Twitter Updates It’s Design!… But Still No Search?

Well Well Well… I logged in to Twitter this afternoon to go on a little rant about the new McCain campaign ads and got a nice little suprise… Twitter updated it’s interface.

UI and AJAX

Most of the changes in the interface center around the navigation elements, and I have to say they are definately an improvement.  I especially like the Following, Followers, and Updates section on the top right hand side.   Because, if you’re like me… that’s the first thing you look at when you log on.  It’s always a nice little ego boost (or killer) when it changes.

They also added a few back-end performancing enhancements in the form of AJAX additions.  While this isn’t a big improvement, every little addition counts.

Be Different… Like Everyone Else.

In addition to the AJAX and navigation additions, they also included some improved design customizations as well.  Aside from the normal “add your own background images” (which never worked well), they added a few pre-made background designs to help liven up your profile.

Doh!… No Search.

The one thing I don’t understand is why they didn’t integrate their newly acquired search capabilities?  This is the one feature I was looking forward to in an update and you would think it would be pretty simple… just add a form that redirects people to search.twitter.com.

But, at the same time, I do realize that they have a good reason for this… I’m just a little bummed.

Either way, Great job guys! Keep those updates coming!

P.S.  No Screenshot… server is acting wonky.

Google Chrome – It’s Not a Browser… It’s a Revolt.

By now, most of you have probably heard of the release of Google’s new Web Browser called Chrome. You may be thinking… big whup, another browser to account for when designing a site. Well, the big picture is actually much larger than that.

The Following paragraphs will demonstrate how this just isn’t a simple new application in the market place – it’s the tip of the spear in an assault on how we view and interact with a computer.

The Revolution Will be Streamed

Before I can talk about the application itself, I first need to discuss a relatively new concept in the industry called “Cloud Computing”.

Cloud computing is essentially a theory that instead of having your applications, files, and documents all housed on your local computer, these services and storage capabilities are all handled by online SaaS (Software as a Service) applications.

A perfect example of this would be Google Docs. Google Docs is a free online office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and other business applications. So, instead of creating your documents and storing them on your local machine, it’s all done online.

Over the past few years, Google has been slowly gobbling up startups and creating applications associated with productivity and business needs. Examples of this are Gmail, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager, and many more.

The Browser that will one day become an OS

While Chrome in it’s current release is just another browser… what you may not realize is that it is in fact a new operating system. From the interface design to the back end programming and architecture, everything is set up to run as an operating system.

One can foresee in the not to distant future, hardware created around Google Chrome that consist of essentially a monitor and a modem with limited computing power and local storage.

Essentially, everything you do on a computer would be access through the browser.

OK, But What About Offline Access?

The answer to this question is simple… Google Gears.

Google Gears is an open source application introduced by Google to improve several things:

  1. Provide offline access to applications such as Gmail, WordPress, and Google Docs.
  2. Improve performance by storing certain online components to your local machine.
  3. Running Javascript applications in the background to improve browsing speed.

So, if you’re off-line on say an airplane or camping and don’t have access to the internet, Google Gears will allow you to work on your documents and will automatically upload any changes once it detects an Internet access.

In hindsight, this was one of the building blocks of Google Chrome and a component that will be essential to any online operating system.

Security and Reliability

Security and Reliability are major hurdles to overcome. The security aspect is more of a mental barrier than a technical one, but it’s still a concern when important and sensitive information is stored online.

The privacy and security issue is something Google (and every other major online company) has been fighting for years. Right now, the fight is centered around the government wanting access to anonymous search records. But, imagine of the same laws were used to grant the government access to your documents and files without you knowing? It’s a scary prospect to say the least.

Another concern is reliability, because after all… if one component on the cloud fails, it’s not just your local machine that’s down… it’s everyone using the system. Entire companies and even industries can be affected by a single technical error.

Final

In my opinion, this is a very exciting development and one that may change the way we do business, interact with friends, and go about our daily lives in the very near future.

Many people will probably have an issue with this, however if you think about it… many things you do today are already “in the cloud”. We store our photo’s, write novels, and interact with friends online all the time. This is just one more step in a completely connected world.

Any thoughts, concerns, or observations you have, please feel free to comment below.

Site Launch… On a Budget

So, you’ve built an awesome web site… you’ve spent hours upon hours designing elements, writing code, and wondering if you’ve made the right decisions. You’re finally done and ready to launch. So, where do you go from here?

Going through this same situation myself, I decided to put together a little launch checklist of free resources and advice to launching your new project on a budget. Most of these resources are free, so the only thing invested will be your time.

If you have any additional sites to add or resources, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Directories

Adding your site to directories is the simplest way to get exposure for your site. Now, the directories I have listed below are mainly for web 2.0 applications and web sites, but a few of them do allow general companies.

Discussion forums

Discussion forums may be sooo web 1.0, but they’re still a great place to discuss your site and get feedback from like minded individuals. However, keep in mind that you are basically opening yourself up to ANYTHING… good or bad.

  • www.sitepoint.com – Sitepoint has a great forum to discuss new site launches. The only requirements is to sign up for sitepoint (for free) and you must review three other sites before you can post your own.

Press release

A press release can be a great opportunity to really showcase your business to a wide audience and present it in a very professional manner.
One word of caution… there are a lot of free Press Release companies out there, but most of them can do more harm than good. Sure, they might distribute your information, but most are havens for spammers to hang out… not a good crowd to be associated with. So, this is one place I recommend spending a few dollars to do it right.

  • www.PRunderground.com – PR Underground is a relatively new site press release field, but is quickly catching on in the web crowd. It’s also one of the least expensive routes to take for distributing a new site or product to multiple news sources, for as little as $4.95 per month.

Search Engines

Search engines are still by far one of the most valuable resources to getting your site noticed. There are literally hundreds of niche Search Engines out there, but most of them get their data from the big boys, so don’t waste your time on the others… just submit to these main search engines listed below.

One word of advice, I recommend you DO NOT use one of those “Get your site listed on hundreds of search engines” type of programs or web sites. This will only get you pegged as a spammer from the start. Also, only submit your site once and be patient. Don’t worry… they’ll find you.

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Ask Ask doesn’t have a submission form like the others, but here’s some information about getting your site listed here.
  • MSN

Blogs

If you’re site fills a need or is unique in your market, you may want to consider approaching bloggers to try and get a write up about your site. But, with so many bloggers out there, it’s difficult to narrow down your search.

A great approach to finding the write bloggers to approach is to look go to a few blog directories like the ones listed below. Simply do a search for your market and start from the top ranked blogs in the list and work your way down.

Chances are, most aren’t going to write about your site, especially the top end blogs. However, even some of the lower end blogs can really generate some good traffic.

Social Media

Participating in Social Media sites and organizations can be a good way of driving traffic and gaining exposure of your site. Now, you don’t have to post every day, but just a few here and there can suffice.

Lifecasting as an Organic “About Us” Page.

With the relatively recent popularity of “lifecasting” applications, there’s been a lot of discussion in the Blog community lately about the future of the “traditional” blog medium. Many argue that blogging has lost it’s social roots and with the popularity of applications such as Twitter and Plurk, the medium may be well on it’s way to being obsolete. Below are a few notes on my position of this discussion and a possible new concept I’ve been experimenting with.

A Complement, Not A Replacement

First and foremost, I think it’s rather ridiculous to think that an application such as Twitter will ever take the place of a blog. In my opinion, lifecasting applications work more like post-it notes in 140 characters or less… not a conversation like blogging is. And yes, you could have a conversation on an application like Twitter… but, have you ever tried it? It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the constant stream of information.

That being said, I do believe that lifecasting is and will be an important part of the blogging medium. Not as a replacement, but as a complement. It’s another way of connecting with your audience on a more personal level. A way to not only tell your visitor who you are, but show them who you are by allowing them to follow you throughout the day.

A New Approach

One thought I’ve been playing around with lately is the concept of using Twitter, Plurk, or other lifecasting applications as an ongoing and organic “About Us” page.

The concept is rather simple. Anyone today can start a blog or web site in a matter of minutes – for little to no cost – and claim to be an expert on any given subject. Typically, the only information a visitor has to confirm the blogger or site owner’s credentials is an about us page; Which – as most of you know – can created as easily as copy/paste. This in turn, causes an automatic distrust for new sites and bloggers.

But, what if you could provide your visitors with a stream of information that includes not only who you are, but what you do as well; Sites you visit, blog comments you make, sites you bookmark, etc. It could provide them with more information to subscribe or just hit the back button.

Support For My Theory

Case in point is how I use Twitter in conjunction with my Blog at Addoursearch.com. I actually have two twitter accounts; twitter.com/addoursearch and twitter.com/tpeterson. The addoursearch username is used strictly for blog posts and business purposes… kind of like a hybrid RSS reader. At the time of writing I only have about 17 followers on this account, even though it has much more exposure to a larger audience through the blog. On the other hand, I have over 305 followers in about the same (active) timeframe to my personal tpeterson account.

Now, both accounts are being populated with my blog posts through TwitterFeed. However, in addition to the blog posts, I also add random thoughts and observations throughout the day to my tpeterson account. What I’ve found is that not only have my personal account followers been increasing at a much faster rate, I’ve also seen a much higher repeat click-thru’s to my blog as well.

So, why is this? Why are my follower rates increasing and why are the click thru’s so high?
My theory is that people see who I am and what I do on a daily basis, therefore they tend to trust the information I’m going to provide for them on my blog.

Your Opinion?

Now, since my personal Twitter account is just that… personal, I haven’t actually implemented this theory into practice on the blog. Giving hundreds, if not thousands of people access to my daily life can be a double edge sword. Not only personally, but professionally as well.

Please feel free to comment