My love/hate relationship with twitter turns Ten

I have been active on the World Wide Web for two decades, two thirds of my life. Half of that time has been spent as a twitter  user. I was among the first to use the service and I saw it go from being a curiousity to being the most popular conversation tool around. When twitter was young the iPhone was in it’s infancy and data plans did not exist. As a result it was SMS based. The SMS idea was short lived as it ended up costing the twitter founders too much.

Twitter owes an immense debt of gratitude to Apple, the iPhone and the shift towards mobile data plans somewhere other than Finland. When we were Twitter infants, when we were discovering the network and thinking of how to use it we were stuck at a computer and dependent on wifi and power sockets. If we left the house we missed on the conversation. Twitter at the time was a compelling network, especially since I was lucky enough to live in London during the golden age of Twitter.

Twitter is a fantastic and compelling social network that has the wrong people affecting its feature. Marketers, public relations professionals, investors and other groups are too busy trying to push content to people rather than attract people.

Yesterday afternoon I came across the term “Organic Social media” in relation to Instagram’s shift from a reverse chronological timeline to an algorithm driven timeline. A shift in the definition of social media has taken place. A decade ago social media implied that people were sharing content and commenting on it. They were making statements and friends and colleagues would comment conversationally. Marketers et al have destroyed the conversation and shifted everything towards an “I am the best so look at me” fed by likes, comments, shares and other tricks.

As Twitter turns ten years old I grow curious about the future of friendships and online conversations. I question whether social media landscapes will become as unfriendly to introverts as bars in the physical world. Will social media become the place where the most conventionally appealing individuals thrive?

The Guardian, Google and advertising Revenue

For a reasonable amount of time I would check all of the news websites on a daily basis. These include The Guardian, the Independent, BBC news and french news sources. In so doing I was kept up to date with current affairs. Certain websites, such as the NYtimes and Le Temps were hidden behind paywalls so there was not much to see from such sites. At the time I went directly to the websites, without following hyperlinks. I saw the adverts and publishers got their revenue direct from my personal visit to their website.

Many newspapers, broadcasters and other media outlets are currently fighting to remain relevant. They are restructuring, they are dumbing down their content and they are reducing staff numbers.

The announcement comes after a difficult year for the newspaper industry as huge digital firms such as Google and Facebook take the lion’s share of advertising budgets while the growth of mobile proves harder to monetise than print for news organisations.


As an avid consumer of news content through news websites, podcasts, documentaries, radio and books I see the shift away from newspapers not as a result of Google and Facebook but rather as a result of poor editorial integrity. When I go to a news source I want facts to be presented in a serious and informational manner. I want article headlines to tell me what the article is about without being told how I should feel about it. The Guardian has a news website that I visited every single day for years. The same is the same of the Independent, the BBC and other news sources. I read articles and I compared the stance to form an opinion on current affairs.

When newspapers shifted towards the clickbait model I stopped visiting their websites. They told me that I’d be amazed, that my life would change forever and more. That might work for a younger more impressionable audience but for readers like me it feels condescending. The experience is unpleasant.

Experience has taught me not to click on those headlines because they fail to provide me with new information. They should not assume that we can’t take five seconds to go to a reference website for context. We buy books to understand the context of current affairs and it is easy to visit wikipedia when we need to refresh our memory.

Many news organizations, facing competition from digital outlets, have sharply reduced the size of their newsrooms and their investment in news gathering.

But The New York Times has not.

We have our subscribers to thank for that.


News gathering and newsrooms are the origin of a newspaper’s value. The more professional editorials are, the more they respect their audience, the more of an audience they will have. We are on facebook, Google+, Twitter and Linkedin. We live across multiple tabs and websites. When editorial teams respect us we return the favour. We become or remain loyal. When we see value we commit to become subscribers. We invest in news outlets when they show that they provide us with worthwhile information.

Day In Auschwitz

“If you were young and healthy and if they needed labour then you were selected as slave labour. You would have suffered a slow death rather than a fast one”. This soundbite is 13 minutes in.

In this documentary a concentration camp survivor takes two girls who are the age she was when she arrived through the camp and tells them about her experiences.

We owe it to future generations to keep re-sharing these accounts and documentaries to prevent such actions from ever happening again.

I have just finished watching the documentary and I feel almost shell shocked. I have been to the camp and I have read about the topic. I have also watched a number of topics on this topic. What makes this the most poignant documentary is that this woman, this grandmother of eight is making sure that future generations are aware of what Auschwitz life was like. She tells us about survival.

Social Media and Via Ferrata

People on linkedin were discussing whether social media campaigns are worth organising and keeping. When it comes to extreme sports such as Via Ferrata, rock climbing and other extreme sports then I believe that the audience is ready and enthusiastic enough for a social media presence to be desirable.

Via Ferrata is an outdoor sport that can be practiced in France, Italy, Spain, Switezrland, Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Peru. As a result of the diverse place where this sport can be carried out so social media became an excellent avenue through which to share information about the sport.


I have loved the sport of via ferrata for five years now, half a decade. What I loved about it was the simplicity of the sport. After just two or three climbing lessons and going with a guide once I saw that I could handle via ferrata comfortably without a guide. I always insisted that I would take people with rock climbing experience, not absolute beginners.

Via Ferrata is a specific sport requiring specific equipment and specific experience. It requires a head for heights and an ability to hike for an hour or two before a climb and another hour or two after the climb. As the locations are usually remote it also requires someone with a car and whom can navigate.

Social networks such as Glocals for Geneva and Lausanne, Xdreams, for Geneva specifically and the Via Ferrata Suisse group for the French speaking part of Switzerland are good places to find participants. The first two examples are to connect with the international/english speaking community and the latter is to connect with the French speaking community.

Glocals is a local social network helping the international community in Geneva, Lausanne and other cities to meet up and be active. Through this site you can meet people to work on hangover, meet people to scuba dive and meet people to do outdoor sports such as hiking, climbing, via ferrata, swimming, canyoning and much more. Due to the nature of the social network are spread around Switzerland and the meeting point is usually the event, with car sharing from strategic points.


Via Ferrata Suisse is a nice online community for French speaking via ferrata practitioners on Facebook. As they are spread across the French speaking parts of Switzerland they can provide information and tips on via ferrata that are local.

Aside from connecting people social networks and social media are great for the sharing of pictures, personal accounts and textual information about via ferrata. Some people want beautiful landscapes and so pictures will help them select which via ferrata to do. Others are afraid of heights so they will avoid being too far from the ground. A third group will look at how exertional via ferratas will be. I have seen two people run out of energy at Plan Praz and I have seen everyone feel weak by the time they finish the Leukerbad Via Ferrata.

Tourism professionals and equipment manufacturers can benefit from a social media presence. I see that Iloveclimbing, Suunto, PETZL, Mammut and other brands actively share the adventures that either their athletes or enthusiasts of their equipment are enjoying. It’s a great way to make me dream of going to some locations, getting that piece of kit or trying an activity at that time of day.

To give a specific example I have wanted to do the Moléson by night Via Ferrata for years now and have never got around to it. For two or three years it was because of work and this year it was because of the weather and because I had already booked Leukerbad for the weekend it was moved to. Next year I will make it.

I love suunto, Mammut and PETZL. Rather than advertise to the city dweller like Apple, Fitbit and withings do they organise social media campaigns around the great outdoors and around extreme sports. As a result of their social media policy I identify very strongly with their products. In the case of suunto I have dive computers and fitness watches. I understand the passion that their athletes represent in their social media campaigns.

Social media is about socialisation and passion. Via Ferrata is a sport that people feel passionate about but because it requires physical fitness and a head for heights your pre-existing group of friends may not be the best suited for your passion to take off. That’s where social networks and social media can help find new via ferrata, see what to be wary of and meet new people. According to these three parameters Via Ferrata and social media are perfect for each other. Sports companies, tourism offices and transport infrastructure would result from a social media presence.

The Leukerbad Via Ferrata

The Leukerbad Via Ferrata is a mythical Via Ferrata for those who practice the sport in the french speaking part of Switzerland. It is mythical both for the duration and for the vertical movement. The climb itself takes around 5hr30-6hr and the vertical change is 1000m. Via ferrata is rock climbing for tourists. A team of specialists look at a climbing route and then install a safety cable, spikes and other features to help people climb the via ferrata. The cable is static.

Via ferrata have a number of origins. Some via ferrata routes are along old smuggling routes, others were used by the French resistance as hide aways and others were used to get troops from one side of the mountain to the other during the first world war. In the 1960s to 1970s they were reinstated to attract tourists.

Leukerbad is a spa town with a collection of baths heated by geothermal activity. This year I chose to stay at the Alfa hotel and the price included access to a covered parking, access to the spa and access to the lifts. When you see that the lift is 34CHF and the Spa is around the same price the saving is interesting. As the town is small I parked the car when I arrived and did not use it until I left.

People like to catch the first cable car up and try to make it down before the last cable car down. Walking down to town is possible but most people are knackered after the via ferrata.

The Via Ferrata has three main parts. The first part takes you from the base of the Via Ferrata, by the big Swiss flag and up to a terrasse where grass grows and people have snacks. If you are not used to spikes then this route will surprise you as much as it did me. I would recommend finding a shorter Via Ferrata (VF) with spikes before doing Leukerbad.

Usually the Via Ferrata is not this busy. Two or three groups were active this weekend.
Usually the Via Ferrata is not this busy. Two or three groups were active this weekend.

The second part can be tackled one of two ways. The first way is to climb up as a climber, using foot holds and hand holds wherever you can find them. For those with less experience pulling yourself up with the cable is possible. If you use the cable then do not make the mistake I made my previous three times. If you are not afraid of heights then pull on the cable perpendicular to the cliff. It’s easier. This requires that you are not bothered with heights. The route has been changed. It used to be a more direct and upwards path. Now the path zigzags until you get to the cave.

Half way up the path to the cave a new VF variant is being added which takes you to the right and upwards towards a nepalese bridge before rejoining with the main route. The cave is interesting. It gets darker but you do not need a torch. In the cave you have two variants, easy, and hard. The easy route is along spikes and you climb up a ladder. The hard route has standard hand holds, a wooden bridge and then crosses over to the main route.

Where the two paths intersect you exit the cave and go up a chimney. The Chimney is relatively easy and you can rest against the wall. It then traverses right and you go upwards. As there are few hand holds and footholds you can either rely on climbing experience and climb using the rock or you can use the cable as I described in a previous paragraph. There is eventually a small plateau where you can have a quick snack, a drink and restore your energy. You still have a few more minutes of climbing until a real plateau. From this plateau you can enjoy the view.

This is the point by which I was usually exhausted. For the first time doing this via ferrata I was smiling at this point. Usually I’m exhausted and can’t wait for it to be over.

The passage through the cave you do on foot is nice but I have never had the courage to go over the edge and climb up. I take the footpath across the scree field to where the two paths intersect again. From here you have another half an hour of climbing to a slightly overhanging ladder. When a VF friend got to the top of the ladder and saw over the crest she said “Wow” because that view is so spectacular. The source of the “Wow” is a large circus with two glaciers. This year the glaciers had a lot of snow and you could clearly see the curves which illustrate glaciers in action.

If you take the Alfa hotel then your entrance to the spa is free. You will need to ask them for a card for the locker. The spa has a bath fed with warm volcanic water at 47 degrees and with larger cooler pools. Those pools are at about 36°c. You have the choice between bubbles or jets.

For food I ate pasta the first night. On the second night I had an entrecôte Sauce Café de Paris and it was delicious at the Pizzeria Giardino.

While I was capturing portals whilst playing Ingress I walked through the old town of Leukerbad and found these traditional buildings and implements.

Fribourg was liberated by Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva Ingress resistance fighters

This weekend teams of Resistance Ingress agents from Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva met in Fribourg to neutralise and capture all Enlightened portals. Some teams were on foot to liberate portals from the centre of the city. I was with the bike team and we took care of liberating all of the portals on the outskirts. It involved cycling up and down hills, a thunderstorm and being rained on.

I really enjoyed being part of the cycling team. It’s a fantastic way to get around and it’s a good way of seeing a big portion of unfamiliar cities with a minimum of effort. My team members were on electric bikes and I was on a mountain bike. This was great for me. I had to work hard to keep up with them. This was a good workout. There were moments where I generated up to an estimated 1300 watts of power for very short bursts and got the fifth best time on a segment.

I enjoyed this experience so much that I would love to do this again in other cities around here. Cycling gave me a workout and playing Ingress gave me time to recover. It seems that if you’re creating fields having a bike is ideal. You can get almost anywhere from anywhere within a city within minutes with a minimum of effort. By car this would be dangerous and impractical and on foot it would be slow and impractical.



Mountain biking is a sport that is growing in popularity. We see that technology is keeping up with the riders. Between suspension, specialist tires and safety equipment the sport has had the freedom to become more adventurous. Bigger jumps, more travel, stronger components all allow the sport to become more extreme.

Usually there are three ways to get to the top of a mountain. The first option is to ride up but with a mountain bike that can be tiring. I have an area where I can mountain bike near home but it’s a 12.7km ride up with a 10 percent grade. It takes two hours to get to the base. I could of course take the car up and cycle around at the top but this requires removing the front wheel and putting the seats down. Another option is to head to specialist resorts where the remontée mécanique are equipped to take bikes to the top of the slope. The third option is to walk up and push the bike.

In this video we see a fourth option. An electric mountain bike. I like the idea of mountain biking this way. I like the notion that the mountain bike will assist with getting up the hill more efficiently. Several times I have cycled up a 10% gradiant for a distance of 12.7 kilometres. With the mountain bike I use it takes 2 hours of almost non stop pedalling. It leaves me with little energy to enjoy going off road at the top. With a flyer I’d let the bike get me to the fun part and then use my own power to play up there.

I won’t buy one of these bikes but the video is interesting to watch.

Edwardian Farming, a BBC documentary series about the life of Edwardian farmers.

I really like this documentary series about Edwardian Farming. it is a fly on the wall documentary following three people through a year on an edwardian farm close to Dartmoor. They experiment with market farming, food preparation of the time, trout farming and so much more. It is relaxing and without an over-enthusiastic announcer/narration.

It’s a fascinating glimpse at a way of life that those who remember it is becoming dead rather than living history.

The BBC excel at this type of content and this is what they should focus on producing more of.



Le Sentier des Toblerones

Le Sentier des Toblerones

Toblerones Walk from Mainvision on Vimeo.

Hidden among the trees in the Canton de Vaud you can find concrete blocks put there as a defensive line to slow down invading armies. The concrete blocks have a similar shape to chocolate Toblerones. There is a hiking trail that you can follow from Bassin down to the lake side. Along the way you can find concrete bunkers camouflaged as houses.