Asking for Feedback: An Untenable Practice

I’m so tired of purported technology news sites—I won’t name names here—asking for reader feedback at the end of every story. I go to such sites to get reporting and analysis from professionals, not whiny, trollish commenters. I realize that comments can be ignored, and I do ignore them, but it smacks of blatant unprofessionalism when reporters and bloggers ask for readers’ opinions. I realize sites want to encourage community and I’m all for it but how about allowing readers to formulate their own opinions and respond accordingly without begging them for feedback.

Google Reader and the Promise of The Cloud

RSS

I don’t often feel compelled to write a blog post. I’m not that passionate about many things. Apple, yes, but I don’t regularly blog about Apple announcements or Apple products. In fact, I don’t regularly blog at all. But yesterday news broke that affects a large part of my daily routine: news consumption. I’m an RSS junkie, a feed fiend, a veritable devourer of news. Most of fits neatly into categories I’m interested in—Apple, cars, racing, technology. I check my feeds as often as I can. I use multiple devices for this: iPhone 5 (primarily), iPad 2, and two Macs. There’s a lot of ways to consume feeds but these days it really comes down to two general methods: e-mail style clients (e.g. NetNewsWire, a classic) and magazine style clients (Flipboard being the most well known). I’ve dabbled with Flipboard. It’s a great application on iOS and it’s a visually appealing way to consume news. Being an early adopter of RSS, I’m more comfortable with the older e-mail style. I like knowing how many articles are unread. I like  feeling like I’m done after I’ve checked my feeds. Flipboard doesn’t offer this kind of granularity but e-mail style clients do. Continue reading “Google Reader and the Promise of The Cloud”

Searching for a Browser

I’ve used Opera for years. How long? Since about 2000 or so, which puts me around Version 4.0. It’s a long history with web browsing and considering the state of other browsers at the time, I feel as if Opera taught me what a browser should be like.

Opera
Opera Next

I’ve used Opera for years. How long? Since about 2000 or so, which puts me around Version 4.0. It’s a long history with web browsing and considering the state of other browsers at the time, I feel as if Opera taught me what a browser should be like.

There’s a lot of features that have come and gone, some I used and some I didn’t. MDI (multiple document interface) gave way to tabs, Hotlist went away (didn’t it?), and Widgets.

Of course there’s features that Opera borrowed, perhaps the most infamous being the lack of extension support until very recently. Pinned tabs probably started in Chrome.

Then there’s the stuff that Opera invented. Like tabs. And Speed Dial. Good stuff that other browsers have also implemented.

Obviously I like—maybe love—Opera. So why am I thinking about leaving? This, and this, and this. One of the best things about Opera is its independence. It’s not connected to some huge corporation and isn’t trying to advance any one behemoth’s agenda. Sure they have a search deal with Google (who doesn’t?) but they don’t restrict the search engine that I use. And I don’t use Google. Therefore I don’t use Chrome.

What about Firefox? In short, it seems foreign to me. As a user who went straight from those early Internet Exploer versions to Opera, I totally missed out on the Netscape revolution. I’m serious, I never used it. And while Firefox is lightyears away from Netscape, it still feels different. I know it’s customizable, and I can and have added extensions to make Firefox work almost excactly like Opera. But why use a broswer loaded up with extensions when there’s one out there that does what I went out of the box? Another strike against Firefox is the Gecko engine. I prefer Webkit especially from a web developer perspective. Mobile browsers use it. Most desktop browsers use it. It’s quickly becoming the standard. So why use anything else?

And now we come to Safari. One word: simplistic. I know that’s what Apple is going for but there’s just not enough there for me. And, to make simplistic even worse, it’s rigid by default. Yes, there are extensions but after a cursory look at the Safari extensions gallery, they’re generally useless. They add mostly service-based features but don’t change the fuctionality of the browser as a Firefox add-on might do. And so lots of features that I use everyday, like pinned tabs, omnibar searching, and private windows and tabs (as opposed to a privacy toggle) just aren’t avaiable. These features and others are dealbreakers to me especially when considering Safari for everyday use. Will I fire it up for one-offs? Of course. But I can’t use it all the time. It’s just not there yet and might never be.

With Facebook/Opera lookling like a possiblity and Firefox, Chome, and Safari out, I’m now on to the second tier of browsers. Some things I’m specifically looking for:

  • Webkit based (I’d stick with Presto but Opera’s the only browser that uses it)
  • Mac OS X native
  • Pinned tabs
  • Omnibar searching incuding search shortcuts
  • Private windows and tabs (as opposed to privacy toggle)
  • Plugins or extenions, including the must-have: LastPass

Based on this list, I think my alternative doesn’t exist, especially considering the only browsers supported by LastPass are IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera.

Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to hope that Facebook doesn’t buy Opera.

WordPress: Please Move the Formatting Bar

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a regular blog post. Most of what ends up here gets auto posted from Posterous.

So, with that in mind, here’s a regular post. I’m writing this using the latest version of the WordPress app on my iPad 2. Since my blog is self-hosted, it’s nice that WP gives away a free editor when they could easily restrict it to only those blogs hosted by WordPress.com. One of the “big” new features of the new app is the formatting toolbar located just above the keyboard which appears when you’re writing a post. In theory this is a good idea—no more typing in HMTL markup directly. And maybe on an iPhone where I type with two thumbs that makes sense. But on the iPad, I’m a landscape-oriented 10-finger touch typist. And, as I’m sure is apparent, touch typing when there’s nothing to actually touch is more an exercise in trust (that autocorrect will work) than pure skill. That’s where the placement of the formatting bar comes in. I’m sure it’s placed near the keyboard for convenience but it is certainly not convenient to invoke a blockquote when I’m going for an “e” or a hyperlink when I’m typing a “w”.

I hate complaining without offering a solution. Here’s my solution: put the formatting bar at the top of the editing pane. Let’s face it, an iPad screen is not so big that this placement would greatly affect usability or convenience. And it would eliminate the possibility of inadvertently invoking formatting commands. At the very least make this a user-selectable option.