Social Media Tech

Experiments and experiences with Tumblr for content aggregation

I’ve been tinkering away for a while now with a Tumblr account. You can view the results at Leguape’s tumblr of fun.

It’s an aggregation of pretty much all my social media activity outside of Facebook and Friendfeed (which I barely use now other than passively).

What does it use?

For content I read and want to make a note of online, it takes in my reddit and delicious bookmarks, as well as my google reader shared items.

I then mash these three together through a simple Yahoo! Pipes Feed to reduce the number of individual feeds I have to try and pull in.

Tumblr limits you to five feeds by default, so it seemed like a waste to pull these three in as separate items. The presentation of the feed output could do with some refining, but it does the job of making the all-important data available.

Then I also pull in my Twitter and Flickr feeds individually as the two most likely places for activity.

I also pull in the Chasing Wheels blog Feedburner feed separately as that’s another major source of activity. I’m now trialling pulling in a Yahoo! Pipe feed that aggregates all my blogs together to simplify things. I’ll be interested to see how this post appears via that feed.

Weirdly I don’t seem to be pulling in any video. In fact I don’t seem to shoot much video.

What purpose does it serve?

A while back I tried the Action Streams plugin for Movable Type but never managed to make it work. I can’t remember the exact reason but I think it was as simple as I couldn’t just plug and play.

Tumblr allows me to quickly plug in a bunch of things and get going straight off, right down to setting it up to point to a custom domain. I like that.

Also the interface offers me a whole bunch of options easily. I think it might even pass the “Mum test of usability”.

I like how easy it is and how low they’ve set the bar to entry.

I’ve even started on a second tumblr experiment, a photojournal called ToyCam Mono with a very simple premise.

I guess is part of the appeal of tumblr as a platform: its lower threshold to getting started and continuing. No fiddling with templates and code, just straight in.


Upgrading to MT4.25

So there was a fanfare and loads of excitement promised, and what am I left with? Well the layout has changed without me doing anything, as you can see. It was thin-wide-thin, now it’s gone wide-thin-thin without my permission. FFS, If I wanted this much hassle with my non-office setup I would have bought a Windows Vista machine.

Looks like it’s a case if it gets fixed when I can be arsed.


Facebook vs Google Connect

Everyone seems to want your identity these days, from crooks to corporates. I’m playing around with Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect at the moment to see which one offers me most as someone running a piffling little website.

First up, a completely different topic: I have a problem with Facebook only allowing me to import the one blog. Is it too much to ask to be able to pull in two feeds, this one and my cycling blog?

Back to the subject, there’s a really helpful analysis of the Facebook Connect vs Google Friend Connect on Mashable which is where I started this morning with it. At the moment it seems to boil down to ease of implementation vs where the social audience is.

As a mediocre developer who gets a mild fear when I hear people talking code, google won the first round on grounds of fire-and-forget implementation. Let’s face it, if you are a hobbyist web site owner, do you want to sit through an 8-minute video on how to do a basic Facebook Connect login and then have to do the coding yourself; or just go click-click-bang to implement google friend connect?

That’s why there’s a small Wall widget on each page of the site from Google and not a Facebook one as yet. OK I’ve got the side issue that I’ve only recently started using Disqus for comments and I don’t see how either of them plugs in to that but Google won because I could do it and do it quickly.

Business Tech

Why do so many business sites do nothing?

I was trying to find out more about a company today and in doing so clicked on a link taking me to their website. Which was as useful as a wet fart.

They are the UK contact for a flashy brand of bicycle component. I know this because the component manufacturer’s website tells me that. In fact I know more about them from that site than their own. The only thing I found out from their site is that if I hit the “contact us” link then I’ll send an email to someone with the same name as one of the big bike brands.

It’s this sort of thing that really infuriates me. Do businesses really care or value the internet so little that it’s too much trouble to even put up a basic, functional site?

Of course tomorrow I’ll find that this was a “holding page” while they were getting their site redone. It still doesn’t excuse it in my book. Out-of-date content is bad, but no content is worse.

How much trouble is it to put up a single page giving your email contact plus postal and phone details alongside a brief summary of what your business does? After all, most of the ones I’ve ever encountered seem to have been able to afford a logo and a hosting deal.

It really defies belief that any business thinks it can afford not to have a decent online proposition when so many first contacts are likely to come through that route. Are these businesses really unaware of this?

There are so many tools out there that allow you to build a basic site without resorting the the sort of comic sans hell that blighted the first generation of self-build that I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to spend a day or two getting to grips with them.

Please tell me I’m not alone in feeling like this every time I find myself clicking into a link that is, to all intents, dead. I’m going to stop now before I even start to think about the full horror of flash holding pages and ridiculous De Mille-style epic flash intro movies.


Can you Digg it?

I use three social bookmarking sites at the moment – Delicious, Digg and Reddit – all in slightly different ways. Of the three, Digg is the one that I seems to find the most awkward to post into.

I thought it might be because, primarily, I use Safari to browse on my mac at home and Google’s Chrome in the office for social stuff. This means I don’t really take advantage of the nice Firefox toolbar or other browser integration.

Then I thought again and actually what stops me using it as often as the others is the submission process. With Delicious and Reddit the process feels very much “click,click, click, done”; whereas with Digg it feels far more hit and hope that the title and description will appear and that I won’t lose patience before I get to the final step.

So the answer to that rhetorical question is “sometimes not”. Or to be more specific, sometimes I just can be bothered.