Where RSS Readers went wrong


Dare Obasanjo wrote quite a critical blog post about where RSS readers went wrong, then followed that up with another post about where Friendfeed went wrong.

Dare's thoughts quite solid too,

  1. Dave Winer was right about River of News style aggregators. A user interface where I see a stream of news and can click on the bits that interest me without doing a lot of management is superior to the using the current dominant RSS reader paradigm where I need to click on multiple folders, manage read/unread state and wade through massive walls of text I don’t want to read to get to the gems.
  2. Today’s RSS readers are a one way tool instead of a two-way tool. One of the things I like about shared links in Twitter & Facebook is that I can start or read a conversation about the story and otherwise give feedback (i.e. “like” or retweet) to the publisher of the news as part of the experience.
  3. As Dave McClure once ranted, it's all about the faces. The user interface of RSS readers is sterile and impersonal compared to social sites like Twitter and Facebook because of the lack of pictures/faces of the people whose words you are reading
  4. No good ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. As if it isn’t bad enough that you are nagged about having thousands of unread blog posts when you don’t visit your RSS reader for a few days, there isn’t a good way to get an overview of what is most interesting/pressing and then move on by marking everything as read. On the other hand, when I go to Techmeme I can always see what the current top stories are and can even go back to see what was popular on the days I didn’t visit the site.
  5. The process of adding feeds still takes too many steps. If I see your Twitter profile and think you’re worth following, I click the “follow” button and I’m done. On the other hand, if I visit your blog there’s a multi-step process involved to adding you to my subscriptions even if I use a web-based RSS aggregator like Google Reader.

I agree, the river of news style aggregator works surprisingly well, I don't know what it is but that movement of scanning a load of headlines is quick and effective. I actually liked RSS Owl's aggregator mode, where you can select a load of feeds and just have them all available in one massive long list. This is great for reading on the train for example.
The social nature of the RSS reader has always been a problem. Not only did I want to share bookmarks via delicious but I also wanted almost equal balance with being able to blog parts of
what I was reading. So in RSS Owl there was the concept of newsbins which you could dump news items into. I wanted those bins to be linked to things like tublr blogs but it wasn't to be. I guess Google readers like feature is as close as I could imagine it would work. However it would be good to make for example public and have a rss feed in the future.

I'm not tied to the look of blogs, its nice but not essential for my reading, although I can see others seeing it as important. The wheat and chaff argument for me wasn't as bad when I was using Touchstone/Particls. It was like having your own Techmeme on your desktop, to be fair also Particls had nicer ways to share news that most rss readers. The APML support and concept was ahead of its time and I'm sure will make it into future rss readers. And finally adding feeds is agreed still too painful, what really does my nut in is when someone links a podcast to the itunes store. So you can't actually get the RSS feed its self. Sometimes I have to pull down the source and search for *.rss or *.xml feeds which is shocking. Discovery should work but it doesn't always and very few seem to cope with multiple feeds.

Don't get me wrong, I still use Liferea with Google Reader sync but I don't bother with folders anymore. I tend to use Liferea when I'm offline to catch up with stuff. My more general use of RSS is as plumbing between components and services, there's no doubt thats what its best for.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

On Jon Udell’s Interviews with Innovators

So I had the pleasure of being on Jon Udell's Interviews with Innovators series on IT Conversations. I'm talking about the data and feeds used on BBC Backstage and example of mashups using that data. Its about a hour long and we cover quite a lot of ground in that time. Jon Udell did cut quite a lot of the ramble which was actually a good thing. Anyway you can judge for yourself.

BBC Backstage is the umbrella term for an evolving set of feeds and APIs that the BBC has been offering since 2005. In this conversation, Ian Forrester updates Jon Udell on what progress has been made, and what obstacles remain, as the BBC navigates toward its digital future.

Thanks to Jon Udell for having me on the show.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Apple being hit from many sides

So after the surprising announcement that Spotify was accepted by Apple on to (into) the App Store. And the recent Google Voice pondering, will Apple also allow Real's Rhapsody too and even more interestingly will Netflix get a on to the App store? What kind of justification could they use against those two but not the others? Will the FCC also add to the pressure of the app store submission process?

This is why being the filter between yes and no is a very bad position to be in. Apple will get it from every single direction, not only the large players but also the smaller players. Anyone considering building a App Store modeled on the Apple Store better take note (microsoft), this is simply not sustainable. One yes to one player such as Skype/Spotify, gives others the grounds to push there application too. I mean really whats the practical difference between Spotify and Rhapsody? Maybe Napster might also want to get in to the game, heck even Microsoft Music might get involved. If Netflix do get on to the app store, why would Apple not allow a specially crafted Boxee for example? Or even better examples Hulu or BBC's iplayer?

I know I bash Apple a lot but what would you say when Netflix come calling?

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

TV Show: The Cube

I downloaded the first episode of this new show and to be honest I was surprised how addictive it was to watch. Its a very simple concept, do a task which most people could do then put it in the cube, crank up the pressure with large sums of money with a large drop to zero if your limited number of tries/lives end.

What makes the cube even more impressive to watch is the use of high definition and high speed footage with 360 degrees of views. So one of the tasks was to drop a ball into a tube and catch it at the other end before it hits the floor. Seeing how close it gets in HD on a super highspeed camera is something else. Its not just close, its nail biting eerily close. Another aspect of the cube is the lateral thinking which goes into beating the cube. So in the task mentioned earlier the guy knocked the ball up in the air with one hand then got into a position to catch it on the way down. In the most recent one, a guy striped down to his pants to complete a task which involved walking over two barriers without being able to see anything.

If this came straight from the production of ITV then I'm sure this format will appear in other countries very soon. Its also got legs for a gameshow, so you can imagine a celeb version at Christmas and New Years then even a doubles version further down the line. There's also a almost unlimited amount of games you can play in the cube. Everything from Basketball with a square box to flicking a ball into a small glass of water. You can even have the same game with different levels. So the flicking the ball into a glass of water means at 2k a bucket of water, while at 100k its a pint glass and at 250k it could be a large test tube. Clever stuff, although I would love for the voice of the cube to be a little more like the computer in Portal. The Body also looks like something out of Ghost in the Shell, nice move.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

P2P users spend more on media

P2P File Stealers Spend A Ton On Media

Ok so I was a little harsh in the last blog post, it seems some people are still catching on. So here's another graph I found which sums up the opportunity I've been spelling out across my blog for years.

Internet file sharers swapping music, movies and TV shows over peer-to-peer networks are killing media and technology companies, right?


According to a study conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates published in AdAge, “the P2P user attends 34% more movies in theaters, purchases 34% more DVDs and rents 24% more movies than the average Internet user.”

In almost every single one of those categories, I personally spend more money that most of my friends who don't use P2P or even on-demand services. I have own a HDTV for 2 years now, yes my screen is well over 20inches (40inch) but I didn't pay anywhere near 2000 dollars for it. Yes I do own a next gen game console (xbox360, and I use to own a Wii). Had a home cinema system for 14+ years now, but just recently upgraded it to 7.1. Wouldn't even consider buying anything but a smartphone since about 2001. No Bluray player, but yes to the Media centre PC (XBMC). Plus I would add that I spend more time in the cinema and buy more films that my non P2P friends. The Ad people should be gunning for people like myself, but instead they lump us in with dvd/cd street/market copiers and demonize us all collectively at the start of films as mass pirates.

Of course it gets worst because now the UK Government wants to choke P2P file sharers (bearing in mind P2P isn't against the law, it just depends on what you share). As pointed out by the open rights group, the market is coming back in to balance (even I end up buying 10+ songs a month from Audiojelly) and the government have overstepped the mark with this latest proposal.

Fact is that you can never stop such things, and calling all out war on piracy is not even funny, its actually childish and headline grabbing. Even Obama has stopped using the word war on terror, because they know how stupid the whole notion of a war on anything is. Britain needs people like myself (early adopters) who do slide in the grey areas of media because we inform whats possible for the masses in the near future. We spend more money, time, attention on media that the average person and we even share our experiences openly for all to learn from. The positive up shot of all this will go away quickly if such regulations come into play.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Hulu Has More Viewers Than Time Warner Cable, and what?

Graph showing Hulu with more users that Time warner cable

Is anyone really that surprised that Hulu has more viewers that some cable networks in America? Seriously? I mean come on its 2009, have people not been paying attention? Maybe I spent so much time off the broadcast schedule that when theres a line in the sand between the broadcast schedule and on demand viewing, I automatically assume the on demand position. But for good reason. I mean, I'm sure I could draw some graph/chart showing how YouTube has more viewers that almost every single broadcaster out there. How Bit Torrent download is still totally killing pay per downloads stores like itunes. etc, etc. This isn't news, its clarification of what most of already knew wrapped up in a poor infographic.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

My new enlightened screensaver

Flickr photostream GLscreensaver

I was thinking the other day how I enjoyed the Digital bits photostream by Will Lion. But its not exactly the kind of thing you look at all the time, even in my RSS reader it doesn't really work. So I found the perfect place for it, as a screensaver. I looked for a Linux Flickr based Screensaver but found very little. Most of the blog posts suggest downloading the photos then using a standard Linux screensaver to display a folder of the images. The blog I was looking at suggested using a podget and a cron to pull down the photos everyday at 5am. This was ok but I didn't want to install another app when I thought Conduit could do a even better job. And I was right.

I setup Conduit to read from the Flickr RSS feed and download the pictures to a set folder, I then just told the screensaver to look in the same folder to pull in the fresh photos. All straight forward really but so effective.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Welcome to the BarCamp Season


I have tweeted about BarCampManchester2 quite a few times and the wiki page is now up and running. But we're not the only ones to announce BarCamp, actually this half of the year there are a ton of BarCamps in the UK and even more exciting is that there will be quite a few overnight barcamps, including Manchester.

Here's a list of the ones to be aware of.

So lots of BarCamps right through till next year and that list doesn't even include the TEDxNorth's, Hack events and Over the Air. As you'd expect there are clashes but thankfully it all seems to come together now. Thanks to BarCampCornwall for changing the dates around.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Free software campaigns

Windows 7 Sins

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) have launched an attack on Windows 7 by dropping 499 of the Fortune 500 companies a letter advising them to consider a switch to Free Software instead of Windows 7. Theres also been a protest and site setup for the whole thing.

I'm quite critical of the FSF's approach to these things but the only reason why is because I think there in the grand scheme of things actually right. But they seem to go about it in such a odd way. Yes writing letters to the CEOs sounds good but honestly, do they think this will make any difference let alone will anyone actually admit . to reading it? So the message is falling on deaf ears? Does it gather any additional publicity? Maybe. They could have done with something a lot more effective like the Freedom Fry thing, although I got to say it was odd having Stephen Fry giving a speech about software and hardware freedoms while being a big Apple consumer. By the way his latest podcast is well worth listening to. Actually it would be good to have a FSF podcast thinking about it, something like Linux Outlaws but less tech and more laws and infringements.

So my main gripe about the FSF is the scale and scope of some these things they do. I think they need to be more like Creative Commons in there tackfulness and campaigning but also consider much more smarter ways to raise awareness like how Firefox did. One of my worries is that unlike those other successful campaigns the FSF guys are not very good about being native to the web. Which is strangely ironic because with the work going into HTML5 and the mobile web, it seems like a really good time to be native to the web. So with a more refined look at the web the FSF could be pushing good system and practices. For example I've not seen any link to the Open Microblogging standard on the FSF site. In the darker corners of there site, there are some interesting things. The Play OGG one is a no brainer right? Even my Pacemaker editor exports OGG over MP3 for the exact reasons of cost There are some other campaigns which I think deserve as much attention like FreeBios, GNUPDF and a Free software replacement for Skype.

Actually the last one is very important, we're looking at alternatives in BBC R&D for cheap, effective P2P video conferencing. Skype does the job but its restricted in its quality and size which is a pain when your on a super thick pipe using a 2 megapix video camera. My real bets for a solution lie in the work Google has done recently in the video space.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Exposing the myth of digital native generation

In the New York Times yesterday was a piece about how a certain teenager would text most of the day away but wouldn't use twitter, saying quote I just think it’s weird and I don’t feel like everyone needs to know what I’m doing every second of my life. The post goes on about how its not Teenagers driving the usage of Twitter and then starts to look at how the traditional view of early adopters being teenagers is no longer correct.

Twitter, however, has proved that “a site can take off in a different demographic than you expect and become very popular,” he said. “Twitter is defying the traditional model.”

In fact, though teenagers fueled the early growth of social networks, today they account for 14 percent of MySpace’s users and only 9 percent of Facebook’s. As the Web grows up, so do its users, and for many analysts, Twitter’s success represents a new model for Internet success. The notion that children are essential to a new technology’s success has proved to be largely a myth.

Adults have driven the growth of many perennially popular Web services. YouTube attracted young adults and then senior citizens before teenagers piled on. Blogger’s early user base was adults and LinkedIn has built a successful social network with professionals as its target.

The same goes for gadgets. Though video games were originally marketed for children, Nintendo Wiis quickly found their way into nursing homes. Kindle from Amazon caught on first with adults and many gadgets, like iPhones and GPS devices, are largely adult-only.

So finally will people stop thinking of early adopters as teenagers? Will the eternal myth that all teenagers are digital native finally go away? I'd certainly like to think so, but I sadly doubt it.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

RSS on the desktop with Conky

RSS Desktop Screenshot

I've recently been playing with Conky far too much. After a lot of playing around, I got it to this state. So now I have RSS directly on my desktop, I do however wish there was a marquee mode (found), so I could build something more like one of Particls outputs or Snackr. Conky does support Lua scripting, so it seems possible but way above my head at this moment.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Time to change the record?

The timeline of music sales

Saw this graph of the music sales over various mediums over the last few decades. Looking at the graph its easy to see why the music industry are so pissed off with the radical changes. They have been so comfortable with seeing massive profits off the back of CDs sales that their expecting even bigger profits from the next format. However thats not going to happen. The article on evolver magazine goes into much more detail, although you can imagine what it says without reading it.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

The wrong ball park, Shareflow vs Google Wave

People have been sending me links to Shareflow and asking what I think of it. Well I did spot it a while ago when the whole thing kicked off about Shareflow ripping off Google Wave.

Let’s suppose that Zenbe HAD copied Google Wave. That would mean that Zenbe managed to design, build and deploy a real, complete, useable product, along with everything needed to actually support a public service, all in less than a month!  That would be phenomenal!   Miraculous! You should check out Shareflow just to see the magic!

If you search the Internet you will realize that Shareflow must be a separate, independent solution, perhaps to a similiar problem, and has nothing to do with Google Wave.

Shareflow grew out of our own efforts at solving our own communication and collaboration needs.  We wanted a something that would let us ditch IM, email, wikis, and other disconnected tools.  We have been working on Shareflow for more than a year, its been out in public since February 09, in private testing for a few  months before that.

You want proof?  How about  a Youtube video from March, or a  blog post from April?  Or this one.  Or just ask anyone who signed up for our subscription service Zenbe Mail earlier this year.

From my point of view I think its like Wave but theres 2 major differences. 1st one is Shareflow is very cloud web 2.0 like, so its a hosted service like 37 Signal's Basecamp. This, a year ago would have been cool and to be honest I'd be saying nicer things about it a year ago too. However Wave has changed things and moved things on for the better. Wave isn't just a application, nor is it just a platform nope its lower down than that. Its a protocal! And its a open protocal, which is a whole different ball park. Actually if I was Shareflow/Zenbe I'd personally put Wave protocal support in the roadmap very soon. They would be crazy not to.

The biggest complaint I have about Google Wave's HTML client is it looks like all other google apps, aka not exactly exciting just functional. While the shareflow client looks better designed. And thats where their business model could be. Leave the heavy lifting stuff to the Wave protocal and platform. Focus on the experience of the users. They need to be more like Mozilia (clever client apps which work on open protocals) that Microsoft (end to end solution).

By the way, did anyone notice Shareflow also has no API and no details of the actual protocal being used? It might have the jump on Wave now, but its won't be long before its bypassed and I just can't see how Zeebe will compete unless they jump on the wave platform too.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]

Look out for District 9

One of the best short films I've seen (Alive in Joburg) is being made into a film called District 9. I had no idea till recently.

If you've never seen or heard of either, the basic premise is that Aliens have come to South Africa and decided to stay. Unlike most other scifi movies, these aliens are not exactly the top of food chain. They do have advanced weapons but are also vulnerable to human weapons. So after being classified as refugees all type of scenarios playout. One example is the start of a blackmarket between the human slumlords and the aliens. The alive in Joburg has a theme of xenophobia running throughout it, which looks to be the same in District 9 too.

Comments [Comments]
Trackbacks [0]