Moving abroad—proposal for a new Twitter feature

One of the most enriching things I’ve done in my life has been living abroad, experiencing cultures and societies completely different from those in which I was raised. That made me appreciative of things I formerly took for granted, and it exposed me to ways of thinking, living and doing things that otherwise may have never occurred to me.

As regular Twitter users, we’re exposed each day to the stream of tweets from those we’ve chosen to follow. That stream represents a slice of the social universe that’s unique to us. If we imagine each of those voices as a distinct ingredient, the resulting social dish that we consume on a daily basis is one-of-a-kind in the flavors of culture, interests, education and point of view.

It’s probably worth considering that that experience is less diverse and in certain ways potentially more influential that the real-world experience of the societies in which we live. So today I was imagining being able to “move” into the unique social experience of other Twitter users — i.e. being able to see the stream of tweets from another user’s followers — and wondering if it could be as enriching in the unexpected ways that moving abroad was for me.

Would I more likely understand how a person could form an opinion that now seems completely unreasonable to me? Would I come to understand how some of my own viewpoints are limited or distorted by my own unique social exposure, repeated day after day?

Cooperative booking for travel, hotels and car rentals

Whenever we travel, it’s almost always my wife who does the online research, and settles on a particular flight, hotel and/or rental car. She then emails me URLs, with a request to make the bookings.

In my experience, those URLs — which usually span at least four lines in the email — almost never lead to what my wife had configured and thought she was sending to me. Just today, a rental car she found in Holland, showed up as a car in Albania for me! In the end, we always end up sitting down and doing both the research and booking together.

I imagine this scenario is not uncommon, where one person does the research, and another does the booking. It would be great if companies operating these websites foresaw this workflow, and ensured that researched configurations can accurately be passed to another person for booking.

A weekly planner—the missing killer feature from Things

Update — Since writing this article, I’ve switched back to OmniFocus.

When CulturedCode finally announced the public availability of their cloud-based syncing system, I decided to switch back to Things, from OmniFocus, for my task-management tool. Although I’m quite happy with the switch, there’s one killer feature that (for me) is missing from the app, which I’ll describe in this article. Continue reading A weekly planner—the missing killer feature from Things

Could Twitter better support conversations with a special @all address?

There’s a couple of problems I’ve noticed with Twitter conversations:

  1. As the audience of the conversation grows, the number of characters remaining available for the message gets reduced, making it increasingly difficult to say anything.

  2. To make room for the message, recipients are sometimes removed, and then end up missing out on a part of the conversation.

I was thinking that Twitter could solve this with clever use of the special @all account, which Twitter would use to track the participants of a conversation.

Each tweet in a conversation would then show two address — that of the person tweeting, and then the @all address. When you reply-to-all on such messages (so that they appear to go to the speaker and the @all address), Twitter would add your own address to the internally-tracked conversation list.

Recipients on the conversation list would see the tweet from you, with cc to the @all account. Most importantly, everybody on the conversation would receive these tweets in their @replies list (helping to ensure they don’t miss anything.)

Open issues and drawbacks:

  • How do you know who’s on the list? (Not a big deal..)

  • How to unsubscribe from the conversation? (Maybe a bigger deal…)

Needed: Scheduled disabling of the iPad’s cellular data connection.

As a consequence of the nightmare I’ve had with Vodafone trying to contract an iPad data plan, I happened to discover a more attractive alternative — the iPad pre-paid card from Orange.

Cellular internet access is enabled (and disabled) via the Cellular Data setting, within the General Preference. When enabled, the pre-paid card provides 3G access to the internet for 3.50€ per natural-day, charged against your pre-filled account balance.

For example, if I enable Cellular Data at 6 pm, I’ll have 3G internet access for 3.50€ until midnight, after which the next natural-day period starts (and another 3.50€ charged).

The pre-paid has proven attractive for a number of reasons:

  • As I’ve discovered, I’m nearly always on Wifi when using the iPad, and rarely need the 3G connectivity — and so, for me, the prepaid option is far more economical than Vodafone’s 37€ per month contracted service.

  • I like the full control I have over the spending — no more erroneous charges that require me to spend hours on a low-quality VOIP connection to an outsourced call center in South America to get resolved.

  • Recharging the card is easy — I can do it at any ATM machine, online at the Orange website, or even at the local grocery store.


p>But there’s one problem, and it’s a big one:

It’s easy to forget to turn the data connection back off when I’m finished with the iPad. This happened once to me, and within a matter of days, I’d unknowingly consumed my entire pre-paid balance.

Apple could solve this problem by adding an optional auto-disable setting to the Cellular Data preference. I’d implement such a setting like this.

(If I can get this article fireballed, perhaps it’ll get noticed by someone at Apple. In anticipation, wp-cache is enabled… 🙂

Following Twitter in an RSS reader.

Varied reasons for following people on Twitter (including sheer imprudence) has resulted in a stream disproportionately populated with tweets from people that I’m either not really interested in hearing from on a daily basis, or are a bit too prolific in their tweeting. And as a consequence, I often miss tweets from certain people from whom I want to read everything said.

Until lists are supported in Tweetie for Mac, I’m going to experiment with following Twitter in an RSS feed reader (NetNewsWire — on both OS X and the iPhone), subscribing to the Twitter RSS feeds of a limited number of people. Expected benefits include:

  • My stream should now be filtered on what I’m most likely to be interested in reading.

  • I can read my twitter feed at a dedicated time (i.e. far less frequently), and will be sure not to miss anything said by those I want to hear from.

  • I’ll now get to see people’s @replies, which I’ve long missed.