Automating collection of Twitter user stats

Posted on July 30, 2011

Nasty little hack, but it works.

  1. Download Curl
  2. Download the OpenSLL DLL’s
  3. Create your text file with the list of Twitter accounts you want, one line per account (twits.txt)
  4. Create your batch file in the same folder as the above 3, just the following 2 lines needed (doit.bat)
    1. DEL out.xml
    2. FOR /F %%i IN (twits.txt) do (curl >>out.xml & ping -n 2 -w 1>NUL)
  5. Run the batch file, it creates “out.xml”
  6. Load the XML file into notepad/wordpad
  7. Search and replace to remove the following <?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
  8. Except for the first line which must remain
  9. Then add in <twits> as the second line in the file and </twits> as the last line of the file
  10. Now save the XML file
  11. Load it into Excel.
  12. All done, enjoy

DStv USB Drifta Unboxed

Posted on July 29, 2011

DStvs Public Relations company were kind enough to send me a USB Drifta to review. My love/hate relationship with DStv mobile is well documented on this site. I don’t hold back when they mess up, and try to be fair at other times. I am still “banned” on their DStv mobile forums. So kudos to the PR department for moving past all of that and sending through the device for review. After some delays to the courier (snow, roads closed between Jhb and Dbn) the device finally arrived. Below are the unboxing pictures. The detailed review will follow in due course (detailed review available, click here).

The couriered parcel




The parcel arrived from the courier double bagged and in a sealed envelope.





Letter and bow covered box



Inside the parcel was a personalised letter saying how the DStv mobile team would love me to try out the USB Drifta and providing instructions on whom to call to get it activated.

The box itself was tied up in cute red ribbons.





Read the rest of this entry »

(South) Africa’s Top Twits – July 2011 (final)

Posted on July 28, 2011

This is the third post in four days on the matter of the top twitter users in (South) Africa, ranked by number of followers.

You can read the previous posts here  explaining how this arose:

I have now created a static page (as opposed to a post) to house the information going forward, and I hope to be able to update it regularly. Initially perhaps monthly and then maybe to quarterly if that proves to be too onerous.
The page is “Top Twits” on the menu at the top of the site, or linked here.
The information is available as an Excel sheet or as a PDF as well as the Top 100 present in the body of the post.
Enjoy and please provide feedback.

The new improved (South) African Top Twits July 2011

Posted on July 26, 2011

See the final list here :

Yesterday’s post (here) attempted to list the Top Twits (by number of followers) in (South) Africa.  If you didn’t read the post yesterday, take a read to see where this all started.  It had some flaws. There were some big names missing. After some manual processing and prompting for various parties, here is the new improved (still very much draft) (South) African Top Twits.  The top 10 has changed a bit, and beyond that even more so. To make yesterday’s top 50 you needed 13 251 followers, today that has jumped to 22 613.

Once again, if there are some big names out there that have been missed please let me know.

Change log :

  • Removed duplicated @BusRep, @BibleThoughts now makes it in at number 50 (26/7/2011)
  • Added in some more users @Elbaradei, Jacob Zuma (SAPresident), Presidency, MetroFM (27/7/2011)
  • Expanded the list to top 60 (so that some didn’t drop out of yesterday’s list)
  • Included the date updated field
  • Checked the numbers of all the accounts listed against current numbers as previous sources were unreliable. Checked the balance of the top 120 as well just in case any jumped up the list, some of which did.
 Read the rest of this entry »

Will South Africa’s real Top Twits please stand up

Posted on July 25, 2011

Update : See the final list here : (updated monthly)

The Strategy Worx recently released their ‘Social Media in SA – The Numbers‘ Report for Quarter two. Makes some interesting reading. There is some discussion on Google Plus here.

In the report is a list of  the Top 20 South African twitter personalities. The list was interesting, but on reflection seemed to be missing some of the people who I would have expected to be in the report.  There appear to be some obvious missing ones eg. DJ Fresh 98 656 followers and Pigspotter (Cliff) with 61 000 Jack Parrow 22 281 Steven Pienaar (ok, he lives in the UK most of the time) 67 480 John Robbie 23 377, Bryan Habana 46 270 etc etc

I quickly posted a question on the discussion asking what was the selection criteria for this? After going back and reading the report more closely I found the reference :

Going onto Twitaholic and playing a little gave some insight into the problem. The query used only picks you up if you list South Africa (Country), not City, Country (Eg. Durban South Africa).

This is very clear, Bruce Attridge in Durban, South Africa has 213 000 followers and is top of the Durban list, but doesn’t come up (would be 1st) in the South Africa query. Problem. Playing a bit more and you find that Durban, Durban South Africa and South Africa all produce different lists.

To top it all off, looking at the follower numbers shows some more problems. I am listed way down on the list (not that I have that many followers), but the numbers were vastly different from what Twitter shows as my followers. It seems the list is quite dated. If you click on a user, there is a button to “Update my Stats!” which can be used once a day. A manual process – though some numbers are more recent than others. Ok, so the data is flawed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Kindle, eReaders and eBooks in South Africa – Frequently Asked Questions

Posted on July 21, 2011

Many visitors to this site arrive through search queries. People looking for information about which Kindle to buy, where to get the Kindle in SA, features that work (or don’t) and similar. There are also many people looking for answers about eBooks.

Previous posts cover some of these answers. To make it easier to access this information from one place I have started a FAQ to deal with common questions and answers (and links to previous posts). This will grow over time.  Enjoy, and feel free to post any further questions,  I will answer as best I can.

The direct link to the FAQ is : otherwise find it on the menu at the top of the page.

Still looking for a Google Plus invitation?

Posted on July 20, 2011

Mail me at justin.j.williams (at) and I will send you an invite.

What is Google Plus? Another social network, that is still busy developing and evolving. It is almost a combination of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Most of the people I am following use it more for sharing articles / news / opinions than personal information, so for me, it is more like LinkedIn and Twitter. The beauty in the design of the circles is that you can use it for whatever you and your social/professional circles choose.

We just hit 10 000 post views – woo hoo

Posted on July 20, 2011

In mid-May I installed the Jetpack add-on for WordPress. One of the facilities it provides is site statistics. Last night we just hit 10 000 post views. Thanks to all the readers out there for the ongoing support. Keep it coming :)  Next goal, to reach 50 000 in the next 3 months.

Have suggestions for improvements or things you would like to see, drop me a mail or post in the comments.

Another Vodacom “lost” “free” minute debacle – Now Vodacom 5, Consumer 0

Posted on July 18, 2011
Vodacom vs the consumer

Who's your daddy

When you renew a contract with Vodacom they don’t carry forward accumulated free minutes to the new contract.  Huh?  How can this be? How come nobody told me this before?

I complained on Twitter to @vodacom111 who quickly asked for me details and had a representative call me. I was really impressed at the response rate (that is something you guys are really getting right), it was much quicker than calling the call centre.

I explained the details to the Vodacom representative who seemed to think I had made a mistake and this can’t be right.

Here is what he could determine.  I was carrying forward a few minutes each month, I used them all in May and had none to carry forward to June. That didn’t sound right to me so I asked him to check for me on the details. How many minutes were carried forward from April to May, and how many did I use in May. (The contract was renewed late May).

It took a while, their system is slow, but he got an answer. There were 87 minutes carried forward from April to May. I was allocated 120 more in May. I used 119  in May (not sure that is right, but won’t argue).  That means the 87 (+1) should carry forward to June. The problem is that the system reflects ZERO carried forward to June.  After seeing this the Representative conceded there was a problem. He logged a call on my behalf, made sure I was SMS’d the reference number, and I received the SMS which states my problem will be attended to within a day. Having heard that before (on previously unresolved complaints) I have my doubts, but we will see tomorrow.

Update : Lesley contacted me yesterday (19th July)  lunchtime, read me some numbers, which seemed to be back to a position of saying I didn’t lose any minutes. Hard to get it all over the phone so I asked for the info to be emailed to me. Maybe I did get this all wrong? She agreed, I waited all afternoon, no email. Then at 5:30pm I received this SMS “Good day Mr Justin Regarding the free minute, i logged your request with our (IT) department to assist with information. will give feedback on e-mail after receiving feedback from them. Kind regards, Retentions and Upgrades and Cancellations Admin Team Lesley ####”. Glad to receive the feedback, let’s see whether the email arrives to provide the necessary info.  As of the 24th July, still no feeedback

While this was going on I had another twitter user (Mandy) send me a message. She upgraded mid-month. They zapped her free minutes, then billed her for the calls she made. 500 minutes lost and a big bill to deal with. This happened about 3 months ago and she got nowhere in trying to complain and get it resolved. I mentioned this to my friendly rep, who suggested Mandy also contract @vodacom111. I messaged Mandy suggesting she does. Will keep you posted on her progress if I find more info.

Seems this poor customer services and putting the customer last is rife. I will update this post with any further progress I get from Vodacom, as well as with the info from any other people who have similar stories. If this all sounds too familiar, please share your stories. The more the better, maybe we can get a positive result here, and at least make more people aware of what is going on.

If you were following my previous post : Vodacom vs the Consumer (Protection Act) – We lose, four nil – for now well, I guess this makes it a good solid Vodacom Five  –  Consumer Nil 

The news today that the consumer commissioner, Mamodupi Mohlala, has looked at the contracts the phone companies are still using and says they are not compliant at all with the CPA is good news. Cell C is closest to compliant but all the service providers need to fix their contracts. This revelation comes as Mohlala prepares to sign consent order agreements this week with the chiefs of each of the companies. If they don’t comply within the agreed timeframes (a few more months) they face fines up to a million Rand. More info here.

Update (4/8/2011) :

Another Vodacom representative from a different department (billings I think he said) contacted me. He explained a few things :

  • My current balance was +-280 minutes
    • this means that if I used none in June and July (which isn’t the case) then there would still have to have been at least 40 carried over from May, which seems to indicate to me that the May carry over had happened.
  • He could not see any lost minutes (and nor could I with the “new” balance)
  • My contract had changed from a per minute to per second billing when I did the upgrade
  • In response to my question on the previous phone calls and discussions and why minutes appeared to have been lost, he did say that sometimes the carryover can take a while to reflect, and that maybe a balance had not been updated on time.
All in all, problem resolved. I am still at a loss as to why it takes so many calls and discussions to resolve a simple matter, and why it is so complicated to have an email showing me the balances, useage and carryover (I still don’t have the email BTW, but it is no longer relevant).

Cancelling a Vodacom contract due to poor signal

Posted on July 15, 2011

In my searching around trying to find out how people are faring with the CPA and getting the cell providers to commit to their obligations under CPA I came across this interesting post in the BlackBerry Forums ( located here.

This applies where you have a genuine case of not being able to get signal in a key location where you need to use the phone/device. It is going to take effort and perseverance on your part, so don’t bother if it isn’t that important to you.  Thanks to Raggie007 for the tips below :

  1. When ever you have signal issues log a call to the call centre 155
  2. Persevere and make sure they don’t just close the call
  3. After the fifth call about poor signal insist on a signal test, this can take up to two weeks even if they do the test the same day
  4. Be there for the test, and take note of the testers mane and cell number if you can get it
  5. Insist that you want a cancellation as by this point you will have had BAD service for 4-5 weeks
  6. Eventually they will cancel but will want the phone back or want to charge you for the phone
This post was dated BEFORE the new CPA came into effect. The CPA should make your case even stronger as you would have a device/service that is not fit for purpose. Goodluck.
Read my previous post on Cellular and CPA here.
If you have a general problem with Vodacom, try tweeting to @vodacom111, he responds quickly and gets someone to call you. Helps a lot.

MBA 3rd year student research : Employee Attitudes towards Employment Equity survey : Please assist

Posted on July 14, 2011

Please assist an MBA student complete their research by filling in the questionnaire below. Thanks.

Dear all,

I am a 3rd year MBA student at UKZN  Graduate School of Business. I would like to invite you to participate in my survey entitled “Employee Attitudes towards Employment Equity” by clicking on the link below:

Your participation in this regard will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Zithulele Buthelezi

As predicted, new DSTV Mobile Decoder released (USB Device)

Posted on July 14, 2011

As predicted back on the 4th June (based on firmware contained in the last Windows 1.3 client released), DSTV Mobile have now come out and announced the availability of a brand new decoder, known as the “Dstv Mobile USB Drifta” decoder.

This uses the same DVB-H functionality as the wifi drifta, it just comes in a much smaller an convenient package for those who don’t need to use WiFi connectivity (to iPhones/iPads/Ipod’s) and just want to use it with their PC’s.

The device plugs straight into the USB port, doesn’t need charging, pairing or any of the complications. It is claimed to be available now at a price of R399. Good deal if you are only ever wanting to use it with a laptop. The device is available on already, with an 8 day delivery time.  It may be coincidence or could explain the half price Drifta special that was available yesterday. They are back to full price today :)

In addition to the new decoder, DStv mobile also announced the launch of the M-Net Series channel to the DStv mobile lineup. Im not sure which channel is to be dropped (since they claim to be using up all channels allocated to them by ICASA), but we shall see. Hopefully it is the full channel and not a gimped version full of week old repeats as Cartoon Network is.

Sadly there is still no news on the Blackberry or Android client software for the existing Drifta. Just how serious are DSTV about sorting out the problems with the existing product if they are launching new ones? Your guess is as good as mine.

The press release is available here on the website.

I have updated the Drifta FAQ to include the new USB Drifta. Find it here.

Vodacom vs the Consumer (Protection Act) – We lose, four nil – for now!

Posted on July 13, 2011

Vodacom and MTN continued their strong financial performance over the last year, and executives from these companies benefited from the higher profits, with the CEOs take home millions as revenues and profits increase in the telecommunications market. Vodacom’s annual report for the year ended 31 March 2011 reveals that CEO Pieter Uys received a total remuneration of R13,190,826 – up from R10,700,571 a year ago. (Article from Mybroadband).

So how are we, the consumer doing? Well, we have a new Consumer Protection Act (CPA) that came into effect from 1st April 2011 to help protect us in our interactions with the big boys who have the money (and lawyers) to make sure they get their way most of the time. Andrew Weeks’s article written back in October, “The Consumer Protection Act and the cellular industry Q&A“, gave me hope that things would change (link here).

Let’s see how things stack up.

Compensation for no service (or service interruption)?

Just a few days ago there was a major outage on the Vodacom network. Customers lost signal in parts of the country (from Cape Town to Johannesburg and inbetween) for most of the day. Many incensed customers let their dissatisfaction be known, thousand of posts appearing on Twitter all day. Pieter Uys, to his credit, ate humble pie and give his apologies on twitter, on Radio, in full page newspaper adverts and in other forums. The question then arose, will customers be compensated, and if so how.

National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said that an apology from Vodacom is not good enough, and that Vodacom should refund their effected subscribers as laid out in the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Mohlala told Radio 702 that if Vodacom’s subscribers can prove loss of income they can claim compensation from Vodacom through the CPA.

Update (25/7/2011) : 7 complaints were received by the Commissioner and forwarded through to Vodacom for comment. Nothing received back yet but this is still under investigation and could result in sanction. Details here  @ Good news indeed for the consumers.


Vodacom vs the consumer

Who's your daddy

Vodacom : No way

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman said that Section 54 of the Consumer Protection Act does not make provision for a claim for damages such as loss of business or income.

“We will be responding directly to ICASA and the National Consumer Commission with respect to their inquiries on this topic,” said Boorman. (from Mybroadband)


Vodacom 1  Consumer 0

Read the rest of this entry »

Today only : Half price Drifta over at Dealify (expired)

Posted on July 13, 2011

If you are in the market for a Drifta, knowing all it’s faults and flaws, you can get one for the next few hours for just R299 over at  Your will still have to pay the monthly subscription fee of R36/month, and an extra R5 for the insurance. This is a great deal for the Drifta, I don’t think you can get it anywhere else for this price.  You snooze you lose.

Killing Kebble now available on Amazon as Kindle Download

Posted on July 13, 2011

I have been getting a number of hits on my article on converting ebooks for Kindle from people looking to get Mandy’s book on their Kindle’s.

Good news, as the title says, you can now get it directly from Amazon here.

It is only $12 (Around R80), and will download to your Kindle in seconds. Much easier than going through the whole “buy from Kalahari and convert” process. And cheaper too.

Support South African authors and pick up a copy. It really is a great read, fascinating insight into what went down that fateful night and what is/was happening in the SA underworld. So many names you will recognise from the press, news reports and even Noseweek.

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