Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Bye bye Reddit

Some time ago, I told my collegues, “Forget Digg, you need to start using Reddit.” Reddit was much more fun then, even only about a year ago. Since then, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend – massive brainwashing groupthink overtaking rational discussion and interesting links.

Reddit really let me down. These days, it’s mostly XKCD comics, snarky images, Ron Paul stories, anti-Reddiquette polls, pro-Atheism articles, a mash of comments complaining about subreddits, and most disturbingly, a real anti-Israel swing. It’s not that I’m anti-Atheism (I’m definitely not) or pro-Israel (because I’m really not), but the absolute anger the redditors have for Israel and religion is not only a little scary, it’s also unquestionable. If you do question it, and you will be modded down – silenced, if not mocked. This serves not only to stifle good conversation, it drives the opposing views away until everyone is just verbally masturbating each other.

There is a bandwagon that travels from story to story, and when I read comment after comment about how bad PHP is, but only about 5 comments have any substance, I realize I’m probably dealing with a mix that includes several 15 year olds in there. Recently, I was modded down for a technical comment about an injection attack. An idiot responder suggested I had used improperly with a smarmy quip, when in fact, I hadn’t. Unfortunately, his fellow redditors must have enjoyed his turn, since they proceeded to deal me a heavy negative score. That’s when I started realizing that Reddit has not only become boring and repetitive for me, but it’s not even close to a valid news source anymore. In fact, it’s barely even entertaining: the news moves at a snail’s pace, it’s always behind Digg, and its search facility is so busted that unless I specifically save an article, it’s a hopeless reference site. So I deleted my entire account straight away.

This is not to say that Reddit is entirely bad, because it’s not. Actually, there are several really insightful people on the site, but I rarely read their comments, either because they don’t post much or the noise ratio is so high they get drowned out. And the actual developers – kn0thing and spez, at least – are really class act guys.

But alas, their community has soured, so I am going to sub in a new site in my bookmarks, maybe techcrunch or techmeme or another site aimed at delivering steady technical news. Although I rarely use it anymore outside of RSS, even Slashdot still has good comments. For me, the Web 2.0-esque social news is getting tired faster than I imagined.

Please note that these views are mine and mine alone and not necessarily indicative of those of OSNews, LLC or the OSNews staff

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A Review of Online Photo Services

Some time ago, I switched to Google’s Picasa Web Albums online photo management software. Although it’s simple to use, Picasa Web has been missing too many features for too long, and after Google locked me out of their software for a few days due to a bug of some sort, and their iPhoto plug-in stopped working, I decided it was time to start checking out the alternatives. I have played with a few services, and judged them based on a number of criteria, including these 15 questions:

1. How easy is it to do batch uploads?
2. Are there decent Mac and Windows upload tools?
3. Does it work in all major browsers (Opera and Safari are both important)
4. Will the default display scale to upwards of 2500 photos?
5. How fast does each page load?
6. Is the image scaled down? If so, is the original available?
7. Is it a fly-by-night startup that I can count on to be around?
8. How much does it cost for a pro membership, if anything? What are the benefits?
9. What are my storage requirements?
10. What is my traffic/bandwidth limit, if any?
11. Are there integrated ads?
12. How easy is it for others to access my photos?
13. Is there any sort of privacy?
14. What type of tools exist for me to manage my photos once they are online?
15. Is there some sort of embed/slideshow for my webpages?

I’ve tested the following services: Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, Zoto, Zooomr, SmugMug, Photobucket, Facebook, and MySpace. Read on for my initial results.
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Go, Bloglines, Go!

The other day, I griped about the new Bloglines beta. To my surprise and enjoyment, one of the Bloglines developers left a comment, and we exchanged a few short emails. Today, Bloglines releases beta 1.0.2, and guess what? My issues were specifically addressed! Let’s examine:

Bloglines Beta

So what do we see? The font that made it impossible to distinguish bold from normal weight text? Gone. Now we have a beautiful font that makes it very clear which are read and which aren’t. How about the visual indicator of which item you are hovering over? It’s there!

My biggest gripe was that items were only marked read on hover and by a keystroke, just like Google Reader. But what do I see in the teaser for 1.0.3?

Bloglines Beta

Hey-o! Score one for the Bloglines team! Way to utilize reader feedback! Nice work.

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Bloglines Beta Ain’t Doin’ It For Me

Bloglines has been pushing their new beta site, beta.bloglines.com, and are already reporting many satisfied users. The new site is very attractive and much more modern looking, but do not count me among the satisfied.

The new beta, as far as I’m concerned, is just a second rate Google Reader. In fact, everything about how Bloglines works has been changed to emulate Google Reader.

My primary gripe is this: in the normal Bloglines, you click on a feed and the items are marked read. In the new version, you must scroll past each item and/or click on each item. If I click on a feed with one or two short items, then I click a new feed, those items are not marked “read” and stay in my lefthand sidebar. I do not care to address each item individually, which is what the new system requires.

Also, even if I do scroll over each item, more often than not, the last item is not “marked read” and remains for me to address later.

There are a host of other single key shortcuts, and I do find these useful, but make no mistake about it, these single key shortcuts are “borrowed” directly from Google Reader again.

BloglinesMost of my gripes with beta 1.0 were not addressed in today’s update. It was hard to click on a feed properly – the linked area was a bit flaky. Each element in the feed bar had a display of “block,” which I think lead the developers to think it would be easer to locate the right feed quickly with your mouse. However, the second part of my complaint was that without underlines in the feedbar on mouseover, there was no way to tell, except via the hand cursor, that you’re on the right link. The UI ought to indicate that you are on an active link via an underline. Since it does not, and still does not, you’re still floating above a huge link sea.

This is only compounded by the fact that the current version uses a simple Arial font, whereas the new uses what I suppose Bloglines thought was a more “Web 2.0” font, which I think I’m properly id’ing as Trebuchet.

BloglinesAs a result, it’s harder to figure out what means what in the feedbar. Notice that in the example, on the current site, the bolder headlines mean unread items exist. There is a clear number right beside the feed telling you how many items are pending. But in the new Bloglines beta, the bolding is much less noticeable due to the font change and the number of unread items is right justified, which means you can’t easily tell how many are pending when you have a large number of feeds with unread items.

Overall, it’s a very nice start – it’s attractive, it’s got nice drag-n-drog javascript everywhere, it loads in a decent amount of time, and the new customizeable start screen is very cool. But if this is what rolled out as final, I’d probably just move to Google Reader, which is practically the same thing anyway. This is just too much like it and pretty much ditches all the concepts that I *liked* about Bloglines that made it different.

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Gmail Video and Thoughts on Gmail

Google just released their Gmail compilation video to YouTube, and… well… it’s cool! It really is. Not only because the video is fun, not only because it’s refreshing to see a company that looks like it might be fun and not just a bunch of hair old white men who are only concerned with the bottom line, but also because it fascinates me. It fascinates me that a product can inspire such loyalty that makes its users so fiercely dedicated to it.

I am blindly loyal to Mac OS X and Gmail. The both of them are huge inspirations to me; they make me productive, I enjoy using them, they work with me and for me rather than as an abrasive but necessary intermediary (like Citrix) or flat out against me (Microsoft Word!) Gmail is so great and so empowering that random people are willing to take time to make ads for it.

I wish I could be that happy with, partnered with, and loyal to all vendors I patronize. Now, that’s delivering a product.

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Coming Soon: Web 2.0 Review

I’ve been doing a LOT of coding for OSNews version 4 lately. It’s really brought up a lot of interesting thoughts about Web 2.0 websites. I intend to write something of length about that in the next few days. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of new ground we’ll be treading with OSN4. It’s pretty exciting.

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User Generated Content Usually Sucks

This goes to show how worthless digg.com comments can be. Nearly every comment is dugg down. C’mon, are these the kinds of comments that people feel they should take the time to type and submit. Do they think other people will get joy from reading them?

Read this comments on this inane, embarassing mess. Folks, this is proof that user generated content is not necessarily anything more than just volume. So is this, by the way.

Sites like Slashdot and OSNews are mostly valuable because their users contribute so much quality in the comments. Slashdot has been better since I moved my threshold to +3. OSNews is pretty good at 0. But most sites that make it too easy to participate are complete crap.

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More About Picasa Web Albums

Forgive me if this sounds especially arrogant or offends anyone, but I think I should be asked to join Google as the project lead for Picasa Web Albums, because I am really let down by what exists today and I think that I might be able to write something better myself with a week’s worth of programming and a server running PHP5.

Google has always been a “release now, update frequently later” kind of company, and I respect that. It’s cooler, as a user, to get something today and slowly and unexpectedly watch features trickle in, but Picasa Web Albums is a disaster right now. Read more for the details.
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Picasa Evolves

Well, I’m very excited to report that Google has begun bringing Picasa into the Web 2.0 realm.

Today I signed in and found — tags! and search! and moire storage! Hooray! So this is fantastic, it’s the start of bringing this beast up to “usable” for large photostreams.

Now that Picasa is evolving, they are letting you expand beyond 6GB to 25GB, 50GB, and even 100GB. I can’t image how clunky and weak it would be with that many albums, but I have to assume they’re working on it.

Unfortunately, what’s really missing is the ability to tag multiple photos at once. I’m not going to tag 3000+ photos one by one. But still, nice to see some progress.

I did find a bug. It let me create the tag “A+J,” which is linked on the front page of my photos, but not wrapped with urlencode(), so it throws an error. I found a google bug!

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Review: Picasaweb vs. Flickr

Now that I’ve successfully used most of the features on both flickr.com and Picasaweb, I decided I would write a short review of the two services. The need for online photo storage is certainly a very real one, and different services have different objectives. Here’s a short breakdown.

Read more for the review.
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