Friday, January 27, 2012

News.me is better than Summify

Now that Summify's been purchased by Twitter, I've been trying out News.me as an alternative.

I'm a couple of days into receiving my daily emails from News.me and I'm already preferring it to Summify for two reasons, one of them trivial and one of them substantial. The trivial thing first: I love that News.me doesn't put an awful-bar with proprietary URL when you click a link in your email. You just get the story you clicked from the original story. Second, and more importantly, News.me is serving up compelling links that I actually missed.

Summify seems to collect all the links that were shared by a ton of people I followed. By the time the links show up in my email, I've already seen them blowing up my Twitter and Facebook. In contrast, News.me has been serving up links I didn't see all over the place the previous day, but which seem pretty interesting to me the next morning. With News.me the content is both relevant and new.

I wonder how they're doing it. Maybe they're purposefully eschewing links that have been shared by a ton of people, figuring you've seen them already. Then they find items that have been shared a lot, but NOT by the people you follow? That's my guess anyway.

News.me may also be using your "favorites" as a way of determining what's relevant to you. If you try News.me, you should definitely check the box that "imports" your Twitter faves. Two big advantages to doing so: first, the potential increase in relevancy for your email summaries, and second the nice Read It Later stream it creates from your selections.

To sum up, I love it. I haven't tried the iPad app yet and I'm looking forward to their incorporation of the Facebook stream. But as a Twitter summary, in terms of cloning what Summify was doing for me, I prefer News.me.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do the Collapse: How to Speed Up Evernote's Web Client

Is Evernote, like, SUPER slow for you on the Web? Even if you're using Chrome? It's probably your fault. You might have too many damn tags. It might help to collapse your tag menu in the left hand column. Evernote's web interface was glacially slow for me, but I checked the forums. Sure enough, users who collapsed their tags were able to resolve the issue. Worked for me, too.

See, a long time ago I made a mistake. I ignored my own advice and imported all my Delicious bookmarks into Evernote. I also made the fateful decision to retain my tags. Basically, where before I had fewer than 100 tags, I now had thousands. This is what's been slowing down Evernote on the Web for me. Evernote doesn't even offer Delicious importing anymore, but if you made the mistake earlier, as I did, doing the collapse might help you.

Problem solved, right? Sure, but I have one more suggestion for Evernote and CEO Phil Libin. He once commented here, so maybe he'll see it. Give us poor users with thousands of tags a way to "delete unassigned tags." See, I've deleted my Delicious bookmarks, but all the tags I imported are still there. Sure, I have the option of hiding unassigned tags. But deleting them would be even better.

Consider it another step Evernote can take toward perfection.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Springpad lets you browse and save stuff from your Facebook Pals

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This could potentially fill a gap. Apps such as Trunk.ly and Pinboard will save your Twitter faves. But I've not seen a web app that can usefully save items from Facebook.
If you're on the iPad, of course, Flipboard does this quite well.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Evernote "completely revamps" iOS apps. Again?

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I love Evernote's penchant for constantly evolving their products. I love their commitment to a quality, cross-platform family of products. But it seems like they "completely revamp" things an awful lot. Maybe the lack of UI focus and consistency is the price we pay for having a free, bad-ass notebook on multiple gadgets.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

MG Siegler slams AT&T over "streamlined" messaging plans

So with the services now out there making people less reliant on SMS, what was going to happen? People were going to want to downgrade their plans. Who wants to pay $20 a month when you’re using only a handful of messages? Why not pay $10? Well, now you can’t. You can either pay $20 for unlimited, or have no plan and pay AT&T’s ridiculous per-message rate.

AT&T knows that most people are not going to chose the latter. Again, we’re not to the point yet where people will be fully comfortable letting go of SMS. Hell, all of the services I mentioned use it as a backup in one way or another.

Think of it this way: unlimited SMS is heroin. The $10 a month limited plan is methadone which you could have used to wean yourself off. AT&T has just cut off the methadone supply. They’re daring you to go cold turkey. Most won’t be able to.

And maybe they deserve it. But Siegler does omit a key bit of information: if you're already an AT&T customer you can keep your existing plan. Indeed, AT&T killed off their $5.00/200 plan in January. But I've still got it. No untoward billing issues or unexplained increase in my bill.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Zotero Announces Major Upgrades Taking Place Over the Next Few Weeks

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I'm really glad to hear it. I had forsaken Zotero because it was linked to Firefox—and continuing to use Firefox was untenable because it had become so sluggish and old hat.

But part of Zotero's facelift includes a stand-alone client and integration with other browsers such as Chrome and Safari. I'm excited about this.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Using your “real name” is not revolutionary.

Google+ and Facebook both require their users to use their real names on the site. This might or might not be a good idea that is beneficial to users. The wisdom of such policies can be debated. But having such a policy is not "revolutionary."

Alexis Madrigal begins his “revolutionary” claim by conceding his initial instincts "strongly pointed to requiring real names." He then uses a bogus thought experiment to convince himself otherwise:

Imagine you're walking down the street and you say out loud, "Down with the government!" For all non-megastars, the vast majority of people within earshot will have no idea who you are. They won't have access to your employment history or your social network or any of the other things that a Google search allows one to find. The only information they really have about you is your physical characteristics and mode of dress, which are data-rich but which cannot be directly or easily connected to your actual identity. In my case, bystanders would know that a 5'9", 165 pound probably Caucasian male with half a beard said, "Down with the government!" Neither my speech or the context in which it occurred is preserved. And as soon as I leave the immediate vicinity, no one can definitively prove that I said, "Down with the government!"

In your head, adjust the settings for this thought experiment (you say it at work or your hometown or on television) or what you say (something racist, something intensely valuable, something criminal) or who you are (child, celebrity, politician) or who is listening (reporters, no one, coworkers, family). What I think you'll find is that we have different expectations for the publicness and persistence of a statement depending on a variety of factors. There is a continuum of publicness and persistence and anonymity. But in real life, we expect very few statements to be public, persistent, and attached to your real identity. Basically, only people talking on television or to the media can expect such treatment. And even then, the vast majority of their statements don't become part of the searchable Internet.

I’m fine with analogies, but this is the wrong one. Facebook and Google+ aren’t at all like yelling out into a nameless crowd. Instead, you’re writing a message, to people you choose to share it with. This is a lot more like a letter or mass e-mail. Technologies much older than modern social networks, and ones that we quite often connect with our real names. Why? Because we wan’t our readers to know where the message is coming from. We want them to read it and trust it and care about it.

I’m not saying that anonymity doesn’t have its advantages. Sure it does, and it has a rich and honored history on the Web, including web forums, chat rooms, Myspace, Friendster, Tumblr and Twitter. But let’s not pretend that using one’s real name on the internet is some sort of crazy, unprecedented idea.

Both Facebook and Google are trying to connect you with your real friends, because those are the relationships that can most easily be monetized through advertising. And they are the relationships that create the “stickiest” network effects. You trust your close friends more than anyone else. This is the idea behind the “real names” rules.

If we must use a talking out loud analogy instead of a written one, fine. What if you’re talking to your friends in a bar, they all know who you are, don’t they? That bar is what Google and Facebook want to be. They want you to have a few drinks, let down you guard, and show you ads while you’re in the can. They are the new Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.”

You may not like it. You may be worried that someone will overhear, or that you’ll be taken advantage of. That you don’t really control your privacy. You may prefer a low profile. That’s fine. There are a couple of rando funhouses down the street. They’re called Twitter & Tumblr, and they’re great. See you there. I like all the bars in this neighborhood.