Tag Archives: Flipboard

Flipboard Magazines as Google Reader Replacement

Since I’ve been playing around a bit with creating a Flipboard magazine, I’ve been giving this some thought. Now, don’t get me wrong, at it’s core Google Reader was an RSS reader, and there’s no way I could replace the simplicity of following 200+ feeds in Reader with following 200+ magazines on Flipboard. Reader also had a very popular feature, well back before Google killed it off in order to get everyone to start using Plus, called Shared Items.

Shared Items were a great way to follow a handful of people, who had similar interests to you, and see what kinds of things they were sharing. I could see Flipboard magazines being a similar way to follow a handful of magazines, and see what those folks are sharing.

I’ve been creating a few of my own to match up with my own websites. The thought process, again, is that if mobile users won’t come to the website, because they don’t browse the web, we’ve got to share content with them in the apps they use. Flipboard is one of those apps. So I can share, not only my own blog posts, but lots of other content as well, all within the app or from the web, and you, as a Flipboard user, can “follow” the magazine and get a glimpse at what I’m sharing.

View my Flipboard Magazine.View my Flipboard Magazine.View my Flipboard Magazine.

What about you, have you started “flipping” items to your own magazine in Flipboard? Share a link so we can check it out!

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Smartphones Are Changing How People See The Internet

Reading this latest article about the future of the mobile web, Smartphones: The silent killer of the Web as you know it, I’m struck by the difference between how young people interact with the web, and how us old veterans do it.

Young people don’t use tablets because they don’t see them as necessary for accessing the internet, since their perception is that apps are what makes up the internet. They’ve grown up primarily using their phones, not using laptops with Web browsers. To this generation, it seems slow, purposeless even to go from website to website in a single, sub-par Web browser environment when they can get rich app experiences right from their home screen.

Of course, this sort of information intrigues me in two ways. One, is that part of the reasoning behind using apps instead of a web browser has to be because using a web browser on a phone sucks. Partially that is because sites don’t look good at all at that size even with a mobile theme like the WordPress option I use for this site. It’s better, but not great. Another reason it sucks is because we’ve become so good at redirecting people using phones to an app instead of the website. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to click a link in a blog post on my phone to a news story, and have that site take me to the iTunes store to download their app, or redirect me to the mobile home page of their site instead of the link I wanted to read. It degrades the experience of using my phone to browse the web, so it’s no wonder people are much more likely to use an app instead.

This leads me to the second reason this intrigues me. If it’s true that more and more of the internet “audience” is using mobile devices, and only accessing the web through apps, what’s a website owner to do? As an independent, and unpaid, site owner I can’t pay to have someone develop an app for me. I’ve looked at some of the free “create your own app” services, and frankly, between very limiting licensing and very limited features, they didn’t really provide much of a resource. Not to mention that you still have to pay to be an Apple developer or Google Play developer if you want your app to be available in either of those places.

So it would seem that the only way to get your content in front of this growing mobile audience who doesn’t use a web browser, is to get your content into the apps they do use. This is why I’ve been toying around with various social networks, trying to get my content, and the other content I want to share, in front of this audience. I’ve been using the more traditional routes, posting to Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, but recently I’ve also started to dabble on Tumblr and Flipboard, which seem to be a bit more popular among that younger, smartphone-using, audience. Over at my child abuse blog, I’ve already added a Flipboard magazine, and a tumblr blog. Both are an effort to get that content in front of smartphone users, and hopefully to get them to likewise share it. Over the next few weeks, I suspect I will be doing similar types of things here and on my other sites.

The bottom line is that I have my website in order to share ideas and information with other people, whatever the topic might be. If they won’t come to the site, I should try and get that same information to them another way. Developing my own app isn’t really an option, but getting the content into the apps they already use, is.

The trick is being able to also interact with people in those apps as well so that you don’t appear to just be auto-posting to a social network and dropping out like some spammer, which takes some time and effort, but ultimately that is the goal of all this sharing isn’t it, to spark conversations? So what if they happen in Tumblr instead of in the comments.

As I develop other tools for this site and others, I will be sharing that information, so if you want to use those services to get the content I’m sharing on your smartphone, or know someone who does, they’ll be able to do that.

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Zite Gets Gobbled Up By Flipboard

I’ve been using Zite on my iPad for awhile now. I found it to be a really good way to “discover” news stories and other articles that I wanted to share through my Diigo account, and on Twitter. Given that, I’m a little apprehensive about it being acquired and rolled into Flipboard. Flipboard is a nice tool, but I’ve found it a little bit limiting for that purpose. It’s great for flipping through what others have been sharing on Twitter or GPlus, but much like Kevin O’ Keefe, who shared the news about the acquisition, I’ve found Flipboard to be a bit lacking when it comes to flipping through a specific subject and finding relevant stories.

My theory is that Flipboard’s requirements for publishers make it difficult for bloggers and other sites to get their content into Flipboard’s subject sections. I can’t just feed them my WordPress RSS feed, I have to jump through hoops, add images toe very post and so on. I have a job and a wife, I don’t have time for all of that. This leaves those subject areas to be limited to a few big name publishers, which compared to the rich variety of the web, and blogs specifically, is pretty stale.

I’m hopeful that Zite doesn’t head down that same path, but rather that the Zite technology will help Flipboard make improvements on the subject sections. But I will miss my Zite app when they shut it down.

How do you “discover” new blogs, news, opinions or articles about your areas of interest?

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What Blogging Was And Still Is

I read David Weinberger’s recent article about What Blogging Was with great interest, mostly because I have been blogging about as long as David has. I started this site in Oct. of 2001, and remember all those heady days and discussions about how blogging was changing the world. As David points out so well in his article, a lot of what we thought would change, didn’t. Yet, a lot that we didn’t, and really couldn’t, predict, did change.

For me, blogging was about connections. Always is, and always has been. That was the promise of the Net for me, the ability to connect and share ideas with people who I otherwise would not know. At the time I was working in IT for a small office, and my “peers” were other IT people who worked in their own organizations. Believe it or not, prior to the advent of blogging, it was rather difficult to actually meet any of them. I knew that there were other IT folks out there working by themselves, but I didn’t actually know any of them until I started blogging about my job and the things I was learning as I ran into your typical technical difficulties.

To say that blogging is dead, or failed, because it’s still only a small portion of the population blogs, or subscribes to blogs, is kind of missing the point. Blogging was, and still is, a place to put yourself and your ideas out to the world, and connect with other people who want to discuss those ideas. It mattered not what those ideas were, blogging was simply a platform for them.

That particular platform may not have taken off to the point where everyone has a blog, but I would argue that a lot more people “blog” than think they do. Back in the early 2000′s, being a blogger meant that I had my own site, whether it was my own domain or something on blogspot, etc. I had a tool that made updating the site very easy, people could leave comments or link to my post when they wanted to extend the conversation, and if you wanted to know who I was following, you could see that in the blogroll.

In 2014, many people still have their own site, but far more have Facebook profiles, Twitter handles, Google Plus profiles, etc. and use them in very much the same way. They are places where it’s easy as heck to share ideas through status messages, people can comment back to those messages, and if you want to know whose ideas I think are important, you check out who I’m “connected” with on those platforms.

I think blogging was simply the precursor to social networks. What we do on social networks is very similar to what we did with blogs. We share ideas, we pass around good links to our followers, we engage in conversations that would have been impossible to have prior to the existence of the internet, and we don’t have to simply trust that one or two sources are giving us all of our news about a given subject.

So, saying blogging is dead because the exact form isn’t as popular as we once thought it would be is a lot like those who say RSS is dead because Google Reader went away. Sure, subscribing to individual RSS feeds might not be as popular as it once was, but the concepts of RSS are behind everything we do on the Net now. Twitter, Facebook’s timeline, Flipboard, etc. are all using those concepts. Those are hardly “dead”. It’s RSS, in a more modern, deeply embedded, form. Blogging, likewise, isn’t dead, it’s simply become so embedded into what we do online every day, that we don’t realize it’s simply taken on new forms.

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Flipboard Stole My iPad’s Disk Space

After seeing a few folks talk about updating their iPad version 2 to iOS 7, when I finally got the prompt to do the same for my own iPad last night I made the impulse decision to go ahead and do it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t. Turns out that I needed 2.9GB of free space to accomplish his, and I only had 1.1GB. Granted, it’s only a 16GB model, but that’s because I really don’t need more than that. I don’t store much on it. Sure I have a few things in iBooks, mostly for work reference, a couple of items in the Kindle app and a small selection of songs in the Music app, but really how did this happen?

Sure enough, when it had the system show me the usage status, it wasn’t any of those things eating away at my free space. It was Flipboard, which was somehow using 2.6GB all by itself. Apparently, if you allow Flipboard to run unabated, it will just continue to cache all that information that you’re looking at each time. One trip to the settings and I found an option to clear the cache.

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After that was cleared, suddenly I had space to perform the update. (I will have more on that in a later post after I’ve had some time to use it). And I have a mental note to clear that out every once in awhile.

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Replacing Google Reader Isn’t Easy

As you may know, I decided to go with the upstart The Old Reader as my Google Reader replacement when Google shut it down. It had everything that I had enjoyed from Google Reader, even if it wasn’t backed by a humongous infrastructure in the same way that Google Reader was.

I can see now that the growth in users in this post-Google Reader world is not without it’s pain.

I suspect that most of the available RSS readers that folks have flocked to are experiencing growing pains as well, though maybe not this severe. This is what happens when a large company decides to shut down a largely popular service. The startups that rush in to try and fill the void, don’t have the same infrastructure. My guess is that some won’t be able to cut it, and we will have a few rounds of failure before a new leader emerges in this space, much the way Google Reader did the first time around. I also suspect that if the new leaders end up being tools like Flipboard, which rely more on social recommendations than pure subscriptions to RSS feeds, that bloggers are in for a rude awakening about what is necessary to attract any traffic at all, let alone return traffic.

We will see how the next round of RSS reader wars plays out. Look for lots of attrition in the mean time.

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Trying to Develop New Habits

So, one of the cool things about traveling in 2013 is that a smartphone or an iPad make it really easy to stay in touch without having to pull out my overly large work laptop. (Seriously, it’s impossible for me to work on my laptop on an airplane, there simply isn’t enough space, and it’s more work than it’s worth much of the time in airports or even hotel rooms.)

That’s great, except for one thing. I really hate trying to type on any of these gadgets. Oh it’s easy enough for a quick text message, or short email, but longer emails to friends, coworkers, or blog posts are just difficult for me. So those things tend to get put off until I’m sitting in my office with my desk and a full keyboard to work with. One of the things I’ve since realized though, is that habit of putting those things off, has led to me not blogging nearly as much, and not keeping in touch the way I want to. I see something on my iPad that sparks an idea for a blog post, I put it off, telling myself I’ll write about it when I am next on my laptop, and then I forget what I was going to write about. Sound familiar?

In an effort to try and get out of this rut, I went out and picked up an Apple bluetooth keyboard to use with my iPad. At least this way, when I’m just using the iPad because it’s easier, if I want to write something more significant, I can pull out a small, lightweight keyboard instead of struggling with the native keyboard to iOS. I’ve already seen myself using it here and there when sitting around the house, and I used it in a hotel right after purchasing it. The big test may come this upcoming week, to see if I can pull it out at an airport, or even on an airplane, and actually get something done more than flipping through Flipboard and Facebook. We’ll see if that become my new normal.

Anyone else out there struggling with the ease of carrying around a tablet, with the difficulty of typing anything on them as much as I do? Any suggestions on how to deal with it?

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Following in a Post-Google Reader World

So, now that we’ve had a few days to sort of digest the news that Google Reader isn’t going to be around, you may be asking yourself what all the fuss is about. Those of you who’ve never used an RSS reader probably don’t understand what you’re missing by following a site on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or somewhere else, instead of subscribing to the RSS feed. Truth is, when you rely on one of those other services, you probably aren’t seeing everything. Facebook is using some weird algorithm to determine what to show you in your newsfeed, and Twitter is only as good as the amount of time you have to keep up with it. Most of you who use Twitter and know this go with the assumption that the “good” stuff will bubble up to the surface when the other people you follow share it to their network and you’ll see it eventually.

Last week, I wrote about how that changes things from a bloggers perspective. I realize now just how significant a portion of the people who follow me on Twitter, or Facebook, etc. really don’t see what I write here unless others happens to start sharing it. Like I said yesterday, that changes the dynamic between myself, and you as a reader. I’m somewhat at the mercy of you and your willingness to share what I write. Oh sure, there will alsways be those of us who conitnue to use RSS readers and subscribe to feeds, but it’s not a growing number or people. We’ll move to some other tool and keep doing what we’ve always been doing. The “growth” is in people scanning Twitter, or using a tool like Flipboard, to simply try and locate the popular things that others are sharing. Those of us who simply like to write and share our thoughts and experiences are facing an even higher hill to climb to get folks to pay attention, because there simply aren’t enough people reading, let alone sharing, to help that larger mass of people find us.

As I said, this changes things. Do I need to go from blogging things I think are interesting, to writing posts designed to get shared more often? And what does that look like, exactly? I don’t know. At least not yet.

In the mean time, if you are interested in actually seeing everything I write here, grab the RSS feed and take a look at some RSS alternatives, or you can always go the old fashioned way, and subscribe to the email list.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Of course, if you aren’t following at all, you can also try the Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus pages as well.

Most of all, I want to say thank you for those of you who do subscribe, or follow in whatever way you currently do so, and for sharing the site among your own network. Obviously, when it comes to building up readership and community around this site, that goes a long, long way!

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How Far RSS Has Fallen

Yesterday’s announcement that Google is shutting down Reader was a little bit of a shock to me, personally. I use it daily. I rely on it to follow a couple of hundred blogs and websites all in one place. Over the years, Reader has been the go-to RSS reader for most users, all but eliminating any useful competitors. (Especially for those of us who line in the cloud using multiple devices.)

The reason given was declining usage. Some of the commentary about it says that much of that declining usage is due to Twitter, and tools based on the Twitter infrastructure, like Flipboard. Perhaps there’s something to that. Personally, I don’t think Twitter is a good RSS reader. It simply doesn’t have enough of a history to allow for me to not look at it all day and simply catch up in the evening. That’s what my RSS reader is for, and Google Reader allowed to do that catch up on any device I happened to have handy. Now, that’s going to be gone, and I don’t know that any alternative is going to help me accomplish the same thing.

The larger story though, is that the idea of using RSS has obviously fallen out of favor. People seem to be using Twitter, and Google obviously expects us to use Google Plus instead of a dedicated RSS reader. As a blogger, that does give me pause. It’s clear that people are no longer following every post from their favorite writers. They are waiting for their Twitter or Google Plus “community” to bubble up interesting posts. Even as I write this, it occurs to me that I don’t know how many people, if any, will even see this. There was a time when I could count on “x” number of people seeing this post in Google Reader. Now, I simply have to see who decides to share, retweet, like a post before I know if there will be much of an audience for it.

I think that changes things. I don’t know how, and I don’t really think I have understood this change as it has been taking place, but there’s no question that writing a blog post, and getting people to read it, has become more of a challenge. It’s no longer a matter of attracting subscribers, and trying to get those folks to share or comment on a post. Now, you have to get the smaller group of dedicated readers to use social media to spread the word for you. Without that, a post may just be the proverbial tree falling in the woods.

 

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Strawberryj.am Goes Offline

It was just over a year ago that I discovered and wrote about Strawberryj.am

At the time I was happy to see the service because I thought it brought something useful to the Twitter world, a place I could browse what links my tweeps were sharing the most, to quickly get a feel for what was important to folks. Alas, I received notice yesterday that the service has shut down.

That leaves me back to using Flipboard, which is a great tool, but doesn’t do exactly what I’m looking for. It does a great job of presenting things being shared by the folks I follow, but doesn’t rank them and let me see which links are being shared by multiple people. Does anyone know of any other service that does this?

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