Tag: Twitter

The 6 Android apps I really appreciate(d)

For some reasons, I had to choose between a new, simple Nokia phone (but fortunately not a Windows one!) and my 1-year-old Android phone. Before I leave this Android phone, here are the few 6 Android apps that I really appreciated and used daily.

 FBReader is a very nice e-book reader for Android. It supports a lot of e-book formats like epub, fb2, (partially) mobipocket, html, RTF and plain text. It works very well with Calibre (a free software e-book reader / manager / converter) – or is it the opposite? I also really like the fact FBReader can browse and download some free e-books directly from the internet. Of course, reading an e-book on a small 3.2 inch screen isn’t the perfect user experience. However, the night mode (white text on black background) is very handy to read something when it’s late and you don’t want the harsh white background. You can find FBReader on the Android Market for free (it’s a free software, under the GPL).

Google Reader is the Android version of the web-based Google Reader. If you follow RSS/Atom feeds with the latter, you will be interested by its Android version. A very nice feature is that all your feeds will be synchronized between the different versions of your Reader: read a post on your phone and the web version knows you already read it (and vice-versa). This time the small screen isn’t really a handicap since posts are usually quite short (compared to books and short stories you could read on FBReader). Up to a certain version, I thought the Gooogle Reader for Android was not really using all the capabilities of a touch screen. But in a version recently introduced you just have to swipe a post to read the next one (a bit like turning a page with only one finger). You can find Google Reader on the Android Market for free.

Mustard is a Twitter client for Android. It is also a StatusNet client. Being both on Twitter (@jepoirrier) and Identi.ca (@jepoirrier too), it’s quite interesting to be able to read and post on both platform quickly one after the other. I may have missed something but Mustard lacks the possibility to post on all registered platforms at the same time. And it’s impossible to have all timelines merged in a common one with duplicates removed. But apart from this small annoyance, it’s a very good and fast microblogging client. You can find Mustard on the Android Market for free (it’s even a free software – under the GPL).

According to its own introduction, Shuffle is “a personal organizational tool, styled around the Getting Things Done methodology”. In layman’s words, it’s a very easy app to use to remember things you have to do. Beside just adding a note, you can also give them a deadline, a location and a context. I know I didn’t use everything (for instance, I didn’t use the synchronisation feature since I don’t have any Tracks installation) but it’s a nice tool to remember small ideas on the way and help prioritize them (note: a Moleskine is also good for that purpose). You can find Shuffle on the Android Market for free (and it’s even free software – under the Apache license).

Finally, I really liked the last versions of WordPress (the one that introduced the big white panels/buttons in a “dashboard”). First, these last versions crashed much less often than before (in fact I didn’t see them crash anymore). Then, its developers made it easy to quickly approve comment, add pictures/videos directly from the phone, read the stats and edit some previously posted messages (of course, it’s not very handy to edit a lengthy post on a small screen but it’s not WordPress fault here). If you have a blog on WordPress (or using the WordPress engine at your own website), it’s a must. You can find WordPress on the Android Market for free.

One last word about apps for kids (the “sixth” application). The free versions of Whiteboard and Kids ABC Letters are quite interesting for a 3 year-old boy.

As you can read, I mainly use free software (as in free speech) and apps to read things on the phone. Another use is for small, quick, tasks (like posting a tweet or adding something to remember). I think I will be able to live without that 🙂

Facebook -vs- Twitter short message usage?

The other evening, we started an interesting discussion with some colleagues about usage of Twitter and Facebook. Obviously most people in the room were (and are) using Facebook and knew about the feature (“status”) allowing you to share text messages with your friends (and the whole world). Less people were aware of Twitter, although is also offers the possibility to share text messages with your friends (and the whole world too). I was wondering why most (if not all) people in the room were registered on Facebook but almost none of them were registered (or even using) Twitter. Do not even mention Identi.ca, the open source alternative to Twitter.

Both Facebook and Twitter play in the “social networking websites” circle and both are proprietary. You must register with both to be allowed to participate although no registration is required to read Twitter messages (they are public by default). No such thing with Facebook: only registered users can read what other users posted. Another difference: Facebook allow you to share more than just text messages (photos, videos, play games, etc.) while Twitter relies on third-parties for that (although they are rolling out a photo sharing service). Is that difference in features that make most people prefer Facebook on Twitter? Is that just a snowball effect?

Twitip states that “Facebook appeals to people looking to reconnect with old friends and family members or find new friends online; the mashup of features like email, instant messaging, image and video sharing, etc. feels familiar, while Twitter is a bit harder to get your arms around at first. […] Twitter on the other hand, encourages you grab ideals in byte-size chunks and use your updates as jumping off points to other places or just let others know what you’re up to at any given moment.” Even with those differences, Facebook and Twitter had very similar demographics in 2010, according to Digital Surgeons.

Sharing information via social channels (Facebook, Twitter and alike) grew fast between 2009 (14%) and 2010 (24%) according to Social Twist. It even overtook instant messaging. But this shouldn’t hide the fact that most people still use e-mails to share links. Is it because most people using social media are still “old” (25-35 years old) and used to send and receive e-mails. Of course, Social Twist only records a special kind of measure (media sharing) and I wonder if the supposed use of social media in “Arab revolutions” will have an impact on the 2011 usage. It would be interesting to see the trend in the coming years.

Coming back to the initial question, I think most people in that other evening were mostly using Facebook (and not Twitter) mainly because of the snowball effect (most of the friends are also on Facebook). I mainly use Twitter to share information and Facebook to keep in touch with my friends’lives.

And you, do you use Facebook and Twitter in different manners?

P.S. If you want you can follow me on Twitter and, yes, you can find me on Facebook 😉

Llinking two recent posts seen elsewhere

  • Namechk.com (Check Username Availability at Multiple Social Networking Sites) bookmarked on delicious.com by Philippe
  • one possible use of the Facebook profile information: generating a good dictionary from fabebook-names-original.txt to brute-force password” seen on Twitter.com/adulau

Now use Namechk to find all combinations of >= 2 letters used on more than 1 service. I guess there is a high probability that two identical username strings on two different services belong to the same physical person. Look at their profile/activities/pages/whatever on the various websites, you have now a wonderfull network of knowledge about these people. I also guess that if a flaw is discovered in one of these services that allows to recover users passwords, you could use the same password on all the other services for the same username.

Or take Alexandre’s fabebook-names-original.txt items and sign in other services with them. You have now saturated the web2.0 space. People will need to be more creative to sign in now.

(ok, I know these service providers should have put some protection in place in order to avoid large-scale abuse of their services)

Bittorrent used to deploy updates

I just watched a video from Larry Gadea working at Twitter: Twitter – Murder Bittorrent Deploy System (speaking at CUSEC 2010).

Briefly, the problem Twitter was facing was the deployment of updates to thousands of servers in a short amount of time and dealing with errors (broken servers, e.g.). A nice, simple, cool and free way of solving this issue was to use the Bittorrent protocol (via Python and a stack of other free software) to actually deploy updates. In summary, you go from a unique repository facing thousands requests approximately at the same time:

And you end up with a nice “distribution chain”:

The beautiful thing is that they now go 75 times faster than before!

And now, the video:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=11280885&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

The Murder software is hosted on Github (Apache 2 license).

Why do I blog this? First, I like to see simple ideas no one had before implemented like this. I also wonder how other companies facing the same problems are doing (status.net for example ; I don’t think it could be useful for Forban). Finally, you see, Bittorrent is sometimes about good stuff too!

The problem with TinyURL …

The problem with TinyURL.com is that its source code is not free. And I can’t find any other open services/projects that offers the same features (1).

I realized this when trying to add a long link in a Twitter update (2, 3). A maximum of 140 characters doesn’t allow you to add much text around. And it seems that a lot of Twitter users are using the TinyURL.com service which allows you to translate a small URL it gives you to the full, “regular” URL. For example, http://www.poirrier.be/~jean-etienne/ (37 characters) becomes http://tinyurl.com/6kq84z (25 characters).

But … TinyURL is trademarked and its terms of services explicitely tell us they may report your activity to some “agencies” … In addition to the reasons why Udi hates TinyURLs, I wonder how is stored your URLs. Well, it’s not exactly “how?” but “with which additional information?”. I guess they store your IP address, ISP and location (to be able to report your activity to your ISP and U.S. agencies) along with your submition, date & time, … Nothing is said about privacy in their page. Nothing is said either about the time they will keep your URL (what if you try to use your TinyURL in 5 months or 5 years?). And obviously, no source code available. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use the service, you are also free not to use it.

The only problem is that I can’t find proper, free/open alternatives. There are dead/unborn projects like this one at Mozdev or url(x) (no, GiganticURL is not a solution 😉 ). And there is even a PEAR service to TinyURL. Decent URL is not a solution since it’s only a variation on TinyURL (still not open/free and nothing about privacy). BURL is often cited but the only link I have is broken.

It could be nice to have a TinyURL-like service with open source/free source code and a clear overview of privacy settings (why not à-la-carte settings defined when the user submit his/her long URL?). (Note that Udi also has interesting additional ideas in his previously cited post, mainly about knowing what kind of media you’ll get with the short URL)

(1) The first sentence of this post is a kind of “executive summary”. I hope I’m not getting too old to indulge myself in this kind of thing 😉
(2) Yes, I now have a Twitter account. I don’t know the real purpose of having this kind of thing along with my own blog. Let’s see …
(3) I know, Twitter doesn’t have an open/free source code too. But open source microblogging site may become Twitter fallback.