Twitter: Getting its engagement (and groove) back

blur bird

The land I love most in social media is at risk. It’s not about to shutdown but the unstoppable momentum of its younger cousins (Snapchat, WhatsApp) and grandaddy (Facebook) overshadows all attempts Twitter makes to reinvent its experience.
And you can’t entirely blame Twitter – as their blog shows, they are constantly updating and improving the platform.

 

If you’re a heavy Twitter user, you’re probably in the same boat as I; it has been some years since I could convince anyone to sign up. If anything, people I know who tried it can occasionally be convinced to give it another go. Follower growth is no longer exponential. The platform is increasingly one-way with replies dropping off as the company pursues user safety and revenue as much as engagement.

 

As a huge fan of Twitter, I love some of the changes they’ve made, however other changes are turning the growing list of annoyances into a real daily decline in experience. If regular users loved enough of the changes, the leaps in usability that would offset the irritations. I don’t think this is happening.

 

Has Twitter begun a slippery slide into irrelevance? At worst, the blessed stream of useful info and irreverence faces a future as a glorified RSS of news and a stream of polarised views that few dare to engage in.

 

The little blue bird certainly needs to evolve to survive.

 

Here are a few reasons engagement has dropped but how it could rule once more…

 

The media look just like everyone else – more than any other network, Twitter has been a great showcase for watching media companies have to offer. It seems remarkable that they are still to find their real place in the twittersphere. They have no unique destination like Snapchat’s Discover page, nor can they feature embedded stories or interactive media as Facebook is trialing with Instant Articles (Though Products have some cool new features). TV Timelines hold some hope for television programs, but recently departed CEO Dick Costolo never conquered the challenge he set himself for live sport –  to create a timeline feature that would enable someone who missed the game live to play back tweets in synchronised, chronological order. (This would also help on-demand TV viewers avoid spoilers.)

 

Favs kill retweets – Favouriting tweets with a little star is taking the place of many other more involved engagements. In the past, many followers who liked your tweet would reward you by retweeting it. You got a bump in ego, they spread the love and the site thrived on these brief hits of serotonin flying across the network. Now, a good tweet will often get twice as any favs as retweets – people have become more precious with what they share. This change has made us all less social.

 

 

No curation means less discovery – Twitter is still resisting curating our feeds. And the Discovery page has gone.  The purity has been preserved but at the cost of being introduced to more and better people you could be following. Look at how Instagram popular page shows you new people without it feeling like an intrusion. For many of us who never visit Trending Topics, or who use 3rd party Twitter apps, there are zero chances to come across new people unless they are retweeted or they are promoting their tweets. Perhaps Project Lightning will be the change Obama promised us. (Check the WIRED link at bottom.)

 

New expanded design slows consumption – Ashton Kutcher was right back in 2009: filtering is what Twitter needs most. As proof, Tweetdeck works best when you have refined your lists and feeds into a tailored masterpiece of streaming data. The recent change to a more rich media experience was a backward step in terms of encouraging a more efficient twitter experience. At least provide an option for faster readers to switch it off.

 

Spambots are not your friend – I know I’m not alone on this one, but I currently get at least one new spambot follower for every follower I lose. While I cannot tell how many people and following me are generally people, I know that only half of those starting to follow me are actual people. This undermines my faith in the entire network and the company’s inability to stem the tide does not help the situation. (Note: Instagram has the same problem)

 

Other ideas that would help – in no particular order:
  • Group DMs – why can’t I create a list and start a convo with them publicly or privately?
  • Give me a personal page like flipboard does – all graphical and able to be sorted by topics I tweet about.
  • Why are there not trending topics based around topics I have told Twitter I am interested in? #QANDA and sport may interest many Australians but those trends wasted on many.

See also: Twitter Is Killing Twitter to Save Twitter via @WIRED

My nightmare in Telstra Tower

  

We’re on holidays in Canberra. So I visited Telecom Tower… so now I am here to vent. (Don’t laugh. I knew it was big in the bicentennial and is well past its prime — I just thought that, being a beacon of technology, it would have been updated). 

It wasn’t just the way that no one had cleaned the outside since I visited 27 years ago. It wasn’t that the restaurant had stopped revolving two years ago and no one bothered fixing it. It wasn’t that the unattended theatrette played a video unchanged since the tower’s opening in 1980 that even ended with the Telecom logo. It wasn’t that the lobby felt like that of an abandoned conference centre. It wasn’t that the place was so empty that I wandered into an open electrical cupboard where I could have probably disconnected the ACT’s Internet. It wasn’t that The Telstra Historical Exhibition had little more than a range of dusty old phones in cabinets. “Oh wow kids look! A Blackberry!” 

  

It WAS that when we headed to the open viewing deck, it was SWARMING with wasps. Hundreds, possibly thousands. No warning. No signs. No staff. “Hey dad! These two are fighting!” They were mating. Multiplying. Everywhere we looked. Buzzing by at eye level. We were 90 metres up and at risk of massive attack with no one to call. 

I hate you, Telstra. Telecom. Whatever. If your tower was great in the 1980s, it’s now a big dirty white elephant with fleas that needs attention. Update it. Wash it. Get rid of the wasps. Or just knock it down. Can’t telecommunications go underground now?

The case for the Apple car

They don’t do things for money, Apple. If we are to believe both their top executive and the chief designer, the world’s richest company only get into areas where an improved design can improve people’s lives. The money follows.

News came this week that Apple is working on a car. This should blow all our minds. They are totally out of their league – but they had never made a phone either, and look how that went. So I’ll assume most people think it is scuttlebutt. However, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal, which rarely prints Apple rumours that do not come true.

Until that happened, I wasn’t really believing this story. But now, I am prepared to run a bit wild with the idea – so I have made a brief case for why it could be plausible.

Apple only wants in if it can fix a problem. iPods because you can’t carry 100 CDs. Smartphones because feature phones could not handle the internet. iPads because books and newspapers and placemats were all boring.

Each solution starts and ends these solutions with good design.

So, are cars fatally flawed? Well, they sure need help. Fundamental help. Why are we still using combustion engines that still demand regular refuelling of unsustainable fuels shipped from Saudi Arabia?

Design. Italians used to own the space but nowadays a Ferrari has countless dials and baffling dashboard options. Aston Martins are even outclassing them.

Environmentally, cars are a curseeven hybrids – so an improvement on an eco level would bring benefits for the planet. And since Tim replaced Steve (well, you know) Apple has taken seriously its responsibility to tread lightly on the earth, spending more than $AU1Billion on a solar farm.

Financially, cars remain as popular as televisions or phones. Some people even have two. The margins have tightened but still no American brand is thriving. Even after massive bailouts of Detroit the Japanese are the only ones making hay.

But why bother? A few thoughts.

Jony loves cars. It’s why he got into design. He has SEVEN of them and what’s more, he said this week that the state of car design is shocking! Thing broken. Must fix.

Control. Apple likes being in your pocket – a smartphone is a gateway drug. Before you know it you’re in the App Store snorting all kinds of apps and music you didn’t know existed. So if Apple built your car, it has a new ecosystem to control. And like the unrealised dreams of CarPlay, you can sync all number of devices in your car, and the tech in the dash – think Tesla not Toyota – would all be streamlined.

Tesla dashboard

Yes, that’s actually how they look.

When cars are eventually self-driven, where will you suddenly have hours of more free time? In-car ApplePay sounds sweet to me.

Batteries – Apple don’t make them but have helped increase demand for reduced sizes and drive down the cost. This experience sets them up for improving car battery life. I don’t think they’d run recharge stations but they could control how they are built and how they operate, creating a seamless experience.

Elon Musk is known to have talked to Apple early on, he clearly thinks different. But they didn’t employ him. Why? Then he releases all his patents, one major hurdle for Apple-size players eager to take part.

So the electric car industry is new, growing, has a strong future, few competitors and the hurdles are lower than ever.

Can they make money? It’s not about that. But would it look amazing and would everyone want one and would it work beautifully and work with all your tech? Yes.

Go Tim!

Then again, I could be wrong and maybe they will just buy Tesla.

The Karl Stefanovic Phenomenon – why clickbait doesn’t rate

In TV, if no one is taking about you, you’re dead.
Clarkey For Kids Sports Lunch
This Herald story on Karl Stefanovic boosting Today Show ratings is a beat-up. Sunrise have Today up against the wall and they’re tickling them till it hurts. But the continuing popularity of Karl in the online sphere – rather than on TV – proves that Karl is cool in a way that defines many public personalities these days; we won’t switch them on but we will click on them, again and again.
Karl is the televisual equivalent of that friend or colleague who is fun tower firstly but too tiring to hang out with. He’s worth a chat or a cheap laugh, but never a full conversation.
Does Karl care? I doubt it. (Smug!) While he goes about his work, the internet has transformed Karl into a sound-bite factory, gif magic, and perfect YouTube fodder. Even his unassuming, regular Aussie bloke tweets are shareable gold.
That said, he’s a twitstorm in a teacup.
Any sordid joke or witty remark is only hot property for a few short days. The Herald and Telegraph know this and hence, they will fashion a homepage story around his madcap behaviour at any opportunity. The traffic flows into the website, amplified largely by social sharing. And if there is a chance to rehash a popular Karl moment from a year ago, they’ll give it another run. Because while they peak early, these stories can live on forever.
But does the media’s enthusiasm for Karl’s bottled boganism contribute to TV ratings? No. It’s a trivial, nauseating cycle of funny-moments-becoming-YouTube-hits-becoming-news-stories that has been going on for years without the Today Show receiving any significant bump. Even the latest Herald story with Karl in the headline is mostly about how Sunrise romped home with their best lead in years. His name is there because that’s what people click on. Same goes for sex, p0rn and iPhone.
Today has not enjoyed anything like the bump in popularity you might expect with the global enthusiasm for Karl’s latest wear-a-suit-for-a-year stunt. The host’s joke with the Dalai Lama achieved even greater notoriety and has been  more than two million times on YouTube.
In fact, Karl’s top ten most popular clips on YouTube have been viewed more than 15 million times. His Twitter figures are, by most comparisons, extraordinary: 250,000+ followers, 2500 tweets. Scores of retweets follow each mundane observation. (See examples below)
I have set up many TV personalities on Twitter and I’ve told each one of them to just be themselves. For Karl, being himself – his plain speaking, jocular, slightly inappropriate self –  resonates with so many people, you’d be forgiven for thinking Karl was a seriously popular star with a compelling or hilarious feed. Decide for yourself.
People seem to love him regardless.
A friend of mine pointed out that it was not always this way. A few years back, Karl was widely loathed and even worse, ignored. But since the host made headlines around the world for being drunk on-air and trying to crack a dad joke with a Tibetan Buddhist leader, Aussies have embraced Karl as one of their own and will now happily rave about his latest larrikin exploit.
I can’t stand the man, yet even I have pulled out my phone at dinner parties to show friends the latest reason I can’t stand him.
He’s a middle-aged man of the age, a mate who’ll hold your longneck while you take a wizz, Australia’s Kramer – a loathsome, offensive brute, yet I can’t look away.
It’s clear that the only winner in Karl’s situation is Karl’s personal profile. His appeal is in unexpected moments that shock or surprise viewers for a 30-second clip. Sure, the Today Show appears in every clip and gif but as the moments are unscripted, Channel 9 can’t capitalise or fabricate this ineffable brilliance. If I was them I’d be seriously frustrated. But the potential is there and that’s why other TV bosses should pay attention to this phenomenon.
The idea that ratings are the only thing that matters will soon fade . Television audiences will continue to shrink and TV shows that resonate online will
a) attract the next generation of viewers and,
b) get the advertising dollars that are will move online when we are all streaming shows.
Essentially, views will count for more than viewers.
Some networks are already acting on this. Certain shows are being driven to produce more shareable content and are tailoring segments to online audiences – think John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, Jimmy Fallon, or The Voice.
Personalities will still need to be social-savvy, but most are nowadays, and it’s the producers that need to think differently; How will this story translate to online viewers who can scroll through it in ten seconds? Will it work for a commuter watching live on a smartphone? Would I share this segment? How are we using social networks to draw viewers into the next episode?
I didn’t see your cliffhanger last week, sorry. I don’t know who is in the final four. And I’m not even seeing your teases in the cricket or in the 6pm news. I’m busy watching reruns of Karl embarrassing himself in 2010.

Not my favorite thing, Twitter

A few months back I faced the task of cleaning up who I follow on Twitter to increase it’s usefulness to me. My feed had become a list of lefties in an echo chamber of middle-class rage. So I slashed and burned.

Now, some people I follow are there to keep me thinking outside my box, their lives are far from mine; socio-economically, geographically, and politicians, their views are confronting, if not obnoxious.

In other words, I’m choosing to see content on twitter that is deliberately irrelevant.

But what if relevance is not our goal?
 

What truthiness

What truthiness

Long ago, when Ashton Kutcher was being lauded for being the first to reach one million twitter followers, an Australian TV network asked him what the biggest challenge for Twitter would be. He said it would be a need to filter out all the crap. Increasing the relevance of your feed by adding posts, is not moving toward a filter, it is actually making it harder to find what you choose to see.

Context: Now, Twitter seems to think that we should see favourites on our timeline – not our own, but those of people we follow. This is akin to a stranger who has noticed you are checking the weather on your smartphone, chiming in with a “Did you also know that my brother’s soccer game was washed out last week? Look, here’s a photo!” It’s not warranted. It’s information only relevant in the sense that cats are relevant to string.

If twitter’s goal is to increase the relevance of tweets you see, this is set to fail. Even if every tweet they surfaced was in some way relevant to my interests, I don’t care. I still did not ask to see it. You had one job. And it’s hard enough filtering the pap and fluff out of my feed. To be force-fed an algorithmically chosen set of tweets is a worrying move toward Facebook’s all-powerful newsfeed.

If it is to simplify their interface, it does this as gently as a guy who invites himself to your dinner party and although he looks suave, he just brought three relatives you never wanted to meet. And they are dressed as donkeys.

Motivation: The main problem I see with serving other people’s favourites to your timeline is that their motives for clicking the star vary widely.

I recently had a guess at why people favourite my own tweets. These ideas also vary widely.

  • They want to show me that they have seen my tweet – bless.
  • They realise I have just uncovered a major, breaking new story and they are now running to their news director with the tweet in hand
  • It made them laugh so hard they are keeping it to print out and put on their fridge
  • They are compiling a list of the Most Enjoyable Tweets Ever Tweeted
  • They need to retain my joke for when they are feeling low and they need a lift.
  • They are stealing my quirky analogy for a book they are writing on pop culture
  • They want evidence that they knew me before I became famous – like Tom Cruise famous.
  • They need to keep my insight as a reference when dinner party debate inevitably turns to ‘Why do people keep touching me on public transport?’
  • They meant to hit ‘Block’.And then I had someone tweet a favourite they had been shown – it was of a plate of unattractive fried chicken. It was the kind of favourite that must have a backstory – probably not a good one, but nevertheless, a context that was completely lost on the recipient.

Privacy: The forced revelation of something many people consider private has been a major gripe in reaction to this blessed feature. I’m sure it’s not something that will warm people to your brand next time they are weighing up their use of your service.

And here is how some tweeters saw the change…

Thankfully, there are ways to get around this imposition…

Avoidance: Stop using the official website when you want to use twitter – use Tweetdeck on your browser or tweetbot on an iPhone. Each of them offers a better, more tailored experience, and are free of this new feature.

 

BLOG: Headphones – Can I pull them off?

When Apple bought Beats for a gazillion dollars last month, it didn’t make me want to buy Beats but it did get me thinking about what they would do with the brand and the technology.

Apple evolved the mp3 player, the phone and the tablet; they didn’t invent any of those items, but they took them all to a new level.

For me, the way to take headphones to the next level would be to maintain the hi-def audio but remove all wires. Why are we still dealing with the daily trial of untangling them from an insufferable mess that never has any reason to occur?

If they could solve that little dilemma, I thought, I’d consider swapping my earbuds for headphones.

I haven’t worn headphones for years. (Who needs all that bulk when in-ear phones get the job done?)

We all know earphones have been around for a long time, and if it ain’t broke…

Plus, the visual style of Beats says ‘hip teenager’ a bit too loudly for me – and much more than my Zara wardrobe can cope with.

But then I Googled headphones to research what’s around only to find that wireless headphones are already a thing. Bluetooth does the job and without the headphones needing to double in size. Plus, you can get such a product for around $100! (The Beats version costs $280 and reviewers on Apple.com don’t even seem to like them.)

So, I dived in and have now returned to wearing headphones — now more white tangles cords for me — they’re bluetooth, noise-cancelling AND they let you receive phones calls and pause or skip music tracks. I am in love.

BUT. With headphones comes great douchery. P eople can’t take you as serious as they once did. You look like you value good music more than being in touch with actual life. And with noise-cancelling, the only way people can get your attention is with wild hand-waving that embarrasses all of us. At least with small earphones, you can still talk to people at the checkout, you can still hear the world, and some people won’t even notice them.

With headphones, you are switching off society and with it, any claim you had to being ‘with it’. I get that. It’s a sacrifice I’m making for convenience.

But I also hope the Beats acquisition – and my own acquisition – is the start of something.

However, if Apple doesn’t get Beats right, they will leave all of us wearing headphones no better than the guys still wearing one of these….

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

Colour Theory: How the world’s designers have copied the iPhone

When Apple changed the colour scheme on their iconic iPhones last year, many obsessive fans – including me – whinged about the decision. Childish. Dated. Simplistic.

Others thought it was more proof that Apple is always ahead of the curve. That their team knew, ahead of time, what colours would soon be in fashion in the world of design. But to me, that sounded too much like Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada.

I realise someone out there must be able to see through the glare of advertising and know what’s actually coming next. But a company as big as Apple?

What changed?
The colours used throughout the iPhone were given a stark and bold new look. With blurry backgrounds and barely perceptible gradients the icons now had a certain lift – it was as if they were rising off the screen.

Now, months later, I see the same once-hated palette popping up everywhere. Did Apple predict a trend or did they create one?

So where did Apple’s new colour theory originate?
Theory 1: Did they have a secret colour chart like you see at the hardware store?

See also: flatuicolors.com

Theory 2: Now everything was plain, unadorned and less skeumorphic – putting an end to the use of that ridiculous word.

Was the pallet simply Apple’s old logo, reimagined?

Theory 3: Or were the colours lifted from the work of designer Otl Aicher for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games? (This is my favourite theory.)

Apple’s chief designer Jonny Ive may let us know one day, but if he does, it will be on his deathbed. And even then it’s unlikely.

So all we can do is now observe how the same palette has taken hold in other designs around the world.

Telstra want to be part of the cool. Good luck, blonde beardy.

Katy Perry gets it. And she kissed a girl before it was cool.

Don’t forget Samsung, the iPhone you get when you don’t want an iPhone.

And let’s not forget the contribution from Sydney’s rail network – the Opal card.

Or Sydney City Council’s efforts in promoting Harmony.

I believe that Apple – a company known for behaving outside of common corporate rules – did manage to help create a colour trend. Their influence on global design is not marginal. Apple have sold over 500 million iOS devices worldwide, meaning that even if a flat colour trend was approaching, they accelerated it by placing it in the hand of around half a billion consumers.

Then, eventually, the trend has trickled down to graphic designers, celebs, advertisers, stylists, city councils and less nimble smartphone manufacturers.

Seen any other examples? Do tell.

More reading:

Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.

How a Facebook gallery nabbed me a dream job

We’ve all read many articles regarding the privacy dangers of sharing your views and photos on social media.

Sacking case highlights pitfalls of social media

9 ways Facebook can get you fired

Blah, blah, blah.

However, I now have proof that the opposite is also true – your use of social media can give you the extra boost you need to get ahead of other candidates.

Where my hobby began
In Australia, all Year 10 students are forced from their cosy routines into the freakish hellscape known as Work Experience. Think of Work Experience as a hastily arranged unpaid internship that lasts five days yet often results in lifelong disillusionment.

So, like most of my pals, I picked jobs based not on my hazy career goals but on my interests, hoping the environment would keep me motivated long enough to survive.

At the time, I enjoyed soccer, Sherbert Fountains, long walks in the bush and spending time in the city. In particular, I enjoyed hanging out inside certain grand historical buildings and Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building – with its enormous stature, towering domes and tessellated floors – stood out for me more than any other.

In my esteemed role as Shopping Centre Administrator, I spent half the week delivering mail to shopowners and the other half taking photos of the building. (At the time, I was obsessed with symmetry so I was in paradise.)

Fast forward to 2012, when I was tiring of Facebook’s culture of posting nothing but sentimental moments and wry observations. I began using Facebook photos as a photo-journal, documenting my interest in architecture. Because why not? Shareability gives credence to all kinds of unusual fascinations. Pretty soon I was posting my best three photos per week.

(I realise it’s the kind of obsession that sits better on Instagram. But, I figured Facebook is a disjointed stream anyway – your old classmate shares their kid’s drawing, your colleague is sharing a Buzzfeed list, and your chiropractor just liked their random old classmate’s photo. Aren’t algorithms great!)

Initially, I took photos of the most typical and unusual houses to fill the time while I drove sleeping kids around in my car. Then, I began making special day trips to suburbs I had never seen, just to photograph a house that was either unique to or typical of the area. Within months I was getting requests from others, and even contributions to the gallery. Later, I made the gallery public so that it could be seen by people beyond my Facebook friends.

Late last year – while in a perfectly good job completely unrelated to my work experience – I was approached to be the Community Manager at Houzz Australia.

  • Houzz is a start-up company, founded by a couple who wanted to make a digital place where you could get everything you need to remodel your home. Website | Apps

How my gallery moved me up the pack
I can safely say it was my skills in community management and social media that first brought me to the attention of the new local MD. But while there were certainly other people available with my experience in community and social, it was my Facebook gallery that sealed the deal.

My interviewer had checked my Linked In page and, I assume, my Twitter feed. Any good employer also googles candidates before a first meeting.

But my gallery went much further than that.

I found that as part of the interviewing process for a startup expanding out of the US for the first time, you need to speak with a wide range of different people. I spoke to several parties via Skype, including one of the founders and two foreign investors in the company.

Each of my interviewers had already viewed or heard about my Facebook gallery – making the photos an instant talking point.

In the gallery, I had two years’ worth of evidence that showed I was an enthusiastic fan of house design, plus, I was regularly posting content that generated discussion and attracted submissions.

Now, as Houzz enters the UK, Germany, France and Australia, I will be heading up their community and expanding their presence locally via social channels. I will be spending time every day working with nearly three million photos of architecture and design, symmetrical and otherwise.

Kids, work experience is a good thing. Choose wisely.

Real Estate reality check – most Sydney houses are pretty strange

After spending two years searching Sydney for the ideal home, my wife and I are finally ready to delete the RealEstate.com.au and Domain apps from our iPhones. It has been an obsession that took us to dozens of Open Homes, hundreds of secret drive-bys and turned us into highly critical buyers and highly frustrated sellers. We also started cataloguing all the weirdest compromises people make.

Every home has something odd, if you look under enough rugs or check enough floor plans.

We found that over time, our standards dropped and our criteria loosened, but even still, some houses – even some we were considering bidding on – were beyond strange.

Here are some of the bizarro beauties we didn’t buy…

Barton Crescent Hurlstone Park

This is the house that got us thinking we should sell our home. Sure, it said five bedrooms but we figured that it was really 4 plus a study. Sure, it was hideous with wall-to-wall pebblecrete and would take years to salvage, but that would only turn people off, right? Sure, it was a good size block in a cul-de-sac near the train station, but if the agent says it’s affordable then… why did it get passed in for $100k more than what we were told it would go for? (To the agent’s credit, they refunded our building inspection.)

Here’s how we first saw it, followed by my own artist’s impression of how we may have saved it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hampton Street Croydon Park
Again, we were on the lookout for 3BD homes but when a 5BD shows up in search results, you think you might somehow be on the only person to have spotted it. That is, until inspection day. This home had large living spaces, a pool, parquetry floors and off-street parking. And how many homes can offer you a fully-decked backyard! Every inch is ready to be oiled every year, allowing you to embrace the outdoors by standing, sitting in chairs, walking and chasing things your kids poke between the cracks.

Brighton Street Croydon
Despite my deeply held personal convictions, we even considered this 1980s McMansion. Miss-matched fences, seriously dodgy brickwork and a damp backyard aside, this ode to owner-builders had a sloping floor fit for Wet N Wild, plus more unfinished surfaces than a rock quarry. Plus, there were unfathomable decisions including a shower added to the rear of the kitchen. The kitchen! The laundry was nowhere to be seen but turned up hidden in the double garage – a garage to which there was no car access! Genius!

Higginbotham Road
Apart from the wood-panelled and windowed ceiling shown, this home had the strangest bathroom we’d ever seen. A fully moulded sky blue plastic shell, like a toilet cubicle from a 747. Easy to clean with no corners or crevices, but the feeling that the seatbelt light might come on at any time. And that was the ensuite.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Barons Cresent, Boronia Park.
Even a driveway can make a house difficult to sell.
We really wanted this to work. We could get the kids into the great local school in this leafy suburb no one has heard of near Hunters Hill. This home ticked lots of boxes and then added a bunch more – bushy outlook, secluded property, north-facing, it even backed onto Lane Cove River which was visible beyond a mangrove boardwalk! Problem was, the house was on poles and the heavily sloping backyard was down 30 steps. The real dealbreaker came when we tried descending the narrow, steep battleaxe driveway in our new seven-seater. No guest would brave it, and I had palpitations just reversing out. No thanks.

Charles Street Petersham
Oddball from go to wo. It had enough character for me to ask for the contract while my wife was running for the door. This reasonably cramped semi featured the biggest walk-in robe we saw in any home. Outside there was an overgrown garden accessible only beyond a tree you had to limbo under. Their homemade glass atrium felt like an escape module. And then there was the garage, fit for a, err, shed.

Lyle Avenue Lindfield
The agent said it was an ‘idyllic bushland setting’, but being in Lindfield, that was a given. The house? It was a cool vintage number but the tree – a Myrtaceae myrtle – out the lounge room window was all we wanted. Yes, we genuinely considered buying a house way out of our area and out of our political and socio-economic comfort zone, all just to gaze at the most outstanding angophora we had ever seen. Its orange tones radiated like a bar heater. It was one of many on 1075 square metres. The house was a bit like Rose Seidler’s one up the road – with original furniture by the looks – and it eventually sold for less than $900k. Outrageous.

The tree was worth at least a million.

A case for tweeting what we read, not what we think

A friend who works for Twitter asked me why I run a Twitter account that simply lists what articles I am reading on any given day.

Now I have considered it, it’s not unlike the ‘see what your friends have read” feature behind the News Corp paywall. But I just never feel comfortable sharing like that. But my @buckleupreads account is operated solely by me. In fact, this automatic feed of what has caught my eye is even more revealing than my neatly curated tweets of thoughts, links and photos that you’ll find on my main profile, @buckleup.

It’s a text version of what “The Narrative” camera seeks to do, following me everywhere on the internet, except that my @buckleupreads only records what really makes me pause.

What is worth sharing?

Twitter is a marvellous medium for sharing. The best, by far. But having an audience ready to listen has me forever contemplating, what is WORTH sharing?

My general rule has been to make every tweet educational or entertaining, preferably both.

But as my use of Twitter has developed, I have realised that’s all too restrictive. It may be a good place to start, but life has more variety, twitter needs more diversity and rules are meant to be broken. Even my own rules.

For example, I had left no room for opinion, the views that create or add to a debate, the banter that can lead to new ideas and a wider perspective.

And secondly, the sharing of links to articles – offered without any comment – is one of twitter’s greatest services and is a genuine timesaver. Simply type any topic and t.co into the Twitter search bar, and you will receive a stream of tweets pointing you to recent articles on the topic. If I spend even ten minutes walking or on public transport, I grab a few links, save them to reader (I mostly use Pocket) and then paste the text into a voice-to-text app so I can listen while still remain a visually engaged citizen of the universe.

Image

Based on this routine, I decided to make a twitter feed of those articles, mostly for my own record-keeping, but also for anyone interested in seeing – without any moderation, wit or judgment – an RSS of what I come across in a life in Sydney influenced by faith, family, design, technology, intolerable traffic and world class weather, coloured by a job tied to the media, social networks and emerging trends. A bit of unedited life-blogging.

Many news sites feature a ‘most read’ list, but unless I know and relate to those people it holds little value. I would love it if all my friends had a twitter feed like @buckleupreads, so I could easily follow a list of what they had been reading. It would be like my friends had curated Google News every day and shared it.

The biggest downside of this idea is that some articles I choose to read are a total waste of time. Some articles promote me to act, others to laugh, many to say “meh”.  Only those that make the Buckle-cut will get mentioned on @buckleup. Think of that account as the premium experience. And there isn’t even a paywall.

Yet.

me tweeting

%d bloggers like this: