Foursquare Complete History View

Foursquare

I love location-based services and I’ve been turning others on to the idea as well. I always call out Foursquare, but they are not the only player in this game. Others include Gowalla, Loopt, Facebook Places, Google Latitude, and more. I don’t care much about the others, as Foursquare is by far my service of choice.

Foursquare now allows its users to view their complete check-in history! Simply add the word “history” to your username URL at Foursquare and you can view every place you’ve ever been with the service. For example, the address would read: foursquare.com/username/history. In addition to your past locations, your history includes your comments, tips, photos, and a list of other users who were checked in there at the time. Cool!

A few days ago I wrote a post called “My Advice To Twitter,” where I suggested that Twitter add an archive view of users tweets. The URL structure I suggested in that post is the same as the one that Foursquare has now enabled. I don’t know when Foursquare officially launched their new history view, but I was not aware of it at the time when I wrote my post about Twitter. I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

If you want to see my complete history, you’re out of luck. You have to be my explicit friend on Foursquare, or be logged in as me. Random Internet passersby cannot view any of my location history. This is true for all Foursquare users and this cannot be changed. I’d say that is a smart decision by the company.

Foursquare has done it right. I applaud the company for creating this new complete history view for its users. It is an awesome way to look back at everywhere you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. I wish that Twitter would take notice.

My Advice To Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for over two years now. It is one of my favorite online services. However, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated lately with some of its shortcomings. My frustration reached a point that I recently posted this tweet: “Sometimes I get the feeling that if I entered the Twitter headquarters, all I’ll find is an empty room with a hamster on a spinning wheel.”

My tweet was clearly over-the-top, as I often am, but I do have genuine thoughts on this matter. Therefore, I have crafted and submitted the following list of advice and suggestions to the “powers-that-be” at Twitter.

Faster Page Loads

I would like the “New Twitter” site to be a little more responsive and serve faster page loads. I can’t help but feel like the Twitter website as a whole has gotten slower over time; even more so since the redesign this year. I am well aware that their servers process a mind-boggling mass of data every second, but the end-user experience at my computer can be less than ideal at times. This is one reason why I like to use external Twitter applications like Tweetie, and not use the website unless I need to.

Exporting Features

Twitter seriously needs to offer better exporting options for users accounts. I want to be able to download a complete archive of all of my current Twitter data in a variety of different formats at any given time. I’ve grown tired of fiddling with Twitter backup companies, and I’ve used several of them. I’ll say outright that Tweetbackup doesn’t work at all. I’ve never had that service work for me even once! Backupify is a reliable service that conveniently archives all of my tweets on a schedule, but I can only download that data in CSV format, which I have to load as a huge spreadsheet in Excel.

More importantly, exporting in general is currently limited by Twitter to your last 3,200 tweets. That is all you can view or access, period! They promised some time ago that this artificial cap would ultimately be lifted. To date, that hasn’t happened. As users accounts grow ever larger, this issue needs to be addressed. Longtime users can have upward of 10,000 tweets. Today, those users are left in the cold if they want to roll back to the tweets in their early years. Fix this now!

Archive View

I would like for the Twitter website to add a new dimension where you can view all of the tweets in your entire archive in an elegant presentation. One example of this today is Tweet Nest, a solution to archive your tweets on your own web server and display them on a page. The resulting page looks clean and has a wealth of information. Twitter doesn’t have to copy this model, but it is an example of what I’d like to see them create for its users. Users could access this theoretical new archive display by adding the world “archive” to their URL. For example: twitter.com/username/archive. I think this is a fantastic idea, and long overdue.

Longer Tweets

I still insist that tweets could be a little longer to make use for longer links and retweets. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’d like to see the current 140-character limit raised to 160 (thereby matching the traditional phone text message limit), or even all the way to 200. I’ve already mentioned this in detail in the past, so I won’t go on about that again here.

Tweet Counts

In my experience, Twitter’s total tweet count for me is fluid and seldom completely accurate. This is especially noticeable with the count in the Favorites feature. I can log in on the site and have 25 favorite tweets that I’ve previously starred. After I’m finished reading some of them and unstar a few, it takes a very long time (hours) for my Favorites count to show lower than the original count of 25. It’s annoying, and I wish something could be done about it.

Having said the above, the count numbers get even whackier when using the Twitter iPhone app, where it sometimes takes days to reflect a profile picture change or update my total tweet count. Why this this? Surely Twitter itself must be deliberately limiting calls for this data in its API structure. Can’t this policy be changed to allow more accurate information?

In Closing…

This is just a few of the ideas and suggestions I’ve sent to Twitter. The tweet count issue is complex and really not a big deal, but account exporting and a complete archive view are both essential. I’m growing tired of relying on countless third party solutions to compensate for Twitter’s built-in limitations. I hope they heed my words and make my suggestions a reality.

Modern Journaling

Over the course of many years, I’ve dabbled on and off in the art of keeping a personal journal. Overall, I think it’s a good idea to write in a journal. I find it to be beneficial for my writing abilities, self expression, and personal reflection. I only do it once in a while, when I have some significant thoughts to get out of my system.

Back in my younger days, if I wanted to keep a journal, it was likely bound to paper. Paper has a few benefits, but also carries many drawbacks. First and foremost, a journal is meant to be private. That isn’t possible in physical form. Fortunately, today there are many avenues to explore for keeping a virtual private journal.

I have complained for years that there was not a good solution for maintaining a journal on my computer. I always found the crop of journaling software to be outdated and lackluster. Old journaling programs would trap you in with limited exporting abilities. I tried a few Windows clients in years past, but never liked any of them. I suppose that one could use a simple text editor or Microsoft Word to write entries, but that practice would not be secure, nor could you easily search across multiple files for segments of text. This all makes me wonder what computer program Doogie Howser was using back in 1989? Hmmm.

For the Mac user, the best journaling program by far is MacJournal. I’ve used it several times in trial modes and it is great. The problem for me is that it has too many features. It’s extensive features threaten to turn it into more of a virtual scrapbook than a simple journal. Personally, I want to type words, and words only. I don’t want to embed video clips, web links, fonts, and all that fluffy jazz. MacJournal is also a pricey $40 to purchase. The software is superb, but I don’t want to invest that much in an activity I only occasionally engage in.

An online cloud solution seems to be the way to go for most users today. A few benefits are that your data is safely stored offsite and backed up, plus you can use more than one machine to access or write to your journal. I’ll mention two that I’ve had experience with.

LiveJournal has been around for many years. It is a decent off-the-cuff solution, but the service is geared by default toward sharing your content. You have to deliberately change your account settings to make all entries private and to hide your profile from site searches. The default stance of this site encouraging public engagement turns me off a little. LiveJournal does let users export their entries into a monthly CSV format, which is a nice.

The online journaling service that I like best is Penzu.com. It’s been around for a few years now. Penzu is solely aimed toward complete privacy. It is a very private experience, not a social one. It also has a clever interface that lets you go old-school and type on lined notebook paper. Free users get unlimited storage. Though, to be able to export your data, you have to pay for a Pro account at $19/year. Penzu exports to PDF, XML, and TXT formats. Penzu has a lot of clever features and falls very much along the lines of what I’ve looked for in a journaling solution. The interface and slickness of the website as a whole make it fun to use.

Having said all of the above, I’ve saved the best for last.

I read about the following solution recently and it is brilliantly simple: If you are a GMail user, simply create a “Journal” label in your mail account. When you want to write in your journal, write yourself an email using the new label. This solution is free, secure and amazingly simple. If you think about it, your email account is already its own journal in many ways. You can already look back through messages and read what you were up to and the mood you were in at any given time. Therefore, adding the direct “Journal” label and writing yourself a simple email of private thoughts makes complete sense. Boom! It’s funny how the simple solution will often elude us.

Wanted: Song Lyrics Without Ads

Searching for song lyrics online has always been a major pain in the ass. I’ve never been able to find a good lyrics site that doesn’t bring with it a tremendous amount of ads, flashy things, and pop-ups. They are all completely infuriating to navigate, with or without an ad-blocker.

Even worse is listening to music on the go and using my iPhone to do a Google search in Safari for the lyrics of what I’m listening to. Pages load slowly with the crazy amount of ad content that comes with them. Usually once a page is usable, it’s typical for a pop-up ad to show up about something stupid (like buying ringtones) and I have to zoom the page to click a tiny “X” to close the overlaying window box. Horrible! I wish that everyone would make mobile-friendly sites. As for using apps, lyric-specific apps are a little lacking, as they have their own ads or incomplete catalogs.

I’m not trying to plug the site, but I tend to generally use 1SongLyrics. This site is a little less bloated than the others, but absent a better solution, I’ve chosen to settle for it.

I’ve long been calling for a lyrics site with leaner ads, but perhaps the perfect solution would be if Google would just give me the lyrics right inside the search results. They already do that with the weather and sports results. I don’t know if this would create a copyright issue, but I just want the words to a song without the fluff.

If anyone thinks they have a better solution, then I’m all ears.

Ta-da List (Again)

My favorite to-do list manager is a website called Ta-da List by a company called 37 Signals. I’ve used this site for years, and even wrote about it on this blog four years ago! I still use the service today. The Ta-da List site is about as simplistic and barebones as a website can get. You make lists and check things off. That’s it. Whats more, this site has no ads! I use it more than any other to-do list solution.

I wanted to make this second post about the Ta-da List site primarily to mention the simplistic beauty of the mobile site, which I’ve recently started using. I’ve sampled a few iPhone apps and have tried to maintain a to-do list that way, but I’ve found that the Ta-da List mobile website is the perfect solution. In essence, I can add and check things off on the go or from my desktop, while always managing the same list. It’s all in one place, so no syncing is necessary. I use it to maintain many lists, including holiday gift ideas, hate list ideas, blogging ideas, shopping lists, and beyond.

I doubt anyone reading this has even heard of this service. Go check it out and marvel at its simplicity.

Twitter Favorites Feature

As an avid Twitter user, I make use of the Favorites feature of their service. There is a Favorites feature built-in to several Twitter clients that is often overlooked. I use the official Twitter for iPhone app, and it allows me to star important tweets as favorites. This can be especially useful for tweets that contain links to a web page that is best viewed on a full computer screen.

Twitter recently completely revamped their website, dubbed “New Twitter” by many of its users. Among the many great new features of the new site is that tweets you’ve flagged as favorites are clearly visible in their own group on the website. For example, if I read a tweet from a tech site that links to a page listing the top ten newest WordPress themes, I can simply star that particular tweet as a favorite in my phone. When I later pull up the Twitter website on my computer, it cleverly appears in my list of favorite tweets for me to review at my convenience.

Twitter Favorites are a very useful and handy feature. If you haven’t been putting them to use, you’ve been missing out.