Keeping aggregation in Sync

Via Luke Huttermans blog: on keeping RSS subscriptions synchronized.

A standard like this would not only allow you to for instance sync up different SharpReader instances on different PCs (say one at work and the other at home), but would also work across aggregators so you’d even be able to for instance sync up NetNewsWire at home with RSS Bandit at work.

My initial reaction is that the “right” solution is to use a web-based aggregator (any recommendations) but my own personal preference is for a client-side aggregator. In my case – Luke’s Sharpreader. To me, reading feeds feels more efficient and responsive when its done locally using a desktop app. They are asking for comments on their proposed standard SIAM

As I writr this, a thought went off. RSS, and other syndicated content, is in many ways similar to email. Back in the day, I use to get my email via POP and it’d be trapped on the PC where I downloaded it (unless I explicitly left it on the server). Nowadays, I use IMAP to read my email and it stays on one server where I can get to it from any computer. And with IMAP, I have the choice of many web-based or desktop based application to read my email.

A next-step could be an IMAP-like server and client apps for handling syndication feeds. From a number of viewpoints, this could have some important benefits. It could reduce the bandwidth used and frequency of polling subscriptions from within an organization. You could also do a lot of interesting matching and recommendation of feeds between users based on what they already read. Any takers?

Yahoo Search Feeds

Jeremy Zawodny has a piece on new, custom Yahoo Search Feeds. This looks great not only for tracking high profile issues lots of people are interested in, but also for digging up news you might not otherwise find. However, looks like if there are no results, instead of getting an empty feed you get a 404 page.

Based on the comments on his site, sounds like sometimes refreshing the link might help

Using syndication as content life support

Just a few weeks ago, I dedicated some time to updating and upgrading my bolivian soccer news site which I’d neglected since March. Well, back in March i decided to start scraping the news section from some fo the online, Bolivian newspapers and linking to the stories on the right. After my redesign, I checked the site’s traffic and was quite surprised by what I found. I was expecting to see a huge dropoff in traffic since I hadn’t updated the site but I found that there hand’t been a noticeable change in traffic since then. I think the automated headlines grab served as life support for the site since visitors could expect those to be updated daily.

Myths about Usability

Nielsen has a better than usual alertbox today trying to dispel the Misconceptions about Usability. One of his points really resonated with me regarding the tensions that can exist between creativity and usability.

Design is basically problem solving under constraints: you must design a system that can actually be built, that’s within budget, and that works in the real world. Usability adds one more constraint: the system must be relatively easy for people to use. This constraint exists whether or not you include formal usability methods in your design process.

Knowing real-world facts increases creativity because it offers designers ideas about design improvement and inspires them to focus their energy on real problems.

Its hard to say that adding a constraint is going to increase creativity. However, when a designer is thinking about creativity they’re usually talking about coming up with a site design from scratch and resist the way that usability guidelines force them to work in accepted ways such as boxy-columnar layouts and avoiding mystery meat navigation. I think what he should have really said is that usability, like any other constraint, forces designers to focus their creativity to improve, mold, and refine accepted website design conventions for a particular deployment. Of course, this takes the creative joy out of the process and routinizes it.