Results tagged “aggregators” from kwc blog

Google Reader: now sorting by oldest

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davextreme just informed me via comment that Google Reader has added that he, bp, and me all seem to want: sort by oldest. Sorting by newest starves those older entries and sometimes it just doesn't make sense to read feeds in reverse chronological order.

The also announced the "sort by auto" feature, though this has actually been live longer. The sort by auto feature tries to give your least frequently updated feeds (i.e. friends) higher placement so that you can get to them sooner, while leaving things like Gizmodo/Engadget/BoingBoing further down for the daily feed slog.

Google Reader switch

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update: now sorting by oldest (thanks davextreme for the link)

Yes, I have finally abandoned Bloglines, which has carried me so far into the world of feeds. I have some quibbles with Google Reader, but the big win for me was the fact that it doesn't mark items as read until you read them. I tend to power through lists of hundreds of items at a time; Google Reader lets me stop halfway through, Bloglines demands I finish the job. It still took bp teaching me a couple of keyboard shortcuts I missed (shift-n, shift-p, and shift-o for navigating the list of feeds) to become fully comfortable with the switch.

Pros: * Doesn't mark items as read until you've read them, which makes it much easier to plow through feeds incrementally. * Better keyboard navigation. Bloglines has a shortcut for reading the next feed or folder, but there's no way to really tell what is next. * Can have more than 200 unread items in a feed, which means that you can catch up on everything you missed while on vacation.

Cons: * Not as easy to create feeds for things like weather, packages, and social sites. * Organizational system for read items is poorly integrated and modelled -- its not terribly clear what tags are, you can't browse by tags ('gt' -- goto tag -- is not the same as browsing), and you can't segment starred items by tag. Bloglines only has clip blogs, but at least they made sense to me. * Only loads entries 20 at a time. Once you make it to the 20th item, it loads the next 20. This wouldn't be so annoying if they loaded the next 20 when I got to the 18th or 19th item, but as implemented it means you have to wait for the next 20 items to load.

A New Reader

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Bloglines is still getting the job done, but I like the fact that Google revamped Google Reader to get rid of my many, many annoyances with the first incarnation. The new expanded view makes it much easier for people like me with 100+ subscriptions to actually make it through our feeds. There is also a big improvement over Bloglines: Google Reader only marks items as read as you scroll through them, which lets you catch up on the last 100 posts of BoingBoing in more manageable chunks. My only real annoyance so far is that Google Reader loads posts into the Expanded View in 20-post chunks, waiting until you are on the 20th item before loading in the next 20. As I tried to catch up on some feeds in Reader, I would have to sit an twiddle my thumbs constantly.

What would be a switcher feature for me is if they could integrate their GMail package tracking link with Google Reader. I've been playing around with Bloglines package tracking feature, but I have to copy the UPS/DHL/FedEx tracking number out of an e-mail, go to Bloglines, click add, click on Package Tracking, paste in the number, and then select a folder to add the information to. That's a lot of steps. If GMail and Reader were integrated, I could do it in one click as GMail already detects package tracking numbers.

Firefox 2 Beta 2

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I'm testing out the new Firefox 2 Beta 2. Back in the Phoenix/Firebird days, I used to download nearly every update to test out, but I've been so darn happy with the 1.x series of Firefox builds that I haven't had much reason to (except for a crashy Firefox 1.5.0 release). I find the updated look a little cramped looking, even though everything is about the same size as before, but otherwise I'm very happy with the release. I wrote the most of this review a week and a half ago, but I wanted to sit on it until I had some time to judge the stability of the release: I'm used their their betas crashing daily, but I've only had a crash or two out of this one.

There's nothing in Firefox 2 that's really ground breaking, but it does bring the best of the plugins out there and makes them part of the default browser. Although I think this may anger a plugin developer or two, overall I think it's a great model for a software application: don't bloat your releases with new features; instead, have a good plugin model that makes it possible to test new features out in the wild and select the best to become part of your next major release. Firefox 2 represents the best of Firefox 1.x plus the best Firefox 1.x plugin features, which makes for a great browser.

  • Phishing detection: I love the fact that they are making this built in. I haven't had any trouble with phishing, but I know other members of my family do, and I'm always excited to be able to give them software that eliminates a hassle. The phishing detection puts a big 'ole warning sign on top of the page and should save many people from having to cancel their credit cards.

  • Built in session saver: My browsing habits changed the day I got the first SessionSaver plugin. I could keep a lot more tabs open without having to spend part of everyday bookmarking or clearing them off because I was worried that my browser was going to crash. Or I would have to do the same because some stupid Windows Update was requiring that I reboot my computer, so I would have to close Firefox. Firefox recognized that session saving was just too darn good to not be part of the standard browser.

  • RSS/Atom feed enhancements: Firefox 2 has a new built in viewer for RSS and atom feeds that makes the feed more human-readable and also makes it very easy to subscribe using Firefox's Live Bookmarks, Bloglines, My Yahoo, or Google Reader. One possible complaint is that it overrides Feedburner's fancy feed display which does effectively the same thing. There is a case to be made for uniformity, but with this version of the Firefox implementation I think that Feedburner's still looks nicer -- Firefox's is better for actually subscribing, as it can remember which feed reader you prefer.

  • Spell checking as you type: I've always found the Firefox SpellChecker plugin a bit annoying to use. It was always a more difficult plugin to install and it didn't survive Firefox upgrades very well. It also didn't do spell checking as you typed; you had to select it from a right-click menu. I hope to have many less spelling errors in my blog entries now that Firefox 2 adds the familiar squiggly red underlines to its text fields.

  • Autocomplete from the search box: Firefox will pop down some suggested search queries as you type into the upper-right search box. This only works when you have the answers.com, Yahoo, or Google search engines selected; there are no suggestions for Amazon, eBay, or Creative Commons. Previously I had only seen this as a plugin from Google for Google searches.

  • Opens new windows in tabs by default: I hate it when a link pops open a new window on my screen and disrupts my carefully organized tabs and now Firefox embraces tabs fully with this new default functionality.

With the exception of the fact that most of your plugins won't work with the release -- though you won't need many of them with the new builtin features -- I give the 2.0 beta a thumbs up. It doesn't seem the future of Web browsing -- Flock is much more of a preview in that area -- but it does represent a selection of the best current Web browsing trends.

Quick thoughts

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No time, no time, some rapid fire rants and praise:

The good

Zimbra: I just check out their demo of their Web-based e-mail/calendar suite and it has some great stuff that makes me think, "why haven't more companies done that?" If there's an address in an e-mail you can mouse over and it pulls up a Google Map and if you mouse over a date reference ('tomorrow', 'Aug 20') it shows your schedule for that day. It's all about saving that extra step. The rest of the UI is pretty fancy and desktop-like, but I'm no longer sure why desktop-like is a plus.

Microsoft Max: A Microsoft product that I actually had fun with, though I have no idea why I would use it on a regular basis and the UI is confusing in all its modalities. I can't think of any other Microsoft product that I thought of as fun -- most just cause me to break DVDs (others agree). The feature I most enjoyed was the mantle, which arranges your photos in 3D space. (Examples: my nephew, Pinnacles, Red Bull). It looks great and it also lets you view more photos in less space. You can rearrange the clusters that it creates, but the ones it chose seemed intereresting. Side note: are the clusters in the mantle view randomly assigned? Some of their clusters are great, some make little sense, but overall it's a nice new spin on things.

iPod nano: strap one of those to the back of my cellphone and another to the back of my PSP. Slide another into my Elph case and ... oh, now I'm getting greedy.

Lost: is there anyone in the 18-35 demographic not watching this show? Everyone at the wedding was either watching the new episodes or catching up with the DVDs.

The maybe good

PSP + TV: The head of Sony says that soon you'll be able to watch video using the wireless capabilities of the PSP and sync with your DVR. Sounds pretty cool but I won't jump for joy unless I hear "TiVo."

The almost good

Google Desktop ate my CPU: I had to uninstall because the new Google Desktop decided that 99% of my CPU was quite nice to utilize, even when instructed to pause indexing. Rather unfortunate as there were some aspects of the sidebar I liked, even if it was ugly. You can tell that it's paying attention to what you're doing and trying to help and with a couple iterations I could imagine it becoming a great product, but not quite yet.

The probably ugly

Google Reader: davextreme pulled me aside during the wedding reception to let me know that Google had released a feed reader, news that I have been waiting to hear for a long time. Less than 24 hours is not enough to evaluate a feed reader properly -- for now I'll say that it's slick, but who wants to read through your feeds one entry at a time. BoingBoing alone has 20-40 entries a day -- even with keyboard shortcuts that means I have to hit 'j' 20-40 times to read just one site, at which point I want to rent a helper monkey to break up the monotony.

The ugly

iTunes 5.0 (Windows): can't seem to play a song without skipping and the 'streamlined' UI makes me wish for ole' big and bulky.

Flickr + Yahoo: the extra year of service plus two free giveaway accounts were nice presents, but Flickr still goes out for massages all the time and I don't want my Flickr ID linked to my Yahoo! ID.

TiVo: what the hell are they up to? I love my three TiVos, but their current directions have been entirely pro-broadcasters and anti-consumer. It's a very capable platform that they try to do less and less with every day. Why can't I play shows on my PSP? Why can't I share episodes with friends? Why is TiVo Desktop so buggy? Why why why?

Rzoto beta

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Josh Tyler, creator of Helio-Courier and ChameleonReader (nice RSS reader layered on top of Bloglines that I use) has taken another stab at RSS reading with his latest project, Rzoto. Rzoto is a Firefox plugin that examines the sites you read to see whether or not there are feeds associated with them. It builds a page that lists the discovered feeds and does some smart sorting. Rzoto is now in its beta phase and Josh needs some users to get feedback.

For those of you that don't understand RSS/ feeds/Atom/aggregators, or just don't like the process of tracking down a feed and manually subscribing to it, you might want to give it a shot to see if it can save you time checking Web sites for updates.

You should give it a shot even if already have a reader setup -- Rzoto does all the work for you so it doesn't require any extra effort. You'll probably find some feeds that you didn't realize existed before.

BlogPorter

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I've been playing with blimp-master Josh's experimental blog-reading tool, Chameleon. It's a modification to bloglines that does some additional tracking and mining on top of your reading. To crib from Josh's description:

Do you like Bloglines? I do. But the number of feeds I was trying to deal with quickly got away from me. I don't think folders are the answer. Therefore, I've created this work-in-progress, which does a few cool things: * Keeps track of which feeds you read, how often, and when * Figures out which feeds are your favorites (based on some heuristics), and highlights them -- in the feed list, as well as bringing them to the top (you can adjust the threshold on this) * Periodically identifies the top links in your subscribed feeds -- much like Blogdex, but for your feeds only. * Shows you your usage 'score', per feed

This uses the Bloglines Web Services, so you'll need a Bloglines account. And you still have to use Bloglines to do most of the maintenance of your account (add/delete feeds, etc.). But use BlogPorter to read your feeds, and you'll see the features start to emerge as it learns about you.

I'm waiting until my usage score starts stabilizing before I start commenting more on that specific feaure, but I will say that the blogdex-like feature that shows you which links are popular in your current feeds is pretty cool, as it has already pulled out what the hot conversations are as well as the hot links.

Josh is looking for some more people to test it out and provide feedback, so if you're a bloglines user you may want to give it a shot. It utilizes your existing bloglines account so there's no additional setup.

Cool bloglines feature

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The new citations feature that I have just recently noticed on Bloglines makes it even more useful than Technorati in finding entries linking to your blog. It's improvements over Technorati include: * speed (though this is probably due to the # of users on it) * the ability to customize your search to search inside or outside your bloglines subscriptions, which makes it much easier to find the random strangers who are linking to your blog. * includes LiveJournal entries. * seems to preserve entries much longer than Technorati, so you can find much older links.

Of course, it doesn't have the same level of API openness that Technorati has, and despite the inclusion of LiveJournal blogs, Technorati seems to carry some blogs that Bloglines does not, which makes their search results complementary, rather than competitive.

Citations search

Another day, another blog

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Bloglines has updated their service with a major new feature: clip blogs. Bloglines is an online service that lets you subscribe to RSS feeds and view them within a browser window. It is currently my feed reader of choice, as it works from any computer with a browser and Internet access, and the interface offers the features I want in a feed reader. With the new clip blogs features you can click on an entry to publish it to your clip blog while you are reading your feeds. Here's mine:

http://www.bloglines.com/blog/kwc

For many people, I imagine this is a simple and easy way to start sharing links and get involved in the blogging world. It's integration with the feed reader is also nice, as it creates a simple workflow between finding the links and publishing them.

I still think that MovableType bookmarklets are easier-to-use because they work outside of the feed reader. Also, the current bloglines service doesn't make it very easy to quote the original entry (unless I'm missing something). Most people don't have easy access to a MovableType installation, though, and Bloglines is a good feed reader that is also completely free. Personally, I'm still waiting for the service that makes it easy to do remaindered links posts into my blog ala kottke.org (perhaps a future MT plugin?).

Feed Updater III

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Fixed some easy bugs in the updater. Some of the layout bugs have been fixed, and I also fixed a bug in a third-party date parser I was using. I also added a link at the bottom that lets you reload your profile, and all the LiveJournal feeds get to look hella cool with their own profile images.

I had a good discussion with daveXtreme on his smart bookmarks thread about aggregators, and more specifically, different techniques for informing a person when a comment has been added to a thread. daveXtreme's smart bookmarks suggestion is a browser-based solution, where the browser itself would change the appearance of bookmarks based on how recently they've been updated. It's a good idea, but it's also one beyond my abilities.

In our follow-up discussion, daveXtreme mentioned:

What I'd like to see in LJ is a special tab or something to switch between "Post view" and "comment view." Post view would work as normal, with newer posts appearing at top. Each post would have a little button I could press (or something, implementation would have to be worked out) that would add it to Comment view. Comment view posts would move to the top of the list whenever a new comment is added to them ("thead bumping") so that I can track discussions I'm intereted in.
This made me think more about different ways of displaying comments within the aggregator, as well as ways to indicate that you wanted to subscribe the a thread. I had been thinking mainly about the bookmarklets route for subscribing to comment threads, but I now realize that there are a lot of possibilities for including the subscription process on the aggregator page itself. I think there needs to be both, as it seems that the sites I comment on aren't ones that I would include in the aggregator (I use bloglines for my newsreads). The possibility of having separate posts/comments view also seems interesting, though, even in the posts view, I think I would want to see comments, but perhaps only the last n.

Another thing he proposed was:

Going with the Smart Bookmarks theme, this could happen outside of a webpage in a sidebar or drawer in your browser. You'd have a "My Threads" folder that would refresh whenever a new comment is left. This would have the advantage that a server wouldn't have to build a new page for each person's particular aggregated thead views.
I hadn't thought about doing a "mini" sidebar version of the aggregator, but now that I think about it, it would be very easy. As new comments are added, you would see a note in the "mini" view indicating this, with a link to the full comment/thread. Mozilla even has a feature where you can set a bookmark to load in the sidebar instead of the browser.

Feeds Project Update II

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Some more updates to the Feeds Project. I still don't know what brought it to a grinding halt, but hopefully it won't happen again.

I made a couple other changes that should make the interleaving nicer. Most of the comics now interleave properly, and I changed the format of feeds.txt. If you look at feeds.txt you can see how it should be easier to import livejournal or xanga stuff.

I also shrunk the feed window to one week. It still astonishes me how long even 1 week is, so to spare my server bandwidth I might shrink it more.

Later this week I'll add in user profiles, so that you, too, can have your own feed list if you like. This is targeted mostly at MT people, as the current rigging is easiest that way. If you would like your own feeds list, post a comment below.

bp points out that bloglines already does a better job of feed aggregating, though that's not really a target for this tool. This is mostly meant to replicate the xanga/livejournal feed aggregators, which are better at promoting conversations across multiple blogs, whereas bloglines is good at allowing you to follow news sites.