Learning to Utilize APIs

Google Translate API

Google Translate API

A quick tip for any aspiring web application developers. Today Google released an API explorer which makes it really easy to see how calls to it’s API are made. In the example above I’m translating the text ‘Hello’ from English to German. Perhaps you want your dynamic page to greet users in their native language? Whatever your uses, It’s definitely worth messing about with and reading the documentation. You can access it here.

Business People, Open Source People, Helping People, This is For You

I realise it’s a bloody long time since I’ve last posted, but I’ve been busy with projects of my own and exams (and a recently purchased Xbox 360) but after watching this video I really think it is of great benefit to any employer, employee or indeed open source advocate out there. It is on the results of a MIT experiment into the economic thinking “Greater reward encourages better work”. I think you’ll find the results interesting. It’s worth mentioning that Google gives employees 20% of their time at work to use on their own projects, and apparently 80% of Goole’s new technologies have come from this 20%.

The Unrealised Potential Of Online Feedreaders

We’re a nice bunch these days on the web. We like to hear great stories and tips, and usually the first thing we  do when we read them is share with our online friends. We do this through Digg, Delicio.us, Twitter and Facebook usually, but a growing number of us use tools like Google Reader or Bloglines to get all our information from one page via feed subscriptions. However, the methods of sharing in these utilities are old-fashioned and hardly Web 2.0, as we like to think the web is these days. I had these ideas buzzing round my head a long time ago and when comments came into being on Google Reader I thought “Awesome, the Reader them and I think alike, this is getting social and if I sit tight at the table for just a while longer I’ll get my three courses of dessert at once. Sadly, I’ve sat at the table a long time now and am pretty hungry for pudding. So, here’s a few  suggestions that I think would improve Feed Readers for all of us. I’ll be using Google reader as an example, as it’s one of the biggest and the one I use the most.

Comment on the Original Item straight from the Reader:

This is one I’ve always wanted. When I read a great blog post on Reader sometimes I want to comment on it, but I’m on another computer other than my own, so I have to go to the original item, wait for the page to load, type in my name, email and website and then comment. It’s be great if I hit comment in reader and could type my little bit and GReader automatically did the hard work, using OpenID perhaps and left the the comment on the original item for me . Sure it could be a bit messy for a while, but it would greatly increase my productivity and make me hesitate more when I hit “Next Item”

Make the experience much more social:

Let’s face it, Orkut was never going to be a real contender on the social space and now it’s a sinking ship, abate one that’s in  very shallow water, so it’s still hanging around when all the passengers have long since abandoned it.When I read something awesome on Reader, I share it. When one of my GReader friends shares something, I usually do a Reshare with a note, since that’s what twitter has nailed into my skull. Adding “Originally shared by [Name]”, and for my own items “Reshared by [Name],[Name] and 4 others” would be a great  start towards a more social experience. The GReader team introduced comments a long time ago, but they’re quite limited and don’t always work when they should. Maybe that’s just me though, I don’t know. Of coarse, when a article is shared a lot over the GReader network,  The “Sort By Magic” option would know to send this valuable information to the top of my feed. I could then hit the link to the original sharer and follow them, making my stream that bit more valuable. This data is sent to twitter and people there start following me on GReader. Of coarse, this depends on GReader making it easier to find people you know, which is a feature in any modern social network. Suddenly data is flying all over the place. I’m following some of the best internet gold diggers on the internet and they’re sharing good articles, highlighting the bits I should read, adding theit own little notes throughout. Heck, Google could use some of that lovely new Wave technology and have articles popping up in my feed all over again because one of the internet’s design darlings has added his own experiences to the article.

So what do you think? Would it be great if 2010 was the year that Google Reader evolved into the Google Reader Network, and became the Internet’s top resource for data? Leave a comment, or if you’re reading this in Google Reader and don’t have time, Share with a note. I’ll understand, believe me 🙂

How to Fix Facebook Chat for Firefox Beta Versions and Daily Builds

I like to be on the cutting edge, but I don’t like the way if Facebook doesn’t recognise your useragent string it assumes you’re using an older non-compatible browser. This means you have to open chat in a new window, annoying at the best of times. So I did a little rummaging about and found a really easy fix for this.

  1. Go to your address bar and type in “about:config”. Click “I’ll be careful, I promise!”
  2. In the filter bar, type “general.useragent.extra.firefox”
  3. DoubleClick this to change the value. For me, it said “Shiretoko/3.5.7Pre”. I changed it t the nearest stable release I knew about, which was “Firefox/3.5.5”. For people using this guide in the future, you should go to http://getfirefox.com and find the name of the latest release.
  4. Close about:config and load/reload Facebook
  5. That’s it, your Facebook chat should now be working fine!

I have not tested this on a lot of websites, but it should not cause any problems as long as the version numbers are quite close. Let me know how this goes for you!

The humble Favicon, and a How-To guide for those of you in the dark

A Favicon is that little icon you see in your address bar or in your bookmarks list beside the name of the site you’re visiting. They are very simple but make a huge difference to your users. Perhaps, like myself, they’d like their links on the bookmark toolbar to only consist of icons (or Favicons as I should say!)

Many sites that have been up for more than a year still have no favicon. (like xPad) or still use the default favicon of their CMS, which looks worse in my honest opinion (I’m looking at you GAMECON!)

So how do you acually make a favicon? Well you need to have a file called “favicon.ico” in your root directory, or in /images in joomla’s case (overwrite the current one). Making a favicon is quite easy, and most image editors will have everything you need from the box. Here is a excellent guide for Photoshop users (although you will need to download and install this plugin first)

With a bit of work, you might even manage a animated one like the one at 3V.ie!