Loving NewsGator’s Free iPhone RSS Reader

I had the good fortune to lose my outdated cell phone recently, which gave me the perfect excuse to splurge on a new iPhone (I waited until Sept 5 to order it, of course).

I have to admit that I love my iPhone, despite not being able to "officially" develop native apps for it.  It’s the mobile device I’ve been waiting for.  After a few days of using the iPhone’s touch screen, my desktop computer’s mouse suddenly seems antiquated.

Not long after I got the iPhone, I decided to give our free iPhone reader a try – and it’s now by far my most-used iPhone app.  Being able to read my feeds when I’m on the go is great, and I really appreciate how bandwidth-friendly our iPhone reader is.  The best thing, of course, is that everything is synchronized with our RSS platform, which means that stuff I read on my iPhone is automatically marked read in FeedDemon.

Nice work, Kevin!

NewsGator Powers USATODAY.com’s Widgets

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know NewsGator as an RSS aggregator company, so you may not have heard about NewsGator Widgets yet. Our widgets have been used by sites such as Discovery.com, MacWorld and CBS News – and now they’re being used by USATODAY.com as well.

According to this articles on Forbes.com, this makes USA Today the first national newspaper to offer widgets that can be added to your site or blog. Right now it looks like the widgets are limited to travel-related topics, but my understanding is that more widgets are coming.

Don’t Trade Your Life for Tech

Those of us in the technology sector see it all the time: co-workers who put in incredible hours coding away as though they have nothing else in their lives.  And quite often, they don’t.

I used to be one of those people.

When I was working on HomeSite over a decade ago, I rarely left my desk.  If I wasn’t coding, I was answering email or doing some other work-related task.  I hardly slept, ate far too much junk food, and traded my health for what I thought was a successful career as a software developer.

If that sounds familiar to you, do yourself a favor and stop living this way.  It’s not worth it.  Eventually you’ll look back and wish you would’ve spent more time getting out and meeting people (non-geeky people, that is), and you’ll look down at your pizza-filled belly and wonder how you let yourself get so unhealthy.

A friend of mine plays for the NFL, and despite the obvious differences in our chosen careers, we’ve also noticed some similarities.  When they’re in their 20’s, football players often have their youth eaten up by their jobs, and they reach their mid-30’s with little to show for their lives outside of career-related highs and lows.  By the time they hit 40, their sagging health reflects the stress and damage they did to themselves when they were younger.  Sounds an awful lot like the world of software development, doesn’t it?

These days, I have a great wife, two wonderful kids, and a nice social life that doesn’t involve anything remotely tech-related.  Sure, I still have late-night coding frenzies every now and then, but for the most part I stop work at a decent hour and de-geek myself by spending time with my friends and family.

And you know what?  I write better code because of it, and I make better decisions at work because of it.  Not submerging myself in tech all the time actually makes me more productive when I’m sitting in front of the keyboard.  Wish I would’ve know that when I was in my 20’s!

Link Blogs are Attention Streams

I’ve been writing about attention for quite a while now, ever since Steve Gillmor introduced me to the concept at Gnomedex 2004. Since then I’ve experimented with various ways to improve RSS aggregation by examining what you’re paying attention to, but I’ve rarely been satisfied with what I’ve come up with.

The basic problem with RSS aggregators is that once you subscribe to enough feeds, you’ve got too much information to keep up with. Sure, on a slow day you can read everything you’re subscribed to, but when you’re busy, you might just want to read the stuff that’s important to you.

This was the impetus for the popular topics feature in FeedDemon 2.5, which shows the most talked about items in your subscribed feeds. I know I rely on this “personal memetracker” feature a lot – when I’m nose down in the code and don’t have time to read my feeds, I just mark everything as read and then view FeedDemon’s popular topics to see the most commonly linked articles. Overall I’ve found this more effective than the various online memetrackers because it’s personalized with only the feeds that I’m subscribed to.

Lately I’ve noticed that my popular topics have been bringing me a ton of articles that are of interest to me, articles I might’ve missed if FeedDemon didn’t have this feature. And I’ve also noticed that the single biggest reason I’m getting so many interesting articles is because I’m subscribed to a number of link blogs.

If you’re not familiar with link blogs, they’re basically collections of articles that someone finds interesting. For example, FeedDemon 2.5 added the ability to share your favorite links as an RSS feed, and I have a link blog feed of my own. FeedDemon isn’t the only aggregator that offers this feature, either – NewsGator Online has had it for quite some time, and it’s also available in Google Reader.

Whenever I read something interesting, I copy it to my link blog. So my link blog is like my attention stream – it contains the stuff that I’m paying attention to.

And now that I’m subscribed to several link blogs, I can see what others are paying attention to. When an article appears in more than one of link blogs that I’m subscribed to, it shows up in FeedDemon’s popular topics. This consistently brings me new articles that I never would’ve found by myself.

That to me is the holy grail of “attention.” One of the main goals of the attention concept is to enable you to filter out the noise and just see the stuff that’s important to you, and I’m finding that FeedDemon’s popular topics combined with subscribing to link blogs is consistently doing just that.

I think there’s a lot more that can be done here – not just in FeedDemon, but in other aggregators as well. If you use an RSS aggregator, I believe you could really benefit from seeing the things that the people you pay attention to are paying the most attention to.

My iTunes Widgets

Niall Kennedy has the news about Apple’s new My iTunes, which enables sharing your iTunes purchases, favorites and reviews as Flash-based widgets. This is a great move by Apple, although I do wish I could customize which purchases appear in the widget (for example, I’d like to exclude music I purchased for my wife, since her tastes are quite different than mine).

You can also subscribe to an Atom feed of your recent iTunes purchases – something I’ve wanted for quite a while.

Missing Gnomedex (Again!)

Arghh.  For the second year in a row I’ve registered for Gnomedex, but later found that I can’t be there.  This year my kids start at a new school the Monday right after Gnomedex, and I really need to be at home with them that weekend.  I’m really bummed about this, because Gnomedex is one of my favorite conferences – I’ve learned something new every time I’ve attended.

So once again I’ve given my Gnomedex pass to Jack Brewster, who is delighted to hear that I can’t make it :)

Web 2.0: What Are We Building?

Back in 2004, I asked:

“What are we actually building here?  A lot of people in my profession wear rose-colored glasses and believe we’re helping to make information free to the world, but some of the early proponents of television believed the same thing.  Are we really just building the next version of TV, one even more powerful because it knows your name and shopping habits?”

I thought I was being cynical then, but now I’m not so sure.  Google continues to carve out a huge share of the Internet advertising market, in large part by figuring out what we’re paying attention to. The quality of the content doesn’t really matter to them – only the number of eyeballs they can advertise to does.  Sounds a lot like commercial TV, doesn’t it?

So far, has the Web been better than TV, or just more targeted?  And is it really worth giving up so much privacy in order to get it?