Category Archives: Web/Tech

Twitter’s new analytics tool for tracking click-throughs

As noted from a post on MarketingLand

You can see all the tweets that link to your website, whether or not they include your @username. You can see tweets that link to any specific page on your website. You can see how often Twitter users click on links to your website, or to any specific page.

To do this, go to the new Websites link under Analytics and claim your web site by putting a meta tag in the “head” section of your site. (Typepad users will find this under Design > Head). Once you’ve claimed your site, you can then see analytics performance on a per-hour or per-day level.

This weblog gets enough hits from Twitter that I’m curious where they come from; the new Twitter tools help that curiosity. If you were managing a brand and wanted to see how effective your twittering was, this is one more measurement tool for you.
Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 3.21.10 PM

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Microsoft’s down for three days in flood of error traffic

Microsoft’s service was down for three days; here’s a detailed writeup at The Next Web. A summary of sorts: “The failure caused these devices to receive an error and continuously try to connect to our service. This resulted in a flood of traffic that our services did not handle properly.”

Learning Markdown

I have a feeling that I’m going to be doing a lot more writing using the Markdown
language rather than using a web based rich text editor or plain HTML. Markdown
is supported by Typepad, supported by Octopress (with a bunch of enhancements), supported by Github (with a few changes to be more code-friendly), supported by Vim (with colorizing of text),
and supported by Leanpub (which turns them into EPUB and MOBI files). That’s five
for five for the environments I’m working in the most, which suggests that it’s
worthwhile to learn all that I can.

Markdown is a fairly simple language, and it’s relatively old in net terms (2004)
so it’s had time to mature. Maturing means both that there are well-documented
core features that are invariant among all Markdown interpreters, as well as
sometimes incompatible details that show up when people extend the system.

Some popular interpreters include:

And some popular editors for Mac OS X include:

  • Mou, a Markdown editor for web developers

You’ll find reviews of 35 Markdown apps for Mac at Appstorm; I haven’t tried them all (and probably never will).

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The import-export problem and fragile Internet services

Here's the scenario. You and your team work hard to use a new piece of collaboration software that offers some unique features that are suited either to the work at hand or that appeal to your sense of novelty. The tool works great and you get into it, using some of the more complex parts of the system to great advantage. Then the system's owners send out the dreaded self-congratulatory message saying that they have been acquired by a big company, or some beleagured product manager announces that their system is being sunsetted. You need to move.

Moving turns out to be hard. Once upon a time when the only thing you needed to move was electronic mail, there were only a handful of email file formats, and though they were incompletely specified you could readily move among them. Moving between news readers was just a matter of reusing your .newsrc file. Life was simpler then (cue sad violins).

The situation now is much more complicated. If you are extremely lucky, the system you have has an export file that is the same as its import file, and someone has built a faithful clone of your original service for you to migrate to. That was the case in my move from Delicious to Pinboard. If you're keeping a weblog, though, things can get really unhappy really fast, and a friend to recently migrated from Posterous to WordPress went through gyrations that I'm not sure that I would have tolerated.

The fundamental problem, I suppose, is that the more innovating the service the less likely that its data is structured so simply that you can drop it in to someting else. Brand new user interfaces, the ones that attract traffic because of the ever present need for novelty, also have novel data structures. Watch out when getting into something new that you may find it easier to start than to stop.

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The D2 Pad, a short review of an Android tablet

The boys got D2 pads ( for Hanukah. Here’s a 250 word long review of this 7″ Android tablet.

I’ve never owned an Android tablet of my own, so I don’t have much to compare against. The experience so far recommends it as a handy adjunct to a full-size computer for some tasks, and it makes me more confident in my hunch that an Android phone is going to be my next phone.

We ran into problems charging one of the devices, but helpful tech support fixed it. The D2 pad would not charge with the provided wall adapter, but it did charge just fine using a USB cable. I can’t explain why.

The devices don’t support the Google Play store. I find myself mostly using the Amazon App Store, which appears to be a credible alternative. I’m sticking to free apps for the moment; the favorite so far is Swype, an alternative keyboard.

The camera on the device grainy even in good light, and it takes crappy photos in low light. It would be fine for a low resolution video chat.

The touch screen is surprisingly good for such an inexpensive device. On one of the two units, we found that there was a small defect where it appeared that one corner of the screen was being pressed down on continuously; that seems to have gone away.

I wish the device allowed true multiple user operations. #2 son is getting tired of having my Google calendar alerts show up on his screen.


One of the pads now has a cracked screen, after someone got a bit frustrated with it. It still functions just fine. The funky defect on the corner of the screen never really did go away.

The Android operating system environment gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the more vigorous user of the system, who is looking forward to the day when he gets better hardware to work with. He’s showed me all sorts of fun things including an Android based remote control for Youtube.

 The boys are getting used to seeing Papa’s Twitter show up from time to time on their screens, and #1 son is looking forward to the day when he’s old enough to get his own Twitter account.

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Prompting questions

For reference, here's some prompting questions that are showing up in my social media streams. These change from time to time as online sites try to cajole, coerce, trigger or prompt people to participate online.

Typepad wants me to share this post, and to "Enter a short message about your blog post to get people excited to come read it."

Picture 4

Facebook is asking me "What's the best thing that's happened to you today?" I'm sure that this is not the only question that Facebook asks, based on other people's reports, but I haven't yet seen a comprehensive list of the prompts.

Picture 1Twitter is asking me to "Compose new Tweet…" 

Picture 2And Google's Gmail is just directing me to "COMPOSE". Better to compose than to decompose, but looking at just the one word out of context makes it look very out of place. Email is of course much harder to write than a wall post or a tweet, since you have to come up with To, Cc, Bcc, Subject and email text and since you can go well beyond 140 characters.

Picture 3

“The business model is hamsters generating less money with each turn of the wheel.”

The phrase is from Dave Winer, noting the path of Web 2.0 company growth and the difference between what the systems are worth to the owners vs. what they are worth to the early adopters:

The APIs are corporate APIs, the CMSes are silos, the business model is hamsters generating less money with each turn of the wheel.  permalink

I can't say this is wrong, but it brings some regret for the time spent being the early hamster on the wheel and seeing whatever value I added to the likes of brand new systems being captured completely by those systems. It makes me want to start something brand new of my own – but then – you end up being captured by all of the tools you have to learn to bring it online.

Perhaps the best thing to think through this is that all new shiny online services have a lifespan. Some of them grow quickly and then die (remember Pownce? I thought not), some of them grow slowly and still live on somehow (remember Plurk?), others never get off the ground (a dozen tiny spam-overrun Twitter clones), and a tiny handful make it to Twitter size. You generally don't know when you're starting to talk to people through some new online system whether you are going to treat it as a long-term commitment to learning a complex system, or just some hands-on experimentation in something to be ignored and forgotten in a few weeks.

So you are a hamster, and you see a wheel. Do you get on to try it out, give yourself some exercise, or do you go to your workshop and build a better wheel?

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