Archive for the 'Feedreader' Category

Back to the roots with +1 OR How not to give a shit

RSS, former love-child and poster technology of the social web, is something of an enigma. For some, it’s the second coming of Christ: versatile, indispensable and it can turn one a fish and two loafs of bread into a feast that will feed a million people (disclaimer: that last point is rampant conjecture and might actually not be true). For many others, though, it’s a technology that’s so utterly uninteresting and unattractive, they’d be glad to see it disappear in the depths of that pool where great but unattractive technology disappears to die a slow and painfully ignored death. I’ll just call that the “Not as shiny as Apple”-pool. In that vain, every year there’s renewed discussion whether RSS is dead or not and it never leads anywhere.

The motivation of the latter is clear: Twitter, Facebook and a myriad of other social networks have replaced personal curating. Nowadays, friends and contacts decide what’s worth a read, while, ideally, you can lean back and enjoy. It’s an interesting, albeit heavily flawed concept (more about why I think it’s flawed either in this article, or sometime later. It kinda depends on how much I still care when I’m done writing that other stuff you see below).

Anyway: Google Reader, after the demise of Bloglines and just about any other full-featured RSS-reader probably the last beacon of original RSS-feed love out there, recently received an update which was meant to streamline it with many other Google products. The update is mainly a facelift, adapting it to the no-nonsense, loads of whitespace, more icons, less text design of recent Google products (closely modeled on Google’s new Google+, that social network that’s a lot like Twitter and a bit like Facebook but pretending to be neither).

In addition to that facelift, they also removed its social elements, that is seeing what people you added within Google Reader shared, and the ability to share your stuff with others in return. Instead, they added a big and shiny +1 button underneath every item, allowing you to send stuff to your Google+ profile.

Basically, Google  turned their reader into another content provider for their fledgling social network, removing what they regard as cruft and detrimental to their goal of reaching world dominance. And by world dominance I mean social network dominance (I’m not THAT paranoid).

There’s a small but outspoken minority of Google Reader sharing fans and they are pissed off (as is, according to TechCrunch, all of Iran). Google doesn’t care and I don’t think they should. You see, Google Reader is, first and foremost, a feedreader. You feed it with feeds, it slices, dices and does its thing and what it spits out is what you consume. I remember quite clearly when after their second iteration (the first one was a dud and everyone simply KNEW that Google’s Reader would fail against the mighty Bloglines), that they introduced social elements. And back then, everyone either balked or was foaming at the changes (there was actually not a single person on earth who liked them from the start – I know this for a fact). Fast forward a year or two, and lo and behold, people actually liked the social elements. Fast forward another few years and people are foaming at the mouth for removing those features.

My point, for all you tl;dr people out there: Google Reader is now what it used to be initially: a tool to read your feeds. If you want, you can share articles to your peeps on Google+. And that, my friends, is that.

PS: So no, I don’t feel like elaborating on the flawed concept of the recommendation system. Fear not, I might have time on my hands sometime in the next few months to actually write something up.

How not to do stuff

What’s a feed reader? Well, it’s a piece of software that lets me read RSS feeds. So what’s a good RSS feedreader? One that at least lets me read the feeds I want to read. What’s a bad feed reader? Well, a feed reader that won’t let me read my feeds. One that actually goes as far as to establish that my feeds are just not good enough to be put into the feed reader.

But surely, no feed reader would do this, right? Well, there’s one. Launched today into private beta, it shows this message to users (click to view in full):

Well, here you go. If those stupid users weren’t so inconsiderate as to try to import their feeds, the feed reader would actually work. I don’t really care how many great new features, including commenting of posts directly from the reader, a reader has. As long as I’m told what to actually read, it sucks. Ass. Especially when it’s used as an excuse for not scaling.

Netvibes Ginger preview

The almighty FSM has finally answered my prayers and sent an invite for Netvibes‘ new iteration, “Ginger”, my way. You could of course argue that it was a member of Netvibes who sent this invitation my way, and that it was less my praying to the FSM and more my incessant begging all over the goddamn web. But that’s a technicality I’m not going to indulge in any further here. Lets move on to what Netvibes has created with Ginger:

First and foremost, you can now add a public page for yourself, humbly called “universe”.It’s a nice way of showcasing all your feeds and what else you’ve got going with that myriad of other services you’re probably using. Plenty of widgets like the Twitter or Skype ones will facilitate that. Well, here’s mine. When you’re having a look at it, don’t forget to note my widget, for it displays the groovy taste in music I undoubtedly have.

Another new feature, but not yet active, is a 2GB online space, letting you store mp3s, documents and whatnot. Like I said, not yet active, but showcased on the Netvibes blog here.

And since it’s web2.0 and nobody wants to do stuff alone anymore, Netvibes also enriched their service by adding contacts. Find out who’s on Netvibes and add them as contacts by importing from your address book or other services like Twitter and Flickr (I can’t wait for Open Social to make all that redundant). Save items from feeds and show them to your friends. Like so:

Netvibes sharing

Whatever your friends or contacts are sharing you can view by clicking the “Activities” tab on the top bar of Ginger:

Netvibes Friends activities

As I’m hugely unpopular and haven’t yet had time to trick and bully people into becoming my Netvibes “friends”, there’s nothing in that list yet. But I’m sure it will look quite awesome once there’s stuff in there.

That’s it for now.There’s a slew of other little changes, which you’ll be able to notice yourself either mid-February when Ginger will launch for everyone or sometime before that if you were able to shamelessly beg yourself into Ginger the way I did.

Tech.Stormgrass is powered by WordPress 4.2.2 and K2