LabourStart in Numbers – February 2012

Some headlines:

  • Six of the mailing lists grew quite quickly – the Dutch list, for example, nearly tripled in size.  Lists that grew by 100 or more include the English (+1,242), German (+501), Italian (+476), Dutch (+449), Spanish (+338),  and French (+265).  The net gain on the non-English lists far exceeds the growth of the English list.  The total size of all the lists now exceeds 90,000.
  • UnionBook picked up another 106 members while the LabourStart group on Facebook grew by only 8.  This means that UnionBook has 262 more members than our Facebook group.
  • Our Facebook page continues to pick up ‘likes’ – we gained 338 new ones in February, a growth of nearly 10%.  (Last month we picked up only 150, so it more than doubled.)
  • Our presence on Twitter, despite spam attacks, continues to grow quite dramatically: in recent months the English feed picked up 200 new followers each month.  In February, we picked up double that number – 399 new followers.  And our other Twitter feeds are beginning to slowly pick up followers.
  • The group on LinkedIn continues to grow every day.  It was previously growing at the rate of 10% a month, but this last month it grew by considerably more than that and now exceeds 700.

Here are the totals with the last month (January 2012) in brackets:

Mailing lists (greater than 100)

English: 68,656 [67,414]
French: 4,046 [3,781]
Italian: 3,522 [3,076]
Spanish: 3,389 [3,051]
Norwegian: 2,373 [2,357]
German: 2,035 [1,534]
Russian: 1,630 [1,600]
Turkish: 788 [787]
Dutch: 686 [237]
Polish: 305 [304]
Chinese: 304 [276]
Portuguese: 246 [245]
Finnish: 184 [183]
Swedish: 178 [180]
Japanese: 156 [137]
Danish: 107 [107]
Arabic 100 [97]

And just below the radar:

Hebrew 96 [96]
Korean 93 [93]
Farsi 93 [93]

Social networks

Members: 4,981 [4,875]

Members of LabourStart group: 4,719 [4,711]
Like LabourStart.org page (English): 3,953 [3,615]
Like LabourStart page (French): 137 [108]

Twitter followers –
English: 5,782 [5,383]
French: 101 [90]
Japanese: 15 [15]
Spanish: 14 [0]
Norwegian: 5 [0]
Italian: 5 [0]
German: 5 [1]
Portuguese: 4 [0]
Russian: 3 [0]
Turkish: 3[0]
Dutch: 1 [0]

Union group on Flickr: 676 [674]

LinkedIn – LabourStart group: 710 [607]

Correspondents: 957 [948]
Unique visits to the site this month : 609,164 [638,240] – n.b., only counting first 28 days of February
Peak day: 27,716 – 21.2.12
Page views this month: 1,319,332 [1,301,326]


Twitter – attacked again

Three spam adverts were recently sent out as LabourStart tweets.

This follows on the heels of a previous attack, though last time direct messages were being sent; this time it is tweets.

Twitter quickly grasped that we were under attack and disabled the account until I changed the password.

Here is what I think happened: Immediately following the previous attack, I changed the password.  After this, we heard from Twitter that the account had been compromised.  Then I changed the password again.  I think this password was in fact the old one which had been compromised.  We are no longer using it.

I have deleted all the spam tweets and fingers crossed that this doesn’t happen again.

Written by admin in: Twitter |

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 |

New campaign launched in support of locked out workers in Canada

Even if Derek Blackadder is away sunning himself on some beach, class struggle in Canada continues.

We’ve been asked by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) to run an online campaign in support of locked out workers at Acadian Coach Lines in the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  That campaign is now live here.

We’ll be getting out the text to our translators and promoting it heavily over the next few days.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

New campaign launched in support of Italian anti-fascist trade union leader

This one might get some traction in Europe – especially Italy and Germany, I hope.  Please spread the word.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

Twitter attack

Twitter gets nasty.Just as our Twitter feed was starting to grow …

A large number of accounts seem to have been compromised in the last 24 hours and I’ve gotten a very large number of identical direct messages from people.  Or apparently coming from people.

The form of the message is identical:

i cant believe this but there are some real nasty things being said about you here [link]

When I got the first one, I assumed it was real — it came from someone I knew, and sometimes (I know this hard to believe), “real nasty things” are said about me on the web.

But it wasn’t real, and he warned me off.

Since then, I’ve gotten a considerable number of email messages from people saying they’ve gotten this same message from us — from the labourstart account on Twitter.

I’m not sure what is causing this, but it’s not resulting in false tweets being sent out in our name.  But direct messages are going out, possibly to all 5,672 supporters of LabourStart on Twitter.  Shit.

So to put a stop to it, I’ve done the following things:

  • I’ve changed our password.
  • I’ve revoked access to Twitter to all apps that aren’t Apple or Twitter owned.  (These included one app recently installed precisely to prevent this sort of thing – Bitdefender Safego — which at the very least didn’t do its job and may itself have been compromised.)

The latter means that Twitterfeed no longer has access to our account and our feed will not be updated.  As a result of this, I will be looking into resuming use of Twitterfeed on Monday or an alternative – which we were looking for anyway.

Written by admin in: Twitter |

Speeding things up a bit

Often when we launch a new campaign, and do a mass mailing, we get email complaints from people who say “it doesn’t work”.  What they sometimes mean is that there is a very long delay when they try to click through a campaign.  This is particularly true when a mass mailing goes out and several hundred people may be trying to simultaneously send off messages.  There can be a lot of reasons for that, but I’ve discovered one of them and have fixed this today.

Our campaigns are listed in a massive, flat ASCII text file – not a relational database.  This is a relic of the 20th century version of LabourStart.  We’re using a file that is over three million bytes in size when the optimum size for this sort of file is more like one million bytes.  By moving the closed campaigns to a different file, I’ve been able to reduce the size of that file by 90%.  Which should mean a much faster access to the data in it.

In addition, one tiny thing that might slow down the display of the page has been the call to Google Analytics.  As we no longer use this, I’ve removed a few lines of code at the bottom of the page — these lines were invisible to users, but may have caused a small lag.

In addition, and somewhat related to this, our web hosting company pointed out that the scripts we execute every 15 minutes which build all our newswires and stuff like that, may take longer than 15 minutes to run.  (There are probably over 200 scripts being run every 15 minutes.)  So I’ve changed this to run every half hour instead.  In theory, this should reduce some strain on the server, though we may want to look into a better solution down the road.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

Weekly round-up

Some odds and ends – things that have kept me busy these last few days …

Twitter: We now have Canadian English and French feeds (thanks to Derek) and they’re quite popular. Today we mailed to over 9,000 Canadians on our list in the hope of making them even better known.  At the moment, the English feed has 364 followers; the French one has 20.

App: As I reported below, we’re pretty much ready to launch the iPad version and will probably do this in the next day or two.  It will, however, take Apple a couple of weeks to approve this and make it available in the App Store. Versions will quickly follow for other platforms including the iPhone, Android, etc, and other languages.

Campaigns: We discovered that there was a bug in our software that allowed people to sign up twice from the same email address – this has now been fixed.  This may also help speed up the system — and we’ll be making several other small tweaks to the code to make it work faster and more efficiently.  We launched a new campaign on Peru; publicity and translations begin today. A new campaign, just over the horizon, deals with Italy.  We have several more in the pipeline.  I’ve followed up about three campaigns that this week have reached the two-month mark (Turkey, Kazakhstan and Italy), asking our partners if they should be closed or if we can somehow reawaken interest in them.  We now have a way to show supporters which campaigns they’ve signed up to and which ones they’ve missed – this is now highlighted in the email they receive when they send off a campaign message and will be included elsewhere in our system.  The goal is to get our supporters to sign up to even more campaigns. I’ve given our Korean translator direct access to input campaigns, and have asked for a translation of the news as well.  There have been a couple of small tweaks to the campaign design – there is now a required field for the photo (and no longer a need to code in the HTML to display it); also, it’s now easier to input partner information as the HTML is now displayed.

News: While we set up the Dutch platform successfully, the Norwegian one caused problems.  I’ve now made the changes which I think will allow our Norwegian correspondents to see an interface in their language – we’ll test this tomorrow.  This already works in English, Russian and French.

Fundraising: I’ve been doing a lot of work on global and British unions; we’ve gotten some good commitments to donations this year but have a lot more work to do.  I’ll give a full report later on.

Survey: We completed the second annual survey of trade union use of the net and began publicity of the results.  I’ll be making the full survey results public later this week.  This was our largest and most successful survey ever, and we learned a lot.   We also added several hundred new people to our mailing list.

Conference 2012: An organizing committee has been formed in Sydney and they are due to meet soon. We are all using Basecamp to share a calendar, to-do lists, messages and documents (writeboards).  All the members of the committee as well as Derek and myself have logged in and used the system.


The LabourStart App: Ready for launch?

I think we have a version of the app ready for launch – but a limited launch, with the following conditions:

  • This app should be launched for the iPad first.  The iPad doesn’t require us to shrink the size of our campaigns pages – they fit neatly on an iPad screen.  We can work on a small-screen friendly version of the campaigns in the meanwhile.
  • This requires a bit of live testing – according to the forums on Conduit Mobile, the tool we’re using to create the app, the biggest problem is actually resolved only when the app is native – in other words, comes from the Apple App Store.  That problem is this: when you click on a campaign, or any other link to a web page, there is no Back button.  Here’s a discussion of this problem on the Conduit forum.
  • The app will be English only with a commitment to roll out other languages in the next versions.

What do you all think?

Written by admin in: Mobile |

Which campaigns did I miss?

It happens to the best of us – we don’t always remember to sign up to every single LabourStart campaign.

And we know what we have some campaigns with 9,477 supporters while others languish with only 2,989 people backing them.  So how do we bridge that gap?  How do we remind those 6,488 people that they’ve missed a campaign without sending them constant reminders by email?

Here’s how:


Just change the address in that URL to your own address to see how it works.

I’m going to embed this information wherever we can in the next few days.

Right now, there’s a very simple version of it at work — when you send off a message in English, you get an email back confirming what you’ve sent.

It now includes this text at the bottom:

*** NEW! *** Which campaigns have I participated in?  Which ones did I miss?
Click here to find out:

The participant’s email address — in this case, my gmail address — is automatically embedded in the URL.

In future, I want to show the actual list which that script displays in the email message and also on the final screen they see when they completed the campaign.  And of course I’ll want to do versions in other languages — but I want the English one sorted first.

I hope that this will boost support across all the campaigns.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

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