NTU Bike Rally 2008 – Twittering the ride!

Topeak handphone handlebar mount[Sat 31 May 2008: 10:34 PM – Alright, 30 mins to prepare, sleep for 5 hours, wake up and ride down to ECP at 5am. Meanwhile Adrian Loo is in the Sundown Marathon.]

The night before the ride, as I prepared for the ride I remembered that I meant to twitter my NTU Bike Rally stats at each leg. The new Topeak mount on my handlebar would make twittering and taking photos with my handphone convenient – the holder’s position meant easy one-handed access. So long as it was not raining, that is!

So I set ‘devices to ON’ and twitter returned a “your device has been verified and is on…” message at 10.56pm. Besides providing some entertainment for keyboard pounding buddies on a Sunday, I figured twittering would provide a backup of my stats. My current setup also updates my Plaxo Pulse and Facebook status – but without an exact time stamp. Still the messages were safe.

Twitter posts via SMS – cost 15-20 cents per SMS in Singapre

Twitter feeds posted on Plaxo Pulse

Facebook status updated by the same Twittter feed

Twittering KakisIt got a little surreal during certain lonely stretches, like in Mandai – I had set off in the morning with four hundred others yet my only human contact were SMS’s from John Larkin in Australia and Kevin Lim in USA!

Both of them could appreciate the idea of the long ride – John has joined me on my early series of Pulau Ubin rides and Kevin twittered my stats for me last year when he was back in Singapore. They offered some encouragement including a virtual massage amidst a discourse over the state of science fiction!

Somewhat predictably, the mention of an ‘illegal prata stopover’ at Jalan Kayu triggered the most response! John returns to Singapore frequently enough to be able not to flinch too much but Kevin said somewhat poignantly, “@sivasothi I miss Prata. You pained, but you have gained something I cannot have. Carpe Diem and Bona Petit! ;D”

I didn’t really twitter much, as I was riding with my cycing kakis, the Zendogs. They are so full of inanejoyous conversation that it takes singular determination just to remember to text the stats off at each checkpoint.

Why bother? I enjoy the experiment and it provides ideas for relevant use then the time comes. If it was just to backup data, I could simply SMS a friend locally to archive my SMS’ or even use a notebook. Twitter, however, was fun to use and reached more friends.

The idea of remote updates is not new of course. In 1999, my M1 handphone had an email address (no longer, I believe) which was subscribed to the Zendogs mailing list and could update everyone. The willing conspirator trumps it all of course – in 2003, I was solo at the NTU Bike Rally. I reported back to Ladybug who was then in wintry Toronto and she reposted coherent messages to our mailing list. As I tackled the route, Chi in Los Angeles and the rest of the Zendogs in Singapore discussed the ride.

Unlike a mailing list, there is no obvious way to link to the twitter archives. So I harvested the tweets I posted during the ride. After a bunch of copy-paste and find-replace executions in Text Wrangler, Word and Excel, the repetitive junk text was dumped and the chronology recovered.

And I’ll use that to blog about the ride later.

[Part 0. 160km on a bicycle around Singapore – NTU Bike Rally 2008.]