My obligatory Google Reader post

UPDATE – (via The Verge) Google’s decision to scrap Reader influenced by the cost of privacy compliance.

Earlier this month Google announced it would be shutting down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. It was explained in a bullet point on Google’s blog along with other product changes inside the Google Plex:

“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader.”

This was disappointing news for reporters, bloggers, content curators and avid readers like Om Malik and Matt Haughey (and myself) who have used Google Reader frequently since its inception. Several tech-focused blogs have already posted Google Reader alternatives.  And a two year old blog post from Chris Wetherell, a former Google engineer who helped create Google Reader, also resurfaced in the past week.

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Responsive web design resources

Boston Globe's new responsive design

Lately I’ve become fascinated with responsive web design, a technique that presents a more flexible website capable of conforming to the device you happen to be using at the time. A responsive website will be optimized for desktops, tablets and mobile devices. This is more complex than you might think at first, because many touch screen devices (like iPhones and iPads) have two different screen orientations: portrait and landscape.

There seems to be some debate in the web design community regarding exactly how this flexibility can be accomplished. However, there isn’t much debate about its usefulness. One platform served to many devices is the holy grail of publishing.

I won’t try to tackle that debate in this blog post, but I will show you some of the most useful tools and resources I’ve found in my own research. Here are some of the best resources I found for responsive web design:

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Posted in Design, Development, Mobile, Uncategorized, Web design | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Candid accessibility post from Google engineer Steve Yegge

Steve Yegge, a software engineer at Google, accidentally posted a very candid and eloquent rant on Google’s internal platform and accessibility challenges.  Intended for internal eyes at Google, he posted this on Google+, making it public by accident.  It is refreshing to read something so honest from someone inside the Plex.

If you’re sorta thinking, “huh? You mean like, blind and deaf people Accessibility?” then you’re not alone, because I’ve come to understand that there are lots and LOTS of people just like you: people for whom this idea does not have the right Accessibility, so it hasn’t been able to get through to you yet. It’s not your fault for not understanding, any more than it would be your fault for being blind or deaf or motion-restricted or living with any other disability. When software — or idea-ware for that matter — fails to be accessible to anyone for any reason, it is the fault of the software or of the messaging of the idea. It is an Accessibility failure.

You can read the entire post here.  I’d love to see some of the changes he suggests implemented at Google.  I hope he is put in a position to help make these changes.

Posted in Development, Google, Software, Technology, Usability | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mobile publishing options today

Publishers these days have several options to deliver their content to people using mobile devices.  Some are more elegant than others, but most all publishers fall into one or more of these categories:

1. Do nothing.
2. Build a separate mobile site.
3. Build native mobile apps (iPhone, Android, etc)
4. Convert your standard website to use responsive design

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Amazon One-Click Kindle book purchases

Wow. Color me impressed.

I purchased a book tonight for my Kindle with Amazon’s One-Click delivery, a service that makes buying a book literally a one-click operation.  However, the credit card that was associated with my account was expired.

Amazon delivered the book to my Kindle anyhow.

After I received the book on my Kindle I received a separate note (and an email) explaining there was a problem processing my credit card.  Amazon asked me to log into my account within the next 5 days to pay for the book…that they already delivered to my Kindle.

“Though your order may have already been delivered to you, it is important that you visit the following page within 5 days to update the payment information for this order.”

This is a pretty amazing customer service policy.  Frankly, I’m still a little shocked. Amazon actually delivered a product to a customer even though there was a problem with payment.

I happily paid for the book and would love to thank the Amazon employee who came up with this service policy.

Has anyone else experienced this with other companies selling digital products online?

Posted in Business, Mobile, Technology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Some thoughts on the Netflix changes

UPDATE: The Oatmeal has explained this in a comic better than I could in a blog post. You can read the comic here (thanks to Leonardo for the heads up.)

Netflix announced plans today to spin off their DVD rentals into a new company called “Qwickster” that will include video game rentals to compete with companies like Gamefly, GameStop, etc.

Last week Netflix announced subscriber losses that caused some investors to sell their NFLX stock. Dan Frommer made a good observation that most of the subscription losses they announced came from the DVD rentals and not the streaming service.

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Posted in Business, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

If this, then that…

I love machines.

I’m not talking about electronic gadgets like laptops, mobile phones and vacuuming robots (although, I like those things too.)  I’m talking about machines constructed with gears, cogs, springs and fly wheels.  There is a certain beauty in machines that are constructed in this way.  Mechanical watches are fascinating collections of cogs, gears and springs that run for days on the energy of a single spring and tell you what phase the moon happens to be in at any given moment.

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Posted in Mobile, Productivity, Software, Tools | 3 Comments

The Uncanny Valley and Corporate Social Media

“I’m a friend of Sarah Connor. I was told she was here. Could I see her please?” – Cyberdyne Systems Series 600 Terminator

The uncanny valley is a concept coined by robotics professor, Masahiro Mori, in 1970 to describe the reaction humans have to robots with human appearance.  The graph can be interpreted by saying the more human a robot looks, the more familiar and comfortable we are with it. (Translation of Mori’s article.)

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Posted in Communication, Marketing, Networking, Social Networking | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Newspaper paywalls

I just realized that I haven’t posted much of anything to this blog for nearly 6 months.  Wow.  To end my dry spell I thought I’d talk a little about paywalls currently being considered by several large news organizations.

Let me start by saying that I don’t want newspapers to JUST survive.  I want them to prosper and grow.  I love newspapers. However, in order to prosper, they will have to make radical changes to their current business and operational models.

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Posted in Business, Journalism, Technology | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments