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Filtering by Category: "RSS"

The Facebook AttentStream

Added on by Chris Saad.
The image below is a screenshot of my facebook News Feed. It is basically my Facebook AttentStream. Mix in posts from your RSS reading list and the LifeStream of your friends who don't live on FaceBook and you're done.

The Facebook News Feed, to me, is one of their most impressive innovations. Among many things it encourages viral swarming of friends to given activities, applications and groups. I wish more applications provided one.

The goal of Particls: To provide an interface into which the status changes of your friends co-exist with the news headlines you care about in a unified, ranked and filtered river of news.

All we need now is an RSS feed of your Facebook News Feed.

Are you an inTouch Partner?

Added on by Chris Saad.
As you probably know - Particls has a unique partner program called 'inTouch'.

inTouch helps publishers:
  1. Make more money
  2. Get more return traffic
  3. Get more RSS subscribers
  4. Put the brand on desktops everywhere
  5. Get better insight into their reader's interests
We've had a few new partners sign up so we wanted to welcome them to the Particls partner program. They are:

If you're a publisher, we'd love to hear from you. Learn more about the inTouch Partner Program

Also, if you're a blogger check out our sidebar widget.

The APML Business Imperative

Added on by Chris Saad.
Ian has a great write-up about why he loves APML.

He writes:

This got me thinking too, what if other more established places like Trustedplaces, Last.FM, etc also gave away a APML file as part of the profile of each user?

One of the things I loved about APML is the Implicit Data (U-AR) and Explicit Data (I-AM) elements. You can just imagine how simple it would be to output APML from something Last.FM. (whats below isn't true APML markup, just my lazy json like writing)

Implicit (U-AR) {
concept{ Ferry Corsten = 0.87 }
concept{ Armin Van Buuren = 0.90 }
concept{ Sugar Babes = 0.1 }
concept{ Lemonhead = 0.00001 }

He also mentions being asked "What is the business imperative to support such a thing".

In other words - if companies make their money from data lockin - then why would they want to give that data away.

I would suggest that anyone asking that question consider that publishers used to think like that. Now they all support RSS.

If feed readers thought like that, then OPML support and the rise of proper and continued innovation in the space may not have occurred.

If you are a smaller guy, supporting APML means that users can jump in and get started quickly. The barrier to entry is lowered.

If you are a bigger player it means an increasingly savvy user base will continue to trust your data mining activities. Also it means you can get a more complete picture of your users if they choose to share their APML from other services. It also means you become part of an ecosystem instead of a data silo - data silos are dead.

In the era of user empowerment, the business imperative is: play nice or users will move to other services that respect their rights. Just watch the mad rush to Facebook.

Running out of RSS to subscribe to? Amazon has the answer

Added on by Chris Saad.
Amazon has broadened it's support for RSS. Even more stuff to subscribe to via Particls :)

I think it's time for a SubscriptionPlugin.

Thanks Amazon!

Paul saw my post and made an Amazon SubscriptionPlugin in a few seconds. Download it, unzip it and put it in your "[Particls installation folder]\SubscriptionPlugins" directory!

We will have to make the installation process easier for these - perhaps register a file type for the browser to recognize and route.

Maybe professional journalism is dead?

Added on by Chris Saad.
The Scobleizer is once again (for the 495th time by his count) launched an attack against partial text feeds.

The most interesting part of his post, however, is the comments - in which he tells the guys at ZDNet that their content is good, but he would rather read coverage elsewhere because of their partial feeds.

The ZDNet guys claim they can't make money from full text - they need the traffic back to their page.

This comes back to a more long term question - how does one make money from the long tail.

In my post on the subject I quoted Chris Anderson who wrote:
Producers. Effect: Largely non-economic. I responded to a good Nick Carr post on this last year with the following: "For producers, Long Tail benefits are not primarily about direct revenues. Sure, Google Adsense on the average blog will generate risible returns, and the average band on MySpace probably won't sell enough CDs to pay back their recording costs, much less quit their day jobs. But the ability to unitize such microcelebrity can be significant elsewhere. A blog is a great personal branding vehicle, leading to anything from job offers to consulting gigs. And most band's MySpace pages are intended to bring fans to live shows, which are the market most bands care most about. When you look at the non-monetary economy of reputation, the Long Tail looks a lot more inviting for its inhabitants."

So four questions arise from this statement in the context of ZDNet and partial feeds.

  1. Are ZDNet part of the long tail? After all, they publish mainstream IT news. Perhaps the long tail can be seen as replacing the head?

  2. Is the Publishing/Advertising model dead as long as content, in its full form, is syndicated and repackaged by an aggregator resulting in little need for users to head back to the source and generate page views?

  3. Will we tolerate (and can we monetize) ads in the feed? The ZDNet guys say feed ads do not pay the bills.

  4. Do Aggregators have a social responsibility to somehow give back to producers?

This ties into another debate that has sprung up on Brian Oberkich's blog about his feed being used as part of a collective newspaper. He claims that it was OK with him until it seemed like the newspaper was running ads (which was against his CC) and he was being grouped with commentators he did not want to be associated with.

That page is, in essence, a single topic aggregator. What responsibility does it have to the publisher?

If professional publishing can't be monetized to sustainable levels, are we biting the hand that feeds us (as aggregators)? Or are we 'all the media' now and we don't need professional journalism?

Update: Brian says that the "Edge is not about content".
"You could always publish something to the Web. Now someone can acutally find it in real-time, relay it through their own attention signal systems (blogs (including link and tumblelogs), email, bookmarking services, social news sites, twitta, etc.) and help the collective swarm around things it finds useful."

Announcing support for Linkedin and Subscription Plugins

Added on by Chris Saad.
Imagine getting alerted instantly when your LinkedIn contacts have a job on offer or when they add a new contact you might want to know.

The latest build of Touchstone does just that. If you have your copy check it out in the Subscription Helper.

Now imagine doing it for MySpace, Facebook, Hi5 etc. The latest build of Touchstone also makes that possible!

Paul has added a feature called 'Subscription Plugins' that allows developers to quickly and easily write little XML files that add Touchstone subscription support to all sorts of services.

Combined with this sort of functionality can be taken to a whole new level - making it easy for users to get alerts from all your favorite web apps - even those that don't support RSS (without the need to write dedicated Input Adapters).

We have included support for LinkedIn already - we look forward to see what the community can come up with. Be sure to email us your plugins.

If you are developer: Read more about it here

Also, since this type of extensibility is a first in the Feed Reading space (as far as we know) we would be interested in collaborating with other feed readers out there to add universal support and working with app developers to build their own plugins for the Subscription Helper. Drop me a line.

Don't have an invite yet? Maybe you should pay more attention.

FeedBurner Feed Reading Stats

Added on by Chris Saad.
The Moral of feedburner's latest round of stats for me is this:
  1. If you want to get lots of subscribers - get on some default fead reader lists so that your feed is bundled with all new accounts.
  2. Google Reader and Bloglines are winning in the feed reading space
  3. There is a huge difference between having subscribers and having (Feedburner's definition of) engagement with your audience.
  4. Does someone want to bundle our feed or the Media 2.0 Workgroup feed? :)

I think there is a another way to find your audience.

Loosely Coupled Relationships - is there any deeper meaning anymore?

Added on by Chris Saad.
I have written before about the Disintegration of Reality.

Here's some of that original post:

"Reality is disintegrating. No wait hear me out.

Granular parts of our established systems are being dislodged from their containers and only reforming via temporary, loosely coupled connections.

Content is being disintegrated from the Page, TV and Radio via RSS and Microformats.

Functionality is being disintegrated from applications (loosely coupled mashups are starting to overshadow complete applications).

People are being disintegrated from families. Divorce is now common place and starting to lose its taboo. As a result families are forming all sorts of strange and lopsided combinations where ex’s and steps come together for special occasions and in support of ‘the children’. At all times, however, the individual seems to be achieving more freedom and importance than the ‘family unit’."
Another way to phrase this perhaps is "Loosely Coupled Relationships" much like RSS and REST are loosely coupled APIs that allow us to mash stuff up.

I have been having more thoughts on this issue recently and just now saw something that promoted me to write about it. I just saw an interview with a group of bloggers and the Nun that looks after the Vatican website (recorded by fellow Media 2.0 Workgroup member Robert Scoble).

In reference to the Internet building new types of communities she related a story of one of the first Skype calls she witnessed. In it, one of her colleagues made a call to someone in china. She went on to say (and I paraphrase).

"That exchange [the call to China with some random person], had a very personal component, an emotional component. It had something that brought out something from within that person - he gave it to that person in China, and then what happened?

We need to distinguish between creating something that builds relationship and something that is just dumping out all kinds of energy that has no place to go... It's energy that we need to integrate into something real."
I have been wondering about this for some time. It seems to me that a growing number of tools are being released that allow us to have surface style, loosley coupled relationships.

The most extreme example of this is Twitter. With Twitter I don't need to actually care enough about someone to ask how their day was. I can just have a passive overview of their activities as they release updates into the ether. If I choose to catch what they are sending I am free - but I am also equally free to ignore it. It is very non-committal.

An earlier technology also provided this level of disconnect. SMS (at least here in Australia) has in many cases started to take the place of phone calls because SMS is less confrontational and committal. You could do other things while having a 'conversation' with someone. Ignoring an incoming SMS is also (usually) perfectly fine - even more so than ignoring an IM message in some cases.

The same is true for MySpace. Look at a myspace comments section and you will see lots of fruitless and surface style interactions that seem to go nowhere.

It seems to me that these sorts of passive or group interaction mechanisms, while creating one type community, may - taken to their logical extreme - negatively affect another much deeper level of connection.

Maybe these loosely coupled relationships were never destined to be any deeper than a twitter message. Or maybe, this type of behaviour will expand to include loved ones and friends who used to require more commitment.

Personally I wonder if there isn't a way to harness this energy and capture it for good. For deeper connections. Or at least to reveal the deeper connections that are already present.

In the rush to create more democratic, social and distributed media, I'd hate to think that our one-to-one relationships will end up as nothing more than temporary mashups - like ships passing in the night.

Twitter me with your thoughts (no just kidding - comments are fine).

Will Widgets and RSS hit the mainstream?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 asks yet another interesting question on his blog.

"Will Widgets hit a Mainstream Wall just like RSS?"

From his post:

"But I was struck by how widgets, like RSS, are really more of a boon for online publishers than for average folks. Widgets, like RSS, are great for syndicating information, or in the case of widgets, also application functions. But for average users, they are only useful for aggregating on a start page, and really, how often do most people change their start pages?"

Widgets and Gadgets are names used interchangeably for stuff that you can put on your blog/myspace account and stuff you can put on your desktop.

In regard to the Desktop widgets, here's what I think of widgets.

In regard to RSS, our newly updated website sheds some light.

In the 'Got a Mom?" section, it says:

"[To hit the mainstream] RSS has to become brain dead simple to use." - Fred Wilson

Do your parents know how to find and subscribe to RSS feeds? Should they? Do they know how to read HTML? Of course not; they "browse the web". RSS needs to be that simple.

Touchstone makes RSS dead simple by taking the subscribing out of the equation. Get your mum to quickly and easily type in her interests into a little textbox and Touchstone does the rest.

Like Scott goes on to say in his post:

"Now, none of this means that widgets, like RSS, won’t revolutionize the world of web publishing (although I’m skeptical of Tariq Krim prediction that widgets will kill web pages) — it’s just that it will be transparent to the average web user."

He's exactly right.

Widgets, like RSS, are usually technical and always overwhelming in an information consumption sense. They are great for myspace bling, but to actually get productive information you need something far more intelligent.

How to get linked from the A-list

Added on by Chris Saad.
Robert Scoble is a genius. I will say this over and over. If there's one thing he knows how to do is to create a brand of his name as the A-list blogger of the people. His trademark 'Who are you' opening question, his disarming laugh, his simple 'everyman' questions (most of which he knows the answer to I'm sure) and his ability to stem the flow of negativity with brilliant stunts all contribute to his power.

But this post is not just to suck up to Robert - I'd like to ask a question.

His latest post (and stunt) is a thread where he asks the question "Do A-lister bloggers have a responsibility to link to others". In it, he asks that question and then opens the comments for everyone to spam a link to their own stuff.

One of the commenter’s, though, raises a very interesting point.

Krishna Kumar Writes:

The PageRank algorithm is probably one of the key factors in this whole argument about link sharing. While the initial search engines used the “content” of your web site or page, nowadays (because of content spammers) authority (determined by incoming links) matters more.

The problem is that if a newbie or Z-lister has something really important to say or has some great idea, he or she will not get the necessary audience to propagate that idea.

I am not sure how this can be resolved because the commercialization of the Internet along with SEO businesses have changed the rules of the game that unfortunately now negatively affects new ideas.

And yes, a tech-savvy person can get his or her idea spread, but what if the person (non-profit, medical field, etc.) has no clue about Google juice and stuff like that.

I know that back in my Z-list days (I am now on the Y list for those keeping track) it was/is hard to get a post you think is fantastic noticed by hardly anyone. But is that because the A-list is so hard to break into or because the tools for mining the long-tail are so poor?

Does Google Juice matter? Does being on the A-list matter? Whose A-list are we talking about?

I've said it before and I will say it again. Personal Relevance is more important than Popularity.

People who care about what I'm saying should find it - irrespective of how many incoming links I have.

Why? Maybe because I am not as popular as Robert but I still want to be heard. Don't we all? But more importantly because a local school does not need (or want) Robert's audience. They want an audience of locals. And locals should be able to discover that content without knowing what RSS is.

Information Addiction - no seriously hah

Added on by Chris Saad.
Marjolein just pointed me to a post by Kirk Biglione (Kirk.. great name).

He has just published a post called "My Life as an RSS Junkie". I feel sorry for him. 1000 feeds and counting.

He (rightly?) blames Nick Bradbury for his addictions. I too would like to blame Nick - his app is the first I tried and I still use it to this day. It started me on this wonderful journey of RSS reading. Maybe a class action is in order? Just kidding Nick :)

He writes:

Things really started going down hill around the time I discovered FeedDemon. Damn that Nick Bradbury! With FeedDemon I was tracking nearly a thousand feeds a day. I’d focus on the topics I was most interested in by setting up watch lists. At first I thought that FeedDemon was helping me to effectively manage my information addiction. On the contrary, the problem was actually getting worse. I eventually realized that the more blogs I read, the more blogs I subscribed to. Each day I’d add a dozen new feeds to FeedDemon. It was a vicious circle. My feed reading began taking up larger chunks of my day.

At some point I came to my senses and realized that I had a serious problem. I had become overwhelmed by the sheer number of feeds that I’d subscribed to.

I am not sure if Kirk is the right user for Touchstone though. Kirk is the sort of user who needs to know what every post in every feed says. He could use it in conjunction with FeedDemon to get alerts about important posts when he is doing other things... but by the sounds of it he doesn't do other things.

Good luck Kirk - sign up to the mailing list and give Touchstone a try. I'd be fascinated to hear if it helps.

New Times Editor focuses on joining the conversation

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to the LATimes website (unbiased reporting on this issue I'm sure) the new editor is helping the paper focus on the internet as the main news distribution platform.

Los Angeles Times Editor James E. O'Shea unveiled a major initiative this morning designed to expand the audience and revenue generated by the newspaper's website, saying the newspaper is in "a fight to recoup threatened revenue that finances our news gathering." [...]

[...] "At this rate, those double-digit profit margins everyone cites will be in single digits and then be gone," O'Shea said, adding later: "If we don't help reverse these revenue trends, we will not be able to cost-effectively provide the news -- the daily bread of democracy. The stakes are high."

I think that's great. No one is quite sure what a newspaper's role in Media 2.0 will be, but online will certainly be the most important part of their business.

Check out the full article for a breakdown of some of the planned changes.

Imagine if they had a way to keep the user coming back for more content by sending them desktop alerts and displacing headlines on a news ticker.

The Internet: One big rolling focus group for TV execs

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to (your trusted source in news - fair and ballanced, we report you decide) TV execs are using adavanced software to get focus group type data out of the online conversation!

"Using company-designed technology, BrandIntel scans "literally billions of blogs, message boards and forums" using specific key words such as an actor's name or show title, said Coristine, lead analyst for BrandIntel's media division.

(Toronto-based BrandIntel does consumer research for other industries, including automative and hospitality.)

The flood of data is filtered for relevancy and then sorted and ranked to indicate, for instance, how likely someone is to view a program or whether they like or dislike a series premise. It can be cut even finer, according to BrandIntel."

Wow. I wonder what that software is.

Imagine if the average Joe had access to it for their product, industry, brand and interests.

Techcrunch subscriber stats - This post can wait until Wednesday

Added on by Chris Saad.
We have all seen this post 'A peek inside Techcrunch's 100k' which shows Michael Arrington's meteoric rise from fledgling blog to blogging superstar.

It's old news.

But something struck me as I was looking at our own subscriber history today. We have the same up and down pattern every week that Techcrunch does. And we are nowhere near as cool as them.

The reason is obvious. Most people turn off their work PCs during the weekend causing the subscriber count to drop and most people turn on their feed reader on Wednesday - literally hump day for feed subscribers - when they are bored and feel like catching up.

So what does that mean? It means that feed reading is (at least for a noticeably large group of people) a 'sometimes' activity. It's an activity that we dedicate time to. It's like we go off to read a newspaper - we dedicate a block of time to 'reading the news'. And there are times when we stop reading the news and turn off the PC or the feed reader - or at the very least minimize it away and stop paying attention.

So what about those other times when something happens that we need to know. An event in a new fangled web-based app...

  • You have a reminder from Google Calendar - wake up!
  • Come and pick up that file in that workspace your working on in sharepoint
  • You have a friend request from MySpace
  • Your industry just had a major shakeup
  • Your employer just filed for bankruptcy
  • Your competitor just changed the game on you
  • A customer just said something negative about your company
  • Your daughter just posted a picture of her new child on Flickr.

These are important "right now" events.

We need a feed reader that can stay 'on' without being 'in the way'. Reading feeds does not need to be like reading a newspaper - it can be a filtered and managed experience so you can stay informed while you're being productive.

That's the dream of Touchstone.

Who invented RSS?

Added on by Chris Saad.
Dave Winer says RSS wasn't invented.

He says:

"It wasn't invented. Something else happened, something harder than invention, imho -- an activity that we don't have a word for in the English language."

I wonder what that word could be...

Maybe it evolved. Maybe the universe gifted it to us. Maybe the people at the right time and at the right place knew in their bones that something like it was necessary and decided that making it work was more important than owning it.

I particularly like this paragraph:

"RSS, unlike other XML inventions, has made a difference. If you want to understand what made RSS happen, it's the innovation, evangelism and commitment that was behind it, not the invention, because I said before, and as everyone seems to agree, it wasn't invented. But we lack a good word for the other stuff, so sheez, what's the big deal if they substitute "invention" for all that? I've looked the other way. But to say I was the "self-proclaimed" inventor is just wrong, I just nod my head when others say it, because I'm tired of arguing."

These sorts of things happen (on scale) rarely. But when they do great things happen.

As a result of his post, I also did a little re-reading on the Wikipedia entry for RSS.

Best of Breed Future

Added on by Chris Saad.
As Richard mentions on Read/Write Web today - John Milan wrote an excellent two-part article for R/WW earlier in the week, about the future of software. However - I have not yet had a chance to read it. It was too dense and long and I have not had the time to dedicate.

But Richard, being the excellent site editor and blogger that he is, recognized the possible problem and posted a summary today.

He summarizes it like this:

In Part 1 John argued that data should become open and accessible, just like the code in Open Source software. Code is often re-written and re-factored, but systems only work if they agree on the data.

Part 2 contends that people will demand more access to their data and more integration with their apps. This will result in the single minded, all-encompassing applications of today dying off - in favor of multi-celled, specialized solutions. So the future will be combinations of best of breed technology, rather than monolithic software.
John's conclusion was thus:
"And what trait will the eventual winners in this brave new world share? The solutions that can hone their data requirements, move results from system to system, use the best form factor for the job and still keep it on a human level."
Richard compares this to the new Firefox and I think he's right. But I would also like to compare it to Touchstone (surprise, surprise).

With Touchstone's input and output/hub and spoke model, it effectively moves data from one system to another and at each point making a decision about the best form factor. The example we use most is 'the more important the info the bigger the alert'.

This is probably not what John meant - but I think it still holds true.

Thanks to RSS as the universal syndication format and Microformats as growing standards, users can pick and choose the best apps to use together. We hope that Touchstone will be the best notification platform in that mix.

Via Touchstone

Note: I will start to say 'Via Touchstone' on posts when my post is based on something that I found from Touchstone. I have found that Touchstone has started to become one of my main information sources as it evolves into a complete solution and more and more of my posts are based on info it alerts me to.