What three days with a netbook have taught me about Twitter

Don’t bother spending a lot of time and effort on a cool Twitter background. People viewing via a netbook or mobile device either can’t see it, or it’s compressed. If you’re going to make one, look at the design on a small monitor to see what actually shows up.

And don’t forget your profile info in Twitter itself. That’s the first thing I look at when I’m trying to decide whether or not to follow someone (especially on this small screen that requires me to take my fingers off their hard-won position on the tiny little home row and scroll down to be able to see much of anything.)

That info also shows up when you mouse over a Twitter username in your follower list, so that can be just as valuable, if not more, than what you put in the sidebar of a background.

Take a look at your photo, too. People may well be looking at that on a tiny screen. Is your photo tight enough that people can make out your face? How will it look if someone is viewing it on a mobile device and it’s roughly a centimeter square?

I’ve also learned that you should test drive any potential netbook for at least half an hour before buying, because this itty bitty keyboard is still driving me nuts.

Taking the netbook for a test post

Surely something this tiny must be for me
Surely something this tiny must be for me

My netbook arrived today. It’s an Asus Eee 901. I spent a couple of weeks looking at reviews, and went to Best Buy to try out the keyboards to see if I could live with the size. I read a lot of owner comments, and like all reviews on the web, they tell you every range of opinion you can imagine. Lots of people said the keyboard was too small, others said you get used to it.

I’m wondering right now if I’m going to get used to it. At the moment it feels nearly as painful as the post I typed on my iPhone.

And of course, as soon as it arrives, I get two new pieces of information. First, I read Robert Scoble’s review, which doesn’t even mention mine.

Then I read a Facebook comment from a friend talking about how much he loves his Dell Mini 9 Hackintosh, which was another direction I briefly considered, but I realized I didn’t really want this to turn into a hobby. I purposefully chose the Linux version because I didn’t want to be tempted to add a bunch of programs that would slow the whole thing down, like my three-year old laptop that I curse daily for being so slow. If I had the Windows XP version with the 160 GB hard drive, I’m sure I’d end up installing iTunes at some point. And then we’re back to wanting a faster machine.

So far, I like it. The Andros Linux OS is very simple, as the reviews said. I also read how to install Ubuntu, so maybe I’ll do that when I get bored. The machine is incredibly small and light, and I can imagine it will follow me around. It also feels solid, and it’s pretty quiet. In fact, silent. I also installed Google Gears, which apparently will let me use Google Reader offline, so on my upcoming flight to Heidelberg I should be able to catch up on my “1000+” unread RSS feeds.

I just wish I could hit the damn backspace key.

Never underestimate the power of the gadget

It is 10:00 pm and I am lying on my back in bed, writing this post on my iPhone. Why would I write a blog post in the dark on a cramped keyboard that, no matter what you think of it, is not ideally suited to larger-than-micro blogging?

Because I can. I just found the WordPress iPhone app yesterday and I’ve been dying to try it, mostly because I think it’s cool. Never mind that I’m making a lot of mistakes, my hands are going to sleep and I have three machines with full-size keyboards in the house.

And why am I obsessed with buying a netbook when I have three laptops?

I’m not going to try to explain the Shiny Object Syndrome. I’m sure many of you suffer from it yourself, or live with someone who does. No big shocker: it’s fun to get cool new stuff.

I wonder how much of that attitude drives social media participation, especially among the early adopters? How much of it is excitement at finding a new vehicle to listen and express oneself, and how much is the desire to get something cool and new?

I know that when I am immersed in the search for a new tech object (such as the one that finally culminated last night in ordering an Asus Eee 901 netbook with Linux), it becomes a way to carve out a little time to be fully (and selfishly) engaged in something outside my quotidian concerns. It’s almost meditative, as pathetic and Western as that sounds.

I get the same feeling when I’m trying to figure out a new (to me) social media tool like Ping.fm or Brightkite. I wonder how much overlap there is. Obviously you don’t have to love gadgets to love social media. But gadgets can certainly make it more fun.

Maybe we can identify a subset of people where the two interests intersect. What should we call them? Social gadgeteers?