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Google Readerbook Me

Google has added a social networking aspect to Google Reader. Inviting a user to chat (i.e., adding them to your GTalk buddy list and you to theirs) allows you to view their shared feeds in a new section, cleverly titled, "Friends' shared items".

You can add me by adding martingordon at gmail.com to your GTalk buddy list. As an aside, there should be an easy way to link to this action instead of having to provide instructions. For now, I'll call it "Google Readerbook me", in honor of that other social network.

I only have one friend at the moment, Scoble, and there is a major flaw (which I mentioned to him last night and he blogged about): If they share an item from a feed you're subscribed to, you see it twice. For people with many friends and lots of overlapping shared items, the number of dupes that have to be processed can grow considerably.

The solution, of course, is to remove the duplicate items. But let's take it one step further. Show me how many times the item would have shown up in my feed list. I can list six metrics that are no-brainers: friends sharing/starring/subscribed to this item and all users sharing/starring/subscribed to this item. Google Reader instantly becomes a del.icio.us/Digg competitor if they decide to show the "all users" metrics. Perhaps it even turns into a del.icio.us/Digg killer since starring/sharing is such an "organic" action. Since I'm doing it anyway, there's no inertia keeping me from participating and there's no need for me to install and use browser extensions or Bookmarklets to bookmark/submit anything.

It's clear now Google's approach to building a social network is the exact opposite of Facebook's. Facebook first built the network and then tacked on applications; Google first built the applications and then integrated the social network into them. In Facebook's case, yes the network itself has its uses, but I have yet to find a truly killer app among the thousands of Facebook apps ("Zombies" and "Super Wall" aren't going to change the way I live, work, or for that matter, socialize). Google's way is sneakier (in a good way) and this means it may take longer to build up the network, but I feel in the end it'll lead to a more useful social network - the one that enhances the applications I already use.

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For Kent: My Swivel Feeds

Kent has asked me to contribute five feeds to his swivel feeds experiment (I'm honored, by the way). I was going to include Engadget, Scoble, TechCrunch and Dave Winer as jokes, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity so here's my contribution:

curiousgirl's playground - I discovered Jing's blog after the Penn link love that went around a few months ago. She writes about tech, business, web 2.0 and the like and her posts never cease to impress me.

Daring Fireball - I was hoping to include less known blogs in my list, but I couldn't pass up a link to DF. John Gruber is the ultimate Apple fanboy, except with an added touch of class and objectiveness, that make him the go-to guy for big-picture Apple commentary.

Information Arbitrage - Roger writes about finance and technology, two of my biggest interests, and that's what keeps me coming back. I really can't name any other blog that tackles these two areas in a way that strikes me as well as IA.

Marginal Revolution - Marginal Revolution is like Freakonomics taken to the next level. Alex and Tyler have their share of fun and quirky econ stories, but they're balanced well by more serious and/or theoretical pieces. Favorite recurring themes include "Markets in everything" and "Claims my Russian wife laughs at".

Signal vs Noise - Another popular one, but I love the simplicity that surrounds everything 37 Signals does. I can't say I'm a big user of their products, but I love their design and (by extension) their software development philosophies.

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When River of News Doesn't Work

Since I switched to Google Reader, I've read my feeds all at once in the trendy "River of News" style. This past week, however, I was on vacation and while I did have internet access, it was spotty and I didn't get a chance to keep up with my feeds (on a side note, Google Reader doesn't play well with half-working 'net connections; I lost a lot of starred posts and read/unread statuses).

It's unfortunate that three big events took place this week: the Geneva Motor Show, SxSW, and PMA. River of news just isn't working for the ton of posts I have to sift through. So I'm currently plowing through my feeds one at a time and learning new key commands ("?" works well as a reminder). It's no longer j, j, j, s, j, j, shift+s, as Scoble puts it; it's now j, j, j, shift+n, shift+o, j, j, etc. It does take some getting used to and I'm going slightly slower, but at least my brain doesn't get as tired jumping from cameras to cars back to cameras and everything else sprinkled in between.

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BarCamp Miami and the Desire for Local News

BarCamp Miami took place yesterday at the University of Miami. I didn't go since I'm in Philly, but the BarCamp Miami site has a good list (though without a doubt not exhaustive) of Miami bloggers.

I'm currently subscribed to a few Miami-related RSS feeds but I am not nearly getting the amount of local news from South Florida as I'd like. I avoid those cityname.com (such as miami.com) sites like the plague, mainly because you get a few story views before having to register (ugh!), and Yahoo provides a Miami Herald RSS feed that leaves something to be desired (I want full feeds and less on murders, car accidents, etc), so hopefully I can get a bit more from these local bloggers.

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The Last BitTorrent/RSS Guide You'll Ever Need

It seems like every week we get yet another guide on how to use RSS and a BitTorrent client to download TV shows automagically. Xtorrent, a Dave Watanabe (of NewsFire fame) app, will soon render those guides obsolete. Beta 3, released last week, adds built-in support for RSS. I've been using it for a few days now and it works wonderfully. Getting started requires only three steps:

Step 1. Find an RSS feed that has .torrent files enclosed (say, from tvRSS.net)
Step 2. Click the RSS+ button at the bottom of the source pane to add the feed.
Step 3. Find your feed in the source pane and double-click or click download to start getting the selected torrent.

Xtorrent has nowhere near the download/upload configuration options that an app like Azureus has, but it is still in beta and the default settings work just fine. Pre-release pricing is available for a limited time ($15.89 vs $18.99), so now is a good a time as any to pick it up.

Note: Downloading copyrighted television programs is a violation of copyright laws. Download at your own risk.

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Full Text Feeds or Die

Ethan wants to start a movement:

Everyone should unsusbscribe to feeds which don’t honor the spirit of RSS.
Everyone should thereby unsubscirbe from feeds which do not provide full-text.

I tend to agree with him. When I started this blog, I had partial feeds and Google ads because I cared about numbers. Then I gave up partial feeds because I only cared about numbers with dollar signs. Then I gave up Google ads because I cared only about me.

Anyway, I decided to go through my feeds and pick out how many of them are actually partial feeds. Here's my list:

  • Ars Technica (more than one feed) (no good excuse, but probably my favorite site on the 'Net; been following it for 6+ years)
  • Daily Pennsylvanian (school newspaper; a partial feed sure beats picking up a paper copy)
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del (only care about knowing when the new comic is up, which doesn't show up in the feed, FWIW)
  • Penny Arcade (same as above)
  • Brighthand (should probably unsubscribe)
  • Daring Fireball (I believe there's a paid version of full-text feeds, which I should get around to purchasing)
  • DP Review (I don't care about their news items, since all I watch out for are the camera reviews, which tend to be ~10 pages long anyway)
  • Phill Ryu (hasn't updated since November)
  • LOST — The Tail Section (I don't know of any other decent Lost blogs)
  • Cheap Ass Gamer (not a partial feed; has no text at all)
  • Trey Copeland (should probably unsubscribe)
  • ThinkSecret (best Apple rumor site)
  • Startup Review (another unsub candidate)

In order to not encourage the partial feeding, I'm not gonna link to these guys. If they sound interesting enough to you from the name, then Google them. My partial feeds total to 16 (counting 4 for Ars Technica) out of my 140 feeds, a little more than 10%. I'll probably unsubscribe to 4 or 5 of them, bringing my percentage to below 10%, only one of which (Daring Fireball) I would consider a true blog. It's a start.

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Hugh's Random Blogging Notes

Hugh of gapingvoid has posted some "Random Blogging Notes". At first glance, it looks like a typical "How to get more traffic/become rich/etc." After actually reading it, you'll quickly learn it's typical Hugh MacLeod "f**k you and the world you live in" style (which I enjoy thoroughly), and so by definition doesn't sugarcoat any of the realities both A- and Z-listers face. Some of my favorites:

8. So you a read lot of A-Listers. Congratulations. You now know a lot of stuff everybody else knows.

9. It’s damn hard not to read a lot of A-Listers. They got to where they are for a reason.

16. The day you can write as compellingly and consistently as say, Kathy Sierra, Jeff Jarvis, Guy Kawasaki or Michael Arrington, will be the day I start taking your complaints of low traffic seriously.

40. When people ask me what the future of media is, I always answer, “RSS”. Thank you, Winer & Co. Seriously.

And to top it all off…

41. Most of the stuff on this list is wrong.

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Web 2.0's Next Big Step: Unplugged

Unplugged Socialtext announced Socialtext Unplugged at Le Web 3 yesterday. The idea is to allow for offline wiki edits that can be synced back to the system once the user is online again. This is similar to Scrybe's biggest selling point, OfflineSync, which allows users to work offline.

Working offline is the next big step for Web 2.0 apps. We've gotten to the point where web apps have become mature enough to actually replace traditional desktop apps, thanks to AJAX and the collaboration bonuses that come with a centrally-stored application. I use GMail for non-critical email (basically everything non-school), but I use a desktop client and my Treo for the emails I need ASAP or have a need to review later whether or not internet access is available. I use NetNewsWire because reading feeds keeps me entertained and in the loop if my connection is down or I'm in a place where no access is available. Syncing between my laptop and desktop works about 95% of the time, but on occasion I have to deal with having read items marked unread or getting subscribed to the same feed multiple times.

The thing I need to make the jump: offline access. If I could go to GMail whether or not I was online and find an old email, I'd use it over my desktop client. If I could catch up on my feeds in Google Reader while sitting on a plane, I'd use that over NNW. I don't mean to pick on Google, they're just the one with apps most likely to solve my current needs save for this one drawback.

I really hope the unplugged icon catches on and we get some type of standardization for offline mode. Imagine it being as simple as subscribing to an RSS feed: click on the blue icon and Firefox automatically downloads the sync information. Next time you hit the site, Firefox checks for the live site; if it finds it, you go to that, otherwise you go to a locally cached version. Now you can answer emails, star your feeds, whatever, and the changes are updated next time you get online.

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ScobleShow Review

I'm just about done watching every episode of Robert Scoble's ScobleShow put out so far. As someone who hasn't touched his DSLR in a very long time, my favorite (and most inspiring) episodes are the Photowalking with Thomas Hawk series of videos.

The best part of his show is that it works. I've subscribed to Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection and checked out Zoomr (though I'm still partial to Flickr). And while I haven't checked out all of the companies he's featured, I have checked out a few of them (Become.com [video] and Cuts [video]). And while I probably would have checked those sites out if Robert would have linked to them on his blog instead, they are a lot more memorable if I can put a face to the site I might just look at a handful of times. In other words, the stickiness factor of video is much higher than that of text.

My concerns about video podcasts apply to the medium in general, not just Robert's show, but I think it's worthwhile to mention them here:

One of my big concerns with video podcasts, and particularly ones so full of content, is the inability to comment effectively. While I can easily quote a section of one of Robert's blog posts, it's currently impossible to similarly comment on a particular snippet of video without making people download the entire show and manually search for the part I'm commenting on. Perhaps Cuts (a video-editing app featured on the ScobleShow) could help with this.

Another factor affecting the amount I comment is that the iTunes -> web browser link isn't quite there. I know that Ze Frank and Rocketboom have active communities, for example, but they're non-existent to me because of the effort it takes (yes, I'm lazy) to go from a given video in iTunes to that video's comments. Contrast this to the simplicity of the NetNewsWire -> web browser link, where I can just push the right arrow and have the post load up for me in the background.

Finally, I feel that Robert's videos are a bit too long. The product demo episodes have been short enough and require video so I'll watch those straight through. The interview episodes tend to be a lot longer and keep my attention for less time. My main concern with those is that they often don't convey any visual information - I can keep them playing behind a bunch of windows and not miss anything by just listening to the audio.

All that said, Robert's show does give us some great behind-the-scenes content as well as also providing footage for those of us not in the Bay Area with which to refine our mental images. Unless I fall too far behind (which doesn't look likely given my ever-decreasing count of unlistened podcasts), I don't see myself unsubscribing any time soon.

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ENGL 105: Copyright and Culture

The class I am currently sitting in has a list of recommended blogs on the syllabus. We just watched a video podcast. Cool!

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