michaelsilver.us

Software, programming and politics. Yes. Politics.

Miss Manners in the White House

Facebook rocks.  Well, maybe it doesn’t rock, but it does fill a niche on the Internet that no other site or service fills as well. The type of interaction that Facebook allows is new to all of us, after all Facebook is a baby.  As with kids when they learn to eat at a fancy restaurant or have conversations at a dinner parties, they make faux paus.  They are unaware of proper etiquette.  Such interactions are new to them, just as Facebook is to us.

In many cases, etiquette exists for good reason: to avoid offending, inconveniencing or putting others in a difficult or uncomfortable position.

Enter Facebook.

We are all kids learning how to interact via this new medium and it desperately needs a common etiquette to help remove the cruft that often ends up in our friend feed.  Michael to the rescue.  Here are some guidelines to help improve our communication via Facebook via good etiquette:

Faux Pas #1: Bait Post

This is unbelievable common.  Ever browsing your friend feed and come across a post like this? ”OMG, that was awesome!!!”  That’s all.  No context.  No explanation.  This is a Bait Post.  It begs the reader to respond “Hey, what was so awesome?”.  Then the original poster has to explain what should have been in the original post.


Sample Bait Post

If the poster doesn’t want their friends to know what they are talking about, why are they even posting to Facebook?  Send a text message or an email.  If it’s private, keep it private.  Don’t tease.

If it’s not private, why do this to your friends? Is this how you carry on conversations in real life? Begging for attention? Facebook already brings out the narcissist in us, don’t encourage it.

In all fairness, I have been guilty of this in the past and a recent Bait Post of mine prompted me write this entry to help remind me:  Friends don’t Bait Post friends.

Faux Pas #2: Bait and Ignore Post

What could be worse than the dreaded Bait Post?  Well, the Bait and Ignore Post.  Not only does the poster bait you, they ignore your pleas to know what’s going on.

Faux Pas #3: Bait and Non-Of-Your-Business Post

Yes, it gets worse.  This is less common, thank god, but still happens.  The poster baits their friends and then after the obligatory ”What’s going on?”, they post to the conversation: “I’ll email you,” essentially telling the rest of their friends, that it’s non of their business.   Hopefully, if you are one of the lucky “What’s going on?” posts, you will get the explanation email.  I never do, because I never fall for the bait post in the first place.  You shouldn’t either.

Hopefully, if we all stop responding to Bait Posts, they will slowly die.  But doubtful, so feel free to send offending friends to this blog entry

Faux Pas #4: App Spam

Everyone is quite familiar with this one.  Facebook applications posting into your friend feed:  ”Joe Blow needs one more diamonds is his mining adventure.”, “Milard Jones just joined the Italian Mafia gang”.  This takes annoying to new heights.  The information is useless, no one cares, everyone hides it, so why do it?  If the application doesn’t give you the option to not automatically post to your feed, you shouldn’t play it.  It’s spam, plain and simple.  Kudo’s to Facebook for allowing us to hide such posts.

Sometimes there’s a fine line.  Some applications, such as Foursquare, actually do post interesting information.  Foursquare posts about your current whereabouts to your Facebook feed.  At least it has meaning.  I’ll find it interesting if you are cable hang gliding in Trevallyn State Recreation Area.  Knowing that you scored 100,000 points in Bejeweled, not so much.

Faux Pas #5: Anonymous Friends

I consider Facebook a place to communicate with my friends.  If I don’t know you, I can’t really consider you a friend. Sorry, it’s the nature of relationships.  With that understanding, I won’t approve you as my friend.  You should presume all Facebookers will reject unknown friend requests and here is where etiquette comes into play:

If you ask to be friends with someone and you barely or don’t know them, add a note to the friend request, either jogging their memory or explaining why you should become Facebook pals.  It’s courteous and respectful and if you don’t do it, expect to be rejected.

That’s it.  That’s all I have.  See how painless it was?  Now you know how simple proper etiquette on Facebook can be.  With these faux pas clearly spelled out you will recognize them everyday and realize just how inconvenient they are. Just because it’s a new medium doesn’t mean we can’t apply common sense to it.

Did I miss one?  Disagree?  Let me know.

ADW.Launcher

Courtesy of AndroLib

ADW.Launcher replaces the existing Android drawer.  The drawer is the icon at the bottom of the screen you click to see all your apps.  ADW.Launcher is a great piece of software.  There are tons of options and rarely a bug.  It’s wildly popular in the Android community, especially among developers.

It allows you to have up to 9 home pages, 4 shortcuts on the drawer (a ‘secret’ dock-bar can hold even more shortcuts).  With version 1.0, there are even some great looking themes, some of which cost a $1 (ADW.Launcher is free).  Well worth it.  Highly recommended.

Some manufacturers already customize the drawer heavily so this application may not make sense in those scenarios.

Download ADW.Launcher

AndroLib

Facebook


Courtesy of AndroLib

Facebook’s Android app does exactly what you expect.  You can browser your Facebook friend feed and also post your status as well as check email.  The app’s biggest asset isn’t even the actual app, it’s the Android integration that comes along with it.  For example, after taking a picture, you can ‘share’ it right to Facebook.  It also provides synchronization between your Android contacts and those in Facebook.  For example, when calling my mom, whom I don’t have a picture for, I see your facebook photo pop up instead.  It’s also helped me find phone numbers (only when the Facebook user has shared their phone number).

Some Android manufacturers offer their own Facebook integration, so this app may not benefit you.

Another ‘must have’ app.


Download Facebook

AndroLib

ColorNote

Courtesy of http://socialnmobile.blogspot.com

ColorNote stands above over note taking applications due to it’s checklist functionality and ease of use.  For example, in doing some heavy house renovations, I created several notes and placed them on a separate home screen.  This gave me easy access to the lists from the home page.  At the beginning of each day I would view my tasks to  be done and at the end of the day I would update a list of supplies that I would need to buy.  It kept my chaos remarkably organized.  Highly recommended.

Download ColorNote

Don’t worry if pink isn’t your color.  As the name suggests, you can customize the color of each note.  The default is yellow.

AndroLib

Dialer One

courtesy of AndroLib

Dialer One is another app that should be included with Android.  Dialer One replaces the simple phone dialer that ships with Android with one that can perform T9 searches on your phonebook.  Even many basic non-smartphones provide this functionality, so I’m not sure why Google omitted it.  Many phone manufacturers (HTC, Samsung and I think Sony) include their own dialer,  so in those cases, this app would be redundant.

Download Dialer One

Dialer One is a ‘must have’ application, but has problems.  Contact pictures sometimes do not display, due to restricted access to Facebook profile pictures.  It’s also slow on my HTC Magic running Android 2.1.  On faster phones and Android 2.2, I would expect it to run without sluggishness.

AndroidLib

Quick Settings

courtesy of AndroLib

Quick Settings put all the mostly used settings in one place for easy access instead of having to dig through the settings menu.  I use it almost everyday, especially to adjust the screen brightness or turn on WiFi.  It even has a flashlight app, which I have yet to use.  It is highly customizable, allowing you to hide or replace settings you might or might not use.  Place it on the desktop or dock bar or any place you can access it easily.  A ‘must have’ app.

The developer doesn’t have a dedicated home page, but does have an active twitter feed.

AndroLib

Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner should ship with Android.  It allows your device to scan most barcodes.  Many applications actually rely on this software, for example, Key Ring.  Barcodes?  Who cares?  I thought that at first too.  What makes Barcode Scanner so useful is the proliferation of QR Codes, which are fancy square barcodes that allow encoding of many different type of data.  For example, I have included a QR Codes in all my reviews.  The QR Code contains an address to the Android Market allowing you to download the app within seconds.  Just scan the code in (right from your monitor) and you will be prompted to download the app.  No searching, no typing.

Download Barcode Scanner

QR Codes also allow encoding of contact information, latitude and longitude, plain text, etc.  My next set of business cards will have a QR Code containing my contact information allowing people to add me to their address books with the scan of a code.  I also plan on using them in my geocaching activities.

Want to generate your own QR Code?  Have at it.

AndroLib

Review

I’ve been running Android on my Roger’s Magic for several months.  As time passes, I have collected a selection of app that I use often and highly recommend to others.  I’ve included the QR code (keep reading if that means nothing to you), the AndroLib web site and sometimes a review.  Without further delay:

Recommended Android Apps

In the old days (7-8 years ago in the computer age), any hobbyiest programmer could submit software to zdnetTucowsnonags or any other numerous software sites. In fact, zdnet would even review your software free of charge. It was a convienent service for both those looking for quality software and those creating it.

Let’s fast forward to 2007. As I release Nutrition Facts to various freeware web sites, I’ve realized the landscape has changed significantly. There is a glut of freeware, adware, shareware available. I imagine this has put a strain on many of the freeware sites and even worse, it decreases the chance your software will be found.

Nonags said it could take up to several months before getting listed, Tucows an amazing 915 days. Tucows will miraculously be able to list your software if you pay them:

I opted to wait the 915 days. I suppose I need them more than they need me, but I simply don’t make money off Nutrition Facts, so why would I spend money to list it?

You may think the consumer get’s the short stick and you are right, they do, but Tucows will be the one suffering in the end. By reducing their freeware listings they are making themselves less significant. In fact, I rarely use  Tucows and I finally realized why. Everytime I search, I find mostly shareware, adware or sommecial software. It’s simply not the place to go for freeware. Their listings are also incomplete. Other sites, such as nonags, list many more applications. Tucows has hurt their own business.

Some very good freeware will never see the light of day as long as Tucows and others charge for listing, but this may be an opportunity for someone to create a freeware website that can handle the large influx of freeware, free of charge

After I completed and published a C# version of my Nutrition Facts software over the weekend, I ran into a problem. The hits to my website jumped and the downloads were killing my bandwidth (I host that site from my house). What to do?

I could move my site to a web host, but I’ve had bad luck and losing control over the server makes me unduely nervous. Besides, it could take days to move everything over and test the new site.

The second option was finding an internet storage provider and using them as a download site. This reminded me of a press release some time ago from Amazon about new web services they were offering.

Enter Amazon S3.

S3 stands for Simple Storage Service. It’s a web service that offers unlimited storage at a metered price and the prices are VERY low (at least for my needs). For example, for every GB that is downloaded I would have to pay $0.18. There is a whole schedule of the costs and while they charge for almost everything, the prices are often as cheap as $0.01. (a price list is available at the link above)

Just doing some quick calculations I would spend about $1.50 per month to use S3 as a download site. Not a bad price!

The next confusing step was how to access it. Everything is done via web seRvice calls, function calls for the internet. This means I would need a special application to upload my files. Turns out there are several. A friend of mine used one that created a drive letter on your windows computer. I opted for a firefox plugin called S3Fox, since I often have a browser open anyway.

S3Fox is a dual paned file manager, just like your typical ftp client. You drop and drag the files you want from your local drive to the S3 drive (or visa versa).

Since there is no signup fee, I decided to jump and get myself an S3 account. The whole process took about 10 seconds before my account was activeThere was only one issue still left to resolve. How do I create a link to the files I upload to S3, allowing anyone to download. Turns out the answer was painfully simple.

In the firefox plugin, right clicking on a file in your S3 account allows you to 1) open access to everyone on the internet to the specific file (you can limit it to certain email address, etc, but I haven’t explored this) and 2) get a URL allowing access to the files directly from a browser. Perfect!

I have now been using S3 for 3 whole days and I am up to $0.09 in charges. All my primary download links now point to the files in my S3 account. I am so happy with it, that I may backup important documents like pictures, etc. I figure it will cost me about $2.50 per month to storage fees.

I was convinced this was my solution.