Several months ago, Tumblr users who had a browser extensions called “The Missing e” installed loaded up their dashboards and came across this message:
The message uses a lot of scary words — browser hack, privacy, data loss — meant to rattle the less clueful. Then it presents users with a silly choice: uninstall the ‘hack’ right now or forfeit any Tumblr support for any reason forever.
The reactions to this message amongst my friends can be summed up as: LOL son, but no.
Most of the people I run with are not only tech-savvy, but also wary any time a company tries to use scare language to coerce behavior. And this is a classic example.
The dev behind The Missing e refuted all of Tumblr’s claims at the time and, as far as I know, many people continue to use the extension to this day. I know I do. The reason being that TMe makes using Tumblr tons easier. And with every update the extension gets better and better.
The sad thing about the bitch fight between Tumblr and The Missing e is that Tumbr should have hired that dev to find a way to integrate all of those features into the platform in a way that did not put a burden on performance and does not call for an extra download.
Tumblr’s continued insistence that TMe was the devil, as were all those using it, just made the company look like a whiny baby angry that someone on the outside made their service better without their input.
When I look at what Twitter is doing to third-party apps and developers, I see a very similar situation.
I can understand why Twitter wants more people to use their service through their website and their apps instead of other folks’ when the issue of monetization comes up. But the main reason why so many people use Twitter via apps and portals and such is because the company’s apps suck, as does their website.
Even if I didn’t have four different accounts to maintain, I would still use services like HootSuite and apps like TweetCaster on a regular basis. Those apps give me options Twitter doesn’t, like keeping my lists in a column, scheduling tweets, and easily accessing the keywords I want to keep track of.
Every time I try to use the Twitter app for Android I force close it in frustration. And having to deal with Twitter.com to find something — like the thread of a conversation — is just tedious.
Instead of fighting against devs and being petulant about how many people are accessing Twitter through third-party services, why not invite devs to be your partners, help you make better apps, and smooth out the experience on the web side?
That would be too much like right.
What ever happened to the old adage, If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Employ Them?
This week marks my first time contributing to the Tecca WWIN (What We’re Into Now). I gushed about the Series 7 Gamer I just bought (more on this later) and made a sad face about The Closer finale, but I forgot to mention the fiction I’ve been reading.
This is a particular crime since my whole short fiction reading setup is very tech-influenced. I read way more now that I have a good device and good apps to make it all possible.
Just a year ago I was complaining about how it was still an annoying multi-step process to get short fiction from my favorite magazines onto my mobile device of choice. Back then it was my eReader. These days I read on a tablet, but only because none of my eInk eReaders has the versatility I need for what I do.
The tablet I use everyday is a 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which is the perfect size for tableting, according to me. The two apps I use to grab short fiction are the official Google Reader app and Pocket (used to be Read It Later). Sometimes I have to use the browser.
Many of the online magazines I read have RSS feeds, so I subscribe to them in Google Reader. Every month I go to the Fiction folder, find the stories I want to read, then Share them to Pocket. Even if the RSS feed doesn’t have the whole story, it doesn’t matter. Pocket goes to the source link and pulls the webpage into their app.
For the magazines without an RSS feed, I go to the browser. Same deal there. I find the stories I like, then Share them to Pocket.
Pocket is awesome. It pulls in and saves all the links I share to it, then has the full text waiting for me to read whenever I want. It automatically caches everything offline, so if I’m on a plane or on the subway I can still read my stuff.
I used to use Readability, but that app went wonky on me too much and also wasn’t reliable with the offline cache.
Pocket makes reading a bit easier on the eyes by offering some control over background colors and font size. Settings aren’t as robust as eReader apps like Nook or Kindle, sadly.
So, you ask, why can’t I do this on my eReader? It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t like the options available for eInk eReaders.
Most of the services available for saving web pages (which is where these stories reside) exist for the Kindle. There’s Instapaper, which I used for a while, and now there’s a new Chrome extension for Kindle that works similarly to Pocket. Problem is, I much prefer Nook to Kindle.
The reason I can’t get stuff automatically sent to Nook is entirely Barnes & Noble’s fault. For whatever reason, they don’t feel the need to create a WhisperSync-like system where you can easy send stuff to the Nook via email or syncing to a cloud service. Instapaper does have a way to download your saved pages as an EPUB file for Nook, but then you have to transfer it yourself. An extra step.
It would be worth taking if Instapaper’s formatting wasn’t extremely odd. What I like about Pocket is that it gives you text or the actual layout of the web page. Nothing janky.
Instapaper might be better at this now, I don’t know, it’s been a while.
Still, being able to click once and know that the story I want to read will be where I want to read it is a big thing for me.
Several online magazines have started creating eBook versions for people with eReaders, and I think that is awesome. Some will deliver to Kindles automatically, but not Nooks. This has something to do with how ridiculously hard it is for a magazine to get into Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s newsstands. And perhaps it’s prohibitively expensive, too.
Once again, the eBook sellers are putting barriers between me and the stuff I want to read, thus costing both themselves and content creators money. All by making stuff far more complex than it needs to be.
Anyway, this got me to wondering how other fiction lovers read stories from their favorite online magazines? Do you get the eBook versions, save them to your phone/tablet/eReader some other way, or just read on a computer?
- I should point out here that I only bother to do this with magazines I really, really like. If I come across your zine and it has no RSS feed and has no track record with me, I skip it. Shorter: Magazines, get an RSS feed. It’s 2012. Come on. [↩]
Earlier this summer, Google announced the newest version of the Android operating system, dubbed Jelly Bean. The moment this new Android became official I started seeing posts pop up on tech blogs attempting to answer the queston: When will my phone get Jelly Bean?
Before that you could find hundreds of posts attempting to answer a similar question: when will my phone get Ice Cream Sandwich? (the previous version of Android) I know that tech blogs write these posts and obsess over the question of when which phone will update because it generates a lot of hits. However, I wonder how many people really care if their phone gets updates to the latest Android? And if they do, why?
There are some obvious reasons to want a newer version of the software, such as the ability to run newer apps. Developers will only make things backwards-compatible to a certain extent. So it’s good to be on the right side of the line.
The reason I hear most often is that the newest version has features the user wants. But if your phone had all the features you wanted when you bought it, why this rush to get more features? Are they really so necessary? Or is it just the newness you like?
Do the majority of users even care, or only the ones who are likely to care about having the newest thing (people who read tech blogs)?
Last week Google announced that their podcasting app, Google Listen, will soon be kaput. For those out there that use the app this is sad news. (Personally, I never liked Listen.) If you’re looking for a replacement or trying to find a good Android podcatcher in general, you should check out DoggCatcher.
DoggCatcher isn’t free like Google Listen. And $4.99 is on the expensive side for an Android app. It’s worth the price thanks to a long list of features and settings, including full (and customizable) automation of podcast maintenance duties.
The top reason why I settled on DoggCatcher after an annoying search for a podcast app for Android is the automation. Once I subscribe to a feed I never have to worry about whether the app downloaded the latest episode. It does so automatically, checking for new items at an interval the user can set. I don’t want to have to force an update since I often go to listen to podcasts when I’m not connected (such as on the train). Whenever I do new episodes are there.
For those of you who’d rather stream podcasts than take up space on your device, that option is available, too. Users can also customize how many episodes to keep and will delete old files to save space.
There are dozens of settings that govern what DoggCatcher does with podcast media files from how often they’re downloaded, when to delete them, whether to download over mobile broadband or not, and even whether to keep files even if they’ve been deleted from the podcast server.
Another feature I love is the ability to create podcast playlists. I find this useful in the shower — I can listen to several short podcasts in a row without having to touch my phone.
Adding podcasts to DoggCatcher is easy. Users can import their Google Listen subscriptions as well as adding by search, category browse, or feed URL. The app also collects together certain highly sought-after podcasts in groups, such as BBC, NPR and TWiT casts.
The discovery bit on the app could be a little better, but is there. It’s better if you already know which podcasts you want to listen to, though.
DoggCatcher will download and play both audio and video podcasts.
The only con to this app is that it doesn’t have much eye-candy. The user interface is straightforward instead of being super pretty with tiles or attractively designed podcasts pages and other things you’ll find in apps like Stitcher Radio. This is a minor issue, obviously.
Due to all it does and how well it works for me — I’ve used the app across four Android phones and tablets with no stability issues — I recommend DoggCatcher to anyone looking for a good podcasting app. It’s well worth the $4.99 price.
Stitcher Radio is one of the more popular podcasting apps, possibly due to all the advertising they do in podcasts. I’m not a fan of the app since you can’t listen or watch podcasts and video casts when offline.
For those who always listen to podcasts when connected to the Internet, this is not a big problem. However, even when I drive I’d rather listen to local media than stream since streaming uses up data. People on limited data plans don’t want to waste megabytes on something they should be able to download when connected to Wi-Fi.
Other than that, Stitcher is a fine app for exploring and discovering podcasts. I like that the app will recommend new podcasts based on what you already listen to. Plus, Stitcher does a good job of curating podcast content.
If content discovery is more important to you than saving the media locally, then Stitcher is an excellent free alternative.
K. T. Bradford
If code is poetry, then CSS is The Iliad. In the original Greek.
I write about and review mobile technology, which means I get to spend the day steeped in laptops, smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and other things that go beep. Lest you question my status as a ChicGeek, I'll proudly claim an unabashed love for netbooks, Linux, science fiction, and curly hair products. You can find my new reviews and articles on Digital Trends and Techlicious.com.