Test Driving Web Apps #1

During my stint at Northern Voice this year, I became painfully aware of just how out of touch with current trends I really was. Sure I blogged, took photos, used Facebook (badly - meaning few updates) but I wasn't really following some of the cutting edge apps that were making splashes on the web. I made a pact with myself that this year, I would try to expand my horizon and not be so indoctrinated into technologies that I'm comfortable with. As a result, I've been "test driving" a bunch of cool little apps and for the most part, the results have been fairly positive. Over the next few months, I'll have the occasional post about something new I'm trying out and giving you my "mid tech" (not completely unaware but also not an expert) take on various web tools.

In this installment, I'll briefly go over my Facebook experience and Twitter.

My move to Facebook was a direct result of my dislike of MySpace. The sleek and minimalist pages with limited customization work for me. No auto streaming anything and the plain white background makes it easy on the eyes. I was addicted from the first moment but over the last few months, a few things have really started to piss me off. The daily bombardment of people asking me to install apps to the point where I don't install ANYTHING new. I blame this as much on the users as on the app itself since I've noticed that some of the add-ons, like Flixter, are constantly asking you to invite your friends when you do anything with them (like every time I take a Flixter quiz). It even automatically checks them off while the "Skip" link is hidden amongst a bunch of ads.

I will also admit that I haven't spent too much time digging around Facebook and customizing various pages simply because I don't find it that easy to navigate through the menus. I do love the "News Feed" page with all of the recent updates but I wish it was RSS enabled. Then I'd never miss anything.

Pros: Easy to find friends and communicate with them, cool add-ons, excellent way to stay connected with local groups of interest and upcoming events, minimalist appearance.

Cons: Spam requests, preference menus not easy to navigate through, group page not easy to organize, lack of RSS functionality in the "News Feed" is inconvenient.

Final Thoughts: Though I do have my problems with Facebook, it's better than the alternative and nearly everyone I know is on it which makes it convenient and really, the only reason I'm still using it.

Immediately after NV I also started micro-blogging using Twitter. This service is pretty fancy in that it allows you to essentially post mini blog posts (limited to 140 characters long which is the maximum length of an SMS) from your cell phone using SMS. You sign up, set up your account, connect your phone to it, search the site for a local telephone number that you can use to automatically update your blog and off you go. And yes, it's really that easy. I had mine set up in minutes.

One of the other cool features is that it has an integrated RSS type of feature that lets you "follow" other Tweets (what they call people to Twitter) and displays their updates on your feed.

There appears to be a fair bit of customization, allowing you to set up notification via your phone (you get an SMS message every time a new update is made) and you can set up witch Tweets you want to receive these type of updates from. You can also limit Twitter to a web only app which is a nice option.

Something to keep in mind before getting on board with the SMS updates is to check with your cell phone provider what your package includes as far as sending and receiving SMS messages. Rogers plans includes free unlimited messages received but each package varies on the number of SMS messages you can send. This is my first month playing with it so I won't know until next month whether my current plan is going to fit into my Twittering "habit".

Pros: Keeps you constantly updated and connected with fellow Tweets, easy to set up and navigate, easy to turn off SMS messaging (if you're in the office can turn it off and turn it back on when you leave).

Cons: Help menu isn't particularly helpful and not a lot of my friends are on it.

Final Thoughts: Twitter is addicting and a fantastic way to keep track of people and stay up to date on events (I followed a few movie bloggers at SXSW and it was the next best thing to being there). At this point, I just wish more of my friends were using the service!

On the next installment of Test Driving Web Apps...Flock, Socialthing! and Ping.fm.


Post a Comment 2 comments:

Artistic Soul said...

I totally know what you mean about facebook! I love it, but I hate getting those apps requests -- I don't add applications at all now. I think several of them make the pages just look muddled -- you can't even find the wall on some people's pages now because there is so much apps crap! I'll have to see if I can find you since you posted a screen shot and we can be facebook friends! :)

March 20, 2008 4:02 p.m.

Marina said...

Shouldn't be too hard! You even have my name! :)

March 20, 2008 4:09 p.m.

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