Thursday, July 31, 2003
RSS Aggregator User Experience
I just switched on the activeRenderer view in myRadio. aR takes the standard Radio aggregator view and turns it into a collapsible outline, showing me only as much detail as I want for a given news item. I don't know why I hadn't noticed this option before, maybe it's new (but I admit I haven't been paying a great deal of attention.) My first impression is quite positive. One of the problems I have with the Radio-style layout is just the overwhelming amount of information that's on screen at any one time. The ability to collapse the news items to just the headline is great improvement. I've tried numerous three-pane, browser-based aggregator/reader applications, yet keep coming back to Radio/myRadio. The incorporation of aR has made the experience even better.

Update: One more thing the aR interface does -- it groups ALL news items under a single instance of the source. This is common in the separate newsreader applications, but Radio still groups all feeds by time, leaving the reader to scroll down through multiple instances of any given source. The aR way is much better. [b.cognosco
2:05:27 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Salon Blogs birthday report
Mark Hoback and a couple of other people have asked that I take the one-year mark for Salon Blogs as a chance to offer some state-of-the-project notes, since I originally described it as an "experiment." "Experiments have results, positive, negative, or ambiguous...." [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment
2:27:12 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Testing PNG support in Manila
Thomas Creedon has a site to demonstrate PNG support for Manila. By (Lawrence Lee). [UserLand Product News
1:58:13 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Social Dynamx is about to release an easy to use desktop interface for MT and Manila weblogs. [John Robb's Weblog
2:48:17 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Saturday, July 26, 2003
What Blog Tools Build Better Google-indexed Blogs?..
Numbers of people have sought my advice on which blogging tool to use. Quite frankly, I did not really know what to tell them. I have been a Radio Userland for more than a year and I had always had good success in getting my Radio Userland site indexed in Google.
[Microdoc News
8:36:21 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Jake: "We haven't been able to get Radio to register incoming TrackBack pings from a Movable Type site." [Scripting News
4:50:37 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Social Dynamix is doing a custom skin for Moveable Type. I'm playing with their FM Radio product for Radio UserLand. It's awesome. [The Scobleizer Weblog
3:21:26 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Thursday, July 24, 2003
Old Wired article on Microsoft's MyLifeBits.  "Someday, MyLifeBits will allow people to Google their own lives, (Gordon) Bell says."  You can get started right now.  Lots of people are using their weblog tools to publish a private weblog to their hard drive (a backup brain).  They use categories to publish public weblogs to various locations.  Tip for Radio users:  in order to get to your desktop ("Home") weblog on your desktop, bookmark this location:   Mark has a search tool for Radio that allows you to search your weblog locally. [John Robb's Weblog
5:19:15 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Jake has the second half of Trackback working for Radio. Please help him test it by pinging this post. [Scripting News
3:51:36 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Beta: Trackback for Radio UserLand. Following on the release of TrackBack for Manila, we're working on TrackBack support for Radio UserLand.

If you're a Radio user who's comfortable running beta software, please help us test TrackBack support for Radio by following these instructions on the Radio-Dev mail list. [Jake's Radio 'Blog
7:47:53 PM      comment []   trackback []  

John Robb resurfaces
JRobb is now here. He is nurturing Mindplex, a for-profit system of expert weblogs.
John was the former COO of UserLand software who makes the blogging software that we re-sell here on itown called itown Radio. No one outside UserLand knows why he left UserLand.

John was our contact at UserLand (UL) and got us into the business of selling blogging tools. He said that was the best way to make money on the Internet.
I was looking for a way to bring personal publishing to a broader mass to realize a dream with that I had had since 1995. I invested and found some fine folks (Seth & Bryan) to help me orient into a Radio Community Server.

I've been heisitant to comment on UserLand's situation for a variety of reasons but that strips blogging of one of its finer attributes: soultalk... sincerity even if we miss the mark at fairness occassionally... a "growing-up" in public kind of thing.

So in an honest critique in the spirit of what blogging is all about (honesty with discretion), I offer the following on UserLand and my experince with them:

Good points:

1. The UserLand software has performed admireably for which I'm grateful. The software has done as advertised in a wonderfully consistant way. Much of it do in my application to the efforts of Seth Dillingham of Macrobyte Resources.

2. The support staff at UL (Jake & Lawrence) plug away faithfully and hardily as best they can at a variety of tasks to which we all owe them and the company a daily hardy, "Thank you.".

3. Dave Winer inspires. Bearing with the occassional pop-off and rant, Dave, former head-honcho, yet still majority stockholder of UL, has provoked and nutured through his blogging many, many good things. If you have read him, you know of the range of good ideas he as brought into both the technology practicespace, technicalspace, and marketspace.

In many respects, he has set a new and better standard for a leader of a tech company. He has talked to his customers illuminating strategy and discussing milestones and setbacks.
It really is the way that customers would like to be attached to the companies from which they buy products and services.
I thank him for his conscious choices to be this kind of person.
In this regard, like Guy Kawaski author of The Macintosh Way, Dave is the author of The Blogging Way, and you will find it written over several years of weblogging. And a good read it is.

Less good points:
1. There is no support network for Radio VAR's like us. None. Not even a weblog.

2. What Mark Pilgrim seemed to object to in his "Winer Watch" was the abolition of John Robb's weblog without explanation. This seemed inconsistent with the philosophies of the company and founder. Sometimes, you have periods of time where commenting is just not appropriate. I understand that fact, and I respect that fact. But you ought to say something; and later, you ought to shed some light. Distrust is now quasi-in-play where trust was once established. That is never good for any of us or our efforts. Here's hope for a remedy to this situation (if I am being fair.).

3. John Robb has gone from selling content tools to becoming a content maker. That fact irks me a bit as an investor of the tools that he was selling. Perhaps that's what drew him to UL in the first place; I don't know. But he was in a position to be inspired by all the buyers of his tools with what they were doing and muse and focus his strategy for for-profit content generation.

Granted, he may not want to sell someone else's tools. And I don't know that I compete directly against his next effort; I may already. But when a content tool vendor jumps to making content, as much as I am for him and his good ideas, it feels swarmy at the moment. I'm sure that feeling will pass; it may be logically wrong.
Maybe it's a lack of closure on this episode that I suspect many of us feel. I think we are due some closure. It would be the blogging thing to do if blogging stands for any intrinsic characteristic unique to the philosophic adherents.

But I guess in the end, to treat UserLand as I would want to be treated, I must continue to give grace as they decide whether to fix the problems that most of us see and experienced or not. They are free to make those choices. I just hope that they will look at the problems honestly and comment to us that are vested in their platform. That's the blogging way.

With tongue in cheek and a sarcastic tone, maybe JRobb can have a Frontier/Manila/Radio expert on his network to whom I can pay for advice. Like I said, sometimes we say things to just work out the frustration... after all, bloggers don't have to be mature to blog. Some of us are still in process with a long way to go... count me on that list... (Hmmm, maybe I need to do a directory for that category of blogger.).

In the end, Long live The Blogging Way. May I infrequently foul its aspirations as well. [Harvey Kirkpatrick: News
6:10:19 PM      comment []   trackback []  

Steve Hooker: Backlog RSS file of all the posts. Steve has released a new tool that you can use with Feedster's new backlog feature. "A tool to make a Backlog RSS file of all the posts that went to your front page." [UserLand Product News
5:40:01 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Sunday, July 20, 2003
Instructions on how to FTP a category weblog (using Radio) to a new location. [John Robb's Weblog
2:03:02 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Adding (n)Echo support to my copy of Radio.

Major fun: Radio gets some kind of Echo support.   [Scripting News]

(n)echo feed. There's now a valid (formerly known as | not) echo feed for this weblog. I would hope that the namespace gets set soon, so far I've seen about 5 variations. [Simon Fell]

And it took me longer to write this post than it did to add (n)Echo support to my copy of Radio. For a user worrying about what all the noise around RSS/(n)Echo will mean, that's cool!

[McGee's Musings
1:58:16 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Character encoding quirks in the aggregator.

Weird Characters in RSS. Does anyone else see these weird high-ASCII characters in the Corante: IdeaFlow RSS feed?

If itâo[dot accent]s true that the bust is about busted, I hope that the resulting opportunity to innovate innovation itself isnâo[dot accent]t overlooked. Thereâo[dot accent]s been a lot of thought in the last few years about how to make sure innovation doesnâo[dot accent]t pack up and leave town when the venture capitalists close their wallets. For example, in the Open Innovation scenario, loose-pocketed venture capitalists aren't as necessary for technology innovation.


I have the same problem. It appears to be a bug in the way Radio's news aggregator handles the character encoding. It doesn't happen in some other aggregators.  It's one of those standards quirks that programmers get to worry about I guess. I think of it as a bit of sand in the works -- adds a bit of flavor. Since I'm not qualified to fix it, I try to ignore it.

[McGee's Musings
1:55:34 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Thursday, July 17, 2003
 Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Thanks, Dave. As I mentioned in my blog last week, I briefly met Dave Winer at OSCON last week. I have to admit being a little nervous about it, because I offended Dave earlier in a thoughtless way. But Dave paid me about the best compliment that he could have: "Oh, yeah, I read your blog all the time". I was so relieved that I forgot to say something that I wanted to say to Dave:
I was a user of the original ThinkTank and More products on the Macintosh. I used them constantly, and I still wish I had one of them. So thank you, Dave, for your pioneering work in outlining.
Meeting folks like Dave, Mitch Kapor, and Andy Hertzfeld at OSCON reminded me that there are lots of folks out the that have made big contributions to computing, and that we in the open source community are standing on their shoulders. One way of thinking about open source is that it lets us stand on the shoulders of others so that we can get taller, instead of just trying to rebuild what others have done before. It never hurt anyone to say thank you, and we could do it more with each other. [Ted Leung on the air
11:36:51 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Monday, July 14, 2003
Radio database is gettin' busy. I'm working on a UserTalk script that restores Radio weblogs from their HTML Web pages. It's not ready for prime time -- I have to run it locally and tweak the code on a per-weblog basis -- but at some point I am hoping to release it for general use.

One problem I'm running into is a "busy database" issue with the new database where weblog data is being stored. If the script halts with an error during execution, I can't access that database again without restarting Radio. Is there any way in UserTalk to get a database out of that busy state? [Workbench
11:44:21 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Sunday, July 13, 2003
Echo feed available. Yesterday Dave Winer added support for Echo to Radio Userland's aggregator. Today I did the same, but at the other end. My Radio Userland now emits an Echo feed. The RSS feed is now created by transforming the Echo feed, using this XSLT transformation. [Sjoerd Visscher's weblog
4:01:17 AM      comment []   trackback []  

You just have to know where to look. Note to self: If something bugs you in Radio Userland, it is usually very easy to fix. The shortcuts weren't expanded in the RSS feed, so I posted a message on de discussion board. Steve Hooker was a great help, and in the meantime I learnt to fix something else that had even annoyed me more the last few years: activeURLs and autoParagraphs. … [Sjoerd Visscher's weblog
4:00:20 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Calling all kernel heroes!. If there are any Radio hackers or kernel experts out there listening, i'd be grateful for your ear.  We're trying to nail down the last few problems with our Radio Trackback client and have come across something that appears pretty wierd.  Details here. [Curiouser and curiouser!
3:29:22 AM      comment []   trackback []  

New pages for gzip and user agent id reports. I've taken my reports on Aggregators that support gzip and Aggregators that don't implement RFC 2616, Sec 3.8 product tokens and broken them out into separate pages, so the people won't have to go trawling through the blog to find them. [Ted Leung on the air
3:13:18 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Saturday, July 12, 2003
Major fun: Radio gets some kind of Echo support. [Scripting News
5:08:13 AM      comment []   trackback []  

BBC RSS feeds list updated. Yesterday, BBC News Online made available 68 new RSS feeds for every section of their site in both the World and UK editions. Radio users can use the XML coffee mugs on the BBC RSS feeds page to easily subscribe to the new channels using Radio's aggregator. [UserLand Product News
4:57:51 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Target Post.

This is a dummy post that will act as a target for trackback pings.

I'm now testing the trackback send-ping functionality from the Radio client.

[Curiouser and curiouser!
4:11:44 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Friday, July 11, 2003
New Manila feature: robots.txt. The robots.txt feature we've been working on for the last day or so has been released. Manila now generates robots.txt files, based on preferences set by Managing Editors. See this page on the Manila website for details about the new feature. [Jake's Radio 'Blog
2:23:56 PM      comment []   trackback []  

Adding dates to Radio page titles. Radio UserLand tip: To add a date to the title of each daily archive page, add the following UserTalk code inside the title tag of the home page template (#homeTemplate.txt):

<%local (d); if radio.weblog.file.getArchiveFileDate (radioResponder.fileBeingRendered, @d) {": " + string.dateString (d)} else {""}%>

This code will be replaced with the date in the form "Monday, June 30, 2003" (example). [Workbench
12:23:26 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Thursday, July 10, 2003
TrackBack for Radio. You've got ping . Third-party TrackBack in Radio . Matt Mower's Python TrackBack server for Radio (and ACLs i... [thomas n. burg | randgänge
1:27:19 PM      comment []   trackback []  

OPML version mismatch. The first draft of Radio UserLand Kick Start is complete, so I now have more time to put chapters online as we prepare the book for publication. I'll be posting at least one this week.

While reviewing the appendix on OPML, Brent Simmons spotted something: Radio is producing OPML 1.1 files, but that version of the spec never made it to the OPML Web site. It was announced in late 2001 and appears to contain only one change from 1.0: a new cloud element. [Workbench
1:17:38 PM      comment []   trackback []  

 Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Don't ask what..... I have received some emails from friends concerned about UserLand. There is a lot of good energy and good people around these tools. I do believe that there's still a lot of great things that can be done. The key is: how do we do them, have fun (and make some money for everybody in the process?). Hint: it start(s) from sales. [Paolo Valdemarin: Paolo's Weblog
2:24:59 PM      comment []   trackback []  

For testing: robots.txt in Manila. We've got a new feature for testing: robots.txt for Manila sites. We're planning on releasing the feature through root updates, probably later today, but we wanted to give it a little time to burn in first.

If you run a Manila server and would like to help test the new feature, please follow the instructions in this message on the Manila-Dev mail list. [Jake's Radio 'Blog
2:06:28 PM      comment []   trackback []  

10,000 reasons to read Adam Curry. Adam Curry has revealed an interesting investment he made in UserLand 18 months ago: He paid $10,000 for his weblog to be included in Radio's default RSS subscriptions. Now he thinks the Echo Project's work is undoing his canny marketing:

I will again invest $10k in aggregator default placements this year, but I will spread it around, to all developers who adhere to RSS2.0. Include (N)echo and you're out of luck.

I don't understand his concern. If an aggregator can read a format, so can its users. Radio could dump RSS 2.0 for another format overnight and Curry would still get what he paid for: a built-in audience of aggregator users.

This deal is likely to take some heat because it was never disclosed to Radio users that Curry bought his way onto the list. Though I'm surprised to learn this, Web browsers have been selling positions in their default bookmarks for years. [Workbench
1:16:22 PM      comment []   trackback []  

Here's something so cool. Today, for the first time, I ran my aggregator at the office with the harmonizer installed. Now, back at home, I have all these feeds that I used to only have at the office. I feel harmony. Hmmmm. [Scripting News
6:23:51 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Dave Winer: "Some news: John Robb is leaving UserLand... Thanks John for all your help, and best wishes to you and your family for much continued success." [Corante: Corante on Blogging
6:12:22 AM      comment []   trackback []  

John Robb and UserLand. Since John Robb has left UserLand, and UserLand has, within their privileges as his employer, pulled down his weblog*, I thought it would be a good public service to point out that Feedster cached the post of his resignation:

Note: My thanks to Sam Ruby who actually pointed out to me that Feedster's cache had this stored and available. [SuperBlog - Feedster Goes to SuperNova !!!
5:12:33 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Cataclysm in UserLand.

Ground is shaking in UserLand.  John Robb's abrupt departure and blog disappearance smells bad.  Dave is hinting at a bigger change that should be "net-net good news for Manila and Radio users and for the weblog community."  While going open source is a possibility, "We weren't ready to announce, John surprised us" seems to point to a buyout.  My list of suspects with recent news about AOL's entry into BlogLand are:

  • Yahoo
  • Adobe
  • Symantec
  • Macromedia

Intriguing drama unfolding...

[Don Park's Daily Habit
4:04:25 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Mike Walsh: Will Trade Beach House for Manila Knowledge. [Scripting News
3:59:39 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Saturday, July 05, 2003
Simon Carstensen writes to ask if it's safe to implement a harmonizer clone, ie will the API change. The answer is, it's safe. I don't expect the API to change. It works, I've heard from happy users. I'm happy. Haha. Go for it. [Scripting News
5:00:07 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Thursday, July 03, 2003
I added Chris Pirillo's Amazon RSS feeds to the Services sub-section of Feeds in my RSS directory. [Scripting News
6:15:42 AM      comment []   trackback []  

Brent Simmons offers a couple of tips for Radio/Frontier programmers. [Scripting News
6:13:31 AM      comment []   trackback []  

My new subscriptions harmonizer is ready for the next step in the bootstrap. I have a test server up and running and an aggregator-side implementation running in Radio UserLand on two of my computers, and so far it works! Praise Murphy. If you have two or more Radios, and have experience using the object database, please give it a try. But read the instructions carefully. It's an open protocol, other developers are welcome, and I have a section of the RFC ready to point to them when they come online. If you have comments or questions on the Harmonizer, please post them here. Thanks! [Scripting News
6:12:33 AM      comment []   trackback []  

 Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Pissing on RSS, Crappy Aggregators, and Lousy Support - What Gives?. I'm really tired of the RSS argument. Grown men acting like five-year-olds does not help anyone, and the latest set-to over some "vendor neutral format" (whatever that means) is a waste of users' time and energy. All you programmers and geeks and boy wonders should get over yourselves. Your technical elegance doesn't mean squat if you can't achieve ubiquity because of your petty egos. The best technical solution rarely wins in the marketplace -- Microsoft is the 9,000lb gorilla that proves it.

RSS 2.0 works fine. It gives me everything I need. Others are adding stuff to it (like ENT) that make it better. As a simple-minded user who wants RSS to serve business and personal goals I'm happy with it. Buff it up a little bit and move on. What I'm not happy with is the state of aggregators.

For a few weeks I've been testing NewzCrawler. Today I downloaded NewsMonster. Now, I'm not programmer but I cannot fathom that it is rocket science to build an RSS feed reader. But apparently it is. Both of these tools are sorely lacking in polish and functionality. Mostly they just crash and are full of bugs.

NewzCrawler has Alzheimers, and can't remember what it has and hasn't read to save its life. Its "Blog this!" feature is a great idea that doesn't quite cut it. And I know it's beta, but it is at version 1.4+ and they are taking money for it. It damn well ought to work.

NewsMonster can't import feeds from an OPML file, despite having a "wizard" for expressly that purpose. How am I supposed to test that? And it hopelessly crashed Mozilla the first time I installed it, forcing me to load another browser and go out and install Java J2RE 1.4.1 -- despite the web page claiming it would run on JRE 1.3+. Why would I spend $30 on a "Pro" version of something so crappy?

I have better hope for Nick Bradbury's FeedDemon, since Bradbury's already got a couple of very solid commercial software successes under his belt. But it's only in Beta (and he is not, by the way, trying to sell it before it actually works.)

I've said this before -- Radio plus myRadio is still the best, most reliable Windoze aggregator experience I've found. I wish it ran faster, but at least it remembers where it's been and doesn't crash. Combined with Mark Paschal's Kit I can get full text search, as well.

But all is not roses here, either. This license renewal thing with Radio is driving people nuts. I introduced a few friends to Radio last year. All had install problems but I helped a bit and we got through it. Then they all universally let it languish. Now the licenses are up for renewal. One friend decided to give it another try and signed up for her renewal. She paid her fee, got her number and -- drum roll, please -- it doesn't work. One month after paying her money she still can't get an answer from Userland or get her software to function.

She got so fed up she went out and downloaded a little program called iBlog for $19.95. She had it up and running in 10 minutes, publishing to her own server, with no help and no problems. She even changed her own templates and stylesheets. In less than an hour she accomplished more with iBlog than she had in weeks of trying to work with Radio.

So between the pissing match going on with the RSS spec people, the wretched state of aggregators, and lousy support at blog software companies all you self-proclaimed gurus are doing little more than filling your own barnyard full of shit.

I no longer feel confident recommending this stuff to anyone because it is all so badly broken, so damned hard to use, or so poorly supported. What happened here? How did this go from being an area of such promise a year ago to a freaking technical quagmire?

If you want to solve population problems just put blog software people in charge of the food supply chain. Within a year a third of the population will die of food poisoning, and a third will die of starvation. The remaining third will be early adopters eating beta versions of GMO foods that will probably kill them within the next year. But the tech people will all think of themselves as geniuses. Talk about your broken business models. [b.cognosco
2:55:13 PM      comment []   trackback []  

Problems with Index Listing. I have found some posts listed in my index page that don't belong there. I'm not sure why. They were initially published to private categories, which were subsequently deleted. But apparently the posts were simply moved to the main weblog category. Not good.

This does not seem to have happened to all my deleted categories, or all posts. So I'm not sure what happened. I've just spent some time cleaning up the mess and trying to understand what went wrong.

I have no idea if the index script played any role other than helping me to discover the problem, for which I'm grateful. [b.cognosco
2:16:48 PM      comment []   trackback []  

I updated the XML-RPC spec to remove the word ASCII from the definition of string type, and changed the copyright dates from 1998-99 to 1998-2003. [Scripting News
4:47:18 AM      comment []   trackback []