Another Reason To Love Inoreader

I’ve mentioned before that I use Inoreader to manage all the RSS feeds that I follow. It may not be the flashiest service out there, but it packs a lot of power under the hood if you opt for a paid plan.

The other day, they announced a new feature that tackles something that I periodically have to deal with, duplicate posts. This comes on top of the existing abilities to filter feeds to remove posts you’re not interested in, and makes my overall reading experience even smoother.

Another thing that I like about Inoreader is that they are genuinely concerned about providing a good service to their customers. The web dashboard can be customized to flag up feeds returning errors, as well as those that have been inactive for a long time. And their browser extensions make it easy to subscribe to new sites. They even have technology that can attempt to pull content from sites that, for whatever reason, don’t have RSS feeds.

I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Doing to Google what Google did to AltaVista

Matt Birchler:

The challenge is that Google search is a self-perpetuating machine that is able to improve because of how well it’s collected the world’s data. It’s able to do this in ways competitors just can’t. They don’t have the data and they can’t gain that data any faster than Google can. So how does someone come along and make something better?

I think the only answer is the hardest one: someone needs to do to Google what Google did to AltaVista back when it was new…someone needs to completely change the game in what we expect from search. But again, Google has done well here not to give future innovators much to grab onto.

Google used to show you sites that had the information you need. Then they took that information (stealing it sometimes) and just showed it to you without the need to go anywhere else. They then made it so you could ask your questions in natural language. They’ll even sell you a cheap little puck to answer those questions around your house. What’s the next thing? I don’t know, but I would put good money on Google already exploring it and releasing it before anyone else gets a foothold in the market.

Google’s biggest weakness is its willingness to throw up dozens of new ideas a year, let them run for a while, then lose interest in them and shut them down. That is why I steer clear of most of their services. You never know when they’ll decide to shutter a popular product because they can’t be arsed with it any more. (RIP, Google Reader.)

Google has turned into Microsoft. Microsoft has turned into IBM. IBM has turned into a fossil. Such is the march of progress, and no number of patents or acquisitions will stave it off forever.

“A dude must know just how much sh*t he can handle.”

James Wallace Harris:

…I’ve reached an age where I just don’t want to fuck with stuff anymore. (I know, I should have said tinker, but I’m getting crotchety too.) It’s like Dirty Harry said, “A dude must know just how much shit he can handle.”

I can totally relate to the above. While I’m happy to do projects that’ll improve my productivity or make me healthier, I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of poorly performing or unreliable products and services. That’s not to say that I can’t be bothered to do repairs — if it’s feasible and within my ability I’ll give it a shot — but I’m not going to bother if it’s to fix something that the manufacturer should’ve got right in the first place.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I now use my iPad Mini 4 as a replacement for a load of other devices – bedside clock, radio, book reader, games device, writing pad and more. At some point, once it has reached the end of its useful life, I’ll replace it with another iPad, hopefully the Mini if it’s still available.

Last year, I ripped all of my CD and DVD collection, put the discs into storage bags, then tore down the shelving I’d been using for them and took the wood to the dump for recycling. This year, I’m going to finish ripping my old music cassette collection, then dispose of those to free up more space.

Not only do I want smaller things, I want simpler things. Years ago I replaced my huge tower computer with a tiny Intel NUC. I’ve been thinking about going back to a big tower computer again, but my back just screamed, “Don’t do it you crazy old dog. Sit. Act your age!”

Marie Kondo tells us we should ask if our possessions spark joy. My back pain is now advising I ask my stuff if they’re too complicated or too heavy for my declining mind and body.

My mind isn’t declining yet, but I’m being a lot more careful with my body these days because I want it to last me as long as possible!

Y*lp!

Om Malik:

For a while, Yelp and its CEO Stoppelman have been beating the anti-trust drum against Google. I don’t have problems with Google’s search monopoly coming under the regulatory microscope. But let’s not make Yelp a martyr — and let’s not give it a free ride in the media. Lately, it seems Guy Raz, The Verge, and many other publications are happy to carry Yelp’s water because it fits the big tech is evil narrative. Most conveniently overlook the fact that small businesses hate Yelp, and many think it is downright evil.

For starters, the company is thuggish in its sales tactics. Try to use its search function, and you are going to be looking at sponsored results. You pay to become a sponsored listing. You pay to become a verified listing. And if you don’t, you are buried way below the fold. Pot, meet, kettle!

I have yet to meet a small business owner who loves this company. Many have told me about the high pressure, bullshit tactics of the company and its sales team. In my own backyard, I can give examples of a dozen companies that have had terrible experiences. For instance, a Yelp salesperson might call a store when the owner is not around. They get an employee to sign up for a free plan — as long as they provide credit card information. Two weeks later… Bam! A charge for a few hundred dollars shows up. And by the way, this unexpected investment did nothing in terms of delivering new customers. And if you want to cancel? Good luck.

Om’s piece really struck a chord with me because I’ve had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Yelp a few years back. The pain and hassle of getting out of the contract that I got pushed into was all the more harrowing because I was caring for my terminally ill father at the time — yet even that didn’t move them as they demanded their pound of flesh.

Take my advice, do not touch Yelp with a bargepole.

Quick Site Update

I’ve switched over to the new Seedlet theme from WordPress, and customized the colours more to my liking.

At some point, though, I want to revisit and rework the previous iA4 theme, with a view to learning how to wrangle WordPress while I’m doing so.

Today, I’ve also updated this post because another upcoming service that I linked to appeared to have been eaten by Google…

“The Only Winning Move is Not To Play”

It’s taken me several years, but I’ve come to learn that you do not have to participate in everything. Anything from the office potluck to social media can be opted out of. I guess you can call that the power of saying no.

But in a society that preaches progress, self-improvement, and constant change, you can find yourself easily straggling the line between coming and going. There are so many people pushing for why you should or shouldn’t do something and this paradox of choice leaves some of us paralyzed. We overthink and try to find out how to have our cake and eat it to. We create extra stress over the stupidest of decisions, all because of social norms or expectations.

Source: The Only Winning Move is Not To Play — Brandon’s Journal

I can relate to this so much! It has taken me a long time to get out of that must-improve-must-move-forward mindset and go easier on myself.

(Bonus points if you already know which film that title line comes from…)

Real(-Life) Programming

I’ve always loved that moment when someone shows you the thing they built for tracking books they’ve read or for their jewelry business. Amateur software is magical because you can see the seams and how people wrestled the computer. Like outsider art. So much of the tech industry today is about making things look professional, maybe convincing Apple to let you into the App Store to join the great undifferentiated mass of other apps. That’s software. When people build their own Airtable to feed the neighborhood, that’s culture.

Paul Ford, ‘Real’ Programming Is an Elitist Myth

Reading this article, I’m reminded of all the promises that were made back in the era of the first personal computers and the software that they spawned. Promises that were backed up with actual paper documentation to help get you going. And of course there was hand-wringing from those who feared that their well-paid jobs would be jeopardized by these ‘amateurs’. Languages like BASIC and Pascal were looked down on. Software like VisiCalc, WordStar and dBase were frowned on.

Sadly, the avenues available to those wishing to build personal applications are more limited these days, in both quantity and capability. I think it’s important to encourage people to make use of the available tools, and not be afraid to have a go. Not only because doing so can potentially improve people’s lives, but because it will continue the virtuous circle that will produce new generations of ‘amateur’ programmers who can bring new thinking and new solutions to the world.

Bandcamp may not just be the anti-Spotify; it may be operating in an entirely different world

Damon Krukowski, writing for NPR:

Spotify and Bandcamp could not be more opposite. Where Spotify highlights playlists, most often of its own creation, Bandcamp sticks to the album (or any other format, as determined by the artist). Where Spotify pays royalties according to little-understood formulas that can only be analyzed by reverse calculation, Bandcamp lets artists and labels choose their own prices. Where Spotify requires working through a limited number of distributors to access their services, Bandcamp is open to anyone. Where Spotify has revenue streams dependent on ads and data, Bandcamp operates on a simple revenue share with artists and collects no information on its users.

Spotify is now worth an estimated $54 billion on the stock market, despite having never shown an annual profit. Bandcamp is privately owned, has been in the black since 2012, and continues to grow… slowly. You might be tempted to say that one is a 21st-century business, and the other belongs to an earlier age. But neither could exist at any other time.

Which poses the question: does our 21st-century business world really have to be so much like Spotify, and so little like Bandcamp? I spoke with Bandcamp CEO and co-founder Ethan Diamond to try and understand better how and why his company does business the way they do.

I, for one, am very glad that Bandcamp exists. The sad fact is that Spotify — and Apple Music, and most other streaming services — won’t bring you all the music out there, and the selection you can access is subject to change at any time thanks to the shifting landscape of music licencing and rights management.

(I hate the phrase ‘rights management’ because the rights in question are never those of the consumer.)

I would suggest that it is Spotify who belong to the last century — theirs is very much the business of the major music labels and all the other middlemen who’ve traditionally taken most of the money earned from the work of musicians and songwriters.