Tag: Facebook

    SuccessWhale.com Discontinued as of Today

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    As far as I know, SuccessWhale is not being actively used by anyone any more, so I have chosen not to renew the domain name successwhale.com when it expires today. Like most of my past web-based projects, it will continue to live on at an onlydreaming.net subdomain, in this case sw.onlydreaming.net, but will not be actively maintained there.  As well as its graphical web interface, SuccessWhale also has a back-end API that used to run on a SuccessWhale subdomain. This has now moved to https://successwhale-api.herokuapp.com/. The OnoSendai Android client already uses this address for the API as of update 479, so you may need to update.

    Thank you to all the SuccessWhale users over the years!

    Farewell to Facebook

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    My blogging history has not been lacking in posts where I consider deleting my Facebook profile. It’s been a common thread throughout that time that Facebook has its advantages (having become my sole practical means of contacting many old friends) and disadvantages (that it is a privacy-devouring monster). In the main, we have been willing to make a deal with the Devil in order to use the vast network of communication possibilities it opens up for us.

    After holding a Facebook account for 10 years, and apparently struggling with whether that was a good thing for at least six of them, today I deactivated my account—a temporary measure to see how it goes, before a potential full deletion in the near future.

    The last straw for Facebook was, as with the last straw for LinkedIn, a matter of privacy.

    Facebook’s “People You May Know” feature is often handy for finding friends-of-frients that you know. Occasionally it recommends someone you kind of know despite not having any common friends, and makes you wonder how the algorithm put two and two together. A little concerning sometimes, but not the end of the world.

    Today, Facebook’s recommendations went from “a little creepy” to “compromising friends’ private medical data”.

    I shan’t name any names, for obvious reasons, but I have a friend who is currently suffering from a particular medical problem. As part of their treatment, that friend has regular appointments with a medical professional, and in supporting my friend, I’ve previously been in contact with that person as well. The friend isn’t on Facebook at all, citing privacy concerns. I have not mentioned anything about them nor their problem on Facebook. And yet today, Facebook’s blissfully context-free recommendation algorithm started suggesting that I add that medical professional as a friend.

    NOPE

    As far as we can tell, what happened is this:

    1. I exchanged an email with the person, via my GMail address.
    2. I have GMail set to remember people I email by automatically adding them to my address book.
    3. I have an Android phone, which automatically syncs my Google contacts, so their email address became stored on my phone.
    4. I have had, in the past, the Facebook and Messenger apps on my phone. I had granted access to my contacts, so they could set contacts’ photos to their Facebook profile picture.
    5. The Facebook and/or Messenger apps hoovered up my contacts and sent them to their server.
    6. The person’s email address matched the one they used for their Facebook account, and so Facebook knew that we had some kind of connection.

    Now, it’s not entirely Facebook’s fault. Some of the fault lies with Google, and a not inconsiderable portion of the fault lies with me for not checking apps’ permissions and privacy policies. However, it’s the Facebook part of the puzzle that made the whole thing creepy, and so, that’s the part that has to go.

    So farewell, Facebook. You’ve made staying in touch with a lot of friends much easier over the last decade, and for that I’m grateful. And I’ve always known that the price for that was that you’d play fast and loose with my own privacy. But when you start to infringe on the privacy—and potentially the confidential medical information—of one of my most vulnerable friends, you crossed the line.

    I’m done.

    The Long, Slow Death of Facebook

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    “Facebook has a big problem”, the tech media breathlessly cries. Despite using it every day, I’m not a fan of Facebook, and so am drawn to these articles like a moth to a flame. Let’s all enjoy guilt-free schadenfreude at the expense of a billion-dollar business! So, what’s Facebook’s problem this week? People are sharing more web pages and news stories, but fewer “personal stories”—plain status updates that relate to their lives.

    A while back I complained of a slightly different problem: a lack of customisability of the news feed:

    Does anyone know if there are secret Facebook settings to customise the news feed? Lately it’s been 90% stuff I don’t care about:

    • $friend liked $never-heard-of-you’s photo
    • $friend shared $clickbait-article
    • $friend is going to $event-miles-away

    All I really want to see is real status updates!

    In essence, I was fed up of every day scrolling past a wall of this:

    It turns out that Facebook’s controls for the news feed are pretty terrible. If a friend of mine comments on a non-friend’s post, “likes” it, or worst of all “reacts to” it, that’s automatically considered newsworthy for me. Facebook offers no way to customise the feed to remove these kind of posts.

    You can, however, choose to hide all posts from certain people, including those not on your friends list. So based on the advice I received, I started “hiding all from” everyone I didn’t recognise who appeared in my news feed.

    I’ve done this almost every day for the last couple of weeks, and in a way, it has been very successful. Almost all the strangers’ profile pic changes and distant events have gone, there’s fewer clickbait posts and memes, and mercifully almost no Minions at all.

    But what’s left?

    Not much.

    The media was right, at least as it pertains to my Facebook friends. What remains after you’ve removed all the crap is real status updates—from about five people. Out of 200-odd friends, very few are actually posting status updates and pictures. Mostly of their kids, because I’ve reached that age. The rest of my friends either largely share stuff I didn’t care about, so I don’t see them any more, or they post so rarely that they’re drowned out by the wall of baby photos.

    Although Facebook was our LiveJournal replacement, the place we went to stay in touch with our friends’ lives once we left university for our far-flung pockets of adulthood, it looks like for us that age of constant sharing may be on the decline.

    I’m not sure if I will be happy or sad to see it go.

    The End of the Road for SuccessWhale’s Facebook Support?

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    My SuccessWhale application has long supported both Twitter and Facebook social networks, despite both networks’ relatively developer-hostile stances. The worst offender by far was Twitter, with it’s 100,000 user limit that has deliberately crippled many third-party clients in order to drive users to the official website and app, which make money for Twitter through adverts. While I was never under any delusion that SuccessWhale would be popular enough to reach 100,000 users, it’s not a nice thing to have hanging over your head as a developer.

    Facebook’s permissions policy, as I have ranted about before, also makes it difficult for third-party clients to deliver a useful service for their users. With the new requirement that apps migrate to API v2, they are adding the extra hassle of requiring all apps be reviewed by Facebook staff. This isn’t a problem itself — SuccessWhale has been through the somewhat scary process of manual review before when it was added to the Firefox Marketplace.

    But Facebook has now snuck something extra into the notes for some of its permissions, each of which must now be manually approved as part of the review process. Into pretty much all the permissions that are fundamental for SuccessWhale, such as read_stream:

    Facebook dialog for read_stream permission

    Yep, this permission will be denied, as a matter of policy, to apps running on Android, iOS, web, desktop, and more.

    So predictably, SuccessWhale failed its manual review and has been denied approval to use Facebook API v2.0 or above. As far as I can tell at this point, that means on May 1st all Facebook features of SuccessWhale will cease to function. Facebook, ever the proponent of the walled garden path down which Twitter has ventured as well, has struck another blow for increasing their profits and user lock-in at the expense of the open web that SuccessWhale depends on.

    It’s a sad time for the web; the “web 2.0” of mashups and free access to data is slipping away with it. And though Facebook’s change does not kill off SuccessWhale and its kin outright, the future does not look rosy for us developers that believe users should be free to access a service in a way they prefer.

    State of the Whale Address

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    It’s no secret that the current state of my SuccessWhale social network client is not a good one. It currently exists in three forms:

    • The main server runs SuccessWhale version 2.0.3. It’s not been updated in nearly a year, and the only changes within the last three years have been playing catch-up with the changing Twitter and Facebook APIs. It probably has some broken features by now, because I don’t regularly test it out.
    • The test server runs SuccessWhale version 2.1.2 with debug flags enabled. The 2.1 branch includes things like mixed feeds and LinkedIn support, and is “beta-ish”. Some people use it anyway. LinkedIn support is broken and will never be fixed.
    • The dev server runs SuccessWhale version 3.0.0-dev, a complete rewrite of the whole thing that has stalled in a half-finished state. It’s just about usable provided you’re willing to drop back to the test server to fiddle with any settings (they use the same database). It’s buggy, and as far as I know used only by me.

    SuccessWhale 3 interface

    SuccessWhale v3.0 web interface

    Very occasionally, I get the motivation to do something about SuccessWhale. It feels bad to leave it in its current “limbo” state where there isn’t really a version that works and is properly maintained. I use SuccessWhale every day, so at least there’s the dogfooding aspect, but “it works well enough for me” is far from “it’s something other people would want to use”. And my friend Fae produces the excellent OnoSendai Android client that uses SuccessWhale, so I have some sort of responsibility to him to keep SuccessWhale going.

    But there’s a hell of a lot of reasons why I would rather not.

    • Free time is nice. I started SuccessWhale five years ago, when I still had the energy to keep big projects going. Now, with less free time in the evenings and more responsibilities in my day job, I’m much more keen on grabbing a few minutes of that blissful feeling that comes from having nothing to do.
    • We created a monster. SuccessWhale (or FailWhale as it was then called) was first and foremost a simple Twitter client. I explicitly declared that it would never be a client for other social networks such as Facebook. Nowadays, SuccessWhale has its own API that wraps both Twitter and Facebook, along with several front-ends.
    • Rewrites are no fun. Version 2.0 was badly coded and had to go. Version 3 is nice and designed properly from the start! But it requires hundreds of hours of work just to let it do all the things that version 2 could already do.
    • The APIs are crap. In fairness to Twitter, its API is well-documented and makes a lot of sense. But, like all APIs it is regularly updated, meaning that all application developers need to work just to keep up — we put hours in not to add new features, but just to make sure the existing stuff doesn’t break.
      Facebook’s API is much the same, except that it makes much less sense and the documentation is largely non-existent. It’s quite telling that I asked a simple question on StackOverflow, and a Facebook dev replied with “here’s how to do it. I guess I’d better add that to the docs, huh?”
    • The services are hostile. Twitter, once the darling of those that believed in a strong 3rd-party client ecosystem, are now if their friends have configured their privacy settings badly.
    • The services are crap. Twitter is the playground of celebrities, companies seeking “engagement” and people who want to have a pleas to return to more honest times fall on deaf ears. But I don’t want to use them, and that makes developing a client for them a distinctly unfulfilling experience.

    For now, SuccessWhale stays alive. Twitter and Facebook are what I’m stuck with as the only sensible way of communicating with many of my friends and family, and SuccessWhale helps me avoid the worst features of their interfaces — their cryptically-curated feeds, in-line adverts and one-feed-at-a-time pages. That, plus a vague sense of responsibility to my users, are what keeps it around.

    When the day comes that I can jetission Twitter and Facebook from my life without missing them, it will be SuccessWhale whose loss I mourn. Like many projects before it, its user count will fall to zero and it will slowly start to fade from the internet.

    One day, I’ll be sad that I made a thing that is no more. But right now, all I feel for the thing is the frustration that developing it is fighting a losing battle that has no end in sight.

    From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee, Thou Facebook Privacy Model

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    This morning I tweeted my annoyance with Facebook’s privacy model, and since that provoked some (albeit minor) reaction, I thought I’d follow it up with a better explanation of what I’m on about.

    Have you ever used a third-party app to access Facebook – such as TweetDeck, FriendCaster or my very own SuccessWhale? If you have, did you notice that some of your friends’ posts and notifications just don’t appear in the app, whereas on the Facebook website they are perfectly visible? Have you seen some odd comment threads where certain friends’ comments are missing when you view the thread from an app?

    If you have, the problem isn’t with your app. It’s a problem with the settings that the users you can’t see have set – and that problem is that they have their privacy settings set correctly.

    This is a pain in the arse for me and many others who access Facebook primarily through third-party apps, because not only do we miss out on important updates from these people, but the only way to ‘fix’ the situation is to ask them to degrade their privacy settings. As a big fan of online privacy, that’s not something I’m willing to do.

    So how does this problem come about?

    Well, let’s say we have two characters who want to communicate on Facebook. I’d suggest Alice and Bob, but after 20 years learning about cryptography, neither of them are willing to trust their paranoid conspiracy theories to Facebook’s messaging system. No, I started this post with an oddly-placed reference, and I’m going to persevere with it.

    We have two characters, Ahab and Ishmael, who are friends aboard the good ship Facebook. Ahab fires up his favourite whale-themed client, SuccessWhale, and links it to his Facebook account. He gets a dialog like this:

    Extended Permissions Dialog

    Ahab clicks “Allow”, and as he granted the “Access posts in your News Feed” permission, he starts seeing posts from his friends. But not Ishmael.

    Why not? Because Ishmael is a privacy-conscious sailor, and has previously found the “Apps” section of Facebook’s “Privacy Settings” dashboard. That section not only contains settings for what personal data apps you use can see, but also settings for the apps that your friends use. By default, it looks like this:

    Apps Others Use Settings

    Ishmael saw that section and, quite rightly, thought “So if a friend of mine uses Farmville, this means Zynga can see everything I do on Facebook without asking my permission? Fuck that!”, and promptly unticked all the boxes. His data is now safe from unscrupulous apps used by his friends – but his data is also hidden from ‘nice’ apps too, like SuccessWhale and TweetDeck.

    Arguably, this privacy model is also “right” – Facebook can’t control what apps do with the data they can see, so it has no way to distinguish between SuccessWhale (which needs to see friends’ posts in order to be useful) from FarmVille (which has no business looking at friends’ posts at all).

    Not only are two sets of privacy settings making apps like mine annoying to use, but the annoyance is doubled by the fact that both of those privacy settings are arguably the right decision on the part of both our Ishmael and Facebook.

    Moby-Dick

    Fig. 3. A Successful Whale (artist unknown)

    Fuck it, Let’s Remake TweetDeck. Only Better.

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    It’s no secret that, since the launch of version 2.0 back in July of 2011, my SuccessWhale social network client has stagnated somewhat. It had reached that point at which it did everything that I needed it to do, and so my enthusiasm for updating it kind of disappeared.

    SuccessWhale 2.0

    Well, no longer. Twitter discontinued TweetDeck, the only Android client that merged Twitter notifications and Facebook feeds without sucking. At the same time it discontinued TweetDeck’s desktop client, and removed Facebook support from the web-based client.

    That really sucks.

    And that’s where SuccessWhale comes in.

    I’m no longer content with the ways in which I interact with Twitter and Facebook, particularly on mobile devices, so we’re going to fix it.

    SuccessWhale began as a “my first PHP application” kind of affair, and right now it still is. The code behind it is an ugly mash of model, view and controller without a decent structure. SuccessWhale version 3 will be rebuilt from the ground up with proper design principles behind it.

    It begins with a proper API, which I’m coding up right now using the Sinatra framework in Ruby. Once complete, the web-based front end will be rewritten too, as a strict user of the API using client-side templating in JavaScript. It will be a responsive design, displaying the user’s preferred number of feed columns in landscape mode and reverting to a single swipe-able column in portrait mode for mobile phones.

    Even better, haku is making an Android client called OnoSendai which will feature the combined feed columns that are SuccessWhale’s major feature. We will bring TweetDeck’s feature set back to Android with a lot more besides, offering the users the ability to mix together the feeds in their social network client like never before.

    And to prevent our software going the way of TweetDeck – being bought up and eventually scrapped – SuccessWhale and OnoSendai are open source software. A version of SuccessWhale’s API, operating on the main database at sw.onlydreaming.net, will be open for anyone to use and build clients for. SuccessWhale is released under the BSD 2-clause licence and OnoSendai under the Apache 2.0 licence, meaning that even if we were to be bought out, anyone on the web could simply grab our source code and run their own SuccessWhale.

    We’re bringing TweetDeck’s features back to Android and to the web. We’re making SuccessWhale an application to be proud of. We’re free, we’re open, and we’re Twitter-proof.

    Alas, Poor TweetDeck

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    It should have been obvious when TweetDeck was acquired by Twitter back in 2011 that it wasn’t long for this world. Even more so when the only significant update in the intervening period was to remove a feature (handling tweets over 140 characters).

    Although Twitter started out by enthusiastically embracing 3rd-party app developers, its quest to find a way to monetise its service has led the company to grab more and more control over how its users interact with the platform. Users who use Twitter’s website and mobile apps can be served ads, or “promoted tweets”, much more easily than those using 3rd-party clients. The transition was an obvious one, but not a pleasant one – many developers turned on Twitter, accusing it of being actively hostile to developers.

    I would be hard pushed to disagree. Westminster Hubble relied on Twitter’s RSS feeds to let people follow their MPs more easily – a feature broken by Twitter’s API changes. SuccessWhale survives, but hardly with Twitter’s blessing – if it were to ever have 100,000 users, it would be banned.

    TweetDeck's Merged "Mentions" and "Notifications" Column

    TweetDeck’s Merged “Mentions” and “Notifications” Column

    And today we lose the TweetDeck app on desktop and mobile platforms.

    I am an avid user of TweetDeck for Android (actually, its fork “TweakDeck”, though they are very similar). This is for the simple reason that it is the only Android app that can combine “mentions” from multiple Twitter accounts and “notifications” from a Facebook account in a single column view. Surely this is a feature that plenty of people would like in an app. But check out the competition. This is a list of all the Android apps that are both Twitter and Facebook clients:

    • TweetDeck is dying – service outages are forecast before it is killed off completely in May.
    • TweakDeck is an old fork of TweakDeck, not under Twitter’s control – but the API changes that kill TweetDeck will take TweakDeck with them.
    • Seesmic offers combined Twitter and Facebook feeds in its paid version – I don’t object to paying £1.89 for an app, but Seesmic has been acquired by HootSuite and will be phased out.
    • HootSuite itself does support multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, but its user interface offers no way to merge feeds together or even swipe between columns from different accounts.
    • Scope offers a merged mentions/notifications feed, but only supports one Twitter account, has performance issues (on my devices at least) and has odd defaults (all retweets are also posted to Facebook, Tumblr etc unless manually turned off every time).
    • UberSocial (formerly Twidroid) supports only one Twitter account, and adds Facebook as an afterthought with no merging of feeds.
    • Plume (formerly Touiteur) supports multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, but only supports Facebook’s posts feed, not notifications.
    • StreamLife is intentionally low on functionality, and only shows “home” timelines, not mentions/notifications.

    The functionality that Twitter is removing by retiring TweetDeck is simply not found anywhere else in the Android ecosystem. Until some other application steps in to fill the gap, a function that I and many other users love is simply and infuriatingly impossible to achieve on Android.

    Just like with Facebook, it is the network effect that keeps me – and countless other developers – using Twitter despite its increasingly developer-hostile control over the ways in which we interact with it.

    One day, perhaps the “next big thing” in social networking will be a platform that starts open and stays open.

    The Ego, the Social Graph, and the Great Unfriending

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    Long ago, in the early years of Facebook’s rise to power, it became apparent that it had another key feature alongside feeds and wall posts – the friends list. Not only was it a good way to keep in touch with friends after University, it also became a good way of declaring who those friends were. This aspect was emphasized more and more as the site’s user base increased; you could now keep a quite exhaustive catalogue of who you knew. There were even apps on Facebook’s fledgling platform that allowed to to map those friends, and see interesting groups and connections form.

    Facebook Friends Graph

    My Facebook Friends Graph

    For a shameless nerd such as myself, this is great stuff – I love having a neatly curated index of almost everyone I know, particularly one with which I generate pretty visualisations. This one here shows a nice distinction between people I went to school with (orange), university (blue), people I work with (green), DDRFUKers (purple), and a great interconnected yellow mass of Soton Kiddies, LARPers, neighbours and post-University friends.

    But however nice it might be to see this in pictorial form, I know this information. All of it is in my head; each different group and the few people that make the links between them. There’s no need to record this data to help me.

    Of course, I need to record this data in order to talk to these people and share status updates on Facebook. But I barely interact with anyone I went to school with. At work, a mention of something I posted on Facebook tends to be embarrassing. Most of the dots marked yellow or purple are people who are on Twitter, and who I would prefer to talk to there.

    So for whom am I updating, and publishing, what has become known as my “Social Graph”? I have already established that although I curated my Social Graph out of an egotistic and nerdy desire to catalogue everything, it serves no purpose for me. Presumably, then, I am doing it for the benefit of Facebook and its advertisers who can use it to add cruel hooks into friends’ feeds. “Hey, 24 of your friends play this!” “Ian R likes some guy’s band!”

    At best, “unfriending” on Facebook seems like something that is done by spurned teenage girls complaining about how much of a bitch their ex-“BFF” turned out to be. At worst, it seems like an outright denial that you have ever known a person. But what benefit does a user get from declaring themselves “friends” with someone they’ve said not a single word to in ten years?

    If, as I have previously bemoaned, I still don’t want to quit Facebook entirely, then I fear a Great Unfriending may be nigh.

    Lament for Web 0.1

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    With every passing day, my Facebook feed is spending more and more time informing me that old school friends “like Amazon”. (No shit, really?) In the background, it’s fiddling our feeds, showing and hiding entries according to what it thinks is relevancy, and also what it thinks is profit for itself. Game spam is constant. On the other side of the fence, Twitter is trying to force out the third-party clients that made it great, so that it can monetise its users more easily.

    Facebook Pages You May Like

    Should we be surprised? Feel betrayed? Not at all. Facebook and Twitter are in it to make money, yet we use them for free. It’s pretty clear that if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. We should only expect free-to-use websites to change in favour of their profits, never in favour of us as users.

    But I’m growing tired of it. My use of these sites is intensely personal – they are my default, or only, way of contacting many of my friends – but yet this personal process is controlled by a company that is willing and able to affect the process to make money. If it’s more profitable to show me “Bob likes Product X” than to show me Bob’s deep and meaningful status update, you can bet I’ll be shown the “like”.

    I miss everyone being equal. I miss services that were honestly free. I miss being close to the infrastructure I use to communicate, rather than having it abstracted. I miss Web 1.0.

    Hell, I miss Web 0.1.

    irssi

    There was a time, not so very long ago, when IRC was our Twitter. It was just as full of funny links and pithy comments, but it was communication between friends, not 140 character witticisms broadcast into the ether in the constant, vain hope of affirmation delivered by the retweets of strangers.

    There was a time when blogs were our Facebook, our innermost thoughts put out there for our friends and no-one else; when our friends would think of something to say and say it, rather than simply dishing out an iota of affirmation with the “like” button.

    There was a time when mailing lists were our forums, just simple e-mails back and forth without the need for moderators, or advertising, or CAPTCHAs.

    There was a time when USENET was our Reddit, a place to while away hours without karma whores and downvotes.

    Those times are never coming back. No friends of mine are willing to leave Facebook and talk to each other on a mailing list. The monetising services of Web 2.0 are simply much better, easier to use, nicer to look at, more functional. But they’re lagging behind the tools and services of the old internet in other ways. Honesty – what you put into IRC is what you got out, no server inserted “promoted tweets” into your channel. Thoughtfulness – we had to say things to each other, no likes, no retweets, no upvotes.

    At this point it would be appropriate for me to announce some kind of online “back to the land” movement, ending with a rhetorical “who’s with me?”. But rhetorical it would be, because nobody’s with me. I am, at the age of 27, simply old and curmudgeonly before my time; sitting typing in monospaced text to an audience that already sold themselves to play FarmVille.

    Announcing: SuccessWhale version 2.0!

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internet, I am pleased to announce that SuccessWhale version 2.0 has just been released and is now live on sw.onlydreaming.net.

    SuccessWhale is a web-based client for Twitter and Facebook, written in PHP, JavaScript and MySQL. It offers a multi-column view that allows users to merge together information from all their connected accounts and view it at a glance from any web browser.

    The big changes between version 1.1.2 and 2.0 are:

    • Facebook support
    • Support for multiple Twitter (and Facebook) accounts
    • As many columns as you want
    • Columns that combine multiple feeds
    • Lightboxed images from Twitpic and yFrog
    • New themes
    • Numerous bug fixes!

    You can see a screenshot of it in action below:

    SuccessWhale Screenshot

    I would particularly like to thank Alex Hutter, Hugo Day, Erica Renton and Rg Enzon, whose help in finding bugs and suggesting new features has been instrumental in bringing SuccessWhale up to version 2.0 today.

    SuccessWhale is an open source project, and the source code is licenced under the GPL v3.

    Could I Live Without…?

    This is a post from my blog, which is (mostly) no longer available online. This page has been preserved because it was linked to from somewhere, or got regular search hits, and therefore may be useful to somebody.

    A couple of months ago, I was particularly scathing about the crop of Facebook games that I was playing, particularly ones that had no end. The result? I no longer play any games on Facebook whatsoever. As I bemoaned at length, not one of them was adding to my life in any appreciable way.

    I wonder if it is now a good time to apply the same logic to various online services – to be extremely critical of them, to discover whether or not they actually add any value to my life. In short, could I live without…

    1. A Google Account

    As a search engine, Google is almost essential to life on the internet today.  Like a lot of you, I have signed up to many Google services over the years, each one simply on the merit that it was better than the competition (if there even was competition).  I go through phases of being alarmed at the amount of data Google collates about us all – their “do no evil” policy is wearing thin in the eyes of their customers.  But could I manage without mail, calendars and contacts synchronised between my phone and the web?  Without the near-endless entertainment of Google Reader?  Without the Android Market?

    Although I resent Google’s dominion over my online existence, its offerings are just better than others’.  And having an Android phone seals the deal.

    Verdict: No.

    2. GMail

    If I can’t live without a Google account, maybe I should just dump the GMail part of it?  I’ve actually done this once before; moved my e-mail wholesale to my own server.  But I went back – it’s a nice feeling to be in charge, to have your own mail server, but everything was so much harder.  ”Archiving” and “tagging” become a multi-click ‘move’ operation, IMAP has a host of strange issues, and no webmail client is a patch on Google’s.

    Ditching GMail appeals, but two months down the line I’d probably spend another evening moving everything back again.

    Verdict: Probably not.

    3. Twitter

    I suspect I’m in the minority, in that I follow no celebrities and don’t use Twitter for anything to do with “brand awareness” or “customer interaction”.  I use it for talking to my friends.  There are simply too many of us, online too irregularly, to use instant messaging – or god forbid, phone calls – any more.  (Whether that says something about the quality of our interaction, I’m not sure.)  But without Twitter I’d be largely unaware of what’s going on in the lives of the dozen or so people I care about the most.  Though my posts may be trivial and of interest to few, losing Twitter would be close to losing friends.

    Verdict: No.

    4. Facebook

    The social network we love to hate, there are a whole host of reasons people would want to quit – disregard for privacy, endless Farmville spam, lack of transparency / import & export functions – but yet, so few do.  I don’t play games on Facebook, I rarely post photos, I don’t “like” pages or take quizzes.  I have around 300 “friends”, many of whom I haven’t seen since school and wouldn’t recognise in the street.

    But there’s a few close friends and family that don’t use Twitter, and closing my Facebook account would mean cutting them off.  And besides, there’s always that nagging thought: “you’re 26 years old, every 26-year-old is on Facebook!”

    Verdict: It’s tempting to try.

    5. Google+

    Like many geeks, I am an “early adopter” of Google+, a social network that’s still in beta.  Now and again I load the page or run the mobile app, to see what people have posted – and they’ve posted exactly the same as they posted on Twitter.  Plus, without an API, I never bother to manually copy my own Twitter and Facebook posts to G+ too.

    It’s nice to be in there in case it picks up and becomes the next Social Network to Rule them All.  But right now, it’s taking up brain power and space on my bookmarks toolbar, and I’m gaining nothing from it.

    Verdict: Yes.

    6. LiveJournal

    All my LiveJournal posts are already syndicated from my blog, and I go through phases of disabling comments on my LiveJournal posts to drag people to comment on the blog itself.  It rarely works, but I have so little interaction with people through LiveJournal these days that it barely matters.  LiveJournal is dying, at least from my perspective, and I have already declared it time to quit.  Perhaps now is the time.

    Verdict: Yes.

    7. DeviantArt

    Once upon a time, I posted stories here with regularity.  Now, it’s a place I visit daily on the off-chance that one of the couple of artists whose pictures I enjoy has posted something.  Usually, they havent.  This is what RSS was made for.

    Verdict: Yes.

    8. Flickr

    Though firmly an amateur, I’m proud of my photos and Flickr is where I choose to show them off.  It’s also where family members abroad go to see what we’re up to, and it’s my insurance against a hard disk crash erasing the bits and bytes of our memories.  Just as with GMail, there’s a strong temptation to move my pictures to my own server, and run my own image gallery – but Flickr just does it better.

    Verdict: No.

    9. Last.fm

    I’ve been a keen scrobbler since the days when people knew what “scrobble” meant, and it’s so easy to set up that I’ve always set it up on any new computer, operating system or media player.  But why?  I know what my taste in music is, and I have little interest in my own listening history.  My friends surely have even less.  The only reason I can see for continuing is that I’m proud of the amount of data I’ve generated already – and that’s no reason at all for carrying on.

    Verdict: Yes.

    10. Foursquare

    In using Foursquare, I may be just as much a victim of the wall-chart sticker might be.  Checking in is just something I do when I arrive at a place.  I’m now essentially getting nothing out of Foursquare, even though I’m still reliably giving the company and its affiliates a complete history of where I go and where I shop.

    Verdict: Hell yes, ditch this yesterday.

    What are your thoughts on my reasoning?  Which services are you tied to, and which are you considering leaving for good?  I’d be interested to know.