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RSS beats social networks. It’s all about the “J”

Here’s why I use RSS

I have over 200 sites I follow. Many of them are “just” curation sites, but the majority of them produce original content.  This doesn’t mean I want to read every article from every one of them, but I do want to skim over them to see if I want to read it in more detail. A good RSS reader makes this super easy. RSS is for people who really use the internet a lot.

Here’s my Google Reader workflow

I put it in expanded mode, which means that every article has all the text in the RSS feed displayed instead of just a list of headlines. Then…

  1. Go to the “All” tab, and sort by Newest. This organizes the articles by date published. The fortunate (for serendipity and boredom-fighting) side effect of this is that articles from all my sites are interlaced. Which means that…
  2. Press J to scroll to the next article. Since I sorted by date published, the next article I look at is usually from a different site. For example, the articles I look at might be from sites ordered like this:
    1. Webdesigner Depot *press J*
    2. Shtetl-Optimized *press J*
    3. Information is Beautiful *press J*
    4. Lifehacker *press J*
    5. repeat for 300-800 articles a day
  3. Don’t read every article. Since the whole article (or at least a decent summary) appears each time I press J, I can quickly ascertain if I want to read it in more detail. If it’s short enough or doesn’t require much thought, I read it right then. If it requires more time because it’s long or requires thinking…
  4. Press S to star it. Later, I can go back and read in more detail each article in my starred list.
  5. Use the G+ button to share it on Google+ (Optional). If I want to share it or discuss it, it’s easy to share it to a lot of sources.
Typical Google Reader

Typical Google Reader

This is way easier than visiting a couple hundred websites every day…especially when many of them update very rarely. Let’s be honest, if a website only updates once a month or whatever, I’m going to miss a lot of the content on that site because I’m eventually going to stop going to it and forget about it. RSS eliminates that problem.

Why Social Networks Can’t Do This

Social networks can only kind of fulfill the same purpose as RSS with a good rss client. You’re dependent upon the content getting popular enough amongst your “friends” that someone will post one of them. Even if they do post it, you’ve got to see it posted, trust that friends tastes enough to click all their links, and then go to the original website in another window or tab and determine if you want to read it.

And that’s the key point.  When consuming lots of content, low friction is super important.  Opening a new tab or window doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but not only do you have to multiply those few seconds hundreds of times a day, but you have what is arguably an even bigger factor increasing the friction:  There is some sort of psychological hump involved with opening a new tab.  My attention and ability to manage many tabs are limited resources.  I don’t want to give those resources away based on a mere headline or a few words from someone I’m following on Twitter.

It’s a remarkably fluid experience when I can consume content from hundreds of different sources without moving my eyes from a reading area and without moving my finger from the J key.

Our alien benefactors

Ten years ago a powerful alien race appeared in the skies above humanity’s major cities.

These aliens are so far in advance of our technical abilities that they have what seems to be magical powers.  Remember Clarke’s third law:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  These aliens, who call themselves the Oodat, claim to have experience all over the universe helping species like humans reach their full potential and in fact to reach a state of “perfection”.  They’ve helped millions of species.  If you accept them at their word, you have no reason to doubt that they know whats better for you than you yourself does.

To receive their aid, all you have to do is do what they say.  Because of their unique history, they have many customs for you to follow.  For example, they have a large digital archive full of advice and stories from their past that they require you to read from every day.  They require you to gather together with other like-minded individuals and read from this archive together and listen to others expound upon what they think this archive means to you.  The Oodat require you to hold them in…something even more than esteem and appreciation.  Maybe the right word is reverence.

The most important part of the Oodat’s requirements is this:  you must reject the any ideas that could possibly be construed as not agreeing with what they’ve taught you no matter what the outside evidence.  Not only that, you must also reject any people who aren’t living up to the requirements the Oodat have set out for you.

After awhile, it becomes apparent that many people who follow the Oodat actually are happier.  Of course, it isn’t possible to know whether they are actually on the way to perfection, but the evidence for some people is that their lives are better.

On the flip side, some people actually seem to be worse off.  There are conflicts on the edges between people who follow the Oodat and those who don’t.  Even people who are happier under the Oodat’s tutelage lie, murder, and steal just like other humans.

Would you follow the Oodat?

Say you knew that the Oodat were legit, and actually had raised people of many species to “perfection”.  Would you follow them?

What if you realized that your idea of perfection wasn’t the same as the next person contemplating following the Oodat?

What if you realized that the Oodat’s idea of perfection was different from your own?

Why Windows Home Server is awesome…

I forget I even have it.

I don’t think there can be any better recommendation for a backup solution.  My computers are all backed up daily, and I don’t even know it happens.

On top of that, there’s so much more that can be done with WHS.  A list of some things I use my WHS for:

  • Storage. I keep smallish hard drives in my PC’s (most of them are around whs_places250GB) and then put big honkin hard drives in my WHS.  Each of the indicated places in the screen shot on the right (take from Explorer in Windows 7) points to storage on my server.
  • Reliability.  You can selectively enable folders on the WHS to be “duplicated”.  What this means is that every file in that folder is stored two times…on seperate hard drives.  This is done transparently to the end user so you don’t have to worry about knowing which copy is the newest.  The benefit is that if a hard drive dies (it will), your important data is not lost.
  • Reliability, Part Deux. In addition to the safety of data stored on the server, the safety of each of my computers is important as well.  If your hard drive in one of your PCs dies, or you royally screw up your system messing around, or some sort of malware just totally infests you, WHS makes it easy to restore your system.  You just pop in the restore cd and reboot your computer.  As long as your BIOS is set to boot from CD (if not, it’s an easy thing to turn on), the restore cd will take over and let you pick a backup from your WHS to restore.  By default, WHS keeps one backup for each of the previous 3 days, one for each of the previous 3 weeks, and one for each of the previous 3 months.  I set it to keep a just-fresh-from-a-new-OS-install backup so it’s easy to go back to that point.
  • Development. I do a bit of hobbyist programming.  Because many of the things I write depend upon a MySQL database, I installed MySQL on my WHS.  This allows me to test my scripts on my local LAN.

I don’t get Facebook.

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

What is the point of having a the feed when you click the “Home” link being a different thing from the feed in your Profile?

Why do I have to click multiple places to see all these different messages? How am I supposed to know when a friend posts something new to their profile feed? Why don’t their new posts in that area appear in my feed on my Home page?

Basically, Facebook is confusingly inconsistent. Especially for new uers.

On a side note, I want an application that posts my Twitter updates to the feed on my Facebook Home page. Or I want someone to tell me why that’s a dumb idea.

Three events do not an “issue” make.

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
Image via Wikipedia

Referring to a few stories they’ve done about violence associated with gadgets, in this item on Gizmodo, Sean Fallon asks:

In the last few months we have seen a runaway teenager die after having his Xbox 360 taken away, a teenager kill his parents over Halo 3 and 30-year old brothers stab each other over a PS2 controller. Naturally, this begs the question—what the hell is going on here? Is this a parenting issue, a social issue, or a scary psychological disorder that needs to be taken more seriously?

This paragraph seems to imply there’s some sort of pattern to analyze here.  Three examples don’t show a pattern.  Especially given the hundreds of millions of gadgets out there.

User Account Control

I’ve really been enjoying the Engineering Windows 7 blog. The latest post is by Ben Fathi, the VP of core OS development for Microsoft. He talks about all the reasons the much-maligned User Account Control of Vista is the way it is, and what they’ve taken away from the tons of feedback they’ve gotten on it.

In the first several months after Vista was available for use, people were experiencing a UAC prompt in 50% of their “sessions” – a session is everything that happens from logon to logoff or within 24 hours. Furthermore, there were 775,312 unique applications (note: this shows the volume of unique software that Windows supports!) producing prompts (note that installers and the application itself are not counted as the same program.) This seems large, and it is since much of the software ecosystem unnecessarily required admin privileges to run. As the ecosystem has updated their software, far fewer applications are requiring admin privileges. Customer Experience Improvement Program data from August 2008 indicates the number of applications and tasks generating a prompt has declined from 775,312 to 168,149.