Sunday, June 21, 2009

How To Access Twitter From Work

In most cases, especially with financial services based IT organizations, Twitter is blocked. Avid twitter users obviously find a way around to be in touch with their stream throughout the day.

Using mobile phone is always be an option, but with high priced GPRS, working with links is usually not that easy. Especially when you want to share a link with your friends. You also have the option of using Adobe AIR based Twitter clients like TweetDeck, Seesmic, DestroyTwitter etc., but all of these directly connect to Twitter via Twitter's API which gets blocked by the Net Nanny anyway.

Most of it may be known, but I am listing few ways to access Twitter while at work.

iGoogle Gadgets

iGoogle is always a rescue point for geeks. It helps bring in content from various sources on one page.

  • Tweete - This gadget is quite useful with host of features which I will let you explore. You can change the theme of the gadget as well.
  • BeTwittered - I used this gadget for quite sometime, but got blocked eventually, probably, owing to the usage that the Net Nanny tracked. Advantage with BeTwittered is that, it periodically looks for updates so that you don't need to refresh it yourself. This is not the case with Tweete.

Ginx is web-based client for Twitter primarily targeting link management. It has all the features including "retweet" and automatic shortening of URLs. If you are a first time user, you will need an invitation code for accessing Ginx. Unfortunately, they donot have not given provision for me to send out invites, but you may get the invitation code by following @ginx on Twitter.

Mobile Version of Websites

While most of the users are hooked on to Twitter using mobile interfaces like Dabr, Tweete, Slandr etc through their mobile phones, these are great for desktops as well. All these twitter clients are great because they give a compact view and also give features like retweet, search, follow/unfollow etc. Being the mobile friendly version, these websites are quite fast as well. The official mobile version of Twitter is not as flexible as the ones that are mentioned above and usually blocked at work being a sub-domain on

In the case of Slandr, you need to note that the links that you pull up from the stream will be launched in a mobile friendly format (using Google's GWT service) even on your desktop. So if you want to see the full blown version of the website, you will have to manually copy the URL from the address bar and launch it again on another window.

These are the few from my experience, but if you know of more, do let me know through comments.

Happy tweeting till then ... Use responsibly. You get paid for working and not being there on Social Media!

(Note: I would have loved to put up some screenshots, but because Blogger is blocked at work, I am posting this via email which does not work great with images.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Watch When You Use WolframAlpha

In my previous post about WolframAlpha, I compared it with Google where I mentioned that it is a great resource for research analysts.

But having gone through the Terms Of Use of WolframAlpha, I would say use the content from WolframAlpha carefully.

Few snippets are below:

"The free Wolfram|Alpha service is available for ad hoc, personal, non-commercial use only." ...

"If you make results from Wolfram|Alpha available to anyone else, or incorporate those results into your own documents or presentations, you must include attribution indicating that the results and/or the presentation of the results came from Wolfram|Alpha. ..."

"Failure to properly attribute results from Wolfram|Alpha is not only a violation of these terms, but may also constitute academic plagiarism or a violation of copyright law. Attribution is something we expect you to give us in exchange for us having provided you with a high-quality free service."

"... if you are constructing a very large number of deep links, or any deep links that are created automatically in response to user input given on your site, you must take into account the restrictions enumerated in the section "Ways You May Use Our Free Service and Its Results." If you construct a website that induces others to use our service contrary to those terms, you are inducing them to violate our Terms of Use, and can be liable for those violations." ...

There are not many such hassles with Google.

So, whoever planning to start using WolframAlpha, do go through the Terms Of Use.

Is Twitter Just About "What are you doing?"

Twitter started with "What are you doing?". 

But over last couple of years, Twitter has evolved and the user community has learned various ways of utilizing twitter. It started off with something like "I am having coffee", and now have become a medium where users link to information and at the same time get information. Not just that, it has become a medium to build your brand and give a personality to your brand. It has given a lot of brands and users access to a large audience. 

Twitter created the buzz of real-time search with its search feature. Twitter's search feature would have never taken off and become a huge hit without the link sharing and "retweeting" apart from just saying "what you are doing". 

Twitter search has no value if link sharing and "retweeting" stops. All you will be exposed to will be just opinions and some nonsense from the users. Links will connect tweets to facts/evidences which makes Twitter more friendly and services like Scoopler, oneRiot etc. will enhance the acess to information. (Even Google is now inspired by Twitter to create a real-time search feature.)

I have encountered people who unfollow users who tweet links or retweet. Fair enough. It is upto users how they want to use it and its your decision to follow or unfollow a particular user.

I follow people who just write what is in their head and I also follow people who constantly tweet USEFUL links. And I love them both. 

Twitter, for me, is about "What do you want to share?" than JUST "What are you doing?" ... 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bing Is Here

The first thing that came to my mind was "Chandler Bing" from Friends TV series but did not find Bing as funny. Neither did I find Bing that serious. Bing was launched recently.

My first impression after loading the home page was that there is something outdated about the page. I am not trying to criticize here, but when a search engine is named as a competitor of Google, it better live up to some minimum expectations. One example is when you search for "Google" on Bing, it give you two results. First one is the Google website and then a set of news on Google. Then it forces you to click another URL to see other results. This probably is not the right kind of user experience that I want.

One other observation is about how the image search compares against Google. I would just say that Google wins it hands down, because of the amount of relevant results that Google gives us. I searched for my name on Bing Image search and it gave me hardly 7 results, at the same time Google gave me 439 results of which atleast 50% were relevant images.

For exploring more on how Google and Bing performs against each other, I suggest checking out this webservice.

Till then have fun "Binging" as I go back to "Googling" ... Hope to see Bing match up to Google's level someday ...

Monday, May 18, 2009

WolframAlpha Vs Google

There is sudden buzz about WolframAlpha being a "Google killer" and I was quite surprised how that can happen when Google has been around for so long and it has vast amount of data already indexed.

Then, it turns out that WolframAlpha is a computational engine which targets at delivering the numbers in a meaningful format. 

I searched for "distance from New York to New Jersey" on WolframAlpha and it gave me the exact distance in miles (52.61 miles) and it also gave me results in meters, kilometers, nautical miles (??) and centimeters (??????). On top of it, it gave me direct travel time taken by flight, sound, light in a fibre and light in vacuum. Now most of the data that it returned are something that I do not care about. When I search the same on Google, I get links to distance calculators. 

After going through the examples, I could gather that, WolframAlpha in its current form is a great resource for research analysts who play with data. It is not that Google cannot provide this data, but WolframAlpha makes this data understandable and much more accessible 

Search for "India literacy" on Google and you will get 61% as the first result (without even digging the link) and this was present before WolframAlpha could do it with it computation engine based on Mathematica.

Is WolframAlpha a semantic search? I don't agree entirely. The structured queries as per their examples are fine, but here is why I am saying it is not entirely semantic.

I did see some weird responses as well. I searched for "voting age US" and it did not give me any result, whereas "voting US" gave me the result as "18 years of age; universal".

I searched for "US viting" and WolframAlpha interpreted it as "US Vitina" and showed me the distance from the US to Vitina in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Google prompted me and asked "Did you mean: US voting".

WolframAlpha has taken online computing to a different level, but not yet usable by common internet user who is used to Google. They are working on a lot of stuff right now and may soon come up with something far more robust, but will it challenge Google at any point? No I don't think so, just because the purpose of WolframAlpha is completely different from what Google is designed for. 

Again, Google Squared is in the news now and is being termed as "WolframAlpha killer'.

Note to Wolfram: ... I am not looking for distance from New York to New Jersey IN CENTIMETERS OR NAUTICAL MILES, and I am definitely not interested in how soon light will reach NJ from NY in vacuum. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Advent Of Real-Time Search - Checking Scoopler

Scoopler Social Media Search
Real-time web is the next big thing and there are quite a few real-time search services that are creating buzz around. Tweetmeme, OneRiot, Twitscoop, Scoopler etc. Most of these like Tweetmeme and Twitscoop focus around Twitter updates, but OneRiot and Scoopler takes it further to include other services like Digg. Scoopler, which I would really call a "social media search engine" covers Flickr, Youtube, Delicious and other services.

Scoopler keeps it simple and structures the information very effectively. It shows tweets in real-time along with the popular videos, links and images from Youtube, Flickr, Digg etc. Along with it, it also stores your last three searches thereby making it easier to switch between your results.

While your at discovering information through the search, Scoopler makes it easy by showing the entire headline and instead of going to the URL, you can get a "peek" of the content in the target URL and "share" through a host of other services.

Scoopler Peek

More than real-time web I am inclined towards onDemand web as written in the post by @rickmans. With that in mind, Scoopler comes up with too many tweets if you search for a hot topic (Eg: Adam Lambert while American Idol is being aired) and keeps pushing information onto your screen. There is no easy way, time or provision to make sense of the flowing information especially when it is a hot keyword. A "pause" button is critical for Scoopler (or for any real-time service), like in a Tweetmeme or a oneRiot.

Its not eye catchy from a look and feel perspective and I think a lot can be done to improve it.

But, I like Scoopler more than the others right now available.

... and before I finish, Scoopler uses a less known Cloudant, a distributed database service firm (a new type of database) funded by Y Combinator.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Watch What You Post In Your Social Networks

Pouring out your frustrations online? Posting pictures of the wild party that you had? Hold on ... 

A recent survey done by reveals that one in five employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Some of the critical findings after surveying around 3,100 employers were:

 41% - candidate posted information about them drinking or using drugs

 40% - candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information

 29% - candidate had poor communication skills

 28% - candidate bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee

 27% - candidate lied about qualifications

 22% - candidate used discriminatory remarks related to race, gender, religion, etc.

 22% - candidate's screen name was unprofessional

 21% - candidate was linked to criminal behavior

 19% - candidate shared confidential information from previous employers

 They have also provided suggestions on how to have a clean digital social life:

1. Clean up digital dirt. Make sure to remove pictures, content and links that can send the wrong message to a potential employer before you start your job search.

2. Update your profile regularly. Make sure to include specific accomplishments, inside and outside of work.

3. Monitor comments. Since you can't control what other people say on your site, you may want to use the "block comments" feature.

4. Join groups selectively. While joining a group with a fun or silly name may seem harmless, "Party Monsters R Us" may not give the best impression to a hiring manager. Also be selective about who you accept as "friends."

5. Go private. Consider setting your profile to "private," so only designated friends can view it.

 So, that gives you a good reason to go cleanup stuff ... and may be think thrice before you post those random outbursts of frustration at work. 

 Be responsible! Have fun ...