links for 2009-12-30


What are people saying about… Eurostar?

Eurostar is to rail travel what Terminal 5 was to air travel.

While Terminal 5 was slowly falling apart, I had the opportunity to put together my first ever monitoring dashboard for people who wanted to track what was going on. Since then I’ve played around a-plenty with dashboards and monitoring systems, so while I develop these techniques I thought it would be interesting to do some ‘live’ case studies. And, luckily (for me), Eurostar is a perfect candidate.

So what are people saying about them? I’m sure people at Eurostar would like to know. Fortunately I’ve heard tell that the excellent We Are Social, headed by Robin Grant, are helping Eurostar listen in to the online conversations, so I’d imagine they have a similar setup.

But this one’s mine. Take a look –  click here to see the Eurostar dashboard, or click the image below.

Eurostar monitoring dashboard - click to see the live version

Eurostar monitoring dashboard - click to see the live version

First off, I figure that Twitter is fairly important because people will be tweeting left, right and centre about them. So, I put a Twitter buzz chart at the top, and Twitter updates below that.

As you can see it looks like problems reached a peak on Tuesday, with a daily pattern of people tweeting their annoyance around mid-morning and less so during their lunchbreaks. Today, the volume has lessened which probably coincides with the trains being fixed.

So much for the quantitative. Look at what people are saying. They’re really not happy. Right now I can see the following comments:

  • Some people are still throwing stones at the Eurostar as it passes them
  • Bankers threatening to leave the country over tax rates, but how? Eurostar? Plane?
  • Miles de pasajeros abarrotan estación londinense desde donde parten trenes Eurostar

The first one is fairly astonishing (and I don’t believe it frankly, but who knows?), the second is frightfully witty if you don’t actually work for Eurostar, and the last is, according to my limited Spanish, not entirely positive either – but, bearing in mind Eurostar doesn’t actually go to Spain, shows how the whole of Europe is caught up in this fascinating episode.

Forums are notorious for ill-informed, knee-jerk response (I should know, I used to post regularly to the Computer Music forum, so regularly that I was once in the top five posters by volume). So, I added a Forum section, again with the chart at the top and the threads below.

The forum buzz chart roughly echoes the Twitter chart in that volume seems to be falling. There are actually surprisingly few comments in the forums, telling me that maybe this isn’t the ‘natural’ space for such conversations to take place.

The blog buzz is similar, and again we see negativity abounding. Take this for instance: “Mum’s here – she got a first class ticket which meant Eurostar could get her on the train.” Do what? Are you telling me that people have to buy first class to guarantee a place? And so it continues to unravel…

Finally I thought it might be interesting to look at the photos people were taking – this was particularly illuminating when looking at Terminal 5 coverage, basically showing mountains of suitcases. Eurostar photos seem to consist mostly of queues of people, with comments alongside them such as “And the start of a 36 hour trip home.” Dearie dearie me.

It would be nice – well, not nice maybe, but interesting certainly – to monitor the Facebook group, and social videos. I just put these columns in to get a quick overview of what’s going on. Same for UK, global and social news, Delicious bookmarks, even wikipedia updates – they can all be added, and more. I just put this together to test the system while I’m developing it.

So there you have it. Negativity abounds, and it doesn’t seem as if Eurostar is helping the situation by offering people transit if they pay through the nose. Disclaimer: I don’t actually know this to be the case, but that’s the impression that blog post gave me.

How to deal with all this? I’m sure the smart guys at We Are Social are on the case but it’s probably a priority now for them to do a post-mortem on what went wrong, and how to make it right again – because this won’t stop here. It’s going to take quite some time for Eurostar to stop being a joke, as it did with T5 and as it will for Tiger Woods (another case study in how to get it wrong, including, this time, social media – he could have been contrite sooner and more directly, but that’s another story).

Let’s face it, we work in the world of impressions, reputations and opinions. It’s tricky, and you’ve got to be careful. At the very least, listen.

Dear Yahoo Pipes…

… it’s so hard writing this blog post I don’t know where to begin.

So I’ll begin at the beginning.

When we first met I didn’t think you were anything special. You had a nice interface and cute little modules, but I wasn’t bowled over, I must admit.

No. It took a while, but then I started to appreciate you for yourself. You let me bring feeds together and split them apart. You helped me change the contents of feeds, filter them, edit them. And you enabled me to build a modular monitoring system, keywords separate from processing, sub-pipes that looked after blogs, others that scanned forums, videos, pictures…

It was plain we were meant for each other and our relationship blossomed.

But then those small tell-tale signs that I tried so hard to ignore became all too plain. Those ‘Connection refused’ errors (yeah right, who were you trying to kid?). ‘Internal error’ was another one that hurt. And I still don’t know how you could bring yourself to tell me that I had a malformed engine, or that you were unable to parse data. I mean, you told me early on in our relationship but I always thought it was a metaphor.

The more I talk about it, the more it seems you’ve been transgressing with other people too. Oh yes, they know all about your server hang-ups too, the way you time out on them, or even refuse to connect in the first place. You dirty dog.

So that’s it, Pipes. I’ve had enough. There’s only so much a semi-programming-literate copywriter can take. Go now, go. Walk out the door. Just turn around now cos you’re not welcome any more. Before I chase you down the road and smash your rear windscreen with a nine-iron.

links for 2009-12-16