Using Twitter

A few friends have asked me to explain twitter.

Rather that re-invent the wheel, I thought I’d upload a few links that explain what it’s all about.

1. The official Twitter Help Resources / Getting Started

2. How to Use Twitter Without Twitter Owning You – 5 Tips (Tim Ferriss)

3. How to Use Twitter (Darcy Logan, includes great short video)

4. Newbie’s guide to Twitter

5. Twitter Fan Wiki (Sort of like Wikipedia for Twitter)

6 HashTags

Actually HashTags deserve a post all of their own. I’ll post something about that later.

I hope these links help. The bottom line for Twitter I think is to follow people who have something interesting to say. Don’t just follow anyone, because then the interesting comments will get drowned out with “noise”.

And the converse is that it’s important make your posts useful. Say stuff that will be interesting to people who follow you. Here’s some examples of people who post some really great twitter articles:

@Astro_Mike An Austronoaut tweeting from orbit
@tferriss Author and blogger on lifestyle design
@612brisbaneMy local ABC radio station

Oh, and if you’re interested, I’m on twitter as @NeilEnnis

Watching the World

I’ve just completed a project called “ObSrv” which will convert Google Image Searches into MediaRSS compliant RSS feeds.

If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, perhaps you should read this, or this. I love RSS because it’s an easy way to let other people know what you’re doing, and to find out news that is of specific interest to you. This blog (like almost all others) has an RSS feed. Most news sites and picture sharing sites have RSS too. This makes it easy for you to show their content on your website, or to view their content in an RSS reader.

If you don’t know what MediaRSS is, you might want to read the specification. Basically, it’s for a special type of RSS feed that contains media, such as pictures, video, and music. These feeds are cool because pictures, videos and music are much more entertaining than plain text. You can do more with them. For example, there’s a slideshow on the right hand side of this blog that updates every few seconds with pictures of hi-tech gizmos. It’s based on a Media RSS feed.

My favourite Media RSS application is John’s Background Switcher. It updates the wallpaper on your computer desktop with pictures from a Media RSS feed.

My only problem with Media RSS is that the biggest source of images on the web (Google Images) doesn’t serve up their image searches as an RSS feed. Which means that while you can search for images at google, you can’t automatically feed them into a media RSS application.

That’s where ObSrv comes in. It converts a Google Image search into a Media RSS feed.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to
  2. Type a few search words in the box. (Hint. If you want, do an advanced search in Google Images, and copy the Google Images URL into the box instead).
  3. Press ENTER or click on the “GO” button.
  4. ObSrv will give you the link to your feed.
  5. Click on the link to open the feed in a new window, or copy the URL for the feed from the textbox.

Here’s some links to some applications that you can use with RSS Image Feeds:

John’s Background Switcher (Windows desktop background switcher)

Vuvox (Slideshows)

Feed Reader

RSS Popper

What’s Next?

I’ll be adding functionality to ObSrv as time permits. My next task is to get it to convert any webpage containing images into an RSS Image Feed.

Schizophreinc Blogs!

I have a schizophrenic blog. Some days I upload copies of postcards that I receive. Other days it’s info about migration to Australia in the 60’s. And then it might be some photos of family and friends.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Which is fine by me. My attention gets pulled all over the place, and I get interested in lots of different things. A bit like Homer Simpson walking through a shopping mall 🙂

But it could make life hard for my readers, so I recently added a little Javascript widget that makes the blog change its appearance depending on what interests you. Coupled with judicious use of blogger labels, it works wonders.

It’s the same blog, but it changes shape depending on how you get to it.

Have a look at these two different links to see what I mean.

First if you’re interested in Postcards go to the blog via the URL:

Second if you’re interested in Ten Pound Poms go to the blog via the URL:

(Hint for the uninitiated “Ten Pound Poms” were migrants who came to Australia from Britain between 1950 and 1971).

There are two cool bits to this.

The first is that you get a totally different set of links at the top of the blog depending on how you view it. I do this by adding some query string parameters to the URL. (The “?pcd=1” or “?tpp=1” parts of the URL).

Secondly, using labels in the URL lets me control what articles appear when you visit. (That’s what the “/search/label/…” bit of the URL is all about).

You might think using query strings on your URL is a messy way to get to your blog. But it’s really easy to set up a domain and (using something like ZoneEdit’s “webforward”) point that domain to a more complex URL.

For example, and both point to the same blog, but I’ve used ZoneEdit to add different parameters to the URL query string.

A small Javascript widget at the top of the blog looks at the query string, and decides what sort of links to display. Basically it’s saying “If you’ve come here to look at postcards, I’ll show you some postcard links. But if you’re interested in Ten Pound Poms, then I’ll show you some different links instead.

Here’s the code. The Orange section is a javascript function to pull the query parameter out of a url. The Green section controls what gets displayed when people are interested in “Ten Pound Poms”. The Blue section is what gets displayed when people are interested in “Postcards”.

function gup( name ){ name = name.replace(/[\[]/,”\\\[“).replace(/[\]]/,”\\\]”); var regexS = “[\\?&]”+name+”=([^&#]*)”; var regex = new RegExp( regexS ); var results = regex.exec( window.location.href ); if( results == null ) return “”; else return results[1];}

var tpp_param = gup( ‘tpp’ );
var pcd_param = gup( ‘pcd’ );
if(window.location.href == ‘’)
      tpp_param = ‘1’;
if(window.location.href == ‘’)
      pcd_param = ‘1’;
if(tpp_param == ‘1’)
      document.write(‘<div id=”tpp-info” class=”sidebar section”>’);
      document.write(‘<h2 class=”title”>Ten Pound Poms</h2>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>Home</a> Ten Pound Poms | ‘);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>About</a> Ten Pound Poms | ‘);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>Links</a> for Ten Pound Poms<br/>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>Migrant Ships</a> – How we got here<br/>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=””>Musings</a> – Back to the main blog’);

else if(pcd_param == ‘1’)
      document.write(‘<div id=”pcd-info” class=”sidebar section”>’);
      document.write(‘<h2 class=”title”>My Postcards</h2>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>Home</a> – My Postcard Blog | ‘);
      document.write(‘<a href=”″>About</a> My Postcards | ‘);
      document.write(‘My Postcrossing <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Profile</a><br/>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Postcrossing</a> – A great way to send and receive postcards<br/>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Postcard Collection</a> at Flickr<br/>’);
      document.write(‘<a href=””>Musings</a> – Back to the main blog’);