The horror

…as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced…

Archiving and searching old Facebook status updates with Google Reader

I often find things on the web that relate to conversations I have had on Facebook, and if those conversations took place a long time ago, it can be murder to go back and find something. One can only click on Older Posts so many times.

Facebook alleges you can search status updates, but clearly they sunset things after some interval. There are all sorts of observations one could make about the ephemeral worldview Facebook assumes, and encourages, among its users to behave in this manner, but we all know that kids these days are falling apart and that our culture is dying, so I will not beat that horse further.

If one does want to be able to retrieve past information, it is easy to do using the ever-fabulous (and free) Google Reader.

First, head on over to Google Reader, and sign up for an account there if you do not already have one. What is Google Reader? It is a feed reader, or aggregator. What is that, you say? Here is a nice video of what this does and how it works. I do not know if a Google Reader account has any content in it when it is created, or if it is blank. Mine is subscribed to hundred of feeds and I chew through thousands of items a day, but I am way on the weird end of the bell curve.

When I set this up, Facebook made this much easier. They still enable one to subscribe to Notifications, Links, and Notes very easily, but status updates are harder than they used to be, and I apologize for that.

The easy link is gone from the obvious places one might look, but some googling turned up the answer here. I hope very much that the advice there will still work. Ready?

  1. Follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?friends
  2. Once you are on that page, look for the link with the title Friends’ Notes. It is at the bottom of the image to the right.
  3. Right click on the Friends’ Notes link. If you are a single-button Mac user, that is a control-click (and go crazy and buy yourself a multi-button mouse; they are great).
  4. Paste the link you just copied in some place where you can edit it – an email, Word, Notepad, Simplenote, etc.
  5. It will look like this: https://www.facebook.com/feeds/friends_notes.php?id=xxxxxxxxx&key=yyyyyyyyyyyy&format=rss20 (except there will be other characters than the x and y series I have here).
  6. Replace the five characters that spell notes, and replace them with status. Make sure the _ and the . on either side are still there.
  7. Copy this modified link.
  8. In Google Reader, click the “Add a subscription” button in the upper left.
  9. Paste in the link from step 7.
  10. Click the little add button to the right of the text field where you pasted in the link.
  11. There is no step 11.

I suspect if you have never done this before, that can seem a little opaque, but I am sure you will get the hang of it quickly.

You can also add feeds (without having to edit anything) for your notes, your friends’ notes, notes from Pages to which you are subscribed, notifications, and your friends’ links. If anyone can find a feed for new photographs from your friends, please let me know.

Now that you have added this link to Google Reader, what next? Google updates, or refreshes, your feeds approximately every three hours. You can read them in Google Reader if you wish (I do), or you can ignore them and treat them solely as a repository for future searches. There will be no history in Google Reader before you begin the subscription, so searching is not very useful immediately, but once you have accumulated updates over time, it is a very quick and easy way to get back to an earlier discussion. Just type in a name or a keyword, click search, and then Google will show you a list of matching statuses which you can click to open them right up in Facebook where you can comment as you wish.

I hope this is a useful, not too frightfully nerdy suggestion for how to overcome Facebook’s amnesia about the past.

Google Reader & Instapaper

If you use Google Reader and Instapaper, then you want to make sure you pay attention to this post here. Using some of the new features introduced over at Greader this week, it permits you to add articles to your Instapaper queue straight from inside your feed reader. It’s very slick.

The only shortcomings I see at the moment are the blank 201 result page and the lack of fine tuning what URL gets sent over. I like to choose a print view before adding an item to Instapaper, but perhaps saving a few clicks may be a worthwhile tradeoff.

February’s Feed Reading

In a continued homage to the tools Google Reader has armed me with, I am updating my series on my feed reading stats. Think of it as a tip of the hat to the other OCD folks out there who might share this particular mania.

February was down from January’s inflated per-day average, but since that was an artifact of the Christmas holiday (and its associated net blackout), I think it’s fair to ignore January and see February as a further indication that I am getting more efficient and churning through my feeds.

The daily figures show a standard pattern, and reveal Presidents’ Day, too.

As an update to my earlier post, it seems Firefox on the Mac will give me the same detailed text overlay that I find in Camino and in IE on Windoze, so I guess there’s some setting in my Wintel Firefox that I have set wrong, since the overlays are still absent on my PC.

Google tames Reader’s dreaded “Mark All As Read” button

This is a few weeks late, because I use the groovy Greasemonkey script that saves a person from the old “Mark All As Read” gotchas (1, 2, 3, and 4) in Google Reader, but it seems Google actually took steps to defang this disaster waiting to happen.

“This dialog box doesn’t show up every time, but only if you’re marking 50 or more posts as read. We chose this as a balance between helping people avoid accidentally losing large amounts of unread items, while not being so intrusive as to interrupt people on every single mark-all-as-read action. Thanks for your feedback on it, though. We appreciate hearing what folks think about features and changes so we can keep iterating and improving.

Thanks,
Graham”

Source here. [This change was coincident with the new favicon, which I did notice. Old: greader-old.gif New: greader-new.gif]

Now if only old unread posts wouldn’t simply vanish after some vague, undefined, and varying (in my experience) amount of time. (1, 2, and 3)

Briefly noted: Greader stats with detail

I have often thought, as I hovered my mouse over the graphs on Google Reader’s trends page, that they should let you see the actual numeric value of each bar in a pop-up. Today I wound up using Greader in IE6 and – lo and behold – the numeric data are visible their in a pop-up. I check back over in Firefox and no dice.

It’s an unusual day when I get a reason to fire up IE. This discovery will lead to better stats analysis, rest assured. [Minor update: the pop-ups do work in Camino on my Mac.]

[If anyone knows how to access these pop-ups in Firefox, please let me know. And automated extraction would be, of course, the holy grail.]

Google Reader Trends: October & November Update

Another exciting series of posts here at QES revolves around my obsessive compulsive review of my Google Reader RSS reading statistics. Ever since the Greader team launched this feature, I have periodically posted my feed reading stats – mostly to give me a sense of whether is I am getting better or worse, more efficient or more manic (or both), etc.

Previous items in this series are here: May, June, (July was botched), August, and September.

I took the requisite screen shots for my October stats, but I either forgot or lost the text string to generate some of my data, so there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.

Greader Stats 20071031-3 Greader Stats 20071031-1 Greader Stats 20071031-2

Luckily, I have both the screen shots and the text I need for November, so that all follows below.

From your 348 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 20,173 items, starred 8 items, shared 10 items, and emailed 35 items.

Greader Stats 20071130-4] Greader Stats 20071130-5] Greader Stats 20071130-6]

Google Docs stats visible here. These stats are thrown off by my recent run-ins with the @#$ mark all as read button. Happily, that peril is behind me now.