Category Archives: gaffes

Don’t confuse your social media channels

Earlier today, Birmingham‘s O2 Academy (a large popular music concert venue, m’lud) posted this to Twitter:

Tuesday’s giveaway….Black Rebel Motorcycle club CD’s to give away! Just head over to the competitions tab for more information!

Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t have a “competitions tab”, and neither do the various Twitter clients that people use.

As you can see from the suffix I’ve highlighted in the screenshot, “via Facebook”, the tweet they posted was actually a Facebook status update. It turns out that their Facebook page has such a tab, and the Academy have simply piped their Facebook statuses into Twitter, without thinking about, or remembering, what they’ve done.

A salutary lesson to be careful about feeding content from one forum to another; and about writing for a specific context. Failure to do so can give confusing messages, and is not helpful to your audience

An open letter to Facebook, about their broken microformats

Dear Facebook,

Thank you for adding an hCard microformat to my profile on your site.

However, it’s broken, as you can see in this screenshot, made using the debugger in the superb ‘Operator’ add-on for Firefox:

Microformat contains bogus "org" and "title" properties and no ""URL" or "email" properties

My Facebook profile, with broken hCard microformat shown in Operator toolbar's debugger

You need to fix some things:

  • I am not an organisation, so please remove the org property (you may have some user accounts for organisations, contrary to your own polices. That’s their, and your, problem — individual users are by far the majority).
  • The names of six of my friends, chosen by you at random, are not my titles. My title is currently “Mr”. (I say currently; it might change to “The Right Honourable”, if ever gets to be PM and I threaten to publish the pictures).
  • Add class="url" and rel="me" to my web addresses, This is probably the single most useful thing you could do for me right now. Unless you like ironing.
  • Add class="email" to… oh, you guessed, To my e-mail address; that’s right. I’m sure that won’t be hard to do.
  • Add a machine readable date and mark up my birthday as such: I might get more cards if you do.
  • Mark up my address as such, or at least as a label.

If you do this for me, I promise not to refer to you as “Farcebook” again. Until the next time you screw up, that is.

All the best

Andy
— x —

Triple tags on Twitter

Triple tags (known as Machine Tags on Flickr) are a way of tagging web content with tags having three parts: a namespace, a predicate and a value. This means that we can differentiate between content about a (tagged taxonomy:vernacular=beagle) and (tagged maritime:vessel=beagle). Of course, that relies on everyone using the same tagging schema (my two examples could also be tagged with, say, pet:dog=beagle and history:ship=beagle). Fortunately, communities of web authors are agreeing on such schema.

One schema that is widely used is for geo- (or location-) tagging, where posts such as my picture of a Kingfisher on Flickr are tagged with (in that case):

  • geo:lat=-1.56403
  • geo:lon=53.60913

In other words, the coordinates of the place where I took the picture (pages using that schema are also often tagged with ““).

Kingfisher at Bretton Lakes, South Yorkshire

It is then possible for Flickr to display that picture overlaid on a map of the location.

The Flickr page is also tagged:

taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis
taxonomy:genus=Alcedo

which gives the scientific name (binomial or binominal) of the Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, including the Genus, Alcedo.

Another form of tagging, using hash tags, is used by the social media text-messaging service Twitter. Tags in twitter are prefixed with a hash symbol (#), hence the name. A “hash-tagged” message might look like:

I live in #England

Hash tags are parsed by three sites that I know of (there may be others — if so, please let me know): Hashtags (e.g. ), Summize (Summize for “#blog”) and Twemes (Twemes for “#blog”).

All well and good.

It occurred to me recently that it should be possible to use Triple tags in Twitter messages, so I posted these “tweets” as they’re called (I find that rather, er, twee):

#tagged post about #Kingfisher #taxonomy
( #taxonomy:genus=Alcedo,
#taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis )

(See
http://twitter.com/pigsonthewing/statuses/849630924)

and:

Is anyone is parsing #geotagged posts like this: #geo:lat=52.478342 #geo:lon=-1.895389 ( #birminghamuk #rotunda #geo #geotag #tripletag)

(See
http://twitter.com/pigsonthewing/statuses/853592240)

(line breaks have been inserted to improve readability)

Disappointingly, none of the three hash tag parsers above managed to understand these. They all see “#geo:lat=52.478342” as just “#geo” and “#taxonomy:binomial=Alcedo_atthis” as just “#taxonomy”.

Worse still, Hashtags wrongly displays my two posts without the second two-thirds of the tag content, as:

#tagged post about #Kingfisher #taxonomy ( #taxonomy #taxonomy )

(see http://hashtags.org/tag/taxonomy/)

and:

Also wonder if anyone is parsing #geotagged posts like this: #geo #geo ( #birminghamuk #rotunda #geo #geotag)

(see http://hashtags.org/tag/taxonomy/).


See also:

Wouldn’t it be great if services which parse hash tags in Twitter messages also recognised “hash-triple-tags”?

[Update: Summize was bought by Twitter and is now absorbed by them as Twitter’s own search.]

[Update: Hashtags.org now parses the triple tags as, for example, just “#taxonomy”]

[Update: David Carrington of Dabr tells me that some of these triple tags are too long for Twitter’s search API. I’ll try to find out what the limit is, and raise the matter with Twitter’s support people]

[Update: There is now a tool to automatically generate tags for Flickr images of living things; iNaturalist tagger.]

Spotted Mimics

As a child, I was often taken to our local shopping centre in Perry Barr, north Birmingham (since replaced by a tin shed with pretensions of being a mall) to see a Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis). It resided in what I now realise was a ridiculously small cage, on the counter of a petshop, and would delight all and sundry by asking repeatedly, “Where’s George?”, wolf whistling, or performing another of its many acts of mimicry.

Now my ears are more attuned to such things I realise that the journey was unnecessary. Still living in Birmingham, I can hear the avian equivalent of Rory Bremner any time I wish, simply by opening a window and listening to the Mynah’s relatives, my local Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). With the onset of autumn, they flock in ever increasing numbers, resplendent in new, strikingly sleek and spotty plumage, and very vocal. As well as having an uncanny ability to sound like any number of other birds, they have been known to imitate car alarms and mobile phones, and even children’s playground screaming.

The quiet suburban road where I live is rarely without Starlings, at any time of day, but the city-centre skies are no longer darkened by the flocks which came in to roost there in my childhood. A backfiring car would see thousands take off at once, and have pedestrians reaching for tissues to remove their supposedly “lucky” deposits from clothing or — worse — hair.

The birds in my garden are far better behaved, except when treated to their favourite delicacy: leftover, raw, shortcrust pastry. They descend from my and my neighbours’ rooftops the second I step back from the bird table, and the food disappears in moments, in a cloud of flying feathers and squawking and pecking bills, the birds mingling too rapidly to count accurately.

One particularly convincing, if annoying, individual has perfected the art of reproducing a Buzzard‘s (Buteo buteo) mewing call, no doubt heard in more open country. Ever gullible, I rush into the garden each time it performs this trick, in the hope of adding the real thing to my “garden list”. So far, without success.

[The above was written some time ago, with the intention of emulating the Guardian’s Country Diary column. As such, it has exactly 200 words, not counting the subsequent addition of scientific names. These are marked up with the draft Species Microformat, which I developed, and which is already being used on Wikipedia.]

Oops


A WindowsXP error message, projected onto a building in Birmingham, for all to see.

Children in need of some logic

Heard this evening on Radio 4‘s 6.30pm news, in an item about “Children in Need“:

“Radio 2 have been auctioning things that money can’t buy”.