Facebook sure loves your iPhone’s battery

Previously… the Facebook app was shown to be a bugger for sapping your iPhone battery for no damn good reason. It’s still doing it. Ever since learning that about the app, I’ve had a habit of killing it each time I come out.

To be fair, I also kill it because I’ve had people believe I was online when I wasn’t. They got quite ratty.

So that was two good reasons to force-quit the Facebook app and I did, I do, I will. I’ll just avoid using it much more now.

Because of iOS 8’s great new feature that tells you what’s eating your battery time. Look at this. And tell me I really used Facebook five times more than I did OmniFocus yesterday.


Refresh app: just when you get used to it feeling creepy…

It’s still not out in the UK so you’ll just have to trust me here, but there is this iPhone app called Refresh which parses your calendar and prompts you with conversation starters for people you’re about to meet.

Refresh is very clever and it seems supernatural how it combs sources like LinkedIn to present its information. But as well as the fact that I will never use its suggested conversation openers – I prefer “Hello” to “Say, weren’t you on holiday in Marakesh from 16 July to 18 August?” – there are oddities. And these oddities keep reminding you of how Refresh is sitting on the very line between useful and creepy.

It’s meant to prompt you before a meeting and it does so, but not always. I forgot that I still had it after reviewing the app. Until one day, two months later, it pinged with details of the woman I was meeting to discuss a writing project. I showed her what it said and she revealed that it was all wrong: she had purposely lied on LinkedIn and Facebook in order to defeat this kind of thing.

But then I had a meeting right after that and Refresh didn’t do anything. But then I had a third meeting and it pinged.

A few weeks later, I was going to an event I’d produced and it pinged with what it called a dossier about a particular someone else who was going. That was freaky-plus because my calendar just had the event name and there was nothing I could see that named her – and didn’t name half a dozen other people that Refresh was ignoring.

But still, you know, even though I could just delete it and walk away, I am drawn back to it. There is something so smart about what it does that I’m fascinated at the algorithm. Plus, it gave me the name of someone’s partner and I’d forgotten it. So thank you, Refresh.

Except, last night I got something new. Have a look, see what you think. Is this what I was really doing last night?


It’s okay to use Facebook Messenger

It’s not great, but it’s okay. The security and privacy and just plain tedious issues around it have been exaggerated. True, Facebook is to privacy what Microsoft is to taste and, true, Facebook only profits by what it can leverage out of us. It’s becoming a saying: if a product is free, then you are the one being sold.

However, the specific issues around Messenger aren’t what they seemed. The complaint that most spooked me was that the app uses your iPhone’s microphone. It does. If you agree to it. Don’t thank Facebook for that qualification, thank Apple: apps cannot access your microphone, your photos, your contacts or anything else without asking you first. Android isn’t so bothered.

Facebook does make it sound as if it wants your mic for nefarious purposes where really it’s to allow you to send audio messages. I didn’t know you could, but apparently it is or it is going to be like the voice-text kind of thing that is currently in WhatsApp and will shortly be in iOS 8.

It also says that it might make calls on your behalf. Hmm. But that’s muddy-speak for if you tap a contact’s number on your Messenger screen, Messenger will dial them for you.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, it’s still a pain to deal with Facebook’s constant pressing for more access. I find it extremely annoying that I’ll get a notification on my Facebook icon for a new message in Messenger. Open one, then have to open the other, tap to go back, tap to get out, it’s just ugly.

But it’s not as murderously objectionable as I thought. Read more about this and what’s really going on over in TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog).

At last – Facebook adds Read It Later feature

Or it will. Currently this is rolling out across Facebook’s eleventy-billion users and I haven’t got it yet. When it comes, it will definitely let you mark an interesting update and save it to read sometime later. It’s going to be for those updates you don’t have time to read right now but you’re doubtlessly also going to use it for bookmarking favourite updates.

What I’m hoping for – and can’t tell until we get to play with it – is this will finally be a way to deal easily with bleedin’ invitations. You’ve had this: pop, someone’s invited you to something. Unless you decide right then that you want to go and also that you can, invitations are a pain. I have ignored invitations just to postpone having to make that decision. I’ve come off Facebook to postpone either making that decision or losing track of the event.

There is a way to handle this and I’ve shown you before. But with the best will in the world, what I showed you was a cludge.

If Facebook’s new feature will just let me tap a Save for Later button, that could all be solved. Except that I’d need to remember to look at my saved items regularly.

Here’s Facebook’s announcement.

How to add Facebook events to your normal calendar

Facebook is all about sharing – until you want to go outside its walled garden. It is a right bugger trying to get anything out of the Facebook app and into anything else and nowhere is this more ragingly painful than with events.

If I get a notification on Facebook that someone has invited me to an event, sometimes I will avoid reading it until I know I can do something about it. Until I know that I will be able to check my calendar and know whether I'm free. Until I know for certain that I can make the decision and say yes right away, I will sometimes come off Facebook rather than do it or lose the notification.

And other times I just say bollocks to it all, I don't know if I can go so I'm going to say I'm not going.

It is possible to link Facebook to your regular calendar. That's certainly true on a Mac or iOS where Facebook is baked into the operating system, I'm sure it must be easily possible on PCs and Windows too.

I will never know.

Not because I won't bother to try it on a PC but because I will not do it on anything. Most especially not on my Mac.

Because that setting links your calendar and your contacts: every bleedin' Facebook person you know is then automatically added to your phone book. There are people on Facebook I can't even remember adding as friends and my Contacts book is long enough already. I'm not doing that.

Now, because I won't do that – you try undoing the addition of hundreds of people to your phone book – I can't test out what happens with calendars. It seems highly, highly likely to me that if you give Facebook the keys to your calendar, it will use them. It will add every Facebook event to your calendar.

But have you see every Facebook event? Tonight I decided to sort this out for good and in doing so poked around a lot. I saw my complete list of Facebook events and there are dozens upon dozens of which I am going to one. And of which I had heard of two. Dear god in heaven, keep Facebook away from my calendar.


I did this so you don't have to: I worked through how to tease a single event out of Facebook. I was invited to something, I fancied going but wasn't sure I could make it, so I got it out of Facebook and I added it to my calendar. I did so prefixing it with ¿ (just as I recommended here) and I'll look at later at whether I can make it. I'll look later because I can. Because it's in my calendar and I chose to put it there.

It's a measure of how frustratingly locked down Facebook is that this feels like a victory.

Here's how to do it.

1) Go to the Events page on a web browser, not the Facebook app.
2) Find the event, click or tap to go into it
3) Look for the … option toward the top and click that
4) Choose Export Event
5) Choose Send to Email

There may be several email addresses available to you there in a drop-down menu: choose a real, non-Facebook address.

You'll get a calendar invitation file, a .ics, in your email. Click on that and you'll see more details than you ever care to know (like the list of everybody who's said they're going) but also an option to add it to your calendar.

Does that sound like a faff? Imagine figuring it out like you're searching for an Easter Egg in a game. That was me tonight.

It's a waste of time, having to get an emailed .ics before you can do anything about it, but at least it works.

Smart stuff from Gwyneth Paltrow at tech conference

My bad: I knew Paltrow is an actor, I didn’t know she is one of the people behind the lifestyle website Goop.com. Maybe primarily because I hadn’t heard of Goop.com. It’s got more about clothing than I’m interested in – look at me, do I look like I pay attention to clothes? – but there’s travel, recipes and also a related app with travel guides. And Gwyneth Paltrow just spoke at California’s Code Conference about the site, the app and much more.

According to Re/code, she spoke about anonymous internet comments and how it feels to be “a person in the culture that people want to harm”. Read the full Re/code piece for more but I was especially taken with this series of comments about the internet in general and Facebook in particular:

Facebook actually started as a place to judge women on their pulchritude or lack of it. I think it’s kind of fascinating that a company that’s so huge and that would come to define much of the modern Internet was founded on this objectification of human beings.

Celebrities, we’ve always gotten stones thrown at us and, you know, for good reason: We’re annoying. Some of us look okay, we look like we have money, our lives seem great. That may or may not be the case … Nevertheless, we get it. Or, at the very least, we expect that it’s part and parcel to what we do. Anyone in any field who has their head rise above a poppy in the field, they get their heads chopped off. It’s our human nature to feel that way, and to do it. … Everybody takes shit, it’s just the way it is.

Perhaps the Internet has been brought to us as a test in our emotional evolution. What is growth? What is maturity? It’s being able to experience an external event and creating the space within to contain that experience, to see it through the filter of who you really are, to not be reactive. To see someone in a dress you don’t like, and instead of writing from a username like shitebomber207: ‘Who does this fat bitch think she is,’ or whatever, even though you might feel that way, just stopping and saying to yourself, ‘I wonder what this image represents to me that I feel such a surge of anger?’ To love the Internet for what it provides, but to know it’s not real, and it’s sometimes dangerous for our development.

I don’t ever expect my venture Goop.com to contribute and advance the collective code-base or redefine social selling, though don’t count us out. But I expect us to be ourselves no matter what the reaction, to know that it’s okay to be at once irreverent and practical. … And above all, to not give a fuck if the Facebook guys think we’re hot or not.

Tweet in your sleep

This came up at a couple of recent The Blank Screen workshops: how to send tweets or Facebook messages when you’re not around. Both times it came up, it was evil people who’d just learnt I start work at 5am and they wanted to send me a tweet to check. But weren’t so keen or so evil that they wanted to be up at that time.

If you have nicer reasons to do it, try one of these two possibilities:

Free for personal use hootsuite.com
Log in once to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and/or Foursquare and write a message for it to send to any or all of them whenever you tell it to.

A free iOS app and a free website – buffer.com – doesn’t have Foursquare, so far as I can tell, but does the others easily and reliably.

I use Buffer for my personal Self Distract blogs that I write and publish on Friday mornings. The first tweet is live but then I always intend to send another one around lunchtime. And then that evening. And a last one the following Monday. Buffer lets me write the lot one after another and know that it is being sent for me at the time I say.

I do this because I regularly forget to send the tweets live. Now I regularly forget that they are going to be sent live and I suddenly get a unexpected notifications of retweets from the various tweets Buffer has sent for me.

Lying on Facebook

notificationsPreviously…  about six weeks ago I told you of a new iPhone app that scanned your calendar and researched details on all the people you are due to meet. It’s called Refresh and as yet it is still not available in the UK. My quick summary review was that Refresh is astonishing, if not a little creepy. It suggests conversation topics (“Say, haven’t you just been to Cuba?”) and that was far too far.

Now, read on.

I’ve not used Refresh since I finished the review but I also didn’t delete it. Chiefly because I forgot all about it. But last weekend I it prompted me. I had a calendar event called just “Alan and Cathy” and Refresh prompted me with extensive details about Cathy. Without my asking or even realising, it was parsing the calendar and it recognised which Cathy even though the entry didn’t include her surname. I have no idea why it didn’t pick up on who Alan is. I also have no idea why it prompted me then when I must’ve had a dozen meetings in the past six weeks.

Nonetheless, it was fascinating: it had culled details from Facebook, LinkedIn and I think other places but I can’t tell what. I really did learn things I hadn’t known about Cathy. And I was able to start a conversation. “Say, did you know you share the same birthday as Emmylou Harris?”

“Yes,” she said.


Yesterday I had four meetings and Refresh nudged me with a notification for two of them. One of which was startling because while it was with someone I haven’t really known all that long, I had no idea she was a Philosopher with a particular company, I had no idea she lived in Bulgaria.

She hasn’t. She isn’t.

She’s friends with a security consultant who winced at her Facebook profile and said she was saying far too much, she was making identity theft far too easy. So she tells me that she had a quick run through her Facebook page and changed everything to a lie.

I love that Refresh has this almost alchemy-like ability to ferret out information and that it is stymied by good, old-fashion porky pies.

Refresh is free on the US App Store here and the company says it will be coming to the UK.


 Brevity. Soul. Wit.

This made me laugh.

There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.


The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

Both of these are from an article on Buffer.com. (Buffer is a service that lets you write tweets in advance and it posts them to a schedule you specifiy. I’ve started using it on Fridays for when my personal blog, Self Distract, goes up. I’ll write the first tweet about it live but I’re recently used Buffer for the other times I mention it, specifically around lunchtime and early evening on Fridays – because otherwise I often forget.)

I have no reason to doubt or suspect or really in any meaningful or statistical way do anything but completely believe this information about writing short tweets and updates.

I am just humanly incapable of ever doing it. I see writing as our getting to talk, me and you, not as some trigger to get a reaction from you. Let alone to get 17% more of a reaction.

Plus I wish places would stop calling things scientific when they mean statistical.

But on the one hand, maybe you care about this detail more than I do, in which case I want you to see the full feature on Buffer.com. And on the other hand, maybe you like my Brevity – Soul – Wit headline as much as do. In which case I want you to see the Royal Shakespeare Company mug that has it written on.