ARCHIVE: August, 2005

Gaming RSS feeds

If you have even a decent number of feeds you’re tracking, you might notice a few of them being gamed. By gamed I mean feeds that time an entry for some period in the future so it shows up at the top of the feed list. It’s really annoying.

One of the reasons why people do this is legitimate: they have killed off the URL of their feed and they want to let you know about it. This has the desired affect: it annoys me until I switch the URL to the correct one (even though I still get content on the old URL because they still provide the feed). A better way to kill off a feed would be to send along an HTTP 301 response meaning that the feed has permanently moved. Feed readers usually know what to do with a 301.

The other reason is to simply get attention at the expense of others. I’ll update a feed and there will be entries on it that are in the future, and so show up at the top of the list. Not only is this annoying, but it borders on unethical because, well, its lying. I consider people who do this spammers, even if they only push the post out an hour or two into the future. (On some systems, like Bloglines, this won’t be as big a deal, because feeds aren’t shown all together by default)

That said, however, there have been a few cases in which this happened to me, I got angry, and then I realized that it was some sort of compatibility issue between my feed reader and the timestamp on the feed, instead of some hideous plot to game it. This happened to me recently with the Signal vs. Noise feed: for some reason their version of RSS (1.0) doesn’t display right in my feed reader (Shrook). As a result, their posts seem to occur in the future, and it really can’t be more annoying. Here they are trying to post a lot to keep up attention, and here I am seeing their posts even more than they can hope for. I have to unsubscribe to keep my sanity, and resubscribe when they finally move to an RSS 2.0 or an Atom 1.0 feed.

But for those few who do game their feeds, please stop. I hope I speak for others when I say we’ll unsubscribe if you don’t.

Jeff Jarvis: Who wants to own content?

Jeff Jarvis writes a passionate post about the hazards of being a content owner in Web 2.0: he says that content is so easily created now (something Richard and I pointed to in Web 2.0 for Designers), that it actually transfers the value away from owning it. Instead of being a content owner, he says, companies should instead want to be owners of trust:

“So don’t own the content. Help people make and find and remake and recommend and save the content they want. Don’t own the distribution. Gain the trust of the people to help them use whatever distribution and medium they like to find what they want.”

Web Sites and Window Width

Jeremy Keith finds the new alistapart design utilizing a 1024 pixel fixed-width layout too wide. (I wrote up my initial thoughts a few days ago)

It seems that designers creating a 1024 pixel wide design are making a certain assumption …something like “screens are continually getting bigger, so our designs can get bigger, too”. But it’s also an assumption that most folks want to browse using a single window, and have that window take up the entirety (or close to it) of the available screen.

But I agree with Jeremy. I have 15 inches of screen to work with, which is plenty wide enough to handle a 1024 design, but I never make windows as big as I can. So there is a small horizontal scrollbar in the new redesign when I view it, but I just deal with it. The new two-finger scrolling feature of my Powerbook also alleviates a little frustration with this. Jeremy says he will deal with it by creating his own stylesheet.

In fact, in recent weeks I’ve been seriously considering buying a new Apple display, with 20 or more inches of viewing capacity, large enough for an even bigger design than the new Alistapart one. But the reason is not so that I can stretch one window and make it as big as possible, the reason is so I can have two windows at ~800 pixels wide.

So I wonder if, instead of seeing everyone adopting a wider fixed-width design, we’ll instead see a comfort level forming with slightly smaller, liquid windows. There is, after all, an upper limit to everything, except plasma TVs, of course. Perhaps we’ve seen the beginnings of it with this new design. And, perhaps other folks have the same opinion that I do: that two windows are better than one.

So, what’s your window habit?

Update: Jon Hicks has an interesting discussion: Is 1024 OK? about this with comments from the designer, Jason Santa Maria. He makes the same point that I make, that not everyone is going to maximize their window. Also, read this quick interview with the designer.

Just goes to show you that we’re all still trying to figure this thing out.

Google Building the Web as Platform

‘Gross said companies, such as eBay, Yahoo and, that treat their Web sites as customizable platforms, offer a starkly different technology vision to developers than traditional software companies do.

“We are very much competing for the hearts and minds of developers and bringing very different value propositions and ideas,” Gross said. “One model says build for Windows and the Microsoft ‘stack’; the other says build for the Internet.”

Gross noted that some of the software industry’s leading lights are working hard on making the Web a platform. Not so surprisingly, some of those high-powered engineers work at Google.’

From Google aims for Web developers’ hearts and minds, published by Cnet.

Web 2.0 is Not About Technology, Its About Sharing Information

I’ve been having interesting conversations lately about Web 2.0. As I’ve written before, many folks feel like it is a buzzword, and I completely understand that. I hate buzzwords, too. The conversations usually center around the impression that Web 2.0 is technology-based, and that nothing has really changed in technology, so Web 2.0 is nothing […]

Continue Reading: Web 2.0 is Not About Technology, Its About Sharing Information

Restrictive APIs

After writing a Greasemonkey script accessing Flickr’s photo API, Daniel Kim thinks the API is too restrictive for his remixing needs. He writes:

“Another point to consider is that as these mash-ups get more sophisticated they will no longer be pure mash-ups. Instead of merely exploiting existing relationships between data in different web sites, they will allow for the creation and storage of new relationships amongst data that is globally distributed across the web. These applications will need to have write access to their own databases, built on DBMS’s designed for the web.”

His whole post is Web Databases vs. Web Services/API’s. It’s a long one, full of lots of interesting points.

Kottke on Web as OS

Jason Kottke has some interesting ideas about the Web as OS.

He thinks the setup will include three pieces:

  • Browsers (like we have now)
  • Web apps like Gmail, Flickr, and Yahoo 360 (like we have now)
  • Local web servers that deliver local content in the same way that we get web content (we don’t have these quite yet)

In other words, he’s thinking that we’ll add APIs (programming interfaces) to our local content that will effectively make it equal to web content, so much so that we might not know where our data is coming from.

If you read Bokardo at least a little bit, you’ll recognize the two kinds of interfaces involved. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for the content servers (both web and local), and an AIIs (Application Interaction Interfaces) for the browser.

ALA 4.0: A Few Thoughts

Alistapart, the venerable (hey, Mike Davidson used venerable, too) web design magazine started by Jeffrey Zeldman, has been updated to version 4.0.

A few thoughts as I peruse their design and new articles:

  • It’s beautiful. Just Pretty. This is a design that I would be really proud of. Jason Santa Maria takes a color pallete I love and adds little details like the black seal for a wonderful affect (update: JSM points out the old articles are grey. So now I *really* love the color pallete, as it gives a sense of home)
  • I wonder if changing the domain name will hurt traffic like it did for Keith Robinson (update: that was just temporary until the DNS propagated – great, if not intentional, advertising!)
  • Ruby on Rails, the platform underlying it all, is the cat’s meow
  • Comment feeds are now standard in WordPress installations. I’m in the process of adding them (along with other things) to my own hacked templates
  • We need more voices like those at Alistapart and Digital Web. Nothing is quite like sitting down to a new edition of those two publications
  • I really hope they start publishing on a regular schedule again
  • It looks like nobody’s figured out categories/tags yet. Here’s another shot at it
  • Jeffrey should write more. Just the tone he writes in is wonderful to read
  • Why is the layout left-aligned, and the comments paged?
  • Joe Clark is curmudgeon-like, and I mean that in a good way
  • Interesting use of “user science” as a top-level category
  • In Safari, when you roll over an article title that wraps, there is an interesting affect
  • What is the meaning of Semantician? 🙂
  • The bar is now higher

On Group Blogging

Over at the new UIE blog, Brain Sparks, we’re taking the group blog approach. Christine, Jared, and I are each blogging one or two days a week, writing posts in the 300 word range about all the things we’re working on and finding in our research.

Group blogging, in general, seems like a good idea. These are some of the reasons:

  • Eases the strain of a single blogger trying to publish quality content every day.
  • It really helps to get different viewpoints on the same subject, or the same theme.
  • It feels like a nice way to talk to the UIE community, and of course we’ve turned on comments for the return.
  • Believe it or not, we’re learning from each other this way. The blog has made apparent that we don’t always articulate to each other what’s we’re working on at any given moment.
  • We didn’t realize how nice it was to have a record of all the topics that arise during our work week. With a blog, we simply point each other and others to the post in question
  • And finally, it makes good business sense, because we feel that an open dialog is the only way to interact with our community. Just look at what’s going on with Jeff Jarvis and Dell

We modeled our blog on successful group blogs that we read ourselves: O’Reilly Radar being the primary one. They mix their blogging with their work, and it seems natural. You can even see some inspiration in the multi-colored nav bar with our names on it. We really dug that feature, because it added a human element to the design. Even if we don’t know who “Nat” is, we’re still somehow comforted by the fact that his name is there alongside Tim’s. So, although our content is completely different than O’Reilly’s, we think they’ve done a great job keeping it real.

Other group blogs that seem very successful are: boing boing, signal vs noise, and Many-to-Many

Have you had any experience with group blogging? Good…bad?

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Stewart Sets Me Straight

Stewart Butterfield of Flickr responds to the post: Interface Remixers will Pay for Privilege of APIs by pointing out that they usually do want interface remixers to make money with their applications, because in most cases they’ll be helped out, too.

He also explains that there are cases in which Flickr won’t give out developer API keys: those cases in which it isn’t good for Flickr users or the Flickr service. I found this most interesting, and I presume that over time there will be interesting cases in which APIs are given that shouldn’t be given or revoked after being given to someone who abuses it.

So, like I said in the post, open doesn’t mean free. And, since you need an “API key” to play, you could argue they’re not that open…

It will be interesting to see how much the openness of an API influences adoption of it.

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