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Change to the way Politwitter updates Tweets

posted by @cka_politwit on Dec 22, 2009
For those who frequently use Politwitter daily you have no doubt come across the red error message saying "Twitter rate limit reached". This refers to the limit of request the site can make to Twitter to fetch data in a given time period. The frequency of this problem has increased with the increase of traffic to the site, the limit is reached almost all day.

This error was would only occur on pages that don't load cached/archived tweets, but a solution was needed. So I've been working on a new backend method of fetching the majority of the tweets. With this new method Twitter has granted increased access to the site so their should be no problem with limits.

The new update method is also faster! Politwitter will now show new tweets in mere milliseconds after they are posted to Twitter. With any large change like this, problems could popup. So please let me know if you notice anything missing or out of place.
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How do Canadian politicians on Twitter compare to other countries?

posted by @cka_politwit on Sep 24, 2009
How do Canadian politicians on Twitter compare to other countries? As some of you may know other countries have national Twitter sites like politwitter that connect politicians with people. Tweetcongress in the US, Tweetminister in the UK and TweetMP in Austrailia are the most notable. Since these sites all started before politwitter and in the case of Tweetcongress and Tweetminsiter have large followings and have received a fair amount of press, I expected that these countries would have a fairly high participation rate amongst politicians.

So I decided to check the numbers and see how Canada compares. None of the other sites display their totals out in the open like Politwitter does, but after contacting each of the sites I have the current totals and they surprised me. Canada is actually doing fairly well, we have the 3rd most MPs on twitter but we are 2nd for the percentage of MPs. Since each country has a different amount of elected representatives looking at the percentage is most useful I think. So we are not that far behind the US, and they just went through a big election and Tweetcongress recieved a lot of mainstream press.
countrysiteMPs with Twittertotal MPspercentage

One of Politwitter's main goals is to get more MPs to start Twittering, and the site provides several tools to assist in this. Of course there is no way of measuring when an MP joins Twitter if Politwitter had any role in that. But since Politwitter launched 23 new MPs have joined Twitter. I have been active in contacting all the parties, each MP and Senator to encourage them to utilize Twitter. I think Canada can easily double the total number of MPs on Twitter. You can help by encouraging your Local MP to start Tweeting if he or she hasn't already. You can use the “MPs without Twitter” page to help find your MP and send emails to them.

One other related topic I wanted to mention is the participation of Canadians in political Twittering seems to be increasing, more people are Tweeting their MPs, using political hashtags and so on. Below is a chart showing the amount of people actively participating each month. The numbers are somewhat skewed since over this time span many new hashtags and MPs have been added increasing the ways someone can be counted as a participant. I will update this chart at the end of the year. (Note for someone to be counted they have to make at least 2 tweets that are indexed by politwitter in that month)
participation of Canadians in political Twittering
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August Recap

posted by @cka_politwit on Sep 2, 2009
Well another month passes by, the 4th full month Politwitter has been running and it was the busiest month yet! The daily visitors to the site rose sharply and now maintains a nice average. Back in July there was several spikes but it would go down after. In august the site received over 6,000 unique visitors and 30,000 page views.

I am also excited that many visitors are starting to use the user functions of the site, people are logging-in and using Politwitter as their Twitter client. This was always one of my goals.

More people are using the mobile version of the site as well, so I did some work on the mobile site this month to clean it up and make it even faster loading. The politwitter widget is also slowly getting used, the widget had 8,100 views in August plus 50,000 more from Canadaka.net.

August was also a busy tweeting month, with the NDP Convention and 6 new MPs joining Twitter! It was a busy month for Liberal Tweeters, they soared ahead of the Conservatives in number of Tweets.

With the possibility of an election looming this fall, I hope and expect visitors to keep rising, summer is usually slow for politics. I am continually improving the site and adding features, and if an election is called expect a bunch of election content!

I want to give a big thanks to everyone who has blogged or tweeted about the site. The more exposure the site gets, the more pressure on MPs to start Tweeting! Another shoutout to those who helped me track down some bugs this month and anyone who has offered feedback and suggestions!
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How are Politicians using Twitter?

posted by @cka_politwit on Aug 26, 2009

59 federal MPs have now joined Twitter. You can see an interactive timeline of when MPs joined here. Hopefully many more will join, I think many will this fall, especially if an election is called.

But how are MPs using Twitter and are they using it in a way that makes politics and government more accountable or accesable?

Here are some observations
  • Some politicians only use Twitter as a one-way communication to promote themselfs, only posting news updates and events
  • Others participate in conversation with Canadians and with other MPs. But many MPs Twitter accounts are rarely updated, they seem to only update during an election.
  • MPs like to promote local events in their community
  • Tweeting MPs add a personal touch to politics, which could help to combat voter apathy
  • As far as we know MPs who tweet are not put through any filter like the PMO and tweets cannot be completely deleted. So might an MPs tweet something they shouldn't?
  • in the USA, many Government departments have Twitter and provide updates on programs and spending. No Canadian government departments seem to use twitter, but some provincial Ontario ministries are tweeting.
  • Twitter updates are often the first source for news, before blogs, news media and TV. MPs or observers often tweet from their mobile phones.

Below are some statistics I've compiled using Politwitter that show how often MPs are using Twitter as a 2-way conversation. The numbers show that for the most part they are not replying to Canadians or to other MPs. Hopefully this will change as MPs start to grasp the potential of Twitter and learn the ropes.
The below stats are compiled from all the tweets since about mid May 2009.

MP @replies

Total: 252
MP replies
ujjaldosanjh 58
MinJK 50
cherylgallant 28
oliviachow 27
mpjamesmoore 18
HedyFry 15
TeamMHF 14
dondavies 6
GillesDuceppe 5
LibbyDavies 5

MP @replies to other MPs

Total: 12
MP replies
oliviachow 5
MinJK 3
mpjamesmoore 2
HedyFry 1
ujjaldosanjh 1

MP social media score

I created a new feature called "Politician Social Media Score" which grades how each MP is using social media like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and flickr. This new feature is still a work-in-progress as I will be adding additional criteria and tweaking the point values. But its interesting to see which MPs are using new social media the most.

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Thought So Far

posted by @cka_politwit on Aug 9, 2009
I have had fun creating this site over the last 3+ months, I was forced to think of ways around problems I hadn't dealt with before. And most rewarding is the great response from the Canadian twitter community I have received. A big thanks to all of those who offered feedback, tweeted about the site or posted a link on their blog.

I have spent a great deal of time improving the site and adding features, I think it's the best national Twitter mashup out there. But I am a bit disappointed in the amount of traffic a site like this receives. It spikes a lot when there is a political event, like you would expect, but a simple site like www.canadianblogosphere.ca gets more daily visitors. Since mid July the traffic has started to pickup and now there are usually around 20 people on the site at any given time during the day and a couple hundred unique visitors daily. It will be interesting to see what happens when fall arrives or an election is called.

Some observations over the last 3 months are that more people seem to be using political hashtags in their tweets, a result of politwitter? Possibly in May I created a bunch of new hashtags and started promoting them, several have caught on, including #cdnpoli which is now the most used political tag. Another observation is that when the site started the Conservative tweeters were way ahead of Liberal or NDP tweeters with regards to hash tag organization, total tweets and MP’s on Twitter. Possibly as a result of the stats provided by politwitter the Liberal Tweeters have picked up their game and are now matching or beating the Conservatives on twitter.

It still seems that most visitors aren’t using the full potential of politwitter, maybe because they don’t know what it can do? So I created an introduction video last month and a detailed help page yesterday. I track various actions on the site to see how often they are used, lots of the sites features are not used as much as I had hoped. Maybe people don't know they can use the site to post Tweets or they use a desktop application or mobile app to do their tweeting. Some of the tracked items are new or I wasn't tracking them before, that's why the numbers are 0.

I think most of the bugs and a lot of the performance issues have been ironed out and I'm pretty happy with all the features. But like most projects, every time I finish something I think of 5 new things I could do and add them to "the list". So I have many more things planned for the future and I'm open to suggestions.

I also decided to move the Blog from Facebook to the site, I created a really simple blog system. I am also re-considering using Facebook as the feedback discussion forum. It's not being used much and I think the problem with it is Facebook doesn't send notifications of any kind when there is a new discussion or a reply. So people never check back after joining. Before I created the Facebook page I looked at some of the feedback apps like Uservoice, none were perfect and they all charged a monthly fee for the good features. But it’s something I am going to re-consider. I could also make a sub-forum on CKA Canadian Forums for feedback. I was just trying to avoid people the hassle of having to register on a site to post, I figured most people already had facebook.
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posted by @cka_politwit on Jun 19, 2009
I've been away from home for the last 3 days so I hadn't been keeping up with twitter, but tonight I noticed a tweet David Akin made about TweetCommons.com another new Canadian political twitter site. I have to say it angers me a bit to see someone else take my idea somewhat, but I do thrive under competition. It gives me more incentive to make my site clearly the best. It is also a bit surprising since I've found there isn't a large amount of web traffic and certainly no commercial reason to a site like this, the audience isn't large enough. I don't plan to make money from politwitter, its for personal interest.

Not to put down this new site but its no where near as complex to create as politwitter. What they are doing is fairly simple and its just a facade site. Where as politwitter is a full twitter client with additional features over twitter.com. politwitter is fairly complex in grabbing political tweets from many sources and keeping them in an internal database allowing fast pageloads even if twitter.com is down. Also allowing real-time tweet updates and the ability to view tweets in a variety of forms. politwiter also tracks statistics, popular links, tweeted pictures and more.

The scope of the 2 sites is also much different, this new site only deals with federal MPs, where as politwitter includes MPs from Federal and provincial along with any regular Canadian talking about politics.

There are a couple things on this new site that I like and are not currently on politwitter.ca, but that will soon change! Borrow from the borrowers ;) I like when you view a specific MP's page you can see the @reply's directed to that MP. I think I will also add some more contact details for each MP on politwitter like they have done. I'm not sure if this data is available to the public somewhere on a government website, or if it was added by hand. If anyone knows that would be helpful. They also seem to be moving in the direction of showing which riding an MP is from, currently politwitter only shows the province. I'm not sure if its worth the manual data entry for that, but its something I might consider doing.

Let the games begin, heh
I will be spending some time next week doing updates to the site, I haven't had time lately. If anyone ever wants to help out with the development or running of politwitter please let me know, i'm open to help!

And as always, please let me know any suggestions!
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BC Election Night

posted by @cka_politwit on May 12, 2009
politwitter was getting a good amount of users yesterday during the BC election coverage. BC political Twitter

over 100 users online constantly for an hour or 2, and there was a short period where it spiked to over 600 users. THEN twitter decided to die and stop updating their API or any search results. So even on twitter.com and 3rd part apps people couldn't get updates on hash tags or search terms. Great timing! It was down for about an hour, politwitter was still functional, just no updates for that hour.

The heavy load on the site made it slow down a lot during times and froze the site completely when that 600+ users all came at once. So I have much work to do improving the systems to handle heavy loads. But this was a good test, need these real world tests to find these things out. I found a couple bugs I was able to fix because of this. One being the site was "rate limited" by twitter even though i'm whitelisted I excedded the 20,0000 requests per hour. So i had to add checks in the code for that, and I added a counter like Tweetdeck has, to the bottom of the page. The big bug I found is that when a user has “auto-update” enabled its possible for them to miss a tweet, if the tweet interval is really fast, like it was during the election evening. So I need to resolve that.

Now I am starting to add Nova Scotia politicians to the sites database, since that’s the next election. If you know any provincial NS candidates with twitter, please submit them to politwitter.ca here is what i've found so far Nova Scotia MLA's on Twitter WAY less than BC, you Nova Scotians don't seem to be as 'hip' with teh internets.
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Politwitter is a non-partisan service that brings together all the Canadian political twitter, making it easy to connect elected MPs & MLAs with the Canadian people.

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