Saturday, July 18, 2009

Join the new CloudNotes group on FriendFeed

Join up now! Then read on for more details if you wish…

image 
If you’re a reader or subscriber to this blog, you know I don’t post more than once a month—if that much. CloudNotes is really not intended to be a news source or conventional watering hole. From the beginning, I’ve conceived of this forum as more of a personal tech-quest; an exploration of how I personally use web-based notetaking and bookmarking services. My posts tend to be infrequent but longer, and I try to be as partial as possible. You’re getting my opinions—there’s nothing journalistic about what I’m trying to do here.

But also, from the beginning I’ve wished for an in-between way to share casual thoughts and links during those long droughts between posts. A place where I could quickly stash links and bits of news that might not ever merit a full post. This, of course, isn’t so different from note-taking. And at first, I simply shared my Google Notebook. When Google announced they would cease further development of the project, I switched my link blog over to Tumblr, which is perhaps the most elegant and easy blogging platform available.

But a blog isn’t quite what I wanted. Nor does a shared notebook quite meet all my needs (although I do maintain a public Evernote notebook, here). I wanted something interactive. A place where I could post my links, but where others could post their thoughts as well. I think there are people who care about the same web-apps and services I care about. People who require powerful research tools for both work and play. I wanted a place where like minds could share tips and tricks and ideas about notemarking

Admittedly, I could have invited users to contribute to my Tumblr, but I don’t want co-authors. I want full-on exchanges in a place where everyone’s on equal footing. After abortive attempts at using disappointing services like Social Median and Twine, I’ve finally figured out that FriendFeed is perfect for this. Why is FF so great at community building? As I said on my final Notemarks post:

    1. I want a simpler way to share things, and it doesn’t get simpler or easier than FriendFeed.
    2. I want more interaction with people who care about Notetaking and Bookmarking services. I want to make conversation easier. And FriendFeed does conversation better than anyone.
    3. It should be easy for you to submit your own links and stories. You know I don’t blog all that often, but I’d still like to see daily conversation about how we’re keeping track of your thoughts in the cloud.
    4. I really need an excuse to use FriendFeed. It’s a brilliant service, but very few of my pals are here. This group is a great opportunity to make some new friends who care about a fairly narrow tech subject.

Sure there are already rooms devoted to single services like Evernote and Delicious. But I wanted forum where people feel free to talk about any service. In my dream scenario, about 10 percent of my readers will sign up and be active participants. That’s still small enough where it won’t be attractive to spammers. But, really, I’ll take all comers.

That includes you.

Let’s get started.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Win a scanner darkly

image

Me: So I saw your Twitter message just now. What the hell is “#evernote_scansnap”?

Eve666: Oh, it’s so awesome. You know that thing where, like, companies were giving away free Macbooks and iPhones on Twitter if you add their hashtag to your posts?

Me: Yeah, I guess. So this is like #moonfruit and #squarespace?

Eve666: Yeah, well, Evernote is doing the same thing, except they’re giving away this bad-ass scanner. All you have to do is tweet publicly to @evernote with the hashtag #evernote_scansnap somewhere in your message.

Me: hmmmm

Eve666: But it’s kinda dumb too, because unlike the other ones, where you could put those tags in all your tweets and have lots of chances to win, Evernote is limiting entries to only one per week.

Me: I see. So you’re kinda bummed because Evernote is taking a quasi-ethical approach to the whole “co-opt your twitter feed” thing.

Eve666: ..

Me: I mean you’re upset because you won’t be able to spam your friends with bizarre promotional hashtags quite as often as before.

Eve666: This is NOT spam.

Me: So you’ve asked all your friends, and this is what they expected when they agreed to follow all your updates?

Eve666: What is your deal? It’s just a few characters. And in exchange I get a freaking sweet scanner.

Me: No. You get a chance at winning a free scanner.

Eve666: ..

Me: And the chances of you winning go down the more douchebags there are who think spamming their friends with ads is a good idea.

Eve666: (away)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Techcrunch: Ditch Delicious for some dude’s side project

Today Mike Arrington is suggesting to his readers that they should ditch Delicious and use Pinboard, a private beta “side project” developed by former Yahoo Brickhouse engineer. What’s so great about this new product? It basically recreates the Delicious bookmarklet, adding a nice “Read Later” button to the standard layout:

image 
It looks like Delicious. Only without the help of suggested tags added and curated by a large community of users. Uh, no thanks. I think I’d rather use Delicious. What’s really weird is that Arrington doesn’t offer any evidence there’s anything wrong with Delicious, nor does he offer a convincing argument explaining why Pinboard (or any other service) is any better. Here’s what he does say:

[Delicious is] slow, sometimes offline. A couple of weeks ago it wouldn’t let me log in, saying my password was incorrect. I was sure it was right, but I requested a password reset anyway. The email never came.

The service has languished, and has the feel of a product that’s on life support. There doesn’t seem to be a passionate group of developers loving and caring for the product and making it better over time. Or at least not worse. Traffic is stagnating or dropping, depending on which analytics service you look at. Founder Joshua Schacter left long ago in frustration, and is now at Google.

All Delicious really needs to do is let me bookmark sites without a lot of distraction. It hasn’t been good at that for a long, long while.

Let’s go through this carefully…

“It’s slow.”

For this claim, Arrington offers no evidence other than his own experience. I looked at the Delicious User Forum, and there is indeed a year-old user thread in which Delicious promises to correct a speed issue for IE7 users. As of today, at least one user is stating the problem with IE 7 is still there. From what I can tell in the screenshot, Arrington’s using Firefox. And I’m using the latest version on a Vista machine. The site loads in less than 2 seconds. Consistently.

As an aside, you know what service actually is slow? Twine. That hasn’t stopped Techcrunch from covering it twice in the last three months.

“Sometimes offline.”

I’ve not once noticed Delicious being off-line. And there’s not a current thread on the Forum complaining of the problem.

“A couple of weeks ago it wouldn’t let me log in, saying my password was incorrect. I was sure it was right, but I requested a password reset anyway. The email never came.”

Again, there’s no post to the forum active in the last month from any other user with a similar complaint. There are a few threads of IE 7 users of the Delicious Bookmarks add-on complaining about not being able to stay logged in. That does suck, and Delicious seems to be working on it, but at some point people really need to stop using IE.

“The service has languished, and has the feel of a product that’s on life support. There doesn’t seem to be a passionate group of developers loving and caring for the product and making it better over time. Or at least not worse.”

First, it’s obvious Arrington hasn’t bothered to visit the Delicious support site or the separate site for the Delicious Bookmarks add-on. There, he would see developers who are active every day in response to user questions and concerns. Many problems, such as their hiccup last December are related to interactions with other third-party add-ons. Dealing with issues that can have so many causes isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but Delicious is trying hard every day to help their users.

I do agree that Delicious could be adding features at a faster clip, but I can’t think of any features I’d absolutely have to have. And neither can Arrington. In fact, he doesn’t want any “bells and whistles.” He says that Pinboard is exactly what he wants because it’s got “No graphics. no design. just easy, easy bookmarking and tagging. I love it.”

So which is it? Do you want a site with passionate developers and bug-fixers or a site with one developer who’s created a barebones side project? There’s no coherence in this post. At all.

“Traffic is stagnating or dropping, depending on which analytics service you look at. Founder Joshua Schacter left long ago in frustration, and is now at Google.”

I too was troubled by the departure of Joshua Schacter, but I really liked the Delicious 2.0 release that came after he left, especially the ability to bulk-edit my bookmarks. I’ve been a happy user for several months, and I’ve not seen one service that does it better.

I suppose they may be losing users, which should concern those of us who love the service and want to keep it around. But for now, I’m not going to abandon something that continues to work in a speedy and reliable fashion. I’m certainly not leaving Delicious for a tiny site that’s still in private beta. Again, there’s no coherence here.

All Delicious really needs to do is let me bookmark sites without a lot of distraction. It hasn’t been good at that for a long, long while.

imageI’ll just say that I’m not buying it. Delicious is working awesome for me. No one else is reporting the problems Arrington is claiming, and I can’t figure out what distractions he’s talking about. Note that he’s still got his beloved Firefox add-on installed. And if you operate it in classic mode, it’s freaking identical to what he likes about Pinboard.

_________

Whew. So none of this is to say that Delicious is perfect or that Pinboard isn’t a worthy project (I’m not a user, but I’m impressed by their listed features). I’m just taking a bit of time to fisk one of Arrington’s lazy posts. I started to write a comment over at Techcrunch, but this post is too long, and the comments there are only slightly better than YouTube quality.

I’ll be back in another month. :)