Development Stream

How I use Stream

I created Stream because I wanted a simple reverse chronological timeline of feeds. Dave Winer calls it a River of News. That’s also how Stream got its name. A stream is just a small version of a river – yes, that’s an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

Anywho, I just wanted to share how I use Stream. There is, of course, no wrong way to use it. Just use it your way.

When I announced Stream 1.0 was shipping I mentioned it was a complement to your existing feed reader. That’s why I want to talk about how I use it.

I use Stream for feeds that only update a few times a day. I don’t use it for feeds, like say, the New York Times. It’s just too much to consume without the folder organization system of other feed readers.

When I decided I should trim out feeds that published many, many, articles a day I exported my feeds list as OPML, removed the busy feeds from Stream, manually removed the lightweight feeds from the OPML I’d exported, imported the trimmed OPML into Feedbin, connected Unread to my Feedbin account on iOS and connected it to NetNewsWire on the Mac.

Wow. That sounds like a lot of work, but it wasn’t. Now I have my very casual list of bloggers I love to read. It’s still 162 feeds, but most of those feeds post rarely and the ones that post most often, like Kottke and Daring Fireball, only post a few times a day. It makes using Stream a real joy.

If you’re curious about my feeds feel free to checkout my OPML file.

Apple Podcast

Big Co Podcasting

This morning I was listening to Recode Media’s show with Jacob Weinberg of Slate. I was listening mainly because I agree with Mr. Weinberg when he says “I think this guy’s a menace and a danger to democracy”, but that’s not what I’m going to write about.

AHHHHHH!There were two things that stood out in the interview. First off Mr. Weinberg mentioned he was working with a company called Panoply, a podcasting network. That’s great, we need more podcasting networks, but something he said didn’t sit well. Mr. Weinberg said part of what Panoply was doing was “tracking and advertising”. It sounds like this is going to become a reality. While checking into Panoply I also discovered ART19. Both sound like they’re creating systems that report back to them. How much of the show you’ve listened to, did you fast forward, rewind, or skip over the ads. It looks like ART19 has a way to update ads in a podcast episode so they never go stale. If this is something they can do using open standards, more power to them. If they have to create closed systems to pull it off, that’s not good for anyone, except them of course.

Another thing Mr. Weinberg said was “Apple was the gateway to podcasting.” This simply isn’t true. Apple provides a free podcast directory service built on open standards. Apple is not a gateway to podcasting.

To make a podcast is really, really, simple. You record something, upload it, and make an RSS feed so people can subscribe and you’re done. That’s the 20,000 foot view, but that’s how you do it in a nutshell. You don’t need Apple to publish a podcast. Let me say that again. You don’t need Apple to publish a podcast. You need some shared drive space; Dropbox, Google Drive, your own web host, any number of companies can provide you cloud space to keep files and share them.

Having Apple’s Podcast Directory is super nice. They supported podcasting long before it was popular and chose to use open standards, like RSS. RSS supports namespace extensions, so Apple created their own. They used an open standard and an open extension mechanism to create their directory.

Knowing that, can you call Apple the gateway to podcasting? No. Definitely not. Anyone can create their own podcast directory using RSS feeds. In fact, others have, like iPodder. It just so happens Apple’s directory became super popular once they had a built in audience due to the popularity of the iPhone.

Having said all that. If you want to get into podcasting, go for it. You will probably want to list your podcast on a few different directories, including Apple’s, but that’s something for you to decide. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.


A Case for Really Simple RSS Readers

I’m old. When RSS was hitting the streets we subscribed from desktop clients and didn’t have multiple computers to keep in sync (I don’t care if my read/unread count is in sync, but that’s another matter.)

It’s nice to see RSS readers popping up, Google Reader disappearing was good for the ecosystem, it revived a stagnant market.

One thing that’s missing from all the clients I’ve tried is a very simple mechanism to sync my OPML subscription file to my Dropbox account. I don’t use a centralized service to fetch the distributed network of RSS feeds I follow. Since I don’t care about read/unread counts it makes sense for me to sync locally. The only thing I’d like to keep in sync are my subscriptions, my OPML file.

I currently use Reeder across Mac, iPad, and iPhone, but as far as I’m aware it doesn’t support saving my subscriptions to a cloud based solution. If all RSS readers supported existing storage services, Dropbox seems the most logical choice, then we could keep our subscriptions in sync without the need of another service.

Cloud Social

My RSS Wish

UPDATE: On second thought, this isn’t what I really want. What I want is a Twitter style feed, or as Dave Winer calls it, a River of News, which predates Twitter. I don’t need a complex sync mechanism, or a read/unread count. What I really want is a central place to see my river of news with a simple bookmark. Nothing is marked as read. When I open it in another app it takes me to my last bookmarked location. Super simple.

My original thought is below.

Guilty. That’s right, I’m guilty of the same desire as everyone else when it comes to RSS. I want my feed to be available on all devices (easy), I want it to aggregate to one location (less easy) and I want it to be in sync when I move devices (darn.)

Most people think of RSS as Google Reader. It’s not. Google Reader was the gorilla that made RSS its own, killed off and industry, and left us hanging. RSS is so simple it’s elegant. It’s nothing more than a format for syndicating news. Simple, right? Google Reader went so far beyond that no other RSS reader has come close. Not Feedly, not Digg, no one company has managed to do more than offer a simple reader that syncs. It’s a great start, but I digress.

Yes, RSS is simple, but in this ever connected world, social media world we want it all and we want it now! So, to do that, people took a the idea of a distributed network format and put it all in a central location. A single point of failure, can you say Google Reader? Fine. You want it all in one spot, I get it. How do we make that happen and not rely on a single vendor to provide us with a service?

A wonderful boquet of flowers.First we need an open standard for centralized RSS (man, that sounds wrong.) This way people writing tools can push and pull data to and from a service. I’ll bet Digg and Feedly have their own implementations of such a thing, that are nothing alike, but do what they need. Pulling together the feeds is the easy part, that’s been solved. It’s the availability on all devices and sync that’s a bit more difficult. That’s where the standard, or open, format or API, comes in. Sure, we have the browser, but it’s not exactly all that useful on all platforms. I’d like to host my own RSS aggregator service, on my hardware, and have the ability to tell that service I’ve read something and make sure the last item is bookmarked so I can pickup where I left off, possibly on another device. Yeah, I want the ability to use Reeder, or NetNewsWire, or the browser.

That’s the bottom line. Think self hosted WordPress, but for RSS reading. Sure, you can use one of the many new services springing up, that’s great, but I’d like to host it myself and make sure it works with other services to make it mine. If there were an open implementation of a centralized RSS aggregator we wouldn’t have to worry about a single vendor destroying an ecosystem and abandoning it. We’d be able to rely on each other for help and benefit from a community of like minded people. The other upside to an open solution would be the ability to extend it to make it exactly what you want! Meaning you could implement code to give you your favorite Google Reader feature and share it with the world.


FeedDemon, end of an era

Nick Bradbury: “My thanks to everyone who helped me keep FeedDemon going for so long – when I created it in 2003, I don’t think I would’ve believed it will still be around 10 years later! It’s been truly fun working on it, and I’m sad to see it go.”

It’s hard to believe its been 10 years. Thanks for the great software, Nick.


RSS Rivers

Dave Winer: “But there is another kind of aggregator, river of news, and its needs are pretty simple, compared to the Google Reader approach which requires synchronization among different clients. If I had the time here’s the software I would write.”

Radio UserLandMost of the links I tap, or click on, these days originate on Twitter. What Dave has always been a proponent of is an RSS feed in the style of Twitter. In fact I’m pretty certain Radio, one of Dave’s products, presented feeds in that very format. The mailbox style “you have 2.3 million unread feeds” is not necessarily the best way to view things. It leaves me feeling like I need to read everything to get caught up. I don’t feel this need in Twitter. I just scan tweets quickly and send links to Pocket for reading later. Why not do that with RSS feeds? I wish I had the time, I’d build it.


Google Reader: Power Users Lose

Jerry Fahrni: “When Google finds a new article on the web that contains one of my keywords it sends it to my Google Reader feed where they sit patiently until I’m ready to read them. This is a great way to find information that I would have otherwise missed.”

Most users of Google Reader are bemoaning the loss of sync between devices. There are already good choices for sync. That’s not the biggest problem for some Reader users. In the case of my brother, he’s a power user of the service. Google Reader isn’t just about RSS feed reading or syncing feeds and feed states across devices, it has advanced features that will not likely be replaced by other readers.

That’s the big loss for some.

A wonderful boquet of flowers.On the flip side it’s great for RSS feeds and feed services. As Dave Winer is fond of saying “Let a thousand flowers bloom!” Hopefully we’ll see a new sync API bloom from the mothballing of Reader.

Brent Simmons has started an RSS Sync Mailing List. It’s worth keeping an eye on.



Dave Winer: “When I designed Radio2, I aimed to create the thinnest possible blogging tool, one that did the least possible and still was useful. Simple yet useful, and usable.”

Dave’s latest cut at weblogging and social media. It has a very simple UI and he’s sharing it.

Very nice.