30 March 2010

Splitting your Twitter personality

About a month ago, somebody suggested to me in a Buzz conversation that I set up a different accounts for my activity in Romanian, my native language. I must admit I flirted with that idea before, but I thought it would be complicated and always postponed it. This is a rather thorny issue with all Twitter users twitting in multiple languages; despite some attempts by Google to tackle the problem, the language barrier is still dividing Internet users worldwide. Even though some Twitter clients like integrated translation of tweets and Twitter may do so in the web interface sometimes soon, I can’t rely on machine-based translation to do a decent job, especially with a ‘niche’ language like Romanian.

So I went ahead and created a new Twitter account (gmoga), in addition to my old one (EXDE601E) that will be (mostly) for English tweets. I also tweeted about it to notify my followers of the change, in case someone was interested to follow the new account (apparently they weren’t). The bigger problem however was migrating some of the people I followed, namely those that also tweet mostly in Romanian. I wanted to separate the two timelines as much as possible. Twitter is not very helpful when it comes to managing connections. You can’t sort or see if people are following you back, unless you check if you can DM them. Clearly, I needed an external application for that.

29 March 2010

Consolidate your links with Google Bookmarks

Like many people going online for work or entertainment, I rely on Google search to quickly find answers to most of my questions. A while back I imagined how cool it would be if I could bookmark pages directly from the results, to find them easier the next time. I don’t know if ’s technology now includes mind reading, but after a couple of week, they released something even better: one-click bookmarking of search results with stars. Google search Stars in results

I haven’t used Google Bookmarks for some time and also disabled Web history years ago, but with this tight integration with search, Bookmarks are back in my personal spotlight. It’s a great way to keep track of links and useful articles especially if you use several browsers or work on mobile devices. This launch may be another piece of the Chrome OS puzzle, but I suspect iPad users will also find stars very easy to use on the big touch-screen.

25 March 2010

Battle of the Twitter beasts

With the world gradually moving towards the cloud, not only for storage or applications, but entire operating systems, it’s about time clients also broke free from the desktop and lived entirely on the web as applications inside browser windows. Lately, web-based Twitter clients have been evolving at a faster pace, introducing more and more new features to match wider-used desktop clients. Three of them usually get the most attention, and incidentally they all have animal logos: the Brizzly bear, the HootSuite owl and the Seesmic racoon. Over time I have tried them all, as prefer not to install a desktop app just for Twitter. This is how they compare in terms of features and interface.

19 March 2010

Ideas for the new Blogger template designer

Last week, Blogger introduced a great new feature to improve the design of it’s numerous hosted blogs and at the same time simplify the customization of templates for those of us not happy with the default look. I’ve been planning for a long time to work on the blog design, but now I’m glad I haven’t. After playing around with the new template designer for a couple of days, here are some things I have noticed and also suggestions I would like to make to the Blogger team:

  • First of all, the template designer needs an ‘undo’ option. I like experimenting with different colors, but it’s difficult to revert to the starting point. You can either ‘Reset to template default’ or discard all the changes you made by clicking ‘« Back to Blogger’, so I usually end up loosing more changes than the ones I don’t like.
  • A lot of customization elements should have labels, captions, tool tips or some other form of explanation. The live preview doesn’t show actions like hovering, so I spent a lot of time figuring out what interface element each box controls. This should be much more straightforward and user-friendly.
  • Allow users to set blog widths larger than 1000px or to have the blog automatically adjust to the window dimensions, with a minimum width maybe. I would like to set the sidebar to a fixed width for example, because the gadgets there don’t change from one post to another, but have the contents fill the rest of the remaining space.

11 March 2010

The Facebook gender gap

I have been looking for some time now for a page that displays statistics, because I like to keep track of the evolution and maybe discover some interesting facts. Today I have finally found such a site, while reading something not completely unrelated. After checking out the numbers for Romania, I stumbled upon the data for Turkey. It struck me that there where a lot more male users there compared to the general trend in social networks, or in Romania for that matter.

I decided to do a quick comparison for the 20 countries with the most users. The results are pretty interesting as you can see in the table below. I calculated the gap between male and female users as a percentage of the total number of Facebook users for that country. Countries with a gap larger than 5% are highlighted in red for female dominance and blue for male dominance.

08 March 2010

Publish updates from Facebook to Twitter

There’s no shortage of applications to update your status from or post to both of them simultaneously, but it’s harder it you would like to send your Facebook status to Twitter. This option is currently available only for Facebook pages. But with a little bit of work and some help from external applications you can get this Facebook-to-Twitter integration up and running for personal accounts as well.

The first thing you need is the RSS feed for status updates or links generated for your Facebook profile. These are actually not that easy to find, because the new interface (and probably the previous version as well) doesn’t put them in an easily accessible place.

04 March 2010

Use google.com as default search engine in Chrome

became my favorite browser after launch, not necessarily because of the Google brand, but by association with WebKit and Safari. Also the features and speed aren’t all that bad. I like it so much that I didn’t install any other browser on my new computer (yet).

One small thing I don’t like about Chrome though is how Google redirects searches to the localized version of the website, even though the results are pretty much the same everywhere. That’s not exactly a browser annoyance, but a Google one, but I still want to get it fixed. I prefer the international, .com, version because it usually gets all the new features first. And I would very much like to see the stars.

01 March 2010

Extra-hidden preferences for Google Chrome

Some time ago (months rather than weeks) I read a short but interesting article about setting a minimum font size in Chrome for Linux. It's a rather complicated trick, as it involves modifying a Chrome setup file manually, but unfortunately it's the only way to change this setting, since the browser doesn't have a user interface for it.

Looking at the code found in the file, I realized this is actually a WebKit-preference, meaning the trick can also be applied to Windows as well and most likely to Mac OS X, and not only to Chrome, but to Safari also. On Windows, the file named simply Preferences (without an extension) is located in the Default subfolder of the Chrome installation directory (on Windows XP it is C:\Documents and Settings\[User Name]\Local Settings\Application Data\Chromium\Application; on Vista/Windows 7 C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Local\Chromium\Application). You can edit it using any text editor, like Notepad. You should always back-up the file before making changes, because it contains many Chrome user preferences and you might want to restore it later. Also make sure Chrome isn't running while you are working on the file, because the program will overwrite your changes while closing.