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


The Shorty Awards – now it’s time for the finals!
31/01/2010, 20:00
Filed under: twitchhiker project | Tags: , , , ,

Today marks exactly one year since the concept for the Twitchhiker project was conceived. I can’t quite believe how time has scurried by so quickly – or how it has changed my life.

I never expected it to, and I vehemently resisted it in the beginning. I just wanted everything to settle down, to get back to work, spend time with my family. I didn’t act on the calls to write a book – I accepted the offer of an agent but I barely lifted a finger. Nor did I bother exploiting what had become a brand, despite some very adamant individuals with money wanting me to.

But slowly, everything changed. I changed. I found myself wanting to travel more – I’m desperate to travel to Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore when I have the money. I’ve been back to New Zealand, albeit briefly – I hovered in Auckland airport for an hour or two on my way to Australia to blog about Crave Sydney. I am writing a book, although that offer didn’t appear until November – eight months after I’d finished my trip. And aside from this blog, I’ve given up on travel writing – I haven’t the time for commissioning editors who either ignore every pitch or blatantly steal them, passing them onto staff writers as a cheaper option.

And now, on the first anniversary of Twitchhiker, we’re able to celebrate it all over again.

Twitchhiker is in the finalists for the Shorty Awards, a celebration of people who have done something different and unique with Twitter – it’s among a handful of brilliant finalists in the travel section.

Plenty of you have voted for Twitchhiker in the past month and for that I’m blatheringly grateful. To win, however, I need one last favour: the voting for the winner in each category begins at midday EST tomorrow (5pm for the UK) and continues for just five days. While the winner isn’t simply determined by the quantity of votes – other factors are taken into account – it certainly can’t hinder our chances.

So. If you thought Twitchhiker was a fun, interesting, unique or standout use of Twitter – please vote tomorrow.


When I talk about this, or Twitchhiker in general, I tend to about we, not I – I might have been the point man, but it never would have worked without the 40 or so people who directly helped me, the hundreds of offers, the thousands of followers or those that donated of thousands of pounds to charity: water. As far as unique, community-driven, travel-related uses of Twitter go, I don’t think it has been topped, and a Shorty Award would be the perfect way to celebrate what we did together.

It’d be fun to win. Not just for me, but for you too. Let’s see how the week goes.

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How not to vote
08/07/2009, 09:13
Filed under: antarctica | Tags: ,

Photo by Dean Terry on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Dean Terry on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

After just six days I’m amongst the top five entries for the competition to join Quark Expedition’s trip to Antarctica. Those ahead of me are ahead of me by a long, long way but it’s a brilliant start with three months of voting still to go.

Yesterday, however, I received an email from Quark. It’s been sent to some/all the entrants in the Antarctica competition, or perhaps only specific entrants deemed to be trying to game the competition. Yikes:

Dear Paul,

We are delighted with the response to Blog Your Way to Antarctica, and congratulate you on your efforts to become the Official Quark Blogger. So it is with disappointment that I find it necessary to address a concern that has been drawn to our attention by our Webmaster.

This competition was intended to be light-hearted and fun. We wanted to spotlight the need to protect the polar regions and we wanted to provide an opportunity for passionate folk to voice their concerns and hopes. We wanted the competition to be as inclusive as possible, so we kept the rules simple.

Our Webmaster has been auditing entries and has determined that some competitors may be creating alias addresses with no other intention than to inflate their votes. We recognize that multiple addresses could be used – most people have at least two – a work and a personal address – we accepted that zealous supporters would use both addresses. But we did not expect to find that our competitors would attempt to contravene eligibility requirements in an unethical manner, by creating email addresses for the sole purpose of voting.

Therefore we have clarified the voting rules. They will be updated today. We will continue to monitor the situation and should we find evidence of voting irregularities, we will immediately disqualify the entrant.

Thank you for your participation. We want every competitor to have an equal chance to become the Official Quark Blogger. And we want the person who is finally chosen to represent the values of sportsmanship, concern for the environment and ethical behavior.

It’s worrying Quark are putting the emphasis on competitors registering new email accounts to vote for themselves. I’ll be honest with you – I’ve voted for myself and so has my wife (at least she says she has, but I have my doubts). Now I’ve admitted that, if I do win this competition by two votes then I’ll be screwed. If competitors are rigging their own entries I’m sure Quark will take care of them – my concern is that others don’t do that in the name of Twitchhiker.

As the rules acknowledge, most people have at least two email addresses. I’m more than happy that people vote using these day-to-day addresses – I’ve asked people to do this in tweets (please do!) and Quark expect this will occur. They’re not worried about small irregularities – what they won’t tolerate is an individual registering dozens of accounts to vote.

I don’t want anyone following the letter of the rules to defeat the spirit of them, and I’d hope the other competitors feel the same. Above all else, Twitchhiker has always been about hundred and thousands of people making small contributions to make something more substantial happen. Regardless of any rules, this is the spirit of the Twitchhiker project, and if it doesn’t have the support to win this competition fairly, then it doesn’t win.

That’s not to say I don’t want us to win. I really, really want us to 🙂



Gown but not out
07/07/2009, 12:30
Filed under: antarctica | Tags: , ,

A lumbar puncture isn’t my preferred way to spend a Tuesday morning. I’d much rather be enjoying a long bath or quality time with the fridge. Yet here I am, bashing away at the iPhone, wearing a drafty gown that threatens to bare my arse to strangers and assorted members of the medical profession.

I won’t bore you with the frivolities of my situation, except to mention the effects of last night’s mass of morphine caused some randomly delightful dreams earlier this morning, including a radio interview on BBC Cumbria with the cast of Battlestar Galactica.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to explain why I vanished from Twitter last night, after a cracking surge in ramping up the votes from below 240 to 360. Obviously I don’t intend to spoil your Twitter timelines with a half-a-dozen tweets at a time, but an intense burst of activity now and again is a great way to get everybody involved. Thank you if you retweeted and voted, and remember you can register any valid email address to vote – if you have email at work and home, you can register both.

Given that we came to this competition a fortnight late, you’ve all done a sterling job in making up ground. Voting for the competition continues until the end of September, so there will be plenty of twists and turns to come. It’s amazing to see us in the top five already, but please keep doing all you can to get stuck in and tell others.

The merest thought of an adventure across the Antarctic is making me giddy like a schoolboy. No, it’s not the morphine. If we can win this contest, then raising money for a charity chosen by Twitter and unearthing a second Twitchhiker to join me on the expedition – it’ll all be huge amounts of fun. Fun squared, in fact. Maybe even fun cubed.

By the way, voting for me doesn’t mean you have to come to Antarctica if we win! I’d like to discover a fellow traveller at random through Twitter, but it’s your vote that counts right now.

Right, my eyes are shuttering up so it’s time for more dreamy smock-bound adventures. See you soon.