Technology

OOCSS in action (part 1)

Ever since being introduced to Nicole Sullivan’s OOCSS, I’ve changed the way I develop CSS code. While I do not believe in everything that OOCSS offers, the main takeaway from me is introducing more structure and reason into my code.

Today, a typical developer might develop CSS code in this way:

And the corresponding HTML code:

Strictly speaking…there’s nothing wrong with that code. But the one thing that should stand out is its lack of re-usability. It’s pretty easy to write code specifically to accomplish a task on a page or closely-match a page comp, but OOCSS forces you to think about scalability. That is its greatest strength.

Here is how I might re-write that code in OOCSS

And the HTML code:

OOCSS gives you the concept of gridding for free. A grid can consist of one or more elements that are floated and fit next to one another in defined fragments. For example, I’ve implemented a grid of .size1of2, which allows me to put two elements side-by-side in a reusable fashion site-wide. Pretty cool huh?

I’ll go into more detail about OOCSS in future blog posts and share some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Stay tuned!

Android Reset: The problem with the app model and why it’s not so bad to start over

Force Close.

Force Close.

Force Close.

GAHHHHHHH! That’s the frustration I’ve been dealing with over the past few days. I have an Epic 4G Android with Froyo (Android 2.2) installed and have recently been victim of Force Close messages popping up and closing the Gmail, Phone, and Calendar apps. After several attempts to resolve the issue (clear app data, uninstall new apps, remove updates, remove synchronization, etc…), it got to the point where I couldn’t even make a phone call, read text messages, or read emails. I had no choice but to do a Factory Reset.

All is good, right? Nope. I did a Factory Reset and when the phone rebooted, the “tutorial” app crashed and I was left with no home screen and absolutely no way to make phone calls. That’s it. I lost everything. All my apps, text messages, settings…gone. I. Was. Furious! I had to do a complete reset of the phone and install a fresh copy of Android. At first, I couldn’t believe I had to go through the trouble of resetting everything and starting over with nothing. Luckily my contacts, email, calendar, and text messages were synced to Google services (which is pretty much the core functionality of the phone). However, as time passed, it became more apparent that I couldn’t even name more than 4-5 apps that I really used often enough to remember. Although I had performed a backup with Titanium Backup in the past, I decided not to pursue that as a recovery option. Why?

I actually like starting fresh. I’m glad my phone reset and forced me to start over. Now my phone is clean and I can install only the essential apps that I actually use. I can honestly say that I had 30-40 apps on my phone, most of which I’ve used only a handful of times. I know I’m not alone in this. Smartphone users have become victim to carrying a ton of apps for their one-time-use appeal. The reality is, most of the apps that are essential to you are available out of the box.

The danger of the app model of smartphones is that organization actually becomes an issue. We have all of these apps and it is up to the user to decide when to use them. After obtaining a plethora of applications, it is hard to recognize each one’s use case quickly enough to be able to utilize them correctly . Smartphones need to have a push model, where apps are launched or utilized based on user input and or actions (and no, I’m not talking about more notifications). For instance, when I plug my headphones in, ask me which music app I want to use (Pandora, Stitcher, Slacker, etc…). How about when I turn my screen on, recognize that my RSS stories haven’t been read and suggest that I open that app up?

So I guess the moral of the story is…start over. A fresh start will help you re-organize your app, speed up your phone, and give you a nice little baseline to begin with. After you get up and running again, make sure you do a Titanium Backup so the next time anything terrible happens, you can restore your phone back to a state with only your essential apps.

What Twitter is and what Twitter isn’t. It may surprise you.

Twitter is a very powerful tool for businesses,  co-workers, and friends. It is a place for you to produce content and for you to consume content.  However, Twitter is not necessarily a place for you to interact on a normal occasion.  The media wants us to believe that Twitter is a social media tool and seems to always mention Facebook in the same sentence. Twitter, unlike Facebook, promotes a follow-first methodology, meaning they want you to find people and interests to follow before going out there and tweeting yourself. I think what Twitter actually is and what we want it to be or believe it to be are vastly different.

Anti-Social
Is Twitter REALLY social? I’ve found that Twitter has become a daily digest of one-way status updates, retweets, and news articles in which your followers hardly ever respond to. Why is that? Twitter has made it too easy to share content and follow others and too difficult to socialize. I often get discouraged when tweeting things about my life with absolutely no indication of whether someone has read it, what they thought of it, or even if they care! You’d think with 90 followers, there would be more interaction than with just my closest friends. Perhaps it’s an indication of how my followers are using Twitter. Or perhaps I just mumble a lot and spit out useless information. For confidence’s sake, I’ll agree with the former and tell you that my followers are just that, “followers,” and not “responders.” I want Twitter to be a tool to promote interaction, not exclusively consumption. More often than not, I just feel like I’m just wasting my time tweeting. Lets be honest, it’s never fun talking to yourself in front of an audience.

In addition, with a few exceptions, the only time I ever see my friends reply to anything is when they’re trying to get a celebrity’s attention or when they’re trying to win a contest.  In face-to-face social interaction, you get that feeling of acknowledgement and response to what you are saying.  If Twitter wants to claim that it is social, it needs to re-create that feeling.

What Twitter needs
Twitter needs a “like” button of some sort to at least give me an indication that people are reading my crap. Or how about a built-in text box for a response below status updates (which can be activated when a user hits “reply”). Twitter’s obscure reply feature leaves it up to the user to correctly formulate a response with its mention mechanism. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for a user to respond to a tweet without Re-tweeting a portion of the original text–just so that the original author has some context to the response. This is what a built-in comment feature would do for you automatically. Twitter needs to make the user feel as though they are replying to an actual tweet and not just blurring out random text with a mention in hopes that the author will understand.

The Future
Twitter has set itself up for this sort of behavior with its promotion of following vs. socializing on its homepage. If you visit Twitter.com, you’ll see the words “Follow your interests” in big, bold letters. What does that tell you? Twitter wants you to focus on consumption before you socialize. Twitter has become a wide-scale news gateway in which industries have exploited and normal every-day users have fallen victim to. If you are on Twitter to update people on your life, you may be in the right place–although Twitter still has a small user base within many social circles. If you are on Twitter to share information and want people to reply or at least talk to you about it, it’s time to use Facebook  exclusively.

Twitter needs to put itself back on the social map by incorporating a campaign to encourage people to interact. But it needs to architecturally construct itself to do so first. Lets hope it does before its elegance and hidden power become obsolete.

Why I came back to Facebook

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you have have read one of my most popular articles, Why I left Facebook. Well I’m here today to tell you why I came back. I discovered how to correctly use Facebook Friend Lists and how to tie access and security to them. I recommend you do the same.

Rather than sort through my friend nightmare (500+ friends, only a handful of which I’d actually call friends; the rest are people I just know or have met once), I created a list called “actual friends.” Then, I went into my privacy settings and allowed pretty much full access to all of my information for those who appear in the actual friends list. I did the same for photos and posts. Everyone else sees my limited profile with basic status updates. Nothing else. I feel a lot more comfortable now. Now I don’t have to chop through my friends list, leaving some people wondering why I de-friended them.  I can add people I barely know and further differentiate them from my actual friends.  Additionally, now I can look at the status updates of only my “actual friends.” No more sorting through lists composed of people I really care to know nothing about, just to discover what is going on with my friends. If you haven’t used Facebook’s list feature, I highly recommend that you do.

Facebook used to actually ask you how you knew a person when you added them as a friend. The problem is, most people didn’t use this feature and the data then became irrelevant. If only that caught on , we wouldn’t have this mess we do now. The sad thing is, Facebook has become merely a yearbook of people you once went to school with, worked with, worked out with, met at a party once, or creepily stalk.

I’m still not comfortable with the fact that Facebook essentially has a timeline of my life from 2004-2010 somewhere propagated across hundreds of their servers. That’s a bit unsettling. But I as a consumer use the service and accept the risk. Let’s hope they never let me down.

Let me know if you want a deeper run-down on the whole friend lists. I’d be happy to create a follow-up post with some screen caps.

Facebook + Skype: What does it mean?

There are rumors floating around that Facebook and Skype are in talks about integrating Skype service into Facebook. Hello video chat and potentially voice calls! Even though Google has this in-chat video technology today, we all know Facebook doesn’t want any part of it. Given Google’s lack-of success in the social media space, Skype integration into Facebook could put the final dagger through Google’s social media campaign.

While this all sounds great to most people, I believe that the service integration will just be too much. I don’t know about you, but I only video chat with those friends that are close to me emotionally, but not in distance.

I used to love the simplicity of Facebook. It let me find my friends, send them an occasional update, and maybe even invite them to events. Sorry, but I don’t want to chat with you. I don’t want to see all of your wicked scores from Mafia Wars. I don’t even want to see what you have for sale in the Marketplace. Please stop trying to make Facebook the jack of all trades. It is a social media app, not an iPhone.

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