A more fluid social life

This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

My writings have long delved into the realms of disability and technology, often times overlapping the two. This one is a bit away from the disability side of things. Rather it’s smack dab in the middle of the technological sort. But I think any technology that makes one’s life a bit easier can be considered as “assistive” so perhaps we’re not too off-topic.

Lately I have, for better or for worse, been neglecting the social side of the interwebs. And since my work and various projects often have me staring into the void of RGB, miserably alone and loathing my pathetic existence, I think it’s important to spend a little time connecting with people online. But my water coolers of choice, Twitter and Facebook, have grown to be more complicated and cumbersome than they used to be. The barrier to connecting has become a bit too much. As a result, I found myself spending much less time on those sites during breaks and much more time playing Galcon on my iPhone. Of course that exacerbates the issue of spending so much time alone. So I set out to make Facebook and Twitter more useful.

Enter Fluid. This so-called “single-site browser” has been around for a while and I dabbled with it in the past. But with the big social networking sites getting so out of hand with their gizmos and thingamaboppers, I decided to give Fluid another shot. What this little app does is pretty simple. It allows you to take a web app (like Facebook) and make it act kind of like an app on your Mac. So you can have a nice little Facebook icon in your dock that opens Facebook. Just Facebook. Not a bunch of toolbars and useless buttons. Just the stuff you need. All in its own dedicated window.

But having Facebook in its own uncluttered window isn’t all we’re after. We want Facebook itself to be simpler, remember? Fortunately, Fluid can make your little app into a handy MenuExtra instead of a traditional window. Wondering what that is? Keep reading; because we’re about to walk through an example.

I’ve decided that the best Twitter experience to be had is with a slick, punch-packing web app called Hahlo. Hahlo is designed for your touchscreen phone. Side effects include simplicity, intuitive design, and awesome-induced nausea. But we’re not using it on our phone. We’re using it on our Mac through Fluid.

First, you need to download Fluid. Go ahead. Do it.

Now, double-click that bad boy. Oh, you were expecting more? Sorry to disappoint. All we need to do is tell Fluid what site we want to create an app with, and what we want to call our app.

Hahlo SSB Creation

Hahlo SSB Creation

Once we’ve done that, we can launch our new app from our Applications folder.

Hahlo Application Mode

Hahlo Application Mode

If you have trouble authorizing Hahlo with Twitter, just go to your app’s preferences and add Twitter as an allowed site.

Hahlo Advanced Prefs

Hahlo Advanced Prefs: Add the line ‘*twitter.com*’

Now, this app is cool and all. But we want to make it a MenuExtra so that it displays as an icon in our system menu and drops down when we click on it. Peanuts. Click on your app’s name in the menu bar and choose the option “Convert to MenuExtra SSB.”

Hahlo Convert to MenuExtra

Hahlo > Convert to MenuExtra SSB

Your app will restart itself as a MenuExtra. And when you click it’s icon in the menu bar, Hahlo will drop down and be ready to use.

Hahlo MenuExtra

Hahlo as a MenuExtra

Just click the icon (or anywhere else on your screen) and Hahlo will disappear into the menu bar as quickly as it appeared.

Cool, huh? But I know you’re wondering how this would work with Facebook. I mean, it would need a lot more space, right? Wrong. When you visit Facebook on your touch phone’s browser, you are actually redirected to http://touch.facebook.com/, which is especially designed to take up minimal space. Plus, you get the added benefit of stripping out all that pointless Facebook App debris that junks up your News Feed. Mouth watering yet?

So just create an app using the touch-friendly version of Facebook.

Facebook SSB Creation

Facebook SSB Creation

Repeat the above step of converting your app to a MenuExtra and you get a familiar, simpler, and, frankly, more enjoyable Facebooking experience. And it’s all just a dropdown away.

Facebook MenuExtra

Facebook as a MenuExtra

If you are still with me, I hope you were looking to make Facebook and Twitter an even bigger, easier part of your life. Otherwise, I’m so sorry. I’ve wasted your time.

Have you used Fluid for other cool sites? Please share in the comments.