Five alternatives to Facebook

My weekly podcast on Labour and Technology is now live, here.

Written by ericlee in: Radio LabourStart |

LabourStart in Numbers – July 2010

The move over to a new server for our mailing lists, and the introduction of automated bounce processing, means a temporary dip in the number of subscribers.  As a result, we’re down from 70,464 to 67,834.  The list that grew the fastest was the Turkish one, which is now our 8th largest list.  July also saw a dramatic fall in the number of unique visitors to the site, probably due to summer holidays (in the northern hemisphere).

Here are the totals with the changes since the end of June in brackets:

  • Mailing lists – subscribers: 67,834 [-2,630]
  • LabourStart’s English language mailing list: 57,783 [+630]
  • Absolute unique visitors according to Google: 28,098 [-11,412]
  • UnionBook – members: 4,779 [+129]
  • Facebook – members of LabourStart group: 3,512  [+74]
  • Twitter – followers: 2,289 [+61]
  • Correspondents: 797 [+12]
  • Union group on Flickr: 562 [+6]
  • LinkedIn – members of LabourStart group: 190 [+10]

Some highlights from the mailing lists — the other large groups are:

  • Norwegian 2,699 [no change]
  • French 2,108 [+44]
  • Spanish 1,188  [+14]
  • German 795 [+3]
  • Italian 515 [+10]
  • Russian 429 [+14]
  • Turkish 375 [+59]
  • Polish 303 [+1]
  • Portuguese 237 [+2]
  • Swedish 228 [no change]
  • Dutch 225 [+1]
  • Chinese 169 [+3]
  • Danish 162 [no change]

Campaign season

Sherlock Holmes once told Dr. Watson that “on general principles it is best that I should not leave the country” because “it causes an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes.”

I’m starting to feel the same way.

Forty-eight hours before my two-week vacation begins and we’re seeing a flood of new campaigns coming into LabourStart.

  • The International Transport Workers Federation asked us to campaign in support of 120 sacked workers at UPS Turkey.  The campaign went live in English and French yesterday, and so far 45 people have sent off messages.  Today I sent it off for translation into 10 more languages, sent out a Tweet, wrote to the more than 3,000 people in our LabourStart Facebook group, posted it to the Wire on UnionBook, and made it a top news story.  I plan to publicize it to our lists in tomorrow’s mailing.  Those numbers will shoot up within twenty-four hours.
  • Our friends in the UE in the USA have asked us to campaign in support of ongoing disputes in Mexico involving the electrical workers union and workers in Cananea.  We’re hoping to have the texts ready tomorow.
  • The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines has been asking for our support for a campaign but we’ve asked them to show some evidence of international support and they’re waiting for a statement from the ITUC Asia Pacific region.  It’s not clear that we’ll have this ready before I leave.

There are other requests in the pipeline as well.  And comrades, it’s August — in the northern hemisphere, most trade unions barely function, as everyone is on holiday (at least in Europe).

Our collective absences from our desks in this period does seem to cause an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes, er, the bosses.

Written by ericlee in: Campaigns |

Multilingual interface for inputting news to LabourStart

When LabourStart began having correspondents, they all knew English.  In fact, at the beginning the only way to become a correspondent was by emailing me, and those emails were all in English.  But now as we approach having 1,000 correspondents, we are beginning to run into some whose English is not very good, or non-existent. And we welcome those comrades to join us — which means that putting news onto LabourStart has to work in languages other than English.

We sorted this out a couple of years ago with French (thanks to Andy) and now we’ve had a request from Masha to do the same for Russian, which we’ve set up today and are now testing.

Basically, doing this involves two things —

  1. Tagging correspondents with a specific language (e.g., French)
  2. When such a correspondent logs in to add news, they see texts drawn from a file called lsxx.txt where the “xx” is the two letter code for their language (e.g., fr is French).  Nearly all the correspondents today are using the lsen.txt, which is in English — and this is the file that needs to be translated into additional languages for this to work.

We should be planning to do this for all the languages LabourStart appears in, which will allow us to recruit correspondents to work in a much wider range of languages.

Written by ericlee in: Internationalization |

The state of our campaigns

At the moment we’re running seven campaigns at once — this is quite a lot for us — and they differ wildly in the number of messages sent.  Here are the campaigns, the number of messages sent, and when they were launched — in order of popularity:

  • Iran: Farzad Kamangar executed – 6,608 (11.5)
  • China: Foxconn suicides – 5,411 (28.5)
  • Taiwan: Touch panel workers – 4,043 (21.4)
  • Algeria: Union HQ shut down – 2,668 (25.5)
  • Iraq: Minister closes union offices – 2,554 (23.7)
  • South Africa: Dis-Chem strike – 1,831 (9.6)
  • Turkey: Free jailed trade unionists – 1,560 (2.7)
Some quick observations:
  1. Deaths of workers prompt larger responses in campaigns. The top two campaigns are both attempts to prevent further deaths (and executions, in the case of Iran) and it’s not surprising that they are the largest campaigns.
  2. Campaigns that seem to be unending, or continuations of previous campaigns under a new guise, do poorly — hence the poor response to the Turkish campaign which follows several others on the same theme.
  3. Campaigns that seem to solely focus on ordinary bread-and-butter disputes (such as the South African Dis-Chem dispute) don’t do as well as those that focus on workers’ rights issues.
  4. Finally, we have to take into account that effective partners make for successful campaigns — there is no doubt that we have been helped on the China and Taiwan campaigns with energetic support from unions in the region, whereas the Dis-Chem campaign has attracted the support of only 15 people in South Africa (more than 99% of the support comes from outside the country).  In the Taiwan campaign, close to 240 of the supporters come from China and Taiwan.
Written by ericlee in: Campaigns |

Results of latest Google Adwords campaign

Google gave us some credit to lure us back to using their keyword-based advertising, so we took them up on it.

I ran an ad for UnionBook which was shown 2,363,293 times – though only a tiny fraction of that was searches.  Google also shows ads when people view their emails, etc.

The ad was clicked on 626 times.  The total cost (covered by Google’s credit) was US$137.55.  The keywords which attracted the most interest in our ad were elgg (2.75% of those searching for elgg were interested in UnionBook) and trade union (1.35% of those clicked through).

UnionBook has picked up 95 new members since the beginning of July.

The ad read:

Union member?

Check out UnionBook, the social network for trade unionists.


Written by ericlee in: Publicity,UnionBook |

How unions too can benefit from globalisation

My latest podcast gives LabourStart as an example of how unions can use what’s happening in one country to pressure an employer in another.

Written by ericlee in: Radio LabourStart |

Labo(u)rlists, podcast, keywords, RSS, news, inbox – a day in the life …

Some of the things I’ve been working on today —

  • Have taken further steps to transfer the domain laborlists.org over to our web server at 1&1 Internet.  As you may recall, we were using this domain name on a US-based server to do our mailings until they decided that we were mailing out too much and we needed to migrate everything over to labourlists.org on 1&1.
  • I recorded my weekly podcast on labour and technology, focussing on LabourStart and globalization.  It will go live tomorrow.
  • I checked if our search function works on keywords and it does — at least in English. If you search on the term ‘FBU’ you’ll see a news story I posted today that has the term in the keywords field, but not in the title or source of the story.  It was reported to us at our conference that this may not work in some other languages, so we’re doing further checks.
  • I looked into our RSS news wire in Russian, which has issues with character encoding.  Trying to fix this now.
  • And as usual, I added a number of new subscribers to our mailing lists (people who have supported our campaigns), signed up some new correspondents, answered correspondence, and posted a dozen news stories on the site.
Written by ericlee in: News database,Newswires,Radio LabourStart |

Making better use of UnionBook

Yesterday I set up a conference followup group on UnionBook.  This group will allow people to post links, documents, and so, to hold discussions — to do everything one would want to do after a conference.  I’ve only informed some key people about it so far (8 of whom are now members), but plan to promote it more heavily later this week once we have all the email addresses of conference participants.  Let’s use this group as a test to see if we can get UnionBook to be useful.

Written by ericlee in: 2010 Conference,UnionBook |

Another campaign bites the dust

The Mexico PEMEX campaign has now been closed down with the consent of the ICEM. 4,318 messages were sent over 4 months.  We have 6 remaining active campaigns all from within the last 3 months.  In order of popularity they are:

  1. Iran: Farzad Kamangar executed6,596
  2. China: Suicides at Foxconn – 5,401
  3. Taiwan: Touch panel screen workers struggle for basic rights – 4,035
  4. Algeria: Union headquarters shut down – 2,655
  5. South Africa: Support striking workers at Dis-chem – 1,819
  6. Turkey: Free jailed unionists now – 1,517
Written by ericlee in: Campaigns |

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