Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Lifestreaming, round 2

Monday, March 23rd, 2009


MRR Software has released a beta of Syrinx 2.0 just in time for PyCon this week (or ApacheCon EU or EclipseCon, if you are at one of those events). My biggest complaint with Syrinx 1.0 was that it was using up a lot of memory and CPU. That’s totally fixed in Syrinx 2.0. I’ve left Syrinx running for over a day with very little discernable growth in memory. I used to have to restart it several times a day. Scrolling and searching are both much faster as well. Retweet and URL shortening have been added, which pretty much takes care of me featurewise, although I’d like a retweet button in the button bar of a tweet, and I’d prefer as the URL shortening service. Minor complaints to be sure. The last UI issue for me is that Syrinx 2.0 now expands the current tweet from it’s slightly compressed list element version. This is a problem for tweets that contain links (the best kind), because you have to click once to zoom the tweet, and then click again to open the link. I know that MRR is working on this one.


Several week ago I also switch my iPhone client from Twitterific to Tweetie. I love everything about Tweetie except for 2 things:

1. Tweetie goes to the network all the time. This wouldn’t be a problem if iPhone latency was just a bit better.

2. I don’t like the way the Tweetie segments replies and direct messages. I like having tabs to see just those things, but I don’t like it that they no longer appear in the main view. Syrinx is doing it the way that I prefer.

My favorite features about Tweetie are:

1. Network lag aside, Tweetie is speedy.

2. The swipe actions, particularly favorites – I now favorite a lot more. This saves me from losing tweets with interesting links when I am in a hurry. I fave them on the phone and then read the faves from the desktop.

3. Instapaper support. I’m glad this is here, but I use it less than I thought I would, because of favorites

4. The landscape mode keyboard – This is taking some getting used to, but it’s good practice for iPhone 3.0

5. Ability to say how many tweets to load – good for making sure you don’t miss anything

6. Retweeting – too bad it doesn’t fit in the swipe bars.

There’s still no direct message rolodex, something that I am sure I will be wishing for this week at PyCon.   

At least I’ll be well armed for the next few months, where I’ll be at a number of conferences.

LinkedIn tips for job seekers

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

After this past week, a lot of people are looking for work.   LinkedIn is a hugely valuable tool when you are in this situation.

You need a good profile

When I did my job search about a year ago, I hardly sent out any resumes – all the relevant information was in my LinkedIn profile. In January of 2007, Guy Kawasaki wrote a must read post on improving your profile. More and more people are using LinkedIn, so you need all the help you can get to make your profile stand out.

You need a high quality network

I think that it is very important to protect the quality of your LinkedIn network. Early on in my LinkedIn usage, I someone I didn’t really know asked me to introduce/recommend them to someone I knew fairly well. It was a very uncomfortable solution. In order for LinkedIn to provide the maximum value, you need to feel that you can actually make recommendations across your network. This is one place where the game of “how many contacts do I have” can backfire. Save the contacts game for Facebook or Twitter.

You should use LinkedIn to reverse screen

Normally job seekers have very little information about those who might interview them. No longer. When you are contacted by a recruiter or a company, you can use LinkedIn as a way to screen the person contacting you. You can do this when recruiters or hiring managers contact you — you should read their profile to help you decide whether to proceed. You should definitely read the profile (as well as any other information, like blogs) of a hiring manager before an in person interview. When I did hiring as a manager, I was always impressed (once I got used to it) when a candidate demonstrated that they had read my blog or profile.

Lifestreaming clients

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I have usernames on most of the major lifestreaming services (Twitter, FriendFeed,, and so on). For a variety of reasons, I really only use Twitter, and the only way that Twitter is useful / manageable for me is the existence of rich client side applications.

Mac OS X

For some time, I’ve been using Craig Hockenberry’s excellent Twitterific. I liked the UI, and the feature set was good. From time to time, I would try the Adobe AIR based twhirl, which had the virtue of also being a FriendFeed and client. Unfortunately, I could never keep twhirl because of a bug in AIR 1.1 that caused clicked URLs to open in a new Firefox window instead of a new tab. That bug was fixed in this weeks AIR 1.5 release, so I gave twhirl another try earlier this week. I liked having FriendFeed and up (having up meant that I saw Allison Randall’s messages about the Parrot Developer summit and their new release schedule). I didn’t like having a window for each service — I don’t care about keeping it separate, and I’m still having some trouble finding a theme that works for my aging eyes. Twhirl also doesn’t seem to remember window positions between runs, which makes the multiple windows even more of a pain. I also miss seeing people’s “real names” and the Growl notifications that I was getting from Twitterific. I put twhirl back on the shelf, but will probably come back to it again.

A week or two ago, I discovered Syrinx, which is a Twitter only client. There were a few things that persuaded me to try it out. The ability to set a bookmark at some point in the message stream and then go back to it. This seems to work better for my style of reading than individual read/unread markers on each Tweet. The keyboard shortcut means that I can jump right to where I left off, which is nice. Syrinx also lets you search the stream, which is useful. I follow enough people that searching is useful. I was also (incorrectly) under the impression that Syrinx would save a slice of the message stream locally, which would be a nicety. I can page backwards on the Twitter site, but that way lies pain. Syrinx has a way of tracking twitter “conversations” and finding the supposedly relevant tweets and presenting them. I like this idea, I just wish it wouldn’t take over the main message stream window in order to show it. The biggest problem with Syrinx is that there something awfully bloated in there, which means that after some time, the app is eating memory and slowing down. Which means you have to restart it, which means you have to catch up first. MRR, the author of Syrinx, knows that this is a problem and is working on a solution. I hope that won’t take a long time.

Because of the AIR 1.5 release I also tried TweetDeck this week. I tried it, and there were some interesting features. I liked the ability to make my own groups of people – but Twitter should be supporting that. I also liked the way that replies and direct messages could be in their own column – I really liked that, actually. I liked the idea of TwitScoop, but what I’d really like would be a TwitScoop of my Twitter network – that would be cool. TweetDeck was great when I put it on my 30″ main display. You can see lots of stuff and quickly see if there is anything useful. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to dedicate that much screen real estate — whatever client I use has to live (and share) on the “outboard” main LCD of the MacBook Pro.


When I got my iPhone, I started using Twinkle. There pretty much wasn’t anything else, and I sort of liked the idea of having some kind of location awareness of people using the service. Turns out that very few people that I know use the Twinkle location stuff, and I’ve pretty much switched to using Brightkite for that kind of thing, and even there, the jury is out. User interface wise, I like the fact that it colors replies and direct messages differently — it makes them much easier to pick out. I don’t like that I have to tap on a tweet containing a link in order to open the link.

I’ve since switched to using the iPhone version of Twitterific. I don’t have to tap on tweets to follow links, and Twitterific is pretty good about storing a decent number of tweets on the phone. I can usually take a 2 hour plane flight and not have missed much when I land on the other side. I’d love to not miss anything at all. One annoyance is that Twitterific for iPhone doesn’t remember the last tweet that I was looking at very well, so I end up doing a lot more scrolling than I should have to.

Wish List

Here’s a consolidation of the some of the things that I think are important in rich clients for Twitter and services like it.

  • Good management of windows – I don’t want a window for each service – I want one big stream.
  • Good visual design that easily lets you differentiate between different kinds of messages (tweets/replies/direct messages). Make links easy to see and follow.
  • Keep a local, searchable, history of messages.
  • Provide a good, low maintenance way for me to keep my place in a busy stream.
  • Give me a way to follow conversations (chains of replies). I would be happy to have a menu for this.
  • Integrate some of the third party services that are springing up, like TwitScoop.

On the mobile side, there is one feature that I would consider killer.

I want a “direct message” rolodex. There are people who I want to direct message on a frequent basis. I don’t remember everybody’s twitter user name – that’s what computers are for. I want a “picker” that contains a “speed direct message” list. That would be awesome.

This is one space where rich/desktop applications are by no means dead.

Get Windmill

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

If you are working on web/AJAX based user interfaces, you owe it to yourself to go and check out the Windmill web testing framework/tool. Windmill was originally developed at OSAF for testing the very AJAXy web front end of Chandler Server. Adam Christian and Mikeal Rogers, the core developers of Windmill, have gone on to other efforts, but Windmill lives on. In fact, this summer, Adam was fortunate enough to land a job where he is able to spend significant amounts of time working on Windmill. That effort has paid off with the latest version of Windmill, which should be ready for serious use. It’s got a bunch of cool features, including nice integration with Firebug Lite.

Tim and Twitterbucks

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

So Tim Bray wants to make sure that Twitter stays around, and therefore wants a business model for Twitter. I’d like it to stay around too, which means there has to be a business model for it, but I’m not sure that directly charging people for it is the right model. I don’t have any visibility into Twitter’s economics, but I do have some decent visibility into my usage of the service. All of Tim’s proposals for Twitter are predicated on the notion of wanting to “reach people”. He also cited the classification of Twitter as microblogging, which might be sort of accurate, but which doesn’t capture the whole situation, at least not for me.

My usage of twitter breaks down into several categories:

Reaching people in the sense that Tim means. This breaks down by category into several groups, some overlapping: technologists, photographers. These are tweets of links, facts, ideas and so forth. This is the most blogging/microblogging usage of Twitter

Random spicy commentary about nothing This is just random information about me, the virtual equivalent of the water cooler at work. These tweets add color, but probably are devoid of directly useful information. Alhough you never know how people might use intimate knowledge of your lunch habits.

Social banter One of the twitter tribes that I am in is the local Seattle Flickr tribe. This group is one of the reasons that Facebook became sticky for me, at least for a time. That pretty much stopped when a critical mass of those folks discovered twitter. These tweets are where people are, what they are having for lunch, dinner, etc. They play the role of building a social fabric which is essential for that group to be as successful as it has become.

Social arranging This happens because of the SMS Twitter gateway and accessibility of Twitter via mobile devices. Twitter killed whatever usage I might have had on Dodgeball. When I am at conferences, Twitter has become an essential part of the hallway/after hours track. So much so that this usage will drive me to buy a 3G class web enabled telephone, as soon as Jobs announces it.

So there are many usages besides “reaching people” in a blogging like sense, and it’s not clear to me that some of these usages would continue if Twitter raised the bar by charging for usage. For the social connections part, reducing the ubiquity of the service is a real negative. The value of Twitter would definitely be reduced by cutting out people who couldn’t/wouldn’t afford to pay for it, like starving aspiring photographers.

The Open Screen project

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Around this time last year, Adobe open sourced its Flex framework for rich internet applications. Today Adobe announced the Open Screen project, which encompasses a number of things, probably most importantly, the removal of the license restrictions on the SWF file format used by Flash. The other aspects of the announcement relate to Adobe’s Flash Player, and while they are steps towards openness, Adobe’s player will remain closed. The importance of opening Adobe’s player has decreased because dropping the file format licensing should make things easier for the Gnash folks. The worry then is that we’ll end up with incompatible versions of Flash, which is in almost nobody’s interest. That’s probably the next problem that needs addressing.

Photo 2.0 – Photophlow

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Last night, Scoble mentioned Photophlow on Twitter. I went over to see the site and then begged and pleaded for an invite – and got it. Photophlow is kind of like an IRC customized for dealing with Flickr photos. There is a global chat room, each user has his or her own chat room, and there is a chat room for every Flickr group. Within a chatroom, people can search Flickr photos and the room can follow along to see what they are searching. You can select photo out of the search, which will be transmitted to the room. There are some other features, like turning off the following of other people’s searches and turning off people’s ability to see what you searched for.

The Photo 2.0 angle
People like David Hobby and Chase Jarvis have been talking about (and living out) “Photography 2.0”, where there is massive sharing of photographs and photographic information. One of the things that I’ve often wished for is the ability to talk (in real time) to someone to get/do a critique of a photo. I think that this is something that happens best in real time. You could do that via IM and hyperlinks. You might even be able to do that via IM group chats, if all the people in the critique were using the same IM system. (It’s 2008, IM vendors). The value that I see in Photophlow is having a realtime way of talking about photos in a group. It would be even better if there was a way to annotate the photo being broadcast at the moment, so that you could focus attention on particular parts of a photograph. We’ve been doing some interesting group photo stuff here in Seattle lately, and I definitely think that Photophlow is something that could really help with some of the things we have done, as well as some of the things we are thinking of doing. Besides annotation tools, I would also like an easy way to log/archive a whole chat session or parts of a chat session.

The Web 2.0 angle
Photophlow is technically interesting for a number of reasons. It’s an app that’s built entirely on top of another web applications’ API. And it’s pretty substantial. There’s a lot going on here – a lot of AJAX, and API calls to Flickr. The app feels kind of pokey because it’s pushing the limits of what can be done in Javascript. Indeed, if I run Photophlow in Safari 3 instead of Firefox, the performance is noticeably better. This is a situation that we also see in Chandler Server. It’s going to be interesting to see how well this is able to scale up.

Photophlow is also pushing the limits of how some people think of using a web application. It’s designed to be used a lot and in a highly interactive fashion. I know that I would probably keep chat rooms for my personal group, the Seattle Flickr Meetups group, and the Strobist group open all at once if I could. The designers have also built in bridges to IM notification and to allow you to Twitter from within Photophlow. Too bad their isn’t a way to get a Twitter stream instead of an IM notification – but that’s more a limitation of Twitter than of Photophlow.

I bet that you could do some of what Photophlow does with a custom IRC bot. But I also bet that it would be substantially less accessible to people who are photographers first and computer users second (or third, or what have you). Then again, maybe here’s another opportunity for VOIP…

If you haven’t gotten into the beta yet, there’s a short tutorial video.

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Dopplr should be looking over their shoulders

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

A few days ago I signed up for the new TripIt service. I didn’t have very high expectations, and I’ve already planned the rest of my trips for the year, namely my trip to ApacheCon. That trip was booked by a regular travel agent, and the form in which I got the documents was unlikely to be parseable by Tripit, so I just entered it by hand. I was really impressed by how much Tripit knew about my plane flight. I wish that it was similarly informed about my hotel. The itinerary management is pretty compelling for my uses.

There is also a social networking component to TripIt, which allows you to coordinate travel with other people, and you can generate a location stream and calendar feed. If TripIt can do what Doppr does, which is tell me who else will be in a location during the same time range, then I’d say that Dopplr should be pretty worried. Actually according to the TripIt blog, they are planning to do just that. They are also planning to do restaurants, which means that they might be able to act as a kind of evite/renkoo for groups of people looking for restaurants to eat at while traveling together. Yow. Call that the “Greg Stein feature”.

The Open Web, the Closed Web and the Live Web

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

So back in March, Brendan Eich of Mozilla wrote post titled “The Open Web and its Adversaries“. His definition of open seems to rest on this:

a web whose major content formats are not controlled by a single vendor

A goal which I agree with, and the basis for my series of Flex posts, which he also referenced. So far, so good. As he continued, I got confused. He asks us to:

Consider just the open standards that make up the major web content languages: HTML, CSS, DOM, JS. These mix in powerful ways that do not have correspondences in something like a Flash SWF.

I agree with his assessment of the powerful ways in which these technologies combine. But much of what he finds laudable are technical properties — they don’t derive from the fact that these are open standards. It’s just a fortunate (or perhaps, designed) outcome that those are the technologies that are combined in a browser. After all Java, C#, and even C++ have been standardized (well at least if you believe that the JCP is standards body), so being an open standard technology is not a guarantee that you’ll have the properties that make the web “alive” according to Brendan. It seemed like what was really being discussed was the “live web”, not the “open web”.

The place where I really got lost was when he started discussing the future of the open web,

Implicit in my writing is the assumption (conclusion, really) that browsers can adopt the necessary advanced rendering and faster virtual-machine programming language support that the “rich client platforms” boast (or promise in version 2.0). … There’s no technical reason this can’t be interoperably supported by other browsers in the near term.

There’s no technical reason, but there are plenty of political/business reasons. Every browser implements each of the open standards to a varying degree. They implement different versions of the specs. They implement each spec imperfectly. That translates into lots of debugging and testing when building an application atop the open web. I like the improvements that are likely to come in Firefox. The problem is that until many of those improvements appear (if ever) in Safari and IE, it will be hard to justify using those improvements, because it means writing multiple versions of the same code and then qualifying those versions. Contrary to Brendan’s assertion, big companies with armies of developers might have the resources to devote to all that additional work, but small development houses are the least able to tolerate that additional labor. Since Microsoft has an interest in advancing WPF/E, part of the Closed web, it’s hard to imagine that they will be motivated to improve IE quickly enough for innovative Live web features in Firefox and Safari to make a difference to application developers versus something like WPF/E or Flex. The risk to Microsoft is that instead of collecting those developers themselves, they lose them to Adobe.

Everything is dead, except Apple and the Web

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Or so it would seem.

A few weeks back, Dare Obasanjo said “Open Source is Dead“. The crux of his argument:

This is why Open Source is dead, as it will cease to be relevant in a world where most consumers of software actually use services as opposed to installing and maintaining software that is “distributed” to them.

If the only valuable property of open source was as a distribution mechanism/channel, I’d be inclined to agree. But open source is a means of production not only a means of distribution and routing around lock in. And of course, his argument applies to all distributed software, not just open source software. Which would make Microsoft dead as well.

This would no doubt please Paul Graham, who earlier this month wrote that “Microsoft is dead“, repeating the idea that software delivered via the web is in the process of displacing desktop software. Although for him to be announcing this in 2007, ‘to be the first one to call it” seems somewhat late. Also he weakens the case for web vs desktop software by tossing Apple into the mix, and the last time I looked, Apple was a desktop software company.

To complete the trifecta, Jeremey Wagstaff [via Marc Orchant] clarified that ‘It’s Not the “Death” of Microsoft, it’s the “Death” of Software‘. That doesn’t seem right either, since there’s a lot of software running all those web apps that are killing off everybody else. Of the three prognosticators of doom, his comments resonate the most with me:

We somehow demand less and less from our software, so that we can declare a sort of victory. I love a lot of Web 2.0 apps but I’m not going to kid myself: They do one simple thing well — handle my tasks, say — or they are good at collaboration. They also load more quickly than their offline equivalents. But this is because, overall, they do less. When we want our software to do less quicker, they’re good. Otherwise they’re a pale imitation of more powerful, exciting applications in which we do most of our work.

But all this just proves to me that there has been little real innovation in software in the sense of making programs do more. Web 2.0 has excited us because we lowered our expectations so much. Of course web apps will get better, and one day will deliver the functionality we currently get from desktop software. They may even do more than our desktop applications one day. But isn’t it a tad strange that we think this is all a huge leap forward?

Perhaps its a Great Leap Forward