Tag Archives: news

Developer Education

As an avid tech news reader, I’m able to follow industry discussions about hot new start ups.

For example, startups such as Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. have garnered a lot of hype. As a technology enthusiast, what is my duty to try out new apps / sites?

Is it enough to know about them? Is it enough to have tried them? Is it enough to know how to recreate them?

The internet is a series of filters on top of filters

I read Jason Kottke via RSS. He posts videos or interesting links with short descriptions. I’ve read his site for over several years, and I only found about his site when he got hate for trying out micropatrons. Kottke does a good job posting obscure content that he filters (or “curates” as is the popular buzzword today).

In his Verge interview, he says:

…the web is now largely filters on top of filters on top of filters.

This is an amazing observation, and in retrospect after reading it, it was pretty obvious all along. Stuff gets tossed onto youtube, wordpress, forums, etc., and re-shared all over social networks.

The latest meme.jpg gets a LOL, quickly becomes overplayed, and we all move onto the next one. That’s great, except with Sturgeon’s Law applied, 90% of everything is crap on the internet.

I never used Summify, so I can’t say how effective their filtering is. Their fun video makes it look like it’s able to cut out the fat from your daily content. Of course, Summify is yet another filter on top of filters.

Filtering content to cut out irrelevant content is great, but I’d like to draw a distinction between two ways of browsing filtered news.

The first is where you’re browsing news for the sake of browsing. You want to get through all the news that’s fit to read, theoretically give yourself an information advantage for unforeseen situations, and kill some time. When you’re in the first mode, the worst thing that can happen is you run out of news to read. You hit RSS zero (which is not an easy task) and scramble for any content you can get.

The second is the opposite of the first one. In the first scenario, you have time to kill. The second one assumes you don’t have time to spare, but yet you want to get your news. In this second scenario, you only care about the big things. You don’t care for linkbait rants that passes for news today. You want news that is highly relevant and/or actionable.

Different news reading requires different filters. Whereas casual news browsing casts a wide net, highly summarized news demands a tight filter.

I’m not sure how these filters would be best implemented, perhaps some sort of trainable machine learning system? Facebook has top stories, but in my experience these supposedly relevant/interesting stories are as relevant as rolling the dice on my friend lists’ statuses.

It would be interesting if there was a go-to source of news that had a binary switch: 1.) show me any/all stories that I might care about and don’t stop or 2.) only show me !!! things. In the second situation, it has to be possible that there would be no news at all to report on some days.

Is the answer to any headline that ends in a question ‘yes’?



Via HN, Wikipedia states Betteridge’s Law of Headlines:

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.

If you think about it, this makes sense. Articles that could be answered by ‘yes’ choose to state the news in the headline rather than asking a fake question.

Or as Wikipedia explains it, “The maxim trends towards being universally true because of a simple principle of headline writing: if a story has enough sources to have a high chance of accuracy, a headline will be assertive”.

This interests me as it’s a news headline hack that tends to work. Find out the answer without having to go past the jump.

iPad 3 Coverage

The tech industry and the press that covers it never ceases to amaze. The pace at which news breaks is breathtaking, and then immediately forgotten for the next big thing.

John Gruber singlehandedly set off the iPad 3 launching with a “September release schedule” rumor. This is amazing because the 2nd generation iPad has not been confirmed by Apple. Make no mistake, the 2nd gen iPad coming in 2011 is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow. As Gruber writes, Apple has set itself up for a predictable June iPhone and September iPod refresh. This makes sense as the iPod can capture the holiday season. According to Gruber, it’s worth it for Apple to cut the 2nd gen iPad lifecycle short so they can use the iPad to headline annual September announcements.

I would imagine Apple isn’t pleased about iPad 2 in March and iPad 3 in September rumors. For those following the tech industry, the original iPad has already grown long in the tooth. The 1st gen iPad is a do-not-buy since the iPad 2 is coming out any month now. With 2011 iPad 3 rumors, if there’s any credibility to it (besides pure hearsay at the moment), consumers would be wise to avoid the iPad 2 and wait for the iPad 3. This helps depress current iPad sales while allowing the competition (RIM’s PlayBook, HP’s TouchPad, Motorola’s Xoom, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab) to gain market share.

If it were any other company besides Apple, debating the next, next iteration of a product would not be front page news. This rumormongering is great for pageviews, as there is nothing better for pageviews than unsubstantiated claims. On the iPad 3, Gruber disclaims that “[he’s] really guessing” and not “being coy and actually releasing information.”

Nowadays, Apple makes the news as much for things it has not done as the things it has done. Before the iPhone and the iPad came out, they were perennial Apple keynote bait. Again, great for pageviews and filler blog posts. Apple has so much influence in the industry that its presence is everywhere even when it tries not to be. Looking at this year’s CES, tablets were out in full force (a year after the iPad came out and the competition took the tablet form factor seriously). Heck, the Verizon iPhone confirmations by mainstream media (wsj, nytimes, bloomberg, etc) dominated the end of CES coverage.

The tech press is ruthless in its turnover. Yesterday, burning oil platforms was big news. Today, it’s the iPad 3 and HP’s webOS. Tomorrow, it doesn’t even matter what it is, because it will be old news the second it is posted online. Unless of course it is something Apple has not announced. Then it will never go away.

Google Reader Stats

Via TC, I found out about a minor Google Reader update.

If I recall correctly (when I last looked at the Trends section ages ago), Google Reader only shows your last 30 days activity on the date that you are checking it. Now, it shows your lifetime activity but caps it at 300K for read items. That’s a shame as it would be nice to see what stats their DB has.

I read RSS as a good way to stay on top of many diverse websites for news coverage. RSS has improved the way I get news since I started using it in 2008. Yes, I am late to the party, but RSS is a good tool. I feel like I’m playing a game of Inbox Zero with Google Reader.