Jul 29

The kitty cat of Facebook

Tech 2 Comments »

This isn’t Facebooks fault, but I hope that this doesn’t become as regular as the Twittercat:


Jul 29

Using books to take you back (Harry Potter, Malory Towers, and me)

Personal 1 Comment »

I used to read a lot as a kid. I can remember going through Beano’s, books, and ZX Spectrum games.

The first series that I loved was Malory Towers, a book about a children’s boarding school. For some reason I closely related to the main character, Darrell Rivers, who read to me like Dion Almaer. ASIDE: I related to Fred Savage and The Wonder Years too… probably to do with the hair, and due to the fact that Winnie seemed all too fresh.

I remember finishing the last book in the six book series. I cried. It was over. We all know that the journey is the fun part (happiness isn’t a destination, it is a journey and all that jazz). When you get to the end of a fun journey things can fall a little flat. Finishing this book was a mini-version of finishing up at a school and knowing that you will never go back. It brings an emptiness to it.

Why am I blabbing about this? I just finished the Harry Potter series. I won’t put any spoilers in here, as the reason that I wanted to read it in short order was due to NOT coming across any spoilers. I tend to read a few feeds and such, so I thought that I was bound to come across something.

I lift my glass to JK. I can only imagine the possible feelings she must have gone through as she wrote the last page. What a journey she has gone through. How her life has changed from when she wrote the first page of the book, to the last.

We do live in a magical world. It is in front of us, and if you don’t see it, you are a muggle.

Jul 25

Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann

Tech 1 Comment »

I love our tech talks and this week we had a really fun one.

Merlin Mann came to talk about managing email, and keeping your inbox at zero.

I actually spent some time thinking about an early comment in the presentation that talked about how your inbox says so much about you, and in general, how you spend you time and attention says everything about you.

If you talk about being green but don’t spend anytime doing anything about it, are you green? or just a blow-hard. It got me thinking, and then I started to delete and process my email :)

Jul 23

The River: A strange dream and the death of repeated friend requests

Tech 13 Comments »

I sometimes have strange tech-related dreams that stick with me. At first I ponder them, and then normally I curse myself for not dreaming about something more interesting.

A couple of nights ago I dreamed about creating a new product called “The River”.

In the dream I realised that email, rss, igoogle, facebook, etc are all the same thing at a high level. They are all about events coming into a stream with different views of the data. Facebook does well as it has a nice river of information so you can login to the main page and you get a good view based on time and friends. Email does it well too, for the use case of people communicating. Feed readers do a good job at reading peoples thoughts (although they can catch many other events of course).

In the dream I developed an application called “The River” that was a filthy rich UI that showed your one main river of events, and various rivers that would run into the main one.

The river would contain:

  • Incoming email
  • Status events from fb, twitter, pownce, Cool.Next
  • Event invites
  • Blog entries via rss
  • Photos uploaded
  • etc etc.

The user can configure all of this, so normally you would see tier one events which for me would be:

  • Email to: me, and a few lists that are important
  • Blog entries from a trusted set of friends (note: not ALL friends)
  • Status events from my good friends (note: not ALL friends)

As a way to get people sucked in, dream Dion did something quite smart. When a user signs up, they are asked for their FB/gmail/linkedin id to find people / invite them. Most services do that right now. However, there is an extra check box which states “if you see me connected on another network, automatically connect me here”. This means that you don’t have to keep accepting friend invites from the same people again and again. You should virally, quite quickly, get all of your contacts sync’d up. This is a small but important feature, and is one that services should implement. It drives me nuts to meet a new interesting person and then have to join up on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. It is such a pain that each person normally only joins together on one of these sites, and fragmentation happens. It doesn’t make sense that I have 10 times as many connections on LinkedIn just because I have been on that site for longer.

Also, all of The River data is open, so it can become the place to hold your contacts. It sync’d with Address Book. It outputted FOAF and XFN.

I wish I had time to implement it!

Jul 19

Facebook changes I would like to see

Tech 2 Comments »

Everyone is buzzing on Facebook. I think their inside out opening is a stroke of genius. Richard McManamus has been talking Facebook all week, culminating with a piece on The impact of Facebook.

There are some things I would love to change about Facebook though:

Get rid of the login jail

I have already talked about this, but having Facebook be smart enough to realise that I login from multiple sources (different computers, iphone, etc) would make me pull my hair out less. You may think it is a small thing, but it is a pain, especially when you have to login on the iphone.

Forget page views

Do what is right for the users. For example, when someone sends me a message on Facebook, do not just email me with a link to the message. Just send me the darn message, and let me reply to it in my email. I think that you would find that you would get more content going through your system that way and you could monetize that.


I have heard a few people saying that they don’t trust Facebook, and that they are too locked in. Instead of locking in your users, have a good strategy for data import/export. Get the APIs out there ASAP and you will own the entire space de facto. If I know that I *can* get my data out, I will be prone to do more with you. Although this opens you up to users leaving to other areas, in practice is that going to be happen? It is all psychological. I just want to know that I *can* move somewhere else. Offer a good service and I have no reason to leave.


The left hand side limits the number of menu items above the “show more” fold. I know that this is because you want an ad there, but get rid of it. Let me put as many items on show as possible. When apps are hidden I forget about them and don’t use them.

Let me tweak the settings more, mainly to ignore items that get in my way. This isn’t about making “my page” look better (or worse in the MySpace way), it is about organization. If this is to be a true hub, I need to be able to tweak it out more.

I also need to look more into the separation of profiles, specifically between work and home life. I don’t know if I need work mates to see my college pictures, or if I have broken up with someone. I want to be able to fine tune these settings.

Also, the search needs to be better, and I am glad that I am not a female who changed my name, as then you are going to be hard to find (make that easier).

Jul 19

MashupCamp: This year it is different?

Tech No Comments »

This is my first MashupCamp. I was really excited to be part of it this year, as the last couple have sounded great from my readings online, and what mates who went tell me.

Although this is the first year, it feels different. How has the life of a mashup changed?

  • Vendors: There are lots of vendor presentations. This doesn’t feel very campy. Instead of the “this is how I did this, here are the warts, here are the work arounds” you get “If you use my product you click on this button and it all works! Ta da!”
  • Voice: A surprising amount of the content has involved voice mashups. Who knew?
  • teh social: The Zune has spread the word so well that the concept of social networking in mashups was covered a lot (don’t make me say jk wrt the zune)
  • Violations: Half of the mashups shown violate end user agreements. For example, Kapow shows off taking a Google search page, swaping out a Y! logo, and stripping out the ads on the results. Bzzzt!
  • Screenscrapers: I have used Dapper before, and was impressed. It worked well for my use case. However, how much of a use is there for screen scrapers? I was talking to Gregor Hohpe about this. If you are the type of content that wants to share its data, you will probably have a feed. If you are the type of content that wants to monetize itself directly, you will not have a feed, and you will not want someone to scrape you.
  • Pamela “I have won lots of Mashup competitions” Fox had a good point about how the term mashup is losing meaning. If we define a mashup as “If your application uses an API to another application” then almost everything she does is a mashup.

I am still looking for some more energy at the show, and for a really great, useful mashup.

It has been nice to meet up with people like John Musser and beating the afore mentioned Pamela Fox at Guitar Hero (note the 100% score. Sounds better than it is as it was on medium only):


Jul 19

Poor old Wifi, especially at geek conferences

Tech No Comments »

Whenever you go to a geek conference you feel bad for the Wifi routers. You know they are going to get hammered. Now though, they are going to get the double whammy.

Instead of geeks coming in with just their laptops, a percentage of them will be coming in with their iPhones too. Auto-join the conference wifi and iPhones will be jumping for joy as they keep checking email.

It looks like Duke got hit hard.

At the iPhoneDevCamp we were asked “please go on EDGE” to mitigate this problem (running out of streams). I wonder if more Wifi providers will add annoying click through solutions? It was a rare day when wifi worked at a decent sized conference, and now it will get harder. At least iPhone doesn’t talk 802.11n/g so you can hope to jump on those bad boys.

Jul 19

“Facebook needs to be more personal”

Tech 6 Comments »

Someone at MashupCamp was saying that Myspace wins over Facebook due to personalization. They meant theming. I wanted to show them this:

Jul 17

Forget the Feed URL

Ajax, Google, JavaScript, Tech No Comments »

Having to type in feed URLs, or grep them from view source (as you don’t use the browser specific system) can be a pain.

The Google AJAX APIs team has created a simple way to find feeds, and to locate feeds in a URL.

findFeeds will do a Google search and return entries and feeds related to the search.

Here is an example at work:


The code you will write will look like this:

google.feeds.findFeeds(query, function(result) {
var el = document.getElementById("feedControl");

if (result.error || result.entries.length <= 0) {
el.innerHTML = 'No Results Found';

// create a feed control
var feedControl = new google.feeds.FeedControl();

// Grab top 4..
for (var i = 0; i < 4; i++) {
feedControl.addFeed(result.entries[i].url, result.entries[i].title);


lookupFeed takes a URL and returns the feed. E.g.

function newSlideShow(user) {
showStatus('Resolving feed for ' + user);
var url = 'http://www.flickr.com/photos/' + user;
google.feeds.lookupFeed(url, lookupDone);

function lookupDone(result) {
if (result.error || result.url == null) {
showStatus('Could not locate feed for user');

showStatus('Found Photo Feed');
// We need to switch over from Atom to RSS to get Yahoo Media for slideshow..
var url = result.url.replace('format=atom', 'format=rss_200');

Very nice indeed.

Jul 17

Harry Potter and Laura Bush

Personal No Comments »

Part one of the summer Harry Potter mania is over. The movie was decent enough. It was solid. It did the job.

It wasn’t special though and you felt like you were speeding through things the entire time. Almost everything was covered, but all in a very light way.

It was also very dark. My nephews went to see this, and I don’t know if I would want them to :) I know that the books get darker and darker, but the movies are even more-so. In the book there is time for some fun here and there, but the speed y movie bypasses all of that and just leaves the mainline darkness. Ebert was right when he said there was never a gleam in Harry’s eye. No fun quidditch here.

I was amazed at how they cast Laura Bush as Dolores. The “I look nice but deep down I am medievally harsh” character that will do anything for the president^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hminister of magic.

I love how the books mimic the times.

Now we can get to what people are really going to get into. The final book. Noone cares about the Sopranos ending in comparison!