My love-hate relationship with Connect2Edmonton: Twitter & FriendFeed to the rescue?

connect2edmonton Connect2Edmonton (C2E for short) is a community website serving Edmontonians that launched on March 30th, 2006. On March 4th of this year it surpassed 3000 registrations, and announced that it receives 45,000 unique visitors per month. Those are pretty good numbers for a website all about Alberta’s capital city!

You can find all sorts of great stuff on the forums at C2E. Users post about construction projects, sports, new restaurants, you name it. Sometimes they simply post links to articles from the Journal or the Sun, other times users are breaking news at C2E. The wealth of frequently updated information on Edmonton is the main reason I love C2E.

Here’s what I hate about it: C2E looks and feels and smells like it was built in 1996. There are quite a few “Web 1.0” aspects to the site, such as the old school message boards, the lack of permalinks, and the horribly ugly URLs for the pages that do have permalinks. Instead of blogs, they have “columns”. Thank goodness the site has RSS, or I’d probably never use it.

For the moment, C2E seems to have an edge in that it has the community. I wonder how long that will last though? There are so many other up-and-coming services that could easily make C2E nothing more than a fond memory. Here’s a couple of examples that I’m involved with:

Edmonton’s Twitter Community
I still think that Twitter is changing the world, one tweet at a time. It’s transforming the way news breaks, and is making real-time conversations extremely public. Here in Edmonton we have a really strong Twitter community. We’ve had a Tweetupfollow us here – and we’ve loosely organized ourselves with things like the #yeg hashtag. Imagine if C2E users posted to Twitter with the #yeg hashtag instead of to the C2E forums! Others could reply without needing an account, they could get notifications to their mobile devices, through the API to other applications, etc.

The Edmonton Room at FriendFeed
Another thing I’ve created recently is the Edmonton room at FriendFeed. Anyone can join and start sharing messages, links, and of course comments and likes. And thanks to a recently added feature, I can add RSS feeds to the room so that entries automatically appear. So far I’ve added the Edmonton Journal and a couple of filtered blog feeds (such as the Edmonton tag on my blog). Again, this goes beyond C2E – instead of finding the Journal article and posting it to the forums, they automatically appear in the Edmonton room, ready for commenting and sharing. (I suppose I could add the C2E feed, but that’s beside the point.)

What both of these examples highlight, more than the “Web 1.0” look of C2E, is that it’s still a relatively closed system. Twitter and even FriendFeed are both much more open systems. They encourage data to be shared freely, and as a result, they are the platforms on which the news engines of the future are being built. Want an example? Check out NewsJunk.

I’m not saying that we need to abandon Connect2Edmonton. Instead, C2E should embrace Twitter, FriendFeed, and other services to make itself more open. C2E is a great service for the Edmonton community, but I know it could be so much better.

UPDATE (6/27/2008): I just tried to add the C2E RSS feed for Columns to the Edmonton FriendFeed room, only to find that the feed lacks datestamps, lacks authors, includes entries in a random order, and is otherwise useless. EPIC FAIL.

NewsGator Goes Free

Post Image NewsGator announced today that effective immediately, all of its consumer software and services are completely free! That includes NewsGator Online, FeedDemon, Inbox, NetNewsWire, and a bunch of other applications. From Greg Reinacker’s post:

But I can hear you asking already…"why, Greg, why would you do such a thing?"

What we’re working to do is to saturate the market with our clients. Anyone who wants a rich experience for consuming content, or anyone who uses multiple computers or devices and wants a best-of-breed experience on each can now use our clients. Using a Mac at home, along with an iPhone? NetNewsWire and our iPhone reader will sync up. Have a PC at the office? FeedDemon will sync with your other two applications. And they’ll all sync with NewsGator Online. It all just works.

He goes on to explain that their strategy is to sell more copies of NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES) along with other enterprise software and that the sell is easier when everyone already uses the consumer apps. Makes a certain amount of sense.

I’ve paid for a NewsGator subscription in the past, but lately I’ve become quite the Google Reader convert. I still think the synchronization story that NewsGator offers is awesome though, and I may have to give FeedDemon another try now that it’s free. I do miss the ability to take content offline.

If you’re in the market for a new aggregator (or family of aggregators) this is as good a reason as any to give NewsGator a try.

Read: Greg Reinacker

Google Acquires FeedBurner

Post ImageLots of talk today about Google’s $100 million acquisition of RSS management company FeedBurner. Congrats to the FeedBurner guys! I do have to admit though that I am bit sad that FeedBurner is now a Google property. I guess they were too valuable to remain independent forever though. From TechCrunch:

Feedburner is in the closing stages of being acquired by Google for around $100 million. The deal is all cash and mostly upfront, according to our source, although the founders will be locked in for a couple of years.

The information we have is that the deal is now under a binding term sheet and will close in 2-3 weeks, and there is nothing that can really derail it at this point.

Must be pretty sweet to get an all cash deal. TechCrunch confirmed it today, but it looks like Valleywag had the story right last week.

Not everyone is happy about the deal. Todd Cochrane does a good job of spreading FUD in his post. Todd, you need to worry less!

Read: TechCrunch

Yahoo! Pipes

Post ImageI decided I would take one last look at Techmeme before heading off to bed, and as a result I just found out about a new product from Yahoo! called Pipes. It’s definitely not for everyone, but my inner geek is jumping for joy – Pipes is very, very cool:

Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line.

I just created a quick “pipe” to see how it works, and I have to admit, it’s very easy to use. Essentially it will let you take any number of sources (like an RSS feed or something), add user inputs if required, combine them with modules to process the data, and finally connect them all together to produce some output. And it’s all done visually. No programming experience required (well not really).

Nik at TechCrunch nails it:

Pipes can take any feed as input, and combined with the already available list of functions proves to be very powerful – my mind is still buzzing thinking about all that can be done with Pipes.

It was inevitable that such a product would be released, and it is very good for Yahoo! that they managed to be the first of the big web companies to release such a product.

I wonder how successful Pipes will be. Could it be the product that allows everyone to be a “programmer”? Possibly. Nik is right that the terminology needs some work (they use too many “coder” terms I think) but that’s fairly minor. Pipes has incredible potential.

I’m definitely going to have to play with it some more.

Read: Yahoo! Pipes

Podcasting Growth by Subscribers

Post ImageBlogging is a pretty open, flexible medium and each blog varies greatly from the next, but if there’s one thing that holds true (usually) it’s that some of the best insights are found in the comments. I was reminded of this today when reading Frank Barnako’s post about the latest podcasting stats from FeedBurner:

Rick Klau, vice president, business development, said that at the beginning of the year Feedburner had 1 million subscriptions to podcasts it helped deliver. That number has now grown to 5 million subscribers for 71,000 podcasts. For you math fans, that means the average podcast has … ta da!!! … 70 subscribers.

That stat is interesting all by itself, but when Rick Klau himself dropped by and left a comment, it became really interesting. Here’s what Rick had to say:

I hadn’t realized it (I never do the average thing – must be my life-long aversion to math), but now that you point it out: this average number has doubled in just the last six months.

Indeed it’s right in the headline for the previous article that Rick linked to, in April of this year FeedBurner said the average podcast had 35 subscribers.

I think this is an important statistic to keep track of. Usually when trying to measure the growth of podcasting, you might look to the number of podcasts or the number of episodes created in a given period of time. But just as important is the number of people listening to or watching those podcasts and episodes.

That said, the rate of new podcasts appears to be increasing as well. In the April article, FeedBurner was adding an average of 2278 new podcasts each month (based on the numbers provided). That number has since risen to 4000. Not bad at all!

Read: Frank Barnako

NewsGator Inbox and other news

Post ImageMy aggregator of choice has a new name! NewsGator Outlook Edition is now known as NewsGator Inbox, and the first release candidate is now available (and stay tuned to the blog for future updates). I’ve been playing with it for a while, and it’s very solid. I for one really like the name change – the whole “Outlook Edition” is not as easy to say as Inbox. The change does make me wonder if they are planning to release a version for other mail clients, like perhaps Thunderbird or Entourage. This is just speculation on my part though, I don’t have any insider information unfortunately.

Another bit of NewsGator news hit the wires recently too, this one about the synchronization story with Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Vista:

NewsGator Technologies, Inc., the leading RSS Platform Company, today announced plans that its suite of RSS aggregators will synchronize with the upcoming releases of Microsoft Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7. The synchronization will enable users to ensure that Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7 users stay up-to-date with all their subscriptions, whether they are accessing them via the Web, mobile devices, Mac OS-based computers, and other platforms.

Honestly, I don’t know why Microsoft hasn’t outright purchased NewsGator. Seems like a deal that would make a lot of sense. In any case, the announcement is great news for users of NewsGator products like myself.

I’ve also been testing the new FeedDemon beta (another NewsGator product that supports synchronization) and I quite like it. I now use it on my desktop, to complete my own personal synchronization story:

  • NewsGator Inbox on my Tablet PC
  • FeedDemon on my workstation
  • NewsGator Online when I’m using a public computer

Synchronization is powerful, yet its one of those ideas that makes you go “damn, why didn’t I think of that!”

Read: NewsGator

New Feed Icon

Post ImageYou might have read lately that Microsoft and Mozilla have decided to standardize their icons for feeds on the one used in Firefox. The Microsoft RSS Team reported they would adopt the Firefox icon a couple weeks ago:

We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds.

The Outlook 12 team has announced they’ll be using the same icon. Great news!

I think it is great news indeed! A standard icon will go a long way towards making web feeds even more mainstream, especially since I would expect many other companies to now adopt the icon as well. I have added the icon to my website, which you’ll see on the black bar above, next to the web feed icon. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll get rid of the web feed icon or keep it. I guess the new icon is really the “web feed icon” now!

The new icon is a departure from the RSS or XML icons, which is very good. Here’s what I wrote in August:

There’s some really simple reasons that we should be calling them web feeds. When you ask your friend or co-worker about something on the Internet, do you talk about visiting an “HTML page” or a “web page”? Does your web browser (not “HTML page browser”) load up “HTML pages” or “web pages”? Clearly, you talk about web pages, and that’s what your browser loads. There are three very good reasons we use the term web pages…For the very same reasons, we should be using web feeds, not RSS feeds.

Now that the graphic no longer says “rss” or “xml” or any word or acronym at all, I think it will become much easier to adopt the name “web feed”. And yes, we still need a name you can say in words, just like Prince was still called Prince after he adopted an icon to represent himself!


Post ImageI first learned of Seth Godin’s project called Squidoo a couple months ago, but the service was only in private testing. Now Squidoo has entered public beta so it’s ready for you to kick the tires. A lens is what Squidoo is all about – lensmasters create a lens on a topic they know a lot about, and users search through lenses to find whatever it is they are after. From the FAQ:

A lens is one person’s (lensmaster’s) view on a topic he cares about. More specifically, a lens is a single web page filled with information and links that point to other web pages, to continually updated RSS feeds, or to relevant advertising. It’s a place to start, not finish.

There’s a lot more useful answers in the FAQ, so check it out. So far I have noticed the site has been a little slow, no doubt because it’s probably received a lot of traffic all of a sudden. Aside from that (and the rather plain and unhelpful homepage) I am quite enjoying Squidoo! I have created my own lens, titled MasterMaq on Podcasting. Hopefully I can share some useful information on podcasting.

I’ve got to play with it a little more, but here are some initial thoughts:

  • I hope they make it possible to add your own modules in the future! I think there would be lots of interested developers, myself included.
  • It doesn’t look like there’s anyway for a reader to communicate with the lensmaster, at least not without tracking down their blog and then their contact information. There doesn’t appear to be any comments or anything.
  • For the most part I like the interface. As I mentioned, the homepage is kind of useless, but beyond that it’s pretty well thought out.
  • Why are the Google Adwords styled so much differently? I think the colors should look more like the rest of the site.

I read this somewhere in the last couple days (I forget where, sorry) and it’s quite a good description – Squidoo is like for Web 2.0. That pretty much sums it up! Time will tell how useful it is, and how much I gain from being a lensmaster. In the meantime, I encourage you to go check it out! There’s lots of interesting lenses already, and it’s pretty easy to make your own.

Read: Squidoo

Google Reader

Post ImageGoogle has released another long awaited and much talked about product into beta – Google Reader. I am not a big fan of online news readers, mostly because I like to be able to take posts offline to read in class, or other places that I don’t have Internet access. That being said, Google Reader is actually quite nice. From the website:

Reader automatically gets the latest news and updates for your favorite sites. You can sort your reading list by relevance, which will guess what’s most relevant to you based on how you use Google Reader (such as which items you decide to actually read).

The amount of information on the web is rapidly increasing. Use Reader to discover new content you don’t want to miss. When you come across something worth sharing, quickly email or blog it from within Reader. Star or labels items you want to save for yourself.

I don’t think it’s as obvious as it should be to add a subscription, but once you have that figured out, the interface is very friendly. I especially like how Reader cycles up and down through the items in a subscription – very cool.

Read: Google Reader

Where is Christina?!

Post ImageI took a couple of hours to just plant myself in front of the TV tonight, and I happened to catch VH1’s Greatest TV Moments for Christina Aguilera. I have always liked Xtina, ever since the first time I saw “Genie in a Bottle.” I vaguely remember running to get my Mom to come watch the TV when the video came on, telling her that Christina was gonna make it big – she thought it was funny and no doubt chalked it up to simple teenage infatuation (Christina is three years and ten days older than me). But I was right! (Yes, I also liked Britney, but she’s a little crazy now for my tastes…Christina is much more real.)

Anyway, thats why I am wondering, where is Christina!? Her last album came out in October of 2002! I think it’s time for a new album Christina! I also wish her website had an RSS feed. I hate signing up for mailing lists, because the messages almost always get filtered as spam and I get enough email now as it is. I’d much rather subscribe to a news feed in my aggregator.

Just another way the record industry snubs technology I suppose.

Read: Christina Aguilera