Product of insomnia

My wife’s not been sleeping well recently.

Phil Wilson is a geek snob
Web app programming is his day job
Linux is his OS
Firefox and the rest
Cos he thinks that Bill Gates is a nob

Phil Wilson he likes to pretend
Open source software’s his friend
“DRM sucks!” he cries
But it’s really all lies
The licence he’s too cheap to spend

Phil Wilson bangs on about wiki
But one bit is really quite tricky
Anybody can edit
And Phil takes the credit
If it’s wrong then he looks like a thickie

Phil Wilson he is a trend-setter
With flashy gadgets he is a go-getter
Lots of buttons and shiny
They must also be tiny
(The one time where the smaller the better.)

Phil Wilson is sharp as a knife
The best looking I’ve seen in my life
Boyish charm and good hair
and he dresses with flair,
He made me write this, I’m his wife.

Post to Twitter from Ubuntu Deskbar

Deskbar is a Gnome widget you can embed in a panel and can be used for opening applications, opening items from your browser history, doing web searches and all sorts. It’s not as good as Quicksilver but better than Launchy. It fires when you hit a key combo (mine is CTRL+SPACE) and looks a bit like this:

Screenshot of Deskbar on Ubuntu

For the soulless, Twitter is length limited asynchronous multicast IM, for everyone else, it’s a nice way to keep up to date with what your friends are doing using the web, IM or SMS. My rarely-posted to Twitter page is here.

Lucky for me, Deskbar is easily extendable , and so that’s just what I’ve done. I looked at the Twitter Wiki, found a Python Twitter library downloaded their little icon thing and written a sript to let you post to Twitter from your Deskbar. It looks like this:

Screenshot of Deskbar with Twitter plugin installed

To install:

  1. Install python-twitter
  2. Grab and twitter.png and put them in ~/.gnome2/deskbar-applet/handlers/
  3. Open your downloaded in an editor
  4. Replace TWITTER_USERNAME and TWITTER_PASSWORD with your Twitter details
  5. Replace YOUR_USERNAME with your Ubuntu username

It took longer to write this blog post than the code, so patches welcome.

Big Fat HTML-urrah

Individual developers don’t care (or at least, understand the practical issues it brings up), but being able to turn around to my workmates and going “Look, HTML isn’t dead, even the W3C have faced up to it” carries a lot of weight. Yes, it’s a logical fallacy, but that doesn’t really matter. If you’re trying to convince your boss or someone higher up the chain that maybe XHTML isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and might just introduce more problems than they think, then this is a nice heavy rock to throw.

IE7, an impartial review

My wife is a computer pragmatist. She’s tech-literate, and thinks that Linux and Firefox can fuck off because they’ll stop her from using the applications and websites she wants to.

So it was a wry grin that greeted her the day she came home and told me that her workplace has installed IE7 on their PCs. The following is her heart-rending tale of woe.

Internet Explorer 7 is the most laughable ‘upgrade’ since the TES website called dedicating a third of the page to adverts an improvement.

The stupid small blue buttons suck. The address bar is too high, my mouse keeps going to the wrong place to type in a URL and the refresh button is in the wrong place. Most annoying is the ‘we haven’t nicked this from Firefox honest’ crappy tab system. If my Internet viewer is suddenly going to open new windows in tabs, how about actually bringing the new window to the front instead of surreptitiously adding tab after tab silently and stealthily to the top of the page while I frantically click and try to work out why the new page isn’t visible? Even once you figure out what’s going on with the tabs, there isn’t enough room for more than about 3, so you have to scroll to find them. If there is an easy tab stacking system so that you can navigate the tabs easily as there is when pages stack up on the taskbar, I have yet to find it after a week of surfing so it’s not intuitive (update: now found how to do this, but it’s yet another new button to find). New tabs are not added to the end of the row, rather next to the tab you’ve opened them from, which means several times this week I’ve tried to find my email tab which was handily at the front, only to discover it’s disappeared behind five million rubbish tabs which I’ve idly opened. I’ve tried my best to disable the tabs and go back to sensible browsing, but my system administrator has disabled any control over my own destiny.

Digital Lifestyle Aggregation vs. Personal Aggregation

Following up on my Personal Aggregator (lifestream) dissing of the other day, here’s what I’d prefer to see (I should note that none of these ideas are original, and for most of my audience probably hark back to 2001):

Humans are interested in conversation. Conversation is what drives us. The things I want to see in a stream are places where I’ve previously entered into a conversation, either by starting a new conversation or by replying to someone else, and there have been responses which I’ve not yet read.

Some examples of this: comments on my blog posts, comments on blog posts which I’ve also commented on, comments on my Flickr photos, comments on Flickr photos which I’ve also commented on, emails, web pages marked as “for:pip” in, personal twitter messages (both direct messages and @pip), and so on.

After those items, I’m next interested in the conversations going on around me. That is to say, things that people I know are doing . This is where personal lifestreams can play a part – I’d want a feed from each person’s stream which I can then merge and create an contacts’ lifestream from. These activities also contain an inherent interest value. For example, blog posts and Flickr photos are almost always more interesting than twitter udpates which don’t really contain much value for me.

So let’s just review some of this, and see what we can do:

My Immediate Planet:

  • comments on my blog posts: gmail-created feed available
  • other blog comment replies: cocomment feed available
  • twitter @pip: no direct feed, can filter normal twitter feed
  • twitter inbox: no feed
  • flickr comments: feed available
  • flickr comment replies: feed available
  • for:pip in feed available

Friends’ Planet:

  • blogs: feed available
  • flickr contacts’ photos: feed available
  • network: feed available
  • twitter: feed available
  • tumblr: feed available
  • feed available
  • etc.

All of this is, of course, separate and additional to attention-data maintained resources.

A stream of rubbish

Unlike Jeremy Keith, I couldn’t care less about giving people a nice web interface onto what I’ve been doing. I’d much rather have a view onto what people I know have been doing instead.

A web view of what I’ve been doing is in fact probably the least interesting thing you could possibly do.

He briefly mentioned portable social networks. Well, those aren’t going to work until the services we use start actually providing full import and export. Maybe with the advent of services becoming OpenID providers (even if it is via a proxy) we’ll see a way to create accounts for your contacts without them having to actually do anything and thereby a way to move transparently between services. As if.

I’ve just remembered that the first thing I did with Jeremy’s original lifestream code was add OPML support and then use Leigh Dodds’ “Subscribe to my brain” service to create an OPML file listing my account subscriptions. No work from me and a full lifestream, that’s great, notably because it gives me a quick ‘in’ to the contact lists of those services. I’ll dig out my code tomorrow, but anyone could write it in a couple of minutes.