At long last, LabourStart is now ready for the smartphone

iphone5The last time I wrote about this was some six months ago.

At the time we were struggling to create a version of LabourStart that would work on phones — this after several failed attempts to create native versions for iPhones and Android phones and later even for Firefox OS.

But today we have finally got a working version of LabourStart for the hundreds of millions of people who access it on smartphones.

You can see it by going into your web browser on your smartphone and going to

That’s right — no change to the URL.

It’s using a form of “responsive design” so that it detects whether you’re using a large desktop computer or a tiny smartphone, and renders the correct version.

What you should see is something like what I’ve illustrated this article with, above.

To get this to appear on your phone’s home screen, follow the instructions.

On an iPhone or iPod Touch, tap on the ‘Add to home screen’ link in your browser.

You should then see this icon appearing on your phone’s home screen:

The next step is to internationalize this, as for the moment it’s only working in English.

We also need to test it on all kinds of phones.  It seems to work fine on Apple and Windows devices, but it would be good to test on Android, Blackberry and Firefox phones too.

We’ll also need to write up instructions to people on how to install it, as it’s not a native app you’d download from the iTunes Store or Google Play — it’s a web app, so it downloads differently.  We may even want to do this as a short video.

And we’ll want to tweak it even more, making it look less and less like a web page, more and more like a proper app.  We may even want to break it up (it’s now a long scroll) into separate pages for news and campaigns.

I look forward to reading your feedback and learning from your experiences before we introduce this to the wider world.

Written by admin in: Mobile |

The week in review – 11-17 September

Calendar: Sale of our LabourStart Calendar for 2014 have stalled — we only sold 18 in the last 6 days (of those, 8 were in Canada, 5 in Australia, 3 in the UK and 2 in the USA).  I’ve already done two rounds of publicity and today will be mailing to nearly 500 state federations of labor and central labor councils in the USA in an attempt to boost sales there.


  • August was an exceptionally slow month for us, so 5 days ago I wrote to all our campaign partners — GUFs and others — asking if anyone needed help.  We got answers from a number of them an expect to launch several new campaigns in the next couple of weeks.
  • Edd and I met with a leader of the UN staff union and they have been facing a brutal attack on workers’ rights from the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and will probably be needing a campaign from us in the next few days.
  • We closed down the Philippines campaign one month early (see below) and the GE Erie campaign one month late (at the request of the union).
  • We did a special mailing to our Canadian subscribers boosting a number of campaigns there (not all of these were hosted by LabourStart).

Intern: As I reported below, Edd is leaving us at the end of this month (though will continue working one day a week for LabourStart) and we’ve begun the process of recruiting a replacement.


  • The biggest improvement, described below, is that now you can get beyond the first 50 news stories on any of our country pages.   (This will soon work on our home pages in the different languages as well.)
  • I’ve also fixed a problem with links to the country names that were appearing on the home page in English — the first time the name appeared, the link would take you to our new, correct country news page, but the second appearance of the country name still took you to an old page.
  • With so much coverage of the British TUC conference last week, we did a special mailing to our UK list promoting the news page.  It’s very important that we continue to draw attention to our news service, as many of the people on our mailing list are familiar with our campaigns — but not with the news we provide.


  • As reported below, a correspondent can now change their default language and country — either temporarily or permanently.  This caused a small problem for senior correspondents, as Derek discovered, but this has now been fixed.
  • We’ve been struggling to make sure that we have current email addresses for all the correspondents and Edd has nearly completed this task.
  • This week, I resumed weekly mailings to correspondents and I intend to keep doing this.


  • Our failure to sustain LabourStart news in any Nordic language except Norwegian has been with us for some time.  This week, I wrote to all our subscribers on the English list from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden and have received responses from 10 of them — at least one has volunteered to be a correspondent, others have already contact their national trade union centres in the hope of growing interest in LabourStart.
  • Our French home page was the last one to be converted to our new format and this is now complete.

Kiev 2013: There will be a meeting of LabourStart correspondents from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia (and other countries?) in Kiev at the beginning of November.  Masha has drafted an invitation letter which I’ve read and approved, and Edd has found email addresses for all our correspondents from the region who have been invited.  I will be attending myself.

Berlin 2014: I’ve fixed a meeting at the ITUC in Brussels for two weeks from today to discuss how our conference ties in with theirs.  They’ve been exceptionally cooperative and this is hugely important for the success of our global solidarity conference.

Small screen version of LabourStart: Edd’s been working on a version of the site that will automatically appear when you view it on a smartphone, as we’ve done with campaigns.  This is nearly ready.

Daily tech tips for trade unionists: I  wrote ten of these which appeared over the last couple of weeks and got some nice and interesting feedback.  Would be interested to know if comrades would like this to continue.  Meanwhile, I’m pausing the effort.


Odds and ends …

  1. I’ve tweaked our front page in English yet again, getting rid of the Firefox ad, creating a new and more prominent ad for all our books (not just the most recent) and with a link to our new publications page.  This has resulted in today’s labour news being much closer to the top of the page (less scrolling).
  2. I completed work publicizing our Peru campaign, which is lagging somewhat as it’s August.  Please do what you can to help build this.
  3. Our popular Canadian edition has gotten a makeover in its French version, which now features French language Canada-only campaigns, French language events and some small corrections to province names.
  4. We’ve made some good progress on our LabourStart calendar — lots of great events added, and Edd working hard to find 13 great photos.
  5. Found a solution to a small problem we were having with the caption to our photo of the day feature.
  6. On our campaign pages, we’re now showing news in the local language first, so if you’re looking at our Peru campaign in French, in the latest news box, you’ll see the French news before the English news.
  7. We also had a problem with the campaign counter in the unusual situation where we may continue running a campaign in one language having shut it down in English.  Now fixed, sort of.
  8. Edd has given me a lesson in how to prepare a book for publication in CreateSpace — we hope to have our third book ready in early September.
  9. Our conference organizing committee met in Berlin yesterday — we’re told it was a productive meeting and they have another one scheduled in two weeks.
  10. The UE has given us permission to close down its campaign on August 20th – so this is your last chance to build support …
  11. I’ve reviewed our “dormant languages” – the ones we set up, but which haven’t been showing any news recently.  After a major push by us, we managed to revive the Italian and Portuguese editions, and there are even some signs of life in our Serbian edition.  But disappointment in the Nordic countries — only the Norwegian edition is alive, and despite our best efforts, we’ve not been able to revive our once-lively Finnish edition or the Danish and Swedish editions.  Will continue trying.
  12. Our campaigns employ a version of “responsive design” now and render better than ever on mobile phones (test this and compare what you see to what’s on the desktop). This is hugely important as a growing number of people get email messages from us on their phones and they need to see the campaigns correctly without needing to scroll horizontally.  Many campaigning organizations still get this wrong, unfortunately.
  13. Oh, and Twitter cards is now working for us.  Have a look at some of my recent tweets.  You may need to click on View Summary under the tweet to see what I’ve done.

Responsive design and our campaigns

“Responsive design” is a new buzz-word in the world of web design and was coined by Ethan Marcotte in this landmark article.

It basically means – your website should render correctly on every device, from the smallest mobile phone to a large screen television.  I’ve spent the last few days working on our campaigns and am very pleased to have made a breakthrough in the last 24 hours.

I still have a bit more tweaking to do, but basically if you go to it should look pretty normal on your desktop or laptop, but visit that on your phone or tablet, and it should look very different — one column, red top, etc.

If you want to test this on your phone, no need to type in that whole URL – use this shortcut:

The main reason to do this is because we know that a large number of our readers — possibly tens of thousands — are now using email on their mobile phones and tablets, and when we send a message saying we want them to support our campaign, and they click on the link, we want this new, single-column screen to come up so it’s easy for them to sign up to campaigns while sitting on a bus or in a cafe.

The next step is to fix this page so it renders well on the phone and then, of course, to change that URL by dropping the “_responsive” bit.

Edd has already begun work on the next stage — making sure our news pages also render correctly on phones and tablets.

Written by admin in: Mobile,Site redesign |

The week in review – 15-22 May

Campaigns: As reported below, we closed two big campaigns this week. I also posted below a summary of the results of our recent Philippines campaign – written by the union there. We had a meeting in the LabourStart office with a representative of cleaners in London and are looking forward to creating a UK-only campaign for them in the next few days. Edd and I have both been working on creating a mobile-friendly version of our campaigns and hope to have results in a few days.

Events: We’ve gone live with this new module – see details below. It’s just one more service we offer to the international labour movement and one more reason to visit LabourStart every day.

Publicity: To our surprise, there was a full page in Neues Deutschland about LabourStart this week. This could not have come at a better time as we strive to raise our profile in Germany.

Books: Sales of the Global Labour Movement book rose by just 44 this week, up to 224. The first book (Campaigning online) was doing better at this point. This week, I plugged the book yet again to 12,000 trade unionists on our UK list, but got a minimal response. We’ve now sorted out a Kindle edition of this book and will begin publicizing it. Last week, we arranged for ‘extended distribution’ of both titles, meaning they should be available in many local bookstores and shops other than Amazon. Meanwhile, it turns out that CreateSpace has been very poor about payments to us — we’ve raised this with them and they’re invesigating. The total sales of both titles should have earned us over £720 — but we’d only received about £211 of that so far.

Fundraising: The head of Geneva-based charity that promotes human rights in the workplace visited our offices last week and we discussed a number of areas of possible joint work and funding. I followed this up with a detailed proposal on Friday.

Correspondents: Edd has identified 128 active correspondents who are not on our mailing list. We’ll be following up, trying to make sure that we can email to all correspondents. In addition, he’s written to all UK correspondents to encourage them to be more active, and to tag their stories by region (Scotland, Wales, etc).


Weekly review – 26 February – 6 March

Annual survey: We’ve gone up from 500 responses to 2,082. We still need 872 more to beat last year’s record. We got an article on the TUC blog, Stronger Unions, which has helped boost interest in the UK.  We’ll stop collecting responses in just 13 more days — on 19 March.

Site re-design: I incorporated most of the comments made by comrades on what I did so far. Masha, who is a professional graphic designer, is going to suggest a new logo design soon — once we have that, we can go live, first with the English version. The draft site is here.

Campaigns: We launched our Turkey campaign and it’s already up to 8,613 supporters. We closed down the Bahrain and Netherlands FNV campaigns (see separate posts for reports.) Edd and I both did articles about the Turkey campaign for Solidarity and the New Left Project (a website).

Book 1 (Online campaigning): The French edition has been created and is available for purchase. Sales of both editions have now reached 611, with another 43 free copies given out, for a total of 654. We’ve now paid for ‘extended distribution’ meaning that the books (in English and French) will be available in bookshops and from other online retailers, including Amazon Canada.

Book 2 (Global labour movement): Edd and I are working hard on this one, aiming to get it ready by May Day. In addition to what we’re writing, we solicited submissions from a number of comrades and are pleased that we’ll have contributions from ICTUR, Amnesty, the Global Labour Institutes, the TUC and others. See more details here:

Internationalization: We’ll have campaigns in Slovak starting this week. All our campaigns have been translated into Esperanto and our translation group in that language now has 8 members. I’ve contributed an article (an interview, of sorts) for an Austrian Esperanto magazine about LabourStart. We’ll have a Korean interface for our news later today.

Fundraising: We now have a venue and date for our London May Day fundraiser – May 4th, 19:30 at the Bread and Roses pub.  Two months before the event, 77 people say they are coming or may be coming.

Public speeches: I spoke at the Unison Wales Women’s Development Weekend in Swansea on Saturday to an audience of about 26; I sold all 10 of the online campaigning books I brought with me. Next Wednesday, Edd and I (and Anita Gardner of IndustriALL) will be on a panel at the e-Campaigning Forum in Oxford. On March 31st, I’ve been invited to speak at a fringe meeting of the annual conference in Bournemouth of the teachers union NASUWT. In addition, Napo – the probation officers union – has asked me to run a workshop on social media.

Social Networks: We now have a page on Google+ which, according to our survey, is widely used by trade unionists.

App for smartphones and tablets: I’m completing one this week for the IUF and when done, I’ll know how to do the one for LabourStart.


Week in Review: 5-12 November 2012

Conference: 183 people are registered so far – 133 from Australia, 50 from overseas. This is an increase of 43 in the last week. The organizing committee continues weekly meetings and preparations; a lot of work is being done to promote the event.

App for smartphones and tablets: I’ve been working very hard on the IUF app (version 2) and a LabourStart app is not far behind, now that I’ve gotten the hang of this.

Fundraising: We’ve written letters to accompany our brochures to over 100 local and regional unions in the UK and over 50 union presidents in the USA.

Campaigns: We launched a new one (Mexico) on Tuesday 6.11 and closed down another (Swaziland) on Friday, 9.11. We gave our Bahrain campaign another push after we learned that one of the two unionists (Jalila) was sent off to prison. As a result, that campaign picked up over 2,000 more supporters and now has just under 10,000 messages sent, making it one of our very largest.

South Africa: One month after my push to existing South African correspondents and an effort to recruit new ones, I can report some good news. Of the last 20 South African labour news stories (posted in the last 2 days), 18 were posted by COSATU and only two by Derek.


Weekly round-up: 30.10-5.11

Conference: Programme and flyer are now ready and have been widely publicized.  The number of registrants is now around 140, 100 of them from Australia.  We need to double that.  Conference opens in less than 3 weeks …

Campaigns: We’re about to launch a new campaign re Mexico; details later today.  I tightened up security on the page showing who supports our campaigns – you now need a password to view it.  I also did the fortnightly mailing to all our campaign partners.  We’re also working on some interesting changes that could allow unions to create their own campaigns on LabourStart, as they can do now on sites like  The Bahrain campaign is at 7,300 supporters, making it larger than the one we did earlier in the year, and our second-largest current campaign.

Newswires: I tried to fix the Caribbean RSS newswire and discovered that all our regional RSS newswires aren’t working.  Still trying to fix this, hoping to get it all sorted this week.  I discovered that the ActNOW RSS feed has not been updated since we moved servers and aim to fix that this week as well.  Our Labour Newswire Global Network – the directory of sites that use the newswire – is being cleaned up for the first time in years.

Education & Training: I did preparations for a course I’m helping to deliver for the European Trade Union Institute later this month — wrote up some notes and located articles to share with participants on the subject of online campaigning.

App: I’ve made a breakthrough of sorts, and have done a lot of work on apps for LabourStart and the IUF in the last week.  Expect to see something very soon.

Today in labour history: This is a new feature for our website — and possibly for a print calendar next year.  Our intern, Edd, is working on it.

Fundraising: We’ve prepared a letter and brochure to be sent to regional offices of most of the major British unions.

Labour Book of the Month: We’ve selected the November featured book, and will publicize it next week.  We’ve made contact with some British bookshops about doing a UK version of this as well.


Weekly update, 6-10 August 2012


  • I cleared the backlog of translations of campaigns and mass mailings.
  • Two new campaigns were launched – Swaziland (7 August) and Turkey DHL (8 August).
  • I fixed the mycampaigns.cgi script — while it was working OK, it was forcing the system to use the old website addresses and forwarding.
  • The Iraq campaign was closed with fewer than 4,000 messages sent.
  • We assisted Unite Here and the IUF with promoting their own campaigns this week; in the former case, this also consisted in giving them a lot of constructive criticism about how to campaign globally.
  • Two campaigns were given a special boost this week – the RMT campaign in support of London cleaners on Friday when a 48 strike as launched with picketing outside the Olympics venue, and the Hava-Is campaign for Turkish airline workers – because of the new ITF video.  The last of these is our largest campaign at the moment, with well over 8,000 messages sent.

Ukrainian edition: I added 9 correspondents – Masha is co-ordinating this effort.  The interface is already working.

London Labour Film Festival: I’ve been promoting this to our lists and via social media.  LabourStart is getting a quarter-page ad in the festival program.  We are also allowed to distribute our brochure at the door.  The festival takes place in mid-September at the Prince Charles Cinema in central London.

App: We’ve been sent an interesting proposal by a company in Canada offering to do this for us; now under consideration.

Conference 2012: Now little more than 3 months away.  The organizing committee is meeting again next week.  A draft registration form is now ready and a bank account has been set up.  Proposals are being discussed for panels.

Conference 2013: There’s been an offer to host this in Vancouver.  More details soon.

Office in London: I continue to search – have found one very good candidate on Thursday, am looking at another on Monday and will probably decide then.  Packing up of the existing office has already begun.

Fund-raising: We received a substantial one-off donation from the IUF.

Upcoming conferences I’ve been invited to speak at: UNITE Wales in Cardiff in September (“Fifty shades of campaigning“); NASUWT in London in November; Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) in New York City next June.  (I will be contacting some of you for help on organizing a panel for the last of these.)  I also hope to attend the TUC in Brighton in early September.  These are all also opportunities to distribute the LabourStart brochure (1,900+ copies remaining).

Other writing: The current wave of anti-union repression we’re seeing in places like Nigeria and Turkey is the subject of my next regular monthly column for Jungle World.


Weekly roundup

Some of the things that have been keeping me busy in the last 8 days …

Canada – Acadia campaign. This has been launched, appears in 4 languages, responses coming in very slowly.  I’m prodding the union to do more to promote it and not to rely solely on the LabourStart mass mailing which will go out next week.

Twitter. Following the issues we had with Twitter, I suspended use of Twitterfeed and have just set up an alternative in HootSuite.  We’ll see how well this works.

MyCampaigns. This little script has been very effective in getting people to sign on to campaigns they may have missed.  We’re seeing good results in some of our older campaigns.  I’m tweaking the campaigns system slowly to make it more visible, and have arranged for its translation into other languages.

App. Our app is nearly ready, but there’s a problem with Conduit Mobile – we can’t change any details about our account.  I’ve asked for some help from them and am awaiting an answer before we submit the Apple App Store (and Android and others).

New website. I’ve resumed work on this, and have converted what I was doing into a Perl script — I’m more familiar with Perl than PHP and it will allow to have a dynamically generated home page with lots of interactivity and personalization.

Written by admin in: Campaigns,Mobile,Twitter |

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