Tag Archives: technology

My Twitter Rant: They Sold Out The Text Messaging Users (SMS)

twittersink(this might be a little too geeky for some of you, sorry. It just seems like everyone and their mom is getting a twitter account, like it’s the next facebook or something, so I figured it was time for me to chime in with a little rant)

I am not impressed with Twitter. When I heard about the concept, it seemed interesting. This was my understanding. Basically it was a social network of individual mini-blogs. Everyone was limited to keeping their blog post to just 140 characters and the focus was to be on answering the question “What Are You Doing?” It wasn’t terribly unique or anything, but it’s been catching on. Why the 140 character limit? Well, that’s about the size limitation of a standard SMS Text message. This is unique. The goal, or so I thought, was to create a blogging platform and social network so that you could update your status from your mobile phone, wherever you are. In turn, you could also receive updates from your friends that you choose to follow on your phone as well. Neat. And when I got a phone with an unlimited text messaging plan I decided to give it a shot. But a few months in and I realize, twitter wasn’t for the simple Text messaging plan user like me. The actual platform and site itself isn’t geared toward or friendly toward simple SMS users and thus the community and users that make it up aren’t friendly toward typical SMSers either. No, this is an elite crowd of blackberry, iPhone and G1 users, the truly geeked out ones among us.

Here’s 4 reasons why Twitter isn’t for the SMS user:

  1. There is very little mobile following options. Your only customization is to choose the time of day that you can receive tweets, allowing you to block off the evening when you don’t want to be available (or maybe the work day). You can’t block off multiple sections, only one.
  2. You can’t customize your following. Following on your mobile device simply means you receive a text every time they post. You can’t filter, limit, or sort your incoming messages at all. If I’m on my mobile phone without internet I’m not interested in getting tweets that have links in them, which leave me totally in the dark as to what the message was about.
  3. There is no ‘smart’ reply abilities. Facebook mobile is great at this. When I get a text message that someone updated their status, I can hit reply and leave a comment which will post to that unique status update. Facebook does this with unique addresses for each text message they send. If Twitter did this I wouldn’t have to type @username everytime I wanted to reply to someones tweet. I could just hit reply and it would add the @username for me.
  4. I can’t get @replies on my mobile from people I’m not following on my mobile. Unless I follow everyone who follows me on my phone, I’ll miss lots of @replies to my tweets, rendering the ‘realtime’ usefulness of twitter, well, rather useless.

And the non-text message friendly environment has created a non-text messaging friendly community:

  • It seems the vast majority of twitter users have iphones, G1’s, blackberries and other phones with mobile web apps. So, they aren’t even using text messaging generally, rather a simple mobile version of twitter. So, why the 140 character limit?
  • Nearly half the ‘tweets’ I get from friends contain links. That’s not a problem for most since this community also has internet access on their phone and can follow the links wherever they are. Whether it’s a news article or a picture, getting a message with a link on my mobile is pretty useless. It also brings up the fact that twitter, along with ditching the 140 character limit should allow images too.
  • Twitter functions like a RSS reader or inbox to most. The messages don’t come through the same avenue as say a phone call (where as tweets sent to my mobile are mixed in with important personalized texts), so most users simply check their twitter stream in between things, when there is some down time. It’s useful in this sense.

Now that that’s out of the way…

The truth is I’ll probably still use twitter. There are enough hacks, tweaks and third party apps to make it semi-useful for me, but the bigger reason is because there is an actual niche community out there (and I need some adult connection during the day). I probably won’t be as interactive on it as most, but it will probably morph into my mini-blog of status updates running around chasing toddlers. And maybe twitter will get their act together and provide a quality service to the SMSers they seemed to originally be aiming for.

Print Made Us More Individualistic

A quote from The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture:

In a predominantly oral culture, one in which communication is based on face-to-face oral speech, there is no means for storing information or knowledge outside of the mind. As a result, once knowledge is obtained, the culture depends upon the community to both retain and repeat that knowledge. With the introduction of writing, people are affordedthe¬† luxury to learn and think in isolation without the threat of losing those thoughts. As writing becomes the dominant communication system, people no longer need the community to retain teachings, traditions, or identity. As a result, they spend greater amounts of time reflecting in private. This increased isolation creates a newempahsis on individualism. Prior to the written word, a person’s identity was completely bound to the tribe; the notion of the individual didn’t exist. Because writing introduced the notion of the autonomous self, printing obliterated tribal bonds and profoundly amplified individualism. -p.53

First of all I think that brief paragraph is brilliant insight into our culture as a whole. I don’t know all the implications it has for us but it does, at the least, make us aware of some of the steps that have created the individualism that exist within our society.

Now that we know where we are, and we are aware of how print has brought us there, I’m curious about how we can return to building tribal and communal bonds. Do they exist in any capacity in our current society? Is technology further separating us?

Tech Friday: Keyboard Shortcuts you should know.

This might be a obvious list of information for some of you, but for others it will be new and helpful for years to come. I don’t know how much time it will save you over the course of your life, but I become quite impatient when I’m helping someone on the computer and they are clicking around the menus to copy and paste things instead of using the shortcuts.

Constantly switching your fingers from the mouse to the keyboard takes time you certainly don’t have. In order to help you in your task let me help you with a few shortcuts you should start using today.
(Before I begin the symbol “+” is used to imply you HOLD down the first key mentioned [which is usually “Ctrl” in the bottom left corner of your keyboard] and then press the second key [which does not have to be a capital letter it can also be lowercase] while keeping the first one pressed).

Copy Highlighted: Ctrl+C
Cut Highlighted: Ctrl+X
Paste from Clipboard: Ctrl+V
Undo: Ctrl+Z
Save: Ctrl+S
Close: Ctrl+W
Select All: Ctrl+A

And then there are a few specifically for Firefox:

Open a New Tab: Ctrl+T
Move Cursor to Address Bar: Ctrl+L
Reload Page: Ctrl+R
Find on Page: Ctrl+F

I use almost every one of these constantly. Once you train that left pink to find the Ctrl Key on it’s own the possibilities are endless.

Tech Friday: Text Substitution saves you time.

For years I thought it would be great to just type a few letters and have whole sentences pop up. I never got around to setting that up on my computer, though it’s nearly always been available.

Currently though, I find myself typing a number of the same things, both when I’m home blogging (for example my name, email and URL), and at work (repetitive statements, like teachers had for grade reports back in the day). So I finally decided it was time.

My program of choice is AutoHotKey (thanks Lifehacker). With a simple script I can turn “af” into “Ariah Fine” and much much more.

  1. Download AutoHotKey
  2. right click and select ‘new’->’AutoHotkey Script’ from the menu.
  3. Now insert this string:
    :oc:af::Ariah Fine
    and then copy that pattern to insert whatever else you’d like to (oc means hotstring).
  4. Now for fancier insert:
    :oc:gws::^+{Left}^xGet Well Soon, ^v{BS}{!}
    This will turn this: ‘Suzy gws’ into ‘Get Well Soon, Suzy!’
    Have fun changing that around.
  5. That should be plenty to get you started. Once your done just save and close and then double click your script and it’ll show up in the system tray. Enjoy!

Tech Friday: Bookmarklets are so cool

You’ve all used and become quite familiar with “bookmarks,” but I’d like to introduce you to some tools that will rock your world: Bookmarklets. They are like Piglet is to pigs, similar in nature, but smarter, talking and half dressed.

The best way to explain bookmarklet’s is to just show you some of my favorites. They function just like bookmarks, but they are more like an arsenal of tools cause they do cool things. If you like one, just drag the link into your toolbar. Here are my current can’t do without bookmarklets.

  1. Library Look-up: This is nice little bookmarklet that makes it easy to browse Amazon looking at books and with one click see if it’s in your local (for Nashville folks) library. It pulls the ISBN number from the site and checks in the library catalog. (If you live someplace other then Nashville you can find or make your own here.)
  2. %5cn’+pjwTitle+’%5cn

    %5cn’+gS5aUb+’%5cn

    %3c/textarea%3e

    ‘);void(close()) }”>QUOTE: This one is essential for you frequent bloggers. I tweaked a similar bookmarklet so it works specifically for WordPress

    html and it also has “From [title of the page your quoting from with hyperlink]” above the quote. Making quoting easy.

  3. imageshack. It keeps you from hogging other people’s bandwidth to show pictures. (Please don’t use this for ill)
  4. TinyURL: Takes the huge long url of the site your looking at and makes it into a TinyURL in one click, saves the cutting and pasting time.

Those are the ones I use regularly. If your looking for more you can find many at bookmarklets.com

Tech Friday: Prefetching Firefox and other speed tweaks

It took quite a bit of time to win my friend Zach over to the joys of Firefox, but he eventually saw the light. But, just like me, Zach doesn’t like a slow computer. When he wants to check something online quickly, he’s still been using IE cause it loads faster on his computer. You might have noticed the same thing, which is why today’s Tech is all about speeding up your computer.

Prefetching Firefox
The reason IE runs quickly is Microsoft set it up so that it’s ‘ready to run’ or prefetched. You can easily do this manually for any other program:

  1. Right-click on the program icon
  2. Select properties
  3. In the ‘Target’ box, add ” /prefetch:1″ at the end of the line.
  4. Click ‘Ok’

Speed things up by doing this to any program you use regularly.

Simple programs for Simple Tasks
Besides your internet browser the second most used program is probably a word processor. Many have Microsoft Word, though if you don’t I’d highly recommend OpenOffice as a complete alternative. BUT, I’d also recommend you stop using MS Word quite so much.

If what your writing doesn’t need any formatting why not just pop open notepad? If you want it to look a little prettier you could use Wordpad (both located in your accessories folder). These programs run SO much faster then word or OpenOffice and they work for probably 40% of your needs.

For the other 60% I think I should mention AbiWord. It looks a lot more like Word and has most of the most common features. Give it a whirl and save plenty of time in the process.

Tech Friday: An intro to RSS Readers

rss icon If you haven’t run across this icon in the last few months you probably haven’t been online period (or on my site since it’s sitting right over there on the sidebar). What is this funny orange symbol you ask? and why does it matter?

That my friend, is an icon indicating an RSS “feed” which is basically a neatly packaged format for the content from a website, blog and much more. The best analogy I can think of is like a customizable newspaper on speed. Before newspapers if you wanted to know anything you had to go out and see it yourself. You might hear about news from thirty different people throughout the day, which was fine, but it would have been nicer if you knew they would all just come and tell you the details when you where ready for them to. Thus, the newspaper was born: News about a wide range of topics delivered right to your doorstep for you to read when it’s convienent for you. That was all fine and dandy till the Internet came along. And for that we meet our friend RSS.

With RSS you can compile your own newspaper, exactly the way you like it. Want sports news? Pick just the authors you like to read, or just the teams you want to follow. Want the weather? Pick just your home town, and maybe the forcast in the town your roadtriping to. But it get’s better. Want to know when your the package you shipped or ordered is arriving? track it with RSS.
And then it get’s really specific. I have RSS for any comments anyone leaves on any of my blogs, so I don’t have to click around checking them each individually. I have RSS from all my friends blogs, so I know when they’ve posted without having to check their individual site. I also RSS searches on ebay and craigslist for items I’m looking for. Pretty specific, if you catch my drift.

Now, I’ve done a bit of looking around at different RSS readers and each one has their own unique features, so today I’ll just introduce you to the one I use: Bloglines.
There are a few features I really like about bloglines. One, they make it quite user friendly to subscribe to different RSS feeds for blogs, weather, package tracking, etc. Also, since a number of people use it I’ve found some nice hacks and userscripts to make it even easier to use. Another really great feature is that you can setup email accounts so that any email subscriptions you have can show up in your RSS reader rather then your email inbox. That’s one of my favorite features. You can catagorize things into sections and read everything in that section, or click on just that individual feed. All very nice.

Ready to get started? Here’s a step by step guide:
1. Register at Bloglines.
2. Subscribe to Trying to Follow with one click:
Subscribe in Bloglines
3. Be Happy.

Tech Fridays: a little something something

Sidenote: I might be getting a little overly ambitious, but I think these sorts of weekly topical post might be just the ticket to keep my fingers rolling across these keys and sharing the latest info I can find with you.

Tech Friday’s will mostly be my attempt to update my readers in user friendly language, about the cool new things I’ve come across in my web searching and perusing online.
I won’t be talking about the new gadget to buy, but maybe the latest freeware to download. It might be a website to checkout or a piece of software that will make your life easier. It might be uncomputer related but “techie” nonetheless. I’ll try to walk you through a couple of useful things each week and hopefully one of them will peak your interest a little.

If you have a topic or area of things you’ve been looking for let me know and I’ll tell you what I find.

Technorati Profile

Iconizing ourselves

At some point it’s going to become pretty normal to have a personal icon, just as most have a standard screen name/username these days. I decided I should come to a decision about what I’ll chose for a standard icon across multiple sites. Here are some current possiblities:

ariah and matt great B&W
in London
ariah climbing in Utah
ariah jumping on sand dune
in Mauritania Africa

a quickr pickr post