The Future of RSS

On July 2, 2013, Google killed Google Reader.
Google Reader

Thank you for stopping by.

Google Reader has been discontinued. We want to thank all our loyal fans. We understand you may not agree with this decision, but we hope you’ll come to love these alternatives as much as you loved Reader.

Sincerely,

The Google Reader team

While I have used Google Reader on and off for years, I don’t use it now. However, I still know and care about the value of RSS as a publishing syndication platform and feel that Google has hurt that by creating a monopoly of sorts by buying up RSS apps then killing them.

ZDNet wrote a piece on this entitled, Embrace, extend, extinguish: How Google crushed and abandoned the RSS industry in which Ed Bott writes, “The entire RSS industry is being rolled back to about 2006 and asked to start over.”

Hacker News (HN) chimed in when bambax said, “The killing of Reader looks like a desperate move to help Google+: since Google can’t kill Facebook, they’re willing to hurt themselves instead — to cut their left arm so that their right arm can grow stronger. If this is indeed the case, it’s very shortsighted.”

In another HN thread about the economics of “Evil Google“, RockyMcNuts said:

It’s not the RSS reader. It’s the open publishing ecosystem. Most clients point to Reader as the central feed aggregator. Most publishers point to Feedburner as the central publisher. Google seized the commanding heights with Feedburner and Google Reader and captured all the publishers and the clients, and now they’re killing the ecosystem. I don’t see why they couldn’t have integrated Reader into Plus without killing the ecosystem. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are moving into news aggregation, and Google is killing a successful news aggregation system. I don’t understand their strategy, but it’s seems sort of like, we want everyone on G+ and we don’t care how heavy-handed we look or how early adopters feel, and we don’t want an open ecosystem that people can use to pipe content into Twitter and Facebook.

What other platform has such ease of opt-in as RSS? There are email newsletters and Twitter. Both require that the publisher does some sort of action. With RSS it was/is automatic. That is/was the beauty of it. I keep talking about it like it’s dead. It’s not dead. Google Reader is dead. I asked a friend if he still used Google Reader and this is what he said:

I definitely still use it. I probably will wait until the last week of June to commit to a new solution. I’ll probably go with Feedly, but I’m not sure if they let you pick any website, etc. Also, I don’t know how they accommodate custom searches [like Google Alerts]. I’m going to wait until there is an opportunity for a mature alternative. I also have questions about how the web will attempt to syndicate in the absence of Google reader. I know people are saying that the shuttering of reader is a pronouncement of Twitter winning vs. RSS. But, Twitter isn’t an adequate replacement for RSS and leaning on newsletters is a step in the wrong direction. I’m all questions and all ears.

RSS Reader Alternatives

And if that list isn’t good enough for you, NPR suggested Digg. Microsoft Outlook also has a RSS reader and some Internet browsers have RSS readers built-in. Did you know Internet Explorer 9 had an RSS reader? Firefox requires an add-in like Simple RSS Reader, Feedly, or Sage. Same for Chrome. AOL also has a RSS reader aptly named AOL Reader.

RSS: Curation VS. Aggregation

I remember the first time I saw Google Reader. A coworker had invited me over to his house and while there he told me he wanted to show me something cool. When I walked over to his computer he proudly showed me how he had collected all of his favorite information into one place. He was able to sort through article after article with the spin of his mouse wheel. It was glorious. I signed up for my own account and quickly began adding RSS feeds from sites I wanted to follow. I quickly became inundated with more articles than I could read in a day. I started to get discouraged and eventually I quit.

Marco Arment wrote in The Power of the RSS Reader, “The most common complaint I hear about inbox-style RSS readers such as Google Reader, NetNewsWire, and Reeder: that people gave up on them because they were constantly filled with more unread items than they could handle. If you’ve had that problem, you weren’t using inbox-style RSS readers properly…If a site posts many items each day and you barely read any of them, delete that feed. If you find yourself hitting ‘Mark all as read’ more than a couple of times for any feed, delete that feed…The true power of the RSS inbox is keeping you informed of new posts that you probably won’t see linked elsewhere.”

RSS is not a curator of content, it’s an aggregator of content, but sites like Reddit and Hacker News are kind of both. Articles are collected there and self-curated by the community. Compare this to Fark, which is a news aggregator curated by Drew Curtis. What RSS doesn’t do is filter out all of the mediocre or non-relevant articles that inevitably appear over time no matter how targeted the blog. Far better to find a community around a subject you like and have articles aggregate and share there. This is the difference between Twitter proper and Twitter lists. The former is mostly noise and the latter is much more concentrated. Apps like Hootsuite can also help curate with search lists for keywords.

RIP Google Reader. Long live RSS.

Amazon Webstore Review

I signed up to test Amazon’s eCommerce Software, Amazon Webstore, mostly because of these two factors:

  • List Amazon.com items on your own Webstore to augment your product selection
  • Take advantage of additional services such as Selling on Amazon, Fulfillment by Amazon, and Amazon Prime on Your Site to grow your business and improve customer satisfaction while reducing your Webstore fees

I liked the idea of being able to just pull in Amazon products to your store and having Amazon fulfill them for you. It all sounded so easy. It wasn’t.

amazon-webstore

Contrary to other parts of Amazon, I found the site incredibly hard to use and very slow. It takes up to 15 minutes for an item you’ve posted to appear on your site. When I went to figure out how to cancel, I couldn’t figure that out either so I did a Google search and ran across this Amazon Seller forum post, which cracked me up.

redknight781 wrote: It’s built for techies by techies and not for those that are more interested in sourcing and selling. It’s the worst sitebuilder on the internet. mpowell624 wrote: I will go farther and say that it is the very worst experience I have ever had with anything technological. I have basic knowledge of coding and I would rather try to make a website out of twigs and berries.

You used to have to call Amazon to cancel, but now to cancel your Amazon Webstore, simply make your way to your Amazon Webstore Subscription page and click, “Cancel Webstore”. You can do this as long as you don’t have any outstanding orders.

How to Setup Ruby on Rails in Windows 7

Here’s what worked:

I opened my web browser and searched for “how to install ruby on rails on windows 7” and found a new site called Railsintaller, which has the DevKit and SQLite3 included in the installation file! I downloaded the installation kit and went to the installation directions page which had step-by-step instructions on how to install Ruby on Rails in Windows.

HINT: The “$” signs in front of the commands used in their instruction page are not meant to be typed in. They are used to signify the beginning of a line of code, but not meant to be typed into the console.

After downloading and running the executable from Railsintaller you are prompted for your name and email address, then the prompt sits waiting for a hand-typed response. This is where you create a new Ruby on Rails (RoR) application by typing: rails new [application name] (where application name is the name of the application you want to create).

Next, browse to the application folder by using the “CD” (change directory) command like this: cd [application name]. For simplicity, Railsinstaller has created a new directory on the root of your computer called C:Sites. This is where your application folder is stored. From this directory you can now start the RoR application by typing: rails s (or “rails server”).

Windows Firewall may initially block the server attempt, but simply click “Allow” and then browse to http://localhost:3000 on your computer. “Welcome aboard. You’re riding Ruby on Rails!” Further instructions walk you through obtaining a text editor and setting up a GitHub account, but I’ll leave that up to you to read through.

HINT: The console window has to stay open to use the web app. As soon as you close the console window, the browser window no longer responds.

Here’s what didn’t work:

1. Download the Windows RubyInstaller and install.
2. Download RubyGems and extract it.

Did you install the app from step 1 and extract the folder from step 2? If yes to both, continue.

3. Open “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” from the Start Menu under Programs > Ruby.
4. Use DOS “CD” commands to browse to where you extracted the RubyGems folder.

I extracted mine to C:Users[Username]Downloadsrubygems-2.0.0rubygems-2.0.0, which means at the command prompt I had to change directories (CD) by typing: cd C:Users[Username]Downloadsrubygems-2.0.0rubygems-2.0.0 to navigate to that directory (replace [username] with your Windows username and CD to wherever you extracted the folder).

5. Once at the correct directory in the “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” interface, type: ruby setup.rb
6. If successful, it should say, “Ruby Interactive (ri) documentation was installed…”

How to Install Ruby on Rails

With RubyGems loaded, you can now install all of Rails and its dependencies through the “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” interface.

7. At the “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” command line, type: gem install rails
8. Wait. Nothing will happen for a second. This takes a while, depending on your computer speed. Follow the prompts if you get a yN question.

After it’s complete, it will say something like “..gems isntalled” and you will be back at the command prompt. Nothing will happen next until you create an application.

9. At the “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” command line, type: rails new C:Users[Username]Rails[ApplicatonName] (where [username] is your Windows username and [application is your new application’s name – don’t worry, it will create the directory if it doesn’t exist).
10. After that’s complete, at the command line type: cd C:Users[Username]Rails[ApplicatonName] to change directories and then type: rails server.

You should now be able to browse to http://localhost:3000 on your PC and begin using the web interface there, but for me it didn’t work right away. When I initially attempted to run “rails server” I got the error message, “Could not find gem ‘jquery-rails (>= 0) x86-mingw32’ in the gems available on this machine. Run `bundle install` to install missing gems.” However, running “bundle install” would do several things, but the end result would be the same. I’d get the same error. After doing some research I found help on Stack Overflow that mentioned installing the gems one by one. I started by typing “gem install jquery-rails”, which installed successfully, but when I typed “rails server” to start the server, I got a “coffee-rails” error so I typed “gem install coffee-rails” and waited for that to install before typing “rails server” again. Every time it couldn’t find a gem, I just kept typing in the gem name with the install command until they were all installed. For some reason “bundle install” wasn’t working for me, but individual installs would.

When I got to the “sqlite3” error, the message was different. It said, “Error installing sqlite3 The ‘sqlite3’ native gem requires installed build tools. Please update your PATH to include build tools or download the DevKit.” I didn’t see that anywhere in the instructions so again I had to research it and found out the DevKit is a separate install from a different download page (it’s at the bottom – get the “tdm” one, not the “mingw” one)). You’ll want to put these files wherever you originally installed the other Ruby files. For me it was C:Ruby200 and I copied the extracted files into C:Ruby200Devkit. Using the “Start Command Prompt with Ruby” command line, type: “ruby dk.rb init” then “ruby dk.rb review” and finally “ruby dk.rb install”. The DevKit is now installed, which meant I could then install sqlite3 by typing: gem install sqlite3, but this time the error message was different. It said, “sqlite3.h is missing. Install SQLite3 from http://www.sqlite.org/ first.” Wow. This is like a wild goose chase. After searching around I couldn’t find anything particularly useful, but one site mentioned a possible borked installation of rails so I reran the “gem install rails” command, not knowing what effect that would have. It came back with “1 gem installed”. Again I attempted to start the server by typing: rails server, which didn’t work, so I uninstalled it.

Ruby Installer for Windows

I downloaded the Ruby Installer and re-installed Ruby in a different directory with the same result. I found forums that talked about copying the sqlite3 DLL and EXE files into the Windows System and System32 folders, which I did, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I couldn’t seem to get past the sqlite3 header issue so I closed all of the programs I had open and uninstalled Ruby again.