Twitter is better

A little while ago, I wrote about my pet peeves to do with twitter, and while they probably didn’t read my specific ramblings, they have certainly addressed my key concerns.

My biggest concern was of course, about security and twitter-apps. A little while ago, I noticed that this has been resolved. Twitter is now linked with applications in a more security conscious way. I love the way twitter now asks if an application should be Ā authorised to access information. Yay! No more giving my twitter account details to third party websites.

I also covered an issue that I had with grouping users to see relevant tweets together. This has also been resolved with the use of lists. In fact, lists have changed how twitter works to an extent. There is a blog post about how lists will impact follower counts. Lists provide a powerful mechanism to follow a group of people – now, if only I could have an option to see all the tweets made my the people that I am following as well as the lists – that would be cool. It probably should’t be the default, but an option to do that would be useful.

I also like the new feature where it tells you that there are new posts since I last viewed a timeline – saves me from having to click reload randomly to see if there are no posts. The little grey line differentiating the new posts help in that I know how far down I have to read to see just the new posts… šŸ˜€

Making Twitter Better

I think that twitter is a fantastic service and has a bright future. However, like a lot of new things, the question of whether it will flourish or perish is really all down how the growth is managed, planned and executed.

I should point out that I don’t know the people at twitter at all and is very much an outsiders opinion. I have been running a business for about nine years, and while it is of nowhere near the success of twitter, I’ve definitely learned some hard lessons. I am not complaining – I am however, voicing some ideas on how things could be made better.

My experience also includes working very closely with, which grew from a fledgling website 6 years ago to what it is today servicing over a 100,000 visitors every day.

My gut instinct about Twitter is that the guys and gals are working hard to delivery one really good service really well. However, it is of a size now where service delivery should be happening in the background with little or no effort.

When first launched and over the first couple of years, we spent a lot of time managing the hardware, software and processes till we got it right. It went through a dramatic re-architecture in 2005 and since then, the management time has dropped dramatically.

To take twitter to the next level so that it can be bigger than facebook, in my opinion, requires twitter to a lot of things:

Reliability & Performance

I don’t know the architecture / infrastructure of twitter but having used it fairly heavily over the last few days, have noticed intermittent outages. This has to be solved. Not just in the short term, but in the medium and long term. Twitter has to be a service that just works. All websites suffer glitches and outages but the mean time to failure needs to be a lot higher and it should be cheap and cost effective to scale.


There are a lot of services and applications that link into twitter. I consistently use tweetburner, tweetdeck and have looked at / considered a range of other services / applications. While the wiki page can point someone in the right direction. This needs to be integrated better into twitter itself

Facebook really took off and removed bebo and myspace as competitors, in my opinion the day it introduced facebook applications.

It should be a different process from facebook as facebook applications are of a different breed and different target market. Twitter simply needs to make it easier for applications to integrate in to solve two problems

  1. Easy launchpad to add them in and use them
  2. Remove the need to provide the twitter username/password in other websites. I currently have to do this with tweetburner to post directly which makes me very uncomfortable.


I am not talking about makes it easier for people with disabilities to access the site. I am talking about people who are not technically savvy or more importantly twitter savvy.

I joined twitter a while back and just felt a bit lost. There was no guidance as to what a tweet was, what it meant to be a follower or what it meant for people to follow you.

It took an article on a magazine explaining it to make it easier for me to understand and re-boot my twitter life.

Help & Support are good and useful but it should not be necessary if the help and support is present throughout the site. Facebook does this well and makes it easy to learn and do new things. It does not need to be idiot proof but it does need to have just enough information for a newbie to get started.

There are numerous blogs, articles and websites that cover this information but that means that someone has to spend enough effort getting out there and finding out.

This can be difficult when you don’t know what you are searching for as well.

Functional Integrations

There are several integrations that would be useful. There are websites that do some of these things but it would be useful to have them integrated within the site. Examples include:

  • Easy way to see the last tweet of all the people you are following / your followers
  • Popularity of the people you are following / your followers
  • Group people, so that you can follow people who blog about different things but read them together


From my perspective, this is of course a starting point, the tip of the iceberg. Twitter is involved in a lot of new things but without the soft aspect, I think it is making its life harder than it has to be to get the masses.

Bad Google

I stumbled across a post by a Mark Ghosh, an unhappy orkut user which covers a very basic and age old security flaw within Orkut, a social networking site similar to Facebook / MySpace which is now owned by Google.

Google, one of the largest corporations in the world went through and acquired a whole bunch of online communities and this is all fine. However, should a company of this calibre not be more careful about associating with a website that has such a silly but serious security flaw. A flaw that could probably be resolved within an hour of work. I appreciate that there are probably numerous other issues that the site has…

However, if the security of the site is not given any priority, how can we, as the masses place so much trust into an organisation that we trust to perform our searches, store our emails (GMail), our files(Google Docs) and trawl through our websites to make it searchable and available to the masses?

In all honesty, if Google cannot allocate enough resources to at least fix security issues within its products, perhaps, they should at least shut them down to limit the damage hackers can do to legitimate users.

Sure, if someone falls for a scam and accidentally gives out their password, they end up paying a price but having zero control over being able to resolve it is unacceptable. A user should be able to change their password and know that someone who had your old password can no longer log in…

Building A Website

Most people would think that building a good website is straightforward and it was. A few years ago, when the web was still relatively new, it was easy enough to put together a designer and a developer and you could get a reasonable website as the end product.

However, in the modern age of websites, this kind of a websites simply does not cut the mustard. It is of course adequate, but simply feels a little lacking.

There are several websites that I have recently come across that excel in design – they have fantastic design but when it falls down when it comes to usability or functionality. The websites of some graphic design agencies are prime examples of this.

On the other hands, we have highly functional websites with a wide range of features and functionality. The website might even be attractive but fails terribly in terms of usability. sourceforge is a very good example of this. I used to use it a lot a few years ago but its usability has gotten worse in the last few years, not to mention the fact that it seems to have slowed to a crawl. I still use sourceforge now and again to look up pieces of software but I don’t look forward to it.

Then you have the rare gems, that are exceptionally usable and functional. Google is an excellent example of this. Note however, that the design of google in minimal.

Having worked in the web for numerous years and having used more websites than I could possibly count, I strongly feel that the medium that is the web is heavily under-utilised.

Facebook is a good example of some of the good things you can do with web. Things just feel a lot more natural. If you take the news feed, you can hover over an item to see the menu at the top right that lets you set your preferences for that particular item.

Same with your wall, hover over an item on your wall, and you see a menu option, click on it and you get relevant options.

This is a simple and minor thing. However, this brings in the concept of context and I think that context is largely ignored in all applications. However, it should be easier and much more useful to have context sensitive commands / functionality within websites.

Now, If facebook was to take it one step further and allow you to right click anywhere on a news item and then choose one of the options, that would be even better – save me from moving the mouse to the menu.

Another excellent thing Facebook has done is provide the ability to comment on most things that someone does. Social interaction can take a website from zero to hero in an instant. How can you allow your customers / visitors to interact with each other. Even better – Can your website integrate with Facebook and allow your visitors / customers to use the interaction capabilities of Facebook to drive your site further?

Foxy Web

Since Firefox 2.0, I have never felt a desire to use Internet Explorer. There have been times when I have used IE, either out of a need to test a website on the browser or purely as the first step to downloading Firefox.

According to W3C, as of November 2008, IE(6/7) dominate 46.6% of the market with Firefox at 44.2%. Compare this to November 2007 when IE (5/6/7) dominated 56% of the market and Firefox only had 36.3%

It is interesting to note that between Nov 2007 and Nov 2008, Linux adoption (as far as internet browsing is concerned) went up a meagre .5% from 3.3% to 3.8%.

This means that a very large proportion of the firefox users are from the Windows Platform. Why is this impressive? There is technically no reason for a user on Windows to download Firefox. Windows comes with Internet Explorer, which should be adequate for all the internet browsing needs.

If 44.2% of all windows users went to the effort to download, install and use firefox instead of Internet Explorer which comes pre-installed, let me ask the question – if Windows came pre-installed with Firefox instead of Internet Explorer – how many would go to the effort of downloading and installing Internet Explorer.

While it is possible to install Internet Explorer on Linux, it might be a little unfair to answer this question based on the number of Internet Explorer’s running off linux. People who run linux have proven to be biased against Microsoft anyway, so it would be a loaded statistic.

While I have no doubt in my mind that Firefox is better than Internet Explorer, I still don’t feel that Firefox is perfect. It still feels far too bulky, with disproportionate memory usage and it is still not as fast as Safari in terms of page display.

Sure, the addons and themes functionality is great and useful. However, it would be nice if it was faster to load, faster to use and just felt more lightweight… like Safari does….

Having said that, I am not going to switch to safari. I like the browser but it is still just not as good as firefox.

One of the points of open source software, should be to bring all the benefits of all the competing pieces of software into one but it just doesnt work like that. If Firefox had all the benefits of firefox as well as the benefits of Safari, I am sure the adoption rate would be far higher…

Lets take it one step at a time… I vote for firefox feeling a lot quicker and snappier for a wishlist… šŸ™‚

A Ubuquitous Avatar

With around 6.5 billion people in the world, there is a good likelihood that if you think up something ā€œoriginalā€, somebody else in the world has already thought of it.

Now, take the internet with just under 1.5 billion people linked in. Now, if you think up something that would be cool or useful (especially if it pertains to technology in some way), there is a good chance that somebody else has thought about it. And if you, like me just want to use it instead of creating it, somebody else has probably gone to the effort of making it work.

For a trivial example, it would be cool if I could have just one bookmarks folder for my Firefox and have this synchronised across all my computers (one in the office, the laptop, and the one at home). Do a quick google search and Bam – there it isā€¦ Foxmarks and guess what – it does even moreā€¦

Now, this has an interesting side effect. What about all cool things we could do if only I knew what to search for in the first placeā€¦ I am subscribed to enough newsletters, websites and blogs (of course) to stay apprised of a lot of things that are happening, changing and being used in the world but that still does not tell you about all the cool things that could be done.
So, when I stumbled across this tiny (pun intended) little gem of a service called Gravatar, I was intrigued and impressed. It is such a tiny, simple, straightforward little thing. It also does just one thing, but it does it well. Now what it does it do?

It allows you to set a picture as your avatar against your email address and everyone who subscribes to the service is able to associate you with this avatar.

Why is this cool? Well, we just installed WordPress for our blog and it comes integrated with Gravatar and my user account was automagically liked in to the display the picture that I had set as my avatar. Cool!

If that is not cool enough – I set my mail account to link in to Gravatar (thats actually how I stumbled across the service) and anyone else who uses the service will show up with their pre-defined avatar on my browser.

All that needs to happen now is for Facebook to integrate with Gravatar so that when I change my profile picture, it will update my Gravatarā€¦