How NOT to Use Twitter

Stumbled across this today: it's a blog post describing 10 tools to "manage your followers" on Twitter--well you can see it for yourself (view on Google Sidewiki), however the practices and "tools" described there are exactly how you should NOT use Twitter. Ever.

Number one says "mass unfollow those who are not following you back"... why? Unless you're a bot, a spammer, or running a pyramid/gifting scam, you would never want advice like this. Twitter is about following the people that interest you. It's not a popularity contest (or at least people need to stop treating it like it is). Unfollowing because someone is not following back is just bullshit. Get over yourself if you do this. Furthermore, this only affects who you're following, not your followers. The post was supposed to be about managing your followers, right? Not who you're following so much, or so I thought.

Next, "automatically unfollow..." I'll stop there because, again: this post was supposed to be about who is following you...right?

Skip a couple of very obscure and iffy suggestions for tools and you come to "unfollow people who have not updated" ... well, again wasn't the title of this blog post something like "manage your followers"? By now, I'm not even sure anymore.

Next we come to "find out which tweet made you popular..." yeah, OK, that might be interesting information--if it's even accurate--but the site is in German! Not worth the trouble, sorry.

Then, we have "find out your retweet rank". I don't know, I'm not terribly concerned about how often I get retweeted. I mean, it's nice when my followers retweet something cool//funny/important I said, but even so my worth is not a measure of my retweetedness. If your self-esteem hinges on how often people are retweeting you, go see a therapist, because your "retweet rank" is the least of your problems. This is another one of those things that really only bots, spammers, and scammers would need to be this concerned about.

Which brings us to number 3--no, I mean 8. Wait, is this in here twice? "Find out who's following who"? I swear this blogger just recommended a tool that did the exact same thing for #3. The interesting part of this tool's mention, however, is where the author writes, "if you want to steal a power users 'precious friends', this tool comes in pretty handy". Come again? Steal a... wait, what is this blog post even about? I'm completely lost, now.

Well, moving on, I suppose... "find out common followers..." naw, don't care. Why would I need to know this? If they were a friend of mine, I'd be following them already. If they're not a friend, but turn out to be interesting, I'll find out about them through the friend we mutually share. I don't need a tool like this... unless I were a bot, a spamm--oh, you get the picture.

By the time we get to tool number 10, we don't even care anymore. So, to sum things up. If you want to be a bot, a spammer, or a pyramid scammer, you'll probably love this article. However, we learned exactly zilch about managing our followers. But wait, don't go just yet... There's a bonus 11th tool! Hey, wait! Where are you going!?...

in reference to: 10 Twitter tools to effectively manage your followers (view on Google Sidewiki)


Mashable FAIL!

In a recent article on Mashable, Ben Parr wrote:
Which will eventually win out in the end: Adobe Flash or HTML5? Which is better for the future of the web?
Wait, what? Why am I the only one that sees the problem with this statement? I'll let my response to Mashable explain it:
This is a ridiculous and pointless discussion. You're comparing TVs to DVDs here. They both provide entertainment, but one is what all entertainment is viewed on, and the other is one form of specialized entertainment. Can you guess which one is which in my analogy? Here's a clue: HTML5 is the TV.

HTML is what a website is built on. Even if you use ASP or PHP, those are simply tools that control how the HTML is ultimately displayed. Flash is a completely different ballpark: A) it's a proprietary format for scriptable/interactive media content, B) it is not a markup language designed to provide the basis for the web page design (it requires HTML to be displayed as an embedded object on a web page). Just like a DVD requires a TV** to be used.

There is not even any point to having this discussion because Flash has nothing to do with running the WWW. If Flash completely ceased to exist tomorrow we might be out a few web games, but the web as a whole would march on with nothing more than a slight hiccup. If HTML (which will eventually move to HTML5 as the standard) were to completely disappear tomorrow, the entire WWW would come to a screeching halt. So the answer to your ridiculously inane question of who would win, is clearly "HTML5".

A sensible question to ask here would be "could HTML5 kill Adobe Flash" or "is HTML5 a Flash-killer", because it would be reasonable to debate whether Flash will fall by the wayside because of HTML5, rather than "who will win".

** For simplicity sake I'm using the term "TV" to mean any TV, monitor or other viewing device.
Join in the discussion on Google Buzz and add your two cents!


Google Buzz Tips & Tricks

I just wanted to quickly share some tricks with the rest of you Buzz users out there that I've picked up since Buzz rolled out. Nothing too fancy, but useful nonetheless.

First of all, you can format your text with bold, italics, and strike-through. Accomplishing this trick is simple, and most everyone has discovered the bold trick already, or if you're a regular on Google Talk, you may already know them all.

  • To make text bold simply enclose the text in asterisks, *like so*. The words "like so" would appear bold in Buzz.
  • To make text italicized, enclose it in underscores, _like so_. Honestly, I wish they would change this one to forward slashes (/like so/) instead, so underscores could be used to make text underlined, which as far as I can tell is not an option in Buzz.
  • Make text strike-through by enclosing it with dashes, -like so-.
  • You can also use combinations of these, but make sure you nest them properly. E.g. *-this is a bold strike-through-* but -*this is normal text-* (see the difference?). The first example would show up formatted as you would expect, but not the second. Or you might only achieve partial formatting, something -like this-, when you meant to also strike it out.
Another great tip that I figured out, and I hope Google decides to make this a full feature of Buzz, is to Star a Buzz. Now, in Buzz itself, there's no option to Star a particular Buzz. So what you've got to do is wait for the Buzz to show up in your inbox, and while looking at your inbox view in Gmail, you can Star it just like you would any email. This way you can access this Buzz later from your "Starred" folder without having to worry about the Buzz getting buried under other Buzz (or cluttering up your inbox).

Also, just like with your emails in Gmail, you can search through your Buzzes. If you're in the Buzz folder in Gmail, there's the search box at the top. If you just enter a word or phrase and search here, by default this searches all public buzzes, not just your own or your friends. This can make it a little harder to find what you're looking for, but again like with Gmail you can use search operators, such as "has:", "author:", "commentor:" and "is:buzz". These operators work just like you'd expect and you can even make them "exclusion" operators but prefixing them with a minus, such as: -commentor:"ch3mical fusi0n" to hide anything I already commented on.

Another great thing you can do with search operators in Buzz, is the "source:" operator. Source can be any "source" you might see a buzz from (enclose multiple-word sources in double-quotes), such as Twitter. For instance, search source:"Google Reader" to search for all Buzz from Google Reader. Don't forget: you can make them exclusions with the dash prefix.

Lastly, you can save your searches by using the Labs feature "Quick Links" which allows you to save a quick link to whatever page you're on in Gmail. Perform whatever search you want saved and then just hit "add quick link".

That's it for now. If you know any other tricks, be sure to share them with us in the comments.

(Feel free to view/comment on this post on Buzz: http://j.mp/bBwZub)


Google Chrome OS "beta" a fraud

Today I was nearly duped into installing a SUSE-based distribution claiming to be Google's Chrome OS. If you are sent a link that claims to be a beta download for Chrome OS, it's a fake, don't download it.

This is not the first time "SUSE Studio" was used to pass their fake "Chrome OS" off as the real deal. They cleverly write "Google Chrome OS" all over it, and display official Google chrome icons, etc, yet in tiny font at the bottom they disclaim it as having nothing to do with Google:
"Chrome OS is not related to Google. Service provided by SUSE Studio. See the license."
All the while they're announcing it as "Google Chrome OS beta" which is getting passed around on Twitter and various Linux blogs and news sites. They've even used Google's own Sites service to distribute this impostor for added fraudulence. This is a rather under-handed attempt at getting publicity (not to say it was unsuccessful) for their distribution. It's utterly reprehensible that these con artists are exploiting the popularity of Google to distribute their sub-par SUSE variant, and frankly it really puts me off of all versions of SUSE in general.

I ignored it when the knock-off OS first made it's rounds, but I'm really getting sick of it. Your distribution is NOT Chrome OS and never will be, so please stop trying to peddle your crap on my internets!

*Update* The fact that someone is using SUSE to distribute this is what puts me off of SUSE, not that I think SUSE is responsible, just wanted to clarify that point.


My position on Twitter

I use Twitter to keep in touch with friends as well as share news and blog posts I found interesting. I recommend you go through my "following" list and add most of these users I follow.

I don't follow-back bots or spammers, and in fact I don't follow back regular humans who aren't that interesting to me. It's not my way of being snobbish or elitist or anything like that, I just don't want my twitter feed cluttered with useless garbage, forcing me to wade through it to find the stuff I really want to read/know about. If I follow you, it's because I think you have something to say worth hearing and/or I like you on a personal level. I check every user that follows me to see if they are saying something interesting and do not hesitate to follow those who are. I don't think this policy is selfish or elitist, I think it's just good sense and I recommend everyone on Twitter adopt a similar policy.

When I am just browsing Twitter (i.e. users I don't already follow), what I do is search for a topic I like and then go to the profile of users I found that had an interesting tweet on the subject, then I start browsing who they follow. You can usually find some curious oddities and occasionally people worth following.

in reference to: ch3mical fusi0n (ch3mi0n) on Twitter (view on Google Sidewiki)


Boxee is teh pwn. (My new HTPC setup)

I just set up a new Home Theater PC this weekend. I was actually just going to use XBMC, which is what I would normally use for just such a task, but I saw the link to "Boxee" on the xbmc.org website and curiosity got the better of me. I'm really glad I decided to check it out.

Let me back up a little bit, though. For the HTPC, I dusted off my old AMD machine (I believe it's an Athlon XP 1500+ 1333MHz), which has an old ATI All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro video card. It has, between its two internal HDDs, approximately 370GB of storage, which will mostly go unused since all of the data is stored on our file server or streamed from the internet. Since the ATI card doesn't support any HD outputs, I only have standard definition going for now. I guess that will be something for when I upgrade the HTPC, but for now it's fine as it is.

So I went with OpenGEU (Linux) for the base operating system, for no reason in particular, just on a whim. I figured on the rare occasion that I do switch out of the Boxee interface to use the standard GUI, it's a nice one to show off on my TV (OpenGEU uses Enlightenment DR17). Well I installed Boxee and had to play around with Xorg's display (resolution) settings and Boxee's own resolution settings for a while before I could get it displaying correctly on my TV. Apparently, and I think this may have something to do with the TV, I had to independently set the Xorg and Boxee resolutions in order for the display to fit the actual size of the TV's screen. Xorg is set to 800x600, while the Boxee settings are 640x480, yet the TV is displaying in 480i 16:9.

Moving on now to Boxee itself, as I said I have never used it for HTPC setups before. Normally, XBMC is my primary choice. Now, before you say it, Boxee is based on XBMC, but adds a whole lot of new functionality to it in the form of pluggable "applications", which are basically channels you can add or remove according to your tastes, thereby customizing your content completely (in addition to your personal collection of media files). These applications are essentially just RSS feeds that point Boxee to online content. These will serve up media content, not a typical text feed, such as videos, music, pictures. There is also support for services such as Last.fm and Pandora, as well as your Netflix and even podcasts. Boxee even connects you with your peeps via popular social networks like Twitter, FriendFeed, etc. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, there is an app available for for iPhone/iPod Touch to allow you to remotely control your Boxee, no server-side setup required and the app also automatically finds your Boxee server. I just so happen to have an iPod Touch, so it now serves the purpose of being my Boxee remote. Awesome.

I'll stop rambling on now, but just keep this in mind: if you ever decide you want to set up a media server/home theater PC, check out Boxee (www.boxee.tv). It's available for other operating systems, though I haven't tested it on any other system, and honestly I don't know why you would want to run anything other than Linux for a server anyway.


Windows 7 Sins

The Free Software Foundation launched its new anti-windows website and compaign entitled "Windows 7 Sins" (windows7sins.org) saying in their newsletter:

The campaign outlines seven major areas where proprietary software in general and Microsoft Windows in particular hurt all computer users: invading privacy, poisoning education, locking users in, abusing standards, leveraging monopolistic behavior, enforcing Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), and threatening user security.
These points are outlined in the text of a letter the campaign mailed to the leaders of the Fortune 500 companies, now published on its Web site. The letter warns "Windows 7 decision makers" about the "lack of privacy, freedom, and security" they will suffer should they adopt Windows 7, and makes the case that they should instead adopt free software such as the GNU/Linux operating system and the office productivity suite OpenOffice.org.

FSF executive director Peter Brown said, "Free software is about freedom, not price. Our growing dependence on computers and software requires our society to reevaluate its obsession with proprietary software that spies on citizens' activities and limits their freedom to be in control of their computing. There is free software available right now for any activity you or your business needs, and it is better in the most important aspect -- it respects your freedom."

The FSF is asking concerned citizens to help get this message out by nominating other organizational leaders who are also "Windows 7 decision makers" to receive a version of the letter. Brown continued, "Many people are frustrated by the organizations they interact with and their support for a software industry that works against the freedom of citizens. Our national and local governments, NGOs, and our universities and schools that use proprietary software are undertaking bad public policy, often through ignorance or misplaced values. We hope to alert these decision makers to the positive contribution they can make to society by switching their organizations to free software."

FSF campaigns manager Matt Lee added, "With |
windows7sins.org|, we hope to make businesses and computer users aware of the growing dangers of proprietary software from both Microsoft and other companies such as Apple and Adobe. With the release of Microsoft's updated operating system, business leaders have the opportunity to escape to freedom and join a growing list of leaders who understand that sinking money and time into proprietary software is a dead-end inconsistent with their best interests."
I've always been a big supporter of Open Source/FOSS and Anti-DRM campaigns and such, so I'm happy to pass this great news on. Please join the FSF and the Windows 7 Sins campaign in any way you can, even if the most you can do is spread the word, you'll be doing a lot. There's a mailing list you can subscribe to to get updates about the campaign and an interesting history of the campaign included on the website. Show your support at windows7sins.org.