Note To Self

Replacements for Google Reader

RIP-reader

R.I.P. Google Reader. We had some good times together, since 2005, which seems like just yesterday, if yesterday was eight years ago. But all things must end.

While I’m not entirely sold that the “mailbox” paradigm — where every news item is displayed as an email-like “unread item” — is one I want to stick with for my daily news reading, it’s without question that Reader is such a big part of my daily hunter/gatherer news reading routine that I will want to explore alternatives.

I’m ruling out native apps like Flipboard and Pulse, because I don’t want news reading tied to one specific platform. So, with that constraint in mind, here’s a list of web-based RSS-reading alternatives, listed in order of promise:

As they say, if you have any other potential contenders, leave a suggestion in the comments.

Make-Your-Own TechCrunch Article


It’s happened again:

has

the

because after seeing a private presentation, we couldn’t be more certain that they have just dropped

all over the

of their competition with the upcoming announcement of their secret

service. Industry insiders familiar with the product suggest that none other than

personally oversaw the development and creation of the revolutionary new product, and is rumored to unveil the new product live on stage during the upcoming

conference. Reaction to the upcoming announcement from around the TechCrunch offices has been

with one TechCrunch staffer quoted as saying,


Fake Mayor Podcast



From The Vaults: When I first started working at MassLive.com in 2007, producer par excellence Kristen Beam was putting together a very cool weekly podcast interviewing some of the local Western Massachusetts mayors. In order to check audio recording levels and network connectivity in Skype, she would call me first, and I would pretend to be a local mayor. She would test out her questions on me and I would do my absolute best to break her concentration and make her laugh.

Recently an excerpt from one of these test calls was discovered — enjoy.



I’d Take Up To Three Bullets For You, Bro



Would I take a bullet for you? Hell yeah, I would. You know I would, man! You know I would.

I would definitely take a bullet for you. It would be like in the movies, we’d be walking down the street, it’s late at night, probably after having a typical awesome time together, and suddenly a shadowy assassin would leap out of the darkness. I see the glint of the hammer in the darkness and I don’t think, I react: “Nooooooooooo”.

BLAM! First bullet hits me square, caving in my chest cavity. That’s no big deal. I’m all like, it’s worth it, it’s totally worth it for my best bud. I immediately flash to the montage: I’m in the hospital, there’s ER confusion, a clatter of gurney and machines, beeping and yelling; but I get better, and slowly over time you help me walk again. Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life” plays in the background. Teddy bears, balloons, best wishes via tons of Facebook updates. Big thumbs up all around.

But then: BLAM! Second shot rings out, taking a grapefruit-sized chunk of meat out of my shoulder section. Still feeling like a hero, but this is where I get a little skeptical. I’m wondering: Who is this shadowy assassin? Is this his wife? Am I standing in the middle of a private, domestic dispute? You know that’s one of my pet peeves, I don’t like to get in the middle of that sort of thing. So while I would take the second bullet, no problem, you might see a shadow of doubt flicker across my face while the high-pressure blood fountain erupts out of my clavicle.

There’s a beat, a moment of complete silence.

BLAM! Third shot rings out. Proud to do it. When we tell people about this later on, this is going to be the greatest of great stories. This shot hits the side of my head and shears off some of my face and most of my ear. This is where I start to think, Yes, this is almost certainly his wife. Also, due to massive blood loss and severe brain damage, I start to think: Garry Shandling, Popeye’s chicken, underwater level in Super Mario Bros. My eyes go funny and I wonder if I have enough oxygen or if I should swim towards a bubble.

So, to step back, after the third bullet I take for you, I have to wonder: Who wants you dead so bad? What have you done to piss someone off this severely? You know I love you, man, but now I’m sort of questioning motivation, and I’m thinking back to Postal Service Song also, where did you even go? World of Warcraft is a decent game but Things are getting dark, Blood is actually blue until it hits the air and then it turns red, that’s why your veins are blue, Not so much a concern for me, as I spit a wad of something wet out on the sidewalk which is very close by and detailed and interesting and grin with red-rimmed teeth, and I’m smiling wide because I took three bullets for you, bro.

Weekly Punitive Confiscation



Recently, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books, Mark Leyner’s 1992 fiction “Et Tu, Babe“; about halfway through the book the protagonist (cunningly named “Mark Leyner”) runs afoul of the law and plea bargains to a deal that sentences him to “Weekly Punitive Confications”. From the book:

The punishment consisted of having one item confiscated each week. At 10 A.M. every Monday morning, the authorities would arrive in a large truck. They’d read the statement that courts required them to read prior to each punitive confiscation, they’d handcuff us, and they’d put us in the truck … We were then allowed to return to our home. We were never told which items was confiscated. Sometimes it was obvious: the piano, the living room sofa, the wall phone in the kitchen, etc. But often we wouldn’t know what was taken until we needed it and it wasn’t there.

I don’t know if Leyner intended it this way, but I have been thinking about this passage a lot, and I have started to view it as a metaphor for adulthood. As you grow older, things start to fail, and things suddenly disappear, and you have to deal with it. You have to carry on with your day, every day, moving forward even without the thing you unknowingly depended on.

What’s really amazing is how often one single absence creates a domino effect that creates a day full of absences, “for want of a nail” style. Some days, leaving your cell phone uncharged causes you to miss the call that causes you to be stuck in traffic which causes your car engine to overheat.

One could make the argument that this all could simply be a function of having too much stuff — certainly it’s hard to break what isn’t there. But as we grow up, we find some Administrative Lifestyle Detritus to be required; car insurance, bed frames, dental floss. So it stands to reason we tend to spend a lot of time trying to strike a balance between what is essential and what is inessential.

So that’s the plan: Find out what is essential. Everything else gets confiscated.

An Open Letter To CVS



Dear CVS,

I hate your stores so, so much. This bitter hatred is not the result of one bad experience on a Sunday afternoon. This hate is the result of hundreds upon hundreds of bad experiences throughout my entire life. I try to live with one simple credo: “Can we not go to CVS?” As a result, every single day I do not go to CVS is an unqualified success, and yet: I will still occasionally find myself at a CVS.

Your garbage stores sicken the spirit as they weaken the soul. They are jam-packed full to the top of the absolute worst low-quality crap merchandise our world has to offer. Your employees come to work to engage in one specific activity all day long: shirking register duty. When they are not shirking register duty, they are running in the back for register tape.

I will not sign up for your incredibly annoying ExtraCare card, no matter how much you wish to sell my personal information to your off-brand Vietnamese DVD player-making business partners. It does not matter if you mark a candy bar up to $1.25 if I don’t use the ‘savings card'; I’ll take the hit, just so you don’t get the pleasure of selling my mailing address and Dorito preference to the Raytheon corporation.

Let me ask you this: Why does it take up to and including 35 minutes to check-out of a CVS? What secrets of the retail check-out have your competitors mastered that remain so utterly mysterious to you? It certainly does not help that your customers have to self-organize into their own queue lines up front, jockeying for position among a throng of other simmering pools of resentment. We are forced to gaze mindlessly upon the broken film development stations, the mp3 playing keychains, the diet soda coolers, Nicorette gum displays, and piles of US Weekly magazines until we catch the attention of one of the glassy-eyed register workers — I’m sure if you felt you could get away with dangling lip baum canisters from the ceiling on strings, you’d try it. We shift uncomfortably as we consider the pros and cons of self-medicating our current situation with a Butterfinger bar.

There is invariably a pause as the register workers try to determine who will be unlucky enough to man the additional registers, and who will get to hide in the supply closet pretending to find register tape. Eventually, the choice is made and the call goes out: “I can take you over here,” and the herd shifts over. But somehow, the situation does not improve; the throng self-organizes into a line that is exactly as long as before.

And our beautiful precious moments drip by, one after another, as we stand in line and hate your horrible fucking stores.

Consider this: someday, some company will come after you. They will be the brightly-lit halogen Target to your dim, flickering Kmart fluorescence. Don’t get me wrong: they will be just as horrible, in a way, but they will somehow hide it better and they will manage to serve their customers without making them feel quite as abused. On that day, you will no longer be able to open additional sad, miserable trash heap stores. You will have to make do with the sad, miserable trash heap stores you have already opened. How will you compete? Will you improve the customer experience, or will you try to wring more money out of your quickly dwindling customer base? Wouldn’t it be smarter to, right now, give your employees the extra roll of register tape they so desperately need?

Just kidding — I don’t care. Nobody cares. You guys are the worst. Please go out of business as soon as possible, so we can watch your stores devolve into the desiccated hobo poop depositories they absolutely deserve to become.

QR codes are silly

So QR codes are being heralded as the way for the print medium to reroute readers to more interactive and compelling Internet content. Questions:

  1. When has any medium ever successfully rerouted audience immediately to another medium? Think TV to radio, Internet to TV, movies to books, etc. It doesn’t happen. If your audience is currently engaged in a medium, it takes a large, large promise of payoff to entice an audience member to switch to another medium; and since by definition, the audience doesn’t know what lies on the other side of that QR code, it’s an unlikely mode switch at best. Once marketers start abusing QR codes, it will only get harder to entice people to give QR codes a shot.
  2. As of Apr. 2011, why doesn’t any smartphone OS ship with a QR reader? Too geeky, perhaps? Too hard to explain to Mom and Dad? Any technology that is physically ugly tends to be marginalized. And QR codes are seriously ugly.
  3. The most important physical object that might genuinely benefit from a QR code already has a scannable code on it: a UPC code. This code already works well as a scannable artifact in all kinds of existing apps today without any additional manufacturer effort. Why would a manufacturer put a QR code on as well?

QR codes are a technology looking for a purpose. They are the print industry equivalent of RSS feeds; appealing to a small number of geeks, but not useful (or explainable) enough to gain acceptance in a mass market. As the very astute Sebastiaan de With has said, QR Codes are a bad solution to make our world more understandable to devices. We should make our devices smarter, not make reality dumber.

Make-Your-Own Android Tablet Announcement


is proud to announce

availability for the new

tablet which is expected to pose strong competition to the Apple iPad. The tablet features

2-megapixel cameras on the front and back, and also features a superior

pixel resolution. Powered by Google’s new

operating system, the tablet poses a threat to the iPad primarily because of the device’s easily accessed

Enthusiasts of the new device gathered

to laud the many

available for download from

for the device at launch. The device is expected to cost

and will be available exclusively for purchase at