Twitchhiker | Paul Smith's travel tales from here and there


A great day, ruined by the fool in charge

Today was a prosperous one for Twitchhiker with plenty of press activity and good news, but success always comes at a price; in this case, that price was discovering the man at the top is an imbecile who should never be allowed to carry scissors.

That’ll be me.

Early this morning, I rummaged through your feedback from yesterday’s Twitchcast. Excellent work, tweeps. If I’m honest, my gut feeling is that I’m going to struggle to travel in an easterly direction. China, India and Russia all need visas, something my three day planning restriction simply doesn’t allow for. Flying from the likes of Dubai to Hong Kong (if I were even offered a ticket) feels like a cheat at this point.

On the topic of jabs/shots, a resoundingly sarcastic cheer of thanks to Julia who suggested:

Hi Paul, Why don’t you just go and get all the jabs, then you won’t be restricted. As Marianne says, you need Yellow Fever for South America – also for most of Africa, so if you’re having that you may as well have the rest ….. not scared of needles are you?!

Well now you come to mention it Julia, yes, I am terrified of them. Completely. Bloody. Terrified. So yeah, I’ll just have a nurse stick me with any live virus she can lay her hands on – in the arm, the arse, the eye, anywhere she fancies.

Oh alright, I’ll go and see a bloody nurse. Gah.

A quick blog piece before breakfast about Google Latitude has led to plenty of people tracking my movements by mobile and PC. I would point out my house will be occupied while I’m away. Thanks. Nice to get in on something at the beginning, and it’ll no doubt have its uses next month.

At lunchtime I took part in a live “twinterview” with Tom Phillips at Metro, the result of which you can see here. It was great fun to do, but some 30 people stopped following @twitchhiker during it; several people complained I’d spammed their timelines, others weren’t happy they could only see half the conversation.

I certainly hope to do more twinterviews, so I want to take a moment or two to talk about this;

- if you’re new to Twitter and @twitchhiker is one of the handful of tweeps you’re following, any activity on my part is going to appear grossly exaggerated in your timeline (the list of messages from people you follow). Once you’ve used Twitter for some time and are following 100+ accounts, several tweets in twenty minutes isn’t so noticeable.

- the point of conducting the interview across Twitter was so people could feel part of it. It’s important that I don’t have 2,000 voyeurs following me with no real interest in participating; I can’t take up this cause aided by peeping toms. The bottom line is that I’ll become increasingly active on Twitter, as I lean more and more heavily on the people following me. If you don’t want to be involved, that’s ok – you’re welcome to observe but please be aware that I”ll be sharing as much of the experience as I can on Twitter.

[Paul watches in horror as 1,700 followers leave and follow @kate_winslet instead]

- Twitter don’t make it easy to follow conversations. You might have noticed we started using hash tags at the begining of the interview. This allowed you to use search.twitter.com to search for #twitchhiker. Instead of only seeing one side of a conversation, you’d have seen every message which contained that tag – both the questions and the answers. Never heard of Twitter search? Quelle surprise. Twitter bought Summize, the company that developed search for Twitter, last July. It still hasn’t been integrated into Twitter, and there’s only the tiniest of links to it in the website footer. Twitter without the ability to search is like the internet without Google; plenty of people are going to struggle to harness the potential of Twitter unless it’s made more obvious.

When I have more time I’ll write a quick guide on getting to grips with Twitter. It took me a year to figure out what the hell was going on; if you’ve just signed up and it takes as long, I’ll most likely be in a ditch somewhere.

Moving on, I did my first radio interview concerning Twitchhiker, for Original 106. I talked for roughly two years, which presenter David Lewis now has to somehow squeeze into a single Sunday morning programme. Have a listen if you’re in the Aberdeen area.

Tonight I met up for an interview with Jo from BBC Tyne at the Tyneside Cinema, a venue rich in history and architecture. Not enough car chases, though. Or dinosaurs. I then skipped* down Grey Street (* didn’t really skip) to The Living Room and met Jane and Fran, two bloody marvellous girls from Hundredth Monkey. Yes, they’re PR types, but they’re not all bad. No, really.

What started out as a social catch-up became a gracious offer from Jane. As a freelancer, without paid holiday or job security, I can’t afford to give up my writing commitments during Twitchhiker, not in the lead-up to the trip or even while I’m away. Since my time management is as regimented as a herd of cats, Jane has offered to help me manage any press and media I’m asked to do. That’s assuming Twitchhiker is a fad that lasts longer than a week; will Twitter mean my cause is well supported or burnt out by March 1st?

Neither Jane or Fran had had much experience of Twitter, so I talked them through how I thought it worked (in far more than 140 characters) and provided them with a live example of the goodwill and support this challenge is enjoying. You’re all lovely people.

So to summarise once more, a good day. So why, why did I send it screaming to hell by attempting to record a Twitchcast in the dark? Because in my eagerness to show off Newcastle’s resplendent quayside, I entirely failed to notice the Tyne Bridge wasn’t lit.

Upon reviewing the footage, I’m heard to describe the epic piece of engineering than adjoins Gateshead and Newcastle, one of seven bridges to span the Tyne at this point. And there beyond, the serenity of the Millennium bridge and the colossus of light and glass that is The Sage.

What you actually see is a string of street lights suspended in mid-air. And that’s it. Arse. Don’t worry though. To make up for your obvious disappointment, here’s a photo of the electronic bus schedule at Gateshead Interchange which, I think you’ll agree, makes the conclusion of this entry all the more satisfying.

Twitchhiker at Gateshead Interchange.


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Good luck when your journey begins!

Comment by nicole

Forget the jabs. I’ve been travelling for almost 20 years, last time I got jabs was 12 years ago in Australia before a 1 year trip to South America where I contracted malaria. I’ve been living in Dubai since 1998, been to 60 countries (I’m a travel writer) including China, India, North Africa etc etc and haven’t had any jabs and haven’t caught anything. Touch wood. Take vitamins, don’t drink the water, don’t sit on toilet seats, watch what you eat (I mean that quite literally), smell your food before putting it in your mouth, and you’ll be fine. Oh, I’d offer you a sofa in Dubai only I’m in Australia at the moment. Have fun! I’m going to link to you today.

Comment by laradunston

The interview as it aired on Original 106. It’s taken me a week to get round to uploading it, but here it is http://tinyurl.com/adzh2g

Comment by David

Oh, my word. Followed the @kate_winslet link and seriously LOL’d. Too funny.

Comment by amy dee

I used to be terrified of needles, too.
So I got a tattoo.
It worked.

Comment by Donny Bahama




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