Getting Google Buzz to post to Twitter

Google Buzz has been out for a couple of days now. It certainly seems to be getting a lot of attention, personally speaking it looks a lot more active than Twitter was when I first joined it. There is quite a bit of scope to link accounts to Buzz from the off, I’ve already got my blogs, Flickr, Twitter and Youtube posting to it. However at the moment it is all one way. What if you want your posts on Buzz to go back to Twitter?

Well for starters, looking at the API, it looks like that will come soon. However for now I have come up with a way of doing it to some extent. An existing service that has been pulled in to become part of Buzz was Google Profiles. This now has your Buzz posts on it. Usefully though, it also has an RSS feed (okay, an Atom feed), containing your Buzz posts. See my Google Profile for an example, once you’re there, in Firefox click on the blue RSS icon in the address bar, and you should get the option to subscribe to the page (depending on your settings). This will give you the URL for that page.

So, go to your own profile page, grab the RSS feed URL, and then go over to Twitterfeed.com. Create an account there, set it up to use your Google Profile feed, and after a delay of a few hours, it will start posting your Buzz posts onto Twitter.

Provisos are:
1) Obviously Twitter has a much shorter character limit, so your posts may potentially get cut short
2) If you set a post limit in Twitterfeed, it will only take the first x posts you’ve made.
3) It is only your posts, no comments
4) You’ll not get any of the other data such as location etc.
5) It does seem a little flaky thus far, there is potentially for tuning a bit how Twitterfeed changes the post to get it on Twitter, but not lots of options.

A proper integrated solution within Buzz will probably fix all of these, but it will do for now.

How Google Notebook can help with your Christmas shopping

As well as search, Google Reader, and Gmail, there is one other Google product I’ll use every day, and that is Google Notebook. It works so well for me for making todo lists, storing links and information, and sharing with other people. You need a Google account to use it, and once set up you’re able to create multiple notebooks for whatever you want. It is worth also installing the Google Notebook Firefox extension, as that then gives right-click access to store links instantly, and a popup mini-version of your notebooks in the bottom-right corner of the page you’re on.

How will this help with your Christmas shopping though? Well, let me explain:

1. Making your Christmas shopping list

As you search online for potential presents across several sites, simply add the page for each possible item to a notebook just for presents. Make notes and comments on those links, compare the prices and ideas, drag and drop them order of which are the best. If you have a lot of presents to buy, you might even want a notebook for each person. Add text notes in the same list as well, reminders or a list of what you have to find. I’m also doing a todo list in one of my notebooks which is my Christmas card list, reminding my wife and I of who we have to send cards to (more on that shortly).

2. What about my presents?

Wish lists have been around for many years now, Amazon being perhaps the best and most well-known example. How do you create a wish list for several online shops though? Well, as above, add all the items you’ve found to a notebook.

When your list is bulging with goodies, go to sharing options for that notebook. Say yes to making the notebook a public web page and save. You’ve now got a page that you can send to your friends and family to let them know what you would like for Christmas. In the top-right of your notebook it will now show as published, with a link to view that page. Do note however that this is a public page that anyone can see.

You can add, change or remove notes from within your notebook, and your public wish list will be automatically updated.

3. Organise Christmas together

If you go back to the sharing options, you can also invite other people to collaborate and use the same notebook. Do this if you don’t want to make your list public to anyone. In this case, anyone you invite can edit and add to the notebook in the same way you can. I’m using this option to plan Christmas with my wife. We’ve got our todo list, a list of presents we need to buy for our collective family and friends, and our Christmas card list. Obviously I’ve also got a separate private notebook for presents I might get her too.

So there you are, a few simple ways to use Google Notebook to help get ready for Christmas. It is a wonderful little tool for all sorts of planning tasks, and it is nice and easy to get even newcomers used to using it.

Google Maps Mobile v2.2 released

Google have updated Google Maps mobile to version 2.2. Works on the N95 fine, seems a bit speedier and neater. Google Transit seems to cover the South of England in general, so I can potentially use it to plan bus journeys should I need to as well.
Google Maps Mobile Hits v2.2 With Public Transportation

Use the iPhone Google Reader on your N95

This is a great tip for N95 users from Symbian-Guru.com, the iPhone Google Reader site really does look nice on the Nokia N95. I would add my own advice, and suggest using the Nokia browser rather than Opera Mobile (if you have that), for some reason it didn’t load in Opera for me, but worked well on the built-in browser.

iPhone Google Reader Is Awesome On S60!

How I broke Google Reader (and Bloglines too)

Quick answer: I imported too many feeds into Google Reader

Long answer: Well I found an old OPML file. I think it may have been something that combined a load of my old feeds with what Robert Scoble was reading at the time, so I suspect it was from 2005 or so. I then noticed a couple of others such files, so I thought it might be fun (note to reader: I have an interesting definition of fun on a personal level, please do not try to apply your own or indeed any dictionary definition of the word here) to put them all together, see what was going on, who was still blogging, if I was missing out on any good feeds.

To begin with, I didn’t want to mess up my reading list, so I thought I’d import them all into Bloglines. Approximately 1400 feeds later, Bloglines was not happy. It was taking an age to load, just didn’t seem to be coping. However I could export from it, so I assumed that Google Reader would be able to cope.

And it didn’t. Page errors all over, massive loading times, and something of a pain to undo too. What I found through trial and error was that it was still flaky with about 800 or 900 feeds, and then once you slipped under that number it was fine, just as good as if you only had a couple. So worth noting if you are an obsessive feed reader like myself that if you’re really stacking up the number you read, it may be worth a prune sometime.

Gmail and AIM – together at last

So now Google Talk within Gmail has support for AIM. Google ask that other networks get in touch with them if they are interested in being included. Well what about the networks and systems that are available already? How about Jabber as a whole? Seeing as Google Talk is based on Jabber, surely this would be easy to offer? And for a bigger ask, what about IRC for us oldsters that have been around a while?

I’m hoping against hope for Jabber and MSN to be added. I’m really not counting on the latter happening any times soon, but it would be so good. I currently use Meebo to be logged into my IM accounts on my browser, as it seems to do this the best out of the things I’ve tried, but if Google Talk could add a few more systems for me, I’d be very tempted to move over.

Google Mobile OS is announced, and is called Android

First off, robot names for projects are a good thing. Okay, I’ve got that out of the way. Android lives, and it seems like some of the more conservative guesses about what a Google Mobile OS should be are mainly right. It’s an application platform, not a piece of hardware (although reading into some of the announcements, it’s not entirely ruled out for the future). Its SDK will be available from the Android site in about a week, and the first new devices with it pre-installed with be on sale in the second half of 2008.

What is perhaps just as interesting is that it is the product of The Open Handset Alliance, which has a very intriguing list of members. Big players in terms of mobile carriers, and some big names in handsets, but no Nokia, or obviously Apple. If you then look at Opensocial, the Google-led social networking API, and the companies involved with that (basically Myspace and all the big players bar Facebook), that is a huge swathe of development that are now committed to doing things the Google way. Are there any more announcements due like this soon? These are not big things just yet, but insidiously they are both going to become rather important.

For a very good discussion of what Android might be, and why it might be so important, I’d strongly recommend listening to the latest episode of This Week in Tech. You’ll also find out why Robert Scoble’s wife left him.

Another piece of the Google puzzle in place – Social Networking

Well I’d just finished writing the previous post, just went to flick through my feeds, and found this little gem. Google Maps is going Social. They’ve now added a profile section to Google Maps, so that any maps you chose to share will also now have your profile attached to them. I checked this out, and sure enough, I’ve already got my avatar and website in there already, from some other Google service I’ve used.

It’s very likely this is going to slip into the Google Apps family over the next few months. I suspect that it would go nicely into Gmail, so that you could find out more about anyone who mails you from a Gmail account.

This is going to be Facebook by stealth. Rather than a launch of a rival, they will add the profiles in. Rather than adding apps to a social networking app, they add the social networking to their existing apps. Google has Google Groups (formerly known as Usenet, in a way). They’re even a step ahead of Facebook by having IM and voice chat in place too. It’s starting to fall into place.

Catch-up on Google, Mobile, Firefox and other things of interest

It took me quite a while after my recent holiday to catch up on my RSS feeds (I had a mere 7500 posts to work through, with more coming in all the time), so I had to be quite careful not to miss things of interest to me over the past few weeks. And there has been a lot in the area I write about here.

The Google phone has been intriguing for several months now. It sounded like an odd idea, and quite brave. The initial idea, as it was put forward by many news sources, was that it would be Google’s own phone, with it’s own OS and applications. It’s one thing for say Apple to move into the mobile phone arena, there are a lot of complications compared to other areas of hardware, it’s quite another for a company like Google who of course have the money to tackle the problems, but just haven’t operated in such a field before. A fair comparison may have been to Microsoft with the original Xbox. They got a lot wrong before they got a lot right (I’m slightly regretting giving mine away, as I have got a fondness for it, but then it went to a good home, so I’m fine about it really).

However, the New York Times broke some new details about Google’s plans. They suggest it is not a phone, but a phone OS. It will be built on Linux, be designed as a competitor to Symbian and Windows Mobile, and will be licensed for free to phone manufacturers. Now this sounds a lot more interesting to me. For one, it seems like the idea would be to get it on as many manufacturers phones as possible.

Further reading and speculation throughout the tech news blogs suggests it might even not be an OS, but an application designed to run on the major mobile platforms as if it were the phone’s OS, just wrapping together existing Google mobile apps with some new functionality. This seems like the most sensible suggestion yet to me, and mirrors the work they’ve done on the desktop. You can now use a whole suite of applications within the browser already on Mac, Linux and Windows, which is what I do at the moment. They just move onto the mobile platforms with similar, optimised for mobiles. Not such a huge leap, but instantly moving onto many mobiles at once, and doing the important jobs for them of having their applications used wherever their users are, and also pushing adverts to them.

Changing tack slightly (I’ll be coming back to that), the next day Mozilla announced they are working on a version of Firefox for mobiles. I’ve been crying out for this, I do like Opera Mini, but I’ve used Firefox for a good few years on the desktop, and it just works for me. I like being able to add in functionality to the browser as I need it, and see the best of that functionality rolled into the browser itself over time. Mozilla aren’t committing to any particular phone OS at the moment, but there has to be a really strong possibility it will be on both Windows Mobile and Symbian. They are promising extensions, built in the same way as the main version.

Now again, a lot of speculation about this in the tech news world. It does seem remarkably close to the news about Google’s plans for mobiles, Firefox is the favoured browser of Google (they bundle it with Google Desktop, with the Google Toolbar installed and also produce a few very useful extensions for it). So the suggestions are that both projects could be in some way linked, or at least will end up being complimentary in some fashion. A Google OS for mobiles will need a browser in some manner, and one would expect that if this was going to be written by Google themselves, they would have already shown off a desktop version. They haven’t, they seem very happy with Firefox as is.

Google have been rumoured for many years to be working on their own desktop OS. Usually a form of Linux, containing all their applications as the installed software. As with the Google browser, this has never materialised. Instead, they have slowly trickled out a series of apps within the browser, until now you have a wide-ranging set you can use individually, or set up in conjunction with a set of desktop based apps you can download in a bundle with third-party software such as Firefox and Adobe Reader.

Since the two announcements I described earlier, there has been a steady stream of updates to the existing Google mobile apps, and the launch of new ones as well. There was the 1.5 release of the Google Mail app, the launch of Google Calendar optimised for mobiles, the new Google Maps application, and today a new mobile version of Google Docs. All this leads me to believe that we aren’t really waiting for Google Mobile OS after all. We’re getting it now, just like we did with the dripfeed of Google applications on the desktop. In time, we may get a bundle of everything in one unified interface, but all the main elements seem to be dropping into place right now.

One of the reasons I think this is a good thing is the usability of Google products. Sometimes it can be very frustrating using Symbian, it can seem like it was designed by someone who just loves clicking dialogue buttons, and typing extra characters much more that I do. Why do I have to type "http://" so much? Where is the cut and paste? Why can’t I move information between applications? I’m not suggesting Google Mobile will solve everything, but one of the first signs I have seen is in the new version of Google Mail, where although the app is designed to do email, I can go into my contacts, and call them directly (if I’ve put their phone number in). That’s the start of the sort of functionality and usability I want on my mobile. It’s going to be very interesting to see where this all goes in the next few months.

Google tries to be Delicious

Google have recently launched Shared Stuff, a sort of competitor to del.icio.us. I’ve had a look at this tonight, and it’s quite nicely done. You drop a bookmarklet onto your toolbar, and if you want to save a page, it launches a new window, in which you can edit your description of the page. This then saves to your own shared page (with an RSS feed of course) and your profile. The whole thing works very much like del.icio.us, particularly when used in conjunction with their Firefox extension (where you get to add tags and your description).

The Google version definitely looks nicer, but I’m used to del.icio.us, it works well, the tagging is a very nice way to navigate your bookmarks, and I’ve been using it for so long I’m just loathe to consider moving elsewhere (have a look at my own del.icio.us page just to see how much I’ve got stored there).

I’ve also been looking at a Mozilla project, Joey. This is a similar idea at first, except it is designed specifically for sharing content from the web to your mobile phone. The idea here is that you can clip parts of pages, so text, images and even video, so that you can just download the element you need on your phone.

Having tried this out, it’s apparent that it is very handy for storing a bit of a timetable, or directions that you can call up from your phone. One thing it doesn’t work on yet is Google Maps, which is a shame, as that would be very handy. That is down to how the maps are generated, rather than being a single image, they are several squares which are patched together on your screen. Joey won’t let you grab them yet, but I’m sure in time they might get it figured out. It is very beta at the moment, but worth a look.