ellipsix informatics
2014
Mar
12

Ellipsix Informatics is on Facebook!

I finally broke down and made a Facebook page for this site. There probably won't be anything there other than blog posts, at least not for a while, but if that's how you want to find out when I post new things, have at it!

2010
Jul
26

Linkless URLs in Facebook statuses

Facebook doesn't seem to distinguish between posted links and status updates anymore, which means that whenever you try to post a status with a URL in it, it automatically turns it into a posted link. Granted, they are mostly equivalent, but a link won't show up as your current status or in the status update RSS feed, which I find annoying. But there is a solution! In retrospect, this should have been pretty obvious, but when you put a URL in your status, in the top right corner of the info box that pops up, there is a blue X which you can click to prevent Facebook from including meta-information about the URL. This has the side effect of making Facebook treat your update as a regular status, rather than a link.

2010
Jul
25

Facebook does bug reports right

There are a lot of complaints you could make about Facebook, many of them legitimate, but the bug reporting process is one thing I think they really do well.

A while ago I had occasion to report a problem with the message inbox showing up as a blank page. As the first step in the process, Facebook presents you with a grouped list of categories corresponding to the different features of the site. Each one is tagged with the same icon used on other menus, so it's easy to identify, and the images really help to visually distinguish the different categories. I much prefer that to the standard bug reporting interface, where all you get is a combo box with a long list of different products or categories (text-only of course), some of which you may not even be familiar with.

On Facebook, when you click the category that matches your bug, you get a list of the common reports that have already been filed under that category. But unlike a typical bug listing which uses the (often non-descriptive) bug report titles submitted by users, the titles are written by members of the Facebook team, and they're all plain-English descriptions of the problem as seen from the user's perspective, not technical descriptions of what's happening behind the scenes. Each bug title is accompanied by a few sentences describing the bug in more detail and providing simple workarounds to try (if any), which filters out a lot of potential duplicate reports that have easy solutions. That saves both the user and the developers a fair amount of effort. And finally, when the workarounds don't work, each description includes a link to submit a new report, with a unique ID for that bug description already included in the submission form. That means the vast majority of the bug reports Facebook receives are automatically grouped according to their visible symptoms, which makes it a lot easier to identify duplicates.

Of course, I'm well aware that the bug tracker for this site has basically none of the characteristics I'm praising Facebook for. So sue me. (Don't sue me) I've really only been exposed to various versions of Bugzilla, so that's what I based my tracker on, but it is still a work in progress. I'm thinking maybe as I keep adding to it, I may start emulating Facebook on this a bit.

2010
Jul
24

RSS Graffiti

I decided it's about time to start syncing the posts I make here with Facebook to get some exposure for this site. Not because I think anyone will really care about my content, but everyone else seems to be doing it. I guess it puts pressure on me to write more interesting stuff, that's probably good.

Anyway, to test out the system and also as sort of an unsolicited "kickback" to what seems like it might be a good program, I wanted to mention RSS Graffiti. I picked up on it from a mention on the Webapps Stack Exchange site. Basically it's an RSS/Atom feed aggregator: you configure it with the URLs of any number of feeds, and specify which ones should show up on your profile and the profiles of any groups, events, or pages you administer. The app checks periodically for new entries and posts them up to the destinations you specified. Nice and simple, which is actually just what I've been looking for in a Facebook RSS aggregator for a while. Here's hoping it works as well as it looks!