New Twitter tool for the iPhone

I bought Reportage on the recommendation of a Canadian Web site today. If you haven’t heard of it, Reportage is a Twitter client for the iPhone/iPod Touch. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound too interesting, but Reportage does a couple of cool things that make it worth a look if you’re a journalist:

  • It takes your tweet stream and splits it up by individual followers, rather than lumping it all into the default chronological order. That’s so smart I really don’t know why no one’s thought of it yet — although part of the fun of Twitter is the realtime stream of information, I use it for chatting with people enough that I find myself searching for replies from individual users quite often. The analogy the Web site quoted above uses was to compare your Twitter peeps to radio stations, and it’s not a bad one. You get a “broadcast” from each individual.
  • Once you click on someone’s tweet, you can then use a horizontal scroll at the bottom of your screen to move back and forth in the wider timeline. (In other words, you get a chance to see the other folks you follow as well.)
  • It has a “local” section that lets you find people tweeting within 1, 5 or 15 miles of you. That seems to be a little quirky (it reports that I live in Moores Switch, U.S.) but I do recognize local Twitterers whom I follow when I hit that interface. (By the way, here’s the Google result for Moores Switch. Not how I would immediately describe the 65203, but who am I to argue with Google?) The obvious reporting advantage to this is being able to quickly search tweets when there’s news happening near where you are. Of course, that assumes a critical mass of people are both tweeting AND have a geolocatable device, but that number is only going to grow.
  • You can “star” people to add them as favorites. I can see a use for that for people whose tweets I care about more than others, but it would be even more useful to sort them into groups. (It would be even more useful if you could do that on the Twitter homepage and then have those follow you from client to client. But since when did Twitter itself innovate? /rant.)
  • It also has a function that lets you “mute” individuals for a period of time (for example, if people start real-time twittering from a conference.) That’s a whole lot easier than unfollowing, following, etc.

Overall, it’s a cool app. Well worth the $2.99.

(Note: Originally posted over at my blog. Totally just plagiarized myself.)

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Using Smartphones in the medical field

Who says the iPhone is just a fancy toy? This article from the Washington Post is an insightful look into the iPhone’s use in the medical field. It’s a good reminder of exactly how much can be done with one small little handheld.

When I have more time, I’m coming in with a brain dump on all the ways a smartphone can be used by journalists. Stay tuned.

This may be my new favorite search: Twoogle!

I bet the person who invented Twoogle feels just like the person who discovered chocolate and peanut butter go great together.

Just as the name implies, Twoogle searches both Google and Twitter. The handy little split window shows me tweets in one window and my Google search in the other.

Talk about a handy tool! Essentially, you can handle two important aspects of reporting — collecting fact-based documentation and crowdsourcing — in one search. Hey, you never know when you’re going to find an Easter Egg (i.e. something wonderful you weren’t expecting) in either Twitter or Google. For evidence, check out the second entry of the above screen grab. If that’s not the honest-to-god truth, I don’t know what is.

An easy way to help with Web readability

This isn’t technically a tip to save time, unless you count reading time as time spent when you could be getting things done. Here’s an easy way to make any Web site more readable.

Although we wish they would, web designers don’t always think about our poor eyes when they consider body type — or any other kind of type, for that matter. There’s an annoying propensity out there for non-Web-friendly typefaces. Or, worse, dark text on a dark background.

But there’s an easy way to deal with eyestrain — Arc 90 has a JavaScript called Readability that you can apply to any Web page for sweet relief.

Before Readability

Before Readability

After Readability

After Readability

Oh, and here’s a list of good ways to improve your Web typography. Happy geeking.

A new and improved banner

This is the second banner I made to promote ColumbiaTomorrow.com

This is the second banner I made to promote ColumbiaTomorrow.com

I’ve been playing a bit more with GIFmation, and I found a few more fun specs in it when I created a second, better-designed banner. This one takes advantage of GIFmation’s free software a little bit more:

  • The free version allows you to use up to three frames at a time. Any more than that, and you should probably be using Flash anyway.
  • The loop feature is really easy to use. You can set it for unlimited play-throughs or put it at a set number. It’s so easy even a caveman could do it, to rip off a certain insurance provider.
  • The delays feature is also incredibly easy. Just plug in how much time you want between slides in /100ths of a second and boom, you’re done.

This software provides a lot of bang for the buck, which is the best part — it’s free. I wish I had the $49.95 to see what the full version can do.

GIFmation for the Mac rocks

Here’s the challenge I was presented with: We wanted to display a banner on the home page of our Web site to promote ColumbiaTomorrow.com, an RJI project designed to be the go-to site to learn about growth and development issues in Columbia.

I’ve been playing with the idea in the back of my head for a while that there must be some kind of nifty little freeware package that could create an animated banner. Ideally, I’ll find time in my busy schedule to learn Flash sometime soon. Until then, I give you GIFmation.

Here’s what I created for the Missourian’s Web site with it:

columbiatomorrowfinal

Not bad for a beginner, eh? (you can also view it here)

All I did was make a pair of quick slides in Photoshop, then imported them into GIFmation. I added a 2-second delay between slides and saved it. Voila!

One important note: Add .gif at the end of the file. I had to do that to get WordPress to take it.

The installation was seamless, and the software is easy enough to navigate if you poke around a little. The downsize tool and crop tool are both really difficult to use and require a proportion wheel to get right. So make sure your slides are the size you want before loading them into GIFmation.

Although that aspect is clunky, for free software, you can’t beat how easy it is to slap your slides together into an animated .gif file. For the above example, it was load the slides, set the delay, hit save. Short and sweet.

The interface feels like it should be part of Creative Suite, making it easy to figure out if you’re familiar with InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, et al. For simple banners and other animated images, it’s just the right tool.

A registered copy is $49.95, but the demo version allows use of up to three slides per .gif. And really, if you’re going to use more than three, shouldn’t you be using Flash?