Search outside your world

Like a lot of people, I sometimes ponder new ideas for apps and websites. I wanted to play around with Axure so I thought I’d have a quick go at mocking up my app idea. I’ve discovered 2 things – Axure’s power is limited by a frustrating lack of a few basics, and just playing around with really basic text/images took me down an ugly 90’s path! For that I’m sorry! With a little longer, I could make it less awful but I think I’ve done enough to show the thing. So…

Sometimes you want to search outside your world, you want to search in another country’s search engine, in their native language, but without knowing that language. Google’s great but when you reach the end of sites with translated content you need to hit the manual route: start on translating terms yourself, searching, translating back, and repeat. Google deprecated their search API to stop the creation of apps which are too close to Google’s own features but I still think this app is achievable using Google Translate’s API and a bit of web scraping. I’m not building it, just thinking out my idea. You say your search term and pick which country and language you’re searching and the results are returned in both the native language and your own. What do you think?

Mockup - Search outside your world

Mockup icon image credits – all images are from the Noun Project:

Shit’s Goin’ Down app

Paper-prototype: click for full-size
Sketch: click for full-size


At the weekend I spent a couple of hours sketching out some ideas for a new app. This app will probably never become anything more than some ideas on paper. CAVEAT: I’m fully aware that there may already be this exact app idea or this exact app name out there but I thought of an idea and drew it out so whatever is out there already isn’t mine and this isn’t theirs either.

The whole app is centered around a map and a button – click the button to alert people to stuff that’s happening (good or bad), pulsing markers appear on the map to show that stuff. Apps need catchy names so this one is called “Shit’s Goin’ Down”. I’m not normally a sweary person… but what the hell!

Main screen. Button to alert people, map to show alerts.

What could people send alerts for? I was imagining you could use this in bad situations such as flood waters rising, rivers bursting banks, looting, fire, police cordon, fights, powercuts… all mostly centered around warning people. Good alerts are more marketable – bands playing, events, flashmobs, freebies, etc.

Good Shit Bad Shit


M💗P = Minimum Lovable Product


M💗P: the minimum that I think that this app would need in order to be useful and fun for people:

  • Twitter Authentication (to allow the app to send tweets from your account)
  • Location (to grab your geolocation and add it to the tweet)
  • Access to Twitter’s API (in order to collect the data to map it)
  • Location map (to see where things were happening)
  • Time Degradation (misspelling!) (to allow markers on the map to fade over time)


An example tweet
An example tweet

Button pushes would post tweets. Independent from this the app would then be able to monitor Twitter to gather markers to add to maps.

So… what do you think? It’s a bit of a fun project but I think it has potential.

Making The Edimax EW-7811UN 150Mbps Wireless Nano USB Adapter Work With Ububtu 13.04

I’m posting this here not because I solved the problem myself but because it was a mighty faff to find the right way to get this thing working without downloading the files via apt-get. It does work (in the end) – here are the steps:

  • Since you don’t have an internet connection you’ll need to download these two three files: realtek-8188cus-wireless-drivers-3444749-ubuntu-1304, realtek-8188cus-wireless-drivers-3444749-ubuntu-1304 and DKMS (on which the driver relies)
  • Navigate to your downloads folder in terminal and install the DKMS dep: dpkg -i _________.deb
  • Install the drivers
  • Blacklist the old drivers sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf by adding the following lines:
    # Blacklist native RealTek 8188CUs drivers
    blacklist rtl8192cu
    blacklist rtl8192c_common
    blacklist rtlwifi
  • Remove the wifi card and reboot

Favourite Web Tools

Some handy tools that I’ve found over the past few years:

Development tools

SEO tools

Office tools

Computer repair tools


Replacing Google Reader with Tiny Tiny RSS

When Google announced that they were shutting down Reader it was a bit of a surprise as it seemed to me that a lot of people that I know relied on it. It was easily my most visited site – it was where all of my most visited sites lived! Anyway, instead of dwelling on Google I set out looking for an alternative. I liked the idea of a DIGG product, but didn’t want to wait. I think Feedly would do the trick for me, but I wanted something that I could be the boss of. Lifehacker suggested Tiny Tiny RSS and it looked like the one for me. The installation was easy enough – the steps are all here. The Android App works like a dream, even better than the way Google Reader works on Android. 🙂 The iPad version was a little bit of hassle to find but once the digest for slate plugin was activated things were sorted. I’ve set it all up on a subdomain and I’m pretty happy. At the moment it only pings all of the feeds to check for new articles when I’m in a full browser (not on Android or iPad) but that’s the next thing to work on.

I guess that I should end this post by asking “What’s next on Google’s kill list?” – especially since some of the most loyal users were punished it seems that no service is safe:

  • Latitude
  • Alerts
  • News
  • Blogger
  • Voice
  • Keep
  • TV
  • Groups
  • Offers
  • Talk
  • Drive

What do you think?

Self-Hosted Digital Diary

Paper diaries seem a bit dated for the 21st century, where all text needs to be searchable. Carrying around traditional diaries also seems a little unwieldy when everywhere we go we have an internet-capable device. So here’s an alternative – a self-hosted digital diary.

  1. Use Google Drive and set up a form with a few fields that you want to record each day (I suggest fields to record where you are, what you did, how you felt, etc – I also included a few checkboxes for basic health tracking but you can record whatever you want from long-form text to ten bullet points)
  2. Set the form to publish to a Goolge spreadsheet
  3. Go to the live form and copy the code
  4. Edit the page style and save it (you might want to prettify it a bit to strip out Google branding etc)
  5. Upload the form as a page on your website/sub-domain using ftp
  6. Visit that page each day and you’ve got a form that you can go to that will save your diary online for you

I’ve been using this for a week and it’s awesome. Let me know what you think!

Easy Webpage Highlighting With CSS

If you use Google Chrome as your browser here’s an easy way to add highlighting to a page.

  1. Go to the page you want to screenshot with some highlighting
  2. Select the text
  3. Right click on the page and click on “Inspect element”
  4. On the right hand side of the elements panel you’ll see “Styles”
  5. Click the “+” button
  6. Add the following code:::selection {
    background: #FFFF00;
  7. Screenshot away!

The One Item Museum Project

One Item Museum
My One Item Museum project website is live and I’m really happy as it has started gaining really awesome submissions. The purpose of the site is to get people to share what the one item in their house is that they feel deserves to be in a gallery or museum. The submissions have already included several items of original art, a World War 1 soldier’s kit trunk, a vintage motorbike and some dress designs from a fashion designer in the 1940s – so cool! 🙂

What do you have in your house that’s museum/gallery-worthy? Submit it now!

The website itself is far less complicated than was originally planned – I started out thinking about building a site that people could submit images to from scratch before quickly realising that piggybacking the site on Tumblr would save me a lot of headaches. Then there came the design – again this is far simpler than I started out with for one reason – getting it done. I think in the future I’d like to have only one item per page with a controller to move on to the next thing – the background for this would look like a museum with each item in a separate frame. Still – it’s all very exciting in the stripped down format. 🙂

Adding a ribbon to your site

You may have spotted ribbons on the top right (or even, horror of horrors, on the top left) of some webpages. The trend started with charity ads but now loads of sites use them to link out to related content. Well the fabulous peeps at Quick Ribbon will make (and host) yours for you for free. Check out mine on the homepage (I’ve taken advantage of it to link out to my Twitter feed since I’m starting to use Twitter more and more these days).
Have fun making your own.

How To Market Your Startup – SEO On A Tight Budget

A year and a bit ago I attended BarCamp in Edinburgh. At the time I put together a short presentation (which I ended up not presenting due to personal time constraints) but a year on I thought I’d share my thoughts on how to market a product/service on a tight budget and with as little effort as possible.

When it comes to setting up and promoting a new site the key is working Search Engine Optimisation principles into your site from the start.

  • URL choice: with most startups the URL is an essential part of the name choice. For SEO I recommend doing a bit of Googling – don’t choose a name that about a million other companies share with you (if you can possibly help it). Hosting sites will tell you if domain names are available in bulk (so don’t spend ages going to a URL then changing the TLD (end bit) from .com to to .org etc). Some of the domain name generators can be surprisingly good. Try to find something that sums up your product and is memorable.
  • Once you’ve bought your domain it’s time to put something up there. This is the point where lots of new sites often fail – do not put up a page saying coming soon or site under development. Instead you should put some real content – even if it’s just your initial sketch or an extract of a bit of code. You should start telling people about your product right from the start – there won’t be any hype if people don’t have anything to talk about! Google take a while to index sites so putting some keyword/brand name rich content up early on will help cement your site’s position in search engines.
  • Even if you only have a small amount of content and haven’t got much time or money you can still upload a free blogging platform with a basic template. People will happily look at your content even if it’s on a plain/boring looking site if you’ve got something interesting to say/show.
  • Don’t forget the basics – you really want people to be able to contact you. A contact form isn’t hard to put together but it’s surprising how many sites don’t even have an email address on them!
  • Word of mouth is a key part in promoting a new enterprise but it doesn’t have to be hard work (especially not if you’ve got something interesting on your hands). If you’re already on a social network then start by letting your friends and colleagues know about what you’re up to and move on from that and drop a polite email to sites that you think might be interested in featuring you: check out Technorati’s list of popular blogs if you need some help finding blogs in your desired market. If you put effort into slides, publicity, interviews or content make sure you blog about it and if another site is nice enough to write about you then link to their article and give some thanks for their love!

If you have any other comments about SEO on a budget or marketing a startup I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.