Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dream Reader

Flock browser RSS Reader

A wish has formed in my mind. An idea about my RSS reading future. It will look like Flock's RSS reader. But there will be one major difference. My feed list will be stored online. I realised a while ago that I wanted my bookmarks online in one central repository. That way they could be accessed and updated whereever I go. But for some reason I haven't extended this idea to my RSS feeds. But now I understand. Anything that is accessed online should be managed online. Therefore, RSS feeds should be managed online.

Of course, it's easy to manage your feeds online using Google Reader and in Firefox you can quickly add a pages feed by telling it to use Google Reader. It's a slightly awkward process because Google keeps asking where to store the feed. But it's not too painful. The thing is I don't want to read my feeds in Google Reader. It's nowhere near as friendly as the Flock Reader. I guess what I'm talking about is a feature request for Flock. I want the Flock Reader to source my feeds from Google Reader.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is this post off topic?

I became a blogger by stealth. I'd been planning to blog for quite a while. But I'd never told myself. Consequently I'd never really thought about the act of blogging. But it's hard not to make a few posts without reflecting on the process.

What I quickly came to realise is that a blog isn't usually about the writer.A blog is about the writers relationship to a specific subject. The exception is when the writer is a topic of public interest. For example, Dilbert is a topic of interest to Dilbert fans hence we would be disappointed if Dilbert didn't blog about Dilbert.

By consistently writing about a subject the blog attracts readers interested in that topic. By unexpectantly writing about a different topic the writer is breaking a contract that has been established between the writer and their audience. I guess most readers are willing to tolerate the occassional digression. But I find my time too precious to squander it on itinerant bloggers.

Am I off topic right now by posting a post about blogging? I guess that depends on what Geek Glue's topic is. I suspect this blog is an exploration of current trends in web development and web applications (Rich Internet Applications doesn't cover things like del.icio.us which I have already written about). Therefore there may not be a lot of nuts and bolts stuff (i.e See My Flex App Run Fast). Instead it will be a broad overview through an examination of specific technologies (i.e Getting A Taste for del.icio.us). Does a discussion of blogging fit within that; I guess it does.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Getting a taste for del.icio.us


A few weeks ago I decided to start experimenting with del.icio.us. It's all part of a resolution get come to grips with all the Web 2.0 applications and how they interelate. In the back of my mind is a hope to manage the Links area for Geek Glue using something like del.icio.us rather than maintaining my own backend editor. Ideally all of Geek Glue's content will be stored and managed elsewhere. With the site itself managing how this content is presented. The benefits of this approach is that less server space is required, time can be spent developing the presentation layer without needing to develop editors as well and that I will develop a comprehensive knowledge of available technologies. There are also a good range of risks and I might talk about them at a different time. But for now I want to consider del.icio.us.

First up, the best thing about del.icio.us is how easy it is to add new links. In Firefox you can install an extension that adds two buttons. One takes you to your del.icio.us account and the other opens a form to add the current page to your links. This form lets you add tags (showing suggested, popular and your own tags ), to decide whether you want to share this link and to write a brief description. This requires four less selections than my own Geek Glue editor.

I love del.icio.us's incredibly simple url's. Typing http://del.icio.us/accountName shows all links for that account. Typing http://del.icio.us/accountName/tagName shows you everything that the user has tagged with that tag name. For example, to see all my Flex links you just go to http://del.icio.us/geekglue/flex or to see all shared links for Flex : http://del.icio.us/tag/flex. This is a simple and very effective system.

I like the fact that it tells you how many other users have shared a particular link and that you can view their comments (although I hate how unhelpful most of these comments are). You can follow this further to see what these users are saving. Finding a user with similar interests can lead to a rich mine of useful sites.

What I don't like is that all of my links are displayed chronologically. Which means something I saved a few months ago is many pages deep. I could search for it if I could remember it's name. I could filter by tag. But I already have some tags that are many pages deep. What I'd love is some more sorting options.

The other thing that is missing is the ability to rate my links (and then sort by rating). I understand that part of the idea is that good pages will be linked by more users. But that doesn't help me to find pages that I think are important.

I like bundles; which is a way of organising your tags into groups. But I find the bundle editor awkward to use (and hence I regularly have unbundled tags). I'd also like a lot more options about how tags and bundles are viewed.

Overall del.icio.us is an extremely useful way to manage your bookmarks. The only similar system that I'm aware of is BlueDot which I plan to try out in the near future. Sure there are things that could be better about del.icio.us. But at the same time it offers more functionality than I'd have time to devlop for myself.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

See my Flex App Run Fast

Are Flex compile times getting you down? Are you sick and tired of the endless drag of the compile bar? Then perhaps you are making the same error as me.

My current project is a Flex application built upon the Shell Module structure. Over the last 6 months it has grown to include 20 different modules. As each module was added the application took longer and longer to compile (Run). I was hoping that the 2.0.1 updater would help speed the process but alas there was no difference.

Today, while staring at the grindingly slow compile bar, the solution finally hit me. To compile my modules as part of an application they need to be added to the runnable Flex applications list in the project properties dialog. But I don't need to re-compile all 20 modules only the ones that have been changed. To test this I removed all modules from the list, leaving only the shell application, and re-compiled. The application compiled in less time than it takes to login to Blogger. The result a brief victory dance (hardly a pretty sight).

It's great to have a speedy compile. But it's a bit of a nuisance to have to regularly re-organise my runnable application list.

N.B I post this information here not because it's an earth shattering revelation. But rather to save other lost souls (or my own forgetful self) from repeating this error.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Web 2.0 in decline

A graph over at Buzzmeter showing a decline in the use of buzzword "Web 2.0" during December has been seized upon as evidence of the coming messiah:

The dip could be seasonal, but I prefer to hope that commentators are finally tiring of a hackneyed phrase. (read)

No doubt the real reason for the dip is that everyone was more focussed on Christamas gadgets than they were on Web 2.0 widgets. Either way when the terms use finally wanes it is more likely to indicate that it has moved from buzzword to everyday jargon and that the time has come for a more reasoned assessment of the usefulness of Web 2.0 RIA's. When the dust settles it seems fairly clear that we will be left with some very useful tools and that the web will be littered with enumerable oddly named corpses.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Torn Tween the Fox and the Flock

In my last post I was singing the praises of Flock. But here I am the morning after and my new love looks less pretty in the cold light of day. I guess you'd say that we had a falling out. To be specific a disagreement over managing bookmarks. I found myself looking back with fondness to Firefox's flexibility with nested bookmark folders. The delightful way she allowed me to define keywords that could be used as shortcuts to a page. But Flock would have none of this and I found myself with a long list of folders (many of them now empty because each folders children were now it's siblings ; unwanted perversion be gone from my sight). So that was it. I found my mouse straying to the quickLaunch bar where my lost love awaited patient and forgiving. But not before I had a word or two to say through the Flock feedback form. Flock was quick to reply. She claims that nested folders will be possible before she makes here version 1 debut. I was somewhat soothed and have promised to visit and make use of her again. She has such a lovely way with photos and she offers such a comfortable space to read the news. Should I feel guilt for spreading my love between the Fox and the Flock?

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Flock : a life changing discovery

After reading Micheal Arrington's article on Web 2.0 companies he couldn't live without. I found myself checking out the Web 2.0 companies I'd never caught up with. Some I bookmarked for future reference. Some underwhelmed me. But I suspect that one has changed my life forever. That thing is Flock: the social web browser. Sure I'd heard of Flock prior to reading the article. But I was busy and didn't really have time to install and play with yet another web browser. The other factor is that I've recently been getting right into Flickr and del.icio.us. If you aren't uploading photos, managing your bookmarls online, browsing RSS feeds (or blogging) then Flock is just another browser. But as soon as you start to engage with the media potential of Web 2.0 then Flock is the browser to have.

Until yesterday I was reading my Feeds in Feedreader. But then I exported my feeds into Flock and for now at least that is where they will stay. What is great about Flock is that there is a RSS reader button right next to the location bar which changes color when feeds are updated. It has all the functionality I was used to from Feedreader but with greater convenience.

The same is true for Flickr. There is a Flickr button which opens a toolbar for previewing yours and everyone elses Flickr content. It's not everything that Flickr is but it's a great place to start.

Bookmarking : the friendly star button allows me to add the current page to my del.icio.us bookmarks. Sure I'll need to go and tag and share them. But this is overcome with a shortcut.

The other great feature is the search bar. Type in a search and it performs live searching within your favorites and selected toolbar.

If you haven't tried Flock then you should have a look. Especially if you use Flickr, del.icio.us, RSS or blog.

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