Redshirts

"And that’s just what he did, until the day six months later when a systems failure caused the Intrepid to plow into a small asteroid, vaporizing the ship and killing everyone on board instantly.

[…]

No, no, I’m just fucking with you. They all lived happily ever after. Seriously."

I wish I could say this passage makes more sense with context. John Scalzi’s Redshirts is the most warped book I’ve read in a while.

“Phone” is to the iPhone as “RSS reader” is to ?

It’s time to iterate on the product formerly known as the RSS reader. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are going in a direction that emphasizes usability and ephemerality over durable value and utility. I want someone to do to the RSS reader what Apple has done to the iPhone. The iPhone is a phone — but it’s also a completely different paradigm.

Continue reading ““Phone” is to the iPhone as “RSS reader” is to ?”

Density and Difference

Density and Difference. Quick exploration of the information densities for Google+ and Twitter. With Twitter, updates are uniform, compact, easily scannable and a pleasure to read. Google+ puts an emphasis on distinguishing between objects such that you have to mentally process the content type before the content.

What I read, December 2010

On Kommons, Andrew Spittle asked what I’m reading now that I’m no longer on Twitter or Facebook. For now, I mostly consume content with Reeder (on the iPhone and desktop, and synced with Google Reader), Instapaper, or as podcasts. My Economist print subscription lapsed about a month ago but I’m thinking about picking it up again.

There’s a balance to my RSS consumption. I subscribe to sites like Techmeme and Mediagazer to keep tabs on the zeitgeist. Nieman Lab and Romenesko are requirements to keep up with the industry. When they publish, Ethan Zuckerman, Jonathan Stray, Paul Graham, Mark Pesce, and Stijn Debrouwere always offer unexpected insight. I also subscribe to a dozen or so people’s personal Twitter accounts, partly because they share good links and partly to keep up with what my friends are up to.

My Instapaper is mostly fed by longer items I come across by RSS, the Instapaper homepage, or Give Me Something to Read.

As far as podcasts go, there’s another dozen or so I listen to on a regular basis. These include Spark from CBC Radio, BBC Digital Planet, Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, a few from FORA.tv, IT Conversations, NPR’s Planet Money, WNYC’s On The Media, Peter Day’s World of Business, Rebooting the News, Seminars about Long-Term Thinking, and This Week in Tech. Podcasts are likely my favorite form of media. They’re good fodder for daydreaming during long runs or workouts.

If you’d like, you can also download my whole OPML file.

Theory: It’s the reader, not the publishing tool

Plug one: There’s a report making its way around the internet that says the youth are spending less time blogging. Specifically, “28% of the two groups studied — teens 12 to 17 and young adults 18 to 29 — actively blogged.” For 2009, this percentage has dropped off to only 14% of teens and 15% of young adults. The author attributes this drop to a rise in the use of Facebook.

Plug two: Marshall Kirkpatrick floated a related idea the other day that Facebook is now the world’s leading news reader. There are at least a few reasons: Facebook has the largest, most active user base on the planet, Facebook gives you control over who has access to your content which leads to a greater willingness to share, and Facebook wraps the whole creation/consumption experience into a nice, easy to use interface.

That last point is the most critical, in my opinion. As average Joe, it’s much, much easier to publish with Facebook (or Twitter) because there is tremendous attention paid to the experience of how content is consumed on a regular basis. Both Facebook and Twitter have dedicated dashboards for your subscriptions where you get visual reinforcement that other people are coming across your content. With my blog, I have a home page which my dad or mom might read occasionally, and X number of faceless RSS subscribers who may or may not “Mark All As Read” on a daily basis. Figuring out how to use Google Reader to read other blogs almost requires the scientific method, which could be a good thing if you consider yourself a geek but is almost certainly a bad thing if you’re a Normal just wanting to read the national news and your friends’ writing.

Moral of the story: Always take studies with a grain of salt. I suspect The Youth are publishing more than ever, but it’s coming in the form of Facebooking and Tumblring instead of maintaining a blog because the proprietary tools, unfortunately, have better readers right now than the open source ones.

Related to this, I’m hoping to take Ryan Sholin’s lead and write more on my original home space. It’s a muscle I think I need to exercise. I’m also going to take Gruber’s lead and turn off comments because I get way too many comment notifications like, “Hi, cool blog, just curious what spam system you use for cleaning up comments because I am getting so many spammers on my blog.”

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