Tagged in: iphone

Why Echofon Is The Best Twitter App Ever

As an iPhone enthusiast and social media enthusiast, I’ve downloaded pretty much every social media app known to man.

For Twitter, Tweetie 2 was good, TweetDeck was better, and HootSuite was even better than that. But I belatedly discovered Echofon, and I’m in love!

Quite simply, it contains every single feature I’ve been looking for in a Twitter iPhone app (and then some):

  • It has seamless bit.ly and Flickr API integration. I’ve seen some with Flickr, and some with bit.ly, but this is the first I’ve found with both.
  • Very seamless integration of multiple accounts. You can even change the background colour, so you can keep track of what account you are in.
  • You can disable auto-load of your home feed (focusing instead of your DMs, mentions and saved searches).
  • It has seamless integration of the old style and new style retweet. They call the old style Retweet With Comment.
  • It has a very cool method of auto-completing hashtags and mentions.
  • It’s intuitive and user-friendly.
  • I have yet to crash it.

It’s the first app I’ve used on iPhone where I haven’t complained out loud in frustration because of some minor detail.

HootSuite is still, hands down, my favourite Twitter client on my computer. It’s entirely web-based, and works great. And their iPhone app is certainly very good, but it’s moved into a clear second place based on my geekly criteria.

PhotoBlaster 3000

Sometimes I take a photo on my iPhone that I want the whole world to see!

Do I really want to upload it 7 different times using a bunch of clunky apps, redefine the tags and so forth? No, my short term goal is to get it uploaded, and I can always tag it and such later on.

The easiest way to do this is to enable the ability to e-mail photos to websites. Currently I have this feature enabled on Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, MySpace, YourCanada, and Photobucket. (Click on the link for each one to visit the instructions on how to set it up on your account.)

Have all of these special e-mail addresses set up as “Contacts” in your iPhone.  Then, when you take that perfect photo, just forward the photo from within the album, select “Email Photo”, then when the e-mail comes up, send it to these contacts.  Your subject line is your description.

I also use Flickr’s Flickr2Twitter feature, which kills TwitPic, or any other similar service, because you get the network value of Flickr, and the network value of Twitter in the same post. And this happens automatically when I e-mail a photo to Flickr (unless I choose not to).

I also built a very geekly hidden e-mail account that forwards my photos automatically to the following services:

  • Facebook
  • Flickr (and, thus Flickr2Twitter)
  • Picasa

I tried redirecting this also to MySpace, Ning and Photobucket, but to no avail. They obviously don’t like redirected mail.

WordPress Plugins, Widgets and Must-Dos

Now that I have so many websites running on WordPress (I count 27, but I might be missing some), and have played around with so many plug-ins, widgets and features, I figured I’d write a little article all about my experience. Maybe it will save you a headache or two in your development.

This article does not tell you how to install WordPress, the basic setup, or how to choose a template.  Maybe I’ll cover these topics another day.

WordPress is a good platform for both blogs, and “traditional” websites. Many of our websites just happen to run on WordPress so people may post comments and so forth. I only have a few “blogs”, per se. Just keep in mind that different uses require different options.

Akismet
This is a comment spam filter, and it is amazing (I recently discovered 1,009 spam messages on this blog that I was completely unaware of). The only reason not to install this is if you plan on always turning off user comments. It is standard, and well worth the “hassle” of signing up for an account at WordPress.com to make it work properly.

All in One SEO Pack
If you are a hardcore SEO guru, maybe this isn’t your bag. But if you are a novice at such matters like myself, then this little SEO tool makes the process tolerable.  Hopefully 1,452,822 downloaders weren’t all wrong.

Google XML Sitemaps
Another bit of gospel from the search engines is that standard sitemaps are important. Who has the time to build these stupid things? Thankfully, this sitemap building plugin does it for you!

Submit Your Blog
I guess this is also something you should do for a bit of SEO juice, or just to be found better. Here’s a list of places you could submit to: Technorati, LoadedWeb, BlogCatalog, and, well … forget the list, there are a zillion other blog directories and aggregators out there!

WP-Polls
Want to add a poll to your WordPress post? Too easy with this little tool.

WordPress iPhone Application
If you have an iPhone and a WordPress blog, this tool is not to be missed.  I could not imagine writing long blog entries on my phone, but certainly updates and short entries while on the go. This application requires XML-RPC to be enabled in Settings, Writing.

RSS and Social Bookmarking
There are many different ways to add this to your site. A link directly to your feed page with an RSS image, perhaps? Hook it up to FeedBurner so you can track subscriptions? One cool utility is AddThis.

Twitter Integration
I fell in love with Tweetmeme Button because it very cleanly adds a little Tweet Counter and Retweet option to every one of your posts. One drawback is that it doesn’t promote YOUR twitter account in it, it promotes theirs. But for the novelty and convenience factor, this is A1.

I use the nifty, simple TwitterCounter Badge in a few places.

Of course, you can insert your Twitter posts nicely into your blog with a little snippet of code on the sidebar.

A good old-fashioned graphic linked to your Twitter page is still a nice touch.

PHP Code Integration
Want to run PHP code from within WordPress? You could spend 6 hours trying out a bunch of plug-ins or work-arounds (like I did), or you could download Exec-PHP which works flawlessly, and with little effort.

Make Your Blog Talk
Completely non-essential, but hours of fun. The Odiogo Listen Button plugin brings your blog to life!

Adding Community Features like Google Friend Connect
WordPress has it’s own built-in community of sorts – through comments. Is this good enough? The jury is out. Then there is Google Friend Connect, Yahoo!’s MyBlogLog, and even Twitter Remote.

I’m kind of impressed with MyBlogLog, though I cannot seem to get it working perfectly yet. Imagine that: Yahoo doing something right!

There are actually dozens of these widgets and people aggregators out there, so be sure not to put too many on, and slow your website down to a crawl!

Note: if you use the Google Friend Connect bar along the bottom of your blog, be sure to have enough space in your footer so that content doesn’t get cut off (behind the bar).

Feedback
I’m keen to keep this article updated. Did you find anything useful? Do you have anything useful that should be added? Please comment!

Skype for iPhone

Holy freaking crap, Skype for iPhone appears ready to launch.

Why does this matter?  Well, if you are one of those “I don’t even have a home phone anymore” types, this means you could use your iPhone on your home Wi-Fi network for cheap (or free).

It turns the whole “minute plan” equation on its head if you work from home – those plans almost always include free weekends and evenings – which, for people like me, is the most common time I am not home.

So, I make all my business calls during the day using Skype on my home Wi-Fi, and when I go out on the weekends and evenings, I get my free time.  I should be able to cut my minute plan on my iPhone down to almost nothing.

I can’t wait.  We’ve been screwed by cell phone companies in Canada for years (iPhone users have been screwed by Rogers Wireless since day one).  Now’s our chance to return the favour!

I wonder if this is going to be blocked somehow in Canada?  I’m sort of expecting this.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I’m just gun-shy.

The definitive iPhone strategy for iGoogle users

So you’re thinking about an iPhone?

I am a heavy user of iGoogle (e-mail, calendar, RSS reader, bookmarks, movies, weather, shared documents, stock market, etc.).  I went out and bought an iPhone to replace my old Nokia plain-jane model.  Since then, I have gone through the motions to make it more and more useful.

While I expected a life-changing transformation, I had no idea of how amazing it would be.

It is possible to truly “synch” your contacts, e-mail and calendar with Gmail, essentially in real-time. So, now if you lose your phone, you will not “lose” any data.

My old BlackBerry had it’s own little inbox/outbox, so stuff sent on the phone was only on the phone. The truly integrated iGoogle solution actually creates a sent item in your Gmail.

I have a few tips for people that I would have found helpful before I got my iPhone and had to try to figure it all out.

Step I – Gmail Cleanup

Before you get your iPhone, go clean up the contacts in Gmail.  Until very recently Google added every person you e-mailed to your contact list.  Thankfully they stopped doing so, making this a reasonable place to store real contacts now.

I had about 1000 contacts in my list.  I started by merging a whole bunch of contacts (people’s work and home e-mails), and deleting junk entries.  I got this down to about 350 contacts.

Next, I created some categories and started categorizing people.  While this is useful in Gmail, it is not so useful on your iPhone.  However, it has the effect of also adding people to your “My Contacts” folder, which are the ones that appear on the iPhone.  (So why not kill two birds with one stone – categorize them for Gmail AND add them to your iPhone.)

LASTLY I took my old phone and added phone numbers to existing Gmail contacts (and created entries for the few people I know who have no e-mail address).

Don’t get discouraged, this is all very worthwhile!  Don’t create two contact lists!  Merge it, simplify your life!

Serious Twitter users should also add a contact for TwitPic to e-mail photos directly from their iPhone with a scarily simple process (if you get drunk a lot, skip this option).

Step II – Go Buy Your iPhone

Do this second, only because Step I took me about 6 hours.  I crunched mine into one all-nighter, but reasonable folks like you might need to spread this out over a few days.

Step III – Update Firmware

Do this by plugging your phone into your computer and using iTunes on your computer.  Don’t mess with iTunes on the phone – at least not at this point.

While you’re in there, download some applications.  For Twitter, TwitterFon is the best.  FaceBook and LinkedIn have applications.  Serial Instant Messengers might try IM+ Lite (it’s not awesome, but it’s the best I’ve found so far).  Don’t go too crazy yet.

Step IV – Connect to Home Wi-Fi

I remember reading about these phones of the future in The Economist a few years ago that would let you do everything through your home Wi-Fi.  Well, we are half way there – you can do all the data functions through your LAN (in fact, you can do this stuff with the Touch).  But the cellphone companies wouldn’t want to sell you a phone that doesn’t rely on their towers, so voice is not on Wi-Fi.

Go into settings and turn your Wi-Fi on.  See if it works.

Hopefully it doesn’t work.  If you have a protected network (which you should), you may need to add the IP to your whitelist in its configuration, or you may need to do a password, or minimally type the name of your network into your phone (because it doesn’t broadcast), depending on what security options you have enabled for Wi-Fi.

For whitelisting the MAC address on your router, go to Settings, General, About, then scroll down.  They call it Wi-Fi Address.

Step V – Synch Calendar and Contacts

Google has a step-by-step example of how this is done that works perfectly, and takes about 60 seconds.

Step VI – Synch Email

See documentation here.  Also takes about 60 seconds.

Step VII – Embrace Your Inner Geek

Applause.

Complaints

My two complaints are less about my iPhone and more about getting the world to conform to my iPhone.

Wi-Fi that requires a login like at Starbucks, is just a royal pain on your iPhone.

I get a nasty blue screen of death on my PC whenever I have any photos on my camera roll, so I have to e-mail photos to myself and delete them.  Next computer will be a Mac!