Apr 15

Yup, ads are on Twitter alright

Tech with tags: , No Comments »

Twitter Ads

Some people, apparently erroneously, said that Twitter is testing ads mid-stream just like clients such as Twitterific do.

I didn’t think this was new, as when I look at my stream I see something like that image above. Isn’t it already ads? :)

Twitter is the watering hole for those of us who don’t work at the same company, and we are Beacon’ing all the time.

NOTE: This isn’t a bad thing at all. And, I know that I do it all the time!

Apr 11

Reply hooks in Gmail; A case study in over-engineering

Tech with tags: , 7 Comments »

Before I start, I have to get it out that the thinking in question took place at 5am. I have been enjoying time in Europe, getting to meet various developers on the On Air tour that Adobe was kind enough to have me speak at. Since I was in Europe for such as short period of time, and due to a few work matters, I ended up staying somewhat on US time. This never quite works, and I think I end up with my body clock tick-tocking somewhere over the Atlantic. If I ever had to crash land on that tiny American runway on the side of a volcano, I am sure I would sleep fantastically at 10pm.

Anyway, to the matter at hand. These emails drive me nuts:

Title: Bob Harris via Twitter to me

"Some random content in 140 characters or less"

Bob Harris / bobh

follow me at http://twitter.com/bobh
reply on the web at http://twitter.com/direct_messages/create/bobh
send me a direct message from your phone or IM: D BOBH your message here.
turn off these email notifications at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

You get them from Facebook too (thankfully they put the random content in there for some of the content), and many other services out there.

What is wrong with them? This is how they come across to me:

  • Hi, this is Twitter
  • I know that you are reading this in your email client
  • And here is some content to read
  • You very may well want to reply to this
  • I am going to tell you how to do so in many ways
  • But I won’t let you actually use email even though that is your context!

I got angry one night (after some dark and stormys, white russians, …) and wanted to fix it.

This lead me down the path of Greasemonkey. How about greasing up the wheels like this:

if the title of the message has / from Twitter to /
  when pressing the "r" key to reply or clicking on the reply button
    open up IM with "d [get reply to]" (grab /IM: D \w+/)
      now you can put in the message

The problem is that tying into all of the actions can be a pain, and it is a little bit annoying to be running this on every email. Oh, and what about the other sites! We don’t want to have to repeat this for every service that doesn’t care about me, do we?

After all of this over-engineering it seemed obvious that I shouldn’t be lubbing up the ape, but Twitter should handle this for me, and thus everyone that uses Twitter.

Instead of Twitter emailing me as <[email protected]> how about if a gentler, more Oprah-like Twitter greeted me as <[email protected]>. Then the email becomes:

Title: Bob Harris via Twitter to me

"Some random content in 140 characters or less"

Bob Harris / bobh

simply reply to this email, and the first 140 characters will be posted


follow me at http://twitter.com/bobh
reply on the web at http://twitter.com/direct_messages/create/bobh
send me a direct message from your phone or IM: D BOBH your message here.
turn off these email notifications at: http://twitter.com/account/notifications

The 140 character limit could be one of the reasons that they don’t do this? Stripping could cut the message up, but if this was the case, I would get the monkey out again and write something to help enforce the limit by letting the user know as they types too much.

Having nice extension points to email sounds pretty interesting to me too. What if Gmail adding to the Greasemonkey JavaScript API so you could add event listeners to events such as: getting new mail, pre-reply, post-reply, typing a subject, adding contacts.

Think of the possibilities.

But, I still want services to take email seriously as an interface to them, as does Dopplr and some others. After all, doesn’t Stallman use email to browse the Web?

Apr 02

Teasing through a Twitter

Tech with tags: 2 Comments »

Twitter Tease

There is a class of tweets that somehow bug me. They aren’t the @someoneElse haha right buddy ones, which can be irritating, but I blame Twitter for those. Quotably does the right thing, but this really needs to just be done by Twitter itself in my opinion.

The irritant is the teaser. No offense to RWW (I love the site), but this is a good example:


I don’t want to know that at some point something is going to happen. No inside joke here, just post the darn thing and tweet that.

No teasing!

Mar 26

How FriendFeed could dwarf Facebook and Twitter

Tech with tags: , , 14 Comments »

The River

When FriendFeed first came out it looked like a nice little aggregator done by some smart EIRs who just left Google. A few months later they have grown into being the company that is mentioned on TechCrunch, RWW, TechMeme, and Mashable on a daily basis. Quite a change in a short period, so with the launching of their API, I thought I would posit how I think that they could keep on going to much bigger things, and above the hype cloud (everyone wants the next Twitter).

As I look at how I use these services, I have noticed some recent changes:

Stage 1: Really?

I did the Twitter thing when it first came out, and I admit to not getting it. I remember opening up the public view and seeing the odd swearing from Bulgaria and thinking “this is 99% noise, why does anyone waste their time?”. After a Twitter week I kinda moved on. The most I had to do with it was using MoodBlast to send my status updates to Twitter too.

Stage 2: Facebook

I moved from Twitter to Facebook and got much more attached to it. “My crowd” was on their from the tech side, and a bunch of old mates from England too. I got to get up to speed with their lives, and over time keep in touch in that tiny way by the status update, and the odd photo.

I saw huge value in being able to learn from my friends, and dreamed of being able to have my own personal Digg, centering the bell curve on me instead of 12 year olds.

As applications were getting built I was excited to see what “killer apps” will be thrown up on the Facebook platform. Scrabulous was the one I used the most, but I saw far too many Vampires around and kept seeing my notifications list on the top right go up to huge numbers as I couldn’t be bothered to say “No” to them all. I could ignore that though, and still saw value.

Then something strange happened about a month or two ago. The feed started to get less interesting. Note, all I use Facebook for is the feed. I am not someone who jumps around on profiles to find out if Jinny has has a relationship where “it’s complicated”. My feed was getting noisy, and there was less in it. The magic had gone. It seems like the core group that I care about isn’t doing as much on Facebook, so the viral nature in which it erupted has reversed just as quickly. My Facebook tab disappeared and now I can’t remember the last time I logged in.

Stage 3: Twitter part deux

“Twitter is chat where I don’t care about a response”

As Facebook usage was going down, I was also back to Twitter and finally got it. I hit the right sweet spot of following and followers and saw a lot more signal coming through. I stopped using MoodBlast and turned on the Twitter Facebook application, even though I was annoying people with the “is twittering” part of the messages that drive me nuts (Twitter: please let me turn that off!). I guess I should switch to TwitterSync, but I just don’t care.

I have started to get a lot of leads for Ajaxian and cool tech in general on Twitter, and it is a place to call out into the void and you often get a crazy number of responses.

I am starting to wish for more though. Firstly, stability of course. But then, I want features like #hashtags to be grokked by the platform, so they don’t take up valuable characters out of the 140, and that the UI deals with them accordingly. I would love a metadata layer that would allow for the payloads that dave whines so much about, but also more. Let me put in [lat: ..., long: ...] to add Geo. Let me add anything I want and then the apps on top of Twitter are sure to shine. If Twitter doesn’t do this, I think that over time other services will fill that void. Pownce is ready in the shadows, but it needs to be more than Twitter+1. This is where FriendFeed comes in.

Stage 4: FriendFeed = Twitter * 2

FriendFeed is adding cool features on a weekly basis. I have personally worked with Bret Taylor and he is top notch, so I have no doubt that this will continue. A team that has launched Gmail and Google Maps also groks scalability, so I do not expect them to have the same troubles as Twitter.

But then we have the features. I think they can be a great mix of Facebook and Twitter. I want the stream to be more about just chatting. I want the photos to be part of it. I want my personal Digg. I want….

Stage 5: The River

It keeps coming back to my desire for The River, a new email system for all activity.

The key to this is having enough dials to make it tunable. With every feature that FriendFeed adds, they seem to get closer to this. Search is key as it gives you the nob tuning on the fly, and the API is key as it could let someone like me actually implement something that I need.

Here is to a FriendFeed that keeps accelerating. Congrats so far guys.

Feb 05

The @third Wheel

Comic, Tech with tags: , 3 Comments »

The @third Wheel

There is that strange feeling when you get in the middle of a @conversation on Twitter. Often you get to only see one side of a conversation that is a huge time waster:

@bob Ok
@harry I totally agree with what you said!

If you are frustrated you may click on @harry just to see what the bloke said, but you will normally regret it. On the other hand, in rare circumstances you will find someone you really want to follow. Riiiiight.

Jan 28

Mistakes in Twitter Land

Comic, Tech with tags: No Comments »

Mistakes in Twitter

I sometimes catch myself on the slippery slope of @foo and d foo. I also wish that it someone @dalmaer’s me, it showed me in a better way.

Types into Twitter.com

  • @myluva Oh snookie poos you will have me tomorrow miss you love you cheer
    up sweetsie doodles
  • Oh crap
  • I meant “d myluva”
  • Hears the sound of t-shirts being printed by “friends”
  • Not @myluva!
Oct 10

Pam has changed her status to “It’s complicated”

TV / Movie with tags: , , , 1 Comment »

In Wired they have the section on items that go from Wired » Tired » Expired. As I got a chance to catch up with The Office last night I realised that I had one of these in front of me:

  • Wired: TV characters on Facebook (or Twitter)
  • Tired: TV character video podcasts (e.g. Mel on Flight of the Conchords)
  • Expired: TV character blog (e.g. Ah Dwight)

As the TV networks realise that they need to have shows break out of just primetime boobtube action they create rich worlds for them to live in.

We have had blogs and podcasts, but how about having the characters join Facebook? I would love to “friend” Pam and Jim from The Office. It would be so funny to watch them update their statuses: “Jim is screwing with Dwight yet again”. It would have been cute to have seen them start dating on the show and updating the fact that they are “in a relationship”. Chances are the show will have to have them break up at some point, so then it could get “complicated”.

The line is going to blur between the real and the fake. These characters will feel more real than the muppets on the reality TV shows.

Maybe it is time to start a company that offers services to TV shows to “be the characters 24/7/365 online”.

ps. Could you imagine the Facebook craziness of Ross and Rachel back in the day? “Ross is on a break”