Notes for Week 2 of 2014

So, it’s been an interesting week. Some observations –

Social

Found this gem of a Difference between Facebook and Twitter –

Facebook – 

“Best Practices

Making API calls directly to Facebook can improve the performance of your app, rather than proxying them through your own server.”

Twitter – 

“Caching

Store API responses in your application or on your site if you expect a lot of use. For example, don’t try to call the Twitter API on every page load of your website landing page. Instead, call the API infrequently and load the response into a local cache. When users hit your website load the cached version of the results.”

< p>Turns out, when not losing market share to a third-party app, Facebook is actually quite nice to developers as compared to Twitter. To be fair, tweets constitute a lot more volume and processing, so it would make sense for Twitter to want the devs to cache their data. Also, even ADN  has rate limits but at least their limits are more generous than Twitter.

Seriously though, twitter has millions of dollars for servers and all I have is a 128MB VPS. What the heck, Twitter?

Google(+)

Google is no longer Google. It’s Google(+). Everything we love about Google and it’s services is being slowly replaced by Google+ and the latest victim is GMail. Now anyone on Google+ can email you without knowing your email ID. As a communication tool, this makes GMail more open. But that’s exactly what people don’t use GMail for. They use it for Email. Big difference there Google. You can opt-out, but what’s the bet that option will be going away soon?

What Google should actually do –

Google understands one thing and one thing alone – Search. Pushing Google+ isn’t going to help them overcome the social networks of the world. But there is one thing I covet – the Search API. Seriously, why don’t we see third-party Search apps that innovate the way we see our Search results. That’s one data stream we’ve not targeted yet. Google needs to let people in, do their thing and pretty soon we’ll see people integrating Search with  social platforms. Oh, you wanna see which of your Facebook friends searched for the latest Tom Hanks movie and then clicked on IMDB? Here’s the data to that. Seriously Google, stop letting one segment of the business take over the other, specially since we know you’ll kill Google+ a couple of years from now.

Advertising

Ah, advertising! The Bane of TV show lovers binge-watchers. Advertising has slowly crept in everywhere on the Internet, from YouTube to Hulu. Towards YouTube, go find YouTube5. It’s an extension that replaces the usual YouTube player with a cool HTML5 one and kills all ads in the process. Enjoy.

To Hulu, I say, well, get rid of the “Brandon Switched to Ford” ad. Seriously. It’s a stupid ad, I’ve seen all too much of it and Brandon looks like a total douche for being the black sheep who abandoned the family tradition and switched from a Honda to a Ford. If ever Hulu fails, it’ll be because they keep repeating the same ads over and over again. I do not want to be bored by ads, I want them to be innovative and interesting. (Coincidentally, Samuel L Jackson staring in my face is not innovative. I’m looking at you, Capital One.)

I finally also saw the KFC ads that look like some woman with a video camera uploaded to YouTube. That’s supposed to be innovative? Nope. She looks drunk/high/both and you’re not fooling anyone with these ads KFC, those are scripted (or worse, they’re not!).

Finally, saw a teeth whitening strips ad on Hulu that said, very specifically, “If your teeth are not getting white, they’re getting yellow”. Ok, first of all, yellow teeth are perfectly normal and more an indication of stomach trouble than a medical emergency. Second, the ad targets people women who drink coffee. First it was guys who smoke who were targeted and now this. Finally, that text up there. That’s a scare tactic. Pretty soon, they’ll come up with a white paper saying that yes, your teeth getting yellow is a medical problem and you need to use teeth whitening strips in conjunction with toothpaste. All of this will be driven by only one thing – Sales telling the Marketing team to get innovative with the ads. There’s no real medical issue that they’ve tried to resolve.

That concludes the rant session on advertising.

Clients from Heaven

I’ve been building a web app for my brother and he mentioned that the text on the screen doesn’t ‘look black’. For a second, I tried hard not to wonder if my brother is a typical MBA Client from Hell but as it turns out, he was right, the text was actually #2C3E50 which is actually a weird dark blue. Thanks Bootstrap for making me look bad in front of my brother!

WordPress

It was an exciting week to be a WordPress user. Snaplive, a front-end text editing solution was showcased to a few who had signed up for updates. It seems to work really well with WordPress, so expecting some really good things in the future.

Ghost had promised to revolutionize WordPress, but instead it went and setup shop elsewhere. That’s ok, since we have Gust, which is a plugin that ports the awesome Ghost Admin panel functionality to WordPress. Mind you, this just released, so if you’re not ready for bugs (which software doesn’t have bugs?), don’t install this yet.

Finally, a shout out to whatweekisit.com, which I used to, umm, calculate which week of 2014 we’re in. Yeah, I should have just looked at a calendar.

You Won’t Finish This Article Either

Just today, I was having a discussion on ADN about how there’s too much noise on the Internet and if I had the choice of a broadcast medium, I’d go with newspapers. Some time after that, I noticed the link to an interesting article on Slate about how people are not reading entire articles on the Internet and are just skimming through, or even just reading the headline, and tweeting the link if they like the headline or an eye-catching photo.

At this point, it’s my duty to inform you that this is a post about Social media, sharing, reading on the Internet and is a bit of a rant, so if you’re not interested, you’ve already left the article. I’d also like to tell you that I wanted to name the article – “Dealing with loss, of Readers” but that seemed rather grim and I wanted to mimic the Slate headline, because it’s just that good. There’s another reason that I’ll tell you later about. Continue reading

Title tells all

Take a look at the following tweet –

Interesting isn’t it? The tweet tells you the title of the article and there a link present with it! How wonderful is that?!

Frankly, that’s the crappiest type of tweet I’ve ever seen. Social networks like Twitter and Alpha can mostly only support enough space that if someone is putting up a link, they’ll either put up a title and a link or an explanation and a link. And guess what type of post super busy (read: lazy) business people, SEO Gurus and Social evangelists who use automated services like Buffer or IFTTT go for? You guessed it, the former.

Why does it matter? It matters because in this world of micro blogging and tweeting, everything is just a headline and nothing is context. If I start giving importance to everything anyone ever posts, it’ll be hell for me. So, it only goes to say that it’d be etiquette to ensure that whatever you’re posting is easier to read by your followers. How can you do that? Pretty simple. Do NOT post links with titles. Post links with reasoning. By posting in context, you’re ensuring the other person has an understanding of why you recommend this article or service instead of them just hopping to the link only to discover they’re not interested.

Oh, and SEO gurus, by posting the context, you’re adding more keywords to your posts, thus making sure you get better hits. It’s really a win-win situation even though it might seem to take longer for you to make that post.

By the way, when you look at it, does my post’s title do a good job of explaining what the article is about? Not really. That’s just an example of how bad/wrongly worded blog post titles really are. So by adding context, you’re adding a lot more value to your followers.

Good day and have a good weekend! 🙂

A response to Marco Arment about ADN Freemium

Today, App.net (ADN), the social network that made me drop all others made an important announcement – that it is going to allow free accounts that are invited by currently paying members. I did not intend on writing a blog post about it because this is news that has already spread through wildfire in the tech community. Some have lauded and some criticized it. But the post that made me write is this commentary by Marco Arment.

Marco argues that while such news is welcome, ADN needs to do more to promote user growth instead of focusing on developing the API. He goes on to state that the main reason people are signing up is the twitter like functionality sans the spam and advertisements and instead of building file storage APIs, the team should develop spam protection and open the gates completely to free members. Continue reading

It is 1984.

Big Brother is watching. This is the ominous note that strikes me whenever I think about George Orwell’s amazing book. It makes sense in a senseless world. We are aware of our governments watching us. But I’m not going to talk about intrusive governments. I’m going to talk about something else. Ever since I joined ADN, I’ve been part of a growing debate over privacy concerns regarding Facebook and developer concerns over a now well-locked down Twitter API. I’ve read about Facebook’s new Graph Search, I’ve read about Twitter’s fight with Instagram and I’ve read about Dunbar’s number. But today, when I saw a link about Twitter being the fastest growing global social platform, is when I realized where all of this is going.

Many months ago, I read an interesting article on Quartz about how Facebook is looking to Africa for its next Billion users. The method is simple – provide Facebook access for free via SMS. In this classic move, people get addicted to the free social network and Facebook gets marketable user data on a Billion more. This despite the fact that we’ve well established that Facebook isn’t what it’s all pegged to be – a way to connect with people. Then I saw this new post about Twitter today and I realized where this is all going. Those of you who’ve read 1984 will know that in the book there are three main countries, each too large to be defeated by the other two, even if they try to combine forces, which never really happens because of ever-changing alliances. All this while, the common people of each State are fed misinformation and trained to accept it as fact. This is an Oligarchical system that cannot be broken. There is a perpetual war and all available resources are concentrated towards it, sacrificed from availability to common man with the hope that it’ll help in the war effort. But the most important facet? Everyone is watched. Continue reading

Are you getting hammed on your social network?

We all hate spam. Spam is useless, it fills up too much of our email space and it takes a lot of time to get rid of. That’s why email providers invented filters. They wanted everyone to be rid of everything associated to spam.

In today’s age, we’re not restricted to email. Most of our conversations happen on social networks and email is reserved for sending documents or larger conversations (or maybe the occasional person who’s still not on any social network). There’s some protection from spam in social networks because it’s in the benefit of the network providers to prevent non-sense from entering a user’s feed (this is, of course, not true for Facebook). Thus there are enough ways to block spam (ban the spamming friend or application, set filters or use hardware to detect spam) or to avoid it (by overlooking certain posts) that we’re no longer too worried about spam. But what about ham? Continue reading

Experimenting with a new way of microblogging

Today, someone pointed out to me that my live blog – live.nitinkhanna.com wasn’t truly a micro blog because there was no way for people to reply to me. This got me thinking. Following the tenets of what a micro blog is from my recent post, I believe that a post, reply model, with no character limit on the post other than the author’s discretion with the ability to include multimedia in the post and the ability to host it on their own server really defines a micro blog.

Towards that, here’s an experiment – Disqus, the famous commenting system, has all of the above features. Though I do not, in the end, control the database of the posts, I can host a disqus plugin just about anywhere. This is where I choose to do it. This is now, a micro blog. Anyone can come and comment here. This allows  for Guest replies, mentions, multimedia attachments, moderation and links in the comments. There is even a mobile theme which will work if you visit this page from your smart phones.

This is just an experiment. I will post here only if people start posting here. My primary personal micro blog will still be on live.nitinkhanna.com and if anyone wants to reply there, you can do so on the Disqus comments at the bottom of that page.