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Translink Buzzer Blog

Heads up: TransLink’s Twitter pilot project for November 2010

Update, February 11, 2011: Yay: our Twitter pilot has been permanently extended!

Update, February 1, 2011: The Twitter pilot has been extended to the end of February 2011! Things are looking positive for the indefinite extension of the pilot—stay tuned for more!

Jan 10, 2011 update. Just wanted to say the pilot is definitely continuing to the end of January—we continue to seek budget approval for keeping the program going indefinitely! Here’s the post about that.

Dec 8, 2010 note: OK, here’s the in-depth results post about the pilot!

Dec 3, 2010 note: Owing to great results, we have decided to extend the Twitter pilot for the month of December! The hope is that we will continue the pilot indefinitely, but funding approval is still ongoing. I’ll have a more in-depth post on the results up in the next few days—stay tuned!

If you don’t know about it yet, TransLink offers a popular Twitter account (www.twitter.com/translink) where you can get breaking news and key service updates.

And starting today—November 1, 2010—the TransLink Twitter account will be getting a boost in staffing and content, owing to a pilot project with our Customer Information staff.

For the month of November, the Customer Information team at our call centre will help provide updates to the TransLink Twitter feed, supplying the latest transit service news and info as it happens.

A member of the team will update the account from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 pm., and will also take a crack at answering customer questions if possible. As well, they will be updating the yellow alerts strip on the TransLink mobile site, m.translink.ca.

Why are we doing this?

Well, to be honest, the chief goal is to bring better service to our customers! In the past, the TransLink Twitter account has been one place where customers have been very happy with receiving service notifications—especially during times like the Olympics, or during service outages across the system. We want to build on that success.

The month-long pilot also helps us get an idea of how Twitter and similar services might integrate into our current customer service processes. It also helps more of our staff venture into the world of social media, which is fast becoming a vast new channel for customer service.

And don’t worry, amid all this we haven’t forgotten our other services—Customer Information is still updating alerts on the website, as well as the customized alerts that you can receive via e-mail or SMS.

Your feedback will help

If you follow the TransLink Twitter account, please keep an eye on how things are going this November and let us know what you think. As this is a pilot, we’d love to know what is working for you and what isn’t, so we can improve! I’ll make sure to post another note before the end of November, to remind you to let us know what you think of the pilot.


30 Comments

  • By ;-), November 1, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

    I’ve been using the Twitter RSS feed for a couple of weeks with the Blackberry Torch (OS 6) RSS viewerand just love it! When waiting at a bus stop, I can get a quick pulse on the conditions and adjust my route choices.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 1, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

    ;-): Good to hear it’s working for you! Just curious: do you find you get the @replies to other people’s comments in the RSS feed? Does that bother you or is it fine to see those?

  • By Sally, November 1, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

    No! Stop it! Way to much info now on buses I don’t travel on!!

  • By ;-), November 1, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    It was confusing at first to see a half conversation at http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/61617150.rss . Over time I just got used to it. I can see the other half by opening up the user link.

    Once subscribed on the Torch viewer, I flip through the Translink tweets and blog comments with the click of a button. No swipes needed!

  • By ;-), November 2, 2010 @ 8:27 am

    Oh look… looks like we may see OS6 running on older Blackberry models as well…. http://forums.crackberry.com/f95/leaked-9700-os-6-0-0-344-findings-fixes-545423/

  • By Eric B, November 2, 2010 @ 8:37 am

    For the first day, I didn’t mind the various alerts coming through on my tweet stream, although I’m seeing gaps between when a departure has been cancelled and when it shows up as a tweet.

    But Sally does have a point. Was there consideration for using a separate twitter account during this pilot?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 2, 2010 @ 10:02 am

    Eric: A second account wasn’t considered for the trial period, since our largest audience is on the @translink account. But it can certainly be an outcome of the pilot.

    Some questions though for both you and Sally:

    – What information do you think the second account would provide, vs the main @translink account?

    – Sally, you’ve said there are too many updates on buses you don’t ride — do you think there is an acceptable level of updates about unrelated buses? Say one or two? (This is a big challenge as we have over 200 bus routes in the system—updates about one are never going to apply to everyone!)

    – How many updates are too many updates a day?

  • By Sheba, November 2, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    I also think a second account would be better. Also divide it up regionally so people can pick to only see the alerts for the area(s) they travel in.

  • By Eric B, November 3, 2010 @ 8:33 am

    If TransLink deems this pilot successful, then a separate account could be considered. An analogy might be the Canucks’ official account (@VanCanucks) and a separate account for updates during games (@canucksgame).

    Regionalized accounts (per Sheba) could be an option, but consideration should be made for routes crossing multiple regions (e.g. SkyTrain, 301, 430, 595), and if there are enough resources to maintain multiple accounts.

  • By ;-), November 3, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    I’m really happy to see the level of activity in recent days. I welcome this level of detail on the weekends. It really proves our heroes are on the ball when things go wrong.

    While I can set up alerts on my favourite routes, I’m more likely to have unpredictable routes and destinations when I’m not working. When more than 3 routes are in trouble, a simple tweet to my BB Torch means a lot for me.

    Radio stations don’t work well when I’m not driving or at home with a radio. However, many have phones riding a bus and is a very affordable way to reaching to the ridership. If a problem develops, I spread the word to riders sitting next to me.

  • By Sally, November 5, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    Hi Jhenifer! I don’t know how you’d get around determining how many updates are too many, since if an update affects you, of course you want as many updates as possible. I simply unfollowed @translink as I am signed up for bus alerts via sms for my routes. One thing I did like though, the other day when Highway 99 was backed up in S.Surrey, I tweeted comments to @translink and they responded immediately. I follow @kenhardie and so basically I get all the info I need anyway. I do admire @translink for stepping up and doing this, but on my tiny BlackBerry, it wasn’t working for me.

  • By Rob Jones, November 16, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

    I’m very glad you’re on this issue, Jhenifer. I think mobile info is a great way to go. To cut down on the noise of a single RSS feed, would it make sense to split the RSS out by Skytrain Stn? So, if I take routes that feed out of of certain stations, I can subscribe only to those?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 16, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

    Rob: Hmm! Well, if you are looking for individual SkyTrain stations a better option is probably our customized SMS and e-mail alerts service, where you can pick bus routes and stations of interest and only get notices about those items.

    I think at the moment we are thinking of just using one Twitter account for major disruptions and updates, and leaving individualized alerts to the customized alert system. Going beyond that and offering multiple RSS feeds/Twitter accounts is a challenge that requires some thinking about (and your thoughts are certainly useful for this!).

    Essentially, the challenge is trying to figure out a balance of just how many RSS feeds would be optimal for our staff to manage, and how many will actually be useful to customers. Just for some scale, we have over 200 bus routes and 49 SkyTrain stations. If we made 250 Twitter accounts would be a lot to deal with, and if staff are doing all the input and trying to listen to each account, there could be mistakes or oversights. (Of course if we use some kind of program to automatically populate things, that would be a different story, but we aren’t quite there yet!)

  • By Reva, November 20, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    I know it’s a bit late to be posting this, but I’d love to see the Translink Twitter feed show up somewhere on Translink’s homepage. It’s updated so much more often than the Current Conditions section of the website or the email transit alerts I get. It’s been snowing all evening yet the Current Conditions page shows everything is operating normally, last update at 11:04pm. The Twitter feed is full of information and communication regarding the weather conditions and how things are moving, still being updated even now at 4:45am. I would love to have access to this information right there on Translink’s page instead of having to go back and forth. At the very least, a link to the Twitter feed, placed somewhere near the Current Conditions box, would be very helpful and would make a lot of sense. Thanks. :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 25, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

    Reva: It’s never too late to comment on a post :) I have passed your suggestion on to our web team. I’ll stay in touch about how it develops!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, November 29, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    Reva: look! The web team put a box on the Alerts page that pulls in the latest Twitter updates. We couldn’t get it onto the homepage as it was a bit too complex, but this isn’t too bad either!

  • By Daryl, November 30, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

    Hey Jhen, great job on this pilot project so far. I do have one comment, though. One thing that is really unnecessary for this kind of twitter account (an informative one) is the constant tweets about how “my afternoon is going” or “good night everyone” or “good morning” … These are ‘stale’ tweets…

    Examples:
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/8665966846148608
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/9754626567962624
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/9615681951629312
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/9508184519606272
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/9252902098964480
    http://twitter.com/translink/status/8892777278480385

    … I glaze over these kinds of tweets from @translink, which made me dismiss a few actually important tweets I should’ve known about — like how the WCE was down this morning.

    Hope this helps. Love the relevant updates, though! Just less padding, please. Please. Please.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, December 3, 2010 @ 11:25 am

    Thanks Daryl!

  • By ben K, December 14, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

    I just want to second what Daryl said. I don’t have much time to use Twitter these days, so when I do sign in, I hope to find substantive bits in my feed.

    While my usage pattern probably does not afford the best use of Twitter transit updates, the abundance useless fluff tweets that Daryl illustrated has caused me to consider unsubscribing from @translink in an effort keep my feed focused and useful.

    More succinctly: nobody cares if you are arriving at or leaving the office; we care about actual service information. :)

    b

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, January 10, 2011 @ 1:31 am

    I like what Daryl has to say. In general, I’d like to subscribe to 1 Twitter account to just get the good stuff. A nice option to have would be to a Translink meta account, where the customer service signs on, and customers can interact.

    That being said, the signing on and off come in handy, when I am trying new settings. Just this past Thursday, I thought that I was receiving tweets, but when nothing came all night long, I realized that I needed to get myself sorted out. In short, we need some kind of steady information to confirm that our accounts are set up properly, and we need to bear in mind that absence of information does not mean that we are only getting the good stuff.

    Also, the meta tweets can also be unofficially used for weather advisories and other information, when the folks sign in. It could also be used for riders to send in their own information.

    I personally do not want the service broken into regional Twitter accounts, because if I happen to be travelling in an unplanned direction, then I want to know about that region. I could sign up for a separate region, if necessary, but it is very hard to find that information using only SMS, if I forget what the relevant account is.

    Perhaps a way of dealing with the abundant information is to have an easy to read *standardized* format, where the route numbers are at the beginning of the message. Here’s an example.

    “#10 Granville: blockage in downtown”

    As soon as I see the #10, I can stop reading and then delete, because I don’t use that route.

    Perhaps we should remove some text completely.

    “UPDATE:…”

    There is no need for that word. Every tweet should be an update, unless it’s the meta tweet.

    Here’s another example that can be shortened.

    “Detour 010/016 Shuttle bus on 016 line between 29 Av Stn and Hastings. 135 local service on Hastings between Nanaimo and Kootenay Loop.^RP”

    “#10: detour blah blah ^RP”
    “#16: detour blah blah ^RP”
    “#135: detour blah blah ^RP”

    “no longer experiencing any delays” can be shortened to “no more delays”. Also, when saying that there are no more detours or things to be concerned about, we can actually remove the route names, because it won’t matter what direction the bus is going. We can probably stuff a whole bunch of all-clear alerts into 1 message.

    Here’s how I would rewrite it.

    “No more delays: #10; #16. Thanks for your patience! ^JJ”

    “No more delays” can go at the beginning of an all-clear type tweet, instead of the route numbers at the beginning of the tweet, because if riders are not using routes that have problems, then riders do not need to know about the numbers. Since most riders do not need to know about those numbers, then Translink could stuff more numbers in there. 1 “No more delays” is easier to read and delete, than “#10: no more delays…”, “#16: no more delays…”, and “#135: no more delays…”. In other words, you are saying to the public, “Some routes are all clear. Please ignore the remainder of this message, if you did not receive any messages regarding your route.”.

    I would highly recommend not tweeting the same information more than once in the main account. If people are afraid that they missed something, then maybe the account can provide it maybe via direct messages.

    Does that make sense? I hope so, because it took me a while to type this, and to think it up. ;^P

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, January 10, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    Eugene: that’s great feedback! The standardized language item is especially practical. I’ve passed along your comments to the Twitter team and we will see if they might consider this approach.

  • By ben K, January 11, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

    Eugene: as one who appreciates good technical writing (and strives to produce same myself), I applaud your great analysis. Very thoughtful, practical, and well-articulated. TransLink would do well to adopt these suggestions.

    b

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  6. The Buzzer blog » Heads up: the Twitter pilot will continue to the end of January 2011 — January 6, 2011 @ 9:54 am

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  8. The Buzzer blog » Yay: our TransLink Twitter service is now permanent! — November 23, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

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