Feedsparks now uses Google Chart API

Feedsparks has been updated to use the new Google Chart API for the sparklines it displays.

If you’ve seen slow loading (or non-loading) chart images in Feedsparks, this should help improve the response time and reliability.

Feedsparks is a great way to keep track of the relative popularity of blogs, not just your own.

YAGCG: Easy add, settable height

YAGCG got some updates today, responding to some of the feedback you’ve provided on the early version. Thank you!

Add to Google

New features

  • In “Edit Settings”, you can now add calendars in many formats: the calendar ID directly, or just paste in the XML, iCal, or HTML URL, or even the embedded javascript for the calendar. It will parse out the (name@domain) calendar ID. Note if you have a lot of calendars, you have to stay under 2048 chars total — that means stick to the short calendar ID where possible. (thanks to Rob, Geoff, and Mike for suggesting easier adds)
  • A menu added (thanks to Rob and others for suggestions here)
    • “Today”: Reloads agenda to show today’s events
    • “Full Page”: Loads Google Calendar in a fresh Tab or Page
    • “Help”: Takes you here.
  • “Edit Settings” now lets you set the agenda height, so you can show as much or as little of your future events as you like (thanks to Ben, Rob, Allan, and others)

Remaining limitations

  • You must still add calendars individually
  • No quick add for events (yet)
  • YAGCG has a different color for each calendar, but it can’t query the actual colors that google calendar uses — so it can’t match them.
  • Much of the internal formatting details of the agenda aren’t changable
  • IE still has some layout problems that Firefox and other browsers don’t

Head over to the YAGCG page if you have any other suggestions/comments. Thanks!

Google’s new Chart Generation API

Google announced a new charting API that is wonderfully simple to work with. Like Joe Gregorio’s sparklines service, it’s simply a URL-based interface that you can use as the source for your HTML image tags — and this makes it wonderfully useful.

I’ve used Joe’s service for things like Feedsparks, where these services do all the heavy lifting, and the glue to pull it all together runs in the browser (Javascript). This lets me can put a useful, functional little widget out there, and know that it will still be working years from now, with no server maintenance on my part (thus making it easier for you to adopt it and know it’ll stick around).

Google’s API, which is even more rich, opens up a ton more possibilities. It definitely eclipses the charting service I launched last year, chartpart.com. So now on my list of to-dos is greatly simplifying chartpart to make use of Google’s Chart API rather than generate charts itself. Rather than a Rails app, it can become a simple, single AJAXified HTML page to ease the creation of charts. Nice.

New Google Calendar Gadget – YAGCG

I’ve been quite frustrated that Google hasn’t produced a usable gadget for their own calendar system. I’ve tried tons of them.

So, in the long tradition of naming applications that should never had to come into being but for the failings of those that came before, here is YAGCG – Yet Another Google Calendar Gadget.

A simple Google Calendar Gadget with some advantages over the official one.

Install on your iGoogle personalized homepage: Add to Google

Here are some of the main pros and cons vs. the best official Google gadget:

  • Con: You must “Edit Settings” and add the ids of all the calendars you want to track. With the official gadget, it automatically grabs all your calendars from gcal
  • Con: To access your private calendars (e.g. your main one), you must stay logged in to gcal. When your login times out, you must pop over to gcal to refresh it before the gadget will display
  • Con: Doesn’t yet have Quick Add (although if there is interest, it will)
  • Pro: It loads much quicker. The official gadget locks up Firefox for 15 seconds or more and spikes your CPU. YAGCG puts the workload on Google’s servers instead (where it should be, of course).
  • Pro: Easy to quickly scroll ahead to future events. The official gadget only shows a day at a time
  • Pro: While you must add the ids of all calendars you want to track, that also means YAGCG has the flexibility to track a subset, or a completely different set, of calendars than what you track at gcal.

For me, the pros greatly outweigh the cons (the loading issue is a blocker).

If you are a gcal/iGoogle user, have you also struggled with the calendar? Any other pros/cons or feature requests for you? Feedback welcome.

Facebook apps getting stuck in approval .. no more

Karma Club got approved for the Facebook Application Directory around noon today .. Just a few hours after Techcrunch posted this article. Karma Club was one of those added to that Facebook bug over the weekend after being stuck in queue for a little over a week. Interesting to watch how the push from techcrunch caused such a quick response.

For Karma Club, so far the usage picture is mixed. Organic growth quickly plateaued after the app was installable. And the active user % is in the single digits.

But there have been some improvements in the UI since the first few days of last week. We’ll see over the next week or two if it gets any traction when compared to the (quickly growing) set of point/karma apps on Facebook. Hopefully people find it a fun and useful alternative to giving each other vampire bites, etc. … :)

New on Facebook: Karma Club

I don’t thank my friends often enough. Ok, maybe for some of the big things, but definitely not for the little things. We all could use a bit more of the positive energy that comes from a simple “thank you” from people we care about.

As a first facebook application, I tried to develop something fun to help myself and the other poor souls that fall in my camp.

It’s called Karma Club, and here’s the Facebook listing page for it.

Some Screenshots


Some things to note how Karma Club works

  • It turns thanking friends and gaining karma into a game of sorts
  • Your karma balance goes up as friends thank you for your good deeds — and doesn’t go down
  • Everyone has a limited amount of “free karma” to give to friends. You start with 100, and gain back 3 new points each day, up to a limit of 100.
  • Note that if your free karma is at 100, and you’re not giving any away, you’re losing the 3 new points each day — so be generous in thanking your friends
  • When you thank friends, you send a private thank you note in addition to sending them karma. Only you and the recipient can see the note
  • Your “Karma Leaders” board is just among your friends. So you don’t get made to look bad by “Mary in Cincinnati” who spends her whole day taking care of her flock of friends and neighbors

Please give Karma Club a try! Any problems you find, or thoughts you have for making it better are welcome — here or on Facebook’s listing page for the app.


Days Until Updated

Days Until has been updated with some of the same better error handling, zebra table, and other features of yesterday’s Days Since update. Current users will automatically get the upgrade over the next few hours (as caches expire). If you see any problems, please comment here!

And you can Add to Google to try this tracker of future events, if you haven’t already.

I tend to use it for tracking birthdays (it automatically handles annual recurrence). It’s also been a neat tool to help teach the kids a sense of time (on the days scale) — my 6 year old has an igoogle page with this and days since on it, and has been surprisingly excited to track things — “uh oh, dad. It’s been 10 days since my last bath!” (days since) or “just 46 days to my birthday!” (days until).