MicroContent covers a whole range of structures. Each structure consists of one or more fields. And each structure is used for a specific purpose. I call each structure a MicroContent Type. Examples of MicroContent Types are: a recipe, a bookmark, a review, an event, etc.
I have been using Google Plus now for several days and time to draw some conclusions: I do not like it. But I am still intrigued by it.
At it’s heart Google Plus is a blog aggregator / reader, and a lousy one at that. I much prefer to read my blogs (i.e. RSS-feeds) in NetNewsWire. Google Plus uses the Combined View layout of NetNewsWire. It is a layout that I do not like, it is not efficient enough to my liking. I like to skim headlines and go from headline to headline quick.
But it is also the way people use Google Plus. Some write original posts and thus G+ becomes a blogging service. Others republish their posts from their blogs and it becomes just another venue. Others use it as a bookmarking service, where they post URL’s with (hopefully) a small comment. And yet others use it as a photo publishing service. And again other use it as a microblogging-service.
It is nice that G+ is so diverse, but your blogging service could have done the same. For me it becomes to much. I have to inefficiently wade through posts in order to find a gem. I prefer the short messages of Twitter, where I can quickly scan and decide whether I want to dive in. G+ forces me to see all.
The discussions of G+ are an interesting feature. Normally I do not engage quickly into a discussion, but on G+ I tend to react more often. I am not sure that I want to do that, time is short. When I read a blog in my newsreader, I hardly ever descend to the blog-webpage in order to react. In my Tweet-reader I react much more often with either replies and/or retweets. This makes a lower quality channel. And my blog(s) become a higher quality channel. And it is up to the reader to chose the quality level they want to follow.
I do the same when following people, I decide what part I want to see of them. Some I follow on twitter and other on their blogs. I also can decide on the nature and type of content I want to follow. A granularity that G+ does not give me.
What is left is the whole circle thing of G+. I do not see the value of it. I never really used it the last days. I do not use it to filter my stream. I either follow somebody or I don’t. The same goes for posting: I always post to public and I leave the decision up to the reader to decide whether he wants to see it.
And finally there are some fundamental things about G+ that I do not like. I want to own what I publish. Of everything that I write a copy stays on my machine and my backups. I publish myself on my own blogs. And I republish with some service providers. I want to get my data out of a service. And I want RSS-feeds so that I can decide how I consume the content.
Well, I will follow G+ for a while more, engage from time to time, follow some people in my RSS-reader and see whether things change.
In my photostream on Google+ I found an image by Stephen Downes analysing Google+. Interestingly there was no way to move the the corresponding G+ post. Link breakage. So I had to go to STephen’s stream and track down the post. By the way: what a junk in the stream of people commenting.
I sure agree with him that a lot is lacking.
I have been using Google Plus now for some days and have been trying to deconstruct it a bit. At first instance it strikes me as a blogging and feed-reader combination with support for commenting, feed management and user directory. And all of this is nicely aggregated.
But let’s first look at the MicroContent in this service. I would like to call the blog-MicroContent, a blog-post. This post consists of a piece of text with a permalink. Note that there is no title for a post. One can add a photo/image, a video and/or an URL to a post. An URl is in addition extended with a title, a desription and an image. See this post as an example of this.
And that is about it. There exists a photofeed-page with photo’s of the people you subscribe to, but the photo’s do not appear as separate items with a permalink. There is potentially other MIcroConten, such as the photo’s, the attched links, personal profiles, comments, ratings (+1’s), network, etc.
As a MicroContent application/service it also lacks all kind of features. I could try to apply my client checklist to this service, but I already see that it would rate very low, so why bother?
So what leaves me to comment on are the aggregation features. From left to right on my screen. The stream-circle filter is nice if you have feed overload or want to focus what you read. Sparks: another feed directory? Chat: OK. In the middle with have the stream of posts of my subscriptions.
I like the comments in the stream, the ratings and reposts. But then I talk about the user interface. Strange that we still do not have an Internet standard, which can work which support this kind of aggregation possibilities. And finally on the right I see my subscription list, suggestions (very unuseful), hangout (videochat).
I guess the innovative feature is the user directory and management of circles. I am underwhelmed. What is wrong with the creation of folders? Or is the drag&drop; an invention? Or is it the wording? Circles sounds easier than folders.
In conclusion: I am underwhelmed. I do not see where the progress.
Recent comments on the iPad made me realise something: Apple is very slowly moving away from a generic file system to microcontent silo’s. I am not sure about the how and when, but I recognise the following steps.
I think it all started with the Address Book application. This standard address book already existed during the NeXT-period. This application allows a user to manage contact information about persons. For each person (or business) the application creates a card. These cards are stored in a data silo (AddressBook.data). This data silo is a closed one, i.e. I am not able to look into it, but through the AddressBook application. As other applications also like to use address information, Apple created an API in order to get access (and change) this data. So what one sees here is a closed data structure, which is only accessible through Apple created and authorised API’s. Note that in NeXTstep this silo was more open, i.e. one could see the individual cards as separate files.
With the introduction of MacOSX a more structured approach towards file organisation was chosen. We saw the introduction of standard folders for Pictures, Movies, Music and Documents. This approach is also inherited from NeXTstep, but has been extended to more file types. Naturally the corresponding application such as iTunes and iPhoto stored their data in these folders.
However there is no guarantee that users did indeed store their corresponding data in these folders. When starting iTunes for the first time, it asked the user if it should consolidate all the music files of the users. This implied that all the files iTunes could find would be copied into the iTunes music folders. And there is still a preference for making a copy of music files when importing. And iPhoto has taken a similar approach to images. In addition iTunes and iPhoto force a detailed folder structure.
In the beginning we only had open silo’s. Users could still access the individual files through the Finder. A drawback of this is that users can corrupt the database. So for iPhoto Apple closed this hole (I am not sure at what version of the app this happened). They hid the photo file structure in a package, which is not easily accessible. In the file browser a user will see just a single file for the entire library.
With the closing of the images folder structure a real data silo has been created. As images are no longer easy to access through the browser, another access method is required. For their applications, such as Pages, Apple introduced the Media Browser. Through this Media Browser window users can access the data silos of iPhoto and iTunes and the Movies folder.
Unfortunately this is only a limited access to the images and music. It could be extended to the whole pictures and music folders. Also the usage of this media browser approach seems to be limited to applications created by Apple. As a solution to this Karelia introduced the iMedia Browser. With this iMedia browser one can access the entire pictures and music folder.
The number of microcontent types which have a corresponding data silo is slowly growing. The iMedia Browser added the microcontent type links. This window pane maps the bookmark folders of various web browsers. Also iTunes added a whole series of subcategories for ‘music’ (audiobooks, movies, iTunes U, applications), which diluted the idea of the music folder. However with time the iTunes app enlarged the coverage of this data silo to other MicroContent types. I am not sure whether this is a good thing though.
In addition to these Apple data silo’s, we have also application specific silo’s. Thus an application such as MacGourmet has it’s own database for recipes, which is not sharable with other recipe applications.
With the advent of the iPhoneOs we see another closing step. No longer a file browser is available to the users. There are only application specific data silo’s. No longer the user can mess with the files. If an application would like to use another data silo, it has to go through Apple defined API’s. This access method might entail a privacy risk, which need to be closed. This security risk also exists under MacOSX, but seems less relevant because less application are installed.
It seems that Apple has created some other data silo’s, but it is unclear which without access to the developer tools. Hardcore users are able to access the folders and files on the iPhone. The usage and access to this folders is deemed illegal by Apple.
The iPad seems to extend the idea of data silo’s to any document type. The idea seems to be that each application has it’s own silo. Naturally the iPad knows the standard MicroContent types as pictures and music. But we also see YouTube Video’s and iBooks. This is a fairly logical extension. However they also use the idea for more generic document types, such as presentations. The application suite iWork for the iPad also supports a media browser, so there is a method to mix MicroContent types.
For users I guess this is all a good development. Things will become much easier. I hope however that an extra method, such as tags, of organising files will introduced. I have doubts whether the current approach is sufficient when there are lots of files (or should I say MicroContent Items?).
Today a new Twitter client arrived on the Mac: Tweetie. So time to check out the state of Twitter clients.
Since a long time I am a user of Twitterific. It is a simple client that seemed a nice fit to Twitter. You get a small icon in the menu bar, which changes colour once a new tweet arrives. Clicking on that icon unhides a special window, with a sequential list of the latest tweets. Each tweet shows an icon, the name of the author and the tweet itself. Authors and url’s have a different colour and link to the Twitter-site. Each tweet can be acted upon, such as a reply tweet, etc. Twitterific also interacts with Growl, so that each new tweet is presented on the screen for a short time.
Twitterific is really a downsized MicroContent Client. The new Twitter clients however show that a real full-sized client for Twitter has its rightful place on the Mac.
The first Client is Tweetie. The first thing that stands out is the sidebar with four options. With this the user can select his timeline, reply, direct messages and search. Very nice if you want to zoom in. I think I will like the search option. C licking on a tag will create a new tab with a corresponding search. Thus the tabs will show your history. The same happens if you click on a @username. This client also supports multiple Twitter accounts. It is also very easy to post images.
And then there is Nambu, which brings Twitter in the real MicroContent Client age. This Client has a real sidebar (list view pane) with categories (Twitter, Links, Nambu, Search). The Links category shows all tweets with url’s that I have recieved and sent. The Nambu category seems to be related to a Nambu url shortener and picture uploader.
The search category has a standard list with the most used words in tweets (current/today/this week). I do not know how long ‘current’ is. But Susan Boyle is on top in all three trend periods. The most important category is naturally the Twitter category with standard subcategories: home, mentions, direct, sent, favorites, people and groups.
Tweets are shown in standard inverse time order with the user icon, twittername/full name, tweet time and the tweet itself. One can easily reply, retweet or private tweet. (and can I recognize other Nambu user tweets?). Nambu indicates which tweets are unread. As all tweets seemed too be stored locally, it is possible to delete all tweets, read tweets, set all as read, etc. It also easy to follow/unfollow. Very nice is the possibility to translate tweets easily. It did work well for japanes and korean tweets.
A tweet is parsed such that hashtags, links and users are found. Clicking on a hashtag creates a search list for that hashtag (sweet). Clicking on a username opens a new window with the tweets for that user. It is then easy to follow or block that user. Interestingly shortened urls are expanded, so that you can see where they point to.
The people category can show information of your social network (followers and following) on an image grid. Hovering over an icon shows the information on that person. Groups allows you to define a group of people from the ones you are following, so that you are no longer overwhelmed. This again shows feed. (I guess people should be moved to a separate category).
Nambu is a very interesting Twitter client. I will continue using it.
Nambu should work on its menu bar. That is now totally beyond logic. There is also a secondary tool bar. This tool bar is different for each list. I get however the impression that it could be part of the main toolbar.
Another application, BusySync, that does syncing calendars came in the news today, thanks to the Eddy they just won. So an opportunity to try it out. This application does a bit more than the Calaboration application that I just looked at. BusyMac allows for syncing of iCal calendars on your local network and between different users on a single machine.
This application installs itself as a preference-pane, which seems second best location. The best would be an installation within iCal itself, but I guess iCal does not support these kind of extensions.
In the preference-pane the user can specify which of the calendars must be published (read and/or write access) and one can subscribe to published calendars on the network. It also allows for publishing and subscribing to Google calendars. Makes you wonder about interference with Calaboration.
And the preference pane allows you to reset the things, start afresh and resolve conflicts. Which shows that syncing remains a difficult business.
I just downloaded, installed and ran Calaboration. This small application creates a Caldev-link between the iCal application and Google Calendar. I am not a Google calendar user, but as far as I can see, calendars that have been defined in Google Calendar will be created in iCal as well.
Then one can create an event in either iCal or Google Calendar and the two calendars will be synchronised.
I do not know how well it works, but it made me thinking about replication, duplication and synchronisation of MicroContent. Should dive into this a bit.
I created a profile on blip.fm. It took me a long time to figure out how it worked. I hoped it would detect which songs I listened to in iTunes. I did set up audioscrobbler after all. So it is much easier to just look at my last.fm page.
So what does blip.fm add. Basically it just allows to add a microblog comment to each song that is played. I already record some of these things on various microblogs, so this does not add much.
So what is left, is the social component, the DJ. I wonder whether this adds something over last.fm. So I can’t be enthusiastic at the moment about this service.
NetNewsWire drops support for microformat. I am afraid that is a right decision. NJobody seems to use microformats within feeds/blog posts. So deleting this code will speed up NNW, which is of greater importance.
[Inspiration Chris Casciano]
With the introduction of the lasted release of Firefox 3, a new approach to managing bookmarks has been introduced. In order to test this feature I imported my 3000 some bookmarks from WebNoteHappy. This did not make Firefox very happy, I had a crash, but in the end I could access these bookmarks. Unfortunately all this bookmarks were added to my Bookmarks Menu. This really brought Firefox to a temporary halt when I accessed the bookmarks menu item. I missed the cross-application exchange of folders and tags from WebNoteHappy (a lack of standards?).
The Items-pane shows the bookmarks of a selected list in table format. The user can determine which fields must be shown. In addition to the bookmark fields, the user can also show the visit date, the visit count, the added date or the last visited date.
The most interesting part is the Lists-pane, as this is not totally compatible with other MicroContent Clients. The History-list is a folder with the recent browsing behaviour, so not really a bookmark thing. The Tags-List is really a group that contains preprogrammed smart folders for each tag. Each tag-folder contains the bookmarks that have been tagged as such. The All Bookmarks group is really the entire library of bookmarks. This group contains three other lists/groups: the Bookmarks Toolbar group, the Bookmarks Menu group and the Unsorted Bookmarks group. These three groups are fixed and one can not add other groups on this level.
When adding a bookmark one can chose on of these groups or any folder in these groups. One can also drag&drop bookmarks from one group to another. The Bookmarks Menu group has two predefined Smart Lists: Recently Bookmarked and Recent Tags. I assume that ‘recent’ means the last 10. These Lists can be d&d’d to other groups.
The Bookmarks Toolbar group has smart lists for Most Visited and Latest Headlines. It is again unclear what Most Visited means. Latest Headlines refer to Items in a RSS-feed. This seems to be part of the Live Bookmarks feature of Firefox.
All in all a pretty reasonable implementation of a MicroContent Client, but it is not match for WebNoteHappy. The tag-feature is nice, but the approach will break down with hundred of tags. I miss XBEL-support. And I can not create my own smart lists. And it is just to slow for many bookmarks.
On the other hand the integration with the browsers allows to create smart folders such as ‘most visited’. I do not like the split between Toolbar, Menu and the rest. In this way there is no entire library. I understand why it was done in this way, it seems simpler. The integration of the URI-bar with the bookmarks library is very nice. This allows to make very clever URL-suggestions and can indicate whether the URL has been bookmarked yet.
The user can create multiple ‘newspaper pages’, add feeds and assign a feed to a pane. The location of the panes and the format for each pane is set and can not be changed.
At this stage of the application I have mixed feelings. I appreciate the possibility to see multiple headline in one glance, so I can quickly scan news. Depending on how interesting a feed is I can increase of decrease the amount I see. So it should be much quicker scanning and reading. If there is something interesting I can drag it to a shelf for later reading.
I however miss some control. How can I see whether I read an article or not? Why can I not edit my RSS-URLS? My RSS-feed did not show anything, I was not able to figure out what went wrong. The import feeds from NetNewsWire is nice, but with hundreds of feeds imported shows that tthe current feed management solution is not the right one.
However the application shows an interesting new visual apporach to MicroContent. And one that I do not yet have fully my head around.
TechCrunch republishes some interesting numbers on YouTube. YouTube us the dominant player in the online video publishing and viewing world. It really shows that brands are ever important in the online world. And that means not only aggregators and search services, such as Google, but also hosters (video in this case) such as YouTube. If you want to be found, you just have to go through YouTube. Unfortunately this also means that the distributed world, the mesh, is still not here.
I created an account for the MyStrands service. They have an associated application that goes with it.
The service works around music. The application allows you start and stop music from the iTunes library. If the track is recognised the app shows recommended tracks. When the application starts it upload the iTunes library. I guess this is for the recommendations, however these only come after one has played something.
On the site a list of recently played tracks are shown. Also a list of recommended artists and tracks are shown. strangely it asks me whether I know artists that are already in my iTunes library. It should have known that. You can indicate whether you know tracks and artists.
As an aggregating service you can also view top tracks, artists, etc. And there are the standard community features. And finally there are Parties, which I have not chequed out.
Drawbacks are that I can not listen to recommended music, just teasers. And why RealMedia?
I am afraid that I stick with Last.fm, I do not see any advantages and see more drawbacks.
Quotably creates threads from Twitter-posts. The idea is that by detecting and displaying the relation between tweets, one can follow conversations. And this is a very good idea as that is not yet possible at the moment.
This idea of uncovering threads has also been tried with blog-posts. With breaking comment-systems another solutions are required. One solution could be that instead of putting a comment in the comments part of a blog, one puts the comments in one’s own blog with a reference to the blog-item one comments to. So just add the link. There was a party that did this (don’t remember who). Problem is that there should be an unambiguous way to encode these referral permalinks.
Quotable tries to do something similar. There solution is a bit more easier, as they only have to worry about Twitter. I am not sure how one create good threads. By adding ‘@username’ one refers to another Twitter-user, which is a good begin. However it seems that one can not refer to a specific post of that user. It seems that one can only refer to the latest post. When I add the tinyURL of the post, it does not help.
So for the moment Quotably is a limited solution.
The TimeLine application by Bee Docs is an interesting application. It reminded me of the role of time in MicroContent, but hat should be a future post.
In TimeLine one can either import MicroContent Items or create one’s own. A TimeLine Item consists of a title, a date (or a date range), notes (optional), an image (optional) and a link (optional).
On creating a new TimeLine it is possible to import Items from the AddressBook (birthdays), iCal (a selected calendar), iPhoto (creation dates), iTunes (recently playes songs/albums), RSS/Atom feeds, System Profiler (recent Apple updates), Skitch and NetNewsWire (publish dates). And when Images are available they are shown on the timeline.
The timeline is one of the presentation modes for MicroContent. The other are the table, the grid and location.
All in all very interestying. Unfortunately I did not have a need yet for such visualisation. The application si a bit rough at times. I had a few stalls that required me to force quit the app. I would like to see the possibility to import events at a later stage and on the secondary timeline. And I guess there other Items that could be imported as well, a Framework to do this would be in place, although the generic RSS/Atom helps a lot. And I woulk like to see a zoom possibility, so that I can see the entire timeline in a single screen.