When I created the service 3 years ago I tried to think of what I as a commuter (with or without a bicycle) would find useful in a tweet. Talking with fellow riders I came up with the current Updating Guide because it seemed to just make sense. Since the inception of the service the nomenclature in the guide has worked without issue up until recently.
As you may know I don’t alter the content of tweets other than limit to a certain length to be able to append time stamps. I believe that the community should be able to take my idea and initial set of guidelines and mold them to what really works. It is with that belief I felt the service would evolve in a positive and useful way as Caltrain changed its service. That is why I called them guidelines. As it turned out everyone embraced them and felt they met the needs of the majority and as a result essentially became the rule more than a guide.
Recently the use of ‘bombardier’ and ‘gallery’ for car type and ‘limited’ and ‘bbullet’ for service type have been used with greater frequency to the frustration of many people. This frustration has taken form in emails directly to me and to what amounts as a flame war on the public feed where hundreds of people follow. Also it appears users have been editorializing, not consolidating multiple status in 1 tweet, and updating with no useful content.
It is because I received multiple direct emails from users saying, “decreasing the usefulness of the service”, “poor low signal to noise ratio”, and “tweets have taken over my twitter feed on a number of occasions [...] tweeting at length and uselessly about train type, sometimes with editorial comments, and doesn’t use the established conventions” that I realized I cannot take a complete laissez-faire attitude if I have any expectations of the service remaining useful.
It is because of this that I must now insist people adhere to the Updating Guide for updates. The community has embraced my vision and has been very vocal about sticking with it. Also the Updating Guide says at the very top,
What makes an update useful or helpful? No matter what, updates need to be newsworthy and concise. If things are normal or how they should be there is no reason to announce it. Think of this service as a EAS for Caltrain. Too many updates could cause frustration or desensitize users who may stop following or updating which hurts everyone in the long run.
I cannot help but to wonder why people insist on ignoring this fundamental belief.
One approach moving forward I had was replacing any instance of ‘bombardier’ with ‘new’ and ‘gallery’ with ‘old’ before sent to Twitter. ‘Limited’ and ‘bbullet’ would also be removed because the service type is encoded in the route number itself. As stated before:
1 = Local
2 = Limited
3 = Baby Bullet
In fact the direction (NB and SB) is also included — odd routes are Northbound and even routes are Southbound, but I am willing to allow the extra notation there.
But Ravi, you’re being hypocritical!
Yes, but this is why — I want the service to be easy for everyone. It wasn’t until 3 years did I find out the direction and service encoding and it was because someone told me. I suspect I’m not alone. Also I know countless people who outright refused to “ride the old trains.” Not my words but theirs. What is an old train here? Yep, a gallery. I didn’t make it up. It is what it is.
So lets re-recap:
- Stick with the Updating Gude — drop the use of ‘bombardier’, ‘gallery’, ‘limited’ and ‘bbullet’ from the update.
- Consolidate your tweets.
- Keep your editorials to your blog or own Twitter feed. Some people subscribe to SMS updates of the feeds and some of those people pay for each SMS. Consider checking the feed for recent updates before you send one and ask yourself if it meets the criteria I set forth in the Updating Guide.
I am saddened that I even had to write this post, but I am thrilled it took this long before I had to. As hope everyone understands and realigns their updates with the Updating Guide and the requests of the community. Posts will remain unedited (aside from length) and will remain for as long as people respect the service and others.