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Breakfast tweets: Less is more

Today, we're trying an experimental format for the links: Twitter style.

Photo by xtopalopaquetl on Flickr.
  • US DOT: Lowest traffic fatalities in 60 years (Transportation Nation, @marctomik)
  • "We don't want to come off as NIMBYs." But Arlington residents don't want a homeless shelter in their backyard (Post, @_jpscott)
  • The London Tube's central Zone 1 is very pricey, so a map shows how to get off outside and take bike share (Ollie O'Brien)
  • What are public/private partnerships PPPs? Where are they in the US and internationally? (Brookings, @bogrosemary)
  • What to get for the cargobike lover who has everything (& kids)? (Bike Noun Verb, @KidicalMassDC, @IMGoph)
  • On Friday, @beyonddc exposed the folly of highway "Level of Service." Now @e_jaffe takes on local street LOS (Atlantic Cities, @vebah)
  • An experiemental system can disable drivers' phones in the car without affecting passengers' phones (Daily Mail, Steve S.)
  • Lance's feelings about bike lanes in cartoon form (The Onion, @JoelLawsonDC)

Our current Breakfast Link editors are looking to move on from curating the links each day. Meanwhile, many of our contributors now use Twitter, and can submit or curate items through that service.

We decided to try creating a links post collaboratively, by building the post from tweets contributors and readers sent in to a new Twitter account, @GGWashTips, plus some from our regular tip queue. This is the result.

Have a tip for the tweets? Tweet it to @GGWashTips.

Want to edit the Breakfast Links in either the old style or this one? Email us at

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I definitely prefer this style of link dump to the old version. Nicely done.

by Craig on Dec 9, 2011 9:03 am • linkreport

Just like to say "Thank You!" to all the editors that put together breakfast links. It's hard work that I never volunteered to do myself, but I enjoyed.

Jamie, Matt, David, Eric, Erik, (and anyone I forgot?): Thanks!

by Michael Perkins on Dec 9, 2011 9:09 am • linkreport

Agree with Jasper, pointing out the comic is fine, but the dig at Lance should go.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 9, 2011 9:13 am • linkreport

Very nice group of links this morning, including the bike cartoon. A little turnaround is fair play! ;)

by MrTinDC on Dec 9, 2011 9:15 am • linkreport

so, we should not use "submit a tip" anymore?

by charlie on Dec 9, 2011 9:45 am • linkreport

charlie: You can still use that. If we end up sticking with this system I will modify the tip form to ask for a briefer summary of less than 140 characters or something like that. But we still welcome tips from people who don't use Twitter.

by David Alpert on Dec 9, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

I preferred the old format, but not enough to get bent out of shape about it. I do feel pretty strongly, though, that poking fun at Lance without his consent ought to be a no-go, no matter how funny the cartoon is. (If you have his consent, carry on.)

by cminus on Dec 9, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

I like the old style better for the following reasons (although I can understand if it's too labor intensive, so not possible anymore):

* Detailed descriptions give readers the key info without needing to necessarily click on the links (very nice if reading on a phone)

* The old bullets often contained multiple links under the same heading, unifying them under a single theme. The synthesis was value added

* I liked the use of bold face headlines that grab your attention

* There seemed to be a greater quantity of link overall in the old format

While the old format was more labor intensive, I'd also point out that Breakfast Links are often the most frequently commented postings on the site (and likely the most read ones too).

by Falls Church on Dec 9, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

GGW can't be serious about a "no personal attacks" policy in comments and then assail Lance in the morning links. Please change it.

FWIW, this underscores the value of curatorship & editing even (especially?) in a web journalism outlet with goals as lofty as GGW's

by Arl Fan on Dec 9, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

On Friday, @beyonddc exposed the folly of highway "Level of Service." Now @e_jaffe takes on local street LOS (Atlantic Cities, @vebah)

There's an interesting interplay between the misguided focus on LOS (as "auto service") and scofflaw behavior on the part of cyclists and pedestrians. One of my favorite examples of the distorting effects of LOS is the intersection of 11th and Penn Ave, SE. The traffic light cycle provides about two minutes of "green" for Penn Ave traffic. When it changes, 11th St traffic gets 20 seconds--which is just about enough time for car traffic to clear.

Of course, if you're not in a car, but walking, 20 seconds is almost enough time for a healthy adult to trot across the eight lanes of roadway, and 20 yards of median.

Multiply this sort of stuff by 10,000 times around the city, and the reason pedestrians jay-walk and cyclists jay-bike becomes pretty damned clear.

One further factor that comes into play: cyclists are generally encouraged to use secondary streets. H Street is generally inhospitable to cyclists--they're encouraged to use G Street instead. They shouldn't use Independence Ave, but rather Jefferson St just off the Mall. But in addition to being less congested, these side streets are given a subordinate level of service to the main streets. So the chances that a cyclist (or pedestrian) will hit more red lights, and be stuck at those red lights for a longer period of time, is much greater than that of drivers.

"Service" is geared entirely towards moving auto traffic through arterials, and everyone else is left to fight over scraps.

We've recently seen various studies that show drivers obey red lights at a much higher rate than cyclists. What I'd like to see is a study where the light timing is tweaked on an arterial to subject drivers to, say, four minute red lights. Obviously the "scofflaw" rate would shoot through the roof.

As many have pointed out, once jay-biking starts to become established behavior because of poor traffic planning, it becomes increasingly widespread.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

You guys misunderstand the nature of "Lance" if you think he's anything but chuffed with the name-check.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

Oboe has a good point about the LOS, but loses it in the end. If you, are a biker, are running red lights because it is inconvenient, well, tough cookies. But his other points about the LOS make a lot of sense.

On certain streets in DC, I feel the opposite has happened -- the balace has switched to pedestrians. Blanket no turn red 7-7 signs do get ignored.

No, again, that isn't an excuse -- and I think both should be ticketed. But it does suggest that coming up with priority pedestrian corridors should be easy.

I don't have much sympathy for bikers and red light timing. I do notice, that in the cold I tend to run lights more my bike. Standing around for a few minutes in a cold wind is much tougher than a nice summer night.

by charlie on Dec 9, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

I agree with everything that Falls Church mentioned about preferring the older format.

by Katherine on Dec 9, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

I much prefer the old format for all the reaons Falls Church indicated.

@Oboe, I don't necessarily disagree with you about the timing issue. But even as a non-car/bike owner, I realize that there can't be parity between what's required for a car vs. that of a pedestrian/cyclist. I imagine that the differentiation is due in part to the idea of relieving congestion.

Yes cyclists are encouraged to use other streets. So are pedestrians and believe it or not, cars as well.

@Oboe re: Lance. Funny, I mentioned yesterday that Lance seems to not be bothered by the attacks leveled against him. Glad we agree. I also mentioned how attacking him (in this case poking fun) is encouraged. It's clear I'm right about that too. And as always, it's no big deal. It's Friday! A lil hypocrisy can't hurt...

BTW, I assume Jasper's comment was deleted? I don't see what Mike Perkins is referring to.

by HogWash on Dec 9, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

Agree completely w/ Falls Church on Dec 9, 2011 10:02


#agr w FC @ 1002

by Michael Coffey on Dec 9, 2011 10:24 am • linkreport

"GGW can't be serious about a "no personal attacks" policy in comments and then assail Lance in the morning links. Please change it."

Except that's not a personal attack, it's a statement of fact. That cartoon accurately depicts the views of Lance and his organization, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City.

by Phil on Dec 9, 2011 10:25 am • linkreport

I'd be happy to see the old format continue. If you want to create the links a few days a week and think you'll be good at pithily summarizing a news article, please shoot us an email. Most people do the majority of the links work the night before and then spend some time in the morning before 8 am putting in any new stories.

by David Alpert on Dec 9, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

I too preferred the old format. Tweets are too short to convey much information other than the topic of a link. A brief summary can actually, well, summarize the news rather than requiring readers to click through and read the whole thing to find out what was interesting. I hope you can find some editors willing to contribute their time to continue it.

by Gavin on Dec 9, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport


Lost it here?

As many have pointed out, once jay-biking starts to become established behavior because of poor-traffic planning, it becomes increasingly widespread.

I'm not making a value judgement (at least not in this sentence). I'm just saying that when light cycles are tailored to motor vehicles, they tend to become less relevant to other users. What percentage of adult pedestrians will stand at a corner with no traffic and sight, and wait as the little counter counts down from "63". Maybe one in one-hundred? Cyclists are no different. And the more you do it, the more likely you are to do it. For the sake of the holiday season, let me grant you the rhetorical point that this is very, very naughty behavior. But it's what people do.

As far as "if you, are a biker, are running red lights because it is inconvenient, well, tough cookies" I'm not sure what it is you're rejecting. My personal position is that it's as safe or safer than obeying the law, I do it all the time, and the chances of my getting a ticket are less than zero. It's like jaywalking only safer and with less of a chance of being fined.

One random thought on the subject of traffic light timing: I'd really like to see some info on what would happen if, for one day, we just set all traffic signals to "four-way stop mode". Whenever this happens due to power outages in my neck of the woods (Cap Hill, Penn Ave, H Street, etc...) the effect on traffic seems to be negligible. Granted, these aren't the most congested part of town, but the idea that perhaps we over-use traffic lights in the city merits thinking about.

It seems obvious that stop-signs favor pedestrians and cyclists over cars; traffic lights seem to do the opposite.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

If you want to create the links a few days a week and think you'll be good at pithily summarizing a news article, please shoot us an email.

I'm hoping someone will volunteer. If we don't get anyone to volunteer -- does anyone have a contact at a local Planning or Journalism school where we could post this opportunity? Maybe we could get a grad (or undergrad?) student who might find that it's a good resume builder (and learning experience).

by Falls Church on Dec 9, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

I am also with the folks preferring the original format, which I read religiously. Please don't dumb down the morning links; I read you on the web because I don't want to read twitter, I prefer to get all the information, not just an acronym-laden half-bite. The original format had enough that either piqued my interest to read more, or I felt I knew some basic details so I could reference back if need be. This does neither. Plus attribution on twitter really isn't helpful; I would rather see names and sometimes untelligible twitter handles.

by Joe on Dec 9, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

this is a really bad idea. the breakfast links are high value.

by reader on Dec 9, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

I agree with Falls Church. Unfortunately, I do not have time to volunteer for this job and I do understand and appreciate how much work it takes. That said, the old style was much more informative and easy to read.

by Sam on Dec 9, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

oboe, just want to second the points you've made today about how lights are timed for divers, and almost always exclusively drivers, with little to no consideration given to non-drivers. It's been bugging me for years.

Down by the ballpark (granted, a location that, at this time, has considerably more vehicle traffic than pedestrians), the lights and crossing signals at S. Capitol and M streets are designed to move large volumes of suburban commuters through the intersection, with little regard to the extremely long waits pedestrians have to endure. The way the road is structured, if I want to go from the SW corner of the intersection to the NE corner, I have to deal with 3 separate, and in no way even remotely coordinated, crossing signals. And priority is given to vehicles, resulting in some very long waits. Wait wait wait wait wait, cross, wait wait wait wait wait, cross, wait wait wait wait wait, cross.

by Birdie on Dec 9, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

As someone that curates his own weekly links, I can say that doing links is a pain and a half. Took me around 3 hours to do mine for this morning, so I understand the desire to go all-twitter. Still, I liked the old way. Allowing for a bit of commentary, background, and pith is important to the task of keeping people up-to-date on Washington's complicated urban scene

HOWEVER, since I do it already I'd be happy to volunteer one or two days a week (just not for Wednesday morning; that's my day!). I'd rather have help to split up the task, but I could do it on my own.

by OctaviusIII on Dec 9, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

I appreciate all the work that must go in to assembling synopses of articles every morning. On the other hand, the Internet was built to withstand more than 160 characters at a time, and I absolutely loathe the tweet-limit obsession that's taking over. It's like the PowerPoint of the Internet.

Re. the proposed homeless shelter in Arlington, it really is amazing how liberal my fellow Arlingtonians claim they are, until it comes time to actually dealing with homelessness as a community.

by OX4 on Dec 9, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

Agreed somewhat with Falls Church.

Maybe we could find a happy medium? I think that a hard limit of 140 characters is too restrictive, and really don't like the bulleted list formatting; everything's bunched too close together.

Headlines are tough to write, but contribute significantly to the readability and usability of the morning links, as well as providing an obvious target to click on. Having to click on the citation to read the article seems very unintuitive.

Here's how I'd reformat this morning's links.

My changes:

  • Links separated into multiple categories. These can be anything, but help break up the long list.
  • Headlines are provided for each article, and are clickable.
  • Summaries are provided where beneficial.
  • References within the summaries are hyperlinked.
  • Twitter handles are also hyperlinked - maybe your CMS can do this for you automatically?
  • Citations are distinguished from the content.

by andrew on Dec 9, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

+1 for the old version (or if you keep the Twitter style links, please provide a better description of what the articles are about)

by grumpy on Dec 9, 2011 1:56 pm • linkreport

@oboe, Charlie

A good example I think of light timing being about drivers only is Delaware Avenue as it crosses Columbus Circle, right near Union Station. Columbus Circle gets 35 seconds or so, then Delaware Avenue gets about 18 seconds. But during rush hour when hundreds of staffers are walking to or from Capitol Hill there are more people crossing Delaware on foot to/from Union Station than there are people in cars on Columbus Circle. (I've stood and counted)

by Steve S. on Dec 9, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

The new format is terrible.

Breakfast links are half the reason I visit this website everyday.

I may have to cancel my subscription if breakfast links lose their value.

by JJJJJ on Dec 9, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

Re cartoon: it looks like 10 cyclists are zooming along where 30 cars are stuck in traffic. Nice illustration of the superior throughput of a bike lane! (10 people in 5 ft versus maybe 33 people in 25 feet)

by egk on Dec 9, 2011 5:36 pm • linkreport

@Michael Perkins "pointing out the comic is fine, but the dig at Lance should go.

Thanks Michael. I've had others point out to my (off line) the inappropriateness of invoking my name in this instance.

by Lance on Dec 10, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

I agree with others that the old format is much better. I understand that it is a lot of work to do them in the old way, but I also think the new way is less valuable to the audience.

Thanks for trying to do what's best.

by Tim H on Dec 10, 2011 9:34 pm • linkreport

Dislike! The editors did a great job with a mini-synthesis of the article, so you could actually tell what was important about it. I understand the desire for something less labor-intensive, but this is a step down in utility for the reader. (Plus, I read enough of freaking Twitter all day. Something more considered is a relief).

by Lydia on Dec 11, 2011 9:37 pm • linkreport

@Lydia +1 "I understand the desire for something less labor-intensive, but this is a step down in utility for the reader."

by Lance on Dec 12, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

Lance: If you don't like it, you're more than welcome to volunteer to curate the morning links at least one day a week. We could use the help and would welcome it.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Dec 16, 2011 11:13 pm • linkreport

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