Monthly Archives: May 2013

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Replacing Google Reader: and the winner is…

NewsBlur.

newblurlogoWhy did I choose NewsBlur? To be honest I don’t really know – it’s just that, after a little time of using it, NewBlur just felt right.

A few of the options that emerged once Google announced the closure of Reader were claiming to reinvent the RSS reader, as if the whole thing was broken. I never felt that it was. Reader worked rather nicely to for me, so I just wanted something that did something similar.

NewsBlur to me seemed to take RSS as seriously as I do – which isn’t very, I suppose, but maintains a healthy respect. I don’t want my RSS reader to be like Twitter, Facebook, or – heaven forfend! – Flipboard. I don’t want my RSS reader to be beautiful, or ‘delightful’ – I just want it to aggregate all the things I like reading in one place for me.

NewsBlur does have some extra bits, like commenting within the reader rather than on the original sites, which I’m not sure about (it’s hard enough to get people commenting on blogs as it is, these days!) and so won’t use. Also the sharing option seems to create a separate link blog, hosted by NewsBlur.

My previous sharing system just used the stars in Google Reader and IFTTT to ping links to Twitter and also to the roundup posts in this blog. I could do that in Reader by just pressing the ‘s’ key – super simple. Right now I have gone back to bookmarking links in Pinboard, which adds some time to the process which is a bit annoying. Maybe I could set this up in NewsBlur? If anyone has ideas, let me know.

Run that town

Run that Town is an interesting game from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that uses real census data. It’s certainly a lovely looking thing.

From the blurb:

Use real Census data to discover who’s who in your area, and make decisions that will sway popular opinion in your favour. Choose from hundreds of projects for your town – from the practical to the preposterous.

What kind of leader will you be? Will you be treated to a ticker tape parade, or chased out of town by an angry mob?

Here’s a video, explaining more.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Help me save the Knowledge Hub (in some form)

An email from the Knowledge Hub team at the LGA:

As Knowledge Hub user I felt it necessary to contact you with this news. You may have read in today’s press due to cost the LGA are proposing to close the Knowledge Hub facility. There is statutory 30 day consultation period (consultation closes on 23 June) on these proposals. As project lead I am very sorry to have to bring you this news. Many of you have invested time and effort in the platform and we as a team have worked extremely hard to deliver what we feel is a valuable and vital service for local government at this difficult time.

The organisation has decided that in the face of further cuts funding is unsustainable.

This is a terrible shame for local government. Cross sector sharing of knowledge and learning is vital if councils are to meet the challenges they face.

I know I could make the Knowledge Hub work: with a change of technology, a new business model, and some great community management.

I think we can make the Knowledge Hub – or whatever it might be called – like LocalGovCamp – only all the time and everywhere.

I suspect I need to convince the LGA to let me do this. After all, I want the existing content on the Knowledge Hub to import into the new system, and the user data too. Otherwise, starting from scratch will most likely make life extremely difficult.

So, I’d like some help. The best form is probably in expressions of support, perhaps publicly on the comments of this post. If you think local government needs a knowledge sharing platform, and you think I might be the person to make a decent fist of it, then do please let me, and the LGA, know.

Thanks!

How in-the-browser software should work

I wrote recently about my growing unease with the addiction we have with ever greater convenience with our computing over the necessity of control. A lot of this is driven by cloud, and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

The convenience of SaaS is difficult to argue with. No installing software. No upgrades. Files accessible wherever you want them. The ability to share documents and collaborate on them with others in real time.

The downsides are all to do with control of your data. If it’s a paid service, and you stop paying, can you still access and open your files? Or if the company behind the system goes belly up? Is all your data locked up inside a system, or in a format you can’t reuse?

It is possible for those behind cloud based software to get it right though. Take a look at Dave Winer‘s new tool, Fargo. It’s an outliner (and outliners are cool, remember) and based in the browser. However, it also:

  • uses Dropbox for storage, so you have access to your files via Dropbox’s website, or downloaded locally to your computer, whenever you want. It’s not locked into Fargo’s own filesystem
  • uses the open standard OPML for the file format, so if you stop using Fargo for whatever reason, you can still load your files into any outliner that uses the OPML standard (which they all do, if they’re worth their salt)

This is how in-the-browser software ought to work. All the advantages of cloud based applications without giving up the control over our data that traditional desktop apps give.

Dumb Store

Apparently, not everyone has a smartphone! News to me.

Anyway, the Dumb Store is potentially very exciting, I think. Apps for ‘dumb’ phones – ie those that have limited ability to access the internet and the web.

They can be interacted with by sending SMS messages or making voice calls.

The SMS option is most interesting as it turns your message into a command line of sorts. So, for the Google Maps directions app, you text something like:

dir High Street, Peterborough to Letsbe Avenue, Dundee

and you then get a text back with the directions. Neato!

Apps are written in Ruby, apparently. Still, a potential step forward for making web services more accessible to folk without the latest mobile kit!