Tag – you’re it

I
have to admit, I'm really late into the tagging game. Yes, I've seen it
for almost 8 years but was never a fan of it initially as I never
accepted what was my perception of the use of it. Maybe it's the
obsessive compulsive part of me that requires things to be consistent.
I remember using delicious and found myself extremely frustrated with
the fact that I would tag something multiple ways depending on when I
was doing things. I saw that the inconsistency as a detriment to a neat
and organized knowledge base. To me, the answer was always about
categorization. Any piece of information could only belong in one space
and categories would be pre-defined.

Tagging systems have come a
long way. Today tagging systems often auto-populate as you type giving
me the consistency that I desire. Most sites now allow you to
categorize and tag information. I see tagging as a means of describing
something similiar to that of metatags in web pages. I've come to the
point where I will find alternative solutions just to ensure that I
have the ability to ensure that information I've bookmarked must be
tagged.

For example – I read my RSS feeds on Newsgator because I
haven't found an alternative way of synchronizing to Google Reader in a
consistent fashion. Newsgator allows you to clip a listing on my my
mobile but does not allow me to tag information. Furthermore, it does
not allow me to search by tags easily. My solution is subscribe to my
Newsgator RSS feed in Google Reader. This allows me to queue up news
items to be tagged and then share them accordingly. Now I only have my
tagged information in 2 places: delicious and Google Reader.

Sent from my HTC Touch Pro

Getting news aggregation to work for me – Attempt 1

The challenge of news aggregation has been quite an interesting one for a while. The overall business problem I've been trying to address for a while now is to find a system that will aggregate my news information, read the information and allow me to share interesting articles with others through email or RSS feeds and allow me to tag the information so that I might easily locate this for future use. To top it off, it has to give me this ability on my desktop and through my Windows Mobile device. On the web, the best newsreader for me is Google Reader by far. However, since I read most of my news on my Windows Mobile device, there has been no other program that synchronizes well with an online reader like Newsgator so I find myself using Newsgator for both the web and Windows Mobile device. While pRSSreader has the ability to synchronize with Google Reader, I find that it somehow never seems to finish synchronizing all of my feeds when I reorganize my RSS feeds into folders. Organizing the feeds into folders is critical because I have over a hundred RSS feeds that I subscribe to and continue to find blogs that are interesting and am eager to follow them.

So here's my kick at the can for trying to solve this problem. My folders are typically organized by topics anyway and truth be told, I don't find myself reading most of the blog entries because not everything someone writes is relevant to what I'm interested in. It's the nature of the beast and it in no ways demeans the writer of any blogs that I follow. Social Median is probably the closest thing to an aggregator right now but the site itself works more like a newspaper site and not an RSS aggregator but it does give you the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds of your news network of choice. There are two dilemmas with the RSS feed in Social Median is that it only produces a summary of the feed which for its business purpose makes sense and the other is that it doesn't allow me to interact with the network which is a big part of using Social Median.

After some thinking, I figured that I could leverage Social Median and Google Reader to give me the best of both worlds – at least on the web front. What I've recently done is to export my Google Reader feeds, delete them from my main Google Reader account and re-subscribed to them in my other Google Reader account. I then proceeded to subscribe to create news networks by the topics that are most important to me. I did this at 2 am in the morning when I couldn't sleep; in hind sight, I should have actually looked for existing news networks that best fit my needs as the most powerful feature is the activity of the people within a particular news network. I think I'm going to have a hard time recruiting people to join my news network as most of my friends really aren't that social online. By integrating it to Google Reader, I get an user interface that I'm familiar with and works very well for me. I automatically get the ability to share through the Google Share functionality which I then publish to Twitter. I also get to email people through an integrated contact manager with GMail. There issue where only part of the entry is published through RSS feed is resolved through a combination of Firefox add-ons called Greasemonkey and Better GReader. This gives you the ability to click on the header and it gives expands to bring the page of the entry directly into the Google Reader page. This also then gives you the ability to clip, set the mood or mark it as irrelevant.

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Maturing web products

Lately I've been playing with more and more web applications like Newsgator, Evernote and Task2Gather. All of these products are good at what they do but no where to being the best products in their individual category. What sets them apart in my mind is the ability to be accessible through different platforms such as desktops, mobile devices and web. As the web continues to mature and "web 2.0-esque" products become capable stand-ins for desktop products combined with mobile devices that have both the computing capacity and network accessibility, the demand for products to be accessible at all times through multiple devices will increase. Another outcome of the evolution of this maturity is the ability to integrate with other web applications. An example of that is the integration of Remember The Milk with Google Mail for instance.

Google is by far the leader in the web platform space. From the point of productivity applications, there really is very little need for anyone to leave the Google domain. For most, Google Maps is the defacto map product. Google Docs is a decent product. I am more than happy to use the word processor and spreadsheet to do simple stuff on the web. People either love or hate GMail and there is nothing better than Google Reader on Firefox with Greasemonkey scripts running on it. Most of these apps also work with Google Gears making them capable desktop stand-ins. I thought it was a bit strange that Google didn't seem to invest that much effort into the mobile space. Outside of Maps, it's approach seemed minimal; limiting it's offerings to mobilized versions of their web sites or a litter of small and clunky Java applications that no one really wrote about. I hope things will change with the emergence of Android as I believe Android will give Google a devastating advantage to integrate into its already vast set of web services and APIs.

I am currently a heavy user of Newsgator and I've started to use Evernote a bit more. Having the ability to have my RSS feeds synchronized and bookmarked or "clipped" has made me a more productive reader. I also like the fact that I can publish my bookmarked articles to Twitter through an RSS feed. What impresses me most is how natural the flow is. I don't have to do anything extra to perform these steps. Another product that I'd like to see integrated across multiple platforms are something like Mint.com.Technorati

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Newsgator – Initial Review

 

One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is that new information is so immediate that often times by the time the information gets to a magazine, the information is already stale. Being in the IT industry, I personally feel that it gives me an edge to always be as informed as possible. Another wonderful thing about the internet is the discussions that often happen that enriches the subject. This is what makes blogs interesting and relevant to me.

In general, I have often used Google Reader as my desktop RSS reader but I have been trying to find a whole host of other readers for my mobile device. I've tested pRSS Reader, Newsbreak, SPB Insight, Viigo and Fetch It. While all of them work well (some better than others of course) but the one feature that all of them lack is the ability to keep all of my reading synchronized. Enter Newsgator.

Apparently I've used the online version of Newsgator before as my email id was registered to it. However, it didn't make that great an impression. On the surface, it works like other RSS aggregators – it has the ability to tag an entry, the ability to import an OPML file, separates your blogs into folders, you can bookmark an entry by clipping it and you can email an entry to someone else. In short, it works and has the basic features that I would expect from such a service. After being used to Google Reader though, I will definitely miss the way Google Reader marks my entries as read. As you scroll over the bottom of an entry, it automatically marks the entries as read. It's such a small detail but it makes the reading experience so much more intuitive. In Newsgator, you can either mark an entry read as you go down or wait until you get to the bottom of the page to mark all entries as read. It still works but not as intuitive as Google's way of doing things.

On the mobile device front, it offers much of the same functionality of the other RSS readers such as ability to schedule a download of data, display articles by folders and share by email. One of the big benefits of being able to synchronize with the web version is that I don't have to import an OPML file which is nice. I like the fact that you can tag or clip articles and will synchronize with the web. Another neat feature is Top Stories. I believe that what this does is that it goes to the web and picks 50 stories or so that it thinks it's "top." I'm not that sure what algorithm it uses. It could just be based on currency.

So far I like the windows mobile version. Not quite in love with the web version but it's useable. If it impresses me, I'll write a full review for it. There's a premium subscription as well. Not sure what that does either.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

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