Mobile Productivity

Pat Dryburgh writes about productivity on the Mac and the iPhone/iPod Touch:

This is where the system begins to fall apart when the iPod touch or iPhone are introduced. While Leopard’s utilizes the message URL handlers, for iPhone does not. This means that if I am checking my email on my iPod touch and I read one that requires further attention, I need to close Mail, open Things, write down an action that explains in enough detail what the email was referencing, then go back to Mail to continue checking my emails. The other option is less taxing, which is to simply ignore the email on my iPod and address it later when I am on my Mac. However, to me, having to address a dozen or so emails more than once feels very unproductive, and defeats the entire purpose of keeping a clean inbox.

AP goes to war with search engines and blogs

Ed Morrissey writes of the AP’s idiotic plan to limit linking to their pieces:

Let’s just call it the Fast Track to AP Irrelevance.  Without a doubt, the new policy will have a chilling effect on blogs and aggregators who normally link to their content.  Unfortunately for the AP, that won’t result in an increase of revenues, but in having the entire online world ignore the AP.  The Times itself discovered this dynamic when it put its columnists behind the $50 dollar Firewall of Sanity.  Not only did the world fail to beat down their door to regain access to Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Bob Herbert, they also discovered that their columnists became all but invisible in the rapidly-growing and influential New Media.

This just makes no sense to me and I would love to hear how Tom Curley thinks that this actually demonstrates any remote understanding of the web. If this is how the Associated Press thinks that it is going to succeed online and even stay remotely relevant then it will die even faster than we think.

Let Vick Play

The best thing I’ve read all day about the possibility of Michael Vick being suspended from pro football:

And here I really get riled, because what after all is professional football?  Use your imagination a little, and it would be easy to imagine a society – perhaps more civilized than our own – that banned pro football or boxing and that put someone like Goodell or his K Street predecessor Paul Tagliabue, or the various Gucci-clad owners in jail for long stretches for trying to make a profit out of grown men being put on a field to engage in activities that are likely to result in physical harm or even death.  If cock fighting is on the third tier, pro football and boxing are certainly on the fourth.

There are no small changes

Des Traynor on the small things in designing a user experience:

There are no tiny features when you’re doing things properly. This is why as a UX designer you need a good understanding of what it takes to implement a feature before you nod your head and write another bullet point.

Is ESPN causing the disaggregation of news content?

Writing at The Daily Dish Conor Friedersdorf writes of the announcement that ESPN will be creating local outlets for sports news:

The disaggregation of newspaper content is an inevitability. Was there civic utility in the fact that a guy going for the sports page happened to see what his local mayor was up to by virtue of flipping through the sections? Sure, but that is a rather small matter. As I see it, “important” news is going to have to stand on its own going forward, and the challenge for those who care about journalism is to nudge the culture toward valuing it properly once the “subsidies” — the advertising and the sports section and style coverage and all the rest — aren’t available anymore. Will citizens appropriately value journalism that adds civic utility? I’m a pessimist, but one who thinks that time is best spent making the case that undervalued journalism is important, rather than trying to preserve a bundle that isn’t going to last much longer.

I think that Conor is right here. As more news organizations focus more heavily upon online distribution I think that they will realize that what draws so many to the internet is the ability to consume only the content that interests you. If a sports fan doesn’t care about the local mayor he can go to ESPN and not be distracted by local political coverage.

Gruber on Charging for Access to News Sites

John Gruber on why news organizations continue to try and force pay walls to work:

And it’s not really surprising that they’re failing to evolve. The decision-makers — the executives sitting atop large non-editorial management bureaucracies — are exactly the people who need to go if newspapers are going to remain profitable.

Upton Sinclair’s adage comes to mind: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

A good point and one that probably rings true in more industries than just news. Vertical hierarchies no longer make sound business strategies.

He’s doing his best

Seth Godin on consumer mindset:

Consumers don’t make choices as much as they react and respond to the inputs and assumptions they have about the marketplace, their life and your brand.

If you don’t like the way someone is acting, understand you can’t change his behavior, you can only change his circumstances.

Blogging isn’t disappearing yet

Kyle Christie writing on Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists:

So the role of bloggers as scrappy underdogs, biting at the heels of the establishment and the mainstream media – that has almost certainly come to pass. I may no longer be able to love it, and it’s certainly not time to nurture its demise. But until something as expansive and as flexible comes along, I’ll keep pressing the publish button.

Is it maybe perhaps more realistic that this era of “scrappy underdogs” is all a bit of romanticizing about the past? We love to glorify underdog stories but I think that sometimes we tend to look at past events and movements as slightly grander than they really were.

Building a link blog with WordPress

I recently pushed a whole bunch of updates live to my site here. The goal behind all of this was simple: combine what I love about the power of WordPress with some of the features of Tumblr.

For a while now I’ve been keeping two separate blogs. The main site has featured more long-form writing while my Tumblr has ben a repository for what I find interesting throughout the day. To me, this kind of fragmentation just doesn’t make much sense so I set out to find a way to accomplish both goals with one CMS.

The structure

One of the main things that I wanted to do was to create some type of distinction between categories of posts. This is something that Tumblr does that I think is necessary for a blog that posts a variety of content. I accomplished this by first finding a great set of icons from Glyphish and second by some nifty php code.

The new setup has what amounts to 6 different options for every post that I publish. There’s categories for links, photos, quotes, video, audio, and then everything else. Each one of those categories references a specific icon that displays to the left of the headline and serves to give some idea of what that post is about.

The code

The tricky part was figuring out how to alter the permalink structure of WordPress so that all posts in the link category would function properly. What I wanted to do with these links that I occasionally post was to emulate what Gruber does with Daring Fireball: when he posts a link the headline takes you straight to the source.

I think that this is brilliant and exactly how a link blog should work. I’ll post a link here because I think that the original source is worth reading; thus, I ought to make it as easy as possible for a reader to get to that original page and read the article.

By altering the functions.php file that you can include in WordPress themes I changed the permalink structure in both the RSS feeds and as it displays on the site so that any post title in the “Link” category would go straight to the source. If you’re interested you can download the file for yourself and make use of it. It’s a really simple solution that just makes use of a custom field to link to the original piece.

The design

After setting the structure and the code in place I decided that I would revamp the design as well. I’ve been trying to find a way to balance content and minimalism in such a way that reading articles is easy and enjoyable but that if you’re trying to find more articles or pages they’re a short click away.

I took a lot of inspiration from the DePo Skinny Theme that Derek Powazek wrote as well as from sites like Daring Fireball, Instapaper, and Tightwind. I think that these sites all present content in a fairly unobtrusive way that allows for readers to really focus on the content.

To accomplish this I did a couple things: I kept the navigation simple and out of the way at the top and bottom of pages. I also decided to go without a sidebar and rather opted to keep ancillary content in the footer or on separate pages. This means that reading is now much easier as there’s essentially nothing that gets in the eyes way as it moves up and down the page.

The site’s built of the fantastic system and uses @font-face for all of the custom font rendering. The masthead is set in Alexandria while headlines and headers are all set in Delicious. The rest of the site is ideally displayed in Helvetica.

In the coming weeks I plan on cleaning up the code a little bit, something that’s most likely quite necessary since I wrote it all in an evening, and possibly releasing it as a GPL theme. Unlike past themes this one is also here to stay. I’m happy with it and find that it’s actually making me want to write more posts so we’ll see what comes out of that. Any feedback with likes/dislikes is definitely welcome and if you can think of a way to improve something let me know.

You Can’t Charge For Something That Doesn’t Provide Value

Mark Potts on why newspaper sites will have a difficult time charging for their online content:

Think newspapers are full of unique content? Well, sit down some day with a copy of just about any paper and circle what’s truly unique and unavailable anywhere else. The result isn’t pretty. Do the same thing with the paper’s Web site, and you quickly realize that the problem is compounded by presentation that just isn’t very compelling, to put it charitably.

I sat down and did this with the relatively local Fresno Bee the other day and was only able to find a small handful of stories (most that were “soft news stories”) that were unique to the Bee. It’s kind of depressing to think that so many people working in a newsroom come up with such little original content.