A few thoughts about RSS news readers from someone who thinks about them way more than you probably do
Last weekend, while I was putting together the list of Google Reader alternatives, I discovered more than a few projects and services that have died or entered a sort of zombie state, available but not updated for years. Dead links, home pages announcing end-of-service, or sites left just as they were years ago with unchanged blog updates last dated circa 2007. You may not realize it, but news readers are a wasteland of lost dreams.
It's been a month since Google announced it was going to shut down Reader, so I decided to gather up all the various links to 'alternatives' that I've been saving over the past few weeks, do some searches on Twitter to see if anything had popped up that I missed (a few actually), and then take a step back and try to categorize all the various services and apps into groups to try to understand what the options are out there so far.
I woke up very late on Wednesday, partly because I was working on my new news reader service - Clever.io - until the wee hours of the morning, then stayed up to see if I could snag Google I/O tickets (I didn't) at 7 a.m., and then I went to sleep for a few hours.
There's a game that was launched a couple years ago on iOS called Seven Little Words which I was addicted to for a few weeks back then. The author did a great job coming up with a completely new game mechanic for a word puzzle which is simple, yet very compelling: There are seven word definitions listed at the top, and a grid of squares containing 2 or 3 letters listed randomly at the bottom, which you combine to make up the answers.
From the very first moment I heard of the .io TLD a few years ago, I thought it was absolutely fantastic. The geek in me just really responded to the idea of a domain name that ended in IO - the input/output connotation seemed like a perfect fit for web services. So when NIC.io finally opened up registrations to the world, I was pretty psyched... Well, except for the fact that the yearly prices are insane - £60 ($93) for the first year, and £30 per year after that.
I have a pet peeve when it comes to computer keyboards: The Fn key. I have no idea why anyone who's ever used a computer in their life would design a keyboard with the Fn key on the bottom left next to the Control, Windows/Command, and Alt keys. We use the standard modifier keys a thousand times a day, but the function key is almost rarely - if ever - used and almost never in a standard way.
I remember playing a virtual reality game in an arcade while waiting for a movie to start when I lived in Atlanta in the mid 90s. The game - which I just looked up - was a SU 2000 virtual reality game pod created by a company called Virtuality. It was awesome! (And expensive! $5 for a three-minute game if I recall correctly.) I remember very clearly how incredible it was, in that it really gave you the sensation of being in a totally different world.
Just got this email from Amazon: Dear Publisher, We noticed your blog (listed below) has not updated for more than 60 days. Kindle customers expect to receive frequent updates for blogs and news feeds to which they subscribe. Because blogs should update at least once per month, we are cancelling blogs that have not updated in more than 60 days. Please respond to this email within 7 days and let us know if you have plans to update your blog.
A few days ago Twitter finally killed Atom support in their API. I just noticed for the first time last night, though I did know it was coming as they announced it months ago. Still, the change took me by surprise as I hadn't gotten around to updating the script I use in my custom news reader. A year or so ago I used Twitter's OAuth php library to grab my stream by pulling the Atom XML directly into my reader in a way that groups and formats it how I like.
About six weeks ago, I decided I needed to really grok the Android platform, so I turned off my beloved iPad 2, wrapped it in a foam cover which I taped up, placed the bundle into a box which I also wrapped with several layers of duct tape, and put it in the back of the highest, out of reach shelf I could find (the one in the corner of the kitchen, where you need to have a ladder to get back there).
So a few months ago I finally decided to bite the bullet and switch to a Mac at home after about five years or so of using Ubuntu. There's lots of random little reasons, but the general idea is that Linux on the desktop is chaos right now and I got sick of fighting with Ubuntu every time there was an update. This, combined with the fact that my son is now old enough to start using a computer regularly and I picked him an old Mac, pushed me to moving over myself.
I've been mulling over a concept in my mind for a while, that I've finally decided to try to explain in detail. It comes from the observation that any sort of service that makes money from the numbers of users it has - TV networks, content creators, websites, etc. - will inevitably lower the quality of the content they are producing in order to reach a broader audience.
So ThinkGeek has launched a new program called IdeaFactory where you can submit an idea, and if they like it, they'll make it into a real product and give you a cut of the revenue. I've had this idea in my brain for a while for a physical product, that I know I'll never get around to actually doing anything with, so I decided to create a graphic explaining the concept and wrote up a submission. Here it is: Statiks - static cling controller stickers for tablet and smartphone games.
After the LinkedIn leak a few weeks ago, I decided to once and for all get off my ass and get my shitty passwords in order, as the one I had used at LinkedIn was also my bank's password and a bunch of other stuff, which was just stupid. But did I actually do anything? Nope. Yesterday though, Mat Honan's article in Wired about getting hacked finally did it for me.
I wonder if it's possible to write an entire blog post just by using voice recognition? I think that trying to write something while speaking doesn't seem to work very well as there's something about the process of typing out the words and being able to edit as you go which makes the writing process more clear and smooth. However it's amazing how quickly you can enter text on a tablet - as I am doing right now simply by speaking into it.
Microsoft has been slowly releasing clients for OneNote for various platforms, including iOS for the iPad, Windows Phone 7 and Android, all of which automatically sync changes up to a document on SkyDrive. This is pretty cool, so a couple months ago I decided to get over my general wariness of hosted online services and start using it to keep notes of things when I'm away from my computer.
I ran across a few Yahoo! strategy decks I saved from waaay back in 2005 that are interesting (to me at least) and amusing from a historical perspective in a variety of ways. I threw them up on Google Drive combined into one long presentation which I've embedded above. You're welcome to peruse all 100+ slides if you're the type that likes long, boring, irrelevant presentations.
Well, after almost four years, my time at Nokia is quickly coming to an end. This morning it was announced that my group has been pushed off the fabled Burning Platform, so I'm now on the hunt for a new job! Not sure exactly when my official last day will be yet, but it'll most likely be within the next few weeks.
What you see in the image above is a nook between two walk-in closets in my bedroom. This is where I keep my extra gadgets. Some I use or try semi-regularly, but most just sit in there, waiting for a day when I finally get a chance to put them all on eBay or Craigslist and get rid of them. But let's be honest... that day will never come.
I've got a backlog of posts that I've been meaning to actually get online (I've got them in a big OneNote entry), but I usually like to annotate each post with some sort of header image. It just sort of looks better to have something there, in my opinion. Actually, I've been doing this for years and remember watching with amusement as the 'pro' blogs discovered the same thing and started putting any sort of random image they can find on each post (sometimes they're really annoying).
June 6, 2012 4:20 p.m. I can't believe it, but it seems that Google might actually be making headway with Google+ ... My blog posts get meager traffic nowadays, but of the 360 total page views of my most recent post, of the ones that had referrers, roughly half were from Google+ and half from Twitter (t.co and dlvr.it). Amazing, but true. Also, it seems people are starting to use Google+ as an actual blog like Linus Torvalds. This also amazes me.
Here's an interesting paradox for you: Despite the fact that there's a slow and steady pull away from RSS and Atom news feeds, it seems that there's more people than ever who are actually reading 'feeds' in one form or another.
My son's class celebrates each birthday by making each child a 'Rock Star' for the week - this includes having a favorite lunch, showing off some favorite items and having a letter from their parents read in front of class.
Yesterday, after reading some rave reviews online, I decided to grab Paper by 53, a new drawing app for the iPad. I've tried lots of drawing apps because both myself and my son like to doodle using the iPad with a stylus (even though I personally suck at drawing). Paper is somehow really different - the smoothing engine is just insanely good.