Thursday, July 31, 2008

TwitterCounter: Finally a Good Way To Display Twitter Glory

For several years now, people have been using Twitter all over the tech community. Some use it to talk to their other 1337 (elite) friends and others simply follow their favorite internet celebrities. Up unto a point, "Twitterers" don't have very many followers of their own because if you're the average Joe, nobody's ever heard of you. The change occurs once you begin to develop a small- to medium-sized following and people actually begin responding to your posts.

Once you move into that level of Twitter, you will begin to think about how to advertise and grow your Twitter account. While you can always post an RSS feed of your account or install a widget, people don't necessarily take the time to read your recent posts. In fact, most posts aren't really attractive or well thought-out, so they won't draw in many of your site's visitors.

The perfect tool for this is TwitterCounter. Similar to other counters such as hit counters and FeedBurner's Feedcounter, TwitterCounter is a chicklet for tracking the number of followers you have on Twitter. Here is what it looks like with my other chicklets on my sidebar:

Once a user clicks on the TwitterCounter chickelet, it takes them to a page that gives the stats about your Twitter feed's growth. Most prominently is a chart detailing the last week's "following" numbers for each day. My chart here is pretty boring, but it does show the day that Twitter accidentally "unfollowed" a bunch of accounts in an attempt to fight spam.

Another nice feature is the overall statistics that TwitterCounter keeps. It's a good way to look at your long-term growth, average rate of growth, and even a prediction for the future of your feed. I'm not sure how it gathers the last one, but I'll be pretty happy if I pick up another 11 users in a month.

While at the moment TwitterCounter doesn't have a lot of features besides what I've pointed out, it's still a nice chicklet for your site and you can even customize it. Give it a try if you've noticed your feed has started to grow. If you already use it, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Waiter's True Identiy - Revealed!

For at least two years I have been reading Waiter Rant religiously. It was recommended to me by a friend and I am very grateful. In it, "The Waiter," an anonymous blogger, describes the real workings of a nice restaurant's prep and kitchen areas. Some of the things done to unsuspecting yuppies are truly hilarious, but more profound are the things waiters have to put up with on a day to day basis.

Waiter Rant isn't just a "the prank revealed" blog. "The Waiter" has a great writing style that will make you laugh some days and break your heart on others. After four years of both zany and touching stories, he has decided to publish a book and reveal his true identity. That's right, The Waiter is none other than:

Steve Dublanica

...not that you probably know him personally, but it's nice to see his picture.

So go to Waiter Rant, read his posts, and then buy his book. I'm sure it will be worth it. I listened to a sample of the audiobook and it looks great. If I ever can scratch up some money from this blogging thing, I'll probably buy that.

[Image via NY Post]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dr. Horrible Is Planning A Devious Sequel

As you must know by now, I LOVE Dr. Horrible. Well here's some news for you: there's going to be a sequel.

/Film is reporting that, in response to a question about a sequel for Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon has said:
"The idea is that there will be another part, so we’re not going to tell you about it yet."
Pretty mysterious, but to quote Moist from the movie "It's not a no..."

I for one wouldn't expect a sequel soon, especially because we don't know how long it really took to make Dr. Horrible. Plus, it's always good business to let the epicness of a big success sink in before making a sequel.

Also, if you're interested, there is a planned soundtrack and the DVD is on track to come out too.

Edit: The soundtrack is available online from both iTunes and Amazon. If you plan to get it from Amazon, use the link at the left and support Mason Tech Beat!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Off The Beat - Two Articles, Two Places

Since the last Off The Beat, I published a new MakeUseOf article and my first article with Atlan Meer, a new magazine.
The magic article is about how to get started in magic with help from the internet.  I love amateur magic so this was a logical topic for me.

The Atlan Meer article is an overview of the iPhone as well as a suggestion of its potential in the smartphone market.  The magazine is available in major cities every other month and can be subscribed to online by the link above.

I'll keep updating you as long as you keep reading!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is Corlive the Next "E-mail?"

Back in 1969, a new system was developed so that users of ARPANET, a precursor to the internet, could communicate with one another. Two years later, an "@" sign was added to the syntax and the first real "E-mail" system was born. It turned out to be one of the most successful pieces of technological engineering ever invented. Today almost every inhabitant of the industrialized world has an email address.

While there are countless benefits from having an electronic mailbox, email has more than a few problems. Messages have to travel from one server to another and if either one is down or malfunctioning, those messages may not make it. Spam, phishing emails, and even bacn (automated mail that you have requested) have made email almost as frustrating as it is helpful. Even organizing and storing email can be a hassle with certain delivery systems.

Are there alternatives? Well the phone requires both parties to be actively talking and cannot be easily archived. Instant messenger (IM) is better, but doesn't have the same "formal letter" feel that you can get from email. What really needs to happen is the creation of a new protocol that fixes the difficulties with email while moving the technology forward.

One promising candidate is Corlive, a free service that attempts to correct some of the problems inherent in traditional email. It is fundamentally different from other message sites because it uses HTML links as its primary distribution method.

Corlive is best explained by how it is used, so here are the basic instructions:

  1. First, go to and register a username.
    • Tip: Get yours now, because almost all of them are still available.
  2. This will create an online inbox that receives all incoming messages.
  3. Take the link that it generates for you and put it anywhere online or in your email signature.
  4. It's that simple!

One of the best things about Corlive is that it doesn't require all of your friends to join before they can talk to you. Simply give them the link and they can write you immediately. You can check for messages manually on the website or download their lightweight program that monitors your inbox. It will notify you when you have a message.

If you want to try it out, send me a test message here. Notice I used one of their features: auto-population of the subject line. When you send a message from my link it will automatically say "Mason Tech Beat Is Helping Me Test Corlive."

This is accomplished by modifying the HTML in the link. Let's take a look:

There are several uses for this kind of auto-population control, but one of the best I can think of is to leave a contact address on a website for specific kinds of messages. If you wanted to use the link for requests about bugs on your website, for instance, you could have the subject line read "Bug Report: [Name Your Bug]." This way your visitors would understand how to format the subject line of their emails.

Inside Info:

Corlive has told me specifically that they plan on creating a system for folder organization. With a syntax similar to the one mentioned above, you will be able to send messages from a link directly to any one of your custom folders. This will be even better for sorting "friendly emails" from "requests for service."

They also plan on providing support for message forwarding as well as a threaded message interface (much like that of a forum or Gmail). To make money, Corlive will be adding a small amount of advertising in an "unobtrusive" way. This is probably a good plan for them as mail websites get a lot of page-loads per user and bulky ads would become annoying very quickly.

As Corlive is an "internal" service, in the sense that all of the messages float around within one server, it offers a different quality of service. You won't experience problems with one server not talking to the other properly. On the other hand, if their main server goes down, you're totally out of luck.

Right now, Corlive doesn't seem to have much in the way of security. One thing that they brag about is the lack of spam. Their staff sent me this explanation of how they prevent automated messages, "Every user, after sending more than x messages in 24 hours will see a captcha and will be required to answer it. "Normal" users won't be bothered, and spammers or bots will be." This seems like a fairly solid strategy. Just remember that many bots can now read captchas with very powerful image-mapping algorithms.

There's a lot to know about Corlive. To keep it all straight, here's a few things that I do and don't like about Corlive:


  • Messages are guaranteed to get to their recipient unless Corlive itself is down.
  • Spam is supposedly not an issue.
  • It is very straight-forward and easy to use.
  • It resembles a profile on a social network more than a specific "email address."
  • Links have a great syntax and can easily be used to add more features to an email.
  • You can use it now. You don't have to wait until it becomes popular.


  • It has very few features at the moment.
  • It is heavily dependent on a single group of servers.
  • It may have trouble scaling up. Look what happened to Twitter.
  • It doesn't appear to be very secure right now.
  • There is no API, interoperability with other services, mobile version, or even more than a few profile options - a beta in the true sense of the word

My Wishlist for Corlive:

  • An app to generate URLs with auto-population data already attached
  • A blog that details updates about Corlive
  • All of the basic features one already expects to see in email
  • A better notification program - the current one is basically an overzealous text file.
  • New and innovative ways to distribute the link and for others to interact with the system

Give it a try, send a message or two, and let me know what you think! Also, weigh in on whether you think Corlive is a rather boring sounding name or not.

[Email Image from Travel The Home Exchange Way]

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vacation Time

FYI, I am on vacation this week so don't expect any miraculous articles too soon.

Just a tidbit for you...I had over 1000 hits on my Dr. Horrible articles....that's an order of magnitude more than I'm used to.

Thanks, hope you're having a good summer!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible Act III: This Will Shock You and Hurt You

I have to say I just finished watching Dr. Horrible's third act and I am completely speechless. I litterally haven't said a word since it stopped playing. Fortunately I don't type with my mouth.

This third act relies on the first two for background, but it is by far the most powerful. Anything more I say will need to be under spoiler protection, but I think you will agree with my by the end of it.

[Spoiler Alert] Act III Reacap:
First of all, the last act left me a little dubious about what was going to happen. The plot really isn't that complex so I felt like I'd seen this kind of thing before. I must say that I was both right and wrong.

The act begins with the city planning to open the homeless shelter in Captain Hammer's name (with statue). Penny and "Billy" duet again and it's clear through some visual clues (frozen yogurt, friends calling) that Billy is falling away from Penny and the rest of the world in preparation for the big event. Dr. Horrible is seen doing devious things in his lair while the news media fills us in that Penny and Captain Hammer are getting more serious. We also see who is wearing those shirts they sell in the Jinx store.

As the shelter is being dedicated, the room is set up with a presumed statue of Captain Hammer under a cloth in the room and a podium with the Mayor and other relevant people. Captain Hammer give a speech and it becomes clear to Penny that he really doesn't think much of anyone but himself. The crowd eats it up though as Penny edges her way off the stage.

Near the end of Captain Hammer's pretty amazing song, he is suddenly frozen by Dr. Horrible, who was (rather obviously) hiding under the statue's hood. It looks like the "Freeze Ray" is finally working. Dr. Horrible begins his song, telling everyone that they are sheep and if they only listened and thought a little they would see through Captain Hammer's veil of goodness. This is also a pretty awesome scene because you just don't know what's going happen...the climax, so to speak.

Finally Dr. Horrible begins firing his Death Ray (shown in a slightly earlier scene) in the air and scaring most people away. Just as he is about to kill Captain Hammer and seal his destiny, his Freeze Ray fails and Hammer punches him about 10 feet. Captain Hammer then picks up the Death Ray and intent on firing it on Dr. Horrible, it blows up in his hands. He hurtles away in pain, screaming.

It is at this moment that Dr. Horrible discovers that the bits of the blaster that exploded have impaled Penny and she is dying. She just barely recognizes, say, "Captain Hammer will save us," and then dies quickly. I'm not sure what to make of all this so if any one has any decent analysis of it, post in the comments. Anyway, the press immediately asks about why he murdered her and it is driven home that SHE, not Captain Hammer, will be the murder that gets him into the League of Evil.

The rest of the episode is a big flowing scene of his new status as a supervillan, his donning of a more evil looking uniform (pulling down the goggles), and his entry into the League. It is interesting to see that among the rather weird League members (Fake Thomas Jefferson?), Bad Horse is actually a horse and this is why he has cowboy messengers.

All of this slowly comes to an end and at the last possible moment, when the song goes, "...and I won't feel...a thing," the words are spoken by Billy, sitting in front of his webcam, out of his costume. This image was a real stunner because we really see how getting all he wanted in the end doomed him to not being able to enjoy it.
[/Spoiler Alert]

So, were you stunned by the ending as I was? I can't even begin to figure out what to do with this show in my mind. Absolutely incredible!

[Here are links to my thoughts on Act I and Act II.]

Friday, July 18, 2008

@w00d + Epic-Fu = Best Thing Ever!

I am beyond excited. A few days ago Sarah Atwood (affectionately known as @w00d online) posted that she had just been hired by Epic-Fu, one of my all-time favorite video podcasts. She also made a post on the Epic-Fu blog about her first day on the job.

If you follow Mahalo Daily (a video podcast put out by, you will remember Sarah from Mahalo Vlog Idol. She was one of the 6 finalists and that was where I first discovered her. She has a great style and I think if you asked me then whether she would be a better Mahalo Daily host or an Epic-Fu correspondent, I probably would have gone with the latter. After reading her blog and her geeky interests, I think you might agree.

Yesterday, Epic-Fu's latest episode featured her for the very first time. They have been trying out new people and her segment was by FAR the best one recently. She does a great job pretending to be drunk (unless she wasn't pretending...) and being that chick at the club who just kind of rambles on about stuff. In that way she gave reviews about The Dark Knight, Dr. Horrible, and a few other superhero things. Her expanded reviews are available on "Sarah's Rave Reviews!"

It was very entertaining and if they decide to make that her standard delivery method, it wouldn't be a bad thing. Then again, is it possible to get typecast on a podcast? Hopefully they will use more of her skills than the drunken ones. :P

Here is the episode...her segment is near the end of it, but it's a good episode overall, so I won't tell you the exact time signature:

All I can say is "GO, Sarah, Go!" I feel like Epic-Fu has been kind of wonky since the new "season" began and @w00d might be just the one to get everything back on track.

[Image of Sarah Atwood from her Flickr page]

Heroes Has Released a Neat Show Online

I know The Beat seems to be turning into a TV blog, but really it just happens that this and Dr. Horrible are premiering at the same time. Anyway, I love Heroes and they have just put out the first in a series of web-only episodes that I assume will come out until the lauch in September.

The first one is here and is about a mailman with an unusual talent. It was pretty good. Hulu is at least one of the broadcasters and I personally prefer watching it with their player.

[Image from Hulu's Heroes page]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I hold a Ph.D. in Horribleness...

After watching Act II of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I am still hooked with both line and sinker. One thing that you must come to realize is that the music is very good so, sadly, few people will actually be able to sing along.

Anyway, here is a run down of Act II and my thoughts on it [SPOILER Alert]:
Notice I'm not really into actors and such, so I will pretty much just go by character names. The act starts out with a great duet between Dr. Horrible and Penny as they go through shifts in their lives. Dr. Horrible is wandering the streets and secretly monitoring Penny and Captain Hammer as they go on a date. I particularly liked it when Dr. Horrible pretends to be working the soup line and only pours soup back into the container out of which he is ladling it. It's a great scene because it has a kind of funny characteristic to it, but also shows how Dr. Horrible is actually feeling hate build up inside of him for the first time.

The next scene takes place at the Coin Wash laundromat while Penny and "Billy" (Dr. Horrible's alternate identity) are doing their wash together. He does that thing that a lot of gelious guys do and asks her all about a date he already knows about to find out how she "really" feels about the other guy. Also, there is a very awkward metaphor about pie. Unfortunately for him, Penny is really into Captain Hammer and Billy is clearly losing ground with her.

There is a little break in the chronology as Dr. Horrible post a video blog post online and discusses his plans to use the Freeze Ray. After a very enthusiastic statement purpose, the blog cuts to a post where his shop is darker and he explains how the previous post gave him away to the authorities and he botched his whole plan. Even super-villans forget about the ubiquity of the internet sometimes. This part is pretty hilarious overall. :)

At the end of the previous segment, Billy gets a call from Bad Horse (or at least his cowboy posse). It seems his flubbed operation now leaves him with murder as his last chance at getting into the League. He now has to choose who to kill and how.

Back at the laundromat: Just as Billy and Penny get close to an intimate moment, Captain Hammer shows up and Dr. Horrible learns that Captain Hammer is only with Penny to mess with him. He promises a "great time" with Billy's crush later that night.

All of this leave Dr. Horrible with the clear decision to kill Captain Hammer and hope that Penny understands. I think you can probably guess where this is going...only the How? and Where? remain.
[/SPOILER Alert]

This episode was definitely darker than last time and I'm interested to see where it goes from here. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dr. Horrible May Be My New Favorite Show!

I was expecting something pretty decent from the first act of Dr. Horrible, but I was COMPLETELY blow away by it. The acting was extremely good, the story is very compelling, and if a regular pilot was as good as this one people would already be wondering about its second season.

My Take (SPOILER Alert):
The main character, Dr. Horrible, is basically a guy who has decided to become a super-villan but is struggling to pull anything reasonably evil together. He has been rejected from the League of Evil several times and has just gotten a letter indicating that he might be showing some promise. His roommate, "Moist," is the horny engineer guy from The Big Bang Theory (another GREAT show, btw) and has the amazing power to make things...unpleasently moist. They mention a few other characters but we may or may not hear more about them. Both guys are clearly in that awkward nerd phase of their 30-something lives. It is way funnier that they are both also comic book-ish evil doers.

The superhero is played by the same guy who played Captain Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) in Firefly. He is perfect for the role and plays the jerkish superhero. It reminds me a bit of Hancock except instead of not caring because he hates his job, he doesn't care because he doesn't have to.

There is a love interest in "Penny" (same as Big Bang Theory...popular name for girls that geeks love), but she has little character development except that she's nice and cares about people.

The action scene was good and I love how they used and iPhone!
[/SPOILER Alert]

Oh and did I mention it's like a kind of musical? Way to merge like 4 genres!

Definitely check it out and see how you like it. I know I'll be waiting with baited breath for the next act. Also, if this doesn't get turned into a show by the sheer love of the fans, I will be very disappointed!

Link to Act II Recap

Monday, July 14, 2008

Corlive: Better Than Email? [Corlive Review]

If ever there were a double-edged sword, it would be "E-mail." How many great conversations, correspondences, or even automated services have you been exposed to through our magical electronic mail system? For free no less? How many millions of SPAM have you gotten? How many weird people have found you and sent you disturbing messages?
Email Diagram
Email has been around for quite a while and despite it's obvious benefit to the world, there are a few inherent flaws. For this reason, developers and IT people have been trying to prop it up with spam filters, phishing detectors, and complex organizational controls. Few have been able to come up with any reasonable kind of alternative though. IM requires both parties to be present, as does the phone, voice messages are fought with problems, and microblogging is limited in both features and in length.

Corlive's Motto

Here is a new service, though, that seems to have mulled over the problem and given their best shot at a true email alternative. It's called Corlive and it works by housing everything on an internal system that is best accessed by a URL. Instead of requiring messages to be sent between servers and loaded on to multiple machines, the entire process goes on within Corlive and generally stays in "the cloud." It's kind of like Gmail if every user was a Gmail user and all of the messages just hung out in your online inbox.

The way it works is each user who wants to recieve mail creates a nickname on A bit of advice: almost every nickname is available right now so if you want to make sure you get the one you want, I'd grab it now. Registering creates a simple online inbox that you can can check for messages. The account holder can then distribute a link that takes anyone, registered or not, directly to a message entry form. The link can have several attributes (based on a simple syntax) that will either autogenerate a specific subject for the message or (in the future) send the message to a specific user folder.

Try it out: click this link to send me a message. I need to test it out, so really, say hello!

If you want to be notified when you have new messages, there is a small background app that can alert you from the system tray. So far it seems to be small and useful.

This closed system (in the sense that it is internalized, not that it is restricted to certain people) has a lot of advantages as well as some potential disadvantages. I plan on writing a detailed analysis for, but I'll share of my initial thoughts with you here:

  • Messages will always get from the sender to the recipient (unless all of Corlive is down)
  • Spam is apparently impossible because robots can't use Corlive - I'm talking with Corlive about this and will update it with how they specifically prevent bots. Update: From the Corlive Admin, "Every user after sending more than x messages in 24 hours will see a captcha and will be required to answer it. So 'normal' users won't be bothered, and spamers or bots will be."
  • The system is simple, compared to some of the crazy email systems out there
  • It works a lot more like a social network identity than an email system
  • Links can be filled with information by the recipient user - Corlive might even be able to build an app to generate custom URLs easily
  • You don't have to wait until it is very popular to start using it
  • As of right now, very few features
  • A great deal of dependance on Corlive's servers
  • There may be scalability issues - case in point: Twitter
  • It isn't incredibly secure at the moment
  • There is no API, interoperability with other services, mobile version, or even many profile options - a beta in the true sense of the word
All the doom and gloom aside, it's pretty good at what it's advertised to do. I like it so much that I've actually added it to my left-hand navigation bar as my primary contact method (aside from social networks, which are more fun). The link above adds a specific subject line, but the permanent one leaves that part blank. I'm excited to see what they decide to do with it in the future. Are you?

[Email diagram from Wikipedia under GNU-FDL]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dr. Horrible Could Be Awesome or Could Be...Well, You Know

Joss Wedon has come out with another project and as the Firefly-loving fanboy that I am, I will blindly post his widget and hope it comes out amazingly. Two days till launch!

For more info, check out the Official Site as well as the Fan Site.

Iran's Press Corp Doctors Missile Test Image

Iran's Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard's media organization, posted this picture last week. It is apparently of four missiles shooting up into the sky during one of their aggressive missile tests. The picture was carried on the front page of "The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and many other major news Web sites" according to the New York Times.

As it turns out, this image has been doctored. It's not obvious, but some clever people on the internet checked out the contrast and noticed where one missile had obviously been copied and made into two. Also, the clouds of smoke under the "new" missile are borrowed from yet another missile.

Original pic below:

Here is the analysis:

Good job Iran! We're not really sure why having 3 missiles is much worse than having 4, but clearly you felt it was worth the risk of looking foolish to every blogger on the internet.

Off The Beat - Two New Articles

Hey Readers,

Since I usually plug my own stuff on here shamelessly, I figured I might as well group those links together in clumps so you can either read um or not. I'm calling it "Off The Beat," as in "off Mason Tech Beat." You know you like it.

This week I published two new articles on I can always use Diggs and Stumbles! Check um out:
Also, I have been posting a ton of stuff to this week because of the big launch, so feel free to look at the recent posts on there too.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 11, 2008

iPhone Update Servers Are Down Internationally [Update]

Well this morning has been a bit not-fun for say the least...

First of all, when I got up this morning to connect my iPhone to my computer, I got a nasty "Cannot Connect" error. I've seen this one before, but I couldn't remember what to do. After repairing my connection (which didn't want to do things like load web pages), I finally found the culprit was the dock. For some reason iTunes can be finicky about routing things through the dock and a direct USB connection is the only cure.

I dugg out another iPhone cable (I have quite a collection now) and got it to sync. Shortly after this I was downloading the giant file that is the iPhone 2.0 firmware. It took 15 minutes to download and another 10 to install, but I finally had it. Or so I though...

When iTunes tried to activate my "new" phone, I got an error about my connection. After reading the news, I discovered that I, like many others, was now trapped in the iBrick stage of firmware installation. Apple's international iPhone activation servers are down. I don't mean slow or sketchy, I mean down with a capital D. There are some weird suggestions to get on, but it seems that the system is completely FUBAR.

I just wrote this up on iPhoneFreak if you want a (slightly) more professional take on Apple's server explosion.

[Image via Gizmodo]

Update: The authorization servers seem to be back up and running now. I got my iPhone re-activated and the new Apps are amazing. More to come on them in the future!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shiny New Buddon!!!

Hey Readers!

If you look to the left you should see a friendly Plurk button. It says "Come Plurk Me," and it you click on it and get a new account, it will automatically add me as your first friend. If you do have an account, it will just add me.

[Props to blankanvas for the plurk button design]

Segway Death Brigade in China

...that's the image I get when I see this picture anyway:

This is actually China's new anti-terrorist solution: Segways! Since the devices allow the occupants (once trained in balance and knee steering) to keep their hands free while driving, they maybe be a good alternative to other types of transportation. Engadget points out that accidentally flipping into reverse might be a bit of a problem, but it sure does make for an impressive entrance.

There is a guy on Mason's campus that drives around one of these things and I have to say...while they can move pretty fast, they'd probably only be evenly matched if the terrorists were in an electric go-cart. Maybe these have been tuned up?

[CNET via Engadget]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Why Do We Sing the National Anthem at Games?

If you're still high on the annual patriot explosion that is Independence Day weekend, you might find this article on mental_floss interesting. The author discusses the origins and first performances of "The Star Spangled Banner." It's good to understand our longest-standing traditions, I think.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Title Fight: vs. HelloTxt

Wow, I can see there are a lot of people interested in and other multi-platform updaters. How do I know this? After I posted my review of, my site stats tripled. Mason Tech Beat has just passed the 3000 hit mark!


Anyway, as amazing as has proven to be, I thought it should stand up to a little competition. HelloTxt is a service similar to that allows you to update all of your social network statuses at one time. The interface is simple and has a number of features. Let's go down the list and see how the two services compare:

Available Networks:
  • (18 Networks) - Bebo, Blogger, BrightKite, Facebook, Friendfeed, hi5,, Jaiku, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Mashable, MySpace, Plaxo Pulse, Plurk, Pownce, Tumblr, Twitter, Xanga
  • HelloTxt (21 Networks) - Bebo, Beemood, BrightKite, Facebook, Frazr, Feecle, Fanfou, Gozub, hi5,, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Meemi, Mexicodiario, MySpace, Numpa, Plaxo Pulse, Plurk, Pownce, Twitter, Tumblr
This is a very tough thing to compare, because each user is most interested in the specific networks that are important to them. Both services have the big networks like Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, Facebook, Jaiku, and the like, but the other services are a toss-up. I get the impression that many of's choices are meant for their blogging feature (discussed in a minute). These include Blogger, Xanga, and even Myspace. HelloTxt, on the other hand, seems to have a number of either obscure service or, more likely, services popular in countries outside the US. Because each side has a large number of services that are arguably for different tastses, I'll say this catagory is a TIE.

Posting Without An Account:
  • - The service is currently in Private Beta, so it requires an invite code (like "masontechbeat") and a sign-up verified by email.
  • HelloTxt - For the most popular networks, you only need to agree to their terms of service and it will update directly to your chosen networks. This is easy for a quick trial and for computer lab terminals. The downside to not having an account is that you have to enter your account information for each network every time. Fortunately, Firefox (and Flock) do seem to be able to remember the passwords for these fields.
Guilt-free trials are always nice on a new product. The services are basically operating at opposite ends of the beta spectrum. One if viral with a code and one is completely open and has the same log-in requirements of a wiki. This round goes to HelloTxt for being easy and open.

Posting Options:
  • - Web Interface, Special Email Address, IM Bot, Mobile Interface (including iPhone), iGoogle and Facebook Apps
  • HelloTxt - Web Interface, Special Email Address, Mobile Interface (no iPhone version), Posting via SMS, Facebook App
The great thing about both of these services is how many different ways there are to use them. Some people use status updates almost exclusively while they are away from a computer. Others are ALWAYS at a computer and just use it to keep up with their other computer-chained friends. I really liked both web interfaces (HelloTxts is the one that doesn't require a sign-up, remember). One thing I like a little more about's is their ability to catagorize different update sources. You can specify for each service if it is a status update, microblogging tool, or a full on blog. That's right, you can blog directly from using their special syntax. The special email address is there for both services, but just added the feature that if you attached a photo to the email (or use MMS) it will upload itself and add as part of the message. Edit: HelloTxt also has image uploads over email.

If you're a big texter, HelloTxt will win out, but if you have web access on your phone, looks to have a better mobile interface (especially for iPhone users like me). The big decieding factor for me was the IM bot. I contstantly use the AIM bot (though they support gTalk and Yahoo! as well) to update everything. The bot is even friendly and the message changes sometimes! wins the posting options catagory, a very important one if you ask me.

After using both services and playing around with the different options, I have to say I prefer I like the IM bot feature, the catagorization options, and more of their networks are relevant to what I already use. HelloTxt is probably better for international users and users who love the SMS. I should point out, though, that will be rolling out SMS in the future, as revealed by Mark O'Neill's article on MakeUseOf. I enjoyed using both these services and I hope you give both of them a try and see which one works best for you.

I declare the Title Fight Winner!

Unquote: For When You Need Fake Quotes

This is a funny little App that a friend of mine made. It's called Unquote and it is a mash-up of the Gangsta Quote Generator and a great number of pictures of famous writers (courtesy of AllTheWeb). It's not something that you'll use very often, but it's a great little time-waster! Here's a sample of what the generator will create for you:

Yeah, I know....pretty rediculous...a new mashup on ever reload of the page, FYI.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Digg Has the Weirdest Ads

Wez Pyke, one of my fellow MakeUseOf authors, put this link up on Plurk and it is really crazy. It is a screencap of an advertisement on Digg. Doesn't he look like the Numa Numa guy? Anyway here is the video:

It is amazing what people will make into an ad. Does anybody know anything more about this video or this guy? Is it a real "viral video" or was it staged? Might Just Save Me [ Review]

Lately I have become overwhelmed with all of the social networks that require "status updates" or have a "microblogging" component. Whether it's the old standard, Twitter, or new upstarts like Plurk, I'm constantly having to jump from one network to another. Some have said to me, "Why do you even bother? Microblogging is a fad anyway." Well be that as it may, I get a lot of great links and ideas from these sites and keeping up to date has paid off so far.

To solve the problem of updating multiple networks with the same "status," a new service has just launched (still an invite-only Beta) to keep everything straight. It is called and it's a great little app that links all of your networks in one simple interface, letting you update them all together. I have had an amazing experience with the Beta and I want to share that experience with everyone.

The first step is to get an account. While you could hunt down a Beta invite code, why not use MINE:
Go to, start a new account and enter the code. After this run though the list of available social networks and see if yours are listed. Almost everything you've ever heard of (including Plurk!) is already part of the system and new networks are added as user demand dictates.

The sign-up for each of the services is simple and usually works right within their AJAXy services page. Some services, like Facebook, are finicky and make you temporarily authorize on their site, but it all leads back to where you started, so no harm done.

Another thing to get set-up is their chatbot. They support a variety of IM networks like AIM, Google Talk, and Yahoo! Messenger. All you have to do is friend the relevant chatbot for your IM network and whenever you want to update your statuses, simply IM it with the message and it will let you know it is posting for you. If I had to have a complaint, I guess it would be that when you use the chatbot to post messages, there is no character counter to guide the process (I'm not sure how this would be done, just thought I'd throw it out there). The main site does have one though.

There really aren't too terribly more features to right now. It does what it does remarkably well and all of the little API goodies you have come to expect are right there for you. Also, it truncates URLs just like Twitter and other services.

I HIGHLY recommend this service to anyone who is crazy about status updates. They can take over your life if you use several services and there must be better things to do with your time. I suggest a Tower Defense game like GemCraft!
The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.