Mac and video game geek living in Japan.
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Fever to Feedbin

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RSS isn’t as hip as it was during the days of Google Reader, but I still launch a feed reader every single day. It helps me keep up with the latest technology news and ensures that I have a steady stream of independent content to read from my favorite weblogs. Twitter can function in many of the same ways, but I prefer to keep my social network as a platform for communication rather than a news gathering service.

Up until last month, I had been using Fever as the backend for my RSS, syncing with Reeder as my primary client. Fever was a tremendous product by Shaun Inman that I first started using shortly after it launched in 2009. It was a self-hosted RSS reader with an API for developers; a beautiful user interface; and a neat “Hot” feature which listed all of the webpages your feeds have linked to, over a given time period, sorted by frequency.

Fever’s Hot List

Fever’s Hot feature was, by far, the most innovative part of the software. And to this day, I’m not aware of any other RSS service that provides this sort of functionality. It let you step away from your feeds for a few days and quickly catch up with the most important news items without having to sift through everything — Fever did all the heavy lifting for you.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Shaun Inman announced late last year that he would be discontinuing sales and support for Fever as well as his web analytics software Mint. Here’s what I wrote at the time of the announcement:

I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun Inman’s software for years — I reviewed Mint and Fever around the time I first installed them and they’ve been my favorite web analytics and RSS syncing services ever since. But the writing’s been on the wall for both of them for quite some time — development has drastically slowed over the past two years. I expect I’ll continue using them for a while, but eventually I’ll have to migrate to something else.

I still use Mint for Initial Charge’s web stats, but last month I transitioned to Feedbin for all of my RSS syncing needs. The process for choosing Feedbin over all of the alternatives wasn’t exactly comprehensive. The only services I considered were the ones that Reeder had support for and I only actually tried one them. There may be other, better services available, but I’ve been more than happy with the decision I made.

Looking through Reeder’s “Add Account” view, my options were Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, FeedHQ, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Minimal Reader, and BazQux Reader. I immediately ruled out all of the services with ugly logos or poorly designed websites. It may seem shallow, but you can usually learn a lot about whether or not a service is going to click for you based on those two factors. And, honestly, life’s too short for bad design. That left me with Feedbin, Feedly, FeedHQ, and Minimal Reader as the front-runners.

I started browsing each of the service’s websites for pricing information or unique features that would pull me toward one of them. After some investigating, I remembered a piece I wrote from last year about a nifty feature added to Feedbin — email newsletter support. That’s all it took. I signed up for the free trial and became a paying customer just a few days later.

Feedbin Mobile View

There has been a big resurgence of email newsletters as of late, especially from the independent technology weblogs that I frequently read. I’m interested in reading this supplemental content, but my inbox isn’t exactly the place where I want to be reading this stuff. I don’t want anything emailed to me that I can’t act upon quickly. And long-form prose often sits for weeks before I have a chance to read it. I want this sort of content in my RSS reader, where I can either read it immediately or save it for later, depending on my available time.

For me, email newsletter support is the killer feature for an RSS service. But there were a couple other niceties worth highlighting that I discovered during my time using Feedbin:

  • A feed list with bulk actions and sorting: After importing my OPML file, I was able to sort all of my feeds by most recently updated. This surfaced all of the, what I believe to be, abandoned feeds and I was able to unsubscribe with just a few taps. And to further thin the herd, I sorted my feeds by volume and unsubscribed from some of the more frequently updated sites that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for.
  • Actions: This allows you to automatically mark as read or star any feed item that matches a chosen search term. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of political talk you encounter on a daily basis, this will work perfectly for you.

One of the best aspects of Feebin, though, is its honest business model. You pay a monthly or yearly fee — I signed up for the $30 per year plan — in exchange for the use of Feedbin’s web app and syncing service. Some of the other services weren’t exactly up-front with their pricing — either omitting it from their homepage or making it almost impossible to find without the help of a search engine. Feedly was the worst offender of this, which is surprising because of how well-known they are.

From Feedly’s homepage, I couldn’t find any information about what they charged for their services. I had to search DuckDuckGo in order to find this page that explains all of the pricing tiers. I guess this information is only surfaced for registered users with free accounts. That seems a little dishonest to me. There’s no indication of premium accounts on the homepage and there are even two “Get Started for Free” buttons that could mislead new users into thinking that all of the features listed on the homepage are free for everyone, which is not the case. Many of the features listed on the homepage require a premium account.

Compare that to Feedbin. They have the monthly pricing information in the header, right above a “Try it Free” button. They aren’t trying to trick you into signing up with a false sense that you can just use all of the features without paying. Feedbin is honest and up-front with their potential customers, letting them know exactly what they’re getting into before signing up. That’s the kind of company I want to give my money to. And of course, it helps that they have a well-designed service with great features and competitive prices. I expect I’ll be using Feedbin for many years to come.

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rikishiama
5 hours ago
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NewsBlur has a badly designed web interface? Wut!?!
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The Trump administration, lookism, and the Saudis

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I’ve been guilty of this too, and I apologize.  It strikes me that it has become politically acceptable among some of the high status people in my Twitter feed to make fun — if only implicitly — of the ugly, idiosyncratic, puzzled, sweaty, or otherwise mockable images sometimes presented by members of the Trump administration.

I’ve also seen a tendency to use images to play on some of the ruling Saudis as fitting stereotypes of sinister or perhaps comical, or some combination of the two.  At the very least, “orientalism” is making a comeback, and with some of the people who have been objecting to Trump’s own stereotypes.

I do not see these as positive developments.  It is inevitable that, to some extent, we judge people by their looks, and in some instances it may be practical and indeed necessary as well.  That said, I doubt if it is a good idea to publicly mock the ugly and the mockable for being ugly and mockable.  Even if they are evil, or doing the world harm.

Many people (rightly) criticized Trump’s campaign imitation and mockery of what seemed to be a spastic individual.  Let’s say Trump had done the same imitation of a spastic who had been convinced of robbery and murder.  Would that have been better?  Well, maybe better but still not good.  Don’t mock the looks, even of wrongdoers, even if those are looks of stupidity or boorishness, and of course members of the Trump administration have not been so convicted.

what if there are some people born looking sinister (by our standards), but are perfectly nice and friendly?  Or say there were witches, and witches were bad, and most witches had long, crooked noses, but some other people did too.  Should we caricature/criticize witches for this appearance?

Furthermore, the standards for ugly and mockable are in fact not always so clear, and trying to cement them in with our mockery is problematic.

This also should be a lesson as to how easily people can slip into enjoying racist, sexist, and otherwise objectionable memes.  Returning to the Saudis, it is especially easy to use this particular photo because stereotypes of Arabs still are permissible in some parts of American discourse:

Would that photo have been retweeted so many times if it simply had looked like a normal Western bureaucratic meeting?  And yes, you can use this photo to show Trump is a hypocrite, relative to his earlier pronouncements about the Saudis, but of course the picture communicates much more, namely that the Saudis have a very different and sometimes strange-looking (to us) culture.

We should not hesitate to criticize what we think is wrong.  But criticizing the appearance of various wrongs, as embodied in the looks of various people, is going a step further.  Don’t let the wrongdoers distract you from the reality that your use of images may be promoting an unjust generalization, or in fact mocking people for non-objectionable cultural elements.  In other words, the use of images may be promoting “lookism.”

This is one of the most serious problems with photos on Twitter, namely that we are not good enough to use them carefully.  Right now, the unjust philosophy of lookism is on a rampage, bigly.

The post The Trump administration, lookism, and the Saudis appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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rikishiama
2 days ago
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Extra! Billy Bragg Comes to Tea…

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In the late summer of last year, I received an email out of the blue from Billy Bragg.

“Hi Martin”, Billy wrote, “For the past couple of years I’ve been writing a book that seeks to put skiffle into its proper context in British cultural history. My starting point is your dad’s record collection and it ends with Ken playing at the 100 Club the night after the first punk festival held there in September 1976.”

club

He went on to say that Goin’ Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken Colyer – a collaboration between Mike Pointon, Ray Smith and myself that presented Ken’s story as an oral biography – had been a great help, “not only giving me some insight into the British trad scene, but also helping me to understand the importance of New Orleans to both jazz and skiffle.”

Billy wanted to find some pictures that helped to highlight that this was the moment when guitars came to the fore, and the music shifted, setting the stage for the British Pop and R ’n’ B boom of the early sixties. Some were in the Ken book, but there were others left over, so I looked them out and Billy, who was in the East End for family reasons, came to tea.

A few days later Billy sent me a few of the chapters, and I was thrilled by the amount love and devotion that had gone into the book. It needed someone who was willing to put the time and effort into researching and reading widely, and in finding those who had lived through those times and still had stories to be told. I know how pleased my dad would have been to see a light shone on this period – to see the story so well recounted, placed in the context of Britain’s post-war years and the American and British music that preceded and followed. From America’s prison farms to New Orleans at the turn of the century, and forward to the birth of rock, it’s not only a remarkable musical journey but also a terrific piece of social history.

It’s a bonus that Billy comes at it from the viewpoint of a working musician, and a political one at that. Following in the footsteps of Pete Frame’s excellent The Restless Generation, Billy puts flesh on the bones of the story – he shows the wild effect that Skiffle, through Lonnie Donegan, had on the youth of Britain and America, a DIY genre that gave a whole generation the means to make their own music, while shoving aside the bland and tired-out variety shows of their parents.

Roots, Radicals & Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World is released on June 1st. I really recommend it. There is a lengthy excerpt [on the music player to the right] of Billy in conversation with Bob Harris at a preview of the book, which took place at Cecil Sharp House. Here’s a short extract.

lonnie

Lonnie Donegan takes centre stage in a photograph from the period, playing guitar and singing into the mic. To his right, Alexis Korner plays mandolin and Ken Colyer strums the guitar slung across his knee. To his left, Bill Colyer sits playing a washboard, while Chris Barber plucks a stand-up bass. This picture embodies a revolutionary moment in British popular music, when the guitar, for so long stuck at the back of the bandstand, an often inaudible part of the rhythm section, comes to the front and takes control. A young Pete Townshend was there to witness this paradigm shift.

The future powerhouse guitar player of the Who was just a schoolboy when he saw Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen at Acton Town Hall, west London. At the time, his father was a professional musician, playing with the Squadronaires big band. Used to the smooth, sophisticated swing played by his father, Townshend was shocked by the primitive nature of the Jazzmen and their crowd. “I was used to the tidy music of my dad’s era. It was messy. He (Colyer) was messy. The band were messy. The audience were messy.” In scenes of seeming chaos that would not have been out of place at a punk gig twenty-five years later, Townshend described how the men were drunk, wore cheap rough duffel coats, some had wet themselves and instead of wearing wrist watches, some had alarm clocks hanging around their necks.

Disorienting though these scenes must have been to the young Townshend, what made a lasting impression on him was the sight of guitarist taking control of the gig by bringing his instrument to the front of the stage. In that moment, he grasped the enormity of what was happening. “This instrument was going to change the world. For me, this was absolutely massive because my father was a saxophone player. I could see the end of my father’s world – I was going to get this guitar and it was going to be bye-bye old timer and that’s exactly what happened.”








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rikishiama
2 days ago
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The colors of Mister Rogers’ cardigan sweaters, 1979-2001

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Mr Rogers Sweater Colors

Using data from The Neighborhood Archive, Owen Phillips charted the color of every sweater Mister Rogers wore on his PBS television program from 1979 to 2001.

Some sweaters were worn once and then never again, like the neon blue cardigan Rogers wore in episode 1497. Others, like his harvest gold sweaters, were part of Rogers’ regular rotation and then disappeared. And then there were the unusual batch of black and olive green sweaters Rogers wore exclusively while filming the “Dress-Up” episodes in 1991.

Some things about the sweaters and Mister Rogers:

- His mother knit the sweaters. Sorry, MISTER ROGERS’ MOTHER KNIT HIS CARDIGAN SWEATERS! I have not heard a more perfect detail about anything recently. He talks about his mom and the sweaters in this video — “I guess that’s the best thing about things. They remind you of people.”

- As you can see from the visualization above, Mister Rogers’ sweaters got darker as the show progressed. I will not speculate about what that might have meant.

- The Mister Rogers Marathon on Twitch is still going.

- But if you miss the marathon, there are plenty of episodes available on Amazon Prime.

Tags: color   Fred Rogers   infoviz   Owen Phillips   TV
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rikishiama
2 days ago
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chrisrosa
4 days ago
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San Francisco, CA
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samuel
4 days ago
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"I guess that’s the best thing about things. They remind you of people."
The Haight in San Francisco

My social media fast

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Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only.1 I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked.

Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.2

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan3 to rural Vermont. It’s beautiful here. I live in a house in the country surrounded by horse pasture and there’s great skiing in the winter. The nearest town is only five minutes away by car; it has a two-screen movie theater, a handful of restaurants (none of which are typically open after 10pm), two grocery stores, but nowhere to get a proper donut, sushi, or bowl of ramen. (The nearest ramen is an hour’s drive away.) While I was writing this post yesterday afternoon, the power in my house went out and didn’t come back on for three hours, forcing a delay in publication. It’s been difficult to meet people. Folks here are nice, but they mostly remind me of the people in the small town I grew up in (aka why I moved to the city in the first place). I work from home at a desk in my bedroom and some days, the only beings I’ll talk to are Siri, my landlord’s horses, and some days, my kids and their mom.

Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it. When I wasn’t working, I was on my phone, refreshing Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook repeatedly in an endless series, like a little old lady at Caesar’s Palace working several slot machines at the same time. And I couldn’t stop it — my phone was in my hand even when I was trying to concentrate on my kids, watching a movie, or reading a book. So, I quit for a week to see what would happen. It’s not a super-long time period, but here’s what I noticed:

- Once I’d set my mind to it, it was pretty easy to go cold turkey. Perhaps my Twitter usage and keeping up with the news for kottke.org acted as a nicotine patch, but I don’t think so. Instagram was the toughest to stay away from, but I didn’t crack once.

- As the week went on, it was more and more evident that it wasn’t so much social media as the phone that was the problem. Even now, a few days after the conclusion of my experiment, I’m leaving my phone at home when I go out or across the room when I’m doing something. I’m going to try hard to keep this up.

- Buuuut, when you have kids, there is no such thing as giving up your phone. There’s always the potential call from their school or their mom or their doctor or another parent regarding a playdate or or or. I spend enough time online at my computer for work that I could mostly do without my phone, but with kids, that’s not really an option.

- Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

- My no-social week, for a variety of reasons, was probably the shittiest week I’d had in more than a year. Total emotional mess. Being off social media didn’t make it any better, but I doubt it made it worse. Overall, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t subjecting my friends and followers to self-subtweets and emo Instagram Stories…I was already scoring enough own goals without social media’s help.

- So, what did I do instead? I wish I could say that I had loads of extra free time that I used to learn Spanish, clean my house, catch up with old friends, cook delicious meals, and finish a couple work projects. Perhaps if shittiest week ever hadn’t been happening, I would have done some of that. Still, I did end up going to bed early every night, read a couple books, and had more time for work and dealing with kid drama.

After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting. I unfollowed some accounts I realized I didn’t care that much about and followed others I’ve been curious to check out. Swarm I check a lot less, about once a day — there was a lot of FOMO going on when I saw friends checked in at cool places in NYC or on vacations in Europe. And I’m only checking in when I go someplace novel, just to keep a log of where I’ve been…that’s always fun to look back on.

Mostly, I’ve resolved to use my phone less. Being on my phone was my fidget spinner…this thing that I would do when there was nothing else to do or that I would use to delay going to bed or delay getting out of bed in the morning. Going forward, I’m going to be more mindful about its use. If nothing else, my hands and thumbs might start feeling better.

  1. Yeah, I did not stop using Twitter. Ideally I would have, but Twitter is a huge source of information for this here website and I couldn’t afford to give it up without ditching work for a week, which I did not want to do because I wanted to maintain my normal schedule. But I didn’t look at Twitter on my phone, didn’t reply to or fave any tweets, muted some non-news/link accounts I follow, and limited my usage to “business hours”.

  1. Still one of my favorite tweets is from Scott Simpson: “My new standard of cool: when I’m hanging out with you, I never see your phone ever ever ever.”

  1. Haha, you’re getting a mini leaving NYC essay anyway. Suckers!

Tags: Facebook   Instagram   Jason Kottke   NYC   Swarm   Twitter   WWW
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deezil
4 days ago
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The way he talks about "the kids mom" and the crappy week... maybe he did well with the week away for other reasons.
Louisville, Kentucky
rikishiama
2 days ago
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mellangatang
4 days ago
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Wow, a whole week?!?
Whup Tee Doo...

Nobody cares.

Inside Corey Lewandowski's Failed Romp In Trump's Swamp

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He was a political nobody who helped Donald Trump win the White House. Then Corey Lewandowski went to Washington, hell-bent on making his fortune and changing the lobbying game forever.
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freeAgent
7 days ago
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"Trump thought he was getting somebody who left the Kochs to go work for him," says Sam Nunberg, an adviser to Trump at the time who later clashed with Lewandowski. "He thought he was getting the Kochs' shiny trophy, when he was really getting their dog shit."

If this was about anyone but Trump, I wouldn't believe it.
Los Angeles, CA
rikishiama
5 days ago
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