Saturday, May 03, 2014

Thinking tools 2014 - holding steady but future unclear

Revisiting something I wrote 14 years ago reminded me of the tools I use to think about the world. Once those tools were conversation, paper diaries and notebooks — even letters. Later came email, local BBS, FidoNet [1] and Usenet [3]. In the 90s we created web pages with tools like FrontPage and “personal web servers” [2] — even precursors to what became blogs.

In the 00s we had the Golden Age of Google. My thinking tools were made by Google — Google Blogger, Google Custom Search Engine, Google Reader (RSS/Atom) and Google Reader Social. We loved Google then — before the fall.

From 1965 through 20011 my thinking tools continuously improved. Then things got rocky.

These days I still use Blogger [4]. Blogger is old but seems to be maintained, unlike Google Custom Search. I’m grateful that Daniel Jakut continues to update MarsEdit — I wish he’d use Backer to charge me some money. There are features I’d like, but most of all I’d like him to continue support.

I still rely on RSS, even as it fades from memory (but even new journalism ventures like Upshot still have feeds). Feedbin (20$/yr) is almost as good as Google Reader [6], is still around (but unstable), and Pinboard ($10 lifetime) has turned out to be a “good enough” de facto microblogging platform — with a bit of help from IFTTT (0$) [5]. Alpha ($36/year!) [7] powered by PourOver and consumed in part through Duerig Root-Feeds has filled out the rest of the microblogging role — and replaced the intellectual feedback of Reader Social.

So as of 2014 I’ve cobbled together a set of thinking tools that are comparable to what I had in 2009. It feels shaky though. Few people under 30 know what RSS is, is not growing (even Twitter is dying), and I’ve recently written about the decrepit state of Google Custom Search. Of Google’s twitter-clone, the less said the better.

I wonder what comes next? I don’t see anything yet. I’m reminded of the long fallow time between the end of Palm @2003 and the (useful) iPhone of 2009 (transition hurt). Expect turbulence.


[1] FidoNews was last published July 1999.

[2] FrontPage 98 was a prosumer tool; the closest equivalent today would be MarsEdit or Microsoft’s forgotten Live Writer (2009).

[3] I used to tag Usenet posts with a unique string, then search for them in DejaNews and later Google Groups. So a bit of a micro-blog.

[4] I do use WordPress on Dreamhost for my share archive.

[5] Pinboard is about $10 for lifetime use. That’s so low it worries me. There’s a $25/yr option for a full text archive for every bookmark, but I don’t need that; it would just confuse my searches. Maybe Maciej should seek Backer funding for new features?

[6] Speaking of Backer funding, I’d fund a feature that gave me in-context editing of Feedbin feed titles.

[7] is by far the most expensive of the services I use, but if you visit the site the yearly subscription fee is undiscoverable. You only see the free signup, without mention of follower limitations. This bothers me

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