Do people like, still blog?

Tag Archives: SMS

I should start this post off with the disclaimer that I know there is a perfectly good solution, namely IMAP, that was engineered to solve this problem; but I don’t have a data plan and the point is to try and figure out a way to get a notification when I get an email, with the tools I have available (i.e., unlimited incoming SMS due to a text plan).

The idea is simple. When I get an email, I want to be texted on my phone with the subject, sender, and whatever else from the body that can fit within 160 characters. But the some of the details make this convoluted: 1) Sending SMS is “expensive” so it’s difficult to find a reliable, quick AND free resource to send texts, and 2) I don’t want to share my GMail login with some random provider to retrieve my mail (since it’s my Google Accounts login which is tied to Calendar, Adsense, etc; not to mention just having random people read my private mail).

The first problem has a relatively easy solution, and that is to go through Twitter. I can set my Twitter account to subscribe to another dummy Twitter account that I own. Whenever that dummy account is updated, Twitter can quickly and for free, send a text to my phone. Now I just need to get my mail onto Twitter.

GMail has an RSS feed, and if you embed your login information in the URL, then anything can pull the mail from your account. Also, a Twitter account can be tied to a RSS feed through services like TwitterFeed (which I tried using for FiD). But their service runs on a one-hour delay and I’m not entirely comfortable sharing my info with this third party. Then I found out that FeedBurner has a new FeedBurner Socialize feature which can push RSS updates to a Twitter account. Feedburner is now owned by Google so I feel more comfortable storing my login info there.

With that setup, I can accomplish what I set out to. So to summarize:

  • Grab mail as RSS feed by embedding login data into feed URL
  • Burn feed through FeedBurner and socialize to a new, protected, Twitter account
  • Follow dummy Twitter from main Twitter account and have updates sent to phone.

Now on to the problems. The GMail RSS feed stores the email body preview in a summary element within the feed, instead of the description. This means that when FeedBurner pushes to Twitter, it just pushes the title (and also there is no author etc). I think this can be solved by taking the FeedBurner feed and “fixing” it with Yahoo! Pipes. For some reason, Yahoo! Pipes doesn’t take an authenticated RSS feed as a source (or GMail ignores it on purpose) so you have to use your burned feed. Once the feed is fixed, then you have to burn it a second time in FeedBurner to push to Twitter. This introduces even more polling delay.

Next, the dummy Twitter account ends up polluting your actual Twitter account with updates (i.e., your mail). I don’t know how to solve this yet since there is no filtering mechanism on the main Twitter site. It is actually quite annoying and counter-balances the usefulness of pushing email notifications to my mobile.

Also, I was thinking that it might be good to funnel my mail through to a second, read-only, GMail account in order to protect my login (it might be good to have a second GMail account which shadows my primary account for security purposes anyways). But again this adds more delay.

In summary, it can be done, but it is just not streamlined enough to be of good use.

I setup Facebook mobile last week and it’s pretty useful. I had looked at it before, but it was limited to the States and centered around browsing Facebook, so I wasn’t too interested then. They’ve since expanded the functionality to provide SMS capability; so when someone writes on your wall, pokes you, or adds you a friend, you get notified through your phone. You can also selectively have certain people’s status updates sent to you. In fact, it’s Facebook mobile is a lot like Twitter, which is ironic because Twitter is finally integrated into Facebook as an application.

I’ve been playing around with Twitter, a somewhat new web thingie by one of the guys behind Blogger. It’s kind of hard to describe, because people don’t really use something like this yet. So maybe it’s ground breaking, and I’m an early adopter; or maybe it will crash and burn. Who knows, but let me tell you a bit about what it is.

With Twitter, you can send a message, through the web or through SMS, to all of your friends’ cellphones. I think of it like SMS presence information. It’s like your MSN nickname or your facebook status, but live and onthego. You can let your friends know when you’re up to something cool, or looking for something to do, and they will get the message even if they’re not on the computer. Or you can think of it like little blog snipits that you broadcast to your friends. Or it’s party line by using text.

Anyways, I’m not sure if there is really any utility in this. The problem being that if you have a lot of friends who regularly use this service, you will be overwhelmed by text messages, and some will have bad timing (like during a meeting). But I’m sure people thought the same thing about blogging when it started (people are going to stalk you!).

Oh yeah, here’s my Twitter page.

I have some weird digital cable package whereby I don’t have any normal music channels (i.e. MTV* or Much) but I get some weirder ones including channel PCHM otherwise known as Punch Much.

If you haven’t had the luxury of watching this channel, it’s basically 24/7 all-request music vids (except it’s not because I’ve seen it play some random top 40 video instead of the highest percentage request). To request a song, you send an SMS with the code number of the song you want to request, which means you have an even smaller playlist than your average Clear Channel radio station.

Actually, it’s kind of funny at times because you have kids requesting the same song over and over kind of like how DJ Fresh Prince played Ashley’s song 20 times an hour in that one episode of Fresh Prince (I’ve seen Don’t Cha twice since starting this post…). The only thing stopping (not very well I might add) these kids from doing it constantly is that everything you want to do on Punch Much costs 75¢.

i think us older viewers quickly realize that this channel is a money sink for the viewers who actually participate. You can’t realistically get a song played with one vote, so there goes like $5 per video you want to see. Then you can chat over tv with your fellow viewers at 75¢ a pop (it’s jackpot time for Much when they start playing trivia…don’t kids know about Google??) and of course you’ll need to register your nickname using another message. And if that’s not enough, if you don’t want your conversation being read by the other 50 kids watching the channel, you can take it offline and send a private message for, you guessed it; 75¢.

I hope that the smart kids would be sending email messages or phone numbers on their first message, but I’m guessing that Much cleverly filters out email addresses and strings of numbers.

* Upon coming back from the States, I was surprised to find that MTV Canada disappeared (MTV2 is actually worth watching). So turns out the story is that CHUM Media (which owns Muchmusic et al) bought out Craig Media who coincidently also ran MTV Canada. What, no anti-competition laws regarding music video channels??

i bought a cellphone down here; not just because i’m a fob and need one everywhere i go but because well, i need a watch and i’m hoping to unlock it and use it in canada. i don’t actually think i’m going to use the phone functionality that much anyways, I’m probably going to sms more than anything. unfortunately for me, I got another motorola phone but hopefully this will have longer battery life and better design then the last one.

i also signed up for (free?) mobile alerts on msn mobile; I have the weather sent to me every morning at 8:30 and the score of any leafs game. although, it’s not as useful as it seems because 1) the temperatures are in farenheit and 2) the leafs aren’t playing. anyways, the concept is good. you can also text me through msn messenger now.

i guess i’m like addicted to the net, because everytime i’m away from it for awhile i have this urge to go online. not that there is a whole lot of reason to go online, because once i’m actually on i invariantly get the feeling that there’s nothing to do, nothing to surf. anyways it’s the nagging feeling of not being connected to just about everything that is a pain in the ass when you haven’t had internet for the last little while.

i had it setup so that a copy of my email would get automatically forwarded to my cell phone as an sms message. it was a good idea at the time, but the implementation had a lot of problems. the first problem was the character limit, which actually wasn’t that bad as you get a quick idea of what the email is about. the other, much more annoying problem is that i underestimated how aggravating it would be to get an sms every single time i got an email. my phone would go off anytime, like during class or in the middle of the night and i would have to respond to it otherwise it would beep my a reminder every mutha second.

SARS. just kidding, i’m not blogging about that, well not directly at least. i thought it was interesting to learn that the news about sars was first spread by sms and not traditional print media (you know china, secrecy, censorship). that’s pretty cool. more cool is that the government in hk sent out a text message to 6 million phones to assure the population that the rumor of hong kong being quarantined was just a hoax. i’m still waiting until sms hits it big here…

because japanese wireless technologies are so much further along than ours in north america, we can look at japanese youths to see how our social interactions may be shifted by our technologies. i don’t think it’s actually a glimpse at our distant futures but more of a look at what we’re capable of, as it takes awhile before everyone accepts the technology into their daily lives. on the other hand, we can see what may be the more common ways to use the technologies we have, namely always-on(-you) messaging. it’s unfortunate how two-way text messaging hasn’t caught on as much in north america, because i do find it as useful as the article says. it just seems to be stuck at the same evolutionary stage as blogging; it’s still a geek thing, but like instant messaging, there’s a chance it might catch on.

sms is neat. it’s a working implementation of instant messaging over cellphones leverging the one thing that makes each cell phone unique: their phone number. that’s a much better system then using something redundant like an icq#. it’s also a quite common form of communication in europe, off of which the wireless companies there are hoping to make a lot of money off of (now that everyone has a handset/plan already). but it seems as if the business model of some wireless carriers in canada are flawed. they let you receive an unlimited number (for all intents and purposes) of sms and only charge for outgoing ones. i guess their reasoning is that you would most likely want to reply to messages sent to you, but they also left the system open ended so that you can text message someone thru email. so i see it similar to pagers of old, where you can receive pages for free (and we know how well those companies fared) with the cost passed to people who page you. of course if they’re smart and know not to page you from payphones, it costs them nothing.

so my department at work got fixed up with new systems; they replaced my 21″ crt with a 17″ lcd (yes this has happened before but i still don’t understand that logic) and we all got sweet computers. dual 2.8ghz xeons, a gig of ram, 120gb hd, a wacky $1000+ firegl card (it’s supposed to be for cad work, not that we need it), cd burner (again why do we need this?). no dvd tho, so i guess no movies on the job for me but it’s basically something like what the system i will own in…oh five years from now. damn.

i don’t know why i found this so funny.