What Twitter should know….and better exploit

Currently I follow around 2000 people on Twitter. It varies down slightly as I do the occasional clear out to make space for new people. But Twitter has applied a top limit of around 2000 so once I hit that I run into trouble.

Which is fine – to some extent (as in it’s not, really) – it’s their site, they have to sort out the scalability and all that. But some time ago, after a raft of unsolicited promoted tweets from just one company, I blocked the relevant account. I recognise that Twitter has to find a way of monetising the service and I’m not, in principle, against the whole sponsored tweets thing provided it doesn’t become a onerous load on my feed. If one in 10 tweets was a sponsored tweet, I’d get annoyed. But I got annoyed with this one company because they are selling a service I just do not want, am not interested in and don’t care for.

They appeared in my timeline again during the week. I was not happy.

You can, to some extent, tune the advertising which Google serves you on certain products – ads can be muted and you won’t see them again. And Google’s context sensitive advertising in Gmail is generally actually very context sensitive. It’s typically appropriate. I just can’t tune the sponsored tweets that come my way, not overtly anyway.

Twitter could because twitter knows an awful lot about my interests. I have 32000+ tweets on twitter and I follow almost 2000 people. And I have a bio. And based on this, twitter could offer advertisers/users of sponsored tweets a lot more granularity in targetting their sponsored tweets.

If you read my bio, here are two key things you get that I am interested in 1) photography 2) crochet.

If you then perform an analysis of the people I follow, you will find a couple of more interesting things 1) surfing 2) kitesurfing 3) science 4) computers 5) data analysis and statistics 6) mathematics 7) certain newsmedia sites.

If you then perform an analysis of the things I tweet and things I retweet you can get a feel for even more of the things I have a slightly more than passing interest in but which haven’t turned up under my bio or my followee accounts.

With that information, you can target advertising to me a lot more effectively. In that, the right accounts get to me and I get something of value back. We both, to a certain extent, win and Twitter gets to offer an enhanced service to their sponsoring accounts. And I don’t get annoyed by tweets turning up in my time line from accounts I don’t follow (in this case absolutely don’t want to follow) while simultaneously not being allowed by Twitter to add to the accounts I do want to follow because of the limit I regularly brush up against, the 2000 follower limit.

I can’t believe that Twitter don’t know this – it’s online advertising 101 – but if they are applying it, I don’t see it yet. I imagine it is being worked on.

Datagraphics: the property tax in Ireland.

According to the Irish Times, the Revenue Commissioner’s guideline map for property values (for self assessment for the property tax we now have) has drawn a lot of criticism, mainly of the type “the values they are suggesting do not match reality on the ground”. See this report here.

I’m not, for now, going to go into any great detail on data quality and assessment of same. There are a lot of arguments to be had over that.

My issue is the map itself. Here, roughly speaking, is what it looks like (screengrabbed at 7pm) on my computer:

Dublin City area property tax valuations
Dublin City - property values


I firmly believe that a graphic like this should be easy to read. This one isn’t because the graduations between the different colours is very slight so that it can be hard to identify exactly which of two bands a particular area falls into.

If I were doing something like this, I’d take bigger colour differentials for the different bands rather than a graduated scheme as used above.

The rush to apps…

A little while ago, I noticed that if I tried to open a link to a major property website in Ireland, it insisted on sending me to an unknown protocol and demanded that I used its app.

The website in question has a website. It may not be completely pretty on a mobile browser, but you know, sometimes I am in a hurry. And when I am opening a link from an email either in an email application which has a local browser or from web readable email in something like Chrome or Safari, I expect the link to open. I don’t expect to be told the browser doesn’t recognise the protocol and I don’t expect to be told that the company has an app and then be redirected to the app store to get it.

I expect the page to open.

I realise there has been some serious bandwagoning around app development – but the problem is this. We’re moving to web based applications via a browser on desktops – slowly – but we’re getting there. To quote that nice Mr Randall Munro, at XKCD:


But we seem to be moving in the other direction on mobile. I don’t want 100 applications on my phone. I don’t need an app for every individual company whose website I wish to browse. Already, at least one company that I can think of (but won’t name) has an app which doesn’t even include the key functionality I need from that company. And they are still pushing me to use their app.

This is not stepping forward. It’s stepping backwards. If this is the future, I really, really don’t want it.

I have a browser for a reason.  I expect to be able to browse data on the web in it. I expect not to need a proprietary application per company to get at their online store front.