Meet my robot editor, Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway's boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)
Ernest Hemingway and Carlos Gutierrez aboard Hemingway’s boat Pilar , 1934. (public domain)

If you’re looking for a decent, cheap editor, allow me to introduce you to Hemingway. He started helping me with this blog yesterday. Here is how we work together.

I write a blog post in WordPress.

I copy the text from that post.

I visit and select all the text in the middle column.

I paste in my text.

Hemingway gives me instant feedback. He highlights text that could be improved. Sometimes, I point to those highlights and he offers his advice: “Change to active voice.” Other times, I have to refer to the color-coded notes in the right margin to understand what he’s saying.

Hemingway tells me when he thinks a sentence is hard to read. He suggests simpler phrases when appropriate. He tries to lessen my use of adverbs.

Hemingway is a web app created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a robot editor whose goal is to make “your writing bold and clear.”  I couldn’t find any information on the site to explain how Hemington works.

The app is also available as a $6.99 program for Mac or Windows computers. For that price, you can work offline, save your text and use markdown.

No, Hemingway can’t completely replace a human editor. But I’m a zero-budget blogger with no one to read my posts at 12:41 a.m. Hemingway is the only editor I know who will work these hours for free, and he has definitely improved my blog posts.

Screencast as storytelling tool, #followwomenjournas video

Events that take place completely online can be captured using programs that record what you see on your screen. Those recordings are called screencasts. You might have run across them as video tutorials or promotional videos, but they can also be used to tell a story.

I used screenr to create this “screencast story” that explains the role my blog post played in the #followwomenjournas “hashtag movement” sparked by a @Mediabistro tweet.

Once the video is playing, make sure to click on the “View in HD” link to watch it in the same size it was recorded.

I would love to see something like this done by someone with experience creating quality screencasts. I must have violated every best practice out there. Pleas feel free to share any tips in the comments below.

Here are a few other takes on the birth of the #followwomenjournas hashtag:

More tools to lengthen tiny URLs

To accompany Sunday’s look at Twitter tools that unmask shortened URLs, here are some utilities that reveal the true destination of shortened URLs outside of Twitter.

I’ve shortened five URLs, including one YouTube link, with the five URL shorteners that were used the most in tweets within last 24 hours.

And here are screenshots of how six tools expanded the links

LongURL Mobile Exander

This Firefox plugin displays a long URL after holding your mouse over a shortened address for a few seconds.

LongURL Mobile Exander


The other tools I tried all require you to visit their site and paste a short URL into a form. Each tool returned exactly what I expected: the lengthened URL.

TheRealURL expansion preview


PrevURL preview


Untiny preview

ExpandMyURL preview

url snoop

url snoop preview


This service provided the title of the destination page, a screenshot, and meta information — much more detail than the other tools: preview

Here are some tools that I did not try out:

  • Long URL Please unfortunately did not work with my post, although I’ve used it successfully for other pages.
  • TinyURL Decoder is a Greasemonkey script, which is a bit more techie than I want to get here.
  • is an experimental Firefox plugin.

If you want to have fun, try out the aptly named hugeURL and

To explore more URL lengtheners, bookmark my growing Delicious collection.

Four Twitter tools reveal links behind shortened URLs

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingIn light of last week’s hack that redirected over 2 million shortened URLs to an unsuspecting blog post, this is a good time to look at how to find how to unmask a shortened web address before clicking on it. After all, malicious web sites could be lurking behind those tiny URLs … or worse.

Let’s start with the platform where you are most likely to find shortened web addresses: Twitter.


When you click on a link from the most recent version of this popular Adobe Air application (which means it runs on Macs, Windows, and Unix/Linux machines), a “preview” pops up and provides enough information for you to decide whether or not to visit the page:

TweetDeck link information

In addition to shortened URLs, if you click on a TwitPic link from within TweetDeck, it shows you a thumbnail of the picture. This feature might save you from the occasional NSFW surprise.

TweetDeck’s link-preview option is turned off by default. Go to the program’s settings and check the box next to “Show preview information for short URLs” to turn it on.


This Mac-only program replaces shortened URLS with only the domain of shortener, which makes tweets easier to read. If you leave your mouse over a link for a couple of second, a small balloon pops up to show you its destination.

Nambu link preview

Power Twitter

If you currently Firefox and for your tweeting, you can install the Power Twiter plugin to change the way looks and acts. Among its many features, it replaces every shortened URLs with the title, and favicon, of its destination page.

Power Twitter link preview


Once you’ve logged into this web-based Twitter client, you’ll see your friends’ recent tweets, just as you’d see them on But under each tweet, Tweetree also shows what it believes to be the title of destination page, along with the domain of the page. You won’t see the complete address of a blog post, but you’ll know whether it’s from or When possible, Tweetree even embeds linked-to pictures, videos, and sometimes even text right below the links.

Tweetree link preview

No link preview

I took a quick look at some of the more popular Twitter tools and found that these tools do not currently provide previews for shortened URLs:

Tell me: Did I miss something?

If you know of any other Twitter tools that reveal the true destination of shortened URLs, please share them in the comments below. I sincerely hope that I missed a slew of great applications.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at tools that reveal shortened URLs outside of Twitter. Feel free to sneak a peek by perusing my collection of URL lengtheners.

Update: Here is my look at more tools to lengthen tiny URLs.

Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing image from Delete via Flickr.