Archives » February, 2003

February 28, 2003

A Day With NewsGator

After a day with NewsGator, I have a few feelings. Overall, it’s a pretty good aggregator. But it sill hasn’t sold me on the general idea of aggregation yet. At least not for personal weblogs, like the ones I’ve subscribed to. Maybe that’s my problem — I need to subscribe to a few actual news feeds, or something like that, and see if an aggregator makes sense then. I actually enjoy the experience of going to a website and seeing the posts in that context. Distilling the text into some homogeneous environment seems to take all the charm out of it. It’s the difference between seeing a movie in the theater, or catching it on HBO. Which offers the better experience?

NewsGator does have a couple of quirks in the way it formats the posts. It has to shoehorn the RSS information into the Outlook Mail Post Item format, which includes giving it “From” and “Received” fields. It lists me as the author of every post, though, and the time received is when I downloaded the feed. It would be nice if it could pull author and timestamp information out of the RSS and use those instead. As it is now, those fields are pretty much worthless.

Looking closer, it might be a limitation of the Outlook integration. NewsGator seems be hooking in to Outlook’s “Post in This Folder” functionality. So, logically, to Outlook it really does look like just another post coming from me, at that particular time. There must not be any way to get around it. Just another one of the many joys of building on top of Outlook. I know that the last time I tried to build a custom form in Outlook, I wanted to storm Redmond with pitchforks and torches.

In short: NewsGator is great as an aggregator. But aggregated weblogs come across as lifeless and dull. I’ll stick with my browser for now.

February 27, 2003


I’ve never given much thought to RSS or news aggregators and the concept of syndicating or subscribing to a weblog. I know a lot of people swear by it, but to me, it’s just as easy to actually go to the website and read it there. That’s part of the reason I don’t have an RSS feed here – the other part is that Blogger Free doesn’t create them.

But now they’re trying to make it really tempting to get into RSS. Today I head about NewsGator. It’s an RSS aggregator that integrates with Outlook. Wait I minute…I use Outlook. Everyday. All day. Hmmm…

So I loaded it up. I had to take the plunge and download the .Net framework to go with it, but I think that was pretty much inevitable given how MS-centric my work is. And then I opened up Outlook, added a few feeds, and there it is. True to the advertising, the sites I read the most are now listed in Outlook, right beside my office e-mail and mailing lists.

I’ve only been using it about half an hour, so it’s hard to give any kind of in-depth impression. And I don’t know if it’s going to sell me permanently on news aggregators. And it’s not freeware, so after two weeks I’m going to have to decide if it’s worth any money to me. But it certainly looks like it’s taken the pain out of RSS aggregation. Opening up a completely different program just to read RSS feeds, when I already have my browser open and can get to any site within five seconds, seemed pointless. Now that it’s right there, I may get used to it. We’ll just have to see.

The Corporate Weblog Manifesto

From Robert Scoble: The Corporate Weblog Manifesto. Twenty tips to follow if your weblog represents more than just yourself. Actually, you should try to follow them no matter what. They’re good advice for everyone.

February 26, 2003

Losing Control

Bob Lewis:

Is it mere coincidence, or does the economy flourish in direct proportion to IT losing control over information technology?

February 25, 2003

Fictional Weblogs

I was reading the latest JOHO today when a little snippet caught my attention. David Weinberger had posted it on his blog earlier this month, and it started me thinking then, but since his JOHO is basically a rehashing of things he’s already written, I saw it again today. He wrote:

Why aren’t we seeing more fictitious weblogs? […] a genuine form of narrative fiction: daily postings from a fictitious character.

That made me wonder: how many of those are out there? I could imagine the weblog being a rich medium for a writer to stretch his or her creative muscles, developing a character and keeping it going for months or years like that. The idea certainly isn’t new, after all. Many a novel has been written as a series of diary or journal entries. Dracula is the one that immediately springs to mind. But has it been done online?

Dr. Weinberger himself pointed to one, the one that made him ask the question. It certainly looks fictional, but it has the distinct disadvantage of having seemingly killed off its main character. Then I faintly remembered that Julius Caesar had a weblog. I looked for it, and it’s still going strong. I give this guy an A for the idea and an A+ for keeping it up all these years. And of course many people remember Kaycee Nicole, although that was different for a couple of reasons. 1) The author actually wanted people to believe it was true, and 2) The fiction continued outside of the weblog and spilled over into IM chats, written letters, and even phone calls. That wasn’t so much a work of fiction as a deliberate attempt to toy with people’s emotions.

What else, though? I went looking and found a few lists of fictional weblogs. In all, though, they only add up to a few dozen sites, some of which have been abandoned. Is this a realm of fiction that is yet to be discovered, and then when it does it will explode? Or will it fall by the wayside as a medium for fiction, even though the technology itself grows? (See also hypertext fiction and Choose Your Own Adventure).

Tom Coates asked the same question two years ago. I wonder if he ever got any answers?


I don’t normally lust after cars; that’s my wife’s job. But believe me when I say this: I would give up my first born child to own a Mini Cooper.

Let’s Motor!

February 24, 2003

Two Flat Rocks

Speaking of the freshly <link>ed Ormsby House Renovation Gallery, I have a new February page up. The whole Ormsby House renovation is proceeding about as quickly as an uphill footrace between two flat rocks, so it’s a thrill that I have something to post at all. Enjoy, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Built For Navigation

Playing around with the <link> tag. When I first started up the new Opera 7 browser, I noticed an extra little bar near the top that said things like “Next”, “Previous”, “Home”, and so on. It slowly sunk in what I was seeing. Finally, somebody was properly implementing the <link> tag!

<link&gt is such a nice little tag. Everyone knows it as the way to link to a stylesheet, but it’s so much more than that. It has at least dozen different attributes you can give it that explain how the document is connected to others. You can specify a home page, the next and previous pages in a series, a page about the author, and so on. And the browser is supposed to be able to read those links and give the user a standard way to use them for navigtion. It’s more precise than just relying on the “Back” button, but you don’t have to go so far as to build HTML navigation for something as basic as flipping through pages. It’s the perfect compromise for a simple nav. But nobody’s ever used it.

I’ve always wondered why <link> was so ignored in the early days of the Internet rush. I guess it just made more sense to put all your links on the page itself, and not give a second thought to meta information. Of course, given the shady history of tag soup, that’s not a big surprise. Only a few <head> elements were really important. <title>, since everybody could see that one, and some of the <meta> variations, especially the ones that search engines looked at. The rest were unimportant. And so the browser makers never built in any kind of UI for <link> because nobody was asking for it, and nobody was asking for it because they didn’t know about it. So yay for Opera to add it in there.

Then I researched it, and found out Mozilla has supported it pretty much forever. Oops.

That’s what I get for sleeping in class. I guess I never found it because it’s buried so deeply in Mozilla. View > Show/Hide > Site Navigation Bar. In Opera, it’s right there under View, and it’s even turned on by default. In IE – um – well, it’s not there yet. But it’s a nice little easter egg for everyone else.

Anyway, in an attempt to make myself look more cool and elite than I actually am, I’ve worked <link> tags into my site. I’ll be stuffing them in wherever they seem to make sense. I’ve especially dirtied up my Ormsby House Renovation Gallery with them. So hang your IE up in the coat closet, grab a nice cold Mozilla or Opera browser, and look for the links.

February 22, 2003

Birthday Party

3pm sharp. Ten 4-year olds at a bowling alley. I think I’ll be fortunate if they don’t burn the place to the ground.

Wish me luck!

February 19, 2003

Blogger’s Coattails

I’m still listed on Blogger’s home page, so I can indirectly see what kind of effect the recent news is having on their popularity. Last week, I averaged about 700 page views per day, most of those coming from the link on Yesterday, I had 3,800 page views. I know my site didn’t suddenly get better, so it must be that there’s a whole lot of people checking out Blogger this week. And if I can hitch a ride on the coattails of their success, there’s nothing wrong with that!