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U.S. State Department speaks to Twitter over Iran

The reason Twitter got to delay it’s maintenance today was apparently in large part due to Gov’t intervention.

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breadbox64

A Twitter client for C64.

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Twitter Replies to #fixreplies

This is maybe the fourth response that Biz has had to write, and it’s the only good one. The gist: Twitter screwed up and removed a feature that a lot of hardcore users loved. When they “fixed” it, the explanation of HOW they fixed it made almost no sense to anyone.

Now they’re fixing it for real, I hope. The original setting will not return, though.

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#fixreplies

Twitter changed their policy for @replies today, and people are mad. I’m with them. The #fixreplies tag is currently getting around 60 messages per second, according to Twitter search.

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Twitter’s Admin Interface

Screenshots from a hack of their admin section. It makes me feel a lot better about some of the admin UIs I’ve shipped.

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How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter

This is the best, serious, essay smacking down the Twitter-hate going on among the terrified old guard media. It’s note-taking technology:

Imagine a world where everyone uses typewriters: they write novels, manifestos, historical surveys, and so on, but they do it all using typewriters.

Now the ball-point pen comes along. People use it to write down grocery lists and street addresses and recipes and love notes. What is this awful new technology? the literary users of typewriters say. Ball-point pens are the death of humanism.

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Maureen Dowd’s Absurd Interview With Twitter’s Founders

Biz gives the best answers to her dismissive/hostile questions. A sample:

ME: If you were out with a girl and she started twittering about it in the middle, would that be a deal-breaker or a turn-on?

BIZ (dryly): In the middle of what?

They really turned it around on her, and I love it.

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Birdfeeder and FETHR

Birdfeeder is the prototype implementation of a RESTful, interoperable, Internet-scale microblogging protocol, tentatively called FETHR (Featherweight Entangled Timelines over HTTP Requests).”

See also: Why Twitter in 2009 is like CompuServe Email in 1983.

(via Waxy)

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“SPELLING WITH MY BRAIN”

Using a neural interface to send twitter messages.

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“What’s The Twitshirt Thing?”

Twitshirt launched yesterday (16 April 2009) and provide a service that I’m sure many people would/will give their patronage to: The printing of individual tweets on t-shirts, on-demand. Since the t-shirt is the defining medium of this generation, and vanity publishing is in full vogue, it only makes sense that a business model which combines the two could succeed, and handily. They kinda fucked it up, though.

The problem: Twitshirt did not ask permission to sell the words of the authors of the tweets they printed. The author could opt-out, but that is at best a poor solution. It, without question, should be opt-in.

Today Twitshirt.com is down with a message saying, “We’ve heard your feedback-thank you. We’re reversing the polarity.”

Admitting one is wrong is not an easy thing to do, especially in public. Hopefully a relaunched Twitshirt will do what it should’ve in the first place: ask.

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Track 4chan’s Attempt To Beat Ashton Kutcher and CNN to 1M Twitter Followers

Currently adding new followers to @basementdad at a rate of about 700 per minute. See also: the 4chan thread.

both (via Waxy)

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Keith Starky Explains Twitter

A sample:

  1. Twain often disparaged James Fenimore Cooper, who is referred to by many as “History’s First SEO Blogger”
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Sam Ruby on Rev Canonical

The short list of grievances: Twitter doesn’t support it, and may never. HTML5 omits rev entirely. Atom uses the self attribute for the very purposes that rev="canonical" might be used for.

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Birdhouse — A notepad for Twitter

Birdhouse, co-created by Adam Lisagor of You Look Nice Today, is a great example of an application made for a niche audience, with the application’s authors being a part of that niche.

Birdhouse is for twitter writing what MarsEdit is to blog writing.

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The LA Times on Amazon’s “De-Ranking” of Books Deemed Too Adult

This is quickly turning into a PR coup for Amazon. The gist of this is that most of the books labeled as “adult” and made hard to find on Amazon’s site are lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual-themed, or even just LGBT-friendly. This is extremely bad form on the part of Amazon, as not showing up on best-seller lists or search pages can cripple the sales of a book. One of the books affected is “Unfriendly Fire” by Nathaniel Frank, which now doesn’t show up on bestseller lists on Amazon.com despite it’s selling of more copies than the entire Twilight series.

The #amazonfail tag on Twitter is spreading very quickly in response to this, and I encourage the use of it.

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On URL Shortening

URL shortening has been the subject of much discussion recently, and there is one big reason: Twitter. Twitter has exploded in usage in the last 6 months, and with that has come a sharp increase in both the number of and use of third-party URL redirection services. Bit.ly, TinyURL, Twitpic, and the rest, are just some of the major players in the space. All of them provide similar functions but suffer from the same problems, some of which are outlined below.

The purpose of this isn’t to indict these services, all of which grew out of the need for something very much like what they are. I think that by outlining the issues and benefits, we can gain a better understanding of why we need URL shortening / redirection, and what can be done to improve the practice.

Problems that URL Shorteners Solve

This is what they’re good for.

The Problem of Memorability.

http://example.com/~username/directory/this_page.html

becomes

http://go.to/thispage

The removal of many “slash”es and a “tilde” makes this URL much more accessible. When spoken aloud, the URL is easy to keep in mind. “go to this page.”

The Problem of Awkward or Ugly

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/020530902X/ref=s9_sdps_c2_s1_p14_i4?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1QBB624XETXRNEPDHV6V&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

becomes

http://tinyurl.com/c82sr4

The link is now more aesthetically pleasing, won’t be as confusing to the tech-unsavvy, and won’t give most URL formatting scripts headaches.

The Problem of Length

http://daringfireball.net/2009/01/applescripts_targetting_safari_or_webkit

becomes

http://bit.ly/BDN6

It’s now shorter, and affords the writer more space on Twitter or in an SMS to comment on the link. The Amazon link in the second example, with a total of 181 characters, wouldn’t even fit in an SMS, or Twitter message.

These are legitimate problems, and each pops up in different circumstances. Memorability is primarily an issue when using free webhosts that do not provide each user a unique domain name, with sensible URLs. Awkward/ugly is an issue with many online shopping services that collect tons of referral and other link data. Length becomes an issue when using a micro-blogging or SMS service, like Twitter. These problems often “stack”, and co-exist.

Problems That URL Shorteners Create

Reliance On A Third-Party

What happens if your URL shortener of choice goes out of business, or changes their URL format some day? It is not out of the realm of possabiltiy that TinyURL, Bit.ly or any of the major players in URL reduction could go the way of 1000s of other web companies. As of today, TinyURL.com claims to have created over 200 million shortened URLs. 200 million is a lot of dead links that could be avoided. Even if the service goes down for a short time, these are visitors and readers and customers that need not be lost.

Obfuscation

One of their prime drawbacks of URL shorteners, this is used for comedic effects by some. The spread of the Rick Roll might not have gone so well if not for the semi-anonimity created by these services. In recent years some (TinyURL, for one) have provided a “preview” mode to guard against obscene or otherwise untoward usage. This is fine, but it isn’t a solution to the real problem. Without context, a URL that starts with http://tinyurl.com/ could literally go ANYWHERE on the internet. Even with a custom name (e.g. http://go.to/thispage) there simply isn’t enough context to know what kind of thing you’re clicking on.

Unnecessary Strain On Networks

This is one is a bit less of an issue right now, but it is gaining steam: The dozens of free, url redirection services are causing network congestion by adding an extra HTTP request to every URL that is processed by them. One by one these are not problems, but by the millions they can make a notable dent in networking throughput, strain on hardware, and eventually, increased costs of keeping networking hardware healthy. Compounding this problem is the recent trend of Twitter clients to “expand” shortened URLs and provide the user with the destination URL, which creates even more unnecessary networking overhead.

My Solution To Some of The Problems Presented Above

Obviously, I can’t just say “stop using URL shorteners”. Nobody would listen, and besides, sometimes URL shortening is necessary or  just convenient. What I’m proposing is that you provide your own shortened URLs.

Use my WordPress plugin la petite url, or another short URL plugin. There’s a Django app, too. Providing a Twitter/SMS-friendly URL format for your visitors and users gives context to your links that would otherwise be lost. The URL http://extrafuture.com/msfxe is not as context-rich as http://extrafuture.com/2009/04/08/on-url-shortening/ but it is markedly better than http://tinyurl.com/ck9df4 or even http://tinyurl.com/onurlshortening. At least the user an idea about where the link they’re seeing might take them.

This is not a perfect solution, and I’m aware of that. If your web site’s URL is especially long, then serving shortened URLs from it will not be useful. In most other cases, serving your own shortened URLs is an option can solve the problems of third-party reliance, length, and obfuscation quite nicely.