Thursday, December 31, 2009

Millennium Bug memories

It's quite amazing to think that it was ten years ago today that we were all getting ready for the Millennium Bug to hit, watching news reports coming in from Tonga, my native New Zealand and other places ahead of the UK in terms of time to see what had (or, as it turned out to be the case, not) broken.

At the time I was working as the webmaster for Telewest, responsible for building and deploying our web server estate along with the sites that ran on them (everything from web design to web server configuration), and it's fair to say that the Bug came as a distraction.

In December 1999 we were gearing up for the launch of the UK's first commercial broadband service - blueyonder - which we went to market with on March 31, 2000 (we brought it forward a day just in case!) and were doing the final testing of all the systems that would support it, as well as building servers and websites. The first version of the blueyonder website can be found here thanks to the Wayback Machine:

I'd also just moved house and got my superfast (not) ISDN line installed so I could work from home, so it really was a completely manic time.

Come the night in question we had a whole team of engineers and other tecchies on call in case of problems, and I remember spending the millennium moment itself logged into our Apache servers checking configuration and refreshing web pages to check they were still working.

On reflection, we spent a lot of time and money upgrading systems in the latter half of 1999 and that probably contributed to the event itself being smooth along with all the preparation for the day - when we also had plenty of additional helpdesk staff in should customers have been experiencing problems.

One man though went well beyond all others in his confidence that there would be no impact - my colleague (and, at the time, boss) Fergal Butler, who decided to spend the millennium holidaying in Cuba - one place where missiles were bound to launch against if the US defence systems did have a problem!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Google Phase 3

Having now launched Google e-mail for new Virgin Media customers and successfully migrated the whole National base with @virgin.net e-mail addresses over to the Google platform (which has generally gone very well), the e-mail unification team are now onto the next phase of the project – moving the ex-Telewest cable customers with @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses over to the Google platform.

As we're now in the Christmas/New Year change freeze, the migrations are set to start as soon as we’re back in the New Year - and in the meantime we've completed the staff trial ahead of the start of the migrations.

We found a couple of minor issues that the team are fixing but as with the National staff trial things went very well and the overall feedback summary is probably the most interesting of the results:

As you’d expect not everybody loves change, but generally it's all gone very well and we've closed the trial as a success.

Once the ex-Telewest migrations are completed the team are then full speed ahead to complete the ex-NTL ones (customers with @ntlworld.com e-mail addresses) and to launch the ‘domain change’, which lets customers adopt a @virginmedia.com address from one of the old style ones if they wish to.

So it's going to be a busy start to 2010! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spam survey

Earlier in the year we were invited by ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) - an agency of the European Union - to take part in their 2009 spam survey, where they were surveying ISPs and other companies across the continent about spam, what is done to stop it and the effect it has on customers and providers alike.

We were happy to do so, given the measures we have already deployed across our various platforms to counter spam.

The measures vary at this point in time as we're in a transitional period, with some customers on the Google platform (those with @virginmedia.com and @virgin.net e-mail addresses), some on the Openwave platform (@ntlworld.com) and some on the Exim/Microsoft platform (@blueyonder.co.uk) but all are unifying onto the same technology as we move our e-mail provision to Google, which completes next year.

We've spent quite a lot on the measures in place on our own network, and do drop a heck of a lot of e-mail as spam and viruses - well over 9 out of 10 e-mails usually don't get into customer inboxes as they are not genuine mails.

This is very much a pattern common across the continent going by the survey results:The survey reports only 5% of e-mail gets as far as user inboxes, showing both how effective anti spam measures there are and just how much spam there is. Imagine if your mailbox has 20 times the mails already in it if anti spam measures were turned off!

The results of the study can be found here if anyone fancies a read.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hectic Times

It's been a really full on couple of weeks as everyone tries to close down the things they need to get done before they go on their Christmas breaks.

Personally I've got this week off instead, which is giving me a good chance to recharge my batteries.

Our staff trial is underway for the next phase of the Google migrations, with customers having @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses being the next to move over to the Google Apps platform.

As we're about to hit the annual change freeze, we'll start moving customers over from early January and all going well we'll be onto moving customers with @ntlworld.com addresses onto Google in no time - but we have a few data cleanse tasks to do first, which are happening in parallel with the blueyonder trial and migrations.

The good news is that customers we have already moved over to Google (with @virgin.net e-mail addresses) continue to track well with regards to key measures like faults and customer satisfaction, and we'll be doing some further research to talk to some of these customers (likely early in the new year now) to see what we can learn to make the migration process even smoother for the next customers to be moved to Google.

Over the last few weeks I've spent a day with our customer service guys in Manchester, including meeting our wonderful Twitter team for the first time:Pete, Billy, Sam and Gareth are doing great work helping our customers out over at @virginmedia.

While in Manchester the broadband product reliability team (i.e. the wider cross-functional group working on service improvement initiatives) got a lot of call monitoring done to pick up some nuggets of things to look into and we also held an intensive 2 day workshop with our technical support guys in Liverpool to look at connectivity faults and how we can improve things like toolsets - which is set to keep me out of trouble for the rest of the year and much of the early part of 2010 I expect!

There's some detailed analysis going on to look into sample accounts reporting connectivity problems and see what we can do to prevent them happening - although when you consider that something like half of all connectivity problems are down to PCs (software & hardware) it's a bit more of a challenge, but one that we're happy to take on.

If I don't get a chance to blog earlier, I'd like to wish compliments of the season to all.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spanners!

Anyone who has ever unscrewed the cable from their TV set top box or their cable modem - say when redecorating or moving the device - may have actually caused some issues that will affect their service if they have not tightly re-connected it afterwards.

For this reason, we are in the process of trialling something we are internally calling 'Project Spanner'.

As the name suggests, Project Spanner is all about sending a spanner to customers who we think might be experiencing problems due to their connections not being sufficiently tightened and asking them to ensure that they tighten them.

The spanners look like this:
As modelled by me recently in our London offices.

Customers who we are sending the spanners to are also be given instructions on how to use them - which is important, as over tightening the connection (say, by using your own spanner) can also damage the connectors and cause problems.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Phishing alert

We get phishing attempts all the time targeting our customer's mailboxes with fraudulent mails, and the latest one that's come in today is shown below:
Subject: Blueyonder Warning Alert !!!
From: Blueyonder Mail Administrator


==============================


Dear Account User

This Email is from Blueyonder Mail Administrator and we are sending it to every Blueyonder Email User Accounts Owner for safety. we are having congestions due to the anonymous registration of Blueyonder accounts so we are shutting down some Blueyonder accounts and your account was among those to be deleted. We are sending this email to you so that you can verify and let us know if you still want to use this account. If you are still interested please confirm your account by filling the space below.Your User name, password, date of birth and your country inforBlueyonderion would be needed to verify your account.

Due to the congestion in all Blueyonder users and removal of all unused Blueyonder Accounts, Blueyonder would be shutting down all unused Accounts, You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling out your Login InforBlueyonderion below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 24 hours for security reasons.

* Username: ..............................
* Password: ................................
* Date of Birth: ............................
* Alternative Email .........................
* Country Or Territory: ................

After following the instructions in the sheet, your account will not be interruBlueyondered and will continue as normal. Thanks for your attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her account after two weeks of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.

Sincerely,

Blueyonder Mail Administrator
When we get attacks like this we do what we can to block as many inbound e-mails as possible and contact the source provider where the attack emanates from to get them to do what they can to stop them.

Now that we're well in the process of migrating customers over to Google we will also be giving to our customers even more phishing and spam protection than we have on the legacy platforms.

For clarity, we'll never e-mail customers asking them to divulge this kind of information via e-mail, and we advise anyone to double check any links in an e-mail before clicking on them. If you're not certain, then don't.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One down, two to go

This week we hit a major milestone on our project to move our ISP e-mail services over to the Google Apps platform - the completion of the first migration to Google.

To recap, all new Virgin Media customers setting up e-mail with us have been put onto the Google platform (with @virginmedia.com e-mail addresses) for some time, and this week's completion of the first migration means that all National (ADSL) customers with @virgin.net addresses now have their mailboxes on the Google platform too.

This means that customers have much bigger mailboxes, as well as access to features such as chat and search within the webmail interface. Customers have been moved over without any change to their e-mail address (they will be able to choose a @virginmedia.com address at a later date if they wish to) - this is just a change of the platform.

The biggest challenge we have expected (and planned for) within the migrations is how customers will react to what is a very different webmail interface from what they were on previously, and we have focused our help and customer communications around this, as well as training up our technical support teams on what some of the most common queries would be.

So far we have seen what we expected, with some 80% (well, 81.23% to be precise) of the calls we've had classified in this 'customer education' category as it is known internally. In short, this means helping customers out with how to use the service, where things are, what they are called and the likes.

The remainder of the calls have been in a number of different categories - password resets, some of the data integrity work we had to do (which involved some customer communications to anyone affected) and a couple of the minor bugs we found and have plans to resolve ahead of the next migration if not already resolved.

The learning curve for using the Google service seems to be around 2-3 weeks for customers migrating to it (and I recall it taking me a couple of weeks to get used to it) going by the enquiries we've handled (Day 0 = day customer was migrated to Google):
[Click for a larger version, scale removed as commercially sensitive]

We had actually planned for it to take around four weeks, so we're ahead of expectations.

In fact we're ahead of expectations generally - the National migration finished 8 days early and all the work is now happening ahead of the next migration, ex-Telewest customers with @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses. In fact the team are already talking about the National migration in the past tense!

This weekend a number of technical changes are happening, that enable us to move into some final production testing and then a staff trial ahead of the migrations starting, which is due to happen this side of Christmas and run into next year, when the ex-NTL customers (with @ntlworld.com e-mail addresses) will also move over to Google.

Now that we're a good chunk of the way through the 6m mailboxes we are moving to Google and it's going well, it's full steam ahead on the next phase. A big thanks to the exceptional work from our project team, and also to those customers who have taken the time to give us feedback already.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

National e-mail migrations - almost done

As of this morning we're well over 90% of the way through the migration of National (ADSL) customers with @virgin.net e-mail addresses to the Google Apps platform, with all new customers having been on the platform for some time.

As with any migration of this scale - remembering that we have 6m mailboxes overall to move to Google from the legacy platforms - it's had teething problems, but generally it's gone very well and we've had some excellent feedback from our customer care & technical support teams, other staff members and, most importantly, customers.

Given that we're only about 6 weeks in since we migrated the first mailbox and 5 since we started ramping the volumes up, we've got this done very quickly and expect to finish the National migration imminently.

We've attempted to migrate every mailbox at least once so far, and are now working through those that didn't work first time and fixing them before re-migrating them. The reasons they didn't migrate first time are due to a multitude of different scenarios that we are working through one by one, but include:
  • Corrupt mailboxes
  • Password mismatches (data integrity issues we've resolved)
  • Particularly large mailboxes (resulting in mailbox time thresholds being hit, and hence we rollback to ensure people don't lose access to their e-mail for a long period of time)
  • Too many messages in inbox after migrated (a difference in the count of messages on the old platform versus Google, usually due to some spam hitting the mailbox during the migration process)
While none of these are customer affecting and the mailbox is migrated back so the team can fix it if they fail first time, unfortunately we have had a few cases (a low number but we know these are frustrating to those affected) where we have seen some customer impacts, which has in the main affected those with secondary mailboxes on the old platform when the primary has gone to Google.

Our focus has been on fixing these and re-migrating the secondaries as quickly as possible, and the last big batch of these was done last night. I can only apologise for the inconvenience this has caused those few customers affected, as the team have been working all hours to fix these cases when they have happened.

As you can see the faults (in the main calls) we have had in from customers have been well within what we expected, and we're very happy with this given the scale of the migration we have been working on:

[Click on image for a larger version, scale removed as it is commercially sensitive]

The slight rise towards the end of the migration has been as we have tackled some of the more problematic mailboxes and finished our data cleanse programme, which required some customers to change their passwords.

Most people contacting us have been those getting to grips with the Google-based interface, which is quite different to what they were used to previously, and our technical support teams have been helping out when customers do contact us (and more help can be found here).

So where do we go from here?

The next key steps are to finish up the National migration and review it to see what we need to do differently ahead of the next migration in order to improve the customer experience. Next up we have the ex-Telewest customers with @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses, to be followed next year by the ex-NTL customers with @ntlworld.com addresses.

There's also a nifty little tool coming over the next few weeks to help customers who use client software (like Outlook Express) update their settings for what we need them to be in the longer term.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ukraine vs England – the ISP view

This weekend’s Ukraine vs England game was a landmark as (apparently) the biggest pay per view event on the web in the UK so far, and as I mentioned in my other blog post it seemed to be a good customer experience to me as an end web user.

As an ISP, we had a very strong virtual team working across all of last week to ensure that we had no negative customer impact as a result of extra demand for the network, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve not experienced any issues due to the hard work everyone has done.

We made some changes to optimise traffic management (for both our cable and National [DSL] customers) and prepared our contact centres for any enquiries, as well as having much contingency planning in case should any negative impacts occur.

So what were the impacts?

On our edge network for cable (the bit that customers connect to before the traffic traverses the huge routers that link our network to the outside world), we saw a 9.9% jump in demand in the 2 hour period from 1700 to 1900, when there was most interest in the match:
Comparative edge network downstream network traffic, 3/10 vs 10/10 (scale removed as commercially sensitive)

As you can see, things were busy during the time of the match, but only towards the levels of the normal peak on a Saturday afternoon – so, despite a change to the typical usage pattern for a Saturday the network coped well. The National service also did not experience any problems.

This is also reflected in the enquiries to our technical support team, who didn’t experience any increase in problems reported from customers (although we did have additional resource mobilised just in case) and actually saw lower call volumes than expected during the match – no doubt with people watching the game!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ukraine vs England - a good experience

I've been doing some work with a fabulous virtual team across Virgin Media this week to ensure that we were ready for today's Ukraine vs England match, which was shown online only (well, in cinemas also - but the point being it wasn't on TV).

We were all ready so I was able to relax and watch the match, which went very well for this Virgin Media fibreoptic cable broadband user in Surrey anyway!

The picture generally looked very good:
[Screenshot]

[Picture taken of my Acer AL1912 19" monitor from my smartphone's camera]

I watched the game on the 'High' stream (which was streamed at 800Kbps) and didn't spot any buffering, lost connections or anything. It was good on both the standard window and the full screen, and the sound quality was also excellent.

Overall a very good customer experience.

One unexpected side effect was my own version of multi-room, where I was able to watch the cricket at the same time:
[Cricket on my LCD TV on the left, football on 19" monitor on the right]

And that was a very exciting finish, so a good Saturday of sport all round.

I installed the ThinkBroadband Broadband Meter before the match to see what usage would look like, and almost immediately as soon as I closed the window this popped up:
As I installed it about 1 minute before the match, it's safe to say it used up about 1GB of traffic then.

Some more stats and graphs from the ThinkBroadband tool:
It all went very smoothly really, which is less than you can say for Andriy Shevchenko's penalty taking!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Google - Week One

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we're in the process of migrating the first of our domains (for Virgin Media National customers with a @virgin.net e-mail address) onto the Google Apps platform for our Virgin Media Mail service (which new customers have been on for some time).

Once customers are moved over they get the benefit of 7GB inboxes, search and chat features and we get them onto a platform that means we can offer more services in the future. They'll be able to get @virginmedia.com e-mail addresses too.

There's plenty more info on our website for anyone interested in what is happening.

Last week we started the movement of customer mailboxes to the Google platform after our internal staff trials were closed as a success the week before - with something like 94% positive feedback from the triallists.

Starting on Tuesday last week, we moved just under 3,000 mailboxes to Google (at over a 95% success rate - any that didn't migrate successfully are switched back to the old platform while we fix whatever we need to, so there's no customer impact), and all the metrics we measure on customer calls and contacts are looking good.

To mark the start of the migrations, one of our change managers and I spent much of the week with our technical support team in Swansea just to ensure all is going well so far:
Inside the centre itself though, things are busier in the distance than the foreground - but the good news is that things are going well for them too:
With all looking good, we're ramping up the volumes to get the migrations complete as soon as possible and move onto the cable platforms (for customers with @ntlworld.com and @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses) while we implement a few fixes to improve the migration success rate.

Now, onto week two!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 330mph pigeon

It was amusing to read on the train on the way into work this morning about the South African firm who pitted a carrier pigeon against their broadband service from their local ADSL provider to see who could get 4GB of data to travel 60 miles between their offices quickest - and that the pigeon won hands down, as it arrived with its memory stick when the file was only 4% through its comparable electronic transfer.

This is an example of a great way to compare old tech with new tech, and also to make the point to their ISP in the process - although the ISP has said that the company in question has not undertaken any of the service improvement ideas they have recommended to speed up their slow broadband connection.

One of the boffins in our PR team decided to compare this with a download over our 50Mb broadband service, and have reported to TechRadar that the pigeon would need to travel at almost 330mph in order to keep up with our 50Mb in comparison!

From TechRadar:

"On our service, that 4GB would take under 11 minutes to transfer," the Virgin Media rep proudly informed us. "For a pigeon to beat us, it would have to fly at nearly 330mph."

He was even kind enough to send us his calculations, which were as follows:

(4 GB) / (50 (megabits per second)) = 10.9226667 minutes

(60 miles) / (10.9226667 minutes) = 147.339843 m / s

147.339843 (meters per second) = 329.589842 miles per hour

And that's one heck of a fast pigeon, much faster than the fastest bird recorded, which is supposedly the Spine-Tailed Swift - which can reach an impressive 171km/h (just over 106 mph apparently).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

1,2,3 ... migrate

There's a big couple of weeks coming up at Virgin Media as we start to move our existing customer mailboxes to the Google Apps mail platform (as we announced back in April).
Since May all new customers have been provisioned onto the Google platform, and we now have well over six figures in terms of mailboxes on there. Most people are using Webmail rather than client (e.g. Outlook Express) access to their e-mail (with a @virginmedia.com e-mail address) and our fault rates (contacts into our technical support teams) are well within forecast.

We have 6 million mailboxes (as customers can have more than one mailbox) to move over from our existing customer base also, and we're starting with the migration of our National (ADSL) customers - who have an e-mail address ending with @virgin.net. Customers with @ntlworld.com and @blueyonder.co.uk e-mail addresses will be migrated to the platform once we have all the National customers onto Google.

Next week we are planning to start e-mailing customers to let them know of their upcoming migration to Google, what the new features are and that they will keep their current e-mail address (we're planning to offer customers the opportunity to migrate to the @virginmedia.com domain if they wish to at a later date). The e-mails will be sent to people before their mailbox is migrated (i.e. people won't all receive them at once), and they look something like this:
Since we launched with new customers we have been working on getting ready for the migrations, and now that the test migrations have completed and our staff trials are going well (with really good feedback), we've called a go decision to commence the communications and the migrations will get into full flight over the next few weeks.

Great credit and thanks to the fantastic project team of course! Roll on the next few weeks, and we think people will enjoy the new Google functionality.

There's lots of help information on our website about Virgin Media Mail (on Google) if people want to read more.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson: How it affected traffic

It was truly surreal watching the TV news last night to see the news about the tragic death of Michael Jackson, and there's been a few stories today about the impact of the news on Internet traffic, as reported by Sky News and the BBC.

There's also a story at The Telegraph that we at Virgin Media contributed to, as we definitely saw a rise in traffic after about 11PM but it was well within the fluctuations we capacity plan for.

On our core network (that's everything IP beyond the Cable Modem Termination Systems - the devices our cable customers' cable modems), we experienced a 10.8% growth in traffic last night.

Having a look at one of our network graphs (for transit traffic), you can see how traffic continued to grow until midnight whereas on a normal evening (such as the one before) the traffic is tailing off in the late evening:

Traffic to popular news sites was even more marked in its growth - in the case of the BBC we saw a 27% growth in traffic over our private peer (direct connection between us and the BBC):
[In the case of both graphs click on the image for a larger version - traffic numbers have been removed as this is commercially sensitive]

We didn't experience any interruption to service though. As is often the case when stories of a large magnitude break the bottleneck was more at the other end of the connection with various websites experiencing downtime under the weight of demand for news rather than the ISP networks being affected.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More about my Grandad

My grandfather (Dad's dad) died when I was only six (and my grandmother - his wife - not long afterwards), and I don't really have many memories of him other than one walking trip we went on to the Hooker Glacier at Aoraki/Mount Cook in New Zealand (where I'm from).

In later life his name (James Brown) has often been a source of mirth ... but it's also the source of my middle name. I remember him as being both a great player of cards and a kind man, which I guess are good memories to have. It must be where our good luck run at the Casinos came from a few years ago when back in NZ on holidays!

It really made me smile when Dad managed to get hold of more details about him as part of his genealogy research (including some on his war service record), as it enabled me to learn more about him, and I've uploaded it to Google Sites if anyone's interested (click on the below to open the full PDF document):

Friday, May 8, 2009

#ladders update

A couple of days ago I blogged about how we were hijacking Twitter for a bit of a laugh, and I thought I'd post an update on what else happened on the day - which was great fun and got us into the top 10 on Twitter Trends.

The blog post about it got a bit of readership going by the Google Analytics tags:

The best part about the coverage at the latter end of the day though was getting it discussed by Richard Bacon on his BBC Radio 5 Live show on Wednesday night (listen again here, only available for a few days!), as a result of one of our team - Jason from our Access Networks division - asking him about the subject.

Richard liked Jason's suggestion and it then became the question of the day from a 'texter' on the show, which was an unexpected consequence.

Speaking of radio hosts (well, a tenuous segue), we got accused of doing the whole thing as part of a celebrity game:

Clearly, DJ's @alexbrown1972 and @mozzapp are in da house! We even have our own video to show for it!

<a href="http://www.grapheine.com">Agence communication Paris Graphéine</a>


And now the hilarious comedian Dave Gorman is following our lead with his #tendingtropics campaign - and in his case he's got as high as second in Twitter's Trending Topics - well done Dave! He started off his campaign with this tweet:

The topic (or is that tropic?) has since dropped out of the top 10 though. I think this might become quite a game in days, weeks and months to come :-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How we Rickrolled Twitter

Rickrolling is a simple idea – using an online community of one sort or another to push traffic to a link (usually a Rick Astley video of Never Gonna Give You Up, hence the name) by using the classic technique of reeling someone in with the bait of claiming it’s something else.


What we did today is slightly different, but our meme is slightly different – it’s all about #ladders.


We have quite an active community of Virgin Media staff members on Twitter – well over 300 that we know of, and plenty more others that we don’t. It’s great as a support group - as one of our team often says, she feels reassured when she’s travelling alone at night by herself that everyone is looking out for her to ensure she’s OK, and I’ve also found it great myself when my dad had a recent skin cancer scare.


It’s brilliant as a resource for me in my job as a product manager, if I need to get help to fix a particular problem or for information I invariably know another ‘#VMTwit’ who is in a position to help straight away, and it doesn’t require any complex process to engage them – an e-mail, a phone call or a tweet will do the trick.


Given that I also manage the @virginmedia account along with our PR team, the wider Virgin Media community is no end of help in dealing with customer enquiries that I might not necessarily know the immediate answer to.


We’ve had some great reaction from our customers on Twitter, who are finding it a great way to keep in touch with the latest news from us and to talk about our products and services – including 2 recent converts to our 50Mb service, Stephen Fry and Rob Brydon.


One of my colleagues, Paul from our customer experience team, tweeted over the weekend that he had fallen through his ladder, breaking it and hurting his foot in the process.


This led to a bit of discussion about ladders internally as Paul started looking for a replacement, but the real fun kicked off today when Tony (one of our customer care project team based in Liverpool) tweeted early this afternoon that a man had come to fix a buzzing light in the office … and that he had a ladder with him.


I pointed this out to the aforementioned Paul (who has been working from our Covent Garden offices today with me) and we came up with an idea – could we get conversations about ladders to become a trending topic on Twitter?


And of course there was only one way to do this, to call on the #VMTwits to see if they could help us do it.


One e-mail and a few tweets later the community were on the case, and in about 2 hours we’d managed about 300 tweets using the hashtag #ladders from staff members, customers and others who had picked up on the joke:

By no means are those all staff members, and some are actually generally discussing ladders of course – but it did the job with us (at time of writing) being sandwiched between ‘Star Trek’ and ‘H1N1’ as the 6th most trending topic on Twitter:

And hopefully we can even get to number one by the time we’re done!


While it’s been a bit of Wednesday afternoon fun as many of us have been on conference calls, it did surprise me at how easy it was to hit the trending topics on Twitter with about 300 tweets in a little over two hours.


Highlights from this social media experiment have undoubtedly been the puns, the random pics from around the web and even the pictures of their own ladders that members of our Twitter community have uploaded (in this case from the Managing Director of our business division).


Personally, as a user of TwitterFox myself it’s been very hard to keep up so I must look at some other clients when I get a spare minute. And stop talking about #ladders.


@alexbrown1972