Saturday, February 5, 2011

Twitter and Firefox

In the beginning, I completely ignored Twitter.  Recently, I started following a few Twitter feeds (from OR people) in Google Reader, mainly because they tended to post links to things I actually found interesting (i.e., not what the tweeter had for lunch, nor where said lunch occurred).  Finally, I bit the bullet and opened a Twitter account, largely so that I could respond to the occasional provocative tweet.  (I think I'm up to three tweets so far, which should hold me for a while.)

The next step was to look for an extension to either Thunderbird or Firefox (both of which I keep open when being abused by a computer), so that I could tweet, retweet or ___ (is there a term for responding to a tweet?  tweeply?) easily.  Of course, I could just open Twitter in a Firefox tab, but that would be too low tech, right?  I found one Tbird extension, but it was an alpha version.  I found several promising looking Firefox extensions, of which the most complete and polished seemed to be Echofon.  So yesterday I installed in on my office PC (Linux Mint Isadora), where it worked well, and this morning I installed it on my home PC (Win XP), where it also worked well.

Unfortunately, in between I installed it on my laptop (also Mint Isadora), where it proceeded to spew authentication errors in an alarmingly OCD way.  In fact, short of killing Firefox from a terminal, the only way I could stop the error messages (which popped up an average of about two seconds apart) was to turn off my WiFi connection.  (I couldn't log out of Twitter, nor exit Firefox gracefully, because the incessant error dialogs were modal.)

Fortunately, I could diff my settings between the laptop and the (working) office PC.  It turns out there was a conflict with another Firefox extension, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's HTTPS-Everywhere.  This extension automatically converts insecure HTTP connections to many sites to secure HTTPS connections.  I installed it on my laptop (which likes to go out for a cup of coffee pretty often) but not my office PC (which hides behind a firewall) (although I may eventually install it there as well).  It works fine with Twitter when I surf to my Twitter account, but apparently it does not get along at all well with Echofon.  Fortunately, HTTPS-Everywhere allows you to configure which sites it will try to seduce into secure connections; by deselecting, I got Echofon to work properly (if perhaps not entirely securely).


  1. Paul, two post in one day..having too much coffee today :-) Twitter never really caught on, I guess it's just me missing the picture, since everybody else uses it constantly. Maybe I figure it out later on..

  2. @Bo: No, just one cup of coffee so far. It's either blog and tweet or grade homework.

    I completely understand the "big picture" comment; I had the same feeling (and still do, to some extent). AFAIC, the main virtue of Twitter is to point out links to web pages, blogs etc. I read an article not to long ago that the founders of Digg missed a chance to cash out for a boatload of money. It turns out that Digg (and I think Delicious) are begin replaced, not by other bookmarking sites, but by Twitter. Other than that, I look at Twitter as asynchronous IM.

  3. I hope that you start engaging with twitter more often. We need more mathematicians and scientists on there posting useful stuff.

    Personally, I think that Twitter is at the forefront of the new journalism: sources are going direct to the public. I think that we need more scientists and mathematicians engaging directly with the public and this is an excellent avenue for them to do that.

    Of course tweeting about what you had for breakfast is silly, but it helps to convey your personality. And personality is what engages non-technical readers.

  4. @vagabond92: Thanks for the comment. I agree about mathematicians and scientists posting useful stuff ("useful" being the key word). In fact, I resisted blogging for a long time, until a fellow OR professional twisted my arm at a conference, with a similar argument.

    To me, the way to put out "useful stuff" is to blog something relevant and then using Twitter to advertise the blog post. It's hard to cram a theorem into 144 characters, although with mathURL I suppose it's possible. I'm not that familiar with Twitter yet, so one thing I don't know is how often people who don't already follow someone's feed will find a meaningful tweet. I know good use of hashtags is important.

    And maybe we need more people blogging/tweeting about fencing as well. :-)

  5. Paul: what's your Twitter ID? I found many Paul Rubin's, but none of them was you. Thanks. Tallys.

  6. @Tallys: I'm parubin on Twitter. I didn't have any trouble finding your feed -- apparently there are fewer Tallys Yuneses. :-)

  7. I think Twitter is very special than Facebook.

  8. If you think that's hardcore, Imagine that I had ignored myspace, FB and Twitter as they came along, but eventually they took me over once I realized it's the only way to stay in touch with the expanded group of friends and family and the modern life. No other choice.


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