Automatic Tweeting – the newly introduced social aspect of FeedBurner

Socialize - FeedBurner to TwitterJust a couple of weeks back, FeedBurner, without much fanfare, stepped into the social arena. As it is with Google, the surprise came as an extremely useful feature: Automatic Tweeting based upon your feed.

Bloggers who use FeedBurner to publish their feeds can immensely benefit from this new addition. It does away with one whole extra step of using a third-party client (or the Twitter website) for publicizing your posts.

How does it work?

Upon publishing a new post…

  1. FeedBurner immediately grabs your post’s title
  2. Shortens the post’s URL using goo.gl (another recent introduction)
  3. Adds any custom messages and hashtags that you’ve set
  4. And posts it to your Twitter profile

… and the while making sure that the tweet doesn’t exceed 140 characters. Pretty cool ay? If required, it can set set to leave room for retweets too.

The tweeting feature can be setup via the Publicize tab of FeedBurner using this new sidebar item titled Socialize.

FeedBurner's Socialize  settings for  Twitter

If required, tweets can be sent to multiple Twitter accounts. For detailed explanation of individual settings, see here.

Is you ask me, this feature is certainly going to obsolete quite a few WordPress plugins offering similar functionality.

Feedburner: When you face a – Your Ping resulted in an Error “Ping is throttled. Please try again in a minute or so.”

Content TheftYesterday I came upon a couple of splogs ripping off my feeds and publishing the content as their own – lock, stock and barrel (if I may), including the ugly SHA1 hash that I was using as a digital fingerprint to detect content theft.

Digital fingerprints (a unique combination of random characters) happen to be a very good way of nabbing content rippers. 99.99% chances are that these people use automated programs (bots) that scrape content off third-party blogs  (primarily from feeds) and post as their own, which are then used in conjunction with various monetization programs (e.g. AdSense) to generate revenue for the splogger. The scraper bots make verbatim copies of your content and are unable to distinguish between actual content and the fingerprint – hence that too gets published in the splog. Catching such rip-offs can be as simple as doing a Google search for your fingerprint.

Problem lies with that fact that an ugly string of random characters is appended to each of your feed item, which gets displayed to your valid subscribers too. It short, it “destroys” the presentation, creating a nasty impression about your blog. Sploggers on the other hand aren’t bothered by this as all they care about is posting content and making money from it.

While the fingerprint helps you detect content theft, there isn’t much that you can do about it except for going through a lengthy process of serving a notice to the splogger and then informing the web-host (citing the DMCA) in case of non-action. Hence, I decided to get rid of the fingerprint and append a custom copyright message to my feed footers instead – with links back to my post and blog. At least this way it earns me some form of attribution – without making the feed look ugly.  Incidentally, the most suitable plugin I found for this job is Better Feed.

What’s all this got to do with FeedBurner?

Coming to that in a moment. That was a rant that I absolutely HAD TO get out of my system.

Once I was done with my new feed footer,  I tried using the FeedBurner Ping service to update my feed.  That’s when this error message got shoved into my face…

Your Ping resulted in an Error “Ping is throttled. Please try again in a minute or so.”

Googling for it didn’t fetch me any solution – just pages upon pages of complaints to the same effect. Most likely, it’s a problem that’s taken roots in recent times. Whatever, the cause was, it kept me at bay for hours! It simply wouldn’t let me see my updated feed (my blog feed is set to auto-redirect to FeedBurner).

The Solution

Feedburner "Resync now" buttonUse the Resync Now button that’s situated towards lower part of the Troubleshootize page of FeedBurner. When all else fails, hit the big red button 😀

The resync button…

  • Clears our cached version and refreshes its content from your Original Feed
  • Creates podcast enclosures for items that did not previously have them and contain links to podcast content
  • Reports any feed formatting problems encountered during the resync

… Voila! My updated feed appeared rightaway. So, if you’re facing a similar error message, my recommendation is to try the Resync button. It works.

Update: Finally came up with some information on the ping is throttled error message. Indeed, it is an issue that cropped up recently – but, at least now we have an explanation.

Grab your free Backupify (online backup) account before January 31st, 2010

Backupify is a new cool service that automatically performs secure, unlimited and scheduled backup of your data from most of the common online services like Flickr, Twitter, FaceBook, Gmail etc. to a server cloud (Amazon S3)  for a nominal fee.

However, till the 31st of January, 2010 they’re offering these accounts for free to anyone who cares to signup with them. Following this date, they’ll revert back to the paid pricing plans – but those who have signed-up before this date will continue to enjoy unlimited free services (for good).

The list of currently supported services include:

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Google Docs
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Basecamp
  • WordPress
  • Delicious
  • Photobucket
  • Blogger
  • FriendFeed

… with YouTube, Tumblr, RssFeed and XMakrs coming soon.

Backupify creates daily / weekly (your choice) automated backups from all of these services using a “Set it and forget it” mode.

While providing extremely useful services, quite a few of the online services in this list do not employ adequate security measures. As a results they’re coming under direct attack by various hacker groups. Incidents like this invariably end up in huge loss of data – data consisting of pictures, videos, documents, blog posts that are an integral part of your lifestream. Hence, one cannot adequately stress on the importance of maintaining a regular backup of this data. Moreover, most tech-savvy folks subscribe to a multitude of these services and maintaining individual backups of each profile can prove to be a nightmare.

So hurry and grab your free account before we hit Jan 31st. Spread the light as you see fit, as this can prove to be a cool gift to share with your family and friends this New Year.

Besides, as Whitson Gordon states, “It can’t hurt — after all, it doesn’t get much cheaper than free.”

Speed up your browsing experience using Google Public DNS

Came across this cool new introduction from Google named Google Public DNS – a set of DNS Servers that are meant to replace the DNS servers that you normally use (most likely handed out automatically by your ISP) and considerably speed-up your browsing experience.

This service leverages on Google’s existing search database and thus accounts for speedy (pre-cached) DNS resolution using their load-balanced servers all around the world – a service that no single ISP can provide. In my experience, the ISP based DNS in Thailand tend to be moderate to horribly slow. Switching to the Google DNS visibly improved page loading time for me. Even in the case of non-existent domains, the browser spent far less time in informing me – rather than waiting around and trying to resolve for a good while. See Performance Benefits for detailed information.

According to the documentation, Google has taken adequate measures to prevent security issues – DNS poisoning, Denial-of-Service attacks to name a few – that arise with such open DNS servers.

Using the Google Public DNS Servers is as easy as opening your TCP/IP Settings panel and keying in the new DNS addresses – which on their own are really short and sweet (and easily memorized). They are:

  • 8.8.8.8
  • 8.8.4.4

A few years back I had reviewed a similar service named OpenDNS. This service generates it’s revenue by displaying relevant advertisement on an interstitial page when a domain cannot be resolved. Surprisingly, Google’s DNS (so far) is an entirely ad-free venture.

For the weak-hearted, i.e. those of you who do not wish to mess around with your DNS settings, there’s this handy little tool named Google DNS Helper (requires .NET Framework 2.0 and above) that performs one-click switch between Google’s DNS and your own ISP’s DNS settings.

In this context, another noteworthy tool is DNS Jumper, which allows you to switch between 16 different DNS servers (configurable). The software comes pre-configured with addresses for a multitude of open DNS servers, e.g. Google DNS, OpenDNS, Comodo DNS etc. This tool will allow for quick switching and benchmarking of the various open DNS services.

So far, I had been supplementing my ISP’s DNS with those of OpenDNS and on many occasions they’ve been able to resolve domains that my ISP’s DNS couldn’t. However, the speed of resolution was at best average. Hence, I never got around to using them as my primary resolvers. With Google – maybe because of the brand name itself – I switched over immediately and voila! Amazing results.

Update (2010-07-12): A new version of DNS Jumper (v1.04) is out.

The next Web!

Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the web talks about his visions for the next generation web where all raw units of data (and not just textual information or pictures and video) are linked together. This could very well make way for a new paradigm on how data is retrieved and used.

If you haven’t got the slightest clue on what he’s talking about, take a look at Wolfram Alpha – they’ve pretty much achieved the goal. However, what’s been done here in a single web-site (drawing from it’s own in-house data store), Tim envisions for the entire web.

A look at this side-by-side comparison of a conventional search vs. a search on Wolfram Alpha should help clarify it further.

The eternal question answered…

Came upon something interesting today…

Should I use tables for layout?