Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Have you been acting like Scarlett Oâ€™Hara when it comes to the impending Google Reader shutdown? â€œIâ€™ll think about that tomorrowâ€¦ Tomorrow is another day.â€ Well, there are only a couple of tomorrows left; and if youâ€™ve sworn, as God as your witness, youâ€™ll never go hungry for RSS feeds again, youâ€™d better get a move on.
The issue raised by Googleâ€™s decision to drop Reader isnâ€™t with reading, itâ€™s with syncing. Most of us read our RSS feeds on more than one device and we want a syncing service that allows us to pick up on our iPhones where we left off on our laptops. There were a few non-Google syncing options before Googleâ€™s announcement in March and more have arisen to fill the void since then. How do you decide which one to go with?
My answer was for the most part “none of the above.” When Google made this announcement, rather than wait until the last minute, I decided to deal with it early and be done with it. Rather than find a replacement feed reader, I decided to see if I could just kill off RSS feeds altogether.Â
I came close. I found, when I looked at it, that about half the things I had in my RSS feed I also had sitting in my Twitter stream, and I was effectively seeing the same content in both places. Easy decision; the RSS feeds got whacked.Â
With everything that was left, I first asked “do I want this?” and “when was the last time I got something interesting/useful off this feed?” and “why did I subscribe in the first place?” — and if I couldn’t answer the questions, I nuked it. A lot of stuff was in there because at one point, one article caught my eye forwarded from someone, and I put it in my feeds to see if more interesting articles followed it. Not surprisingly, lots of the time, that didn’t happen, but I was too lazy to set up an “under evaluation” process where I weeded them back out later. So I did it as part of this migration.Â
If the feed passed that test, I then looked for where I could land it: Do they stick it in twitter? (much of the time, yes). Is it tumblr? G+? Facebook? Do they show up in my Prismatic feed?Â
When I was done, I ended up with 23 feeds that I felt I could only read via RSS. For those, I set up a Feedly account and stuck them in, turned off Google Reader, and haven’t touched it since. Of those 23 feeds (now 17, as I decided I could live without a few when they weren’t part of a large firehose of articlesâ€¦). Feedly works fine. I like it, I don’t love it. It has its quirks, they keep working on improving it, and I feel no need to find a different service. That said, I’m only spending about 5 minutes a day in it now, and at least five of those feeds I could get in Prismatic now, too, but things are comfortable this way.Â
I spent maybe four hours making these changes. As a result, I’m spending about 30-40 minutes a day LESS trying to keep up with the firehose, and not only do I not feel like I’m missing anything, I feel like I’m actually seeing the most interesting stuff more easily.Â
So my suggestion: don’t just find a place to dump your google reader feed and keep doing it the old way. Spend a little time, rethink what you’re doing, and use this as a reason to invest and upgrade who you manage this firehose of data.Â
My other suggestion: If you run a blog or web site that does NOT have content announcements posted onto Twitter, you are an IDIOT. Just saying. And if you (like me) are someone who tends to be a chatter mouth on Twitter, it’s trivially easy to set up a second twitter feed JUST for site content for people who don’t want the noise. And it worksâ€¦Â
The internet has moved on from Google Reader. Don’t stick yourself in the Black and White TV days of managing your content by simply replacing your old Google Reader with some “new” clone. A bit of time invested here thinking and tweaking may well save you that second cup of coffee you’re needing just to wade through all of this. It did for meâ€¦ (and then you can use that second cup of coffee on other things!)
(Also see Marco’s comments on this)
This is the first product of the post-Jobs Apple. The result shows that in some ways Apple’s software design has gotten better, because it was Jobs (and Forstall) who had a penchant for exuberant textures and gimmickry. Jobs’s taste in hardware was nearly perfect, but his taste in software had a weakness for the saccharine. Wood grain, linen, Rich Corinthian leather, etc. It was all just sugar for the eyes. This is a weakness Jony Ive’s software taste clearly does not suffer.
A lot of questions were answered with the keynote today, although obviously, not all of them. One thing we need to remember, there is much to be seen in the details, and many of the details won’t be known until fall when all of this ships and people start using it (for real, en masse).
But many of the things answered today were answered quite positively.
One thing I hope we can all come to terms with now is that while Steve was an exceptionally intelligent person and a genius at understanding what a thing needed to be to succeed, he was not perfect. A complex man, he had his strengths, but also his weaknesses and his foibles and blind spots.
It should also be painfully obvious to everyone who’s job title does not include the word “analyst” that Steve Jobs is not the only person at Apple with a clue and was not the only person who could actually design something people wanted. In fact, it should now be pretty obvious that one of Steve’s main strengths was not product design — but it was his ability to define what he wanted, find the right people with the right skills to create those things, to get the hell out of their way, and to critique the details until what they created was aligned with what he believed would be successful.
It should also be obvious that both Tim Cook and Jony Ives have that same skill, but see the world somewhat differently than Steve did. Not better, not worse, but differently. Apple has put the stake in the ground showing they will continue to BE Apple and continue to innovate as Apple, but that those innovations are clearly going to be different than they would have been under Steve. Not better, not worse, but different. And if today’s keynote is any indication, wildly successful.
It should also be noted now that some of the executive and management changes that happened after Steve died were not a ‘brain drain” or not signs of the death of Apple, but because whenever the head person changes, the management chain tends to, also, because they have to be aligned with the strategy and management styles of the boss. And that includes someone like Scott Forstall, who’s management style was clearly more closely aligned to Jobs than it is with Cook.
I found it fascinating, and I haven’t seen anyone else comment on this, that Apple made a decision to switch away from cat names and align OS X “for the next decade” of using names of significant locations within California — and yet didn’t bump the version number from 10 to 11. it’s OS X 10.9 Mavericks, not OS X 11.0.
I am not entirely sure what the significance of the naming/version decision is, but if you look at it, there were significant reasons why most of us probably would have bumped the major version number for this release. And yet Apple didn’t, and Apple doesn’t do these things without significant thought and a damn good reason. So there’s a message in here, somewhere, that they are telling us but which they haven’t illuminated.
The obvious possibility is that the REAL technological upgrades to the OS X line of software are still down the road, and what you see today in Mavericks is just an appetizer.
I also found it curious that their first naming choice for this was Mavericks, and not, say, Yosemite or some other higher profile landmark. That also says to me that bigger and more significant things are down the road and that some of the more “obvious” names are being reserved for them.
But really, the big message from today’s keynote is a simple one, but a huge one. And that is this message: “That was Steve, this is now. And we’re just getting started”.
I know some people have been wondering why Apple hasn’t updated the Mac Pro. Well, I think we know what they were waiting for…
Here at NAB, Intel just introduced the next generation of its Thunderbolt interface, which promises a data rate of 20 Gbps in both directions (on each of the two channels) as opposed to 10 Gbps for the previous version.
A couple of things I’d like to see in IOS 7
I want to see Apple release a simple password wallet and an API for apps to use to pull data from it. Something like 1Password’s baby brother. And with the API, a way for those of us who use more powerful tools (like 1Password) to connect to those via that API instead of the default App. (I would, in fact, like Apple to get in the habit of allowing us to replace their default tools with more powerful versions as a general practice. I’m not holding my breath).
And then I would like to see Apple make “secure your freaking passwords” a focus of the release and their marketing.
Remember ICE? (In Case of Emergency)?. Everyone should do some form of this on your mobile devices. Do you?
But there’s a problem. Everyone should ALSO pin-lock your mobile devices. Do you?
And if you do, how would an emergency responder get access to it? It’s behind a PIN.
So here’s my suggestionâ€¦
With IOS, when a device is pin-locked and you activate it, it brings up the Enter Passcode screen. If the device is a phone, that screen has an Emergency Call button to allow you to dial 911. I suggest Apple add another button for ICE. By default it would bring up your ID information out of the address book based on the card you’ve defined as being you.
But Apple could build a basic ICE app that if you fill out with information, and if you configure the system to use it, hitting that button would fire up that app instead. That would allow you the option of making available other information, such as insurance or drug allergies or information on existing conditions (I, for instance, don’t do well with codeine. The last time I took it, I had an extended conversation in which I solved the Middle East situation — with my wall clock; my medical record now suggests I not be given codeine).
If this interface allows the user to define ANY compatible app as the ICE app, this creates a third party opportunity; while it’d be a nice market, there would be some options here for developers to create some interesting solutions.
It would also create an opening for developers to create apps that use this capabilities for non-ICE capabilities. Some might see that as an problem because we’re circumventing the pin-code. I see it as an opportunity, since use of it is purely optional, and Apple actually set a precedent to allow that with both the emergency call button and the “quick camera” capability they added to the lock screen.
I originally suggested this around the building at Palm for webOS before the first phone shipped, and it went nowhere. I found that the younger you were, the less likely you’d see why someone might want it. Curious, that.
There are some privacy issues to putting ICE information out beyond the pin-lock, obviously, because f someone gets ahold of your device they can access it and find out some things about you. On the other hand, in a medical emergency having that info might mean the difference between getting timely treatment — or not. Or the difference between having your family contacted if you run into trouble — or not. And that ICE info might make it easier for a well-intentioned person to return a lost phone that they found. Every person would have to decide which info to make available, and as long as the ICE program itself is a voluntary choice, why shouldn’t it exist?
It seems like a simple thing to make happen. Hopefully you’d never need to have it used. But if you end up in a situation where an emergency responder is trying to figure out who you are, it seems to me you don’t want your PIN standing in the way. I wonder how many IOS users don’t turn on their pinlock because they don’t want their contact info locked up in case of an emergency?
If Apple wants to offer 4G in MacBooks, they can start whenever they want. Doing it properly will just take a bit more effort than adding a modem.
I think it’s a bit more complicated than people think.
Look at what Apple had to do with iPhone 5 to support LTE globally, vs. 3G. Lots more models of the phone because of the fragmentation of the LTE network frequencies.
Translate that to the computer line, where even with Build to Order, Apple’s kept the number of models and the variations down to a minimum, and the trend has been towards fewer choices in recent models, not more.
So to support 4D in the laptops, each laptop model is going to have to be set up to support 4G in all of it’s international variants. That complicates inventory and build management, distribution and etc. Don’t forget licensing and regulatory testing and approval — and the propensity for new models to leak via that process.
And don’t forget that 4G is only recently built out well enough to support widespread adoption in the US, and it’s adoption elsewhere is still rather — spotty. It’s one thing for Sprint to come out with a 4G model that sells 200 units in the US so the bleeding edge geeks can buy it (and mostly run it on 3G networks because they don’t have 4G yet) and giggle about how Apple’s so behind the times. It’s another to sell out a hundred million 4G iPhone 5′s in 40 countries.
The combination of 3G speeds and build complexity/logistics made putting cellular into laptops fall in the “not worth it now” category. LTE changes that equation, but LTE’s only been in Apple’s product line a few months, and I expect Apple would want to prove out the networks and technology on the mobile devices before rolling it to the computers.
But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see cellular support hit OS X at the next WWDC and roll out to the computers next fall, or this time next year. I would be surprised to see it happen sooner. And I’m not at all surprised it hasn’t happened by now, given the realities of how Apple builds laptops and what I see as consumer demand for this (which is: prior to LTE, very weak).
But I’ll tell you, having recently upgraded from a first-gen iPad/WIFI to a Retina iPad/LTE, I’m sold. But I’m curious how they’re going to solve the issue of LAN vs WAN when it comes to things like devices in the home. Running both WIFI and Cellular in parallel? That’s very different than the IOS model…
Was having an interesting conversation this morning with Om and Hunter about the recent firing of Richard Williamson from Apple over the Maps debacle. Hunter posed a question that, in hindsight, seems like such an obvious one to ask:
How does that make rest of co feel? Enforces â€˜only ship qualityâ€™ or makes people risk averse?
It depends greatly on why he was fired. We don’t know for sure, since we aren’t there, but was he fired because the maps software was seriously flawed?
Or was he fired because he lied to his bosses about the quality of the maps software, or misled them about the status?
I’m willing to bet, from my time working at Mama Fruit and dealing with Eddy and his teams, that the latter has a big part to do with this firing.Â
If you think about the reality of shipping something like IOS and the Maps software, it’s tightly integrated with the entire OS, so it’s not the sort of thing you can simply decide to not ship and stick the Google Maps back in. This isn’t the podcasts app, it’s a key, low-level part of the operating system. So if you think of this beast from a view of project management, the “go/no-go” on including maps was a year or so ago (or further), and after that, the train has left the station. If you don’t ship the maps stuff, it means you don’t ship IOS6. And if you don’t ship IOS6, it means you aren’t shipping iPhone 5. (the whole “why they had no choice but to ship Maps as they were” would be its own blog postâ€¦)
And that’s really bad.Â
So you’re shipping. After that, it becomes a question of how you manage the situation. Do you keep everyone aware of the problems and work with all of the involved teams (marketing, etc) to set the right expectations? Or do you tell everyone it’s going to be great, craft a demo that avoids the problems and makes it all look perfect, and hope to god you get the bugs wrangled before anyone finds them?
One of the mis-steps of the IOS6 announcement to me in light of how Maps turned out in reality was the disconnect between how Apple sold it to us, and how it really worked day 1. That mistake was completely avoidable. Apple could have positioned the Maps software in a very different but positive way, acknlowedged the flaws and that they needed the users to help them identify and fix things — turn this into almost a game, give away store coupons for being the first to find problems. And said up front that there were going to be hiccups, but that in the long-term, this switch made the birthing pains worth it and everyone would benefit in time.Â
The situation could have been completely defused. Instead, they way oversold Maps as awesome, and set themselves up for the face plant.Â
Why? I kept going back to my view that if Apple management knew they were going to have to ship a buggy maps app, they wouldn’t have bugled how wonderful it was. But what if the real problems were hidden from them? What if the maps team hid the real problems? Crafted great demos and told everyone things were fine?
Then the rest of the teams wouldn’t know they were stepping on a landmine until it went off.Â
And if you’re responsible for managing that fiasco up to your management and to the other teams relying on you?Â
Well, you deserve your walking papers.Â
Not saying that’s what happened here, but — it sure seems like a reasonable scenario based on my time there. And it sure seems a lot more rational than Apple knowing the Maps stuff was going to suck Day 1 and still selling the hell out of it at the announcement. I keep thinking that if Tim Cook knew the tool was going to be iffy on initial ship, he would have handled the announcement differently.Â
So perhaps he didn’t know. And perhaps now, some heads are going on up pikes. Not for the software being bad, but for hiding it from the bosses…
And to tie that back to the original question, if he was fired for misleading the company about the quality of Maps, then frankly, most of Apple is probably cheering this (probably quietly). That’d be a good thing and a strong message to be sent through the company.
Sometimes, software doesn’t come together as fast or as well as you hope (I know, most of you are going “duh!” right now). That’s something that we all understand, and we can deal with in some way or another. Like, oh, not making it the focal point of the announcement keynote.Â
But lying about it or hiding the problems so those you work with get sideswiped?
If there’s one thing bosses and co-workers hate, it’s unpleasant surprises.Â
I got into a twitter discussion yesterday with some people about turning off Feedburner on their blogs, since the rumors are Feedburner is going away (and even if it’s not, it’s been unreliable and is clearly not a priority for Google). I made a decision to turn off Feedburner over a year ago because I felt Google was going to do away with it at some point, and since then, I’ve seen nothing to indicate Google has plans to enhance the tool. It seems to be leaving it to slowly die of neglect. Because of that, I’m glad I stopped using the service, and I suggest everyone consider removing their RSS feeds from it while they can plan the migration rather than waking up one morning to unpleasant surprises and a crisis migration.
As part of that talk, I did some quick research on what needed to be done and I thought it might be helpful to others to put those notes online here. These notes are assuming your site is running with WordPress, but they should be generally useful for most sites on other platforms like Drupal.
There are three aspects of Feedburner that might impact someone trying to migrate themselves off of the service:
- RSS Feed
- Email subscriptions
Most users use Feedburner to redistribute their RSS feeds off their site. In return, they get some stats on usage, and Google spends some of it’s network feeding the RSS instead of it coming off of your site. Migrating from Â feedburner on your WordPress site involves changing your RSS links to point to your local feed instead of Feedburner, and then disabling Feedburner and having it point existing RSS subscribers back to your site.Â
The RSS feeds in your wordpress can be set up either by the use of a plug-in. The first step in migrating your RSS back to your local feed is to disable whichever plug-in you are using. (note: if you read this instruction and go “huh?” then you probably need to find a friendly geek to help you through this).
It’s possible that your Feedburner feeds were hard-coded onto your page, so you need to examine all of the links to see whether disabling the plug-in converted them back to your local RSS (the local RSS feed is typically a URL like <site>/feed). If you still see links pointing to Feedburner, you’ll need to dig into your theme files and find and change the hardcoded links.Â
Once you’ve taken these steps, all of your RSS links should point to your site instead of feedburner, and all new subscribers will subscribe to your local feed. Your existing subscribers are still subscribed to you via Feedburner.
To change that, you need to log onto Feedburner. There is an option to disable the feed. Feedburner will try to talk you out of it (of course), but if you insist, it will disable it, and for the next 30 days when someone goes to the old Feedburner link they’ll get a redirect pointing them back to your RSS feed. Most Â RSS readers are set up so that when it sees that redirect it’ll automatically update the subscription to use the new link directly.Â
So, once you’ve updated your site to stop pointing to Feedburner, and disabled the feed on the Feedburner site, you’re done. For the next month, when your existing subscribers pick up the feed, they’ll be automatically redirected to your local feed. It’s always a good idea to blog about the change for those users who’s RSS readers don’t follow the redirect properly, but it should be automatic for the most part.Â
Feedburner has an option to let users subscribe to your site via Email. If you use that, migrating the email off of Feedburner is going to complicate this, and you should do that before trying to migrate the RSS.Â
The bad news: you’re going to have to choose a new service to handle your email, it’ s not something you can (or should) handle on your WordPress site directly. trust me on this, I used to do email for a living. The good news: there are a number of sites that do this kind of email (but depending on the size of your subscriber list, it might cost you). Here are links to pages that explain this migration for a few services:
Â I’ve worked with aWeber and MailChimp in the past for various projects and both of them I’ve found are reliable and work well with good support. I haven’t worked with Feedblitz. you’ll need to evaluate these options and decide which one makes sense for you and what the costs are. All of these sites should be able to handle a migration from Feedburner.Â
This migration may take some time, especially getting your site updated. I’d suggest setting up and testing the new email setup and then updating your subscription pages, and then doing the Feedburner migration in three separate steps to minimize the possibility of chaos. One nice thing about migrating to a commercial emailer is that if you decide to do a site newsletter as well as a blog posting remaining setup you can integrate the two and do some marketing to get people on the e-newsletter.Â
The big loss in moving away from Feedburner is the loss of some easy statistics on how many subscribers you have. There aren’t any great options for replacing this, but there are a few things that might help. If you use Google Analytics (you do, right?), then check out this solution form ZoomMetrix. It looks like a nice solution, but the negative is that it’ll only work for new subscribers. There’s no easy way to add this tracking to existing subscribers.Â
The other way to get subscriber stats is to parse out your web site log files. There’s a project underway to build a script to create good stats out of an Apache log file; this is something I’m looking to implement for my site. Or you can do what I do, and mostly just not worry about it much. Seriously.Â
Hopefully, these links will help people looking to migrate off of Feedburner. If you have other suggestions, improvements, or corrections, please drop me an email or leave a comment.Â
An interesting idea: App.net will be paying “at least $20,000 per month” cumulatively to app developers, divided according to each app’s popularity and user satisfaction ratings. So a reasonably popular app might get a few thousand bucks a month.
It’s a strange move, though. It doesn’t look confident. This reminds me a bit of RIM’s strange $10,000-guarantee-if-you-make-at-least-$1,000 deal. (Apple and Google never needed to pay developers to make apps for iOS or Android.)
You’re trying to solve a chicken and egg problem here.
Consumers are less likely to buy into a platform if “the apps they want” (see note 1) aren’t available for it.
Developers are hesitant to commit to developing for a platform where the revenue opportunities aren’t there.
The challenge is to bridge that gap for developers. You can
- ignore it and pray
- give them non-financial incentives, such as marketing and promotion, high profile in product launches, and other partnership goodies
- pay developers to put apps on your platform (effectively, going to, say, Starbucks and offering to fund the app development for them)
- subsidize the app ecosystem to get it off the ground and give developers a revenue stream until it grows enough to be sustainable on its own
For the first two, your platform needs to be pretty persuasive today if you want to go up against IOS and Android and expect developers to just wander in and play in your territory. When we were booting up webOS, it was (relatively) easy to do the “not Apple”, because Android hadn’t yet booted either, and all of the other platforms were missing or tightly managed. Today, booting a platform like webOS would be a lot harder, IMHO.
So you need to inject money into the app ecosystem to help developers survive as it boots. Typically the worst thing you can do is pay developers to build apps; they’ll take the money, see how little of it they can spend to get an app out the door, and you get a crappy app and they don’t care because they’ve been paid. They invested in shipping the app, not investing in the ecosystem, and in lots of cases, will never care if it sells a copy.
So it’s all about finding ways to build revenue into the ecosystem in ways that give incentive to both publish apps and to have those apps quality ones and well received by the users. with webOS, we did a series of promotions (please, god, don’t call them contests (see note 2)). With webOS, we tried to structure things to reward success with end users — most downloaded apps, for instance. With the Touchpad, we injected money into the ecosystem by attaching a $50 credit to every TouchPad sold, allowing buyers of the tablet to choose how to spend it. Both of them.
FWIW, I’m not sure $20K a month will do a lot to boot the ecosystem. That doesn’t spread very far when you’re talking about trying to help developers pay back development expenses. For webOS, our budgets were more like a million a quarter, just for comparison.
So both RIM and app.net are on the right track, if these are implemented properly. RIM’s guarantee makes sense because they’re trying to attract the class of developer/company that already has an IOS and an Android app and is saying “what’s in it for me? why should I bother?” — at least now, there’s some financial incentive, where, honestly, marketing/promotion or “hey, we’re not going to suck in year, you want to be part of this!” aren’t going to generate much enthusiasm. You put the $1000 floor on earnings to avoid getting flooded by five thousand tip calculator apps that exist only because people want a chunk of the money you’re giving away. It saves you from paying out money to the, um, lower-caliber developers that are simply trying to grab your payout and not really trying to build a usable app that’ll help your platform.
IOS doesn’t have to do this because they are the 800 pound gorilla, and have a zillion units in the hands of consumers looking for apps to buy. Ditto Android. What RIM is trying to do is get into that game again. It’ll be interesting to see whether they succeed. And they can’t do it by making promises or asking people to invest in building apps in hope of future returns. The class of app they need to attract will nod politely and then go plan their IOS next generation app instead.
App.net is in a different place; I think this is more about encouraging some of the twitter developers to give them a shot, and to create an ecosystem where the developers have a bit of help so that they can give the apps the time for the platform to find a large enough audience. The developers that app.net are likely trying to attract are a lot different than the ones RIM need to grab (app.net is going to be the individual/homebrewer and the tiny shop, RIM needs corporate and mid-sized shops to buy in), but I still wonder if that amount will make a significant difference. We’ll see…
(note 1: “the apps they want” is actually fairly hard to define. There are likely 20-30 apps that are universal to almost everyone, from email and contacts and calendar and maps. There are a larger set of a few hundred that large chunks of potential buyers are going to want SOME of, whether it’s a Starbucks app or Netflix or their bank’s banking app or whatever. And most people have a couple of apps in the “gotta have” pile that are definitely niche apps, but the lack of them can be a killer. In my personal case, those “gotta have” niche apps are my birding and nature guides. A platform I can’t get those on I probably won’t consider, but 95 out of 100 readers of this blog post will shrug and go ‘huh?’? Everyone has those apps — and none of them are common apps in any way, shape or form, which is why you need to try to build a diverse and large app ecosystem. It’s basically the same reason why a steakhouse has a token chicken or fish dish on the menu: to prevent that one “I won’t eat beef” person from keeping the entire dinner party from coming to that restaurant…)
(note 2: the nanosecond someone utters the word ‘contest’ dozens of lawyers warp in through a wormhole and start having hissy fits. it turns out that having a contest is an incredibly complicated and regulated process and involves things like creating ways for people to enter without actually spending money or owning your product and things like that. So you end up sitting down with your lawyers and making damn sure you use language that doesn’t turn it into a contest. Even if it kinda looks and smells and quacks like one.)