Categories
Applications Blogs and blogging Writing

Blogging software and good shoes

Dave Winer commenting on his new blogging software:

It was the right thing to do. Often software only feels that way before you use it. The really good stuff feels that way even after you’ve settled in.

I like my software like I like good, new shoes: it feels good when I start using it and just feels more comfortable and natural the more I do.

Categories
Applications Semantic Web

Instapaper sold to Pinterest – at first I was afraid

The news that Instapaper sold to Pinterest shocked me from my early evening domestic routine. At first, it seemed like a mistake. It didn’t even seem like something that could happen but, sure enough, there was a tweet to confirm it:

As I read the blog post, I forced myself to slow down so I wouldn’t miss some vital detail about the fate of my favourite “read it later” app. It was all a bit of a blur, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.

The key paragraph was this one, the rest of the post was mostly filed for later analysis:

For you, the Instapaper end user and customer, nothing changes. The Instapaper team will be moving from betaworks in New York City to Pinterest’s headquarters in San Francisco, and we’ll continue to make Instapaper a great place to save and read articles.

Of course, Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski was in typical form with a series of sarcastic tweets about the sale that included a hefty dose of “I told you so” (as you would expect). He made a few good points that concerned me more than a little and prompted me to think more about my investment in Instapaper:

So far, more “I told you so”. And then he raised an issue I hadn’t thought much about:

This next one worried me …

… until someone replied with this:

Abandon ship?

The way the conversation was going, you’d think the Instapaper service was being shut down.

I’ll admit, I jumped to that horrible conclusion. I’ve seen many services that I loved and used just shut down out of the blue or languish after a bad acquisition.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

Instapaper’s CEO, Brian Donohue challenged Ceglowski’s suggestion that Instapaper was in financial dire straits and inspired enough hope to move beyond the panic and start assessing the news more rationally.

Straight and true

Marketing Land published an article that pointed out how this acquisition could actually make a lot of sense. In his article titled “How buying Instapaper could help Pinterest become a media portal like Facebook”, Tim Peterson highlighted the synergies between the two services:

People use Pinterest and Instapaper for similar reasons. The similarity is almost too close for the deal to make sense. Pinterest started out as a way for people to collect content from around the web for themselves and others to check out later. At first, people were mainly saving images, but they’ve also started saving articles, to the point that Pinterest considers that “a core use case.” But saving articles is the same reason people use Instapaper — its “core use case,” if you will. So why would Pinterest buy a company whose product largely duplicates its own?

It’s a fair question and, as Peterson suggests, this could be more about putting two similar services together and using the Instapaper team’s know-how to improve Pinterest. For now, at least, Instapaper doesn’t seem to be at risk of vanishing. According to Peterson:

Instapaper’s service will remain available post-acquisition, and Pinterest has no plans to put ads in Instapaper, according to a Pinterest spokesperson.

Still, so soon after the news I panicked and downloaded Pocket to my iPad. I have an IFTTT recipe running that adds stories I save to Instapaper to my Pocket queue so I wouldn’t lose much if Instapaper inexplicably vanished.

I also created a series of IFTTT recipes that captured my Instapaper notes and highlights into MultiMarkdown-formatted notes after the Great Pinboard Shock of 2016 so I wouldn’t lose too much of that data either.

The big loss, to me, would be the loss of an app that I use daily and really enjoy using. Pocket could be an acceptable replacement (I used Pocket regularly for a while before I decided to switch back to Instapaper). While I’d lose some functionality if I had to switch, switching would be more a matter of installing the various Pocket extensions and apps.

Will Pinterest be a good steward for Instapaper and give the team the tools it needs to keep making Instapaper better? I hope so. Ultimately, if it all goes badly, there are other options. If Pocket doesn’t capture my affection, I could always switch to Evernote even though the reading experience isn’t even close. I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the time being, I don’t need to (or want to) change anything. I pay for my Instapaper subscription for a year at a time and, assuming the service will continue operating as promised, I can keep doing what I’ve been doing (after a quick backup of my links).

Categories
Business and work Mindsets Policy issues

Technopanic and bad laws

Jeff Jarvis has covered German publishers’ efforts to prevent Google and other search engines (but mostly Google) from linking to their publications and quoting snippets of their content unless a Google pays for the privilege.

These publishers seem to be ignoring the fact that Google sends a substantial amount of traffic to them in the process, at least in public discourse. Jarvis’ post titled “Oh, those Germans” summarises the German offensive and how they have, essentially, backtracked because they didn’t seem to anticipate what the effect of Google not linking to their publications would have on their bottom lines. He also quotes from a longer essay he wrote which nicely captures the broader implications of these sorts of campaigns:

I worry about Germany and technology. I fear that protectionism from institutions that have been threatened by the internet — mainly media giants and government — and the perception of a rising tide of technopanic in the culture will lead to bad law, unnecessary regulation, dangerous precedents, and a hostile environment that will make technologists, investors, and partners wary of investing and working in Germany.

German publishers may be leading the charge but I don’t think this will stop there. It is only a matter of time before similarly myopic content owners will attempt to prevent Google and similar companies from leveraging their content for mutual benefit. This sort of approach is already prevalent in the entertainment industry which has only recently begun to explore better business models.

The risk of “bad law, unnecessary regulation” is especially worrying because legislators tend to operate in extended timeframes, create impractical laws that are technology-specific and, increasingly, too rigid to be practically useful in an environment which is remarkably dynamic.

Hopefully the industry will self-correct, even if it blames its villain for its back peddling.