Entries from August 2008
An alpha version of Ubiquity just came out of Mozilla Labs. It’s a Quicksilver-like add-on for Firefox that allows you to quickly launch favorite sites and chain together actions. Aza and gang have put together a powerful toolkit. I particularly like the idea of scripting together various actions and being able to modify content inside a page. (For example, see the TinyURL command).
As I was reading about Ubiquity, I couldn’t help but smile. I’ve been using a very rudimentary version of a similar setup for a few years now. A while ago, frustrated with having to load up individual pages and add-ons for common tasks, I pieced together quick launch system using bookmarklets and Firefox’s keywords support. I’ve been wanting to share these hacks and even though Ubiquity now captures all of these elements quite nicely, I figured now is a good time as any to do that.
First off, any time you bookmark a URL in Firefox, it will give you the ability to attach a “keyword” to the bookmark. Once you’ve saved a bookmark, edit the entry using Bookmarks Manager (
Bookmarks > Organize Bookmarks) and fill in the “keyword” field. I usually pick a short keyword such as “map” for Google Maps and “t” for Twitter and “g” for Google. The keyword can be used as a shortcut in the browser’s address bar. For instance, if you chose a keyword “home” for the bookmark to your homepage, you can type just “home” into your address bar and you’ll be redirected to your page. If you have a keyword “g” for Google, all you have to do is to type the letter “g” into the address bar to be taken to Google.
But what if you want to combine this keyword with a search term? This could be particularly useful in the Google example above. The second step is to get the bookmark URL to respond dynamically to any searches you might want to do. You can get Firefox to dynamically fill-in a URL with text of your choice by using the “
%s” substitution token. For instance, let’s say I’d like to be able to quickly search for something on Google. I can use the keyword “g” followed by my search text in the address bar to search Google for that term. To do this, I’d bookmark the URL “
http://www.google.com/search?q=%s“. When used alongside the keyword, Firefox will automatically substitute “
%s” with my search text and will show Google’s search results for that term.
These are some of the most-used shortcuts I’ve put together, along with the keywords I use:
Action: Find something on Google
Action: Find something on Yelp
Action: Map an address on Google Maps
Action: Find something on Hype Machine
Action: Quickly add current page to del.icio.us
Notes: This will prompt you for tags (space-separated).
Action: Quickly add current page to del.icio.us (with notes)
Notes: This will prompt you for tags and will ask you to fill in the notes field.
Action: Twitter something
URL: [links to script on my system that automatically authenticates and posts to Twitter. see below for more]
I started using these hacks mainly because I was tired of using heavier bookmarklets and popups to perform simple tasks. For instance, the del.icio.us posting bookmarklet is very lightweight in that you don’t have to download meta-data (tags, etc) from del.icio.us before you post a URL. It’s also easy to use these same bookmarklets in other browsers – I use the del.icio.us hints on my iPhone to quickly save things when on the go. As you can tell, this is a very simple system. One of the major drawbacks (which Ubiquity improves upon) is that bookmarklets/keywords only allow you to perform “GET” requests (“POST” is not allowed). This is the reason I had to write up a separate script to provide the ability to post to Twitter. Ubiquity allows you to perform all sorts of network connections using jQuery (including AJAX calls). On the other hand, one of the issues with Ubiquity (which is easily configurable in my keyword-based setup) is the use of custom keywords. For example, I might prefer using “f” for FriendFeed updates. Someone else may want to use “f” for Facebook. From a command development standpoint, who will get first choice on a keyword like “ebay”? It will be interesting to see how this namespace issue is handled.
Porting keywords to Ubiquity
I took a few minutes to create the Ubiquity del.icio.us “quick add” bookmarklet – it’s essentially a straight port of my simple keyword-based bookmarklet from above. I’m going to start moving a few other browser hacks into Ubiquity as well in the coming days.
I don’t play nearly enough GTA4 as I probably should. Most of my friends have already finished it. I guess I’m just no good at this gaming thing. It’s mainly because I haven’t factored in much “gaming” time into my daily schedule. And it’s not because the game is super-challenging. In fact, the game holds your hand for most scenarios and makes sure you can finish it in a “movie”-style sequence.
The GPS-enabled map in GTA is one of the game’s most useful features. It automatically tracks your car’s current location in the game. Not only does it layout the entire grid of the city and highlight certain key places but, much like in a real car, it also allows you to set “way marks”. This allows you to indicate your destination to the positioning system. So once this way mark is set, all that’s left to do is to follow the green line to your desired location. This got me thinking: Given the size of the game, would the average person even be able to finish it without such a feature? I can think of many drives in-game when I’ve hardly looked away from the map. This is especially true of situations where I’ve been constrained for time and had to finish a certain task quickly.
It reminded me of a recent driving experience in real life. I went to visit my friend Rob in San Francisco and got to take his Prius for a spin. It was my first experience driving in a car with GPS. And I believe we spent more time looking at the GPS map than we did at the real San Francisco.
Next time, I’m going to turn off the GPS.
Scratching himself with a revolver with an overly sensitive trigger, M. Édouard B. removed the tip of his nose in the Vivienne precinct house.
Bonnaut, a locksmith in Montreuil, was chatting on his doorstep when the gangster called Shoe Face struck him twice with a knife.
Novels in Three Lines is a collection of more than a thousand anonymously-published blurbs that appeared in the French newspaper Le Matin in 1906. They were all penned by Félix Fénéon who worked as a clerk in the French War Department. Luc Sante, the translator, describes Félix and his “novels”:
They are the poems and novels he never otherwise wrote, or at least did not publish or preserve. They demonstrate in miniature his epigrammatic flair, his exquisite timing, his pinpoint precision of language, his exceedingly dry humor, his calculated effrontery, his tenderness and cruelty, his contained outrage [...] They depict the France of 1906 in its full breadth, on a canvas of reduced scale but proportionate vastness. They might be considered Fénéon’s Human Comedy.
My friend Kio and I thought it was a perfect narrative to bring to Twitter. She talked to a friend at NYRB (the publisher) and got permission to reprint the text in serial form over Twitter. NYRB are quite excited about it.
You can follow Novels in Three Lines on Twitter at ‘novelsin3lines‘. I suggest tracking it directly using your phone for best results. We’ve agreed to do two updates per day: once at 9am (EST) in the morning like a newspaper and once at 9pm (EST) at night to give you something to smile/talk about with your friends when you’re about town.
Build something that allows you to do less. Take whatever you put the most time/effort into and build something to eliminate it.
San Francisco magazine on the best investment advice you’ll never get:
No one running a university endowment, independent foundation, or pension fund could match his numbers during his tenure: over the last 21 years, chief investment officer David Swensen has averaged a 16 percent annual return on Yale University’s investment portfolio, which he built with everything from venture capital funds to timber. He’s been called one of the most talented investors in the world. But lately he’s becoming perhaps even more famous for his advice to individual investors, which he first offered in his 2005 book Unconventional Success. “Invest in nonprofit index funds,” he says unequivocally. “Your odds of beating the market in an actively managed fund are less than 1 in 100.”
You can also compare past fees for different funds before you invest. For example, if you had put $100,000 into Putnam’s Small Cap Growth Fund Class B Shares and held it for the past five years, you would find that Putnam would have charged you $13,809 in fees during that time. Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund, on the other hand, would have charged only $1,165 for the exact same investment.
In some ways indexing is a no-brainer: invest your money and let it do its thing. Still, there are varieties. Aperio Group’s Patrick Geddes pushes two rules in choosing a fund: “The broader the better, and the cheaper the better.” When you invest in a broad domestic fund, you’re investing in the entire U.S. economy, or “owning capitalism,” as it were, Geddes says. The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, which represents about 99.5 percent of U.S. common stocks, is a great one to start with. If you choose a narrower fund, like a tech or energy index, you’re basically just speculating (though you’ll most likely still fare better than if you tried to pick the next Google). Narrow index funds also typically command higher fees. With indexing gaining in popularity, everyone’s trying to get into the game and sneak in unnecessarily high fees. Geddes says there’s no good reason to pay more than .19 percent.
At the end of the day, we all want to beat the market. Only a few do. The others pay for it with big fees.
sweet nothings whispered
“think good thoughts” she says
patiently he waits
Chris Brogan on why Twitter is winning:
One way to win in software is to make your application fertile for building upon. [...] Give people tools to build an ecosystem around it.
I will definitely be up early on those mornings and will start the day by running up Park Avenue to Central Park from my place. Ben and I were thinking about having a picnic in the middle of the street. Only it will be more a breakfast picnic than a BBQ afternoon picnic. Also, we won’t have an ant problem because, well, it’s in the middle of the street.
So what else is going to happen in these empty streets? It’s like a big, empty game board – and we’ve all been invited to create something on top of it. No doubt we’ll see water fights and maybe the occasional open fire hydrant (calling back to a city of old). Bikers and runners. Street vendors (we will all be hungry). Musicians and performers. Parades. Open markets? Street games. Sidewalk chalk all over the place.
Any other ideas come to mind? Let’s connect and make something of each day.
Bonus: The Streets – Has It Come To This?