Buffer Feature Requests

Dual Window

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ have significantly different character number restrictions than Twitter. Naturally, Twitter limits posts to their notorious 140 characters. LinkedIn allows 700, and Google+ / Facebook allow about five thousand.

I like to post things with a quote from the articles I share that captures what I found most interesting about it. Generally, they fall between 200 to 200 characters. Too long for Twitter, which means I editorialize it to make it fit.

Something amazing about the Pocket tool to share to Buffer is it provides two different textareas. One for Facebook and one for everything else. Brilliant! So much so, that I am tempted to completely change my workflow to push anything I want to share to Pocket just so I can share it with Buffer in a way that makes sense. On Facebook the preview URL appears to Pocket rather than the actual destination which slightly bothers me because I’d prefer the source to get attribution.

Tumblr

It would be nice to be able to share to Tumblr through Buffer. It seems odd that Buffer would support App.net who has been dying for years and will finally be gone in 6 weeks yet not one of the larger social networks?

For Want of a Scrollbar

The start of an adventure usually starts when I tweet an annoyance:

Who has two thumbs and regularly disables Sharepoint’s overflow: hidden CSS to re-enable the scrollbar? Me…

A coworker asked a good question, which is, “Any easy/lazy way to make it automatic-like?”

My response was a Greasemonkey script should do the trick. Okay, so, how to make it happen?

Pretty sure like me, my coworker uses Chrome. This is good, because in 2009 Chrome acquired native Greasemonkey script support. They are treated as Extensions. I like this because there is one place to look for the scripts rather than a separate queue like I am familiar in Firefox’s Greasemonkey plug-in.

So I found some pages on writing Greasemonkey scripts. What I wanted to do looked easy enough. Which, of course, meant I spent a few hours stumbling around the Internet confused why it did not work. In the end, I wrote this <filename>.users.js did the trick:

// ==UserScript==
// @name Sharepoint Scrollbar Fix
// @namespace http://sharepoint.oursite.com/
// @description Removes the overflow:hidden which is buggy in WebKit browsers
// @include https://sharepoint.oursite.com/*
// ==/UserScript==
document.body.style.overflow = “scroll”;

From my research WebKit browsers have an issue with overflow:hidden going back years. Chrome and Safari are WebKit browsers. (Guess I could have saved myself time just using Mozilla.) Using either overflow:scroll, overflow:auto, or even removing overflow brings out a second usable scrollbar.

Probably GM_addStyle is a better approach, but this one worked first.

Protocols matter. Most of the time I spent confused was solved by having http in the @include address when the Sharepoint site uses https.

Testing it was interesting as Google does not allow just downloading from anywhere on the Internet. So uploading it to my web site was not a good way to get it into the browser. Just open up Extensions and drag and drop the file in there. It prompts to make sure you are. In the end, it is much more efficient that way.

Conclusion: Pretty easy to create and test. Very lazy fix. The information online about making one is not great.

Any coworkers who want to use it, I added it to the Content area on my site.

Undercounting Stats

Michael Feldstein posted on Twitter:

Seeing signs that Google Analytics significantly undercounts. Any recommendation for easy, reliable db-based WordPress analytics?

I knew Google Analytics relies on JavaScript to measure what users are doing. Bots typically do not execute JS, so go undercounted. That is OK, probably even great depending on how much they annoy me. It occurred to me browsers now incognito modes, which a desirable feature while in that mode would be to not execute known JS stats.

A response to Michael was:

Maybe try Jetpack? Has analytics built in.

I looked at the HTML for my own site. Jetpack appears to be JavaScript based as well.

Looking at Jetpack’s stats, though, I noticed a significant spike in traffic on September 27th. It got 487 hits compared to around 200 each day two weeks prior and since. Details for that day said my Nationalism post had 267 hits compared to my normal leader the Quotes to Make You Think. This made me curious. So I looked up the same day in Google Analytics. No spike in GA. So I pulled the raw access logs. The hits exist, but almost all were from a single IP. No visits to this page according to GA. Impressively disconcerting. I expected from Google Analytics 1 hit for the DSL user with 200+ hits, maybe 1 for the IP with no reverse DNS, and 0 for the Facebook bot.

Anyway, I looked at various WordPress plugins. I think WP Slimstat is the db-based WP analytics I will check out. It looks mature and seems pretty consistent with what I see in the hits. Too bad I did not add this a long time ago so I can compare Slimstat to GA and Jetpack. Will have to let it collect data and do this again.

Good thing I enjoy this stuff.

Information Diet

Do we consume too much information? I might. Lately I have thought about reducing the amount of following I do. Typically I hit this point when I realize it takes me all weekend to catch up. To be fair I reach this point by getting all caught up over a long weekend and seeking out new stuff.

  • 40% the blog or news feeds (over 100),
  • 40% Facebook friends (remove over 250),
  • 40% Tumblr following, (remove 45),
  • 40% Twitter following (remove 100),

Then there are the potential stoppages:

  • Stop following tags on WordPress.com, Tumblr, Blogspot, Flickr.
  • Stop using some social media sites entirely like Google+ or Diaspora.

Given my social preferences, I have lots of time to spend online.

Follow on Google+ Too…

Nearly two weeks ago, Google+ launched Pages, a version of a person profile for non-people. (Google does know the Supreme Court deemed corporations people too, right? So corporations should have a person profile.)

Companies desiring a social media presence have created a page in addition to their Facebook pages, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts. Over the past couple weeks, I have seen a number of posts on Facebook and Twitter alerting me to the new G+ page. They invariably ask me something like “Make sure to follow <corporate name> on Google+, too.”

Wait.

I am already following you on one of these which is how I saw the message. Following you on two, three, or more social media sites gets me what exactly? The same post multiple times. Maybe I notice something important faster. That might be one in two hundred posts? More likely I will shift the important followings to where I tend to spend most of my time.

This is the same strategy I use for following friends. At least some of them tend to post different things in different places.

Cheating

In yesterday’s Underground Back Channel post, I wrote:

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

I decided to write more about this.

Back in July, I ran across posts on Twitter where a student claimed another named (Twitter account) classmate provided the answers to a test. The moral was: “Students who cheat together will not repeat together.” A few days later the student bragged this activity happened the previous term as well. Then the student asked the classmate whether the next test was taken, presumably so they could cheat again. We handed the information over to the institution. I have not heard whether disciplinary action was taken against the students.

At the time, I attributed the students writing about the cheating similar to hubris in the Congressman Weiner scandal. It may also point to a lack of understanding about privacy online. Hard to know what was running through their heads at the time other than what they are willing to say or write which will be biased.

The NYU Prof Vows Never to Probe Cheating Again story hit the week after the initial detection. Pursuing the cheaters hurt his evaluations. The advice of plagiarism detection tools is to use them for teaching students what is correct behavior not as punitive evidence.

But then I ran across Classroom Ethics 101. The student experiment points to students being very willing to take an early look at test questions and answers (69%) even when given a notice it might be cheating (41%). Ariely does not think the actual cheating was very much as on the final exam few made 90% scores. The experiment is similar to the UCF cheating scandal where 1/3 of the 600 students were thought to have cheated.

Occasionally we, those running the LMS, get a request to look at the Mail tool messages or Chat conversations between students in a class to see who are trying to share answers. So far none have. The professors fear the students are using private communication tools to cheat. Maybe they are smart enough to use Facebook where we do not have the data.

Cheating is happening. The activity is underground except where students make a mistake. Professors have plenty of tools to help them detect it. Maybe as analytics become more widespread, they will be used to identify more cheating, though perhaps it should come from deans or academic affairs or student judiciary not the professor.

Underground Back Channels

During first couple years at my first real job post-college, a friend of a friend would IM me questions about how to solve computer problems for which he could not figure out the answers. These requests started as me doing the work for him with dubious promises of doing the same for me. (I knew he’d gotten a job over his head and making 2.3x more than me. I also knew he did not know anything about my work and could not help me.) When I did not bite to do this, he shifted to giving him the answers and settled for all that I was willing to do: point him in the right direction. Having worked in a library, pointing patrons and friends in the right direction was something I was used to doing.

This conversation was not officially sanctioned by either of our employers. Neither of us told our bosses about these conversations. Was I leaking the intellectual capital of my employer? Was this friend of a friend leaking his employer’s intellectual capital to me? In any case, it would probably be considered an underground interaction. My boss at the time encouraged my professional participation on web technology email lists as helping others with my knowledge and experience gave me access to others who could do the same. The difference was the lists were sanctioned while the friend of a friend was not no matter how similar.

The Learning Black Market suggests students today use Facebook as a private back channel to classmates for pointers in the right direction on how to work on class assignments. They also secretly use Wikipedia despite it being forbidden as a source. When I was a student, the same sort of back channel activity for pointers would happen but face-to-face in the hallway was the preferred place not Facebook. Instead of Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica was the preferred first source. (Gosh, I am old.) Just like students today are told Wikipedia is not an allowable reference and not to ever use it yet they do anyway, EB was not an allowable reference and yet I saw my classmates using it to figure out terms that would help them find allowable references. Students today sometimes use Wikipedia for the same reason.

Educators want the students to take their time and deliberately work through the assignments the hard way so they learn the most through the process. Students want to get the assignment done in the least amount of time while still making a good grade. Educators lack the oversight to force students to behave except to detect plagiarism or cheating in the produced artifacts.

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

Social Ghost Archetypes

I met Allie for the second time at a birthday party. The birthday girl is a Social Tech Ghost. Allie is a Pseudonym Surfer and former Dunbarian. Another person at the party is an Infrequent Checker. I decided these remain legitimate strategies to keep from getting drawn into spending too much time online. Since I like to label things, Social Ghosts, stuck in my head. From the perspective of someone relying on social network web sites to communicate, these are difficult people to locate, keep, or reach. Much like ghosts.
🙂

The Social Tech Ghost: This person entirely abstains from social network web sites. This is a person who wants to see you in person or talk to you on the phone. Email is grudgingly accepted. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Friendster are accused of ruining friendships due to being impersonal. They are fads to be resisted in order to maintain strong social bonds. Probably this person would be a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s article Small Change except they do not read my blog post about weak ties, Twitter, or Facebook so they did not know about me posting the article.

The Pseudonym Surfer Ghost: He or she participates online under fake names. You drop them from your friend list because you have no idea who they are. They might work in an environment hostile to employees getting tagged in photos of wild parties. They might be online to interact with a handful of family and close friends not any random acquaintance who feels they deserve to be friends.

The Infrequent Checker Ghost: This person has a profile. However, months can go by between logins. Peer pressure forced them to get an account, but there is no peer pressure to actually use it.

The Dunbarian Ghost: Too many “friends” causes this person to purge. The right number may or may not be Dunbar’s Number: a mean of 147.8. What is important is the person feels the need to be social with everyone on the list of friends and too many makes that too hard. Therefore some need to get lost.

I am sure there are more. What other social ghost archetypes do you know?

P.S. From the “In Real Life” perspective, I am a Social Ghost. So. Meh.

Weak Ties

Malcolm Gladwell wrote last fall how strong ties like friendships are how high risk opposition works. Weak ties like Facebook cannot sustain them. So it is interesting how stories about the Egyptian revolution mention Facebook and Twitter as tooks. Naturally, Gladwell responded by writing, “Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented.” Also, he made the point, “How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”

Both points are true-ish.

People have brought down governments with stones and swords before the American Revolution. Governments fell before the printing press. Yet we still study how the Americans fought the British both with militias armed with guns and through printed news. Both were astoundingly important to American culture.

Last time I checked, one did not have to pick between who, what, when, where, how, or why. There is not a zero-sum game between how and why. So why being more important than how seems like an odd retort. Maybe Gladwell means people should include the why people joined in protesting? If that is the complaint, then he should have referenced the articles to which he was responding.