Twitter’s most urgently needed new feature: universal read/unread status for tweets

As you might probably have guessed from other articles on this site, I am a big fan of Twitter. I love its real-time nature (giving it a unique sense of urgency), its limited feature set (allowing for quick, easy and hardly interrupting use) and the loose nature of most of its users (resulting in rather persional opinions and observations).

Due to Twitter’s very basic core features (viewing a list of short messages and posting them yourself), the service easily lends itself for usage on a wide variety of devices. It is probably the social network service with the highest number of mobile users. Being out and about, sharing a moment via a shortly tweet, perhaps including a picture or a map-location, is rather effortless.

Most people also use a Twitter client on their desktop PC when they’re working on one, as reaching for your smartphone when already connected to the Internet using the device in front of you seems rather illogical. In fact, it’s not uncommon to add a laptop computer and an iPad to the mix of Twitter-capable devices as well.

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Should I post to Twitter in English instead of my native language?

In little over a year, I became quite a Twitter-fanatic. I follow around a hundred people (which I organized in categorised Lists for easy reading), and I daily post a handfull of messages myself (using the account @JorgK). Up until now, my tweets are in Dutch. Being a citizen of The Netherlands, Dutch is my native tongue.

For quite some time, however, I have been wondering if I should switch to English as the language of my tweets. The reason is obvious: there are (at best) a few hundred thousand people in The Netherlands using Twitter, while the number people on Twitter whose primary language is English, or who are able to understand English as a second language, are more like to reach into the few hundred millions. In theory, the audience for my tweets would multiply significanty. Either people who could follow me directly, or people who found my tweets by searching the Twitter timeline for specific subjects.

However, I always had a feeling that most of the topics that I tweet about are very locally focused. Would these topics lend themselves for an international audience?

To get a better insight into this, I decided to have a look at what exactly it is that I tweet about. For this, I analysed all the messages that I sent in the past 30 days. And this lead me to unexpected insights.

Let me give you a quick summary of what I found: Frequent topics of my tweets. Continue reading

How Twitter’s new Lists feature will dramatically impact follower count

Twitter is great, and like millions of others I’m a big fan of the service. Many people are worth following. In my case this includes of a great number of personal friends, but also a big number of media reporters, tech bloggers, scientists and politicians. With the growing number of people to follow, it gets harder every time to keep track of all those messages. To get a more organized view, it would be a great idea to group these people into various categories, so that related posts are shown together.

For quite some time, many Twitter-clients offered some functionality to create groups of people. However, this resulted in a less then ideal situation. For starters, these groups you created in one particular client are not portable across different clients, let alone be visible on the Twitter website. This meant that in order to sync them up between your mobile and desktop, you had to use the same client on both your iPhone and your Mac, which had to support some form of group syncing, and you had to remember to sync between the clients from time to time. Many people choose to use different clients though (such as in my case Tweetie on the iPhone, and Nambu on the Mac), or just use the well designed Twitter website when sitting at the desk, so this does not provide a valid solution for them. Furthermore, there was no way to see how other people categorised their Twitter-contacts so you could learn from them, nor could others see the efforts that you put into ordering your Twitter-users. Continue reading

Why Plex makes me finally use a media center, and how to watch overseas television without limitations using VPN

As I explained in an earlier post, I have set up a Mac mini in my living room that primarily acts as a server, but it is also connected to my home entertainment system to function as a media player. I confess that I did this merely because I could. Like I said back then, I am not a heavy user of media playback software. I have no movie files stored on my harddisk (as downloading movies is too much of a hassle in countries that do not have movies available in the iTunes Store, like The Netherlands), and I never rip DVD content to disk. I don’t use the Mac to play DVDs, as I think that my Blu-ray player does a far better job on this, and is easier to operate. And I also don’t watch or record television on the Mac, as this job is perfectly taken care of by my cable company’s HD settop box with PVR. The only media related activities that I used the living room Mac mini for were playing music, and occasionally watching photos.

Plex and its alternatives

However, due to a number of reasons, as of lately I am hooked to a brilliant open source Media Center initiative that is unique to Mac OS X called Plex. Triggered by my new Harmony One remote, of which I wrote in great detail in my former post, I had a closer look at the Plex software because of its unique capability to work brilliantly with the Harmony, bypassing many of the limitations of the 6-button Apple Remote. And what I found was that this software greatly enhances my TV watching choices, and on top doing so in a slick and very well designed manner. The reason for my shift? Online content.

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Why the perfect universal remote will never exist (but how the Harmony One comes close)

My history of researching, buying, using and discarding universal remotes to operate my home entertainment equipment might be comparable to my search for the perfect computer mouse: neither quest has thus far resulted in finding a product that seems to fit my wishes perfectly.

In these days, with an ever growing pile of eletronics devices that can be remote controlled, it is not hard to imagine that many people are looking for a single universal remote that can replace them all. The idea seems easy: just put all functionality of the seperate remotes into one new device. However, in practice, it seems to be very hard to turn this idea into a well executed product. This is due to a number of reasons that I try to explain in this article.

Although early remote controls in the 1950s used ultrasonic sound to communicate, the consumer electronics industry moved almost entirely towards infrared by the late 70s, early 80s. Using infrared has a number of huge disadvantages, the most prominent of them of course being the fact that you have to have  a clear line-of-sight between the remote and the device. If the signal gets blocked, the command will not arrive. (Imagine how things would have looked today if instead of light, the remote used a radio signal. There would be no loss of signal, and a device could be operated even if it was locked up in a closet.)

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My favorite indy Mac software

This time I couldn’t resist the temptation that every Mac-blogger faces sooner or later. Today I will not give an insight into Apple’s latest wanderings, but an overview of my personal favorite pieces of software. To make things a bit more interesting, I will omit the “obvious” tools from the big companies (assuming that most know that wordprocessor from Microsoft or that excellent piece of music management software from Apple), and I will instead focus on software from the smaller companies. In the Mac-community, many of those developers are well respected for the quality of their work. (If you are interested in the why’s and how’s of the Mac’s indy development community, and the very interesting ways it is socially organized, I highly recommend the thesis Indy Fever by Dutch researcher Michiel van Meeteren).

This listing ranges from handy, but very focussed system add-ons and utilities, to full-blown productivity tools. They are presented in no particular order.

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Thoughts on iPhone 3.0 (including the iPhone-enabled USB-stick)

Last week, Apple showcased the upcoming 3.0 version of the iPhone operating system, widely expected to be available around WWDC in the June timeframe. If one thing became clear from this presentation, it is that iPhone OS is the next big computing platform, at least as far as Apple is concerned. After first introducing the iPhone and its incredibly slick and intuitive user interface to the public in 2007, Apple then educated millions of people on the idea that their phone can indeed be an all-purpose mobile computing platform by intoducing the App Store in 2008. And now, Apple seems to focus the attention even more on developers. Sure, Apple did announce some pretty nice new end user features in 3.0 (of which the company promises over 100 in total when the final product ships), but the really impressive announcements were the additions to the Software Developers Kit, or SDK.

No less than 1,000 new APIs were introduced to programmers, letting them do even more advanced stuff with the iPhone and iPod touch then before. Think of using the dock-connector or bluetooth to communicate to dedicated accessories, or the direct iPhone-to-iPhone networking connectivity over Bluetooth that doesn’t need pairing or joining of a wireless network, or the widely disussed push notification services letting applications notify users even when the actual program is closed, or the voice-over-IP functionality that can easily be implemented in a game or app without much efforts, or the in-app purchasing features opening up the way for many new types of applications.

Surely, consumers will be spoiled, if not overwhelmed, with the flood of new applications (or renewed applications) in the second half of this year, pushing iPhone as a platform even further away of the curve.

In this article, I will briefly share with you some thoughts I have on some of the new features offered by the iPhone 3.0 software and the new SDK.

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