Help me improve the @datahole feed!

Firstly, I need to find some good sources. I’m starting with the Open Rights Group (data protection tag) and The Register (Security / ID tag). I’d look at the EFF, but they seem to be down at the moment. I’m also using a Twitter Search feed for #datahole. I’m open to any and all suggestions for good news sources. I’m hoping the Twitter and Identica community will contribute other valuable links and commentary too.

Some of these feeds should probably be filtered using keywords like lost, personal and data. Suggest any more?

Secondly, I need a plumber. Well, not exactly! I’ve used Yahoo! Pipes for some pretty basic stuff before, but for some reason, I can’t seem to get the Reg stories to mix in with the other feeds. I think it’s because their pubDate is formatted differently, but I don’t know how to fix that. I’ve published the pipe. Please, have a look and feel free to rewire the feed.

It’d be nice to make some other tweaks too. I’d like to cite the source at the start of the tweet (eg: [EL REG]), and strip out all the other gubbins, so each post becomes: [SOURCE] Headline – Link.

Click for the Datahole 0.5 pipe

Twitter themes for dummies

Twitter introduced new themes recently, which should help bring a bit of variety to profile pages, but a shocking amount of people seem to stick with the default twitter page design. Or worse, modify it badly and really bodge things up. Here’s a quick guide to making a nice theme.

  1. Pick a nice colour palette. Colour Lovers is great for this. I chose a monocromatic an aggressive red palette, but you’re probably better off going for some contrast. Nothing vivid mind! We don’t want to melt any eyeballs or anything. Write down the hex values or keep the page handy.
  2. Make a background image. You can use a plain colour if you like, but the background is the biggest canvas for creative freedom on Twitter, so why not make the most of it. I used Stripe Generator. Just plug in your colours until it looks good. You can be bold, but try to pick a couple of colours that don’t clash together. Preview to make sure things tile nicely and download when you’re happy. I ended up with this, which suits my project nicely.
    If you lack even this basic level of artistic ability, just grab a nice image from Twitter Patterns. What do I care?
  3. Now to business! Go to your Twitter settings and look under the design tab. This is much improved over the last version, but it can still be a bit clunky. Go ahead and upload your background image and save changes. Looking good? I’ll take your word for it.
    To the right you can change your design colours. Put your hex numbers from Colour Lover in here. Be sensible and make sure you can read all the text clearly. This can be trickier than you might think. The live preview is great, but make sure you check your actual profile page, as other users will see it. Do your links stand out? Can you read everything in the sidebar? Then that’s probably as good as you’re going to get. Job done.
  4. Well, almost. You still need a decent avatar, but that’s a subject for when I’m less grouchy. Just one pointer: If you use Face Your Manga, you have failed.

Further reading: Learn a bit about colour theory, and experiment. Look for inspiration, and try some helpful tools.

Tweeting every time your data is compromised

Tonight, my project is to add some polish to my Twitter project: Data Hole. It’s an automated Twitter account that uses Twitterfeed to post links to news stories about companies and governments that loose personal data records, or otherwise compromise your privacy. The goal is to raise awareness about the issue. At the moment it’s just taking in a Google News feed, but I plan to use Yahoo! Pipes to refine it a bit, and add some other features. I’m going to look into using TweetLater too.

I may also write a follow up to my blog post, ‘Build a Robot Slave in Twitter‘. But probably not.