A couple of days ago, I had an interesting dicussion on Twitter with Dutch media guru @erwblo. He noticed a trend at SxSW, where all exciting new developments seemed to be centered around apps. I tried to argue that apps are “evil”, but found that I needed a lot more than 140 characters to explain myself. Hence this post.
Right now, there’s a war raging. Apple, Google, RIM, Microsoft and others are caught up in a bitter fight over supremacy on the mobile internet. And the stakes are high. The web is about to go mobile. Smartphone sales are up, and dumbphones are getting smarter. Tablets are replacing part of the laptop market, and will soon represent a big slice of overall internet consumption.
More A dystopian future of the mobile internet
Last year, @BruceJillis and I created Gunfollow. Recently, there seems to be a renewed interest in this Twitter hitman of sorts. So we’ve been thinking of ways to make Gunfollow even more fun. The easiest way to do that seems to be to add more messages. Gunfollow uses a predefined set of “semi-rude” tweets that it sends to its victims. But not all of them are as witty as we’de like them to be. And that’s where you could come in .
More Help us add more messages to Gunfollow.com
Recently, Picasa started serving its RSS feeds over https. From what I can tell, this has caused quite a view “clients” to fail. Digital photo frames seem to be affected, and so is my Flickr widget. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix.
I’ve run a few tests, and it seems that simply removing the “s” from “https” fixes the issue. Every feed I tried could be called up over regular old http as well, and all of them worked with my widget.
More Getting my Flickr/Picasa widget working again with Picasa’s new feeds
Just a quick post in case anyone else ever runs into this and manages to find their way to my blog.
I just came across this in a client project I’m working on. I was using a TextField in Flash CS5, and needed to know the width of the actual text inside it for positioning purposes. What I found was that in about 50% of cases, the textWidth property would return zero instead of the strings length in pixels. I tried using autoSize on the TextField and found that it would shorten half of its instances to a single character or less, causing the rest of the line to be invisible.
At first I thought there was something wrong with the font file, but the same happened with Verdana. So I started randomly changing settings, and it turns out that the “anti-alias for readability” setting was causing this. As soon as I changed that setting to “anti-alias for readability” the textfields were being autosized properly, and reported their actual lengths through the textWidth property.
More Erratic behavior with Flash’s textWidth property
Just look at the image below. The left version is the bottom right corner of my Chrome browser window (version 8.0). This logo appears on every new empty tab, and I can’t help but wonder why Google didn’t spend 15 seconds making it look nicer. The version to the right literally took that long to make. I added a little padding, made it more subtle and changed the way the text aligns with the logo.
Looks much better, doesn’t it? I think it went from “Hey, there’s room for a logo there” to “all this awesomeness os powered by Chrome”. If I were a company trying to promote a new browser, I’d try to get these things right. And it’s not like they can’t afford it, right?
A few days ago, @bakkel tweeted about WP Time Machine. This WordPress backup solution turned out to be exactly what I’d been looking for. It gathers all the relevant bits (like your blog’s database, uploaded images, etc) and uploads them to Dropbox, Amazon’s S3 or FTP. It even adds a file with comprehensive restore instructions. I’ve argued before that backups need to be absolutely painless, and with this plugin they are.
More WP Time Machine – free off-site backups for WordPress
There are plenty of way to have “automated” newsletters sent out based on your WordPress blog’s RSS feed. Feedburner and MailChimp, among other do this, and there’s nothing wrong with those services.
However, if you’d want to write content specifically for your weekly e-mail, RSS is not ideal. High quality e-mailings usually don’t simply copy blog posts, they’re carefullt crafted by copywriters to get as much response as possible. That’s why the idea of a newsletter-theme has been floating around in my head. Here’s what I’m thinking might work…
More Idea: A WordPress theme for e-mail newsletters?
It’s been a while since I wrote about HostMonk. In a world of paid-for and affiliate marketing driven hosting review websites, HostMonk was a breath of fresh air. I wrote that “If HostMonk would add a good rating system (…) it might just be the website we’ve been waiting for”. Well they have. So now it is?
What’s really clever is that HostMonk uses other factors, like uptime, to rate hosts as well. Even the number of Twitter followers is factored in to give you the best possible indication of a host’s popularity. Clever stuff. And they’ve added cloud and shared hosting packages too. Now all we need to do is fill HostMonk’s review database. The web needed a good independent service like this, so let’s use it.
I don’t make a habit out of “reblogging” or linkdumping, but since a lot of WordPress people seem to be finding their way to my blog, I wanted to write about this. I got an email regarding a new WordPress plugin called BlogPress SEO this morning. Normally, I would have considered reviewing it, but fortunately I’d already read Joost de Valk’s review-of-sorts. And so should you. BlogPress SEO is spam. It’s a link farm, and goes against every rule Google and other search engines have about linking. Read all about it on yoast.com.
When I first started using WPMU, the now-integrated multisite version of WordPress, I found it strange that there were no built-in tools to aggregate content onto the main blog. It seemed to me that that was something plenty of people would want to do. Sure, there were plugins and hacks, but none of them were as polished as I’d like them to be.
Fortunately, things have changed. WordPress 3.0 now has multisite capabilities built right into it, and Bjorn Wijers, a friend of mine and one of Holland’s top WordPress developers, has created a really cool plugin to handle content aggregation. Called bbAggregate, this plugin doesn’t just collect posts from blogs to be displayed on the home page, it allows you to display aggregated content on any of your network’s blogs. And to do this it introduces the concept of streams.
More bbAggregate lets you mix and match WordPress content