Tag Archives: Atom

Is New Media Ready for Old Media?

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I’m very excited by the fact that newspapers are beginning to carry content from the top five or so Web 2.0/tech sites. These blogs (the word no longer seems apt for what they do; Vindu Goel calls them ‘news sources’) have really evolved in the past three years and the quality of their coverage, particularly that of ReadWrite Web, has grown in leaps and bounds. Now it’s being carried by the New York Times.

A couple of nagging questions remain, however.

1) Is this old media eating new media, or new media eating the old? On the surface this is a big coup for folk like ReadWriteWeb—which didn’t really exist three years ago—but look more closely, and I suspect we may consider this kind of thing as the beginning of the acknowledgement by old media that they have ceded some important ground that they used to dominate. This, in short, marks the recognition of traditional media that theses news sources are, to all intents and purposes, news agencies that operate on a par with, and have the same values as, their own institutions.

2) Is new media ready for old media? I have a lot of respect for ReadWriteWeb, and most of the other tech sites included in this new direction. But they all need to recognise that by participating with old media they need to follow the same rules. There’s no room for conflicts of interest here: Even the NYT has reported on potential conflicts of interest for Om Malik and Michael Arrington (here’s a great piece from The Inquistr about the issue, via Steve Rubel’s shared Google Reader feed.)

The thing with conflicts of interest is that they’re tough. It’s hard to escape them. And it’s not enough to disclose them. You have, as a writer (let’s not say journalist here, it’s too loaded a word, like blogger), a duty to avoid conflicts of interest. Your commitment as a writer has to be to your reader. If your reader doesn’t believe that you’re writing free of prejudice or favor, then you’re a hack. And I don’t mean that in a nice way.

Which means you have to avoid not only all conflicts of interest, but appearances of conflict of interest. Your duty is not just to disclose conflicts of interest, and potential conflicts of interest, but to avoid them. If that means making less money, then tough.

So, for these ‘news sources’, the issue is going to become a more central one. Of course, the question will grow larger as these outfits move mainstream. But it may become more pressing for the carrier of the news, not for the provider: Who, say, accepts responsibility for errors and conflicts of interest? NYT and The Washington Post, or the carriers of the news? I’m sure there will be lots of caveats in the small print, but if material is on the NYT website, I think a reader would assume it reflects that paper’s ethical standards. If you’re in doubt, think of the recent United Airlines case.

That story’s reappearance started on Google News, and then was picked up by Income Securities Advisors, a financial information company, which was then picked up by Bloomberg. The technical error was Google’s, in finding it on a newspaper website and miscategorising it  as new, but the human error was in the ‘news source’, which saw it and then fired it off to their service, which is distributed via Bloomberg. Who is to blame for that mess? Well, the focus is all on Google, but to me the human element is the problem here, namely the reporter/writer who failed to double check the source/date etc of the piece itself.

The bottom line? It’s great that old media are recognising the quality of new media. What I want to see is this rising tide lifting all boats. Old media needs to not only grab at these news sources out of desperation but learn from their ingenuity, easy writing style and quality, and these outfits need—or at least some of them need—to take a cue from old media, take a look long and hard at themselves and ask themselves whether they could serve their readers better by shedding all conflicts—real, potential, or perceived—of interest.

Sleazy Practices Cont.

Fired up by Google’s move into the crapware domain by foisting an “updater” on customers who want to install (otherwise great) programs like Google Earth, I took another look at what was happening in the updater sphere.

Apple drew some heat for its own bit of underhandedness recently, when its own Apple Software Updater automatically included downloading the company’s Safari browser. After a backlash, it dropped the Safari from the “Updates” section to a “New Software” section, but still prechecked it:

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In other words, run the updater and not concentrate, and you’ll find yourself downloading 22 MB of browser you didn’t ask for, and didn’t have before.

So no, I don’t think Apple did the right thing here. Apple fans can protest as much as they like, but there’s a clear move here to get new software to users to install software they didn’t ask for and, if they don’t actively intervene, will have it installed by default. Browsers, like media players, are particularly significant because they will try to make themselves the default browser, and users once again need to act against the default process to avoid this.

Needless to say, Apple’s bid has been modestly successful, apparently at least doubling its modest market share for Safari. Still miniscule, but a start.

Of course, software is one thing, but it has to be used. For that it has to be visible to the user. No point in hiding the program launch icons somewhere they can’t be found. On Windows, there are three places you want to be: the desktop, the system tray, or the start menu. Apple is particularly smart about this, ensuring that all its products sit, not in some side-alley subfolder, but in the ‘root’ menu:

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and

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as well as on the desktop:

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(though not, interestingly, the Updater.)

Of course, Apple isn’t alone. Microsoft has long been doing this, as has Adobe.

Folk argue this is all besides the point, that users retain control over their computer and can remove all this stuff if they want. But to me it’s worrying that Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sun, Adobe et al think that this is OK, and, like their defenders, fail to understand that for the vast majority of users, installing software is not an everyday experience, and that these sleights of hand merely cause extra stress, confusion and uncertainty. That can’t be good.

Foleo, Surface, Stumbling etc

There’s lots of news out there which I won’t bother you with because you’ll be reading it elsewhere. But here are some links in case:

  • Palm has a new mini laptop called the Foleo. I like the idea, but I fear it will go the way of the LifeDrive, which I also kinda liked.
  • Microsoft has launched a desktop (literally) device called the Surface. Which looks fun, and embraces the idea of moving beyond the keyboard not a moment too soon, but don’t expect to see it anywhere in your living room any time soon.
  • eBay buys StumbleUpon, a group bookmarking tool I’ve written a column about somewhere. I don’t use StumbleUpon that much but I love the idea of a community-powered browsing guide. Let’s hope eBay doesn’t mess it up like they seem to be doing with Skype.
  • Microsoft releases a new version of LiveWriter, their blogging tool. Scoble says Google is planning something similar. True?

Oh, and Google Reader now works offline. Here are my ten minut.es with it, and a how to guide at ten ste.ps. This is big news, because it’s the first step Google have made in making their tools available offline. I’ve found myself using their stuff more and more, so the idea of being able to use the Reader, Calendar, Docs and Gmail offline seems an exciting one. (We’re not there yet, but Google Reader is a start.)

This brings me to again plead with anyone offering an RSS feed of their stuff, to put the whole post in the feed. Offline browsing is not going to work if you can only read an extract.

A New Kind Of RSS Reader For Macs

For Mac fans, there’s a new RSS and Atom News Reader for OS X, with an interesting new twist.

Mesa Dynamics today said it had released Tickershock, “an interactive RSS and Atom news headline reader inspired by the news crawls of 24-hour cable news channels”. Tickershock, it says, is “a departure from typical RSS applications that emulate web browser or email reader environments. Focusing on the “push” nature of the technology, Tickershock aims to be a passive experience only until the user decides a headline is worth exploring: a double-click on a news headline brings up a “News Inspector” from which one can explore a story in greater depth.”

It sounds quite funky. Unfortunately at the time of writing there’s no mention on their website of the product, although the press release says a trial version of Tickershock is available for download at http://www.mesadynamics.com . It requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 (Jaguar) or later and will cost $20.

The Klip Marches On

Serence, the company behind the RSS-like Klip, is about to launch a new version, which offers some interesting new features that could well give the standard a bit more edge in the face of the RSS revolution. Indeed, given that practically any RSS or Atom feed can be read in Klip form, one could argue that Klips are just a better way to read RSS. (Here’s an earlier posting on Klips.)

KlipFolio version 2.6, to be launched today (no URL available at time of writing), will include the following new features (I’m quoting from an email from Serence’s Allan Wille here):

  • Networked and Local Data Access. A Klip can monitor an accounting database over a local network for changes, a shared network directory for updates, a remote directory via FTP, and a POP3 server for new email.
  • Real-Time Push. Klips can now receive updates via a real-time push from a remote server.  Real-Time push is vital for weather warnings, earnings alerts, stock trades, sports scores or any type of live-data. KlipFolio is now able to handle both push and pull depending on application.
  • New Mini-Toolbar. KlipFolio’s L-shaped Toolbar can now be collapsed to a small square … less intrusive and more flexible when placing it on the desktop.
  • New Klips. In concert with KlipFolio 2.6 comes a Hotmail inbox watcher, a POP3 email monitor, an FTP directory Klip and a Klip to keep an eye on local or remote file folders.

What does all this mean? Well, I guess Serence sees Klips as more flexible than RSS and other kinds of feeds, as well as being more secure. The press release, for example, portrays KlipFolio as “a world leader accessing and monitoring networked or local data-sources or applications” where “unlike other news and information monitoring applications that are limited to specific data formats, KlipFolio is an open platform that is extensible through thousands of pluggable, task-specific information services called Klips”.

This extensibility is backed up by what Serence bills as a as “Enhanced Security Model”, where “Serence can now certify and digitally sign Klips to enable advanced functionality … to prevent tampering by 3rd parties and provide end users with increased security.” So anyone can make a Klip but for them to be ‘official’ Serence would have to review them before any “digital signing”.

All this makes sense, although I can hear some folk complaining about the idea that the manufacturer of the software positioning itself as the authenticator of Klips. But so long as RSS feeds are easily absorbed into the KlipFolio world I can only see good things happening for both formats if a company like Serence is trying out new ways of pushing and pulling different kinds of data to the desktop.

RocketInfo, A Revamped Business Search With RSS Built In

RocketInfo has released a new version of RocketNews, its three-year old news and business information search engine. The Ottawa company also has a pretty cool RSS reader which I’ve mentioned before somewhere.

Here are some of the changes:

  • limit the scope of searches to news from today, yesterday or up to 5 days ago;
  • limit searches to sources from a specific geographic region, such as North America, Asia or Europe;
  • specify the content type of publication, such as a business, entertainment, finance, general, health science, sports or technology;
  • RSS feeds of searches for use by anyone for non-commercial or individual news tracking.

Definitely worth checking out.

A New Kind Of Klip

An alternative to RSS? Or an advance? Or can the two sit together?

Canada’s Serence will today announce a new version of KlipFolio, which describes itself as a a ‘uniquely powerful and globally-adopted information awareness and notification platform’ but could probably be better termed a variation of RSS that uses a proprietary software and a slightly more modular approach than most RSS fans are used to.

This new version of KlipFolio, 2.5, has advanced statistics for content providers, encryption for Klip data and some enhancements to the Klip software for end users, including audio alerts, scroll-bars and configurable fonts.

There are some advantages to some in using Klips over RSS or Atom feeds, and this seems to be the direction that Serence is taking: Corporate data, or any other material where the provider wants to ensure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands, and where the provider wants plenty of data back on who’s reading what, when and how much.

The small modular approach also lends itself to small chunks of deliverable data rather than the big grab-bag of news that RSS readers have become. This is something I’ve mentioned before.

Another, Fast And Light, RSS Reader

Here’s another free RSS reader.

Rocket Technologies Inc., ‘a leading international provider of current news search and content delivery solutions’ today launched its web-based Rocketinfo RSS Reader. The web-based bit means that folk on company networks who aren’t allowed to download software could use it.

Actually I’m impressed. The reader runs on most browsers and platforms and is amazingly light on its feet. And fast. You can do keyword searches and save them as RSS channels or feeds. You can easily find RSS sources or add a news source or weblog that is available in any version of RSS or Atom. An impressive array of news sources and blogs (sadly not this one) are already listed, but not yet subscribed to. And it’s free, at least for now.

The downsides: Not much configuration possible, and you can’t import OPML files (i.e. collections of your feeds). And you have to register an email address with RocketInfo first. I’m not sure whether RocketInfo is collecting information about your browsing.

RSS Moves Closer To The Mainstream

More evidence, if it were needed, that RSS is moving mainstream.

eWeek reports that InfoSpace – who also own the dogpile, WebCrawler and metacrawler search sites — will add RSS feeds to the next release of its search toolbar. A setup feature called “Search Page” will scan an open Web page for RSS or Atom feeds, and then let a user decide whether to add them to the toolbar.

This year may well be the year of RSS feeds: Where they get easier to use, where the big players adopt them (I noticed a Microsoft feed the other day; perhaps they’ve been around for a while, I just haven’t seen an official one before) and where marketers find a way to make money out of them.

Software: Psst, Want Another RSS Feed?

 Here’s another way to get your daily dose of blogs, news and RSS feeds (blogs that dripfeed their way through to your desktop without you having to do anything). NewsMonster is “a news, weblog, and RSS aggregator that runs directly in your web browser.”
 
 
“NewsMonster offers a superior web experience and outstanding integration with existing websites and weblogs that support RSS. Even sites that don’t support RSS can work with NewsMonster.”  NewsMonster also incorporates an advanced reputation system to prevent spam and discover and inform you of important news. I have to say that I haven’t checked it out yet.