My birthday is coming (I have a cunning plan!!)

Next week is my birthday (Friday 19th). I’m not saying that to get attention, but to utilise that attention. We live in a Social Media age, and everyone uses that media to wish ‘Happy Birthday’ to all those they haven’t spoken to in years.

I have a cunning plan:

Please feel free to wish me a Happy Birthday on twitter or facebook (or anywhere else for that matter), but please, if you do, consider making a donation to World Vision to support their African Appeal that is currently on (if you want to donate to the New Zealand branch – I’m a proud kiwi – the link is here).

The way I see it, if every well-wisher gave a one-off $5 donation, we could definitely help some kids.
Now, this is an honesty-box style arrangement. No one will know if you actually give or not, but I figure 30-40 tweets and 20-30 wall-posts starts to add up to a much nicer sum than $0 (and it’s a lot cheaper than actually buying me a present!!).

So, please, think about it, and give a little. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about them.


I made it into Google+…first impressions

Today I finally got into Google+ after trying to catch the invite windows. I’d been sitting on 2 invites since day one, but never managed to hit registration when it was unlocked. Today that all changed, and now I get to experience what other techies have been on about.

My first impressions:

  • UI – an emphatic +1. I’ve already changed my gmail theme to ‘Preview (dense)’ because I love the clean simplicity and minimalism; beyond that everything is beautiful and make excellent use of HTML5, CSS3, and all those other web goodies to provide a beautiful interface.
  • UX – again, an emphatic +1. Here, I would have to use the word ‘graceful’ to describe their use of HTML5, CSS3, et al to provide an exceptional user experience. Nothing is in your face about its activity; but the more you look, the more you see.
  • Circles – I like this implementation of what many are calling Facebook Groups. Other than the lovely way of implementing your groups, the UI provides for much better control and understanding of both your own Circles, as well as the Circles that you have been added to. +1 from me.
  • Hangouts – the hangouts interface is smooth. An intuitive, clean interface that doesn’t beg for lots of assistance. It just gets down and does what it’s meant to do. I’ll have to wait til I’m at a real computer (with a web-cam), but then I’m all up for some serious testing of this.
  • Chat – pretty much just the same as Gmail Chat from my first look. That said, gmail chat is a good IM client anyway, so all good.
  • Photos – again, the interface is well implemented. I’ll need to have a decent play over the next few days, but I can’t say I expect to be disappointed at all.

It’s pretty obvious that the word-of-mouth surrounding Google+ and the features it is offering forced Facebook’s hand and made them bring forward the “awesome announcement” that they were integrating Skype into their framework. However, it already makes them look like they’re playing catch-up to Google+; as XYZ said the other day: “they aren’t the first to integrate video calling with social, MySpace did it in 2007, but now it’s the right timing for the product”. Google+ seems to have opened the gate first, if only by a couple of days. Facebook is already having to justify why their implementation is better (“most people only want to use person-to-person”).

The converse is also true though, as it seems Google+ is already fast-forwarding their Beta schedule and allowing more and more invites to be cashed in. This is possibly in response to Facebook’s moves; or, it could just be a response to public demand and the quality performance of Google+ internally for Google. They would much rather offer a schedule of months, and deliver in days or weeks, than the other way around. This is afterall the Google who still had gmail in beta 5 years after launch, but had been fully open to the public for 2 and 1/2 years of that 5 years (Wikipedia).

I’m going to be having a dive into the features as much as possible this weekend, I can’t wait. Here’s a vid:

My #FoursquareDetox

So, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed a bit of a review of self. Other than needing to get fitter and lose some weight, I realised that I was a bit too tied to some aspects of my social media-ised life. And my competitive streak didn’t help either. For this reason, I decided that it would be good for me to go on a #FoursquareDetox. What this means is that I have not checked-in with Foursquare since then (currently 12 days, as of the writing of this post). The funny part is, I was inspired/motivated/pushed to it by what I realised was over-use since I got my iPhone. This was highlighted to me when I spent a weekend messing with the v1 API for Foursquare, and checked in around the United States, parts of London, and even the Arctic Circle and the Pyramids. I’d gotten a bit too tied to having the most points amongst my connections, and grasping desperately to my mayorships (one I found was mine still as long as I checked in before 7:15am each day – that way I beat my opponent to the daily arrival and maintained my tenuous grip on it [very sad!!]).

Since the start of this #FoursquareDetox, I have noted it daily on Twitter (hashtag #FoursquareDetox) and I’ve noticed that this is pretty much the only time I think of it. I’ve even managed to already train myself to not grab for my iPhone as soon as I get somewhere. Benefits abound also, as my fiancee doesn’t need to roll her eyes at me constantly as I check-in to yet another location, and struggle to keep a tentative hold on my points lead (ah, yes, just another intangible collection of ‘0’s and ‘1’s for us to base our sense of worth on).

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Foursquare (in fact, I will resume check-ins again soon) however I have gained a new perspective on my level of commitment to the app. Interesting check-ins that actually mean something are still golden, but needing to have 1000 check-ins to my house or office is just a little on the need-to-be-committed side of the spectrum. I would say that this is also tempered by my residing in New Zealand, where there has been less of a communal/collective uptake of the game than places such as New York (where it was invented for, and is stil targetted at) or San Francisco (which is another thriving tech hub). Additionally, my detox is nothing to do with privacy concerns – where I check-in is generally public knowledge, and is information that 15 seconds on Google which acquire or be able to extrapolate (eg I spent 5 days at work this week; I was at home 7 nights this week; etc). Honestly, it pretty much came down to valuing my time, and wanting to be a little more productive.

embedding a dynamic map of foursquare check-ins into your website

I’ve just been working with embedding foursquare locations in a website, and displayed on a map. After a bit of a fiddle around, I’ve come up with, what I think is, a very simple and dynamic solution. Simply go to and get your KML link.

To the end of this append ?count=ABC (where ABC is the number of results you want); e.g.:[YOUR_PERSONAL_CODE_HERE].kml?count=1

Be warned that you should keep this link private, as it gives access to your foursquare data.

Now, head across to Google Maps and past this link in the search box and click ‘Search’. You will end up seeing a map with your most recent (in my example I used ‘1’) foursquare check-in pin-pointed. This link is dynamic, in that it requests the most recent check-in from foursquare at time of use.

With this you can then grab the embed code from Google Maps and paste this into your site to provide a currently updated map showing where you last checked-in to foursquare. Again, be aware that the link to your foursquare data will be visible if someone knows how to inspect the source code of your page. For this reason, I recommend doing what I have done below, and pasting the check-in/s as images. This is not dynamic, but it is secure.

Thank you, Egyptian youths on Facebook

This Egyptian protester was spotted holding a sign that, when translated from Arabic, says along the lines of:

Thank you, Egyptian youths on Facebook. We are standing firm and will not leave.

[via @richardengelnbc]

Social networking around the world

Courtesy of, here’s a world map of social networks and their prevalence around the world.

tweet of the year

The lovely @five15design sent me a tweet earlier today that was full of flattery:

Why? You may ask, well here’s the reason:

I have to say I was feeling rather witty at the time!!