New York food trucks turn to Twitter

Whether it’s fomenting revolution or telling people what you had for breakfast microblogging service Twitter seems to have it all.

Now, New York City’s enterprising mobile food vendors are using the instant messaging website to help their hoards of hungry followers stay tuned to their favorite delicacies.

Kim Ima, owner of the Treats Truck, which serves up caramel creme sandwiches, sugar cookies with icing, and other diet busting delights, uses Twitter to stay in touch with her 3,000 fans.

“For someone like Kim with St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Wednesday, she wasn’t sure if she was going to park here. So with Twitter she was able to provide location updates and we knew where to find her,” said customer EJ Cory.

Twitter allows users to enter messages from a computer or mobile phone, which are instantly transmitted to other users who choose to read their “tweets.”

The service riles some, who say it encourages people to post irrelevant details about their daily lives, such as what they had for breakfast.

There are about 3,000 licensed food vending trucks in New York City, according The Street Vendor Project, representing a sizable niche for Twitter.

Kenny Lao parks his Rickshaw Dumpling truck next to the Treats Truck most Fridays. He has been tweeting since his truck first hit the streets for business and says Twitter is an ideal tool to keep in touch with his 5,000 followers.

“People really depend on us to be at certain locations on every day of the week and they get super-duper excited for dumpling day and this is the best way for us to tell them,” he said.

Twitter, founded in 2006, is free for its millions of users and its founders are still trying to turn the loss-making enterprise into a cash cow.

Last year Twitter hit the headlines for the role it played in helping demonstrators in Iran organize anti-government protests. The White House famously asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance during the protests so demonstrators could stay connected.


Internet piracy taking big toll on jobs

A study into Internet piracy by a Paris-based consultancy showed that 1.2 million jobs in the European Union could be lost over the next five years if more is not done to clamp down on illegal downloading.

The study by TERA Consultants for the International Chamber of Commerce focused on piracy in Europe’s music, film, television and software industries.

Those industries generated 860 billion euros (US$1.186 trillion) and employed 14.4 million people in 2008. But in the same year, 10 billion euros and 186,000 jobs were lost to piracy, the study found.

If that trend continues – and the rapid increase in illegal downloads and advancing piracy techniques suggest it will – then up to 1.2 million jobs and 240 billion euros worth of European commerce could be wiped out by 2015.

“In the near future and even today in 2010, we observe increasing bandwidth, increasing penetration rate in terms of the Internet,” said TERA Consultant’s Patrice Geoffron, explaining that piracy was only likely to escalate.

“If we combine all those elements, obviously the impact in a few years won’t remain stable compared to what it was in 2008.”


The bulk of illegal downloading targets music, television and video sites, with consumers using “peer-to-peer” formats to download songs and video clips onto their laptops and home computers from websites without paying a fee.

In that respect it has a disproportionate impact on the creative industries, with musicians, actors and artists standing to lose the most from unfettered downloading, experts say.

Agnete Haaland, the president of the International Actors’ Federation, believes consumers need to be made more aware of the damaging economic and social impact of their illegal activity.

“We should change the word piracy,” she told reporters at the unveiling of the report in March.

“To me, piracy is something adventurous, it makes you think about Johnny Depp. We all want to be a bit like Johnny Depp. But we’re talking about a criminal act. We’re talking about making it impossible to make a living from what you do,” she said.

Haaland, whose group supported the study, said one of the best ways to reverse the situation would be stricter EU legislation to enforce existing laws against piracy.

“The European Union should really lead the way and fill the important gap in the body of laws,” she said.

“Consumers have to understand that there will be nothing to consume if it’s impossible to make money making the content.”

Marielle Gallo, a member of the European Parliament who is pushing for tighter laws on intellectual property, said the report showed how much damage could be done to industry.

But she said it would be tough to secure passage of stricter rules as several parliamentary groups are strongly opposed.