3 great new iPhone apps from Absolute Radio

I’m obviously biased, bearing in mind I’ve been responsible for them, but three great new Absolute Radio apps are now available for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

Absolute Radio Clock Radio Application

They combine a really nice alarm clock with bespoke wake-up messages from either Christian O’Connell, Dave Gorman or Frank Skinner. And once the message has played, you’ll automatically hear your choice of Absolute Radio, Absolute 80s or Absolute Classic Rock.

The most difficult part of the project was probably stopping feature creep with all the other great ideas we were having – the important thing I had to remind myself is that the app has to function as a really good alarm clock first and foremost, otherwise there’s not much point. After all, we’ve already got a fantastic and extremely popular streaming radio application, with the iAmp (Now updated to feature Absolute Radio, Absolute 80s, Absolute Classic Rock and dabbl). And with various studies and reports suggesting that up to 70% of people have done away with an alarm clock in favour of their mobile, we’re hoping the apps will be popular.

So check out:

The OC Clock Radio

Dave’s Clock Radio

Frank’s Clock Radio

One of the really nice touches is the app store icon, with a great moment of creativity from AR Web Editor Anthony, which sets it off really nicely, and means it looks great alongide the iAmp and LiveAmp on your iPhone.

Lovely.

Twitter Android client Twidroid updated…

Twidroid is a popular Twitter application for Android phones, and they’ve just released an update, including native Youtube posting, a sample pluging for your own url shortener, Chinese, Czech, Russian and Arabic languages, plus the Pro version now has offline sending, which is a useful addition.

Catch up with the full release notes.

Stocktwits gets funding, Bit.ly get’s safer, Cli.gs gets bought

The Twitter ecosystem is busy as always, so rather than try to write 20 posts to cover everything purely for SEO benefit, I thought I’d round up three things which stood out:

Stocktwits has gained $3 million in another round of financing for the social and microblogging network for the stock market. It’s interesting that the service has spun out of Twitter, building its own platform and Adobe Air desktop application which came into life in September. In addition Stocktwit.tv seems to be taking off.

Rather than building your own social network from scratch, perhaps a more realistic plan is to build community on the main Twitter site, before spinning off as Stocktwits have done – a technique that would work on any social network…

URL shortener Bit.ly (as set as the default shortener on Twitter, and heavily used by yours truly) has announced a partnership with security firms including Websense, Sophos and VeriSign to help address the problems of spam and malware-spreading shortened links which are otherwise difficult to spot (Bit.ly already offers a plugin to expand links before you click on them). That adds onto Twitter’s malware detection, and Bit.ly’s spam filtering.

For reference, Bit.ly shortens 35-40 million links a day, and apparently spam links make up less than 0.5% of that number…

And finally, fellow url shortener Cli.gs has been bought by social bookmarking site Mr Wong. That’s good news for users, and also for the White House, which uses Cli.gs. The reason for the sale is given as the time and effort needed on behalf of the founder – something which makes sense in the context of Bit.ly’s 40 million links a day!

Be careful when naming your Twitter application…

If you’ve built a third-party application for Twitter, you’ll want to think carefully about what you call it, following the company trademarking the term ‘Tweet’.

The official response has been posted on the Twitter blog by Biz Stone, after Robin Wauters highlighted the issue over at Techcrunch. The official announcement is:

‘We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of “going after” the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

Regarding the use of the word Twitter in projects, we are a bit more wary although there are some exceptions here as well. After all, Twitter is the name of our service and our company so the potential for confusion is much higher. When folks ask us about naming their application with “Twitter” we generally respond by suggesting more original branding for their project. This avoids potential confusion down the line.’

Which is interesting from a marketing point of view – Twitter has namechecked and praised some of the great apps currently using the word ‘Tweet’, including Tweetdeck for example, and suggests it may only use the trademark to go other apps which try to pass themselves of as official, for example.

Then again, ‘to tweet’ or ‘I’ve just tweeted’ suggests common usage of the word as a verb anyway. I’d be interested in hearing from any legal experts about what that would mean for any trademark cases.

And Mark Evans points out that Tweet.com is currently a site claiming to be about birds.

So if you can’t use ‘Twitter’, and might want to stay away from ‘Tweet’, what about Twit?

Well, that could cause problems as well – Robert Scoble reports that Leo LaPorte has trademarked ‘Twit’ for his longrunning TWiT TV netcast network (It stands for This Week in Tech if you didn’t know, rather than being Twitter related, and is something I recommend having a listen to…). There’s a related Friendfeed discussion going on…

So you might want to steer clear of Twitter, Tweet and Twit.

There are obviously reasons why Twitter wants to maintain some clarity between company products and 3rd party applications – particularly when they might be launching more of their own for premium users. At the same time, the constant referrals to ‘Tweet’ and ‘Twit’ have definitely helped publicity and common usage of the parent service, as has the availability of such services.

At the same time, the generic terms aren’t as well used – for instance, microblogging. Which is a bit of a shame, given 140char’s ranking for the term ‘microblogging blog‘!

Personally, I’d recommend building your own brand name – it’s a long term win but means you aren’t tied to one service or risking trademark problems. The short term benefit of going for the most common Twitter terms is likely to be waning as so many exist, and you’ll be able to carve out your own niche.

Interview with Cesare Rocchi – founder of Posty microblogging client

One of the better microblogging clients available at the moment is Posty, createdby Cesare PostyRocchi.

It’s an Adobe Air applications which runs on Windows (2000/XP/Vista), MacOsx (10.4.9 or more), and even Linux! And besides the fact it runs behind proxies, it feeds out to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Tumblr, Friendfeed, and Identi.ca.

So I got in touch with Cesare to get an idea of what was behind Posty, and what he plans for the future.

What is Posty in 140chars?

Posty in a small desktop application which allows browsing/updating your profile on twitter, jaiku, pownce, tumblr, friendfeed, identi.ca.

What makes it different from other cross-posting applications?

Posty has one of the smallest memory footprint. Although Adobe Air does not allow developers to fully manage memory usage, Posty is optimized to use as little memory as possible.
To my knowledge Posty is the only standalone desktop application which supports SIX services and allows a rich browsing experience. For example you can watch videos and pictures right in Posty! Check pownce, tumblr or friendfeeed for an example.
Finally, unlike web applications, Posty encrypts and stores sensible data like passwords on your hard drive, instead of third party servers.

How long did it take to create the initial version?

The first version, which included twitter and jaiku took two months to develop.
Let me say that Posty is a project that I develop during my spare time. So when I say “two months” I mean “the spare time that I had during two months”. I can’t quantify more than that.

Was Adobe Air easy to work with? Does it offer significant advantages?

Adobe Air was pretty easy to work with. Posty has grown as a response to two needs I had: to learn Adobe Air and to save some time in interacting with my online communities.

I think I am on the way I expected to be. One of the main advantages of Adobe Air is the ability of quickly changing the layout of the application. Without getting too technical the VBox, a container to display whatever thing you want vertically, is a great idea. So for initial prototypes it is just perfect.
As you project grows you need some discipline to avoid melting too much the logic and the graphics. For example, after the first prototype (which I confess I did just for my personal use), I redesigned the application along the lines of MVC pattern. So if, by chance, I hit my head and I forget anything about Posty, by looking at the MVC structure of my code I quickly “remember” where to put my hands.

How long has it been live? And is it gaining many users, judging by the good response it’s received?

I released the first version of Posty at the end of April. I remember I didn’t even had a website, so the release was made by attaching the air file to an email message.
Posty is gaining users every day and received a good response. I receive emails of encouragement and suggestion. People are also willing to test beta versions. This is fundamental to me, because I get almost immediate feedback on new features or solved bugs.

Are any of the microblogging services more difficult to integrate with? I noticed it took a couple of tries to verify my Jaiku account for example?

Maybe you did it while Jaiku was updating their servers. Yet Jaiku has not implemented an appropriate api to verify credentials, so I exploit a trick. BTW Jaiku to me has a lot of potential and I expect they extend api support to other functionalities. I didn’t find particular difficulties during the implementation. The testing is often the phase which takes more time. Unfortunately some network rely on servers which are hit every second by hundred thousand requests and your testing can get slow. I remember the “flying whale” days of twitter … testing new functionalities was a nightmare. Same for Pownce some time.
A special mention to Friendfeed, which was the most reliable api service I had to do with. And let me “celebrate” to the tumblr api as the simplest and cleanest and well-documented api I have worked with.
Finally, I think I’ll have some issue with Facebook, which I’ll integrate soon and which is known to be a less “friendly” api for desktop applications.

Are you going to continue simply to ask for donations to monetise Posty? Or would you be tempted to introduce advertising?

At the moment I’ll keep on asking for donations. BTW thanks to those who donated so far and thanks to those who will donate. Even a small donation is precious to me. Also encouragement messages, blog posts and suggestions are considered a donation. So if you like Posty, or have an idea on  how to extend it, just drop me a line. I appreciated it a lot.

Has it raised your profile throughout the internet?

I can’t tell the difference before and after Posty. For sure my online activity has been influenced by the growth of Posty (read less free time for me and more emails to reply to). But the most evident improvement is that it takes much much less time to send my updates/news across different networks and to address the incoming messages/replies. Attempting a measurement I’d say I spend half of the time and save a lot of clicks.
Let me also mention a cognitive aspect. Posty concentrates in a “place” a set of activities (update twitter, check Pownce replies, etc). Wanna do one of those activities? open Posty. Busy doing other stuff? Just close Posty to avoid distractions. Within a browser this border fades and, at least to me, it is easy to interrupt an activity to update/check my twitter, just because I noticed that a tab on twitter was left open (accidentally).
With Posty I feel I am more focused on my current activity.

Have you got more plans for improving Posty?

Yes. I have many items on the todo list: a brighter look and feel, facebook support, improvements on the interaction with the graphical interface. And a special feature which I am planning since a while. But can’t tell more.

What’s your view on cross-posting? Obviously Posty makes it far easier, but do you think cross-posting is possible without it becoming almost like spam? Do you have any tips for users?

First, don’t just ask questions. Many tend to get without giving. I think giving is important. Contribute with ideas, suggestions, whatever you feel it improves things. Second, choose as carefully as possible your friends contacts. It’s not easy to foresee how active a person will be, but if you see that the last 100 updates are about knitting and you hate knitting you shouldn’t click add/follow. Indeed try to find and add people who share some interest with you.
Final tip. Given that the number of friends/contacts is limited try to remove those who are less active, to make room for people more corresponding to you. You should not fear to click remove.

If you had to pick a favourite microblogging/lifestreaming site at gunpoint, which would you pick?

As for the service per se I’d pick Friendfeed, because their servers are very reliable. You might say that the interface is “spartan”, but I like the service and the scenarios it opens.
If we talk about people and responsiveness I’d say twitter and Pownce. Especially on Pownce I get almost immediate replies. Maybe this is because I was a beta tester and I collected many active friends. Of course twitter is still the most used/discussed/crowded service you can think of. And the one I use to stay in touch with the posty community via: http://twitter.com/_posty.

Make sure you don’t miss more interviews, including one with Blippr founders Jonathan C and Chris Heard on Thursday. You can always subscribe to the 140char RSS feed, here.

A major problem in promoting Plurk

It seems as if there are a million Twitter applications, widgets, and ways to publicise your membership and latest Tweets, but things are a bit twickier when it comes to Plurk.

So far, there has been an unofficial API, and third party Plurk tools are thin on the ground. But even more annoyingly, I can’t use the official Plurk widget.

There’s a simple reason. They offer it for users to embed into a Facebook, Myspace, or blog page. But they’ve fixed the width, so trying to display it on this blog, for instance, means the sidebar will be blown apart. And the width is set at 300 pixels wide – way too much for most pages on Facebook or Myspace.

So for the moment, I’ll not be sharing my Plurking as much as my Tweeting.

You can still find me on Twitter. And on Plurk.

Brilliant new people and user search tool for Twitter

I’ve just spotted a great new Twitter search tool to find Twitter people by categories (Found via Mashable).

Twellow has already indexed 300,000 Twitter users into various categories (Including me!), with users replicated across all appropriate categories. For example, I’m the 96th most followed person in Marketing, but I also appear in Management, Advertising (hmmmmm?), News, Geeks and Blogging. All the main categories have appropriate sub-categories to find people more easily (Although there does seem to be Marketing as a category, and also a sub-category of Advertising).

And beyond browsing, you can also use specific search terms, including within specified categories.

Until now, your options were to find people within Twitter, hope to find people via keywords, or use Twitterpacks to find anyone that had manually listed themselves. Suddenly finding other people got a whole lot simpler.

 

Power your blog or website comments with Twitter

Now this is interesting, as I’m a firm believer that much of the power of Twitter comes from external applications – and that even monetising Twitter could be unlocked by the ways it can be used outside of the current website.

Chirrup is an application which allows you to utilise Twitter for your comments. Simply put, everyone can message you via Twitter, Chirrup fetches all the replies and sorts them by url (So you can have a different feed for each page), and you can then display it however you desire.

It’s slightly more complicated than just copying a widget – but no more than installing a WordPress plugin. It also caches message locally, and goes through your personal replies rather than the public feed – helping speed. And funnily enough, it’s also available as a Chirrup WordPress plugin. There’s a developer blog, here, for more.

Facebook app for Plurk – and unofficial API available…

Blimey, things are definitely starting to happen outside of Plurk. First came the first Plurk Facebook app, Plurksync, which updates your status with your most recent Plurk. Unfortunately it’s likely to suffer the same problem as status updates via Twitter, when you end up seeing the same message across every service an individual uses.

Although my favourite incident with linking microblogging and Facebook saw friend and colleague David Cushman in a surreal, endless loop of updates between Twitter and Facebook.

And now comes the unofficial, reverse-engineered, not supported by the Plurk team API, RLPLurkAPI provided by Ryan Lim.

Oh, and from the official Plurk blog comes the news that they’ve tweaked the Karma points.

Plurk sidebar tool for Firefox 2 and 3 already!

One of the great things about the current web revolution is that as soon as a website/application aPlurkppears, someone clever figures out ways to tweak it to improve on it for their needs.

And so, as many people are discovering Plurk, TwisterMC aka Thomas McMahon, has already created a sidebar plugin for Firefox 2 and 3, to use the simplified mobile version of Plurk.

It comes with the Plurk logo of a headless ‘thing’ and a keyboard shortcut. The actual functionality of the sidebar is down to Plurk, and it’s being download right now for a test.

I’ve seen a couple of rumours that Plurk’s creators are too keen on third party applications being developed – perhaps down to Twitter’s downtime problems and the fact 90% of requests to Twitters database comes from external applications. But we’ll see…

Dan Thornton on Plurk.

Julius Solaris on Plurk

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