A new Twitter feature request in the wake of lost 3rd party developer support

I just came up with a new idea for Twitter that I hope they are already hard at work implementing: The concept of an official Twitter client with official app plugins/extensions. This is not a new concept, but it seems like a smart way to control the user experience, but also allow for changing feature sets (which is always changing, since social media reinvents itself every few months).

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Great Transitions (Part 1)

The blog’s been dark for too long… mainly because I haven’t known how to break this story. I guess I’ll just do it normally:

My life is changing again.

For the last few years I’ve worked at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in southern California, and lived in Lancaster, 45 minutes away. It was my first real job out of college, and ever since I had picked aerospace as a possible career opportunity, I was elated to be serving my country by furthering scientific research in any way I could. It turns out, I am pretty good at it. Read more

The Internet can become very confusing very quickly

I recently had a very rapid and diffuse exchange of ideas and information, causing confusion among strangers (strangers to me, anyway). Below is an attempt at clarity (with no guarantees).

I follow a bunch of game devs on Twitter partially because I like video games, partially because I want to program for video games, mostly because game devs are awesome people. Through Dave Jaffe‘s tweets, I found Adam Orth and Derek Daniels. I also follow sci-fi writers, including for the purposes of this blog William Gibson. He’s retweeted @GammaCounter many times, so I also started following him directly (much to my amusement).

Since this post is all about clarity, I’ve translated Twitter into IRC.

#Twitter/derek_omni> Obligatory double rainbow photo
#Twitter/derek_omni> http://twitpic.com/3iiy1v
#Twitter/kenners> derek_omni: dude your photo has a ghost car in it.
#Twitter/kenners> So awesome
#Twitter/derek_omni> haha, I didn’t notice until you posted that!
#Twitter/derek_omni> LOL
#Twitter/derek_omni> so awesome
(((days later)))
#Twitter/GammaCounter> Just realized:
#Twitter/GammaCounter> RIP, the accidental “double exposures” of film cameras, with their occasional hilarity…
#Twitter/GammaCounter> another casualty of progress…
#Twitter/kenners> GammaCounter: still exists on cellphone cameras – adam_orth had a ghost car photo last week!
#Twitter/GammaCounter> adam_orth kenners: That’s amazing, I wonder how it works…
#Twitter/GammaCounter> latent image persistence?
#Twitter/kenners> found!
#Twitter/kenners> “derek_omni> Obligatory double rainbow photo
derek_omni> http://twitpic.com/3iiy1v
#Twitter/kenners> my guess: image compression happens in parallel with CCD data transfers, saving memory but possibly splintering the frame?
#Twitter/kenners> adam_orth: huge apologies, I’ve mistaken you for derek_omni
#Twitter/kenners> I blame my cold
!GammaCounter!*@* OPERWALL – Corrected on digital double exposure! Paranormal minivan & majik rainbows: http://twitpic.com/3iiy1v thanks to kenners, derek_omni
#Twitter/GammaCounter> Thanks… btw, ever see that crazy “Cubism” artifact, on video transmissions when it gets all bodged up?
#Twitter/kenners> GammaCounter: no but googling cubist artifacts have led to wiki pages on “glitch art” and “circuit bending” …
#Twitter/kenners> sleeping on it
(((hours later)))
#Twitter/adam_orth> kenners derek_omni GammaCounter: I’m so confused…
#Twitter/GammaCounter> adam_orth: Sorry.. it’s about how even digital cameras can make “double exposures” sort of…

Better, right?

Here’s the Twitter equivalent:

http://twitter.com/#!/derek_omni/status/17729190367334400
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/17730523560411137
http://twitter.com/#!/derek_omni/status/17734439027089408
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/19967078010191872
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/19968278352891904
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/19969293672251392
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/19972201088290816
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/19972913134309376
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/19975265266434048
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/19975344551362560
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/19975823708655616
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/19976213103648768
http://twitter.com/#!/kenners/status/19978514929287168
http://twitter.com/#!/adam_orth/status/20002512698347520
http://twitter.com/#!/GammaCounter/status/20003511588618240

Chrismas Eve Sleuthing: Searching for Sherlock

I did all of my Christmas shopping in 6 hours. All the while, I tried to find a DVD copy of the new Sherlock series, which aired on BBC this year. I was really happy that a release made it to the states by Christmastime. Since my parents went to England almost exclusively to see 221B Baker Street (or to visit distant family on their farm in Iron Acton, whatever), they were hooked the minute I mentioned it. I wasn’t surprised to see it on a Christmas list email, so I figured I’d pick up a copy while winding through other stores.

BUT OH GOD DID I FAIL.

I went to Barnes & Noble first; the system said they had one, but the staff and I couldn’t locate it. I then checked B&N online, all of the Austin stores had sold out. I also checked out Borders online. Completely sold out.

I took a chair at B&N and did some smartphone searching: Target.com had it, but online only. BestBuy.com had it, ship to store. Walmart.com had it, ship to store. FYE.com, online only. Many swings, many misses. I was breaking all the rules of baseball (or shopping?).

Tried to limited-scope crowdsource the problem (via chats on gtalk). jpnance suggested Fry’s – a quick online search said “item available” so off I went. Searched with the staff until they closed, no luck. One even suggested that someone probably had it in their basket right now; off to a happy home (I hope).

nbacarisse suggested a local shop called Waterloo Records. I got a hold of them on the phone, but no good news.

lukezim suggested another local shop called Encore movies and music. I got a hold of them on the phone too, but no good news. They hadn’t even gotten their first shipment in, but at least it was on order.

By then stores had started to close (being Christmas Eve and all), so I ended up ordering it online and springing for two-day shipping. At the very least, I will be able to hand Sherlock: Season One to its recipient sometime in December.

Update from Azeroth

I’d like to say I planned this perfectly, except that the original concept was deeply flawed.

It seemed simple enough: Play endgame World of Warcraft with a group of friends. Get a character to level 80, and then I could participate in all of the things they did on a weekly basis, like I did with Team Fortress 2. I’d never played endgame content before, and for some reason the concept was strongly compelling.

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I might be a bad person, but at least I have chocolate.

At this precise moment, I am installing the dreaded World of Warcraft massively-multiplayer online game.

For about two years, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of playing a videogame called Team Fortress 2, purely online, with a bunch of misfits and crazies, boys and girls ranging from 15 to 40, from all over North America (and even some overseas!) . We are called the Bar Room Heroes, but conversation in The Bar Room can be filled with such “hateful” debauchery that we often call ourselves The Butt-Raping Homos. Now Grandma, chill the F out. This is an organization based entirely on the Internet, where insults are hurled by the truckload. We call each other fags and retards, insult a wide variety of mothers (your mom’s WIDE, see what I mean?), and say things like ‘butthurt’ and ‘dickbutt’ and ‘butts’ ad nauseum. The point is, it’s not serious. At least, not coming from me.

The biggest draws to this community, aside from butt-related epithets, are the voice chat features, and the community drinking game. Voice chat comes standard with TF2, but we enable both teams to talk to each other, while alive or waiting to respawn. This is not configured by default, since it allows people to comment on the game while dead (and thus able to look at the goings-on of other players), and significantly hinders team-based PRIVATE communications. The community drinking game is for the alcoholic in you (in all of us, really), so that if you are killed while playing the drinking game, you must drink your beer. There are variants, but it’s a safe way to spend a Friday or Saturday night with 50 people. Don’t knock it ’till you try it!

So, returning to the point: When these fine gentlementlemen and ladyfaces decided to start playing this OTHER online game, with RAIDS, I felt like it could be a good time. Having played WoW for a summer already back in college, I hardly scratched the surface of the game. Now, with a pretty ambitious goal staring me in the face, it seems like I might try again for another few months. Why not; I’m an adult, right? Right?

Right.

In preparation, I’ve read a few wiki pages on building a proper mage character, and I’ve downloaded a few Addon packs to help me catch up. After all, the folks have a few years on me. I might post from time to time regarding my adventures, or when I have to wait for patches to download.

If I stop posting for too long, though, I am hoping that someone has enough presence of mind to confirm that I’m still alive.

Death of a Feature

Pinned tabs in Google ChromeUPDATE: I just discovered that double-middle-clicking a pinned tab (i.e. closing a “deactivated” pinned tab) will close it in the familiar manner. I hereby retract some percentage of Contention 2 and some amount of frustration expressed in Contention 5.

I’ve decided that I care a lot about the “pin tabs” feature in Google Chrome. When Chrome 5 went live last week, I didn’t really notice most of the changes. I did, however, notice that tab-pinning, a feature I learned about only a week or two prior, had been completely destroyed for the way I use it.

It was jarring enough that I felt Google should know about it. Evidently, it’s jarring enough that I feel like you should know about it, too. In its entirety (although edited for a couple of typos, in brackets), here’s the feedback posting I sent them:

I happened upon the “pin tab” feature at the tail-end of Chrome 4’s run. I loved it. I could finally take Gmail, Google Reader, Twitter, and ESPN FantasyCast — tabs that I knew I wanted running all the time — and reduce their screen real-estate footprint. It was easy to drag tabs over to the “pin” section and then take them out again. If I decided I didn’t want a pinned tab to be open anymore, I could close it in one middle-click. When I restarted my browser, I started fresh again with nothing auto-loading and destroying my memory usage.

What on Earth happened in Chrome 5?

Contention 1: I now have to pin a tab by using a context menu. Okay, it’s not the end of the world but, man, it was really nice to be able to just drag the tabs from one side to the other.

Contention 2: It’s not nearly as simple as “closing” a pinned tab anymore. Now, when I middle-click (to close) a pinned [tab], the tab stays there in a “dimmed” state. I guess, as far as the browser is concerned, the page has been destroyed but whenever I go back to that tab, it will reload it. Okay, I guess that’s fine, if sort of annoying that I explicitly have to un-pin a tab (through the context menu — see Contention 1) to remove it altogether.

Contention 3: Pinned tabs stick around between browser sessions and load themselves. If I close my browser and restart it, the pinned tabs will still be there. This is where pinned tab persistence needs to stop. The pinned tabs, however, will also load themselves whenever I restart my browser. Maybe I’m in the minority here but I cannot stand when things start loading automatically, especially five or six browser windows. It puts an amazing amount of load on my CPU and RAM and, really, it’d just be better if they tried to load one at a time. I digress a little bit but, at the least, I’d like to be able to say in the options “don’t bother loading my pinned tabs automatically”.

Contention 4: Google’s own applications kind of suck, given Contention 3. As I said, I use Gmail and Reader pretty much all the time and I sometimes even like to have Documents and Wave open (pinned). When I open the browser for the first time, I have several Google applications load. Fine. My login session hasn’t been initiated, though, so they all load with a login screen. Okay. So I log in to the Gmail tab and then go over to the Reader tab. I try to refresh so Reader can pick up my fresh new login cookie and I just get the login prompt again. Hm, alright. I go up to the address bar to type in “reader.google.com”, I press enter, and I get a new tab. Apparently, I can’t actually do anything in the address bar of a pinned tab. Let’s make that…

Contention 5: The address bar is pretty much meaningless in a pinned tab. When pinned tabs don’t load as you might expect and you can’t get back to the original URL (like, for instance, in the Reader — or any other Google application — example), the address bar just opens up new tabs. So, in my example, here’s how I get Reader back into my pinned tabs:

  1. I get frustrated that I’m having to do anything this out-of-the-way
  2. I open up a new tab with Reader in it
  3. CONTENTION 1 ALERT: I right-click my new tab and pin it
  4. CONTENTION 2 ALERT: I try to close the other useless one by middle-clicking out of habit
  5. I get frustrated that I can’t close pinned tabs easily anymore
  6. I right-click the old tab and un-pin it
  7. I finally am able to close the old tab
  8. I get really frustrated when I realize that I’m going to have to go through this rigmarole every time I restart my browser if I want more than one Google application to be pinned
  9. I stop using the pin tabs feature because it’s been destroyed beyond all recognition
  10. I fire off a lengthy and sarcastic feedback email to try to save this previously excellent feature

Contention 6: The “pinned tab” section doesn’t even work properly depending on how you close the browser. I’m still a little shaky on how to reproduce this but let’s give it a shot. First, pin a few tabs to your browser and then close it by using the ‘X’ button in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen. Open the browser back up and the pinned tabs should be there, reloading themselves. Now un-pin all of your tabs and close them each one-by-one using either CTRL+W or a middle-click. (The idea here is that you’re closing your browser by closing each of its tabs individually, rather than just clicking the ‘X’.) When you open your browser back up, the pinned tabs should still be there, even though you pretty much specifically said “I don’t want you to be pinned anymore”. Note that if you un-pin them and use the ‘X’, the expected behavior (no pinned tabs) occurs.

So that’s my gripe list. I really like the idea of pinning tabs but I think the Chrome 5 iteration of the feature was a solution looking for a problem. I still use Chrome because I like it but, reluctantly, I have stopped pinning tabs because, for me, they no longer act at all how I like them to.

Please let me know if you need any more information on how to replicate the bug I present in Contention 6.

Thanks for listening,
Patrick Nance

State Radio

State RadioThe prevalence and popularity of reggae music is always something that has boggled my mind. I simply don’t see the appeal of Bob Marley or Sublime, and when I stopped by Slightly Stoopid’s ACL set in 2008, I felt even further vindicated in my disdain. State Radio don’t buck the trend enough to make me interested but I did wanna give them some props. Their album The Barn Sessions is reasonable and, at times, even engaging. I would never have expected myself to say that about the reggae-rock epics they’ve recorded.

Some of the tunes are downright reminiscent of the random reggae deviations you find on albums like The Clash and My Aim Is True. The difference, though, is that those tunes are the exception and not the rule. When I listen to State Radio, the songs seem lengthy for the sake of filling up a 74-minute disc.

THE VERDICT: Seriously, I never thought I’d speak this favorably about a reggae album.

The Soul Stirrers

The Soul StirrersShame on me, I guess, for having no clue who The Soul Stirrers are. Evidently, they’ve been going strong (with varying lineups, of course) since 1926. Sam Cooke even headed them up for awhile and, although I really don’t know much of anything about soul music, I’ve heard that name before, therefore he is important.

Let’s keep the context, though. I’m, frankly, not sure which album I’m listening to but it seems to be a self-titled one. The album is a cappella and, judging by the warmth of the recording, must have been cut in the ’60s, at the earliest. Who knows what I’d be getting if I went to their set at ACL? I’d loosely expect a backing band and, beyond that, four guys who have only cursory connections to the original group. As much as I like the gospel sound, I probably have to pass on this.

THE VERDICT: I really do like ’em but I’m just not sure I wanna bother with the current version.

Alberta Cross

Alberta CrossCrack open a brew, sit back in your lawn chair, and cool off to the folk-rock groove of Alberta Cross. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out The Virgins, blissfully unaware of the middle-aged Texan-fest going on at the Barton Springs stage (oh, by the way, the schedule has been released!). It’s not that I dislike slow-paced music, as a rule, but to have an entire catalogue of it is silly.

Admittedly, the deck was stacked against these guys. Saturday’s already a tough day to compete during for my mindshare and, as luck would have it, they were put up against The Virgins, whom I’ve already lauded. The lack of upbeat tunes isn’t helping the Alberta Cross case at all, though.

THE VERDICT: As much as I’d love to awkwardly stand around and pretend like I’m into it, I’ll pass.