Saturday, March 27, 2010

Using BlueTwitSideBar for microblogging on several platforms simultaneously

Since I am a user of several different microblogging platforms I have tried out several tools that help me manage my interactions on all of the platforms in one place. I recently came across a useful Firefox plugin called BlueTwitSideBar which is very handy because it allows you to manage your status updates from within Firefox. If you are like me you probably have Firefox running pretty much all of the time so using BlueTwitSideBar means I don't need to launch a new tool to read or write a status update. Unfortunately it is only available inside of IBM for now, but this might change in the future.

This plugin is fairly easy to use, but since there is no user guide associated with it I thought I would write up a short description of how to use it. The first thing you need to do after you install it is configure your settings. To do this you will need to select the Firefox menu option Tools\Add-ons.. which will bring up the following dialog showing the list of add-ons that you have installed.

Clicking on the preferences button for BlueTwitSideBar will bring up the following dialog in which you specify  the details of the services that you will be using and the feeds that you would like to appear in your stream of updates. The URLs shown in the screenshot work for the IBM internal services.

After you have installed and configured the plugin you will see a small icon at the bottom right of your Firefox window which shows you whether or not you have BlueTwitStattusBar Alerts enabled or not. If you have alerts enabled then you will get an alert window appearing every time someone sends an update to your stream (which I personally find annoying because the alerts are pretty constant). When you right click on this icon you see a menu to toggle alerts on or off, and you also see an option to open/close the BlueTwit Sidebar.


You can see below an example of what the sidebar looks like. The sidebar shows the updates in your various streams and you can also post an update simultaneously to the BlueTwit, Twitter and Lotus Connections Profiles service. You can choose the target platform(s) for each update by simply selecting the check box beside each icon.

In the screenshot above I am sending an update to all three services at one. The two most recent updates are both on the Twitter platform - you can tell this because a small Twitter Icon is overlaid on top of the user's icon beside the tweet. The following screenshot shows what a few updates look like on the BlueTwit and Lotus Connections Profile service - I deliberately smudged part of  these screenshots since I cannot assume that the employees are happy to have their status updates seen outside the firewall.

You will see that as well as seeing the updates, you also get a few more options:
  • Retweet: Clickingon this button will simply copy the text of the update with the "RT @user" prefix into your status update box. You will get an option to manually edit the text before posting it (potentially to services other than the one the update was originally posted to).
  • Follow/Invite: Updates on the Twitter and BlueTwit services have a Follow button which can be used to add the user in question to your following list. If the author of the status update is already in your following list, the button changes to become an Unfollow button. The Lotus Connections Profile service does not allow people to follow anyone they want, instead their model is that you must invite people to your network and they must accept this invitation. Therefore the updates to the Lotus Connections Profile service have an Invite button in place of the Follow button.
  • Reply:Updates on the Twitter and BlueTwit services have a Reply button which can be used to compose a reply to this update i.e. it places @user at the start of a status update in your own update stream. The Lotus Connections Profile service handles replies slightly differently from the Twitter and BlueTwit services. Unfortunately BlueTwitSidebar does not (yet) implement a reply service for this platform.
  • Translate: Clicking on this button will invoke a machine translation engine to translate the text of the status update into your preferred language (in my case English). I don't know much about this, but it seems to work quite well for me. It translated a few  tweets from my Japanese colleagues, but since I don't speak Japanese I can't comment on the quality of the translation.

What do I think of BlueTwitSidebar
  • In general I think it is a very useful tool for keeping up with the different microblogging platforms I use.
  • I think that using a Firefox plugin is very handy for reading status updates, partly because Firefox is an application that I typically have already running when I decide to check status updates from my neotwork. It is also handy that when you click on links in status updates it does not need to launch a different tool to display the link contents.
  • One minor issue is that fact that ReTweets containing "@user" references can be confusing when the appear in another platform can be confusing. For example, if I posted something to BlueTwit and you decided to ReTweet it to Twitter, you would not be able to use the @bodu1291 as a link to my tweets, because my user ID on Twitter is @bodonovan.
  • Unfortunately BlueTwitSidebar does not allow you to use multiple instances of the same type of service. For example, if I use it to manage my interaction on the IBM Internal deployment of Lotus Connections Profiles, I can't also use it with the BleedYellos service.
  • The bottom line is that BlueTwitSidebar will be my tool of choice for now (but I am fickle and so this might change again if I can find anything better)


  1. I seid above that I could not vouch for the quality of the machine translation. However, I just noticed that a Japanese colleague that I follow had ReTweeted an English Tweet in Japanese for the benefit of his Japanese followers.

    When I used the machine translation button built into BlueTwitSideBar, I got back to the exact English original Tweet which is pretty impressive.

  2. I cross posted this to an IBM internal blog in case someone would prefer to comment inside the IBM firewall

  3. Hi Brian, Thanks for writing this up! Hopefully this will introduce more people to use this tool. Yes, "multiple instances of the same type of service" can be added quite easily from a programmatic point of view, but need to redesign the drop down to accommodate it. Will add it to my TODO list.

  4. thanks for the write-up. It's great to see the user has options!

    (BTW - I fixed the feed error on sorry about that.

  5. Since 31st of August 2010, the Twitter service requires application to use OAuth. There is an updated version of BlueTwit sidebar available at (this link only works inside th eIBM firewall)