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All a Twitter: good read

At least I can admit when I’m wrong. Sometimes.

in Technical Book Reviews , Monday, July 27, 2009

My previous post displayed me at my sarcastic best, with a cheap jibe at a book I hadn’t actually read. When I actually started reading the book, I soon discovered this…

This Book Is Written in More Than 140 Characters

Yes, I’ve heard that joke. I’ve heard it often. If you are at a book signing and are thinking of asking me, “So is this book written in more than 140 characters?”, please reconsider. The fact that this book is as thick as it is and has thirteen chapters should be the hint that there is a bit more to Twitter than you might expect.

And just tonight, as I was writing this, someone cracked that joke. So, please, don’t make that joke. It’s just not working for me anymore. Thank you in advance.

...and felt suitably embarrassed.

Well, the case for the defence rests on the fact that there is an awful amount of new-agey, geeky, shallow idiocy written about Twitter - amazingly, not all of if by Tim O’Bookshifter - and I just expected this to be another bloated hagiography. Well, I was wrong.

“All a Twitter” is actually rather good. Tee Morris explains the mechanics of Twitter as a web application, and critically examines various tools you can get hold of to enhance your experience. But beyond that it takes a reasoned, balanced view of the “why” of Twitter, and encourages readers to decide for themselves what benefit they could get by joining in - or not.

You may think that Twitter is something that young people today waste their time on, or you may think that it is the biggest revolution in personal communication, like, EVER. Or you may think that it is a healthy social lifeline for the millions of people who spend their waking hours, at work or at play, in front of a computer screen.

You may also be turned off by the crass levels of self-promotion which various public and insider figures have indulged themselves in. Well, the author deals with them, gloves off, and makes it clear that their egocentric behaviour reflects themselves, not the wider community.

Personally, I’m still not sure if Twitter is for me - and especially vice-versa, but I’m better informed now than I was on Friday. Wherever you stand, if you’re at all interested in this social phenomenon, “All a Twitter” is a remarkably interesting, well written and thought provoking book that deserves a wide audience.

And yeah, it’s written in more than 140 characters.

Meanwhile, on the ‘B’ Ark

turn down the signal, ramp up the noise

in General Rants , Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I’ve been tasked with “doing something with Twitter” on the project I’m working on just now, which is still under wraps. Well, I’ve “done stuff with Twitter” before, and I’ve been on Twitter. And I found it creepy and really, but really disturbingly superficial.

But anyway, I’m supposed to be being paid to do what I’m told, so I though a quick refresher might help, and I’m reading The Twitter Book by Web 2.0 Cult High Priest Tim O’Reilly (who I also find creepy and superficial) and Sarah Milstein (who she?).

The book design follows a sort of playschool format, with big letters and big pictures on small pages, which I guess is the designer’s wonderfully subtle way of referring to Twitter itself. Whether or not that is a good thing is somewhat open to question.

By page 120 of 240-ish my eyelids feel like steel shutters and my body is invaded by narcolepsy. It is so, so, so dull. It really doesn’t help that it parades the same old Web 2.0 names in cutesy referential ways, or that all of the examples have a very strong gee-whiz San Francisco air about them.

Above all, it is so remarkably self-glorifying, self-referential and vapid. Which, actually, is well matched to the subject, I guess.  “Be interesting to other people”, preach the authors. They could start by taking their own advice to heart.  Well, I’ve got a message to all you Twitterers: the ‘A’ Ark is coming real soon now.

Not very nice but very funny

in Web x.x , Friday, October 20, 2006

Nice to see that my trashing of "Mobile Web 2.0" is not living in a vacuum... "By contrast, and at such events you can spot the losers because of the vast gap between their rhetoric and their achievements, was Ajit Jaokar. Like someone frantically banging a shoe against a gerkin in the hope of making a goulash, Ajit is determined to bring the utopian nonsense of Web 2.0 to mobile phones. He runs a Mobile Web 2.0 blog - and he's written a book about it all, he reminded us. ("Bang, bang! Shoe – make stew!")" -- Andrew "loose canon" Orlowski writing in The Register. Cruel, unfair, but unfortunately absolutely spot on.

Discovering Plazes

in Web x.x , Wednesday, October 11, 2006

There are approximately one million social, sharing, community Web 2.0 applications currently in Beta, and they're breeding (almost literally, as mashups :-) ). At lot of them, if not most, seem to stretch credibility to breaking point (for example, a community site for lonely bloggers ? Haven't we already got MySpace ?). But one which seems to offer some entertainment value, and is easy to set up, and combines various things in an intelligent way, is Plazes. plazes-grab.jpg Unfortunately, although Plazes has over 4000 locations registered in Switzerland, they are mostly located in the north, and it does not seem to have grabbed much attention in my neighbourhood yet. And even when it has, the political geography seems a little off... SafariScreenSnapz001.jpg ... and this idea of needing an application to track where your friends are seems a little dysfunctional, in a tech geek sort of way - but the extension to mobile does seem possibly interesting, especially for mundane things like finding gas stations or restaurants. As for the business model... AdSense, I suppose. Good luck with that.

Ajax in the real(?) world

in Web x.x , Thursday, June 08, 2006

I've been using several web applications recently which fall into the Web 2.0 bucket, in particular Backpack and Newsgator. Both are very useful, although I'm somewhat dubious about the quality of Newsgator's web interface. But both show up a serious weakness in Ajax, which is basically it might not work at all in a managed corporate environment. Since Ajax requires ActiveX in IE6, and ActiveX is the Spawn of Satan as far as corporate IT security is concerned (one of the few areas I'm on total agreement with them on), we get this sort of thing: no_ngx.jpg Actually, in IE Newsgator recovers reasonably well from this, although getting this blocking modal dialog on every screen load quickly gets tedious. However, none of the drag & drop functionality works, and Newsgator doesn't degrade gracefully. Sure, Ajax is cool, but making it essential on a paid-for service like Newsgator is just bad design and bad customer service. Unfortunately Backpack, the paragon of simplicity, fares no better. It looks like it works, but it doesn't. It seems like those very cute little "working" animations are not working in this locked down IE environment, and so making Backpack unusable for the sake of some eye candy. Hardly the 37Signals manifesto, as far as I understood it. backpack.jpg

Trying to change the name of the page...

I'm not really sure why Backpack even needs this stuff. It really seems to be "Web 2.0 for the sake of it". It would work fine without all the little DHTML (er, sorry, Ajax) tweaks, which are indeed nice, and even enhance usability, but they should not be showstoppers. I'd like to evangelise Backpack with the Very Large International Corporation I work in. But I can't. Even in a not-exactly-allowed-but-you-can-hack it installation of Firefox 1.5.0.4, neither service works, although both have different problems to the ones in IE. It seems from discussion on Newsgator forums that this has something to do with how Firefox works with proxies, but investigating that would be considerably more than my jobsworth. These shouldn't be bleeding edge services. I'm sure that Jesse James Garrett didn't intend that basic usability principles should be sacrificed at the altar of Ajax. Hardly the point, I think.
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