I Miss Adium

Yesterday I messed around with the 21st century ways to quickly call and message people. It’s a pain in the butt.

I’m gonna ramble about it now.

IN THE OLD DAYS – the year 2000 -…we had AOL IM. It was a simpler time. It was pretty much the only game in town for computer-to-computer messages. It’s what the kids used instead of FB/Twitter. In college we’d put where we were meeting for dinner as our away messages. We didn’t have cell phones…at least not yet.

Even then, some people had MSN Messenger, ICQ, and other messaging accounts. But it didn’t really matter, because software like Adium and Pidgin glued them all together. You had access to everybody who mattered through one free software package.

Today it’s a big cluster. Every time you want to message somebody quickly it comes with this added friction of figuring out HOW. Is this an email? A facebook message? A text message? An iMessage? What’s App? Skype? Each medium is now owned by a larger company that doesn’t want to play with the others.

Generally, one-to-one conversations tend to settle easily upon a single protocol, but groups get hairier because everybody has preferences. They want to use the thing they normally use. As people, family, friends, and work teams are distributed across the globe this issue has gotten bigger than it’s ever been. How do you get a bunch of people across the country talking to each other without it being a pain in the butt for everyone?

That comes up in my own group conversations. I’ve got group messages in iMessage and FB Messages. Anybody with an Android phone wants to be on Hangouts. But this guy (guilty) doesn’t want to be on Hangouts because he thinks Google+ is the devil. Why is he making this so DIFFICULT?!

What about conference calls? Can’t we all just Facetime each other? No, because Facetime is only for Apple stuff. And you can’t screen share in Facetime. What about Skype? Don’t we all have Skype? Yeah, but so-and-so says Google+ is free. Is it ‘better’? Uh, that’s subjective and debatable.

Facetime was supposed to be a game changer because it was going to be open-sourced. Anybody could work with Facetime – Android people, Windows people, didn’t matter. Except when they tried to implement it the patent trolls came out. The dream of Facetime being an open standard like Jabber/XMPP is dead. Now nobody can talk with anybody else.

Unless you all buy-in to a single platform. Get a Google+ account, or a Skype account…and probably someday soon a Facebook account.

I miss the days when communications weren’t based upon who used what. Also Adium had a pretty cool Link icon.

What I’d like is if the messages.app on iOS had the same philosophy as the old-school messaging clients. Let me put in my Google, FB, and other account credentials. Let me have all my messages in one app…preferably the stock app.1

That will never happen.

  1. Messages.app has something similar, but it’s based upon the old way of doing things. That’s why they call them legacy chat services

Nobody Facetimes

Ichat novideo

I’ve been trying to use IM a bit more for keeping in touch with friends, although usually what happens is I talk to the same few people instead of reaching out to people I haven’t chatted with in a while. I don’t usually tweet out personal life things and Facebook has become way too noisy for anything useful anymore. During moments like this morning, when I’m just sitting and web surfing, I’ll open iChat and see what happens.

With iChat becoming more Adium-like in Lion1 I thought I’d give iChat with Chax a try again, thinking that iChat would give me something I’d never tried before: webcam chats.

But what I’m finding out is that nobody I know has, or has enabled, an iSight/Facetime camera. So, for me, Adium’s biggest drawback–the lack of voice and audio chats–is a moot point.

I guess they’re all on Skype.

  1. iChat for Lion consolidates duplicate contacts from multiple services in a single contact, like Adium has done for years. It also will add some kind of plugin system, like Adium has had for years. This is similar to other cases where Apple has developed third-party advancements into their own software, but this kind of thing is a natural progression for chat software. I’ve loved Adium ever since I started using it when I got my first Mac about 9 years ago, and have donated to the project, but with this new iChat adding all these features I don’t see why anyone would continue to use it after Lion…except for things like custom event notifications. I love those in Adium. 

A System For Global Keyboard Shortcuts

I used to never use keyboard shortcuts, but these days a few of them are so ingrained in my brain that I can’t live without them. On the keyboards I use, the S key is beginning to fade. It starts with Command (or CTRL) + S. From there you begin copying and pasting with keyboard shortcuts and within a week you get a little irritated when you need to use the mouse for something, or when some application (for instance, some programs from Microsoft and Adobe) uses non-standard keyboard shortcuts.

But what about GLOBAL shortcuts? What do you do on your Mac (or PC) that you need to do no matter what application is active?

Music Playback

No matter if you use an app like Coversutra or just Quicksilver, once you begin to control iTunes with your fingertips you’ll never want to go back to the old way of stopping what you are doing, switching to iTunes, and picking up where you left off. Quickly muting, rating, and forwarding to the next song is a wonderful way to work without having to stop any flow.

On Macs, what’s worked for me is this:

CTRL+OPTION+(whatever you want here)

I’ve reserved CTRL+OPTION for iTunes functions (with the exception of Omnifocus for spacebar). Want to go forward? That’s CTRL+OPTION+Right Arrow. Rate the currently playing song 3 stars? CTRL+OPTION+3. Playback/Pause? CTRL+OPTION+P. It goes on like that and works for me.

Coversutra Shortcuts - 3/14/09

Keyboard shortcuts in Coversutra

Being able to quickly rate songs like this is essential to bending iTunes to your liking, I’ve argued.

Make some app active

There are some apps that sit in the background all day that you want open, but not active. For me these are typically messaging apps like Adium and Twitterrific. To bring these up, I just hit:

CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+(whatever you want here)

For instance, to bring up Adium I use CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+D. For Twitterrific I use CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+T

Not all apps let you assign a global shortcut like this. For those instances you could build a trigger in Quicksilver. I’ve switched to Launchbar which, unfortunately, doesn’t offer triggers. If you use the site-specific-browser Fluid you can assign each SSB a shortcut like this. I’ve assigned CTRL+OPTION+COMMAND+R to Google Reader to it the active app when it’s running.

Other uses

Global shortcuts like this are really useful for actions you want to take right now. Task apps developers, like the people behind Omnifocus and Things, have made it easy for you to save an idea immediately after hitting a key combo.

The Quick Entry window in Things – by Flickr user Torley


p>If you want to do something quickly and get back to work, think of how you can get a global keyboard shortcut to do it.</p.

Adium 1.4 Will Have Twitter Support

I’ve been thinking of weening myself off the Twitter, but Adium’s upcoming implementation looks ideal.

Fear not! Using Matt Gemmell’s MGTwitterEngine, a library used to communicate with the Twitter API, I’ve managed to make what I consider to be a very good Twitter client into Adium. Your friends (people you follow) are displayed in a group on the Contact List: adding or removing will follow or unfollow them, and chatting with them will send (or receive) direct messages. Note that you can only send a direct message to someone who follows you, so it might be a one-way conversation.

Read more about it on the Adium blog, including a screenshot of Adium treating Twitter basically like group chat.

Put Your Last Played Last.FM Track In Your Adium Status

Ever since getting a Dell Mini I’ve felt somewhat disconnected from my music collection, which lives on my main machine. I used to used Adium’s iTunes script to show what was currently playing in my IM status. But now that I use IM on the Mini, I’m playing music off my iPod, and iTunes is never open. Although, I may stream music from Last.FM.

So there’s a way to work this to use your Last.FM profile instead of iTunes. What if you could simply use an Adium script to look up your Last.FM profile information and stick the last scrobbled track in your profile?

This Adium Xtra does just that. Simply insert the script, enter your username and how often you’d like that information to refresh, and you’re good to go.

Display the last track you’ve submitted on your Last.fm account. If you’re like me and play your music on another computer or media center, you can use this Xtra to show the track you’re playing now or recently played. Just like Last.fm it displays either:
"currently listening to Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin"
or, if the song is played more then 10 minutes ago:
"was listening to Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin 23 minutes ago"
"was listening to Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin 1h and 4m ago"
It’s Last.fm friendly, since it uses a delay for fetching the last track of the last.fm server. Usage Put the following in your name, status message or message:
username: your last.fm username delay: refresh time for fetching track of server (Adium refreshes like every 30 sec. so set delay to ‘6’ for every 3 minutes)

I don’t think Facebook will kill Twitter

Apparently Facebook has opened up more of its API and we’ll soon see many more tools for Facebook status (like Twitterrific for Facebook, or maybe Eventbox?).

From All Facebook:

As mentioned, Facebook has made it easier to set a user’s status. Get ready for streaming Facebook status tools galore. Just over one month ago I suggested that opening up that status API would be the first step toward Facebook killing Twitter. Now we will see if this really has as large of an effect as I claimed it would.

I’m skeptical that Facebook will kill Twitter simply because people don’t really use Twitter for the reason Twitter was invented. Twitter encourages people to post what they are doing, but I see it used more used as a microblog that asks “What are you thinking?” Meanwhile, Facebook status updates are typically “What are you doing?” updates.

In fact, I’m not sure I want to have a running stream of Facebook status updates ready to pull up at any moment. Since Adium and other instant messenger clients now work with Facebook chat, Facebook’s status updates are actually more of a fit, I think, than Twitter’s tweets for IM status. Facebook Status feeds right back into chat clients. I can see my Facebook friends’ status updates in the chat client and I can update my own status.

Plus, I’m much more likely to follow people I don’t know in real-life on Twitter than I would on Facebook. For me, Facebook is kind of like the inner-circle. I may follow you on Twitter because I’m interested in your opinions, but that doesn’t mean you’re invited to my inner-circle. On the flip-side, I’m comfortable with most anyone following me on Twitter, but not at all comfortable with just anyone wanting to be my friend on Facebook.

Part of that may be because Facebook makes me identify myself to everyone with my real identity. Twitter doesn’t. For you and I to be friends on Facebook, I think we need to have met face-to-face at least once and have gotten along well. I don’t have that requirement for Twitter.

It goes both ways, too. I like following Merlin Mann on Twitter. I follow him there because I enjoy pretty much everything he’s done and value what he has to say, even if it’s junk. But I don’t know him in real-life, so I won’t ask him for friendship on Facebook. There’s an unspoken boundary there.

Maybe I’m already too old.

There’s enough room for both right now, I think, because they both have different purposes.