Riding along the Braamfontein Spruit

Riding along the Braamfontein Spruit

Watching the sunset with a cold draught at the Pirates Club

Watching the sunset with a cold draught at the Pirates Club

Creating a commuter cycling culture in SA

I’m lucky enough to live three blocks from work, a 10-minute walk I undertake five times a week, rain or shine. Unfortunately my company is moving in the near future and our (stunning) new offices are just out of walking range. It’s been so awesome not having to sit in traffic, deal with skyrocketing petrol prices, worry about speeding fines or what expensive little part is going to break next that I’m very reluctant to give up carefree, carfree daily commute.
As an avid mountain biker, cycling is the obvious middle-ground between walking and driving for me, but it has some nasty caveats. Cycling to work would mean braving one of Joburg’s busiest roads in rush-hour traffic, taking the risk of my swanky office clothes getting all muddy, not to mention dodging potholes, taxis and mountains of debris and broken glass.
That’s why I’m super excited about a newly-launched Design Indaba competition that calls for people to suggest ways of encouraging cycling in SA. The gorgeous Biomega NYC bike that’s up for grabs doesn’t hurt either! I’ve been tweeting about a couple of the more obvious ways to achieve this, like curbed cycling lanes, tax breaks for cyclists, better signposting and road maintenance, but I’m probably just stating what everyone already knows.

So pretty...
Biomega NYC - so pretty.

This lead me to take a stab at a big idea that would solve a whole bunch of commuting problems all at once, even though it’s kinda on the unrealistic side. So bear with me as I introduce… mobile bike rental stations!

Taxis raise the ire of pretty much everyone in SA - the motorists who compete with them for limited road space, the passengers who begrudgingly use their services, the cops who have to police them and the cyclists who have to dodge them. This idea presents an opportunity to turn taxi drivers from foes to friends, while helping these poor souls pocket a bit more cash at the end of the month.

The idea is for taxi drivers opt-in to a high-tech mobile bike rental service. They’d get a robust, easy-to-use bike rack installed on the backs of their taxis that holds three rent bikes. Bike design should be similar to European bike rental systems: strong, idiot proof and fun to ride. The bike rack should automatically lock to prevent theft, be able to hinge upwards to give access to the boot, have some kind of padding in case of rear-enders and a smartcard system using existing 3G payment tech.

A rider would flag down taxi with special hand sign, swipe his smartcard and pull down a bike. Rental would be charged per hour or as a monthly flat rate. When a rider gets to his destination, he would simply flag down another taxi with rack space and clip the bike onto the rack, which would automatically register the duration of the rental.

The taxi providing a bike and the taxi picking up the same bike would share the profits 50/50, giving them incentive to stop for bike pickups (armchair calculation: assuming 50% of max usage for a 10-hour shift, or 15 ‘bike hours’ at say R20 per hour, driver can make R6 000 a month). Taxi passengers could use same smartcard system to pay for transport, reducing dependency on cash and risk of robbery for drivers. Using taxis that participate in the system might be slightly cheaper to offset delays of taxis stopping to pick up / drop off bikes.

Passengers could even take a taxi up to a point, then climb out and pull off a bike to ride the last few kms. Useful for traffic jams!

The system should obviously be combined with larger ‘static’ bike rental stations in high-traffic areas and taxi ranks. Drivers could then ‘dump’ faulty bikes at these stations, where service agents would pick them up for maintenance.

A location-based system that lets you find nearest taxi with available bikes would also be pretty easy to build, or how about a system that tracks how many kilometres riders do every month and rewards them in credit or Vitality points?

If there’s always a bicycle within arm’s reach, I think people might finally start using them more. Also, if we turn this scheme into a source of revenue for the taxi industry, they would surely treat cyclists with a bit more respect. Automated bike rental stations have been hugely successful in cities like Paris and London, so I think this South African twist on the idea might just have a chance.

How Old Spice pwned the web

(Screenshot from www.oldspice.com)

For me, this was the week that digital advertising finally came into its own. It was the week that Old Spice (a brand I’ve always considered to be as far past its expiry date as that bottle of aftershave I once gave my dad for Christmas) showed us all what can be achieved with social media.

In retrospect it seems so obvious - take a brilliant TV commercial that went viral and use it as the basis of a highly interactive, lightning quick and clever-as-hell social media stunt. 

(Image from http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/interactive/2010/2/old-spice-manmercials.jpg)

In just 11 hours, ad agency Wieden + Kennedy shot 87 Youtube videos featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa as ‘the man your man could smell like’. On various social networks, they invited people to submit questions for Mustafa’s character. They then shot personalised video responses to the most interesting questions. By the end of Wednesday, the campaign had recorded over four million views and by Friday, Old Spice was trending on Twitter.

(Screenshot from www.oldspice.com)

Everybody wins.

One of the reasons I am such a big proponent of digital is that it usually creates a win-win-win situation. Old Spice won by getting millions of dollars worth of exposure with zero media costs and just a single day’s worth of production fees. Wieden + Kennedy won by masterminding a campaign that’s not only certain to win all the major awards next year, but will also be remembered for many years to come. And the viewers won by being exposed to advertising that’s genuinely entertaining, interactive and fun.

This was also the week that Starbucks’ Facebook fan page became the first to reach ten million fans. If Starbucks used traditional media, how much would it have cost them to reach ten million consumers who are genuinely interested in their brand? A 30-second Super Bowl commercial costs about $3 million and reaches 90 million viewers. If half of those are coffee drinkers, it works out to about $670 000 per ten million viewers. What does it cost to reach the same amount of people on Facebook? Practically nothing.

(Image from http://www.adverblog.com/archives/003939.htm)

Feel it. It is here.

All of this is proof that digital is no longer on the fringes of advertising, but solidly in the mainstream. While most traditional agencies are anxiously waiting for the ‘digital revolution’ to come, still churning out TV ads nobody watches and print ads nobody reads, they’ve completely missed the fact that it has already happened.

Even back in 2008, the campaigns that won all the awards and made the all the headlines were driven by digital. Two that particularly stood out were Queensland Tourism’s ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign and The Great Schlep, a fundraising campaign for Barack Obama’s presidential bid. Both of these campaigns went on to win Grand Prix awards at last year’s Cannes Lions festival.

(Image from http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2009/best-job-in-the-world-shortlisted/)

Digital douchebags

In a recent blog post titled “I see Dead Ad Jobs”, the brilliant Luke Sullivan describes the prevailing attitude of traditional agencies much better than I ever could:

I was born in the year 1954 when stamps were three cents.

If you thought, “Wow, three cents??” you’re a digital immigrant like me. You’re a digital native if you thought, “What are stamps?”

Unfortunately, there is a third group: digital rejectors — you’ve met them. The eye-rollers; the shoulder-shruggers; the print and TV addicts who need to go to some sort of media rehab. For the purposes of today’s article, we’ll dub them digital douchebags, but no laughter please; we’re at their funeral and it isn’t polite.

Worse, they don’t realize they’re dead. Like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, they continue to wander the brand landscape laminating their portfolios and waiting for a fax with the news they got into the local Addys. As my friend Kathy Hepinstall observed, there used to be a small bit of Dick-Van-Dyke-ian charm to a creative person being a technophobe; today, it simply means you’re a digital douchebag.

There’s gold in them thar hills!

The web is fast becoming the 21st century’s gold rush, and Old Spice struck a rich seam this week. But there’s plenty left for the rest of us who are willing to forgo our digital douchebaggery and start exploring its infinite depths.

If you’re not a digital native, the web can be a scary, weird and confusing place. Just know that you’re not alone. We all once wondered, “What’s the point of Twitter?”, “Who would friend a brand on Facebook?” and “What the hell is a youtube?”. We got over it, and so can you.

Six Twitter fails


(Image by Bjarne Panduro Tveskov)

I’m no Twitter guru. In fact, I’m highly suspicious of people who make that claim. Twitter simply hasn’t been around long enough and is evolving too quickly for anyone to claim expert status. All the same, here’s my humble take on six Twitter don’ts:

1. Don’t retweet between your own accounts
If you have multiple twitter accounts, don’t use the one to RT something you posted on the other. It’s like talking to yourself… like a crazy person.

2. Don’t be a brand whore
A couple of savvy local brands have been paying social media celebs to promote their wares, eg “Soandso is loving her new Persol sunglasses from Sunny Shades.” Don’t compromise the sincerity of your tweets by punting sponsored products without disclosure. Rather find more creative and honest ways of endorsing a brand, like prize giveaways, promotions or fun challenges. It’s a fine line.

3. Don’t spam me
Whenever someone is about to launch a new book, product, shop etc, they tend to constantly tweet about it for weeks on end. It’s annoying. Rather create an account specially for the product you’re launching. If people are interested, they’ll follow it and you can promote it to your heart’s content.

(Image by Scott Hampsen)

4. Don’t use Twitlonger

By limiting tweets to 140 characters, Twitter lets you absorb a lot of information quickly. Using services like Twitlonger defeats the whole purpose of Twitter, plus it means I have to click through to read the whole message. Rather choose your words a bit more carefully, or use two consecutive tweets if you really can’t make it fit.

5. Don’t forget to give credit
When you retweet a retweeted tweet, tweet the tweeter and the retweeter! What I mean is that you should ideally include the twitter handles of both the person whose timeline you saw the tweet in, and the original poster. I prefer doing it this way - ‘RT @originator blah blah blah (via @lastposter)’. This way the originator gets credit for being clever, and the last poster gets credit for spreading the message.

(Image by Jim Miles)

6. Don’t be boring
In the last week of the World Cup, I received literally hundreds of tweets reading “Hup Holland Hup”. What’s the point of tweeting something if loads of other people have already done so? The same goes for those silly foursquare updates, like ‘@name is at Pick n Pay’. In a fantastic article by Twitter celeb @khayadlanga, he mentions some good advice from 5FM’s @anele: “Don’t just tell me what you’re doing, tell me what you think about what you’re doing.” Be original, be funny, be weird, be controversial, but please don’t be boring. 
The Gautrain - Sandton to the airport in just two hours!

Last Sunday, we decided to go for a joytrip on the newly launched Gautrain. Despite the series of unfortunate events that ensued, it was a truly memorable experience.

The Gautrain

We got to Sandton City around lunch time, planning to ride the Gautrain to the Rhodesfield Station near the airport and back. Given that it takes the train only 12 minutes to get to Rhodesfield, we figured that the whole adventure wouldn’t take longer than 40 minutes, getting us back right on time for a nice lunch somewhere.

The vibe at Sandton City was incredible - it was packed with tourists dressed in garish soccer kit and babbling in all the tongues of Babel. Heading into Nelson Mandela Square, we passed a group of thoroughly sozzled Brits dressed like medieval knights, who were loudly apologizing to a big police mama for some or other misdemeanor.

We squeezed past yet more tourists gaping at the square’s tacky Nelson Mandela statue and eventually made it to the station, where we were met by a massive crowd queuing for Gautrain tickets.

We spent a good 40 minutes in the queue people-watching and trying to figure out why it took everyone so long to buy their tickets from the automated kiosks. Gautrain staff were frantically running from kiosk to kiosk to help them. Was the system extremely complicated? Buggy? Slow?

Crowd waiting to descend to the platform

It turned out to be none of the above, but rather a perfect storm of an unfamiliar system, the fact that you could only buy one ticket at a time, and the overwhelming demand for tickets, which lead to the kiosks running out of change.

We finally made it to the front of the queue and got our gold Gautrain cards without any problems. Slightly let down but still excited, we dashed through the gates and went down into the station’s belly, eight stories below ground!

Gautrain Sandton Station

Upwards view from the platform

Here we were met by the second unfortunate event - the trains were delayed and Gautrain officials blocked the escalator going down to the track. We didn’t mind, as the delay gave us plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny of the station.

Gautrain tunnel stretching off into the distance

After another 30 minutes or so, a train finally arrived and was met by exuberant cheers from the passengers who managed to make it downstairs. By this time, the crowd waiting to go down the escalators had grown to over a hundred. However, few people seemed to have noticed the elevators, which until now simply refused to go downstairs. We tried our luck and managed to jump ahead of the crowd, making it into the train just as the doors were closing.

Gautrain arriving at Sandton Station

And off we went into the dark, quickly accelerating to 160kph. What a thrill! Compared to the subways of New York and London, the Gautrain wins hands down - it’s such a smooth and quiet ride.

View of Alexandra from Gautrain

But the thrill was short lived. As we exited the tunnel, the third unfortunate event happened. “We are experiencing a technical problem and apologise for the resulting delay,” the driver announced as the train slowed to about 40kph. While the daytrippers weren’t all that bothered, there was a number of travellers en route to the airport, who were already very late for their flights.

Nevertheless, on this day it seemed that not even missing a flight could phase them - everyone was still smiling, chatting and making jokes. The driver kept apologising every five minutes and urged us to “enjoy the scenery.”

Kelvin Power Station en route to Rhodesfield

Still puttering along, we eventually made it to Rhodesfield Station, 50 minutes after the train left Sandton and more than two hours after we got to Sandton City. 

With the airport drawing closer, the travellers around us finally remembered to panic and were all on the phone to their respective airlines when we stepped off the train. Although there were reports on Twitter of people missing their fights, I really hope most people made it in the end.

Gautrain arriving at Rhodesfield Station

We took the train back to Sandton, and this time it performed exactly as promised - zooming along at 160kph and getting us back to where we started in just 12 minutes.

Grinning ear to ear, we exited the station and walked back through the frantic square with growling bellies. We passed the same bunch of rowdy Brits, who now had a mountain of empty beer bottles on their table and appeared to be considerably more sozzled than before.

When it works, the Gautrain is a remarkable machine. The thought of this sleek, sexy beast travelling at 160kph through deepest, darkest Africa is incredibly uplifting. It’s the first step in building a world-class transportation system and a sign of the bright future ahead for Joburg and the whole nation.

Passengers at Marlboro Station

Fast facts

  • The Gautrain travels between four stations - Sandton City, Marlboro, Rhodesfield and OR Tambo International Airport. 
  • Fares vary from about R20 to R100 one way and are deducted from a Gautrain Gold Card you can buy at any station for R10.
  • The Gautrain is serviced by a network of buses that follow the main routes to and from the stations.
  • Trains run from 05h30 to 20h30 every day, with a train every 12 minutes in peak periods and every 20 minutes in off-peak periods.
  • For more info, go to www.gautrain.co.za or follow @thegautrain on Twitter.
Kulula v. Fifa, round 2

(Image via: http://www.marklives.com/wordpress/?p=1082)

The second instalment in Kulula’s smartass Fifa-baiting campaign. Nice!

As far as I can tell, this ad complies with all World Cup-related legislation. I think it would be hard for Fifa to prove otherwise. Will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

In defence of Fifa

In recent weeks there has been a torrent of outrage directed at what one blog called ‘Fifa’s draconian use of trademarks’. Much of this outrage centres around a Kulula print ad that vaguely references the Fifa World Cup and was consequently banned by Fifa’s lawyers.

(Image from: www.plus-one.co.za)

I must commend Kulula’s agency, King James, for orchestrating this whole controversy so beautifully. The story was picked up by the national press. It even went global, with the BBC reporting on this ‘travesty’.

As a copywriter working on World Cup sponsor accounts, as well as others who don’t, I spent a couple of boring hours familiarising myself with Fifa’s brand guidelines. I didn’t want to end up up writing something that might cost a client (and consequently the agency I work for) millions by not complying with these guidelines.

Fifa’s guidelines are widely available online, set out in very clear and easily understandable language. This leads me to believe that King James knows all too well what is and isn’t allowed, and that the Kulula ad was carefully constructed as bait for Fifa and the media, turning the confusion around this subject into media hype.

Good on King James and Kulula for being smart and brave enough to go this route. That’s why they’re respectively one of SA’s top agencies and most loved brands.

But here’s the kicker - there’s nothing wrong or even unusual about what Fifa’s doing. It’s not even really about trademarks or copyright!

What everyone tends to forget is that the World Cup is a sponsored event. It’s not like Christmas or Human Rights Day, which belong to everyone. Fourteen or so companies paid billions of rands to make the World Cup happen, and in exchange they get to associate their brands with this momentous event. If other brands claims an association with the World Cup, it dilutes the official sponsors’ investment.

Let me state it again - the World Cup is a sponsored event. It’s protected by (among other legislation) Section 9(D) of the Trade Practices Act of 1976. The Act states that “No person shall, in connection with a sponsored event, make, publish or display any false or misleading statement, communication or advertisement which represents, implies or suggests a contractual or other connection or association between that person and the Event, or the person sponsoring the Event.”

This clause is critical - Fifa’s gripe is not about trademarks or copyright. It doesn’t own ‘2010’ or ‘South Africa’, nor can it stop anyone from depicting graphic elements like SA’s national flag, soccer players, vuvuzelas or stadiums.

Fifa’s issue is with companies implying a false association (in whichever way) with the World Cup. Kulula’s ad claims that it’s the “Unofficial national carrier of the ‘you-know-what’”, along with various visual references to the World Cup. It doesn’t matter what wording they used; if a reasonable person sees this ad, they will immediately understand that it refers to the World Cup. By running this ad, Kulula is potentially profiting from an event that is funded by other companies.

Compare this to the recently launched 2010 Loeries campaign. At first glance, this campaign seems to make even more overt references to the World Cup, showing the stadium, and using terms like ‘2010’, which are supposed to be taboo. But it’s different to the Kulula ad in one important respect - it doesn’t claim any association with the World Cup - capiche?

(Image from: http://www.chrisrawlinson.com/2010/03/2010-loerie-advertising-awards-print-campaign)

To make this even clearer, understand that the World Cup is just like the J&B Met, Kelly Clarkson’s tour to SA or the Good Food & Wine Show - all sponsored events. Would it be fair if Johnny Walker were to run an ad with the headline, “The unofficial whisky of Cape Town’s premier horse racing event”?

Just about every business in SA, from dodgy pubs to blue chip companies, is dying to get a slice of the World Cup action. That’s why Fifa has to be so ruthless in protecting its identity - if it turns into a sponsorship free-for-all, what incentive does any company have to fork out the small fortune it takes to be an official sponsor?

Remember, without official sponsors there can be no World Cup. So take it a little bit easier on Fifa, won’t you?

Twitter: The early years (part 2)

(Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15443073@N07/2511539541/)

This is the second part of post about Biz Stone’s monthly email updates sent out back in 2007. Interesting to see how Twitter has grown since then.

11/10/2007 - New People, new Twitter Features

Hello, Twitter-ers!

[Starts with some yada-yada about new employees, back when they were so few that you could mention each new one by name.]

Tracking Twitter

We’re really excited about this new feature which allows anyone to track concepts in real time over SMS or IM. Tell Twitter what words or phrases you’re interested in and you’ll receive updates containing those words the instant anyone Twitters them. One of the most popular words being tracked by people right now is “overheard.” Send “track overheard” to Twitter to find out why. (Send “untrack” if you change your mind and “stats” to get a list of words you track.)

Learn more: http://tinyurl.com/2a4ggh

[Never heard of this before, so not sure if it still works. Can imagine that tracking some trends would leave you inundated with thousands of updates. Here’s the link they’re talking about - http://blog.twitter.com/2007/09/tracking-twitter.html. From here they talk about website updates and wish one of their employees a happy birthday.]

Twitter peeps: From a handful in 2007 to over 140 today (pic from http://www.flickr.com/photos/twitteroffice/)

Twitter HR

Lots of small startups outsource payroll, health insurance, and similar human resource services to companies that specialize in those areas. That’s what Twitter was doing when we hired Krissy to be our office manager. But Krissy took things to a whole new level and created a full-fledged human resources department. Now payroll, health insurance, and all that good stuff are taken care of right here at Twitter HQ by Krissy Bush, Human Resources Manager. A significant move in the life of Twitter! Want to come work for us?

Jobs: http://twitter.com/help/jobs

[Aw, they were still so small they didn’t even have an HR department! Now twitter is 140 people strong, which makes it a fairly large company. The jobs link still works, interesting to see what they’re looking for.]

Happy Twittering!

-Biz Stone and the Twitter Team


09/11/2007 - Inspired by twitter

Hello Twitter-ers,

There have been raging wildfires and rumbling earthquakes inspiring avalanches of Twitter updates over the last few weeks out here on the West Coast of the US. In Tumultuous times, people turn to Twitter. In fact, there’s been a steep increase in the number of SMS and IM devices activated recently. This is probably due to the Track feature which allows folks to follow keywords or phrases in real time. Is your phone activated?

Activate: http://twitter.com/devices

[“In Tumultuous times, people turn to Twitter.” Early hints of twitter’s true potential.]

Do You Owe Someone A Beer?

Foamee.com is a fun IOU system built on Twitter that helps you track who you owe beers to (and vice versa). All you have to do is follow the account “ioubeer” and then send it @replies. So, say you owe me a beer for helping you change a flat tire, this is what you’d send to Twitter:

@ioubeer @biz for helping me change that flat tire

Then, your IOU will show up on the front page at foamee.com. There’s even a way to tell it when that beer has been redeemed. I think a root beer version is in the works. Maybe even a latte version? Those are foamy too. Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits design is the mastermind behind this fanciful creation. We think it’s really cool. Thanks Dan, we owe you a frosty one!

Visit: http://foamee.com

Follow: http://twitter.com/ioubeer

More: http://simplebits.com

[Yet another twitter account with a short-lived history. They only made it to four posts before throwing in the towel.]

Other Cool Stuff

Foamee is part of a growing list of interesting applications that interact with Twitter. Jott, for example, has created a way to send a Twitter update by speaking into your phone - your voice gets converted to text and sent out to all your followers. This is a much safer solution for people who insist on updating Twitter when their attention is required elsewhere - like driving!

Twitter by Voice: http://jott.com

More Twitter Apps: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps

Featured Twitter-ers

[Again with the clumsy ‘Twitter-ers’.]

We have a sidebar on the Twitter public timeline page where we occasionally mention accounts you might want to follow. For example, during the San Diego wildfires, KPBS News, LAFD, and the LA Times had important live updates. The following accounts are less of an emergency situation but interesting, nevertheless.

SkinnyJeans is wondering if Twitter can help her lose 10 pounds.


Jamie Kennedy is experimenting with Twitter.


Maureen is serving up a steady stream of tiny recipes.


Sara Bareilles is sharing the details of her budding career.


[All these accounts are still going strong, with 18 000 to 1.8 million followers]

On the subject of emergencies, that earthquake we had recently in Northern California was highly Twittered. This blogger captured a lot of the action: http://tinyurl.com/2xv5el Also, if you’re a Bay Area resident you might want to follow the updates of this profile http://twitter.com/SFSurfrider regarding the recent oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

Twitter on the Mobile Web

In case you didn’t know, Twitter has a mobile web site that you can access from your phone’s web browser at m.twitter.com. Twitter developer Britt Selvitelle has been quietly improving the site recently. It’s a great way to check out what people are up to when you’re waiting for a bus or taking the subway home from work.

Britt’s Twitter profile is http://twitter.com/bs in case you want to @ioubeer @bs for making the mobile site!

Happy Twittering!

-Biz Stone and the Twitter Team


There are a couple more emails after this one, but don’t contain much of interest. On 27 February 2008, Biz announced that twitter had 16 full time employees. He also says: “If you have more than 80 followers and you’re following more than 70 people, then you are in the Twitter minority at about 10% [of all users].”

Twitter: The early years (part 1)

Twitter’s growth over the past three years is nothing short of amazing. I got an email from Biz Stone this morning, which reminded me of the emails Twitter used to send out back in 2007 (could go back even earlier, but that’s when I joined). They’re quite interesting to read now that twitter has become the ‘next big thing’ [my comments in brackets]:

05/07/2007 - Welcoming you to twitter!

Hello, new Twitter-er!

[Lol @ ‘Twitter-er’!]

Using Twitter is going to change the way you think about staying in touch with friends and family. Did you know you can send and receive Twitter updates via mobile texting, instant message, or the web? To do that, you’ll want to visit your settings page (and you’ll want to invite some friends).

Activate Phone & IM: http://twitter.com/devices

Invite Your Friends:  http://twitter.com/invitations/invite

[Interesting how they positioned twitter as a way to ‘stay in touch with friends and family’. It’s become so much more than that. And what happened to updating Twitter via SMS, IM, email etc? Seems like handy features.]

The New York Times calls Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” TIME Magazine says, “Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app,” and Newsweek noted that “Suddenly, it seems as though all the world’s a-twitter.” What will you think? http://twitter.com

Thanks again for signing up!

-Biz Stone and The Twitter Team


22/08/2007 - Introducing People Search

Hello Twitter-ers,

It’s new feature season and we’re starting with People Search. This new Twitter feature is great for finding more people to follow because it searches profile information such as name, location, bio, and url. Come on by and find out if your friends are already Twittering and you just didn’t know it! The search field is on the right side of Twitter when you sign in: http://twitter.com

[The email goes on to announce that twitter is partnering with MTV for the Video Music Awards, along with a story about some google dude who joined twitter.]

A Fine Frenzy

Alison Sudol is the young musician behind A Fine Frenzy and it’s been really fun following her on tour for her first album, One Cell in The Sea. Some of us from Twitter listened to her sing when she came to San Francisco and had the opportunity to say hello to Alison and her grandmother who she brought to the show. Her grandmother told us she prints out every twitter Alison makes and worries when she skips a day. (She also prints out Barack Obama’s twitters.)

Follow Alison: http://twitter.com/afinefrenzy

We don’t recommend everyone print out Twitter updates as it’s not ecologically sustainable. However, when Alison’s grandmother does it, it’s awesome. Okay, that’s all for now.

Happy Twittering!

Biz Stone and the Twitter Team


[Haha, imagine everyone printing out their twitter feeds today! We’d run out of trees in no time flat. Also interesting to note that the word ‘tweeting’ had’t been invented yet.]

07/09/2007 - Exploring twitter

Hello Twitter-ers,

We’ve launched a new area of our web site featuring different ways you can interact with Twitter. Our friends at Stamen Design created a particularly engaging application called Blocks—an interactive way to discover people on Twitter. Special thanks to Motorola for their sponsorship of this launch. There will be more cool stuff here in the future so please come on by and check it out.

Explore Twitter: http://explore.twitter.com

[As far as I can tell, Blocks is as much a thing of the past as Motorola. The link just redirects to twitter.com]

Are You Mobile?

Sure, Timbaland and his MTV pals Twitter by txt but you don’t have to be a rock star to send and receive Twitter updates on the fly. If you normally use Twitter over the web, why not switch things up? Activate your mobile phone to work with Twitter so you can send and receive updates anytime, anywhere.

Activate your phone: http://twitter.com/devices

[What do you know, this link still works! You can tweet, DM and even follow and unfollow people via text message. Never knew that. From here, the email talks some more about the VMAs]

What Happened This Morning?

We were performing optimizations to make Twitter faster and more reliable and it took longer than expected. We scheduled some downtime for the wee hours of the morning but the work spilled over into normal human daytime. Hopefully, this didn’t put too much of a crimp in your Twittering style. The good news is we got the work done and Twitter is better for it.

[Scheduled downtime!? No ways they’d get away with that these days.]

Search Twitter

Recently, we’ve launched search so you can find more folks to follow or even discover people you didn’t know were on Twitter. We also built an easy way to find out who from your Gmail Address book is already on Twitter. To use either of these new features, click the “Find & Invite” link at the top of of the Twitter web site.

Find & Invite: http://twitter.com/invitations

[When I did this in 2007, I got zero hits. Now almost everyone in my address book is on twitter.]

Other Cool Stuff

There’s a geeky new show premiering later this month on NBC and the character Twitters: http://twitter.com/chuckbartowski

[Chuck hasn’t ‘twittered’ since October 2007, yet he’s still got over 8000 followers! Total waste of a great opportunity to reach fans of the show.]

Reactee has created an easy way to make your own t-shirts
 customized with your Twitter username: http://twitter.reactee.com

71Miles is using Twitter to send exclusive, limited discounts to
 classy resorts and spas in California: http://twitter.com/71miles

[111 tweets in 3 years - another underutilised corporate account.]

Okay, that’s all for now. Gotta get back to work.

Happy Twittering,

Biz Stone and the Twitter Team


Part 2 should follow a bit later today, where I’ll share some more emails sent by Biz Stone back in the day.