What is wrong with Webmonkey?

Don’t know how many people have noticed this:Ā  the feed of Webmonkey tutorials is gone mad. Most of the articles lead to empty pages while some of them are really weird stuff. Like the following:
Webmonkey weird post
which, if you click upon, leads to a page like this:
Webmonkey empty page
Is this a hijacked feed or what?

Clicks matter (it’s not about ads).

Google Reader screenshot, as of September 30, 2007
Image via Wikipedia

The more time I spend online (as if it were possible), the more little things can make me change course completely. It’s all about adding up.

Take Ars Technica, for instance. This is a blog I really appreciate. I mean really, really: no crap content, in depth knowledge and coverage, important issues. What else to ask for?

Yet, lately I stopped reading it. The reason beingĀ  an old irritation that has become unbearable: Ars Technica does not publish a full feed. Although they have always a good excerpt, in order to read the article you have to click, open (yet) another tab, go to their page,Ā  wait to load and …what did I went there for?Ā  Ah, yes,Ā  .. read.

Why don’t I stay in their blog then and scan the new posts from there?

I can’t.

I read from Google Reader because I want all the visual noise to go away. And I don’t mean only the ads by this. I do NOT see the ads, even if they are there. My eye is trained to skip them.

I mean all the other stuff: header, sidebars, banners, buttons, colors etc.

Google Reader does me a great service by eliminating all these elements that are put there, supposedly, to be more of use to me.

The almost black and white, high contrast pages of Google Reader, is the closest to a printed book I can get. And, for this reason, the easiest to read.

Apart from the visual distractions of the web site, there is another reason: time!Ā  TheseĀ  precious few extra seconds for the one post, add up for the next and the next, and the next, ad (almost) infinitum.

Were itĀ  for a single post, andĀ  it wouldn’t be worth to mention.

But I am an avid reader. I read lots and lots of posts daily. Having to take one more action (go to this other tab etc) is too much.

And there is a third factor: time again. But not the time spent on reading. The time one has been repeating this process, day after day, month after month, year after year. The lengthier theĀ  habit,Ā  the less inconvenience one desires in the way.

Please, blogĀ  owners: do not allienate your most faithful readers. It is not from them that you get the ad money anyway.

Get Things Done 2.0

I am sure David Allen did not include it in his initial version ofĀ  “Get Things Done”Ā  but, as far as I am concerned, it must be included from now on.
Ok, here is the new principle:

Abstain from Twitter or Friendfeed or Google Reader for so long as needed to see your TODO list drop down to one third.
IfĀ  ”one third’Ā  is still above ‘ five items’,Ā  abstain till it gets down to five.

Try it.

I am still trying it, by the way šŸ™‚

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Google yourself and see … your past item sharing!! (???)


Quite accidentaly I stumbled upon some search results that look very weird to me: I googled my name/nickĀ  in various forms and started browsing the result pages. As to be expected, I found samples of pages from all the social networks I am registered in, but, from the page 10 of results onwards, I started seeing familiar pages but quite unrelated to me.The familiarity came from the fact that these were pages I had shared recently in Google Reader. Yet, what I saw in the search results was not my shares items, but the original articles or posts, which are, linguistically, quite unrelatedĀ  to the terms I googled. They are semantically related though!

Have a look and dare to explain:

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I have a dream (of social bookmarking)!

By Alex King
Back in the end of 2007, half a year after Google Reader had launched the sharing feature, I had an idea of a new service that would aggregate all the shared items and sort them according to the number of times one post was shared.

As it usually happens with the new ideas, somebody else had it too, and, most importantly, made it real before I had even started coding (actually, I had, but just a few lines). In a short while, a second similar aggregator appeared and, today, we are fortunate to have ReadBurner and RssMeme.

The two services, both dear to me,  have a lot in common with one notable exception: RssMeme employs a kind of spider to find and aggregate shared items  while ReadBurner is an opt in service.

In due course, other feed readers were added as sources: Bloglines, Netvibes, Newgator etc. and RssMeme went  a bit further querying known services to find out whether an article had been bookmarked in any way.

The idea that what one shares through his feed reader is actually a vote or a recommendation is pretty solid, and, once a big number of sharers is reached, the power of statistics comes to play: the articles that emerge to the top are the ones that people truly feel are important. Isn’t this the essence of social bookmarking? And isn’t it also true that this essence is actually gamed in the digg like sites by a rather small group of people, despite the huge influx of traffic these sites enjoy?

One short  visit to Readburner or RssMeme reveals though, that the articles that rise to the top, have been shared by such a small number of people that, with  equal diggs, they would never see the light of day in digg.

Which leads to the conclusion that either the people who share are not that many, or they have not been included in the two aggregators yet.

Speaking of numbers, how many people really use Google Reader? I tried to google the question but came with no answer. I tried to google also the ‘google reader market share’, but came with no recent data either.

Without an idea of how many people use feed readers and share, it is  pretty hard to make any predictions or recommendations. Yet, if we assume that it is only because it is too early  (less than a year) that the sharing culture hasn’t spread and that it, eventually, will, we can fantasize one implication:

Some clever engineer will think of incorporating the share-votes into digg: a little bit of matching (is the sharer a digg user, and has the shared post been dugg already etc) and there you go.

But would that be a good thing?

Yes, it would. Because it would instill the democratic element of Readburner/RssMeme into digg. And, democracy is a good thing, isn’t it?

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Readburner chicklets for WordPress.com blogs

This is not a how to blog, but, as it is still under construction, I will blog about all the little tricks I apply here, that might have some use for the rest of the wordpress.com folks.

Here is a little nice one.

Problem:

Readburner is a service that aggregates all blogposts shared in NewsGator Online, Google Reader and Netvibes.

By counting the number of shares, it creates a popularity list. In effect, this is a truly democratical social bookmarking system, without the hickups of Digg and its likes.

Readburner provides its users with some nice widgets in the form of little chicklets, that display essential statistical measures.

The chicklets come in three flavors:

  • Item of a specific user (i.e. his share page) registed with Readburner.
  • Items authored by someone.
  • Items of a specific source (say, a blog with many authors).

Readburner provides some javascript code that allows anyone to generate the chicklets for his part.

Now, I wanted to put such a readburner chicklet in my sidebar, but I stumbled on the usual wordpress.com problem: no javascript allowed.

Solution:

Since javascript is not allowed, we have to find a way of displaying the chicklet through pure html.

Let’s see what a chicklet is composed of:

  • an image (the colored rectangle of the chicklet)
  • a number (the counted items)
  • a link (the link to the relevant page in readburner)

As a matter of fact, the number is in the image, so we have to find just two things: the image url and the link url.

  • User.

( The number here is my number from the google reader shared items url http://www.google.com/reader/shared/11232096483858520222.

You have to figure out yours, and replace this one):

The required urls are of the following type:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?user=11232096483858520222

Link: http://readburner.com/u/11232096483858520222

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/u/11232096483858520222″&nbsp; target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?user=11232096483858520222&#8243; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

  • Author:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?author=Nikos%20Anagnostou

Link: http://readburner.com/u/Nikos Anagnostou

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/u/Nikos Anagnostou” target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?author=Nikos%20Anagnostou&#8221; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

  • Source:

Image: http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?source=webtropic

Link: http://readburner.com/source/webtropic

and the actual html code should be:

<a href=”http://readburner.com/source/webtropic&#8221; target=”_blank” title=””>

<img src=”http://readburner.com/fire/shares.gif?source=webtropic&#8221; alt=””/>

</a>

which produces:

 

To figure out the proper links for yourselves, first of course you have to add your shared items url in readburner. Then replace your name, blog name or user id in the above code and paste it in a text widget in wordpress.

As I said, I am using Google Reader. The other services might have some slight variations in the url schemes, I did not bother to check. Please do for yourselves.

Good luck and ..happy sharing!