Categories
Applications

You don’t need Facebook News to keep up with news

Facebook News (or, rather, a Facebook News tab), is rolling out in the USA, and there are valid concerns about this already, for various reasons.

Whether you’re in the USA, or not, you don’t need (and may not want to rely on) Facebook News to keep up with the news. Instead, there is a tried, tested, and widely available alternative that you can configure to suit your preferences right now: feed readers.

Advantages to using a feed reader

Feed readers have been around for decades, and use RSS or XML feeds that most news sites (and virtually all blogs) publish to syndicate their content. They aren’t exactly the Hot New ThingTM these days, but they’re still going strong. They also have a few advantages over options like Facebook News:

  • You have a wealth of choice when it comes to selecting your feed reader;
  • You can choose which sources to follow, and you’ll receive all the updates from all of your sources, pretty much as they publish them without relying on an algorithm to share the updates in your feed;
  • If you don’t like using your current feed reader, you can usually export your feeds, and move to a new feed reader.

Feed reader vs feed aggregator

When it comes to choosing a feed reader, you’ll want to make two decisions: which feed aggregator you want to use, and which feed reader you wan to use to read your feeds. Some feed readers are standalone feed aggregators, and you can use them to subscribe to your feeds on your local device.

Most feed reader apps (like the ones I mention below) will do this.

The real magic is when you have a feed aggregator that syncs between your feed reader apps. They’ll all enable you to subscribe to your preferred feeds. All you’ll want to decide is which one to use. There are a couple services to consider:

  • Feedly – I consider Feedly to be the spiritual successor to Google Reader. It’s a web-based service that has both Feedly apps for iOS and Android, and you can also use a variety of 3rd party feed readers to subscribe to your Feedly feeds;
  • Feedbin – Feedbin is similar to Feedly in that it’s a feed aggregator, and integrates with a variety of 3rd party apps on multiple platforms; and
  • Inoreader – This is another popular service that has mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

Feed reader and service recommendations

Here are a few great feed reader options to consider:

  • NetNewsWire – This mainstay from a decade or so ago is back, and is being actively developed as an open source feed reader for macOS. It’s contributors are adding more and more integrations and functionality at a rapid pace;
  • Reeder – Reeder is a paid macOS app that I’ve been using for years. It’s packed with functionality, including a decent Pocket reader;
  • FeedReader – If you’re a Linux user, this nicely designed app is a good option to consider. It seems to have borrowed it’s design from a macOS app I like, Reeder, and integrates with services like Feedly to give you a desktop option for your Feedly feeds;
  • WordPress.com Reader – If you’re a WordPress.com user, you can also use the included Reader as a feed reader;
  • Nuzzel – If you prefer to receive your news updates on Twitter (Twitter is pretty well suited for this), then Nuzzel offers a great way to collate news updates, especially when you use it in conjunction with curated Twitter lists that you populate with your preferred news sources; and
  • Thunderbird – You may remember Thunderbird as Mozilla’s email app. It’s still being developed, and includes a feed reader too. Thunderbird is free, cross-platform, and open source, so it’s a great option too.

When it comes to keeping up to date with news, and the sites you’re interested in, feed readers remain a terrific way to do it. There are many options available when it comes to both aggregators, and feed readers. Make your own choices, and subscribe to the content that matters most to you.

Featured image by Roman Kraft
Categories
Events and Life Social Web

Reading Twitter updates, the world looks like a pretty dark place …

I don’t use Twitter all that much lately, and I use Facebook even less. My reasons for using each platform less are different, though.

I just scanned through my Twitter feed, and I closed the app feeling the world is a pretty dark place at the moment.

I’m not sure if that’s more about the people who I follow, or just the things that people tend to tweet lately.

Categories
Media Social Web

The case against Facebook

But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.

I’m not sure I’d give Google as much of a moral edge over Facebook. Both are focused on optimising engagement. That’s pretty much a necessity given their business models. At the same time, Facebook does seem to turn engagement into an art form.

Courtesy of Vox in “The case against Facebook“.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Social Web

Jews, still trending after 2,000 years

Twitter_trends_-_Jews_and_IsraelisNow and then I look at the trending topics that Twitter presents me with. They usually have some variety based on current affairs in our region but two trending topics seem to be constant fixtures: #Jews and #Israelis.

Sure, Israel and Israelis are in the news a lot and have been for a few decades. We are a convenient target for a variety of organisations that are allied with Palestinians or just looking for ways to target Jews without actually referring to Jews.

The trending topic amazes me, though. Clearly some cultural fixations don’t wane. Despite numbering in the tens of millions (I believe there are less than 20 million Jews in the world), we remain a popular topic of discussion after more than 2,000 years.

That being the case, is it still appropriate to have as a trending topic on Twitter? If we are a constant subject of discussion and debate, surely we should be elevated to something along the lines of “Constant Source of Consternation” or “Given Topic of Conversation”?

If we have been trending for so long, surely we have transcended merely “trending”?

In the meantime, here is the latest news about “Jews” on Twitter. I’ve filtered out what Twitter regards as not being “Top tweets” in the hope of achieving some measure of quality control:

Categories
Media

“… the whole stream is just noise”, the state of news media

The state of news media
Reading newspapers

A depressing thought from Om Malik about the state of much of the news media these days. Fortunately there are still sources of insightful analysis that is worth reading. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.

One of the current downsides of news blogging is that we have atomized it to a point where the whole stream is just noise. In the tech industry, funding news and HR moves have been fetishized to a point where there’s no point checking anything. Companies are getting smart and spewing so much PR content that everything and anything seems all the same — important and unimportant, both at the same time.

There is a metaphorical silver lining, though:

I know one thing: there is so little context to what we read that when we find something intelligent, we actually read it, even when there are annoying banners or native ads or teeth-whitening messages.

But be sure the read Malik’s whole post. As with all of his work, it is well worth the read.

Source: A rainy day & I’m thinking about the current state of media – Om Malik

Image credit: Igor Trepeshchenok

Categories
Policy issues Writing

Confessions of a police assassin: fine journalism

The Guardian has a long form, investigative piece detailing confessions of a police assassin which is also a great example of fine journalism. The article is titled “Confessions of a killer policeman” and it definitely falls into what many would consider TL;DR.

https://twitter.com/NicDawes/status/756014870265491456

Just when people predict the death of good quality, long form journalism, I look to publications like The Guardian that still invest time and money into important work like this.

I don’t always agree with everything The Guardian publishes but this kind of journalism is worth supporting. The Guardian is also one of the many publications testing alternative revenue models. In particular, it offers a membership option where readers can make regular contributions to support the publication and receive more value in the process.

My theory about the future of news is that we will see high quality, investigative journalism become a niche that its readers will pay for as mainstream media skews towards the inane.

I hope I am at least correct that great journalism will survive into the future. The prospect of a world dominated by meaningless clickbait is depressing.

Image credit: Pixabay

Categories
Business and work Social Web Writing

Journalism as a service

I just read Jeff Jarvis’ Medium post titled “Returning Scarcity to News” and especially appreciated his argument for journalism as a service, rather than as a commodity content business:

Only when we reconceive of journalism as a service rather than as a factory that churns out a commodity we call content, only when we measure our value not by attention to what we make but instead by the positive impact we have in lives and communities, and only when we create business models that reward quality and value will we build that quality and value.

News and entertainment publishers are increasingly looking to major platforms like Google and Facebook for wider distribution of their content and alternative revenue options. It’s easy to understand why: these platforms have far greater reach than any single publisher and with ad blocking increasingly hurting publishers, they need to do something. And soon.

I’m cautiously optimistic that ad blocking will prove to be a positive trend that forces publishers to focus on better content and improve the overall ecosystem. I think we will have to wait a couple years for business models to settle and the dust to settle before we can draw any conclusions.

Still, I am hopeful that good quality content will win.

I recommend reading the rest of Prof Jarvis’ post on Medium:

View at Medium.com

Image credit: kaboompics

Categories
Media Social Web Useful stuff

When 140 characters are not enough to rant

One of the big pieces of “news” in the last few days is that Twitter may stop counting links and images in the 140 characters permitted for tweets:

While there is other news, this one seems to have the media in an absolute frenzy. Bloomberg reported the news in an article titled “Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit“. The key paragraph is this one:

The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.

Largely unsubstantiated speculation

Read that carefully. What Bloomberg said is the following:

  1. Some anonymous person said Twitter will stop including links and images (well, image links, effectively) in the 140 characters limit.
  2. This might happen in the next two weeks.
  3. Twitter declined to comment.

While all of this might happen, this news report is pretty much unsubstantiated speculation (well, aside from the “person familiar with the matter” who could be a guy who passed an open window where someone who looked like a Twitter employee said something about 140 characters and links).

This speculation has then been reported as pseudo-fact by a variety of other publications. The Verge, for example, reported this:

Twitter is planning on letting users craft longer tweets by not counting photos and links toward its 140-character limit, according to a report from Bloomberg today. The change may happen in the coming weeks, and it would remove one of the more annoying product hurdles that has persisted on Twitter for years. Links and photos currently hog 23 and 24 characters respectively.

Huh?

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. For one thing, seeing so much copy written about a lot of speculation, especially after the whole 10,000 characters fiasco not too long ago which probably had more credibility because Jack Dorsey made some obscure reference to the possibility.

Secondly, Twitter reportedly declined to make any comment. In other words, Twitter either won’t confirm it because –

  • it’s just another rumour about something Twitter is still thinking about;
  • Twitter isn’t going to make the change; or
  • Twitter is being coy because it thinks this sort of frenzy might just convince all those Facebook users to switch.

Lastly, surely this sort of “news” isn’t worth all this attention? We’re literally talking about roughly two dozen characters where people either post multiple tweets to express a whole thought or do what Dorsey did back in January and publish an image of a lot of text. To add to that, a lot of people even publish thoughts that can’t be contained in 140 characters in those things we old-timers call “blogs” (it’s a real thing and it’s in the dictionary).

It might happen

If this change comes to pass, it will be a good thing. Twitter shouldn’t be counting links and media in the already constrained character limit and commentators have been calling for this change for years.

It won’t change the tweetstorms, tweets attaching images of longer texts and other stuff. It will just mean that users can probably avoid publishing multi-part tweets when they happen to be a word or two over the limit and still want their tweets to be intelligible.

Making this change won’t bring about peace in our lifetime; fix global warming or make the wifi on my train work any better. It really isn’t that big a deal, people.