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Reader Spread

So, like some others, I’m spending a bit more time this weekend than I might have budgeted in playing around with alternative RSS aggregators, meanwhile brooding about the experiments and business models that didn’t quite make it, killed by lack of attention, lack of time, lack of funding, and the limitless cash of competitors.

So far I’ve played a bit with three readers to some degree, in their web incarnations. Happily I’ve got plenty of time before Google closes down Reader, because the current crop is not showing a clean lead suggestion yet.

I’ve played so far with

  • The Old Reader: this is billed as, and functionally, a Google Reader like it was before the Buzz and G-Plus-ification of that service. Inband sharing of items, comment threads inband, all very familiar. I’m ~30K down the queue in getting my full feed list integrated, so I haven’t really done more than look at pictures of the tires on this, let alone kick them or take a proper test drive.
  • Feedly: very slick, clearly well funded and fast, but no stated business model. And are my items actually getting marked as read? No inband community, all outsourced to the social web. Chrome client involves a plugin, which then advertises sharing on all sorts of pages, which makes me feel like an unpaid volunteer for a service I don’t quite understand. Some caveats apply, like no offline mode, a walled garden of mobile clients (at least until they support the reverse-engineered API, etc.
  • NewsBlur: Have a clearish business model – charge per user, per year. Looks like they have a very public inband sharing function, as well as external sharing. The UI feels… rocky, and when I tried running it on my Android device it was crashtastic (though they are clear this is their first delivery on that platform).
  • Fever: Clear business model – pay $30 for the code and install it on your own server. Some mobile support, and lots of fancy predictions based on individual choices. But by the same token, very single-user, and I’m expected to find a solution for both members of our household. Something tells me az isn’t going to get behind rolling a mysql and php tool.
  • Doesn’t actually exist yet, but Russell Beattie was in the process of multi-user-ising his self-rolled RSS aggregator at the time Google made their announcement. One to watch, perhaps, but an uphill climb.
  • Digg: I know they are under new ownership, etc, but I just can’t get this one in my head as a serious prospect. Cynical, perhaps.

My list of wants is growing and evolving, but feels pretty simple

  • I want an API and some functionality to provide mobile access in both online and offline modes. Having played a bit with Feedly and NewsBlur, neither of these quite make it yet. Feedly has a very glossy interface (just as they do on the web), but it’s online access only. And NewsBlur feels very old-school Android. Big icons, non-holo, online only. If the proposed movements to duplicate the Reader APIs play out, I’m hopeful for a third party ecosystem, such that applications like Press (Android) and Reeder (iOS) will be suited again.
  • Though an app service is important, I still want web access. Feedly breaks my heart by demanding one use a plugin – at least on Chrome etc. I don’t want to do that – I want to use any browser, and this requirement makes me think they’re playing games with my data. NewsBlur does have web front end, but it’s very mid-2000s, with some really garish color and button decisions.
  • I want to have both internal to network sharing (like The Old Reader and NewsBlur are offering), but also clean entries into the larger social web. In an app on Android, sharing between sources is basically a doddle, but on the web and iOS there’s more lifting needed, and that becomes an up front decision for the provider…
  • I really want a clear business model, up front. I want to know I’ve got somthing to get angry about if it goes awry (unlike this case, where I can only shake my fist at a large corporation for a product I never paid for, and never had any documented skin in the game on). The Old Reader is still thinking about this (they feel like a project that blew up very fast…), NewsBlur have this built in by charging up front. Feedly – I can’t tell what Feedly’s goal is, which makes me feel a bit uneasy.

Golden Age of Travel

I have, amongst my archives, a large supply of correspondence between my mother and her parents, across many years of their lives. They were great correspondents, writing at least weekly, and daily when one or the other correspondent was traveling abroad. Which, to my pleasure, I have learned my mother did quite a bit between the ages of 16 and 23 (when she was in college and then graduate school). These trips took her across Europe and into the Middle East.

From 1958, I found this enticing gem where she is writing from Tel Aviv

Just a quick letter (I’m not sure it’ll arrive before I do) to tell you that under no circumstances are you to meet me at the airport. I want to take the helicopter to finish off my trip, so I’ll telephone to tell you when I leave O’Hare, and you can come to Meigs. So please don’t come to O’Hare.

Helicopter, I think to myself? Is she an investment banker flitting from Manhattan to Jersey? No, apparently there was a regular shuttle service between the three Chicago Airports – the Chicago Helicopter Airways, which apparently used the Sikorsky S-58 to shuttle passengers around.


Black Bloomsbury Books

Some years ago – perhaps on our first trip together to London – AZ and I started settling our hotel selection in the Bloomsbury area. It’s fairly centrally located and walkable to many of our favorite wanders in London, and plentiful in the public transportation for journeys further afield (including Heathrow). We’ve gradually improved out standard of hotel across the years – better pillows – finally settling for the last few trips at the Harlingford Hotel on Cartwright Gardens.

More significantly, AZ is a bloomsbury-ite of deep conviction, which makes staying the neighborhood a practical necessity. The walks to Woolf/Bell/&c sites – the AZ walking tour – are part of what makes London special for us (and, perhaps, for our friends who may travel with us, like M&V).

Of late, AZ and I have begun watching Black Books. It’s a fine sitcom, not nearly as booky as I’d hoped, but full of good humor, drinking, smoking and misanthropic output. Perfect palate cleanser from a long day.

As we watched it, the exterior shots appeared quite familiar. And is there a part of London as booky as Bloomsbury? Well, I suppose Charing Cross Rd back in the day…

As it turns out, Black Books was, partly, filmed in Bloomsbury – just down the street from the Harlingford where we stay regularly. For reference (and for Mike):

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Clearly I need some dummy text fleshing out the home page in preview mode.

But what should this page say?

Oh, the trials and travails.

Remember: DELETE ME!