Posts Tagged ‘Software’

When will computers truly "work" for us?

August 2, 2008

I know that I don’t live in the time of the Minority Report or iRobot and I also know that I have a pretty big imagination but I kind of thought that computers were here to serve us.  While we are pretty far away from a central computer in our house asking us if they can turn our favorite music on or prepare some popcorn for the movie viewing time we have scheduled, I think we need to re-establish expectations.

Computer = No Help

Maybe I am being cynical but today my computer really only asks me to do things

  • There are 150 e-mails waiting for your input in your Unread Box
  • You have 24 meetings today you need to attend
  • There are 12 tasks outlined as “High Priority” due yesterday
  • AVG 7.5 needs to be upgraded (oh and by the way it is no longer free)

Rarely can I say to my computer: “Hey why don’t you get started on organizing those tasks in the project plan” or “When are you going to convert that Statement of Work to a PDF – the customer needs it tomorrow”.  Ok not even “rarely” – never.

I often wonder what it would be like to be totally connected to my computer.  I know that they are doing some cool things up the road at MIT and other Biotech companies related to integrated mind computers.  Mostly now these projects are isolated to paralysis victims or those hindered with MS – but I think I am ready.

Ok, so that won’t happen anytime soon.

Pattern matching

So there is one thing that I also think about a lot which I think could be quite possible (e.g. the technology is available – but it would require some work).  Ever get caught doing repetitive tasks? As an occasional programmer and administrative assistant to myself I find times where a pattern matching program might be nice – and totally possible.

Take the following situation:

I often miss a complete day of Twitter (remember the number of meetings/emails outlined above – only a slight exaggeration).  Unfortunately, today the interface for  twitter does not accommodate the occasional missed day – you see – the timeline display for Twitter runs descending and they only display a certain number of tweets on a page.  In order, to read the tweets you missed (while you were off doing oh you know work) you have to go backwards.  Which means if a conversation took place where someone asked a question – you would see the answer before you saw the question – dumb.

So, what I do to solve this problem is to add Firefox toolbar bookmarks to my Twitter pages backwards.  Starting with the URL: http://www.twitter.com/home?page=10 (um – yeah it only goes to 10 pages so if you wait to long you miss everything – which is another story) and working may way back to http://www.twitter.com/home.

The task for doing this is quite repetitive and would go something like this

  1. Create Twitter Folder on Firefox browser toolbar
  2. Navigate to ?page=10 and drag to Twitter Folder
  3. Navigate to ?page=9 and drag to Twitter Folder
  4. Navigate to ?page=8 and drag to Twitter Folder
  5. (Could use the pattern matcher right now …)
  6. etc…

pattern_matching_1

pattern_matching_2

pattern_matching_3

Computer = Help

What I would like my computer to “say” is this:

Ron, I see you are entering into a boring pattern related data entry task (and i would hope that this starts right after step 2 from above).  Should I copy multiple bookmarks stopping at ?page=1?

Where I would reply

Why thank you that would be great.

And now my computer would be doing tasks for me.  After taking with our development teams about our Automated QA program – where servers check in with a central QA management server to pick up their next set of QA test cases – I know that this possible.

Advertisements

Twitter: What improvements and where is the money?

April 29, 2008

With all of the buzz around Twitter lately (Michael Arrington feels like Twitter will soon go mainstream – whatever that is – shortly) the conversation will obviously turn to valuation.

Twitter is currently looking for funding (with 17 people I am not sure why they need that kind of funding) to improve operations and possibly make enhancements to the product.  This brings two thoughts to mind:

1.) What improvements really need to be made (or better still where is the technology going…)

2.) Where is the money

What Improvements
When you think about improvements at this level you must separate the technology that is Twitter and the applications that allow us to use it.  Twitter is nothing more than a set of web servers, a few databases and a set of API’s.  Older data lists that twitter.com is used to post up to 60% of the tweets.  So that leaves 40% of those tweets to applications and Instant Messaging – all of which are not controlled by Twitter themselves.  These applications use the Twitter API’s to handle the posts and responses.

So, when you think about what improvements you may think about improving the website but I know in my circle of users – twitter.com is used way less than 60%.  I use occasionally and that is only from my mobile phone.  Give me something like Digsby on a mobile phone and I am all over it.

Where is the Money?
So have you noticed?  Twitter is free.  Not only that – you are not subjected to silly AdWords from Google every time you make a post.  Um yeah … sit back and chew on that for a moment.  There are not that many truly free services (of the magnitude of Twitter – 1 million users) out there.

I know that when I sit down with a VC group about my “idea” or “proof of concept” and I am looking for funding – they want to see revenue potential.  How is Twitter going to pay back all of the money that they borrow?

One school of thought would be that the Web site could serve up ads like they have done in the launch of Twitter for Japan.  I don’t have numbers to back this up – but my gut feeling is that the use of Twitter through a web site will continue to diminish and so too would the revenue stream if they were basing that on Ads.  I have read a ton on the web about the degeneration of Ad based revenue and what it means for the Web2.0 style applications.

Another avenue for Twitter would be to turn there features into a pay for service style application:

  • Small usage account is free – 20 followers – 20 tweets a month
  • Medium usage account costs $19.95 a year – 20 to 100 followers with 100 tweets a month
  • High usage account costs $5.95 a month – unlimited followers and unlimited tweets

It would be difficult for me to justify my use of Twitter if I had to pay a monthly fee (not that I am a “High Usage” account).

So I again have to ask – what is this money really going to do and how is Twitter going to pay it back?

Why I have given up on Trillian and switched to Digsby

April 15, 2008

Hopefully I can do this justice – because it really does deserve it.

I have been a faithful Trillian user for quite some time – probably pushing 3 years which is an eternity in the software world. I really had no issues with Trillian, it served me well. But as my use of Twitter and Facebook increased I needed to change they way I conducted public and private conversations.

So I have now officially switched to Digsby. And if you do not follow me on Twitter (shame on you) then you don’t know how annoying I have become. One recent post I got was that me “… and Digsby: [should] get a room!“.

Let me start with the features I see as being paramount for Digsby

1.) True integration – I have one client that integrates all of my IM accounts (except Skype =( ), my Gmail account, my Facebook and the two Twitter (and) accounts that I use. One application. Nice

Manage your twitter posts and responses quickly

2.) Quick access to Twitter – The Twitter Icon sits in my task bar (1 for each account). Clicking one of the icons displays the recent history in a very nice window with a scroll bar and little images next to the individuals that have made the post.

3) Send Twitter updates quickly – An “update” link is located at the top with my latest update, which allows me to make easy posts to either Twitter account.

4.) Automatic URL inserting – you can easily insert links (it doesn’t use the usual TinyURL but it works just the same) just click on the Insert Link button and away you go…

Easily linking within a Twitter post

5.) Pop-Up notification – Twitter is a conversation piece (and a resource hog) – it allows me to follow conversations (when i want to). Even if I just laugh as a funny statement flies by or file it under – “Hmm got to take a look at that later. Really, really nice.Popups keep you in on the conversation

6.) Twitter management features – you also get the normal “Star”, “Reply” and “Trash” features you would get with your web based Twitter application. Each Twitter post by someone you are following appears with their name first which is clickable to their profile page. In addition, you can click on your name to go to the standard Twitter page for your profile. I no longer need quick links in my browser toolbar. In addition at the top of the toolbar I can click on a “tab” to see the different categories of Twitter posts like: Responses, Favorites, Direct Messages etc…

7.) Mini Gmail management – when an email pops up (just like Twitter) I can click on the pop up and it will take me to that e-mail. However, the real nice feature here is that when you click on the Gmail icon you can quickly delete messages that are useless without going to Gmail (which continues to take longer and longer to run lately) – very nice.Easily manage new e-mails from your Gmail account

8.) All Facebook notifications – pokes, messages, walls, alerts even the news feed is updated. From here you can click and get to your Facebook profile. Again – really nice.

9.) IM Management – so ok yeah – first and foremost this is an IM application. For those that have multiple IM accounts and that have not used applications like Trillian – this will seem like an amazing thing. All of my IM accounts in one place? There are no real advantages over Trillian (and I am sad to say that I have reported a bug in Digsby related to contacts that I think is associated with the fact that I had two MSN accounts and it got a bit confused. However, I relinked those contacts that were missing and I am off and running again.

For those users that have Twitter, Facebook and Gmail accounts (along with the plethora of IM accounts you surely own) – this is a great application. Right now it is in beta and they seem to be putting out consistent releases (I have had 3 updates since I started using this about 2 weeks ago). Each update went off without a hitch.

The developers seem keen on adding in features. I would have to say that my feature list would be:

1.) When adding an update to Twitter and type in “@” – give me a suggestion list of people that I can go to. I cannot remember everyones Twitter account and it gets annoying trying to remember them.

2.) Integrate Search. This would be the killer feature and I think it would then win this software some awards.

3.) Gmail – let me compose an e-mail (and/or reply to an e-mail) directly from the client. It is a pain in the butt to go to Gmail through the web – soooo slow. Even Bill and Karolyn Slowsky think it’s slow.

4.) Oh yeah and for those less fortunate (ProfeC) I would love to see Mac support.