Twitter Problems

To: "'Simon Mustoe'" <>, <>
Subject: Twitter Problems
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 2009 21:58:21 +1100

I thought I had best reply to this since it was me that set up the Twitter
feeds from all the Birdlines and from birding-aus.

I would have replied sooner, only I have spent this weekend participating in
the Victorian Twitchathon.

1. After experimenting with a number of different mechanisms I eventually
settled on TwitterFeed to provide an EXPERIMENTAL feed from the Birdlines
and birding-aus. It was absolutely vital to do it this way because the
purpose of the experiment was twofold - (i) to test available technologies;
and (ii) to test the level of interest from the Australian birding
community. In my original postings when I introduced the feeds I stated both
of these objectives.

1a. I have asked Richard and Margaret Alcorn to look at the possibility of
adding a direct Twitter feed from the Birdlines (thus bypassing the
TwitterFeed approach). However, I have also said that there is no point in
doing this until we have sufficient interest to make the development

1b. birding-aus uses a list manager called "MailMan" that does not directly
support feeds. As a result, the EXPERIMENTAL process (stress on
experimental) is to convert the list entries - emails - to a blog, then use
the blogging engine's functionality to produce an RSS feed. This RSS feed is
converted to Twitter using TwitterFeed. This approach was selected because,
whilst round-about, does actually work. However, it also requires management
- in particular, removing older entries from the blog, so the RSS
feed/TwitterFeed combination works without error. Unfortunately I have had
other things to do, and have not had a chance to deal with this presently. I
am reasonably sure that I will be able to rectify the problem within a few
days. In the meantime, Russell has told me that he is interested in
replacing MailMan with a more sophisticated product that will allow
additional functionality - including the ability to generate feeds.

2. Regarding the ephemeral nature of Twitter. Surely this is the entire
point. There was never any consideration of replacing the birding-aus
archives or the existing Birdline pages or archives. The driver was to
produce a FEED that could be incorporated into other sites, including
Facebook, or devices, including iPhone. For example, I follow (subscribe to)
the Birdline Twitter feed so that I receive Birdline reports direct to my
iPhone. In addition, I have a desktop widget that displays the Victorian
Birdline entries on my computer desktop.

3. I dispute your argument that Twitter is not the right tool "if we have
any interest in using posts to generate sightings information". Currently
there is absolutely no facility for posting sightings by Twitter. I won't
even think about looking at this until there is sufficient interest. In
addition, it should not matter HOW people choose to receive their
notifications - email, Twitter, SMS, looking at Birdline web pages. What
matters is the process behind receiving sightings, moderating them, and then
providing them through whatever channel there is a demand for - including

4. I further question your statement "Rampant use of TwitterFeed is starting
to dilute the value of what could be a very useful tool for birding". In
particular - what is "rampant" use of TwitterFeed. I have configured a total
of seven feeds - what makes this "rampant"? Also, how does provision of
information through feeds, whether they be RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, or any
other sort of feed dilute the value of a very useful tool for birding?
Surely the entire point is to disseminate information, and all we are doing
is debating the mechanism by which this is done.

All the best,

Paul Dodd
Docklands, Victoria

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Simon Mustoe
Sent: Saturday, 7 November 2009 9:14 AM
Subject: Twitter Problems


Understanding which social networking tools to use, is a big hurdle for most
people. Let's take Twitter as an example. Rampant use of TwitterFeed is
starting to dilute the value of what could be a very useful tool for
birding. TwitterFeed takes the posts from a website and then automatically
feeds them out via Twitter. Then just imagine, another person can take a
feed this TwitterFeed and feed it out again, and so on. 

With respect to Russell (sorry Russell, I hope you don't mind this public
opinion, but it's important), I noticed that this is how the birdline
twitter sites are done...the problem is, that it doesn't actually work...I
get the message 'too many tweets' and I can't access content. You can
imagine that the ultimate benefit will be lost. The basic fact is that you
can see this content just by visiting the Eremaea site, so why bother?
Secondly, twitter is ephemeral. There will be no permanent record of the
information gathered. If I recall, something like 2 months until messages
drop off into the ether. 

Twitter is about immediate promotion to the world. It is not the right tool
for automatically syndicating content and it is not the right tool if we
have any interest in using posts to generate sightings information. 

For many of the social networking tools (Twitter, Facebook etc) there are
too many negatives that, in my view, outweigh the benefits that would be
needed for a sustainable system FOR CONSERVATION and BIRDING (let's face it,
there is no point in doing this if this isn't the main objective). 

Here is a bit of information that may help people understand more about
where to put their information. Note, all the tools for birding are there
already. Use them wisely and draw on their strengths. 

A few rules of engagement:

Your personal website is more important than any other. However, be
realistic, your website will never reach its full potential unless you
SHARE. Make sure you track your website using Google Analytics (easy to set
Place all your information on your own website, (or the free one that best
suits your needs), but promote yourself widely using the range of available
networking tools (see below). Don't be shy...the true value of your content
is when it is seen by lots of others, not just by you. 
Understand the strengths and purpose of the different networking tools (see
below). ONLY use them for the purpose that they were designed.Do not be
tempted to do too much. Sending every message to all the twitter feeds,
every discussion forum etc will be a waste of your time and may annoy
others. Post content that is relevant and interesting.Make sure you link to
content that is 'rich'. There should ideally be some depth and supporting
information to your content.For more information, see


BIRDLINE AUSTRALIA / EREMAEA (Web) - run by Richard and Margaret Alcorn. Use
this to submit information about rarities. Access their pages here:

FORUMS (DISCUSSION) - BirdingOz - Craig Miller's site, aimed at raising the
profile of Australia's birding photographers. Very useful thread-based
discussion forum, distinctly different from Birding-Aus. It caters for lots
of select groups, wanting to discuss particular issues in small sub-forums.

FORUMS (LISTSERVER) - Birding-Aus - A one-stop-shop place for reaching the
majority of mainstream birders in Australia, in one hit. Copy information of
great relevance to the ENTIRE birding community here. Anything that you post
to BirdingOz or Eremaea could end up here. Make use of links, so you can
send people, if necessary, back to your rich content. 

TRIP REPORTS (BIRDING DIARY) - Wildiaries - Designed so you can keep a diary
of your activities over time and provide rich content. Post your best images
along with text from your trips. Because images and sightings are associated
with locations, it provides a lasting record of birding activity and
contributes to a growing database of information about Australian species.
Links directly back to your own website. You can even embed your trips in
your blog / website using iframe (like embedding a YouTube video).  



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