Springingtiger's Blog

Curse You Audio Captcha!

I do not as a rule have any major problem with blog sites that use a captcha to ensure that commentators are real people, Autisable doesn’t and as a consequence the comments frequently include totally unrelated marketing material, but yesterday I hit a real captcha problem. I visited one of my favourite blog sites – JeffsLife which is always thought provoking and informative – the post was about the employment prospects of Jeff’s son, Alex, and it moved me to want to comment. I wrote my comment, but when I sought to post it I found the capcha was obscured by an “Ads by Google” box. I could not move the box, it remained in place as I scrolled up and down, clicking on the ads did not cause it to disappear, but the button to substitute an audio capcha was accessible – problem solved.

No it blanketywell wasn’t! Again and again I played audio capchas, and again and again I failed to enter the correct letters. Unfortunately the letters were spoken faster than my ability to process them which was extremely frustrating – I don’t have glossolalia, but, had you heard me, you could have been excused for thinking otherwise! – fortunately when I was reaching boiling point I had the sense to stop trying and instead made my comments directly to Jeff via Linked In. There was a time, particularly when I was younger when such frustration would have led to things being broken, there is much to be said for age that moderates rage. (snappy little sound bite if I were reading this aloud!)

I love the Internet, but I do occasionally have problems with it. I tend not to read in a straight line and websites with lots of distractions make my reading process rather laborious, as a guide I would say that Facebook is too fussy, I’m not even sure that my own site doesn’t need a good tidy!. Pop-ups and animations are a real nuisance, all I really want is a block of clear type on a contrasting background. That’s another pet hate of mine, illegible text, it’s sad that when someone has gone to the trouble to compose a piece they publish it in dark letters on a dark background because I just won’t bother to try and read it.

I do not consider myself disabled, as a rule, but that blasted audio captcha reminded me that I do have some processing challenges. I wish website builders would take into account that not all of us share the same facility of processing. I will continue to visit JeffsLife because of the quality of its content, – it is very legible too, black on yellow.

Website designers and providers please think of those of us with processing problems when you design your sites, we too should have a right to be able to use the Internet!


My Social Media Suite

Recently my wife Neelam Bakshi and I were invited to the Unitarian Church in Glasgow where much of Neelam’s address was about Social Networking which I feel sat well beside the hymns of Universalists like K. Patton and JA. Storey. To follow up on Neelam’s address I have produced this guide to the applications I use to make social networking an easy and enjoyable experience.

I think most people are aware of Social Media or Social Networking and are aware of micro blogging services like Twitter, Networking sites like Facebook and Blogging services like WordPress and Blogger. Not every one knows how to make the best of them. I am not a computer buff but I have found that using a combination of free tools makes my social networking easier and more efficient. I am not using the internet for profit and so that is not the focus of this piece but if that is your interest you will find yourself using these tools.

Any Social Media suite will be based on the primary services and then on the additional tools one uses to enhance their functionality. The core of my social networking suite is Twitter (http://twitter.com/) – which I use to automatically feed into my Facebook – and Google which contains a number of applications that enhance social networking.

Using Twitter
My first recommendation is read “The Twitter Book” by Tim O’Reilly
@timoreilly & Sarah Milstein @SarahM – both of whom maintain a friendly and helpful presence on Twitter. A useful source of tools to use with Twitter is the article: 99 Essential Twitter Tools And Applications (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/17/99-essential-twitter-tools-and-applications/). None of the applications listed below will be of much use if you do not first create a Twitter (http://twitter.com/ ) account

Twitter Clients: TweetDeck & Yoono
These are programs that allow you more control over Twitter. On my Windows machine I use TweetDeck (
http://tweetdeck.com) and on Linux I am using Yoono (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1833). TweetDeck installs to to your desktop and so uses system resources if you don’t close and restart it every day. Yoono is a Firefox (my favourite web browser although brief acquaintance with Chrome is encouraging) add on and sits next to the main window as a hide-able sidebar. These clients allow you to manage several accounts and to link your Twitter accounts to certain social network sites like Facebook. Both of these allow you to easily shorten a URL (web address) to keep within the 140 character limit.

TwitterBar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4664)is a Firefox add-on that allows you to post to Twitter from the browser address bar. This is very useful if you want to share a link to a web-page with a comment about it. Twitterbar will automatically shorten URLs.

SocialOomph (http://www.socialoomph.com/)is an application that allows you to schedule your twitter updates for whatever time best suites you even if you will be fast asleep when they are published. this allows you to spread out your tweets or take advantage of time zones. It also allows you to vet your followers. I am about to go onto the paid for version because of the range of additional features.

Your Twitter Karma
Your Twitter Karma (http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/) is a useful tool for comparing your followers with those whom you are following.

Search Engines
The key to producing a blog that people want to read lies in interesting content and the quickest way to research content is to use a search engine and look on the internet. Google is most people’s first choice of search engine but there are some useful social media specific search tools. Twitter itself has a search facility and a people search. One Riot (http://www.oneriot.com/) is a social media search tool that comes packaged with Yoono and TwitterBar. Tip Top (http://feeltiptop.com/) is a useful tool for searching Twitter by subject. I personally like Kosmix (http://www.kosmix.com/)which searches for a topic across a number of social media .

Social Networking Sites
There are too many social networking sites to go into here but they tend to be separated into two main categories 1.Specialist interest including business networking sites like Ecadamy (http://www.ecadamy.com/) and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) and 2.Socialising of which the best known are Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/) and MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/). These sites are subscription based – many with free subscriptions – and several as well as networking facilities also host blogs.

You Tube
At this point I should mention You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/) which combines networking with hosting filmclips which provides many people with content for their social networking pages.

Blogging is the practice of regularly sharing one’s thoughts and opinions via the internet. Most blogs are on individual websites but there are also agreat number of blogging services which will host blogs and websites constructed around blogs. Among the dedicated blog hosts are WordPress (http://wordpress.com/) my blog is at https://springingtiger.wordpress.com Google (http://www.google.com) and Xanga (http://www.xanga.com/) which hosts a number of specialist blog sites that also include social networking facilities. I am a member of one Xanga site Autisable.com (http://www.autisable.com)which allows me to share information and network with people who share an interest in autism.

A major cornerstone of my social networking suite is Google. I don’t use Blogger but the social media sites I have joined post updates to my Googlemail which I can monitor from any internet connecion even my mobile phone. Much of the content of my posts is delivered to me by RSS feed to my Google Reader. The content of my Blogs is typed up initially – like this – in Google docs. Because I have an iGoogle home page I can see my most recent emails, RSS feeds and Facebook updates on the same page along with up to date weather, my calendar and various other things.

I have just installed linux on this laptop and set up my whole social media suite from the links in this article – which I had largely completed on Google docs – in about 30 minutes.

I have missed out services provided by Microsoft and Yahoo merely because I don’t personally use them but that is no reason not to investigate them as you put together a social media suite that works for you.