Archive Page 2

A new blog: The New Game

While I’ll continue to use Mortlemania to post my personal ramblings, odes, songs and geek musings, I’ve also  started a new, more business-focused  blog over at http://mortleman.net. “The New Game” will  explore the momentous changes we are likely to see in business and society as a consequence of the technological, economic and political shifts now under way. Those of you who believe, like me, that the successful organisations of the future will be based around open collaboration, social responsibility, honesty and  responsiveness might like to check it out.

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See friends’ Facebook statuses on your Twitter timeline

(…and selectively update your own Facebook status from Twitter)


So, you have all these old mates, school chums, far-flung family members and former colleagues using Facebook who definitely don’t share your geeky proclivities. You’d like to keep up-to-date with what they’re up to, and let them know what you’re doing, but you don’t want to have to visit the godawful spam-bucket that is Facebook. You want their Facebook status updates to hit your Twitter timeline as they update (or soon after), right? And at the same time, it would be useful to be able to update your Facebook status selectively from Twitter, so (for example) Auntie Mabel can see when you’re drinking a quadruple espresso but isn’t sent into a headspin by all your unfathomable @replies, hashtags and RTs.

Well here are a couple of workarounds that will stop you needing to visit Facebook ever again (except perhaps for the odd game of Scrabble). The first lets you see your friends’ Facebook status updates (within about a half-an-hour of them updating) as separate tweets on your Twitter-friends timeline, all without compromising their privacy (or, indeed, Fb’s privacy policy). I’m sure I’m not the first to figure this out, and there are no doubt other ways to do it, but this works well for me…

1. Friends’ Facebook status updates to Twitter:

  • Log out of your usual Twitter account (henceforth called ‘yourname’) and create a new account, which we’ll call here ‘yourfbfriends’. (You will need to use a separate email address from the one you used to create your original twitter account.)
  • Go into settings and check the box ‘protect my updates’ – this will ensure your friends’ updates can only be seen by you, and not by any Bot, Dick and Spammer.
  • Upload an avatar if you want one, then save settings and log out.
  • Log into Facebook and grab the RSS feed URL of your friends’ status updates. (To find it click on the “Friends” tab – then in the left-hand navigation pane you’ll see a link to “Friends’ Status Feed” under the heading “Subscribe”.)
  • Go to www.twitterfeed.com and create a new account. (You will need an OpenID to do this. There are instructions on the site about how to obtain one, or a new one if you are already using Twitterfeed with an existing Twitter account.)
  • Enter the Twitter username and password of your newly-created yourfbfriends Twitter account.
  • Enter the Facebook Friends’ Status Feed URL into the feed box.
  • Verify the Twitter account and feed URL are valid by clicking where indicated.
  • Use the drop-down menus to set up Twitterfeed. (I get it to check the feed every 30 mins, include up to 5 items, and to show both ‘title and description’.)
  • Save settings and log out of Twitterfeed.
  • Log back in to your normal Twitter account (yourname) and request to follow the new protected account you created (yourfbfriends).
  • Log out of yourname and back into yourfbfriends.
  • Accept yourname’s request to follow yourfbfriends then log out of yourfbfriends and back into yourname.

That’s it – except remember not to accept any other requests to follow yourfbfriends. After all, you don’t want to let any casual tweet-scanning criminals know that your Auntie Mabel’s just remembered she left her front door unlocked when she left the house this morning, now do you?

2. Update your Facebook status selectively via Twitter:

This has been fairly widely covered, but I’ll run through it here again for good measure. If you tick the standard Twitter-Facebook ‘Allow Twitter to update my status…’ permission box, your Facebook status will be crudely updated by *every* tweet you send, which can be confusing and annoying for your non-geeky Facebook friends.

Instead, find and install the Facebook application Twittersync and go to the settings page. Set it up to filter your tweets as required, then it will only update your Facebook status with your selected tweets.  You can use regex if you want to get clever about it, but I simply put an ‘@’ in the “‘Filter tweets containing” box. That automatically filters out any tweets containing @replies or references to other twitter usernames. If I then want to filter out other geeky tweets, I simply make sure I stick an ‘@’ character in them somewhere.

Fancy animating my latest CC-licensed grotesque comic ode?

Just posted a YouTude video of me performing my comic verse “Donna McGonagall”, a freakish, fishy tale about the perils of ill-advised cosmetic surgery (embedded below). I think it lends itself to a narrated animated short, so if there are any budding animators out there who share my sense of the the comedically gory and grotesque but who find themselves lacking in a storyline and audio for their next project, maybe you’d like to have a go at animating it. The ode is licensed under a Creative Commons (noncommercial-attribution-sharealike) license, and I plan to provide a higher-quality audio track (re-recoded on a pro mike) with sound FX if anyone’s interested – let me know if you are.

FOWA London 2008: Ominous Undercurrents and Hopeful Horizons

FOWA London 2008

FOWA London 2008: on target?

Prior to last year’s FOWA London, I wrote a post outlining my hopes and fears for the conference. At the 2007 event, there was indeed much talk of making big bucks and not so much about big, critical ideas like open social computing. Nonetheless, there was undoubtedly a huge buzz of excitement in the air at FOWA 2007 – everyone seemed to have a sense that they were helping to forge a new web which really could change the world forever – and I came away invigorated and inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurialism on show. (It even spurred me to versify.)

This year that palpable sense of excitement was noticeably absent, but in its place emerged a more thoughtful introspection about what really matters. The need for interoperability and data portability, for example, was vocally supported by many speakers and delegates, which was good to see.

But against a backdrop of catastrophic economic news, day one’s conference sessions made barely a reference to the fact that the until-now-successful model of many Web 2.0 start-ups – bootstrap, build, be aquired – is today looking decidedly shaky. It’s hard to get excited about developing something for the investment dollars when you know those dollars are going to be in increasingly short supply. Ben Huh of icanhascheezburger.com gave the best speech of the day, on the power of community, and most attendees I spoke to thought the same. He said his success with LOLcats had completely surprised him and advised attendees to do something they were passionate about and hope it chimes with others. Simon Wardley’s was the day’s other stand-out speech, offering a comprehensive overview of the bigger picture of business innovation. (Simon also chaired the business track on both days with considerable flair.)

Day two of the conference, however, was much better overall than the first, largely due to the tone set by opening keynote speaker Tim Bray of Sun, who wisely tore up his planned speech to focus instead on the implications of the economic crisis for the Web development and start-up community. “I’m scared,” he said. “I think the future of web applications is fairly dark at the moment because the future is fairly dark…I predict some really shitty times coming at us for a while.”

shooting from the hip

Sun's Tim Bray: shooting from the hip at FOWA London 2008

Despite the initially apocolyptic tone, Bray gave some useful and hopeful pieces of advice to improve attendees’ chances of survival and happiness in the times ahead. Essentially these were:

  • Agile project development is the only way forward (there’ll be no sign off on big projects).
  • Open source software can keep the cost of projects down.
  • Get in the cloud – but be wary of supplier lock-in.
  • Become part of the conversation – engage with customers, etc, online through social networking platforms.
  • Think about the technology infrastructure needed to support the scalable, transparent system of regulatiion that’s going to be needed as a surge of regulatory pressure comes down on business and finance.
  • Legacy skills are going to be in demand – particulaly putting web front-ends on old systems.
  • iPhone, Android, etc. open up the mobile phone network to developers – presenting major opportunities.
  • Build something for yourself – follow your passion rather than trying to fill a need.
  • Stay away from VCs – they have very little of value to offer you and substantially decrease your chances of success.
  • Stop believing in technology religions and broaden your skills – e.g. developers should learn to design and designers should learn to develop – it’ll improve your job security.
  • Contribute to an open source project.
  • Contribute online – publish, comment, blog, add to Wikipedia. “If you don’t care enough to contribute to the web, why would anyone want to hire you?”
  • Network – talk to each other and build new connections, both physically and online.

After his speech, the conference seemed far more relaxed and content with itself. Okay, there may have been an element of people only finding their feet after the first day (and first-night party), but I suspect Bray was primarily responsible for the change of mood. It was as if he had finally unleashed the elephant in the room – and delegates could suddenly see themselves riding on it rather than being trampled underfoot.

* Overall, the event went extremely well, and I’ll blog more shortly about the conference, as well as the expo and social side – including live Diggnation and the post-event party. A big thank-you, too, to organiser Carsonified, who made sure the whole thing ran with an impeccable level of both technical precision and creative style.

You can see my full Flickr set of pictures from the event here (although I’ve not had time to add descriptions yet), and all my tweets from FOWA here.

If you’re at FOWA London…

…on 9th and 10th October, come and say hi if you see me.  I’ll be the balding, shaven-haired lummox with the overstuffed brown backpack, SLR round his neck, a very large black coffee balanced precariously on his knee while attempting to tweet on his iPhone (at least, for as long as the battery holds out, which it won’t unless I can grab some juice). Oh, and I’m @jimjar, if anyone wants to tweet me rather than risk having hot coffee clumsily spilled over them.

Anyway, now the move’s done and dusted, and my son George has passed through the merciless-sleep-depriving stage, I should have more time and energy for blogging/podcasting than in recent months. And I’m expecting FOWA to give me plenty to ponder and pontificate about. But what I like best about the event is that it gives me the chance to connect with lots of interesting, smart, creative, tech-savvy people brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. So don’t be shy – come and say hi. You can even have one of my cool Moo minicards (which feature, variously, my 3-year-old daughter’s “art”, a friend’s fluffy white cat in shades and Wordles of Lessig and Lennon.

My iPhone 3g apps – initial round-up

I’m taking a busman’s holiday over lunch to write a quick round-up of some of the apps I’ve installed so far on my new iPhone 3g. Hope it’s helpful for other users bewildered by the array on offer. They’re in no particular order.

iFob

Groundbreaking ambient networking app that allows you to broadcast a mini-profile and connect/text-chat with other users physically close to you (it bleeps you). At the moment only works within a WiFi hotspot – so useful for meeting like-minded folks at conferences, clubs, coffee shops, pubs, etc. Also currently needs no central server to work, which is neat. But it’d be even better if it worked on the basis of your location whether you were using 3g or WiFi and bleeped you when you were within a specified distance of another user. Nonetheless, a pioneering app – we’ll doubtless see more stuff like this in future. [Update: Well, at least we will if Apple deigns to allow background running of apps on the iPhone with a future firmware update. This app does have a ‘run in the background’ option, but I presume this only works within WiFi hotspots, if at all (not had a chance to test it yet). To work to full potential, iFob would need to run in the background all the time – over WifI, 3g or Edge networks.  So currently it looks like other, less restrictive smartphones will prove a more fertile breeding ground for apps of this ilk.]

[Developer: iCloseBy.com, FREE]

Shazam

Amazing little app that listens to a song in the background wherever you are for about 12 seconds and then identifies it for you. I tested it on some really obscure tracks and it only failed once (with Philip Jeck, an experimental noise artist). A real ‘wow factor’ about this one. Only works with recorded tracks, though, so it wouldn’t ID songs at a gig. Doesn’t work if you sing into it, either, in case you were wondering…

[Developer: Shazam Entertainment, FREE]

Vicinity

Checks your location and lets you see wikipedia articles relating to the area you’re in, as well as details of nearby banks, bars, pubs, cafes, convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, takeouts and taxi firms. Nice interface and works pretty well, but it obviously bases the info on nearest town/village “as the crow flies” rather than necessarily the one you’re in. It told me I was in nearby Leytonstone instead of on the edge of Walthamstow and made its recommendations on that basis, meaning none of my local services, cafes or pubs appeared (although it did include wikipedia articles on my area). It also needs to include petrol stations. Nonetheless, should prove very useful when out and about, particularly in major cities.

[Developer: ActiveGuru, UK price £1.79]

Byline

Grabs feeds and full stories from your Google Reader account for online or offline browsing. Useful as a stop-gap until Google brings out an official Reader app or webapp, but for a paid app it should really give you more customisation/user-related options – e.g. browsing your individual feeds and letting you share/star items etc. There are other free RSS readers available if you’re not wedded to Google Reader, which would probably be a better bet in that case.

[Developer: Milo Bird, UK price £5.99]

Last.fm

A killer app for me. Great functionality. Free. Listen to your own or any last.fm stations over WiFi or 3g. Features track scrobbling, groups, etc. too. Top marks. Now, if only Apple would allow the iPhone to run apps in the background while you do other tasks…

{Developer: Last.fm, FREE]

Tap Tap Revenge

Great little (free) beat-matching game where you have to tap or shake the iPhone in specific ways in time to various tracks.

[Developer: Gogo Apps, FREE]

Pianist

Full 88-key piano on your iPhone with sustain and soft pedals and song-recording features. Uses multi-touch, so you can play chords. Difficult to scroll the keyboard while playing though, since the app only shows one octave on the screen. It’s also a little annoying that you can’t trigger two adjacent keys simultaneously by hitting the gap between them, as you could on a real piano – you have to press each with a separate finger. Otherwise very good.

[Developer: MooCowMusic, UK price £3.49]

Band

By the same developer as Pianist, Band features a rock drumkit, bass guitar and more basic piano than Pianist. Also has a ‘Blues Bar’ with pre-programmed blues riffs, a second drumkit with pre-programmed funky rhythms and an ‘audience applause’ sound effect. You can record individual parts and merge them into a saved composition. Superb.

[Developer: MooCowMusic, UK price £5.99]

Enigmo

Fantastic puzzle game of the Lemmings variety, except you have to guide a stream of water droplets into a container. This is the game I’ll be playing the most. Addictive, great graphics, quirky physics, gets the grey matter working and easy to get the hang of. Some of the reviews posted in the Appstore bemoan the lack of instructions. They seem to forget the title of the game is ‘Enigmo’ – figuring out what the various tools do is all part of the challenge.

[Developer: Pangea Software, UK price £5.99]

G-Park

Handy little location-based utility that remembers where you’ve parked your car (or just where you are when you press the button) and guides you back to it when you want.

[Developer: PosiMotion, UK price 59p]

BBC iPlayer (web app)

Works fine when you find something to play, but it only plays the shows that are available as streaming video on the Beeb website (a handful of the total programming on iPlayer). The interface, however, is abysmal and there’s no easy way to see a list of those programs that are available on iPhone. Only when you find and click on the programme you want will you know if you can watch it (because a little play button appears in the middle of the window if it’s available). Needs some serious work on the interface, this.

[UPDATE: I was wrong. Had a bit more of a play with this and if you click on the ‘find programmes’ button in the BBC iPlayer box it does indeed only list programmes available to view on iPlayer – it can just take a while for the play button to appear on the thumbnail. There seems to be more here than I originally thought, too – still only a fraction of the complete content, but more than is available in streaming format on the website I think. However, the interface still sucks – the prominent Google ads are very obtrusive, especially. But, heck, I know the Beeb needs all the cash it can get, and as long they keep pumping out great content I won’t moan any more about this.]

[Developer: BBC, FREE web app]

Right – lunch break over, so that’s all for now. I’ll try to augment this list later in the week, when I’ve had a bit more of a play around. Now, back to the grind…

Twittourette: Profane Outbursts on Twitter

What the f$%~ing c^%$ are you doing? Tracking the most profane tweets… and it turns out the twitterverse can be a very sweary place. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am not averse to a bit of profanity every now and then. Okay, at times swearing is juvenile, unneccessary, abusive and unfunny. But it can often be cathartic, creative, concise and clever, too.  So, I put together a Yahoo Pipe to seek out the sweariest tweets (those using multiple expletives) and set up a Weebly page to display the results (though you can also subscribe to the feed). Turns out it’s also a useful way to see what’s really riling folks right now. Link [Edit, Feb 2011: the site seems to have stopped working due to the fact I was using a third-party Twitter search service that’s no longer active. I may update it someday.]


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