Cool stuff in upcoming WordPress 3.6

WordPress 3.6 is not too far away, with the first beta already released last week.   WordPress VIP blog did a very nice and very visual overview of the changes and new features in the release.  For me personally, these are the highlights: log out notifications, better autosave, and a new look for post formats.

WordPress logout notification

Things that I still hope to see one day in WordPress are: some sort of standard for post formats (cross-theme support, mobile app support, etc), and easier way of development and deployment across multiple environments (dev/test/live servers, etc).  Regardless of my pending wishes, WordPress is still an awesome piece of software, which gets even more awesome with each release.

Annoying software

Slashdot is running the post about annoying software.  The fact that Slashdot crowd mostly consists of computer geeks is sort of a guarantee for some interesting comments.

With my Fedora 9 saga I had to review and try a lot of new software.  Needless to say, I found quite a few annoying bits.  Here is a brief list, just to give you an idea:

  • Clock applet in Gnome. It shows calendar with Sunday being first day of the week.  If you don’t like it, you’ll have to recompile your locale to change it. This one is cancelled out though by an excellent support of Google Calendar (or, for that matter, any other web published calendar).
  • Metacity window manager in Gnome. Window titles are displayed in the middle.  This is really annoying for those of us who are used to seeing them on the left.  There is no option to change this setting either in GUI or in GConf.
  • Pidgin new message notification. I once had it popping up nice looking bubbles, but I don’t remember how I managed to do it.  I also don’t remember how I managed to break it.  And I have no idea to bring them back.  I really miss them though.
  • WordPress 2.5 post editing screen. It has been much reworked in the latest version and looks and feels so much better. However, the list of categories was moved from a really convenient location on the right of the screen to a really inconvenient location at the bottom of the screen.
  • FileZilla FTP manager. This one drives me nuts with server connections.  It either disconnects every 40 seconds when being idle.  Or it keeps multiple connections open forever and most FTP servers block me out temporary.
  • Request Tracker (RT3). Works perfectly with queues and tickets, but annoys the heck out of me when I need to do something with users.  Users aren’t first level citizens, like tickets.
  • SugarCRM. Excellent business tool, with lots of small annoyances, like not being able to set default user role, disable theme selector everywhere, change logos to company ones, lock down the functionality, etc.  Most of these are easily fixable.  But some aren’t as trivial as they may sound or seem.
  • Google Reader. This one annoys me a bit (but often) when I want to leave a few items in the feed unread and go deeper into archives.  Somehow it keeps marking everything I passed as read.

Now, what piece of software were you annoyed with recently?

Hope to see more language controls in Google Reader

If you read this blog even for a short while, you probably know that I depend on many Google tools, such Gmail and Google Reader. As a power user, I believe I know pretty much everything these services have to offer. I also know a few things that these services don’t have on offer yet, but which I’d gladly welcomed.

I already mentioned a sharing of interesting items in Google Reader with your contacts. That’s a really nice feature. And you can even control which users you see shared items from. However, one important thing is missing in that functionality – language control.

You see, I don’t have that many friends who are using Google Reader and share items, but even those few that I have speak a total of 7 languages (Russian, English, Greek, French, Ukrainian, Dutch, and German). Not only they speak this languages, but they also share a lot of items in those languages. That is sort of useless, since I only know two languages – Russian and English. These two are enough to provide the common ground for communications with all of my friends.

So, what I would really like to see in Google Reader, is a new setting which would let me filter my friends’ shared items to only those languages that I can understand. I know this can be a bit tricky to implement (how does the system know in which language the shared item is? or, even, what should it do if shared item is in more than one language?), but it would be really helpful functionality. And a huge time saver too, since then I wouldn’t have to go through all those items that I have no understanding off and marking them as read.

Should such a feature appear, I’d like to see it taken to extreme. I should be able to automatically tag or do searches on content in specific language. This will give me a useful tool of comparing hype about the same topic in different language communities.

Gmail filter activity feature wish

Since my Gmail account gets all my mail from all my email address, I have a huge list of filters configured to sort all that mail the way I want.  After reading this post, I got a bit worried and went to check if there were any filters in my account that I haven’t created.

That was the moment when I got this idea for a new feature – filter activity report. This should work similar to how feed activity works in Google Reader.  With a tiny bit of statistics it easy to drop inactive feeds to clear up the  list of your subscriptions.  The same way, it should be easy to drop old and inactive filters from Gmail.  It should be pretty trivial to do.  Even interface-wise it should be pretty easy with something like “Last used on [insert date here]” indication near each filter in the filter management screen.

Passing forward with Google Reader

One of the cool things that can be done with the Google Reader (now that it integrates with Gtalk contacts), is proxying of items from one set of people to another via a common connection.  Consider, for example, my contact list with Person A and Person B, both of who don’t know each other, but share a common interest.  Person A is subscribed to Mega Feed RSS, which neither me, nor Person B is subscribed to.  One day there is a really cool post in the Mega Feed RSS, which Person A markes as “shared”.  Since Person A is in my contact list and I decided to see his shared items too, that item will popup in my Google Reader.  I’ll read it, and then decide that it is indeed a great post which some of my other contacts might be interested in.  Instead of annoying them all with an email, I’ll just mark it as “Shared” in my Google Reader, and this item will appear in Person B’s items from friends.

Here are the nice parts of the above process:

  • One news channel for everything – your news, and news from your friends.  No mixing of RSS items with emails and IMs.
  • No data duplication.  We don’t copy-paste and send the item over and over again.  Instead, we just share the same piece of data.
  • Control of the incoming streams in user hands.  If you don’t like the items someone is sharing, just “hide” the user via “Settings”.  Nobody is annoying anybody.
  • People in your contact list help you find the sources and content that you might be interested in.

Google Reader and Google Talk integrated. Sort of.

Google Reader has been recently integrated with Google Talk.  Somewhat.  If you use Google Reader and Google Talk, and you have some buddies in your Google Talk contact list, who also use Google Reader, then from now on you will be able to see each other’s shared items.  Through the “Settings“, you can control who you want and don’t want to see in the “Friends’ shared items“.

This is a really nice piece of functionality.  First of all, it saves you all the effort of finding and subscribing to “Shared items” RSS feeds of all your friends one by one.   Secondly, it helps to highlight interesting stuff from your buddies, even those that you might accidentally omitted from your subscriptions.

So, what am I missing there?  Two things.

First, the option to rename buddies.  I am blessed with contacts who choose all sorts of nicknames and avatars.  I prefer real names.  And I attach real face pictures to all my contacts whenever I can.  And I’ve done it in my Gmail contacts.  That information should be used for the Google Reader friends list.

Secondly, I need an option to enter a discussion with my friends regarding an item in my Google Reader.  That can be something I have shared, or that can be something my friends shared.  I want a “discuss in chat” and “discuss in email” buttons.  “Discuss in email” should be, in this case, different from “Email this item”.  We both (me, and the friend with who I’m entering a discussion) have read the item.  We just need a reference, like a subject, and URL to the item (original article?), just in case we need to run through it again or quote something.

While the second point is harder to implement (requires user studies, interface cluttering, etc), I’m really surprised that the first one wasn’t done.

Undo for sending in Gmail

Google Blogoscoped runs this post speculating about an “undo” option for Gmail.  I’ve touched this topic some time ago in my “You can’t recall an email” post.  The base for that post of mine was purely technical.  What is sent is sent, and there is no way to get it back.

With another look on this issue, I see that technical side can be controlled to a certain degree.  Webmail providers (such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, etc), can indeed delay the outgoing message by a few seconds.  Countdowns and disappearing buttons aren’t an issue either – we have plenty of technology these days (AJAX, Flash) to implement them.  And there is a certain demand for the functionality too – this can be judged by all those browser plugins and extensions, like the one mentioned in the Blogoscoped article.

Still, I’m standing on the side of “don’t do it”.  I think it’ll add to the confusion of the interface and the complexity of the system, without too much benefits in return.  I don’t think that we should have an “undo” for everything either.   And I think that the old way of “sorry, forgot to attach this document” works pretty well and sometimes makes people to actually read through and think over again about what is that they are planning to send out.

What do you think?  Would you like to see an “undo sending” button in your email client?

Time dimension to Google Maps

One thing that Google Maps could benefit from is a time dimension.  Imagine, being able to scroll the time-line while looking at the satellite picture of the same place.  You could see how cities are growing, roads built, and rain forests destroyed.  You could see traffic jams.  You could see how building shadows drop to find the better parking in a hot place like Cyprus…

I guess Google will have to collect much more data than they already have though.

GMail enhancement request

Now that I’ve really thought about things that I want to see in GMail, I remembered that I didn’t blog about one thing. Or forgot that I did. I want a separate signature for each of my accounts. Ideally, I’d have some interface – similar to filters – to set some conditions and the resulting signature. But if I just could have a static one, separate for each email address, that would have been good enough. Until then I’ll have to stick with the simpe “Leonid Mamchenkov” bit. No URLs, no titles – no automatics.

Hellenic Bank – they did it!

Hellenic Bank has been one of the best banks on the island for some time now. The difference between all of them is very small, but in this case, that’s what makes it more noticable.

One of the reasons that I switched to Hellenic Bank was that their Internet Banking website was working in Mozilla Firefox. And not only it was working, it was almost perfect – all operations were available and there was no need for a Java plugin or anything like that.

A minor annoyence existed though. Main menu was a little bit screwed up and didn’t show completely. It was possible to see it by clicking the little menu frame and either selecting text in there, or using the scoll mouse. Not very comfortable, but at least it worked.

Last week Hellenic Bank finally fixed the issue. Now everything looks and works perfect. More reasons, therefor, to stay with them in the coming year.

If I was to pick a feature that I miss the most, it would be the SMS notification for the change of account balance. Currently I can only setup alerts which will notify me if account balance goes above or beyond a certain amount. But what I want to have is an SMS when something changes at all. Other banks have it and I don’t see any reasons why Hellenic Bank can’t have too.

Anyway, I am still pretty pleased with their service.