More Singapore tech blog writing

From a recent e27 article, Google launches products to encourage entrepreneurship in the emerging markets:

> Relying on citizen cartographers, Google Map Maker started in India as a way to make better maps of the subcontinent. It is a form of crowdsourcing that has emerged that demonstrates an effective way of getting local content online. Today, the product has doubled the worlds digital maps corpus, mapping 1.5 billion people in 187 countries. The UN and aid agencies have used these user generated maps to assist and rescue millions.

I found the last two sentences of this paragraph notable because (a) they were much less clumsily written than the rest of the article, and (b) “corpus”?! Who the hell actually uses that word? So, as a former teacher who’s marked his fair share of suspicious-looking student reports, I googled.

From Global Innovation Roundtable’s bio of Lalitesh Katragadda:

> His most recent creation, Google Map Maker, doubled the worlds digital maps corpus, mapping 1.5 billion people in 187 countries. The UN and aid agencies have used these user generated maps to assist and rescue millions.

Even the missing apostrophe made it over. Lesson: Don’t plagiarise in a world with Google. Especially not in an article about Google.

(The first sentence in the quote is also copied, but a little better—at least there, the author makes an effort to paraphrase parts of para 3 in Google’s blog entry.)

See also the last time I wrote about Singapore tech blogs.

The state of tech blog writing in Singapore

Posting without comment; emphasis mine.

e27, Electronic Arts merges IronMonkey and Firemint to form Australia’s largest gaming studio Firemonkeys , 25 July 2012:

Good news aside, there are certainly expectations from the gaming community for the new Firemonkeys to perform, as they now eagerly awaits their first product.

e27, OS X Mountain Lion upgrade now available in Singapore for S$25.98, 25 July 2012:

Mac OS X can now grab the Mountain Lion upgrade at a price of S$25.98 in Singapore […] The upgrade will come a the cost of S$25.98 and comes with over 200 innovative new features. […] The Message app, which users had access to the beta version, will bring iMessage to the Mac and allows cross device communication across the iOS devices available in the market.

(The app is called “Messages”.)

Tech in Asia, Run a Singaporean Coffee Shop with the Kopi Tiam Game, 26 July 2012:

I downloaded the free Kopi Tiam version to give it a shot, after reading many positive reviews. It’s reminiscent to many time-management games […] […] We’ve also included a the game’s demo video below. Enjoy!

Tech in Asia, TackThis Powers Donation Drive in Singapore’s National Day 2012, 20 June 2012:

As a Singaporean, I confess feel compelled to doing so as well.

That’s it, for now. I might do more of these, if I get annoyed enough.

Oh, here’s one more. In this case, the bad grammar and awkward phrasing aren’t necessarily the writer’s fault. e27, The Demise of QR Codes, February 2012:

QR codes will remain a curious oddity for the technically proficient geeks and bleeding adopters.

Here are the search results for the odd term “bleeding adopters”. Compare this article from October 2011, which also contains that phrase, to the above e27 article.

Update, a day later: e27 and Tech in Asia have acknowledged and corrected the above. Both note that they appreciate error reports sent through their comment sections.

Chrome for iOS

I’m currently firmly welded to using Chrome on the desktop, thanks to (a) Vrome, a Vim keybindings extension for Chrome and the poor (and less insane) man’s Vimperator/Pentadactyl, and (b) Shortcut Manager, which allows me to assign random Javascript to keyboard shortcuts (great for bookmarklets to send the page to sites/apps like Pocket, Gimme Bar, Evernote and MarsEdit).

As such, I was a little concerned about having to switch back to Safari because I really like the new iCloud tabs sync feature in iOS 6 and Mountain Lion. The new Safari’s Omnibar retains focus after search, which prevents me from using my J/K keyboard shortcuts, and I’d have to go back to putting my Javascript bookmarklets in the bookmarks bar and trying to remember which number corresponds to which site.

Thank goodness then for Chrome for iOS, just announced today, with tab sync and easy tab navigation. I’m sold. Two things that bother me, though:

  • The icon follows Google’s standard iOS “slap the desktop icon onto a black background” motif, which doesn’t quite fit in the Dock with “fuller” icons like Messages and Mail. I would have loved to see something more interesting that made full use of the roundrect. I did a quick (terrible) mockup here.
  • There’s an extra, and fairly useless, row of keyboard icons when you bring up the URL bar, which gives easy access to :, ., -, / and .com. This feels odd: first, these characters aren’t that difficult to access; second, isn’t the point of the Omnibar to encourage you to search, and not type URLs?
  • Worse, on the iPad, the extra row of keyboard icons are non-Retina. CANNOT UNSEE NOW ARGH

Re-enabling J/K keyboard navigation on Google search

Google runs a series of Experimental Search trials which any user can join — “new features aimed at improving the search experience”. A short while ago, they had one called “keyboard navigation”, which allowed users to navigate results using the keys J (down), K (up), and O (open). I loved this to bits, and used it all the time… until it went away, replaced by an enhanced “accessibility” feature which makes search results look hideous:

Omg ugly  Google Search

So I went and tried DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for a while. It looks great, is highly customisable, and has my beloved keyboard shortcuts… but I can’t quite get behind it because: (a) it’s a bit slow, especially compared to Google, (b) there isn’t native Safari support for it (I have to go through a GlimmerBlocker script), and (c) I just can’t shake the feeling that Google’s search results might be better, so I end up switching to another browser and checking on Google, just in case. This, naturally, was a recipe for madness, so I started looking into how to get back my beloved keyboard shortcuts in Google.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in my tribulations: the Google Experimental Search forum had quite a few others sharing my pain of having to use their mice while searching. One thread led me to this post on a blog called “Not Quite Zero”, where the author found Google’s original JavaScript for keyboard shortcuts, and re-injected it into the webpage using a user script, hence re-enabling the plugin. Yesss!

If you’re on Firefox or Chrome, the script linked in that post is all you need, but I did edit it to fix a couple of things for myself:

  • Re-aligned the search arrow to get it in line with the searched item; and
  • Packaged it as a Safari extension.

Here are my new versions. Once again, all credit goes to the original author; all I did were some minor styling fixes and packaging. MIT/X licensed.

Important: For these to work, you do need to disable Google Instant, first at Google’s search preferences and, if you’re using Chrome, in its browser preferences. Otherwise, Instant’s search bar will grab focus when the page loads.

Note that Google’s original extension JavaScript is still hosted on their servers, so if they remove it, these extensions will do nothing! Let me know if that happens, and I’ll fix it ASAP. (As I was finishing this post, the author replied to say he put up his extensions on Github — might want to take a look there instead, if you’re interested in the original JS version. I’ll probably fork it with the styling changes.)

Update, July 2012: I’ve updated the extension for Safari 6. The above download links should point to the new version, but this link explains the differences.

Don’t tell me what your website’s name means

If your website’s name doesn’t make immediate sense, and you don’t have a good explanation for it, please don’t tell me how you came up with it. Here are two websites with decently cool-sounding names, until you read why they chose these names:-

Asian tech news site Penn Olson:

Starting the blog with just a few people was tough, so when we considered a name, we liked the idea of having some mythical partners to guide us on our journey. We created Penn-Olson, because blogging is essentially ‘penning ones thoughts’ and ‘Olson’ was a somewhat arbitrary addition, but it sounded (like) awesome.

I like what they do as a news site, but this paragraph just takes all the mystique from their name and throws it in the laundry.

[Update: Someone told me a few days later this para is gone. Good for them!]

Classifieds site ST701:

ST701 carries the initials of The Straits Times. The numbers “701” convey what the user will experience: 7 days a week search at the 01 place that matters.

The user will “experience” search seven whole days a week, guys!* At the zero-one place that matters! Thanks, ST701, now my forehead is sore from all that self-inflicted slapping.

Yes, this was written by someone who calls his company Tinkertanker. No, I’m not saying how we came up with that name. (Yes, that means we don’t have a good explanation for it.)

* I guess that’s better than a social media account that, until recently, ran Mondays to Fridays, 9am-6pm, excluding public holidays.