fighting the lack of good ideas

show only most recent facebook news feed

(Note: I did this in Chrome – it’ll be a little different in other browsers)

I have several complaints about the book of the face – not least of which is that it likes to reset your News Feed from “Most Recent” (aka most useful) to “Top Stories” (aka whatever Facebook wants you to see).

I also like to avoid the fluff off the other columns (ads, games, groups, pages, chat, etc) when all I want is the most recent stream. So, after some searching, fiddling, and tweaking, I now have my news feed (and only my news feed) appear on the side of my screen in chronological order.

How to do what I did:

  • install the Auto Refresh extension for Chrome (only if you want the news feed to automatically update)
  • go to (this is the mobile Facebook view sorted by chronological order) in a new window (not new tab)
  • right-click on the tab holding the mobile Facebook feed, and select Pin Tab
  • click the Auto Refresh extension button and select how often you want your feed to refresh, and click Start
  • resize the window to a comfortable reading width (mine is about 15% of my screen, or about 3″)
  • slide it all the way to one side of your screen or another
  • enjoy

There are some other ways to accomplish more-or-less the same thing:

  • bookmark the mobile news feed URL
  • set the mobile news feed URL as your home page
  • sign-in to your Facebook account in more than one browser (instead of having two windows in one browser), and load the mobile edition therein

Hope this helps you like it’s helped me.

wsj thinks apple will make and sell cars

Dallas News thought so back in March (see here).

And I predicted it back in February.

Now WSJ thinks so.

“like” problems: social ‘voting’ is a bad idea

The news story making the rounds about Facebook the past few days indicates they’re working on a kind of “dislike” button.

The problem with the Facebook “like” button is the same problem Google has with Google+ and their “+1” button: it doesn’t tell you anything meaningful.

Voting on Reddit doesn’t really convey much meaning, either.

Stack Overflow tries to address this with its up/down voting and being able to see the gestalt votes as a ratio (if your rep is high enough (an admittedly low bar, but still a bar, and an aspect of the gamification of Stack Oveflow)). But that doesn’t really cut it, either.

The problem with online “voting” (or “liking”, or “plussing”, etc) is that it is a dimensionless data point.

Does getting 300 “likes” on a post make it “good”? Does it reflect on its quality in any way? How about getting nearly 400 upvotes (and only a handful of downvotes) on a question about MySQL (along with 100+ “favorites”) mean the question is good? Does it show something is popular? Are people clicking the vote mechanism out of peer pressure, because they actually agree, or because they think it needs more visibility? Or something else entirely?

Dimensionless data that gets used as if it has meaning is a problem – one of many problems of social media and web sites in general.

Of course, you will object, quality is a potentially-subjective term – what does “quality” mean, exactly, when talking about a post, website, question, etc? Is it how well-written it is? Is it how long? How funny? How sad?

Take this question I asked on Stack Overflow, “CSS – how to trim text output?” It’s clearly-written, was answered excellently in 2 minutes, and is a “real” problem I had. Yet in the 4.5 years since asking, it’s only gotten 2 votes total (both “up”, but still only two).

Reddit has upvotes and downvotes – and your comment/post score is merely the sum of the ups and downs; below a certain [relative] threshold, you won’t see content unless you ask for it.

One of the biggest problems with all of these systems is that the “score” doesn’t actually tell you anything. An atheist subreddit, for example, will tend to downvote-into-oblivion comments that are theistic in nature (especially from Christians). Quora‘s voting system is highly untransparent – downvotes don’t really seem to mean much, and upvotes are pretty much just for show.

This derives from the fact that these sites use dimensionless data and try to give it a value or meaning outside of what it really is – a number.

What should be shown is the total number of “votes” a given post has gotten – positive negative, reshare, etc – but never combined. A ratio could be displayed, but the sum of the votes is a poor plan.

Facebook, Google+, and others should offer various voting options – “up”, “down”, “disagree”, “agree”, “share”, and possibly others – some of which may be mutually-exclusive (you cannot upvote and downvote the same thing), but you might downvote something you agree with (or upvote something you disagree with) just because of how it is written/presented, etc.

And the total of each type of click should be shown – show me 10,000 people disagreed with what I said, 15,000 agreed; 20,000 upvoted, and 30,000 downvoted; 12,000 reshared it (with, or without, comment).

Using voting as a means of hiding things (and trying to prevent others from seeing them) can be somewhat akin to online bullying – revenge voting has its problems; as does blindly upvoting anything a particular person says/does. Which is why assigning (and then displaying) dimensionless data anything more than a count is dangerous.

system-wide proxying with os x (yosemite)

Perhaps you’re at a coffee shop, and want to ensure your communication is secure.

Or maybe you are out of the country, and need access to something like

What’s a body to do?

If you have a Mac, set up a system-wide proxy setting for a new Location, of course!

This is a very simple thing to do, but does require you have access to an SSH server somewhere.


  • Create a new Location in your Network Preferences (name it something ‘obvious’ like “Proxy” or “Untrusted”Locations
  • Remove services you don’t need (most likely you only need WiFi) Services
  • Go to Advanced -> Proxies
  • Enable SOCKS Proxy and set server to ‘localhost’ with ‘9999’ as the port proxies
  • Start a port-forwarded SSH session in Terminal :: ssh -D 9999 user@remotehost
  • Click OK in the Proxies setting window
  • Click Apply in the Network preferences panel

That’s it. You do need to remember to create the port-forwarded SSH connection, or your web browsers and such will fail to connect properly.

You can change Location easily via ->Location.

Tested on OS X Yosemite. It should work elsewhere, but I only have a 10.10 machine to work with.

half year update: how are my predictions so far?

Back in Feb, I published a list of tech-related predictions for 2015.

How’m I doing?

Let’s see ones that have happened (or are very close to have happened):

  • Itanium OEL’d
  • HP spinning-off business units – sorta, they’re splitting in half
  • IBM is losing value … but not as much as I predicted (yet)
  • cloud is still “a thing” – but it’s gradually becoming less of “a thing”
  • cloud hosting providers are in a price war – so I’ll count this as “kinda”
  • iPad 5 – it’s the iPad Pro, but has the expected resolution (5.6 megapixels)
  • I’m counting the iPad Pro, in conjunction with the keyboard accessory, the MacBook Flex – it’s not x86 (ARM A9X) .. but still iOS, not OS X – so I’m half right
  • Tesla has the Model S in a non-millionaire price point ($57k at the bottom end) .. but it’s not down to the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf yet :: then again, the Tesla gets substantially further on its charge than does the Volt or Leaf
  • more cities are entering the “gigacity” club – Salisbury NC just opened the 10-gigabit club