Social Piping with Tarpipe

November 27th, 2008

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I discovered Tarpipe via the deluge of tips that is Lifehacker, and I’ve been really impressed so far.

The idea is that you create a workflow for posting to social media sites. The input can be email, application or bookmarklet, and it allows you to build datapaths for different bits of information – which can then be posted automagically to your various social media accounts (Twitter, Delicious, Flickr etc.)

The really clever bit is that you can pass the data through various other services on the way. In the first one I built, anything received (in this case at the email address associated with this particular workflow) is routed to Delicious and Twitter, but the Twitter posts are sent to TinyURL first.

This means that over at Google Sightseeing we’ll be able to use the Delicious feed to bookmark the original URL, whilst simultaneously posting a short URL for our Twitter followers.

In the example above, I have additionally routed the Twitter and Delicious URLs back into a email, which is received by whoever sent the original message – giving confirmation that both posts were completed successfully.

The developer has posted a video showing something even cleverer – he uses Evernote‘s automatic OCR technology to create tags that are applied to the image as it is added to Flickr. Genius!

We’d like to see WordPress support added, and also found that the module is a bit broken, but if the developer keeps adding more services, and perhaps more importantly, more functionality – then Tarpipe could become an absolutely essential tool in the online arsenal.

Comparing Feed Stats

October 20th, 2008

Many sites, including Google Sightseeing, use the excellent (now Google owned) FeedBurner service to serve their RSS feed. FeedBurner helps “bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers promote, deliver and profit from their content on the Web”, mainly by providing tools which provide statistical reports and analysis to help publishers capitalise on their content.

According to our FeedBurner stats, Google Sightseeing recently hit a milestone in terms of number of subscribers; we now average over 100,000 unique subscribers.

Live updating figure

Unfortunately the number of people actually reading the feed on any one day is likely to be far below that, but it’s still seems like a pretty massive number to us. Because FeedBurner numbers are public1, for any site that uses the service, you can use a free service called FeedCompare to chart their subscriber number against anyone else that uses FeedBurner. Which is how I created the following graph:

(The red line is Google Sightseeing, and the regular drops were due to a long standing bug that incorrectly returned a very small amount of subscribers)

This shows the number of subscribers reported by FeedBurner over the past 24 months, for Google Sightseeing (red), GEarth Blog (blue), Google Earth Hacks (green), and Google Maps Mania (purple).

The big jump in reported numbers back in February ’07 was when Google took over and Google Reader result began to be shown in the figures, but what’s really interesting is what happened to the Google Sightseeing feed immediately after that…

As you can see, once the Google stats were included, our figures began a steady rise that has continued on exactly the same trajectory ever since. The figures for the Google Earth Blog and Google Maps Mania have remained about the same, whilst GEarth Hacks has had several large jumps – this probably makes sense, as when a site gets a big link from somewhere you might expect a sudden increase in subscriber numbers2.

Given the relative flatness of the other graphs, why is it that Google Sightseeing has had such steady growth over the same period?

Although we can’t be sure, and of course the high quality of Google Sightseeing promotes people to tell their friends, but I think this may well be due to Google Reader’s suggestion feature.

So, if you read Google Sightseeing, how did you find it?

  1. Since writing this post, FeedBurner has been subsumed into the Google Hive Mind, and our stats no longer get updated. 

  2. With little drop-off, as people don’t seem to unsubscribe from anything very often! 

If, like me, you spend a lot of time inspecting websites with Firebug you’ll have got into the habit of clicking the little bug in your status bar, clicking “HTML” and then clicking “Inspect”.

But, in the most recent versions you can get there with just one click, all you have to do is add the toolbar button!

You can find the button in the View menu, under Toolbars > Customize…. Drag it onto your toolbar, and inspect away, with two less clicks to get there.

The icon is awful, and doesn’t blend in with the new Firefox 3 theme on the mac, but it looks slightly better when you install the GrApple theme.

Minimap Sidebar for Firefox

February 20th, 2008

Tony Farndon’s fantastic Minimap sidebar has quite rightly won a grand prize in the Extend Firefox 2 contest.


Tony presented the plugin (originally as a Flock extension) during last year’s Refresh Edinburgh event, and we were very honoured to see that he’d even built in support for Google Sightseeing sights to be easily loaded into the map.

Since then he’s ported it to a Firefox extension and added even more features. I’ve been using it for months and it got to the point where I’d forgotten it wasn’t a standard part of Firefox (which may explain why I took so long to write this post…)

You can install the plugin from its homepage.

Update: A lot of the information below is irrelevant due to the release of WP-OpenID: a complete, working plugin for OpenID comments on WordPress.

OpenID is a “decentralized identity system”, which is like a single login that you control. You authenticate to a server which you trust, and then decide which details that trusted authority passes onto the site you’re trying to access.

The OpenID website recently relaunched with a WordPress powered blog, which (of course) accepts OpenID logins for commenting.

If you’d like to add OpenID comments to your WordPress site, then I’ve outlined a couple of your choices below. Be aware that I’ve only tested these plugins with WordPress 2.3 on PHP 5, so your results may vary!

Read the rest of this entry »

To celebrate our 1000th post on Google Sightseeing, we’re officially launching our company blog, called Rotacoo, with a rundown of the highlights from some of the stats and figures generated over the past 22 months since we launched Google Sightseeing.

  • There are currently 1000 posts and 10,998 comments, contained within 197 categories
  • We’ve posted 60 site news entries
  • We’ve had to move host 4 times because we kept outgrowing them
  • Our most popular category is Buildings with 196 entries
  • Our most popular country is the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and then Germany
  • Our most popular state category is California, with 99 entries
  • We currently have 11,315 RSS readers through Feedburner
  • Akismet has protected the site from at least 83,351 spam comments since we installed it last year


In May of 2005, just one month after the site was launched, Google Sightseeing had 196,228 unique visitors. We only installed Google Analytics in November of that year, so the following chart only begins half-way through that month.

Daily Visitors, 13th Nov 05 – 31st Jan 06

visitorgraph31jan2007small.gif Daily unique visitors as reported by Google Analytics (Click to enlarge).

In September 2006 we posted the infamous topless sunbather, which (thanks to a major Digging) was seen by over 60,000 people in one day.

The enormous interest in the story meant that over the course of the month we clocked up over 1.7 million page views, making it our busiest month ever (even despite our extensive downtime). The second huge peak was our followup story, the Top 10 Naked People in Google Earth (again getting picked up by Digg), although it’s only higher because we’d moved hosts by that time and the server was better set up to handle the traffic.

The graph represents a staggering 3,194,852 absolute unique visitors to Google Sightseeing since the 13th November 2005.


When we first launched nearly 2 years ago, we inititally got discovered through, which was brand new at the time, and frequented by many “early adopters” – which might explain why in the first month, only 48.2% of our visitors used Internet Explorer, and 35% used Firefox.

Amazingly, the growth of Firefox has meant that today’s more balanced stats show Internet Explorer accounting for 55% of all our users, and yet Firefox still makes up 35%! Of the 55% who use IE, 31% have already upgraded to IE7.


We’ve had an incredible 10,998 legitimate comments on the site (most of them correcting our facts and/or spelling), and here’s the top ten commenters based on the email address supplied:

  1. Alex (admin) – 306
  2. rob – 215
  3. cookie monster (under various aliases) – 197
  4. James (admin) – 130
  5. Tim – 120
  6. Keith – 98
  7. Luke – 87
  8. gIMpSTa – 68
  9. Peter – 66
  10. Propaganda – 64

So that brings us to the end of this celebratory first annual report. Thank you to everyone who helped us get this far, including all those who blogged or wrote about us, everyone who linked to us, and especially everyone who contributed on the site through comments or submissions.

See you in another 1000 posts!