completed yet closed stations can be opened and live almost immediately. Why then is there such a delay in opening the rest of the completed stations?

Membership is continuing to rise, albeit slower than the first three months. In the last month, there was a net increase of 600 new subscribers on board, giving a total subscription base of 3590. Factor in the heat, those weeks of rain, then the flood – that isn’t too bad. I believe that once the temps start sitting in the mid-high 20’s again we will see a sustained increase in membership. CityCycle is MUCH better when you arrive at your destination without helmet hair or your clothes sweaty. There has been attrition however post 3 months, with a few people I know personally cancelling their subscription. I doubt my friends were the only ones to do so. One has to wonder why CityCycle isn’t trying and stop the rot. Here are people who WANT to use it – put good money down to do so, yet walked away. I wonder how many of these people just gave up waiting for their stations to open? I don’t know of anyone who was contacted to find out why they cancelled their account. Why not get some feedback and find out why and then address these issues? If the accounts weren’t being utilised, suspend the account, then offer them a free month when more stations are on line etc? The bikes are out there, get people on them!

Current figures show that  during the week, 224 trips are taken each day, with 170 on the weekend. Think about that for a moment. That is 224 people not on your bus or train. 224 cars not driving into or around the CBD. That is 224 people getting more exercise, and most importantly 224 trips represents 1 in 3 of total number of bikes utilised a day. For someone to say that the figures show that people aren’t interested, I suggest they re-examine those numbers and think about what an extra 200 plus people of public transport or the roads in the inner city equates to. While the roll out to Milton, Toowong, St Lucia are going to be a longer time coming possibly with the re-assignment of funds post-funds, the impact of this scheme and the positive benefits will be long felt.

The availability of bikes and racks continues to be a stumbling point in the scheme around the network. One glaring example came with the death of the Floating Walkway, the station at Malt St really increased in usage – it is the one just near the bikeway into the city that goes under the Story Bridge. It seemed as though every other day I was calling CityCycle about getting bikes put into the racks. When they did deliver bikes, it would only be 4 at a time – which meant that people walking home from the city up Ivory Lane would jump on a bike and ride home so there would be again only 1 or 2 bikes the next day if you were lucky, and they were usually racked by commuters returning home after 6pm. This week, this was finally been addressed with 80% of the rack refilled at a time. What I don’t understand, is why CityCycle has to be constantly told to move bikes. I thought the whole point of their integrated system was so they can react quickly to ensure the availability of bikes and racks, instead I am constantly told “We will get out technicians on that.”

Soon we will have 2000 mobile garbage bins in the inner city.

The cleanliness of the bikes has also been a major issue. With the floods, no one really rode the scheme for a week – and spiders set up home on some bikes and birds pooped over more of them. Almost two weeks after my last email to clean the bikes at one busy station on James St, there are still spiders controlling over half of the racked bikes. I don’t know about you – but I don’t particularly want to be picking off spiders before going for a ride. I don’t have a phobia, but I certainly don’t want to be in heavy traffic and have a spider crawl out of the plastic and scare the heck out of me. Another issue here is that the public seem to use the baskets in lieu of garbage bins. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone to a bike to find bottles, rubbish, junk mail etc left by Joe and Joanne Public. As there are no bins near most of the stations, the choices riders are faced with are very limited. Either walk it down the street to the first available bin (sometimes not an option as there can be none in sight in residential areas), put it in another basket and make it someone else’s problem, or take the garbage with you and drop it in a bin along the way. Surely keeping the bikes clean of rubbish, bird poop and insects is the job of the cleaning techs, but they either don’t do it very well, or they are spread so thin, stations just don’t get cleaned. In my entire time riding the scheme, I have only seen one station and bikes getting cleaned (at QUT).

Early on, the broken bike rate was sitting at around 10%. These days it is higher, sitting at just over 15% for me (this includes stuck bikes in racks). One trip I had to use THREE bikes, with the third failing about 100m from my destination. You often see bikes with the seats backwards for weeks at a time in racks – with the technicians doing nothing to fix them. Common problems are loose seat clamps, locked brakes, sticky/locked gears and the pedals getting caught on the skirt/pant guard each rotation as you ride. One of the real hinderances to getting the bikes fixed is that the onus is on the user to send an email through the CityCycle webpage, to advise them of the number of the faulty bike. I, like many others I am sure, have the best of intentions of advising of faulty bikes, but if you are riding out to an event, you can’t do it till you get home, and by then you have forgotten about it or can’t remember the number. Even though there is an app (more on that later) you can’t advise JC Decaux of faulty bikes in it. Overseas, the accepted practice to advise the roaming bike technicians of a faulty bike is just to turn the seat around – unfortunately this is not working as a communication tool here. On the plus side of the CityCycleMailFail, everyone now has the email of the Customer Care team – so perhaps we can just email directly instead.

YAY! Station open and bikes available!!

The iPhone/iPod application itself has real issues – as does their linked network. Post flood, for days stations that were closed were still listed as open on the app and the web based map, even showing the number of bikes and racks available. When this was finally addressed (after I got sunstroke from having to walk 1km at midday to the next station only to find that the system hadn’t registered my previous bike being returned, and then waiting another 20ish minutes without shade post call to the Call Centre to fix it) the closed stations didn’t communicate with the app correctly. Stations that were closed, were still coming up on the favourites page, again with bikes and racks available. After multiple calls to the Call Centre with no result other than “Sorry, here is the closest rack/bike,” I emailed, and was sent back a list of the closed stations without even an acknowledgement of the problem. This problem was further compounded by CityCycle’s media communication as to their response to the floods. Now this probably was due to Brisbane Times, but it was reported that all of the 17 stations that were flood affected were now reconnected (read open). They were not. In fact, not all of the affected stations are yet back in service.

Oh wait, the station isn't even listed!

Of course, CityCycle is big news again after I broke the CityCycleMailFail story via Twitter on Friday. A few people were jumping on the privacy bandwagon and again expressing their reasons as to why the scheme should be canned, is doomed to fail, is a waste of money etc (Looking at you Ray Smith – Labor Mayoral Candidate). I certainly am not thrilled that my private email address is out there, but kudos to those who did receive the email for not doing a reply all. Mistakes do happen, and while this was a doozy – it wasn’t to the level of McLarenMailGate, but I must admit, it certainly didn’t look good. Around 15 minutes after the mass email Friday, they unsuccessfully attempted to recall it, and again listed all the emails. An apology was in the media around 45 minutes after the initial email, and an emailed apology (BCC’ed) was sent just under 3 hours after the event. I am not sure why this was classed as an “urgent, unscheduled communication” post floods – surely another day wouldn’t have hurt, and it wasn’t as though the floods and the availability of stations during and post floods was a surprise. To me, this isn’t a nail in the coffin of CityCycle. Let’s keep it in perspective. People make mistakes.

Crashing phones everywhere!

Communication is still the biggest challenge that CityCycle faces. The loss of subscribers, the difficulty in getting clear answers to opening times of stations, the clunkiness to advise of a faulty bike, the failure of its app and on line map system, and yes, CityCycleMailFail are all problems caused by the poor communication structure/plan by JC Decaux here in Brisbane. The second biggest challenge are the roads and sharing them with cars, buses and taxis. Thankfully, groups such as the very active and passionate CBD Bike Users Group are out there doing what they can in conjunction with council and government to up bicycle usage and to keep us safe. Things we can look forward to are more bike lanes, improved bike paths, more awareness etc. I am concerned about Brisbane City Council’s care of the road system in inner city. Given my new location, I am riding more on the roads and the area close to the curb is terribly rough/uneven, especially with the poor suspension on the CityCycle bikes – imagine a pot hole/poorly repaired hole, down a hill with things in your basket – yeah, not great.

Yes there are lot of negatives here, but they aren’t insurmountable problems. Even with these annoyances, it is still very usable and saves me so much money in PT fares (especially with the increase) and parking, not to mention fuel costs. I get out, about, see the city first hand, have more exercise and really enjoy using the bikes. Just today, I rode from my home in Spring Hill to a cafe in Teneriffe for breakfast. I then jumped a ride a friend as it was too hot to ride at midday (I could have caught the CityGlider) to West End, then rode home this evening. $5 here, $10 there doesn’t seem like much, but if you think about it over a year on say a week’s usual usage, I am saving a minimum of $780 in PT alone, not counting street or carpark parking, fuel, wear and tear on car etc. So easily at least $1000 a year. For my $60 subscription, that is one good return on investment. I will continue to embrace the CityCycle system, whinge about them when they let me down, but will always get back on the bike. After all, I’d be crazy not to.


The 2011 Oscars – Panda’s Wish List

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I do hope you get up, Jackie, but unlikely.

Well the noms are out.

I am not going to say who is going to win, but I am going to say who I would like to win / should win if I was in charge.

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech (very close second is John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (always meant to write a review… whoops)
  • Best Achievement in Directing: Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech (so pleased Inception wasn’t nominated here)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: The King’s Speech
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Winter’s Bone
  • Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: How to Train Your Dragon (my go to movie after a long day)

Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything nominated in Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category and the only doco I saw nominated for Best Documentary, Features was GasLand which I don’t think should win.

There you have it.
Very The King’s Speech focused, and avoiding The Social Network and Inception. While I enjoyed The Social Network’s writing, I loved The King’s Speech more. I think The Black Swan will get up in art direction or something and Portman is prolly going to pick up a little guy.

I think I will get Colin Firth for Best Actor and that is about it for my preferences.

Bring on awards night (or afternoon as it is for us).

PS. True Grit is released TODAY in Australia, so I am heading down this afternoon to my local – so this may change after seeing it.

So Just Why Was Pretty Little Liars the #1 Tweeted Series for 2010?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Number 2???

Let’s be honest, there are better shows out there – True Blood, The Walking Dead, Mad Men etc and all except Mad Men made the Television Twitter Trend Top Ten for 2010, but just why did Pretty Little Liars come in at #2 over all the the highest rated series.

According to Mashable and Read Write Web, teens don’t tweet, however the demographic for this show is decidedly teen with over a million teen viewers watching our over made up band of “heroes,” with a total weekly audience of 2.5 million – the highest ratings ever for ABC Family – coming in a whopping 41% ahead of its competition in the same time slot. Also, there has only been ten episodes of the show, so it isn’t like this is a cumulative effect over 22 eps, as the back half of the series is to be shown in early 2011 with season two (already green lighted and shooting to commence in January 2011) to hit the screens as a late Summer (US) show. Shows that are much more reflective of a tweeting demographic didn’t get up there, plus hugely successful shows such as Glee (can’t stand it) and CSI (peoples still watch that?) that came in located in the lower half of the list. If my pre-Glee blocked stream was any indication of the volume of tweets that must be required to come in at #6, I dread to think how many more tweets about Pretty Little Liars actually racked up.

I talked about the first two episodes of Pretty Little Liars a couple of weeks back and have since watched the entire front half of season 1.

This show is much more teen, tween and family orientated that HellCats, yet here in Australia on GO! it is shown at 9.30pm, with HellCats at 7.30pm. Don’t get me started on GO!’s idea of programming times (remember Chuck?) but I don’t understand why a show that is much more family friendly than HellCats is on after Vampire Diaries, a show with very young adult and supernatural themes.

Love that they are done as dolls - posable yet empty.

In the States however, it was on at an age appropriate time and racking up the ratings and as such the tweets. However it isn’t just the television show. Pretty Little Liars is taken from the very successful tween novels by the same name. Out of curiosity I did buy the first book from iBooks and found it remarkably well written. None of this unnecessary fluff that filled out JK Rowling’s later books, but crisp, clear writing with drama, suspense and real character development. It is also written for the parents who are reading with this children, leading to discussions about age appropriate issues, to ensure that their young girls learn from the mistakes of the main characters and have a strong sense of self worth so they can make the right choices. However it does all this without being preachy and a little bit salacious (as much as it can be with teens).

There are some major differences in the show to the books, but over all it stays true to the themes, plot twists, suspense and character development of the books. In my first review, I said it was intriguingly engaging crap. And to be honest, that does still hold true, but I can certainly see its appeal of the family market. Some times though I want to shake the females in that show until they demonstrate some sense.

Every cliche is in this show. Every single one. From the student having a relationship with her teacher, to the fat girl now thin and popular, to the step siblings having a technically not incestuous relationship, sister in love with her sister’s boyfriend, and let’s not forget the divorce storyline and “sexual tension” between some of the parents. Add into this a mix of Gossip Girl style texts knowing all their deepest and darkest secrets and you can see why this show is so popular.

We are pretty, but also dirty and naughty.

But being popular isn’t enough. If Twitter is about sharing information in real time (which according to Read Write Web teens are not want to do) why is Pretty Little Liars Tweet Rating so high? Some of the tweets tell the answer as they are a direct reflection of not only the books but also the show’s style – cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger. A lot of the tweets were watchers hypothesising on what they think might happen, given their knowledge of the books and what has happened in the show. There is also an awful lot of discussion about why characters made the choices they made – whether they agree with the decisions or not – and this reflects nicely back on the books – encouraging the readers to learn from the mistakes of the characters to make the right choices. And of course, there is a fair bit of discussion on what is being worn. Looking at the most recent few pages of search results it is filled with tweet after tweet of how they can’t wait for the show to return on Jan 3rd (US release). That is one loyal fan base.

So the buy in from those watching and therefore tweeting is higher than other shows. Anecdotally, if I love a show, I tweet I am watching it, jump on the occasional discussions regarding it on twitter but that is about it, and I certainly don’t keep mentioning the show in my tweets (I am just too verbose to fit it all in), however these tweeters do and the amount of retweets is just insane.

Finally, it should be noted that I don’t actually know anyone who watches Pretty Little Liars. According to gomiso, none of my friends watch it, and it has been very slow on the uptake with viewers who use gomiso with only 120 people following (compared to the 2k+ Fringe follwers). Also, from people who read my first review of Pretty Little Liars, a whopping 83% came from the US. Now I know my blog is read predominately by Americans and Europeans but even for HowManyPandas that was pretty full on – but then given the lack of suitable time slot for the show here in Australia it isn’t that much of a surprise that there is little to no interest here.

So if we all believe Twitter is the temperature gauge to what is “so hot right now” to quote Mugatu, we should all be turning on Justin Bieber and watching Pretty Little Liars. For a deomographic that doesn’t tweet, they sure have an impact on trends.

PS. Anyone know where I can find top trends in Australia for 2010? Will even accept responses.

PPS. The Last Airbender came in at #6 on the top ten tweeted movies – I bet 99% of those tweets were about how bad this movie actually was.

Why You Should Watch Hawaii Five-O

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Just another day at the office for the team of Hawaii Five-O

If you have been to the movies recently, you have probably seen the high action, explosive trailer for the redux of Hawaii Five-O – screening on Channel 10 in 2011.

Frankly, you should ignore that trailer. It makes Hawaii Five-O seem naff, twee, stupid – whatever you want to call it. Hawaii Five-O isn’t an action movie with explosions and helicopter chases.

In truth, Hawaii Five-O is a very amusing weekly stand alone episode based dractedy (new work – Drama, Action, Comedy). One of the best things about Hawaii Five-O is that they don’t take themselves seriously – the jokes, the banter – it is a tongue in cheek approach to the show. From cheesey lines, to crazy decisions it is all part of the fun appeal of this show. It knows it has to have a panoramic shots, it knows it has to plug products/Hawaiian Tourism – no matter, they do it all with a big dose of ‘how much fun can we have,’ and that is what makes this show a solid little performer. I think everyone should have at least one show a week where then can turn on yet switch off their brain. We need that fun relaxation without being treated like an idiot.

Grace Park frequently wearing little to no clothes.
Great humour – the one liners are just snigger worthy.
Good character development.
Stand alone eps – doesn’t matter if you miss one.
Great guest cast week after week.
Not the same story each week.
Killer scenery shots of Hawaii.
Insanely bad police work – some of these scenes are ridiculously funny!
Calling in spy sattelites to get intel – ROFL!
Outside of the law – so they get to do things you wouldn’t normally see in a cop show.
Strong supporting cast/characters.

It seems like Hawaii is fast becoming the murder and international crime syndicate of the world.
Can be a little formulaic – but it is a standalone ep show – so you have to take that as a given.
Grace Park isn’t always given strong story lines, but she gets her kit off most weeks.

So please, ignore those shocking trailers at the movies! Tune in in 2011 and watch Hawaii Five-O on Ten for that relaxing laugh you need after a crazy day. I love deep shows. I love panel shows. But I love just kicking back for an hour or two each week for pure fun and enjoyment. And, if you are anything like me – you will be checking for fares.
Hawaii Five-O is consistently scoring #threepandas and above from me.

(if you can’t wait, check the torrents)

So What’s Up with CityCycle? Some Questions Answered

Thursday, November 25th, 2010
citycycle rack newfarm

Fantastic shot by StephenK1977 via Flickr

I was thinking about what I was going to write next week to commemorate 2 months of citycycling around BrisVegas when today CityCycle (JCDecaux) called me.

At first I thought it was going to be that survey that was doing the rounds a month or so back. Instead it was someone to answer my questions – someone who actually knew some answers and had a positive attitude… totally unlike my second last experience with their Call Centre team.

I was gobsmacked recently when I rode past Commercial/Florence St #65 after a little under a week away to see the once busy station closed – red guards in place and everything. This station is used a lot by the Bulimba crowd, so I couldn’t understand why it was closed, especially given that stations #66 and #67 (the large stations built for the bus hub and cross river ferry) had yet to open.

So I sent an email and expected one of the typical emails back. Instead, I got a phone call and since this person was in the know and helpful, decided to ask all the questions that no one else seemed to have been able to answer.

So why is #65 closed given that it is currently the only station near the ferry terminal?
Oh. It is closed for two weeks due to building construction next to the site and then it will be open again.

When are the other stations (66/67) going to open?
Early 2011.

BREAKING NEWS: CityCycle has opened station #67 – Vernon Tce and Commercial Rd 24 hours after saying it wouldn’t open till 2011. I will pretend it is because I told them that you couldn’t catch the CityCat there and that people needed a station for the cross river ferry. In truth I go back to my communication comment, as he physically looked up the stations in the system for opening dates. No surprised they can’t communicate with the general public if they can’t even get their internal communication right.

So not late 2010? (as per advertising)
Unfortunately no, 2011.

CityCycle South Bank

One station now live kinda close to South Bank - but isn't a major station

So does this mean that the stations at Southbank are going to be early 2011?
We don’t know. We are waiting for signoff from Southbank Corporation.

(????) So it has nothing to do with you?
Waiting for Southbank.

What about the people who have signed up but can’t actually use the system at all or as it is supposed to be used? When Merthyr Village went down I got a number of weeks added to my account. Some people still can’t ride at all.
We are doing extensions for those subscribers.

There was some idle banter but that is the crux of it.

Another great shot by StephenK1977

Now we already know that the problem with the inital construction of the stations (some are still being built) is the Brisbane City Council. But what I (and others I had spoken to) wasn’t aware that the hold up with getting stations into Southbank, possibly the most relevant place to have them is Southbank itself. Now we know that Southbank is a state owned corporation, and were recently in the news due to planning rights negatively impacting the BCC – at the time I was thinking so what? The ABC is getting a nice new studio finally! Now of course it directly impacts me and dang it all if I don’t agree with Can-do Campbell. (For those keeping count, we are at 3 things) Why, if this has been signed off on and part of the service level agreement has it not been signed off?

What I foolishly didn’t ask was why there was such a hold up on the other stations (blown back from late 2010 to early 2011) – because there is a station just near Southbank that would be awesome. I also didn’t ask why they didn’t communicate to their users that the station #65 was going to close temporarily. They did post on their webpage (and I use the term literally not flatteringly) that they had opened six new stations, taking their total to 57. How did I find out? BCC twitter account – CityCycle’s communication team does not exist I have decided. I have commented a couple of times in previous pieces and interviews that their communication, or rather lack of it, is their biggest challenge.

57 < 100. 43 in a month is just not going to happen.

It is great to hear though that subscribers who have bought their card to “change they way you move” will get extensions – though I suggest you probably need to call the Call Centre to get that done.

So let’s talk about the last few weeks of CityCycle.

First up – a HUGE improvement on the movement of bikes in New Farm, Teneriffe and The Valley. Within 48 hours of my radio interview on Brisbane’s #1 breakfast show (That is ABC Brisbane612) bikes were being regularly shuffled. I could check in on the app during the day and see the stations getting evened out. So 10 points for fixing that.

Secondly, they finally opened my second (of three) local stations. I finally don’t have to cycle up a hill to rack my bike after riding for 25mins. That is worth another 30 points.

Thirdly, they have finished construction on my third station – located at Malt St – so soon I can skip the hills and coast downhill into the city – YAY! Please open this station soon, but for finally finishing it – you can have another 20 points.

Forthly, you opened up the stations at The Palace Barracks and Palace Centro (local station recently opened) in time for BIFF. I can’t tell you how great it was to be able to cycle to BIFF. Not having to pay for parking or circle and circle to find a park in a side street when the carpark is full at The Barracks was just awesome. Cycling home (mostly down hill) after 9pm at night with the cool breeze past my face was brilliant. Dodging drunken twats in The Valley, not so much.

Fifthly, their response to my email – a call was super nice – so another 10 points there. Normally I get an email like this one. You do get a response quickly which is good, and I have seen them action an email, fixing a station problem.

Prompt but soulless.

Sixthly, I am seeing a lot more people riding. I am seeing more people heading back from work and on the weekends it remains very popular. I am changing roles, so hopefully my next position will see me working near a CityCycle station!

The only negatives has been 2 faulty bikes – 1 with a faulty seat lever and 1 with dodgy gears, and of course their woeful communication with the public and their users.
My suggestions: Get a Communications person on board – my contract finishes on December 3rd – so I am available. Update your app so I can email you directly from it, rather than having to go onto the webpage on my mobile device. Get a twitter account – I saw a tweet the other day asking the BCC CityCycle questions. Communicate with your users.

Things are slowly turning the corner for CityCycle. A couple of friends of mine just moved into the next street from me, I asked them if they were going to subscribed – they said yes. Good sign.


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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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Why you should watch Caprica

Friday, October 8th, 2010
Caprica Opening Credits

Watch or the Toasters will get you!

Caprica has finally gone Free to Air here in Australia with 7Mate. Many of us were/are watching it straight from the States.

Some people had a bite and didn’t like it. When you ask the non-believers why they don’t like it you will hear a lot of “OMG IT IS SO BORING AND SLOW.” It has also been labelled as a Sci-Fi Soap Opera. Lame Sci-Fi as no viper fights!

But you should watch.

Here’s why.

First up – The pilot.

The pilot alone is must see TV.

The approach of this show, the whole take on the situation on Caprica, makes it the pilot required viewing. Do you remember that episode towards the back end of the final season of BSG when we saw how wrong Caprica was before the fall? If you can’t remember, does watching Adama vomit for 5 minutes help the recall? Well this show starts 50 years before BSG. Their priorities mirror ours in many ways: hedonism, materialism, a search for meaning in a meaningless world – only they don’t know what we all know – their days are numbered. A war, two wars, are coming.

Caprica tells the story of the Cylons, the people behind them, and why they are the way they are, and addresses, similarly to BSG, the questions of religion, terrorism, right and wrong, heaven and just what it is that makes you ‘human.’

Yes, Caprica is slow. But as I have said about this show in a previous review, as well as Rubicon, it is all about the ‘long con.’ You can’t the get payoff without the journey – the investment. There is a core group of disparate characters that are brought together by one event (an act of terrorism) – and everything that happens in the show is a direct result of this incident. Relationships, betrayals, crime, friendships – everything. That one point in time can change the face of the world, of a race, is a very powerful idea – and one that are often faced with or advised upon in our day to day lives.

One of the best subplots of this show is “New Cap City,” which is a game played via holoband – so a fully immersive gaming experience – in which you get one chance in New Cap City (like life) as if you die there, you can never get back into the game. The way all the scenes are shot/digitally altered is excellent – as are the characters/personas that Capricans play in their alternative reality. For me, the episode that really sold me on Caprica was New Cap City.

The greatest benefit of a long con show, is that when something happens it happens in spades. The midseason cliff-hanger was a long time coming but seeing the story lines and characters intersect through their choices was brilliant.

Caprica has just returned from its mid-season break with new twists and turns and power struggles – which, like Mad Men are the same challenges/situations/choices expressed across multiple characters yet approached and addressed differently. You can see my review of the latest episode a little down the page.

All these things makes Caprica a must watch for me, so stick with it if you are just joining the story on 7Mate, as the subplots more than make up for the lack of pace in the over all arc.

Oh and don’t forget: “All of this has happened before, and will happen again.”