My Feedly wishlist

Richard MacManus wrote about the state of feed readers as he saw it in his AltPlatform.org post titled “The state of feed readers”. He mentioned a couple things in his Feedly wishlist that prompted me to think more about what I’d like to see added to Feedly.

Feedly – ye olde feed reader for the Information Age

If you haven’t heard of Feedly, it is a feed reader. Yup, those old fashioned services that use RSS to subscribe to new blog posts and other content available through RSS and then present it to you to read through at your leisure.

Many people have announced that RSS died with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard or any number of other “Web 2.0” services. They are wrong.

While feed readers may not be as popular as they once were[1], they remain one of the best ways to receive the updates you care most about.

I loved using Google Reader back in the day and I switched to Feedly when Google killed Reader off. I still don’t understand why Google did that. Thankfully Feedly stepped into the void that Reader left behind.

It’s where my stuff is

I really like using Feedly. I think I’ve been using it since about 2008. Twitter is useful for breaking news but when I want to go through the content that matters most to me, I generally go to Feedly.

Like MacManus, I am a Feedly Pro user and it’s been worth it. I probably couldn’t tell you what all the Pro features are but I’m happy with the end result so I keep renewing my subscription.

I was meandering through some dusty directories on my Mac recently and I came across a Feedly benefit that I completely forgot about. It turns out that Feedly has been backing up my OPML files[2] to Dropbox since 2014 (possibly when I started paying for Pro).

Feedly has a “read later” feature but I haven’t really used it all that much. I have preferred using Instapaper or Pocket for that.

I also realised that I forgot that Feedly has also been saving articles I marked to “read later” using its native tool as PDFs in my Dropbox folder. This is a pretty useful feature and it probably would have been even more useful if I remembered that I had enabled it!

A more recent Feedly feature is the ability to highlight text in feed items rendered in Feedly itself. This only really works when you subscribe to full feeds and doesn’t extend to pages that open from Feedly.

I love this feature in Instapaper which I started using as a research tool because I could highlight text as well as annotate it with comments. Feedly doesn’t go quite that far but it has real potential.

My Feedly wishlist

As much as I enjoy using Feedly, I’d love to see a few more features added. For one thing, I’d really like text highlights to be made portable somehow.

I can definitely see myself using Feedly as the research tool I thought Instapaper may become (for me at least) but I’d need to be able to do more with those notations. Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, would make Feedly so much more useful to me.

More useful highlights

I’d like to have the ability to capture text highlights into some sort of text file that preserves the context/source of the highlights (in other words, the article title, source and perhaps even highlight timestamps). IFTTT doesn’t have access to highlights so that isn’t an option at the moment.

It would also be great to be able to share highlighted text coherently and contextually through 3rd party services including to blogs, perhaps using IndieWeb tools.

Better sharing options

On a related note, imagine if Feedly baked IndieWeb functionality such as Micropub that enables users to share highlights or some other form of marked up content outside Feedly?

In particular, I’d really like to be able to share a highlight or even just a post I like directly to my blog on my phone.

I can already do something like this in my desktop browser. Sharing to WordPress from my browser invokes the WordPress “Press This” functionality, which is great.

At the same time, I find that I use my phone more than my laptop and given how many people use their smartphones as their primary computers, it makes sense for Feedly to make mobile a first class citizen.

Perhaps this could take the form of a pre-formatted share directly through the WordPress app or an intermediary step with a text file.

Feedly doesn’t even seem to offer an option to see my highlights in one place like Instapaper does.

Instapaper notes
Instapaper highlights and notes view.

I’m not sure what is possible, technically. At the same time, I’d like to be able to select something I have highlighted and share it on my blog with the contextual data about that highlighted text preserved, much like you can see in this screenshot of some of my Instapaper notes.

You could even take that further and enable other Feedly users to highlight that text and capture it into their own profiles almost like Amazon enables people to see what other readers have highlighted in Kindle books and add those highlights to their own collections.

Doing more with Feedly Boards

Feedly has something called “Boards” which are basically lists of articles you save to pre-defined lists. I’d really like to be able to share an RSS feed of my boards on my blog, for example.

Feedly board example
An example of a Feedly board.

Fortunately, I can use IFTTT to capture the articles I save. Still, I’d like to be able to create a sort of link roll based on my Feedly boards as an option from within Feedly.

I imagine I can do something similar to this through IFTTT but this is something that would probably work better as a native Feedly feature.

Just putting the thought out there

As I watch this IndieWeb thing gather steam, I’m hopeful that the ethos spreads not just throughout the online publishing world (aka the Blogosphere vx.0) but also to services like Feedly.

There is a lot to say for social media services. In many ways they have connected the online world in a way that Humanity hasn’t experienced. At the same time, we desperately need independent services like Feedly that empower us to consume the information we choose the way we prefer to do it.

My suggestions may not be even remotely on Feedly’s roadmap so I’m not expecting them to be implemented. At the same time, if they are, the result could be an even better service that we have at the moment.

Featured image credit: rawpixel.com


  1. Thinking back, I don’t think feed readers ever actually had mass appeal, just a dedicated core group of users who saw the value in customisable content streams.  ↩
  2. OPML stands for “Outline Processor Markup Language”. My OPML files are basically lists or indices of my RSS subscriptions. They are a great example of data portability in action because you can usually import OPML files into new feed readers and retain all your content sources.  ↩

Capturing moments: dedicated cameras vs smartphones

Capturing moments on different cameras

When we think about photography now, we think about capturing moments on our phones and sharing them on Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp or Snapchat.

We’re capturing more moments daily than we ever could before digital devices became so readily accessible. I love that about digital photography. It can be a little overwhelming at times but I’d rather have more photos of a moment than none.

At the same time, there is a downside.

What I’ve noticed is that this new habit also has a tendency to take us out of the moment we are capturing and that bothers me.

Ever notice how we lose the moment when we start sharing it with everyone? We take the photo and then, almost immediately, we find start sharing the photo with our communities. We pick the filters, make the photo just the way we like it to be, type the caption and share.

In the process, I think we often lose ourselves in that process instead of returning to the moment with the people or things in our immediate space. It’s ironic, really. There we are capturing a moment with our family and we fall out of it in our process of sharing it because we are more focused (excuse the pun) on the act of sharing and the other people we are sharing it with.

In contrast, a dedicated camera gives us an opportunity to be completely present when we are capturing moments and then return to it because we simply don’t have the immediate means to do much else. At the same time, it can also be a matter of focusing on one moment to the exclusion of others so there are still choices to make.

I’ll often be walking with somewhere with my family and I’ll stop to make a photo. Doing that interrupts a conversation with my son or just a moment walking with my family. It’s almost a blessing that my camera isn’t connected to anything because it is easier to go back to where I was before the photo.

When I make photos with my phone, the sharing habit can be strong and that just pulls me even further away. It has its uses, I suppose. Still, if my photography is about being more present, then my smartphone camera habit doesn’t support that.

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate my distinctly unconnected camera. It is a superior mindfulness and presence device because it doesn’t give me the opportunity to do much more.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Smarter photo albums with Google Photos

Google Photos has taken a step towards taking some of the pain out of creating photo albums from your photos with “smarter albums” and I am looking forward to seeing it in action.

The update blends the Stories feature (imported from Google+) with Google Photos to automate album creation and add additional data like location data to create what will hopefully be an improved experience.

Stories have been a hit-and-miss experience for me so I haven’t really used them all that much. I suspect its because the intelligence behind their creation isn’t sophisticated enough to see the same themes I do (probably not surprising, the machines aren’t that smart yet). That said, they are a fun way to share events. I modified this one from my birthday day off last year:

Moments_from_my__Big40_day_-_Google_Photos

I use both Flickr and Google Photos to share photos and while I am a little concerned about the direction Flickr seems to be going, I am very interested to see how Google Photos evolves over time.

Google Photos is an easier option for people to use to share their photos (well, if you ignore the blue whale in the room – Facebook). I’ve replaced Apple Photos with Google Photos and Flickr as my photo sharing choices and I basically manage my device photo libraries through these apps.

I don’t see the new album features available in existing albums on Google Photos but we have an office Purim party today so I’ll have a new album of photos soon and I look forward to seeing how it all comes together then.

Photo credit: tookapic

Why do you use Twitter?

I just responded to a question on Inbound which I thought I’d share. I’ve been thinking about why I use Twitter for about as long as I’ve been using Twitter and I don’t have any real answers yet. That said, it’s a conversation worth having.

I use Twitter primarily for news and updates. I’ve done that pretty much since I joined Twitter in early 2007. It is still the best service for that. Facebook and other services seem to be a little too “heavy” when it comes to checking in for updates or developments I’m tracking. That Twitter is still relatively unfiltered, algorithmically speaking, means I can rely on it more than Facebook to give me a fairly uninterrupted perspective on what is going on in the world. Being close to a newsticker makes it pretty helpful for this stuff.

I don’t agree with using Twitter as a personal social network. It has always seemed like the digital equivalent of trying to have a private conversation in a crowded room. You just wind up shouting at each other while anyone and everyone listens in. I suppose DMs make this possible but none of my friends use DMs for personal chat. Twitter just doesn’t have that “personal chat thing” like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have. It also isn’t a particularly effective engagement tool either.

If Facebook could figure out how to give us chronological and unfiltered streams in a lightweight app interface, it could really give Twitter a run for its money. Facebook is heading in the opposite direction so that isn’t going to happen. I also think there is something to Joshua Topolsky’s article “The End of Twitter” but I don’t know what could replace it at this stage.

Options for sharing video outside YouTube and Vimeo

I uploaded a video as part of a short post earlier this week and I noticed that it didn’t display particularly well in the post. I could have shared to YouTube first and embedded the video but thought I’d see what a direct upload would do. Turns out, not much. 

Surely it is possible to embed videos like you can images and have them render as playable videos in blog posts? Doesn’t HTML 5 have a video tag that works in all the major browsers?

WordPress has its VideoPress player but it’s a paid feature. Shouldn’t this capability be more freely accessible? What are the options?

Facebook + emigration = meaningful sharing with people who matter

I started posting more to Facebook when we moved to Israel about 2 weeks ago. Most of my posts were (and remain) intended for my friends and family so I share those posts just with them. That is why I haven’t blogged nearly as much about our move.

I resisted using Facebook for a long time, preferring Path by far but missing a critical ingredient: enough friends and family to make it worthwhile. My Google+ profile’s value hasn’t been as a way to share with friends and family (even though it can do that so well) so I keep returning to Facebook. Regardless of my reservations about Facebook, it is still the service all the people I want to share with are using.

I’ve been sharing my experiences in Israel as a new import on Facebook and it has become an awesome place to share with and keep connected to our friends and family. Sure, Facebook is probably mining my data to present ads to me but I don’t see that. What I do see are friends’ comments and likes and more interaction with people who are important to me.

I’m even having a ball with Messenger and stickers.

Another reason I’ve been enjoying Facebook lately is that some of the brands we use here are active on Facebook too. They use Facebook Messenger for customer support calls too. I’ve gotten more done using Messenger to talk to brands in the past 3-4 weeks that I did with other platforms for years.

It all comes down to sharing with people I want to share with using a couple simple lists and having good experiences doing that. It’s meaningful sharing and I’m enjoying it.

iOS 8 just made Flipboard much more useful to me

I haven’t used Flipboard all that much lately for one reason: the built in sharing options for articles I read and wanted to share have been too limited. Sure, you could share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn but that involved a lot more time than using something like Buffer and Buffer enables me to share using different profiles on each service (for example, I have a Twitter profile for my business and my personal one – Flipboard only supports one profile on each service).

I realised this morning that Flipboard supports the new sharing options that comes with iOS 8 that connect with other apps installed on my devices, like Buffer. Other apps I use like Reeder and Feedly have supported a variety of sharing options for a while now so I’ve tended to use these feed readers as my primary news aggregation sources. Now, Flipboard has just become a lot more interesting for me and I’m pretty pleased about that!

Here is a quick guide to using those sharing options in 3 steps. Just bear in mind that the iOS sharing options leverage installed apps on your devices and you may need to activate the apps in the extended sharing menu.

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Our hyperconnected social Web can be a desperately lonely place

I think it is possible to be so connected online and be lonely at the same time. We connect to so many people, call so many people “friends” who probably aren’t. Although we have hundreds or thousands of “friends”, can we meaningfully share our intimate moments, fears and challenges when they could betray insecurities when we have to be seen to be courageous and confident to survive?

We have more and more ways to share our lives. How many of those channels really allow us to be authentically vulnerable and terrified by the challenges we face before we find the strength to persevere? This is one of the costs of the social Web we don’t quite realise yet because we are so caught up in connecting and “friending”.