Life After Google Reader

March 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Posted in Research, Social Networks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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News gathering onlineI’ve used Google Reader to marshal news feeds from blogs and other web sites for a long time now.  I described my strategy in a blog post  almost 2 years ago.  Now, it seems, Google is going to kill Reader, leaving me (and a very large number of other users) to find an alternative tool.

I get that if a service is free then you have no comeback.  I also know there are other tools that could be used instead.  My beef is that a service I’d set up and which has been serving me well for a long time is now going away, without warning and without any apparent logic behind the decision.

This post on O’Reilly Radar makes a good point – certainly one I needed to think long and hard about.  Om Malik’s brief post on the demise of Google Reader raises a good point:  If we can’t trust Google to keep successful applications around, why should we bother trying them out?

So, with Reader due to cease in July, it was time to look for a replacement.  The first breakthrough was finding this post on the blog page for Feedly.  The blog explained that migrating from Reader doesn’t have to be a pain, because:

  • If you log into Feedly with your Google account, then Feedly automatically synchronises with your Google Reader feeds.
  • So, when Reader shuts down in July, Feedly just takes over – no further action required!

There’s also free apps for IOS (separate versions for iPhone and iPad) and Android, allowing me to move away from the trusty but slightly clunky Feeds app that I’ve been using to read items offline.

So far, so good.  Now, I like to be able to share items that particularly interest me with my contacts on Twitter, LinkedIn and (very occasionally) Facebook and I’ve been doing that using my favourite integration platform IFTTT.  This relies on the fact that IFTTT has connections (they call them channels) for both Google Reader (my source) and each of my targets (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook).  The Google Reader channel lets me trigger an action any time I star an item in Reader and then lets me use elements in the post to my targets (blog name, title, URL).  Sadly there’s currently no channel on IFTTT for Feedly, though I made sure I submitted a request for one.

So the next step was to find an intermediate platform.  The Feedly equivalent to Google Reader’s star action is called “save for later”.  Investigating the settings in Feedly I found that you can configure the s”save for later” function to post items to Pocket,  which does have an IFTTT channel.  So, now I can rewrite my IFTTT publishing rules to use Pocket and anything I bookmark (save for later) in Feedly will appear on Twitter, LinkedIn and (if I choose) Facebook.  Result!

As a bonus, I found that for anywhere I can email a link (say in a tweet), I can send that email to Pocket and the page the URL points to will be added to my queue in Pocket as well.

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Have I Got News for You

February 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Research, Social Networks | 5 Comments
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(with apologies to the wickedly funny BBC panel game of the same name)

Meet Greg Spence.  Greg and I first met more than 25 years ago, when we worked together for a small, specialist engineering consultancy.  We worked on some early distributed database projects, using Oracle’s SQL*Link and SQL*Connect components and Greg went on to become the first Chairman of the Oracle UK Users Group.

We lost touch when Greg left the consultancy and it was only recently that I received a message through LinkedIn from him.  By this time, he had moved from technology into sales and marketing.  Currently, he helps small business owner to improve their sales and marketing results through the innovative and effective use of internet marketing.   If, like me, you’re intrigued by the use of social networking and blogs for marketing, I strongly recommend subscribing to Greg’s blog.

If you’ve been following my posts over the last few months, you’ll remember how my very first post described how I use RSS feeds into Microsoft Outlook to keep track of what’s happening and to populate Microsoft OneNote, ready for drafting new blog posts.  So, newly connected to Greg, I was interested to see a comment he posted, explaining how to use Google Alerts to search for news stories around your main key word phrases and how to forward that to Google Reader.  A little research showed that Google Reader is in fact a very easy way of aggregating these searches with RSS and Atom feeds from blogs and other static web pages.  All I needed to do was to create an account on Google.  Incidentally, this gives another opportunity to create a profile, linked to your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on.  You can check out my Google profile here.

So far, so good – but you know me.  I have to find a way to integrate my iPhone into everything.  So, a little more research led me to the Unofficial Apple Website and an excellent review by Jason Clarke, comparing Byline and Feeds, both of which sync with Google Reader.  I settled quickly on Feeds:

With this new set-up, it’s simple to sync Feeds with my Google Reader account before leaving home, or whenever I find myself within free wi-fi coverage.  That leaves me with an offline copy of the latest news on my topics, for me to read on the iPhone while travelling.  The options menu allows me to very simply tweet anything that catches my eye or to email a page to a friend.

So, back to Greg.  This very useful tweak to my notification set-up encouraged me to investigate Greg’s blog and web site.  There, I found a very useful (and free!) 28 page report on Automated Marketing, which describes how to use content to drive your internet marketing efforts.  You can get an idea of how it all works from this pictorial overview:

I’d managed to work out a lot of this by trial and error over the last few months, but I found a number of things that are worthy of immediate attention, including:

  • Publishing slightly longer, factual articles at (for example) Ezine Articles;
  • Using Hootsuite and ping.fmto publish a snippet of comments on other blogs, together with a (shortened) url to those blogs.

I hope to persuade Greg to write a guest post for me in the near future, but for now, I thoroughly recommend that you download his report.

OneNote in the Cloud

September 28, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Research | 13 Comments
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In my very first blog, I described how I was building an information management architecture around Microsoft’s OneNote 2007.  As I’ve settled into my new life as an independent consultant, I’ve stumbled across the first difficulty in the strategy I set for myself.  I now have a laptop to take on the road with me and it would be useful to keep the OneNote notebook on there synchronised with the “master” copy on the desktop PC in my home office.  It’s not as bad as it might seem – while there are two copies of the resources on two separate machines, there’s only one user (me) using only one of the machines at any one time.  Of course, I can just copy the relevant folders to the laptop before I set off and then copy them back when I return.  Seems simple enough – I may even remember to do it most of the time.

Marcus_Closeup_bigger

The interesting thing about Microsoft OneNote is that it seems to evoke something approaching fervour in its users.  I found  a website dedicated to harnessing  the existing enthusiasm for this product and raising awareness for its many uses.   Incidentally, you can keep tabs on what’s new on this site by following its fictional hero Marcus on Twitter.  It was through a tweet from Marcus that I came across a blog entry from futurist Dan Rasmus, describing how he manages his work life across multiple computers.  Dan’s blog introduced me to the idea of using cloud storage to accomplish my sync problems which are essentially the same as his. 

So, this led me to investigate and then to sign up for the beta version of Live Mesh, Microsoft’s cloud service, built on the Azure services platform.   For the techies, there’s a decent description of how it all fits together in Wikipedia , but in simple terms, you get 5GB of storage in the cloud, which can be shared between multiple users and synchronised across multiple machines.  As Dan rightly points out, this isn’t real multi-user collaboration.  For that, you’d be better served using the multi-user synchronisation250px-Meshdesktopcapabilities built into OneNote.  However, it does fit my nomadic style of working very well.  I trialled it by using OneNote on my laptop to compose an earlier entry on this blog during a train trip into London.  On arrival, I used the free wi-fi service at a coffee shop to sync my work back to my office PC and it was ready for final edit and publishing to WordPress when I got home that evening.

demo-howto-share-addmembersNo doubt the time will come when I need to give access to OneNote folders to other people.  This is no problem to Live Mesh.  You can invite another user to share the folder – just open the folder on the Live Desktop and use the “Members” option from the mesh bar to email the person you’re inviting.   You get to choose whether they get rights as owner, contributor or just reader.  Simple.  The invitee can then synchronise the shared folder across all the devices in their Live Mesh, and they can invite other people in the same manner.

Of course, this is the point where you’d have to use  OneNote’s multi-user synchronisation capabilities, something I haven’t had the need (or the time) to try out yet.

OneNote in your Pocket

MobileNoter_iconlarge

When I’m out and about, I don’t always need to take my laptop with me.  Oftentimes, my iPhone has most of what I’ll need – diary, contacts, email, even free phone calls over Skype.  By the way, have you noticed how often now people will respond to a question by saying “There’s an app for that!” and looking hugely pleased with themselves?  I mentioned in a previous blog that Mobilenoter has developed an iPhone client for OneNote.  Their app has been in closed beta since late August, but a few days ago, the beta was thrown open to all comers.   I was quick to take advantage of the offer, downloading the iPhone app and also the Windows sync client.  I won’t repeat my earlier description of what this app can do, but I will say that it does it all perfectly.  There was a glitch with the Windows sync client, when I first downloaded.  I logged a support issue and got a reply the next day to say that a new version of the client, fixing the bug, was ready for download.  How’s that for service? (I’d love to show you how the OneNote pages are displayed on the iPhone, with the formatting, graphics and links all intact.  If anyone knows how to take a screen shot on the iPhone, I’d love to hear from you!)

Next Step – Mind Maps in the Cloud

I’m working at the moment with some people in Dubai, developing the early stages of some service offerings.  Our chosen format for this work is mind maps.  Now, mind mapping is a technique I learned many years ago (on paper, using coloured pens – yes, really!).  More recently, I’ve had great service from the very capable Freemind.  Inevitably, I want to be able to work with mind maps while travelling, so I’ve just downloaded Mindmeister for my iPhone.  This is part of the web-based Mindmeister service and in theory allows any of us to create a mind map in Freemind (for example) and then share it through the web service with the other collaborators.   I’ll let you know how we get on in practice.

OneNote to go …

September 1, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Research | 3 Comments
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mobilenoter_logoIn my very first blog post, I described how Microsoft OneNote 2007  forms the heart of my information management architecture.   In that post, I mentioned that an iPhone app is in development.  Well, this app is now in beta and you can register for more information at the MobileNoter web site.  It looks like the first version of the app will be released at the end of September (not long to wait then).  Using this app, you will be able to:

  • Take notes on the fly. The first version of the application supports simple text-only notes, called Quick Notes. Support for pictures, audio recordings, outlining support and inking will be in further versions later this year.
  • Easily synchronize with Microsoft OneNote. It is possible to synchronize Quick Notes back and forth with Microsoft OneNote. Quick Notes from your iPhone will appear in a special chapter of the OneNote Notebook that is automatically created.
  • Access your Microsoft OneNote notebooks on your iPhone. Select which OneNote notebooks to take with you on your iPhone and synchronize. The selected notebooks will be read-only (for now), but with layout and formatting support.
  •  The whole solution consists of 3 parts:

    • A web-based sync service, hosted by MobileNoter on their web site
    • A small footprint desktop sync application, which syncs changes with the web-based service in near-real time
    • The iPhone app, which manually syncs changes with the web-based service.

    MobileNoter plan to add a direct wifi-based sync option in a later release.  They’re also looking at syncing with cloud-based storage as this becomes more popular (I’m currently experimenting with syncing between my desktop and laptop copies of OneNote through Live Mesh , but more of that in a later post).  This latter option is in the very early stages of discussion.

    MobileNoter maintain a blog to keep you up-to-date with progress on the beta programme, but you can also find a good account from one of the beta testers (no, sadly I didn’t get invited) here, including some screen shots from the iPhone app.

    More on this, as and when I get my hands on the app!

    Dirk Gently

    July 17, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Research, Social Networks | 8 Comments
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    Around 25 years ago – early in my consulting career, my then Managing Director informed me that I was the company’s answer to Dirk Gently.  When I asked him what he meant, he just said “Read the book”  (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams).  It seems that the eponymous hero believes in “the fundamental connectedness of all things”.  That struck me as a pretty good description of my methods and has been my touchstone ever since.  Please note though that Dirk Gently specialises in lost cats and messy divorces.  I have opted not to mirror his career that closely!

    So, fast forward to the present, where I find myself about to leave a global software company after nearly 10 years and to launch myself into the unknown as an independent consultant.  In the corporate world, I was used to presenting the company’s message, assembled from a dizzying array of Sharepoint portals and wikis.  Now, I have to find another means of collecting new scraps of information, manipulating them to form an opinion and then disseminating them to anyone who may be interested.

    Collecting is quite simple; configure Outlook to collect RSS feeds for a selection of blogs (Bruce Schneier, Peter Cochrane, David Lacey …) to supplement the news from Silicon.com.  I also like to keep up with one or two podcasts, most notably the British Computer Society’s “Whitelist”.  This has proven to be the perfect mission for an internet radio I bought from Aldi a while back.  I just use the Reciva portal to configure the podcasts I’m interested in and then I can listen while doing “other things” (Mrs V1951 doesn’t quite get the whole “work from home” thing).

    The only component of my information management strategy I had to spend money on was Microsoft OneNote 2007 – and it was worth every penny.  I love being able to send web pages, emails, whatever to OneNote for sorting and classifying later.  Incidentally, I just heard that there’s to be an iPhone app for OneNote.  There’ll be a product web site for this in August – watch this space for more details.

    Finally, I have to disseminate my conclusions, through a blog – and WordPress fits the bill nicely – and later through a website and maybe white papers.  Of course, I need to let people know that I’ve posted something and that’s where the social networks come in.  I’m a long-time fan of LinkedIn and I’m just starting to experiment with Twitter.  Sending a tweet to point to a new blog entry seems a good starting point.  Of course, if I use the Twhirl client, I can have ping.fm update multiple locations at once, for example updating LinkedIn status (I don’t use Facebook).

    So, that’s how I’m doing things for now, but  I really have to get on with designing and building a web site.  Time to get on with some keyword analysis.  I like to think that Dirk Gently would approve.

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