General ramblings

To Information “Over-loaders”

It’s OK.The world understands. It’s so busy with information overload that it won’t notice. Not that you’re forgettable, but your connections will be there when you come back.Really. Take care of yourself first.

Source: Couldn’t Tweet Today? Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over it, NY Times, 02/04/2010

You’re welcome.

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General ramblings

The Reason

Of my absence is this darling tumblelog that I made sometime back. I’m not being able to control my new found obsession. It’s so easy to post pictures, quotes, video, audio (yes, you can upload everything to their servers free of cost), and many other things in a couple of seconds with the help of a bookmarklet. It might very well bring around the death of blogging of one day. Okay, so I’m going over board. Not death, but Twitter, Tumblr, Pownce, Soup and other micro blogging platforms are here to stay, which is apparent from the number of posts that people make in their tumblelogs, compared to their blogs. And I seem to be one of them.

As much as I love blogging, there are times when I don’t blog about stuff (that I would really love to), because of the need to tailor my post to a particular length, or to include links etc. and all of this is very time consuming. I’m finding my tumblelog to be quite liberating in this way, in that there is no pressure. It’s more personal by nature and I’ve already made an awesome set of “followers” there. 🙂

Consider getting yourself one of these, if you like writing shorts posts. And we can be neighbors and follow each other.

Here’s a donut for you people- Take a look at all the lovely pictures/funny stuff that I’ve collected so far on this interactive page.

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Alltop

alltop.jpg

Guy Kawasaki introduced his news aggregating service, Alltop, sometime ago. It’s “inspired” by Popurls.com, another very popular feed aggregator.

Alltop has nine sections:

As you can guess, Ego features the rantings of “top” bloggers, such as Kawaski himself, Scoble, Fake Steve Jobs, Seth Godin etc. I am surprised that he’s given Mac a separate section. On second thoughts, I’m not really that surprised. But it does look a little unfair. If he’s given Mac a separate section, then why did he hesitate in giving technology and science two different pages?
The news sources that Alltop uses are quite good content wise. For example- The Science section has New York Times, BBC, Newsweek, Yahoo! Science News among others. Popurls is more focused on user driven content, such as, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Truemors etc.

Some cons:

  • I’m hoping that with time, he will let us customize the look of the site.
  • Don’t like clicking on different pages for accessing different sections. Probably I’ve gotten too Popurlized.
  • Also, if you notice, the page footer is quite annoying because it keeps moving as you scroll up or down the page. A static footer would have been much better.

Will it be a popurl killer? Probably not. The crowd that Alltop wants to attract seems to be quite different. Unless Kawasaki makes some changes to the basic layout of the site, I don’t see myself being a regular reader. That footer is way too annoying.

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What’s in my Laptop?

Amit Agarwal from Labnol recently posted a link to Gina’s article, where she’s listed all the programs that are currently installed in her computer. I have seen many other bloggers prepare such lists too. I spend so much of my time every day, tinkering around with various applications, but have never given them any credit on my blog. So this post is a tribute to all these lovely creatures who improve my browsing experience every single day. It might help you get some ideas or discover some new tools too.

My primary Laptop: Compaq Presario V2000 with Windows XP Operating System

Secondary Laptop: HP Pavilion dv2000 with Windows Vista Operating System

My desire is to own a tablet PC made by Apple. I’ll buy it as soon as it’s released. 🙂 I also fester desires of learning how to install a fully functioning Linux OS someday!

Browsers: The social browser Flock– Amazing browser for people who are avid bloggers and social networkers on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr etc. Check out my review here.

Mozilla Firefox version 3 beta 2– Just downloaded it yesterday and I’m in love with their new location bar feature, that pulls out page titles and addresses in two different lines and colors, from your recent browser history and bookmarks!

Here’s a screen shot from the Official Website:

Add-ons and Extensions:

Shareaholic– An extension that lets you submit a page to countless number of social networking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Stumbleupon, Google Bookmarks, Friendfeed, Facebook etc. You can customize the drop down menu to include only those bookmarking sites that you use. You can also email the page you’re viewing. Here’s a screen shot (notice the green button with a drop down list only):

Screenshot: This Flock extension allows you to save webpages (entire, visible portion, selection) and windows (eg. browser, blog, uploader) as .png or .jpeg images. You can save these images to your file system, the clipboard or even send them straight to the photo uploader.

Cocomments: This extension helps me track every single comment that I’ve left on any sort of web page- Be it a website, blog or a channel like Youtube. I get notifications in my browser (in the shape of a small envelope) if there’s a reply to my comment. I find this to be really helpful because the “My Comments” tab at WP.com is very slow and it only shows a certain number of recent conversations. Plus, there’s no other way that I can track my comments left on non-WP.com blogs. All you’ve got to do is install the extension and it takes care of everything!

Here’s a screen shot:

Greasemonkey: What in the world would I Do without this add on? 🙂 This is the best thing about Firefox and Flock. Too bad that Internet Explorer people have to suffer! Currently, I’m using the following scripts:

LookitUp2– Quickly look something up in wikipedia, a dictionary or whatever you like (its easy to add custom sites!). The result is displayed directly on the page.

TextareaBackup– Retains text entered in text areas

WordPress Comment Ninja- Respond to comments directly by post and/or email from inside your WordPress dashboard. For WordPress bloggers.

Comment Pre-fill– Fillout comment form fields with a single keyboard shortcut!

Greased Lightbox (v0.15)– Enhances browsing on websites that link to images such as Google Image Search, Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace, and deviantART

Userscripts.org Rank By Popularity– When browsing scripts on userscripts.org it will change the icon on the left to show how popular a script is. Very useful for focusing on the best scripts.

Mailto 2 Webmail– Open those “mailto:” links in your GMail, Yahoo, AOL etc. email accounts instead of the default Outlook Express.

Yahoo Pipe Cleaner– Removes most of the HTML markup from Yahoo Pipe run output so that it can be cut-and-pasted into WordPress blogs.

Out of these, my absolute favorite is the WordPress Comment Ninja and the Greased Lightbox (when I’m looking at images and want to see the expanded version, all I do is click on the picture and it zooms out. No need to open another link! Cool, isn’t it? 🙂

You can also check out this and this, where I’ve prepared a list for other scripts that are very useful.

GoogleDocs Extension: Great stuff for all you Google Fans out there. 🙂 From the official website:

With gDocsBar, you can drag and drop multiple files into the sidebar to upload documents. You can search and filter documents right from the sidebar. Your Gmail credentials are sent to Google directly over SSL. Your passwords are stored in Firefox Password Manager.

Software Applications:

Pidgin– Log into all chat clients and receive new email notifications and lots of other features.

WinRAR– For opening zipped files

DietMP3– compress your MP3 files

TextPad– Works great for CSS/HTML coding etc.

CDisplay– For reading e-comics

Irfanview– Resizes your images and lots of other capabilities

Apart from this, there’s the usual crap that’s worth not mentioning. I prefer to keep the number of applications running at the minimum and have a fetish for keeping my hard disk neat and tidy.

Some other junk that I found over the internet:

Ten Quickfixes to Make Your Windows Computer Run Faster 

DownloadmyLink– Free Megashare/Rapidshare file downloader…no need to wait for 60+ minutes or reset your internet connection.

Senduit: Easily share you files- very clean UI

Instapaper: Bookmark those articles that you want to “Read Later” and might not be “Delicious”.

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Instapaper

Marco, a co-founder of Tumblr, introduced a new service yesterday, called Instapaper. It’s a bookmarking site with a difference. So many times I’ve come across amazing articles which I’ve wanted to read, but because of time constraints, haven’t been able to. Generally, I’m hesitant in adding these to my Delicious list, which I use exclusively for items that I’ll be “using” sometime in the future. Adding articles that I want to read later to my delicious account doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m just extra organized, but I don’t like it even if my Yahoo! Inbox is crowded with unread (and useless) emails, even though there is no space limit. Anyhoo, getting back to the topic- You can use Instapaper to add these articles which you want to read later. It serves as an Instant Newspaper, featuring articles chosen exclusively by you 😉 This is a great tool for people who have long commutes, for students who love to play around with their cell phones in between classes etc. You can open your mobile phone browser and log into Instapaper and catch up on some reading.

Here are some screen shots with explanations:

Instapaper_1201596980078

1. The Sign Up Process is as easy as it can get. All you need to do is enter your Email address or a username. You don’t even need to set a password. In fact, you should sign up for this service just to see the “Register” process in action 🙂


2. This is the Log In page. Like you can see, all I’ve done is entered my Email address (which is not really a secret).


3. This is my Instapaper page. So pretty and white. I’m in love with the way it looks. It even beats WP.com in simplicity! On the upper right side corner, there is a small logo called “Read Later”. This is the bookmarklet that you can drag and drop to your favorite web browser and use it for saving articles. My log in page had three articles when I took the screenshot.


4. If you notice, there is a pink box called “Skip” next to each Article link. You can click that in case you don’t want to read something right away. When I skipped my first item, it landed at the bottom of the page in the section “Recently Skipped”. Here, a new link for deleting this article also appears. So, you can either read it later (in which case it automatically lands under a section called Recently Read) and delete it or mark it as unread (using the green box on the left), in which case it will land up in your ‘Unread Section’ again.


5. I decided to delete my first item from the “Recently Skipped” section. As you can see, the “Unread” section displays the remaining two items.

Simple enough? 🙂 Now go and sign up for it and you’ll never have to skip another article on the internet.

Edit: All screenshots have been removed because of some privacy issues. Sorry. 

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Aggregate All Your Online Feeds

Online social networks seem to be proliferating at an exponential rate and it has become quite necessary for us to aggregate them in one place. It’s difficult to keep track of different people and their online activity in different networks. There are lots of websites online where you can aggregate all your online accounts and then, circulate a “master feed”, that simplifies the entire process. I really love this idea and have been tinkering with it since the past couple of days. These are some of the websites that I would recommend:

1. Friendfeed– Started by three ex-Google employees, and still in beta phase. You need to request an invitation to join it. I got mine on the same day. They plan to make this service public by the end of next month. The UI is extremely simple and resembles Google. Friendfeed tops my list for the simplicity of the sign up process (less than 30 seconds), and the overall usability. You can aggregate all your online accounts, such as Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Facebook status updates, Netflix queue, Amazon wish list, Tumblr, Youtube, Blogs, Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Delicious…I’m tired! 🙂 Your friends can just subscribe to the “master feed” and know what you’ve been doing everywhere. Simplicity is what we should aim for. Take a look at my Friendfeed page.

People can also comment on your activities and decide if they “Like it”. Deleting a particular activity from your feed is also very easy and takes only a single click. You can also install a bookmarklet that lets you post anything that you liked to your friendfeed profile. You can also install a Facebook application that will integrate your Friendfeed with your Facebook profile. I haven’t seen these features in any of the other “Aggregation” services.

The only drawback that I see here is that there is no way of adding any sort of single sentence profile. Louisgray.com has ten suggestions for its improvement.

Rating: 5/5

2. Soup.io– Very similar to friendfeed, minus the ability to comment. The best part is that you can try the service without even signing up. Of course, if you want to make your profile permanent, then you need to make an account, that takes only 20 seconds. You can customize the look of your page by adding a theme and editing the CSS. But I didn’t like the fact that I need to click twice in order to delete a particular entry (once, initially, and the second time, to confirm) and for me, that’s very important! But yes, it’s open to public and you don’t need to wait for an invitation. Take a look at my soup page.

Rating: 4.5/5

3. Readr– This has been in existence since a longer time, compared to Friendfeed and Soup.io. Again, you have the ability to comment on particular items, choose a theme and merge all your online accounts together. There is nothing unique about this service, IMO. Soup.io and Readr are clones of each other. Readr’s output of the feeds is not that nice looking and it kind of looks jumbled up. Another problem is that when you initially set up an account with them, then your items will be shown in the order you added the feeds and not in the chronological order. So, you might have three pages of Delicious, two pages of Stumbleupon, one page of Digg etc. You get the picture. Take a look at my page for an example. The process of adding accounts was a little more cumbersome because the default number of accounts that are available are less compared to Friendfeed or Soup.io.

Rating: 3.75/5

Apart from these major player, there are others such as Mugshot, 30boxes (the sign up process needed me to click on a link in an email and that is a complete no-no when we compare it with its competitors), etc. The bottomline- The web 2.0 sites are showing a tremendous upsurge in the usage. If you don’t sign up for an aggregator today, you very well have to a couple of months down the line. And what are those RSS feeds for? We need to embrace anything that helps us save time (and become lazier).

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Someone forgot about WordPress

In this Web 2.0 picture:

I thought that Reddit was bigger, but it’s reach is 900 and valued at just about $30 milloon. Of course, Stumbleupon is much bigger, with a reach of 1,800 and valued at a little less than $100 million. Digg remains strong and steady with a reach of 6,000 and a little less than $500 million in valuation. The biggest joke here is Windows Live Spaces, right at the bottom of the graph (towards the middle), with a reach of 15 and any guesses regarding its market value?

MyBlogLog, Netvibes, and Meebo (also won a Crunchie) are almost in the same category. Orkut (reach of 26,000) is still bigger than Facebook (reach of 9,000), yet the latter makes more noise in the Web 2.0 world.

And you know the best thing? Google owns three out of the top five market value/reach grossers- Youtube, Orkut and Blogger. Just another graph to show how powerful Google is becoming. The only thing is that I see Bloglines in the third tier, with a reach of 2,200, but I don’t see Google Reader anywhere. It might be possible that Google Reader was excluded (very unlikely though). Bloglines was my first feedreader. Then I changed to Google Reader and now I use the in-built feed reader provided by the social web browser, Flock.

Box is also doing pretty decent with a reach of 500 and I strongly feel that it will rise very soon because of its lovely user interface.

Where is Yahoo Mash? It seems to have disappeared already. I wanted to do a follow up on it…maybe I need to take a look at my account and see if Yahoo has introduced any new features. There is no way Yahoo Mash will be able to play catch up with Facebook or Orkut. Something that is very evident from this graph.

Now let’s get down to the big question- Where is WordPress? With millions of users, surely it should have made a splash here, even though the graph has been made by the CEO of Esnips?

While we’re on the topics of Web 2.0 start ups, maybe it’s not too late to assess what kind of a Web 2.0 user are you? I’m sure most of you are at least Spectators (33%), else you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

I could write miles about Web 2.0 and each of these companies, and still not get done. So, it’s better if we just talk about issues in the comments section, right? 🙂

Edit: By the way, Apple haters might want to take a look at this. Microsoft haters, I have something for you too. I don’t disappoint either of the sects.

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