James O'Neill's Blog

January 26, 2010

Finding a Twitter client for Windows Mobile.

Filed under: Mobility,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 11:13 am

I’ve tried more several different twitter clients on my desktop but I always end up gravitating back to the Web interface – I think mostly because I follow a lot links from twitter posts and with IE7 pro installed (on IE8, despite the name) I can use a “flick” gesture to open a link in a new tab and carry on reading down in twitter – then go to the pages I’ve opened. Some of the free standing readers are very good but opening a link takes you away from the reader.

On Saturday I was on my way to London and I knew people were tweeting about the photographers gathering in Trafalgar Square with the tag #PhNAT (photographer, not a terrorist) and I wanted to see what was happening.I tried the full and mobile web versions of twitter and with the bigger better screen of the Touch-Pro 2 it wasn’t a good experience. With 3G bandwidth at my disposal I decided to download a client. But which one ? There are 10 or so for Windows mobile. One wouldn’t download, a couple wouldn’t work once they were installed. I tested 4. Here are my totally unscientific, sample-of-one personal experiences. Don’t take my conclusions as a Microsoft endorsement.

First up, and therefore the standard that the others had to be beat was Twinki

Click for a larger version

Looks nice, and you can add pictures , co-ordinates from the phones GPS or a shortened URL when making a tweet. But where is the search ? If it hasn’t got search I need another client. I know some colleagues use TinyTwitter, so that was next.

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As you can see Tiny Twitter wants to tell me to the second when a tweet was made and from which client. I can live without that – it’s not a killer but Tiny Twitter doesn’t seem to have any way of showing full names on tweets or adding GPS data to one of yours. It also takes more taps to start a new tweet. If you look at the text of the second post Tiny Twitter gave me the whole thing but Twikini truncated it. One tap shows the whole message in Twikini and second tap takes me to the linked page. In Tiny twitter  it’s tap the Tweet, then menu, status, links and I found it corrupted some links (bit.ly ones). It still doesn’t have search.

Next I tried Twibble, a Java client. I never got it to work, and what little I saw of the UI didn’t encourage me to try very hard. Next came Twitula, which demanded a new version of the .net compact framework and didn’t work even when I installed it (and slapped wrist for us:  I had to do that at when I got back to my laptop as it is not packaged for direct installation on mobile devices).  Then came Twobile.

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Twobile has the big advantage that it it support all the functions of Twitter including … drum roll … search. It also packs in the maximum number of tweets – although it does so by truncating them so you need to go to open each one to read it. It also can invoke Google translation to translate a tweet (sadly Hebrew isn’t one of the options, so I never will know what Shay was saying). Its looks are definitely against it and some things like following a link require so many taps it borders on the perverse. I could use this with one of the others to get search but that really is all.

[Update: somewhere about this point I tried Pocket Twit. Somehow I left it off the original list]

PocketTwit  is the opposite of Twobile – those controls are geared for stylus input (which the Touch-Pro 2 supports) rather than finger input (which it also supports). Pocket-Twit is a true touch app – slide the column of tweets out of the way and you find menus which are located off to the sides. I found this baffling at first and still not feeling entirely I’ve made touch I had a few misgivings. The major one being when I slid the keyboard out and the device went into landscape mode I found I wasn’t sliding the column far enough to get the menu to snap into place. This may be worth re-visiting as and when I get on better with touch, but I discarded it for lack of search, although (thanks here to Scot Lovegrove) I later found it does have search, just not very accessible. I can understand people liking this app – I feel a bit of luddite for not doing so myself.

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Finally I arrived at mo-tweets, which comes as an “Ad supported” version or a $3.95 version. 

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First of all it has the option to run full screen (as here) and the use of bar along the top gives a tap-to-tweet button (of the other 3 only Twikini lets you tweet in a single tap from the home screen). The “sections” item from the main menu also has a short cut button on the top menu , so it can access the same wide range of choices as Twobile. there’s a choice of truncating the messages which don’t have the focus or showing them in full, and tapping on a message gives the widest range of choices (search hash tags in it, send it by e-mail, translate again), and there is an option for short cut buttons on the message with the focus – for reply, retweet and add to favourites. Finally the tweet dialog as buttons for adding people, new or existing pictures, a shortened URL or your GPS location.  I could suggest improvements for mo-tweets. It previews the Google maps page it will display for a URL link but it jumps out to the default browser when a link is clicked – I’d like the option to preview the page inside mo-tweets. It gives a choice of URL shorteners, including Bit.ly – I’d like to put my bit.ly account information in so I can see what traffic has gone to the link, and I’d like to be able to choose my own mapping provider. However as stands it gives me the key things I want in a form that I like so that is the one I have settled on for now – just remember folks, you can’t extrapolate from what one guy at Microsoft likes to anything about Microsoft as a whole.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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December 15, 2009

Add-ons and plug-ins – do you have a favourite ?

Filed under: Internet Explorer,Powershell,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 2:13 pm

I was chatting with a couple of colleagues yesterday about internet explorer. Someone grumbled “When people think of browser add-ons they automatically think of firefox, but there are some really good ones for IE”. I have talked in the past about IE7 pro (which despite the name works with IE8).  I use it for four things – first it has a flash blocker. This gets round my issue of not being able to use a page when there is some animation going on, without needing to turn the flash add-on off  [yes, flash is an IE add-on, so is Silverlight.] Secondly it will block content being pulled in from selected external sites. This helps defeat flash but also stops those firms which want to track my visits to sites. Finally for things which get through the first two it has the ability to cut out some of the really annoying bit of a page – those which would circumvent the flash blocker. Although this is mostly targeted at adverts I used it to make the Independent newspaper’s web site usable.  The last trick it has contributes to my habit of having dozens of tabs open – click/drag opens a link in a new tab – it has other mouse gestures but that’s the only one I use. [Some people like the download manager  , but I’m not one of them]

I added an accelerator for twitter but after that I’m not really using any add-ons. In yesterdays conversation my other colleague said – roughly “I have no plug-ins at all and I don’t think many people use them, a lot a buggy and they all slow the browser down to different degrees”. So … if you have added anything to IE7 or 8 that you really wouldn’t be without  (or for that matter if you use firefox because of an add-on) , please post a comment.

I write my blog posts using Windows live writer and I’ve talked before before about one which adds tweetmeme support to each post. This morning I’ve been trying to help someone get the onefor Bit.ly – I had to add &history=1 onto the end of the password to get it to log my links to a history on bit.ly – which is much more useful as I can see which links people are following. It won’t work for him. I guess the same criticisms can be made for Live writer plug-ins as IE ones, but the same question interests me – if you blog with live writer and have a favourite plug in, please post a comment.

Finally, I was talking James Brundage – the guy behind the PowerShellPack which is in the Windows 7 resource kit and also available for download, part of that is an add-in for the PowerShell interactive scripting environment. It adds a menu and a set of short-cut keys – among other things to copy the text with syntax colouring. If you ever need the code to “un-bitly-fy” a URL here it is , in colour. Of course it works for more than bit-ly – it gives back the canonical URL for anything which is redirected from another URL.

            
Function Get-trueURL {            
    Param ([parameter(ValueFromPipeLine= $true, mandatory=$true)]$URL )            
    $req = [System.Net.WebRequest]::Create($url)             
    $req.AllowAutoRedirect=$false            
    $req.Method="GET"            
    $resp=$req.GetResponse()            
    If ($resp.StatusCode -eq 301 ) {$resp.GetResponseHeader("Location")}            
    else                           {$resp.responseURI}            
}            
 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

November 23, 2009

A few thoughts on the power of social media

Filed under: General musings,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 1:12 pm

Click for the originalBack in the middle of October I started writing about couple of big events so-called “world of social media”. One was the reaction to a piece which appeared in Daily Mail about the death of Stephen Gately. On Twitter Stephen Fry showed 140 characters is no bar to a devastating response. “I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome [sic] and inhumane.”  Without the space constraint his blog post,  covered more of the issues including his self-confessed tendency to engage the mouth before the Brain is up to sufficient revs. By linking up some of the other comments – not least Charlie Brooker’s demolition piece – Fry became a focus for the the reaction (in fact, to a lot of the media it seems Twitter is Stephen Fry). The storm of complains to the press complaints commission was greater than their web site could handle. Derren Brown picked up the story and linked it with another I had also seen on Twitter: to travel on the London underground – or indeed to simply be in London at all means having cameras of many different organizations watching your movements.  The latin tag Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “who can guard the guards themselves” has been around for a couple of thousand years: recently people have said looked at their camera-phone and thought “We Can”, and started to turn lenses back at the organizations who watch them.  Jonathan MacDonald did that when he saw a London Underground employee being abusive to a passenger. It caused a fuss on twitter and reached the Mayor of London and powers-that-be at Transport for London, and within a few days the man had resigned.

Both can be held up as examples of how campaigns can be “Orchestrated” using social media. But only by people who don’t understand it.

One of Margaret Thatcher’s more famous quotes was “There is no such thing as society”; and, if I understood what she meant correctly, she would have argued that there is no such thing as a cloud – just billions of water droplets in lose formation. That thinking says Society is not an entity of its own right , just the imprint of millions of individuals: society doesn’t do things people do things, and so on. Seeing the impact of “society” is like seeing a shadow : unless you live in the world of Peter Pan, a shadow does not lead a life of its own. I’m sure arguments can be had about whether the idea is right (and whether I’ve correctly explained the sound bite) but it is a good way to think about “Social Media”.This cartoon of Hugh’s came in about the same time, and summarized part of what I had been writing

From the start, internet has reduced the “friction” in communication. I don’t know if Bill Gates coined “at the speed of thought” which was part of one of his book titles, but with (effectively) instant one-to-Many or Many-to-many communication, ideas can spread about fast as you can think them. Forums pre-date the Web: dial-up bulletin boards were there in the 80s. But it would take hours for a message to spread, the same effort pushing out a message on the internet causes it to spread faster and further (because there are more people on-line), that’s what “less friction” means. Initially the web had a model was like newspapers: few had the capital needed to get their message out and there was little by way of reply. Your choice was simple, read or not read. Web 2.0 has become a shorthand for describing a place where anyone can choose to have a voice, and inevitably most of those voices are noise. Trying orchestrate that is as pointless trying to shape clouds. But every so often someone will say “I think this” and others will join in and say “So do I”, and a wave develops.

Click for full size version Once, Daily Mail columnists could assert, with relative impunity, that as a homosexual Steven Gately lived an unnatural life and died an unnatural death. If people found such a column “loathsome and inhumane” what could they do about it ? Who would write a letter to the paper or the press complaints commission? I suspect the only people who would have put to paper would be those who felt their own lives were being called “unnatural”. But in October people who neither cared much for Gately’s music nor shared his way of living his life paused and said “No one should be written about like that”. It’s possible to argue that people adopted that view because someone like Stephen Fry told them to, but Jonathan MacDonald’s video didn’t have a famous name telling people to do anything  and still people saw it and said “No one should be treated like that”.  Each comment saying so was like a rain drop – and when a lot of people coalesce around an idea we get a storm. The BBC’s Moral Maze programme was not the only place where people wondered aloud when this legitimate democratic protest (and they cited the Trafigura injunction case, described by PR week here) and when it shades into rule by lynch mob – I can’t help feeling that the answer is “when you disagree with it”.

The ability for ideas to spread quickly changes how we put our messages across. On the right are a couple of comments a few minutes apart from my Twitter feed. First, Sharon links to this comment – again from Stephen Fry. “Today, Britney Spears tells her PR manager, ‘Why should I care about this journalist of this newspaper with a big circulation? I will reach their circulation just by typing into my keyboard.’ So well, whole newspapers are on the one side filled with resentment against Twitter, on the other side they are using it and searching Twitter messages.”  It seems it is not just Britney who thinks like that. James picked up that McLaren tweeted the fact that they signed Jenson Button for next season 15 minutes or so before they posted the press release.

I’m starting to see people in Microsoft get that what is said about us in the different kinds of social media is at least as important as what we say. It isn’t always knowing to know what is being said and it is telling much harder to tell noise from the thunder of an approaching storm, but we are learning, for example what was said about Tech-ed or our Wembley on twitter was used as evidence for the success or failure of different parts of those events. And for the launch of Windows 7 the main Microsoft web page had a collection of quotes from ordinary people on twitter about how great the product – in past years these would have come from journalists. Does that mean the profession  of journalist will peter out ? I doubt it, because just as social media allows a spotlight to pointed at the “loathsome and inhumane” so it allows it to be pointed at the great piece of writing or photography: that’s all that happens when a you-tube video “goes Viral”

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 22, 2009

Can Bing do twitter search better than twitter ?

Filed under: Bing / Google,Social Media — jamesone111 @ 11:49 pm

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First off to avoid any frustration, you need to set your country to United States, because this feature hasn’t been rolled out to all the baby bings.

The you go to www.bing.com/twitter and put in what you want to search for, you get the most recent tweets, and links which come up in multiple posts, even (and this is the bit I like) even if they are linked with different shortening services. And you can re-tweet anything you see.

I’ve got another post in draft at the moment which could be seen as having a go at Google, and I don’t want to be get into bashing them, but … Google are seen as the leaders in search, so much so that getting people to even try something else isn’t easy. But I can’t recall the last time I saw Google do anything innovative with search. (I’m sure someone will set me straight on that). Update. Google say they will be searching Twitter in the future: now if they come out after bing and with something which isn’t as good … oh deary deary me.

As I hinted in the previous post, sometimes the negative press we get can get us down. With Windows 7 , and Server 2008 R2, the new Office, the project Natal stuff on Xbox (so cool it will give you frostbite), and Bing showing our search work in a good light, people are writing stories about Microsoft getting its mojo back: as a good Microsoftie I’d argue we never really lost it but after all that knocking copy, I’ll settle for that.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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