Dear Safari RSS Team

Dear Safari RSS team,

Updated 2005/08/01 with thoughts on Flagged vs. Star Ratings

I’ve been using your cool RSS aggregator for a while now, and while it’s really quite good, there are a couple of things you could do to make it really kick ass.

  1. Have a “new items only” view – rather than just sorting by New, or sorting by Date, or filtering by “last 7 days” – just show me the new stuff. I’ve got like 15,000 items that appear to get loaded every time I check my feeds. That would drop down to just a hundred or two if I could limit to “New only”. The “Today” filter doesn’t cut it – what if I miss a day? What about Monday mornings? Vacation days? “Last 7 Days” isn’t granular enough. A “New Items” filter should be possible, with the SQL Lite engine storing the feeds and items…
  2. Let me collapse/expand entries – sure, the slider dealie to set displayed article length is nice, but what if I could set items to show title only by default, and just twiddle a little knob on the items that I want to read more about to view the full content – without having to affect the displayed article length of every other item on the page
  3. Make Safari’s scheduled RSS updates actually, you know, run on a schedule. Often I find that Safari’s forgotten to update for a couple of hours (or it refuses to update after launching, even if it’s the first run of the day). Seems like clicking on my “feeds” folder in the Bookmarks Bar and causing it to start loading the feeds seems to trigger an update. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to babysit an automated update though.
  4. It’d be really nice if I could override the default “Remove Articles” setting – so I could set it to automagically purge items after a couple of months, but I could set a feed (or folder of feeds, or whatever) to keep items for a different period (shorter, longer, infinite, whatever). I know it’d be a bit more confusing for the UI, but if I could “Get Info” on a feed, and have access to the settings there, it wouldn’t be in any newbies’ faces…
  5. While I’m at it, why can’t I “Get Info” on any bookmark and add additional information? Have it capture the text of the page for searching by Spotlight? Add additional keywords/tags to a bookmark (you know, like the Finder’s “Spotlight Keywords” field) – personal folksonomies in my Bookmarks…
  6. How about a “Flagged” bit on a blog entry? With a corresponding “Flagged Items” filter view? Makes it much easier to find stuff that I’ve found interesting before, and kinda makes the persistent store of feeds and items, you know, useful…

OK. That’s it for now. Keep up the great work. If there’s anything I can do to help out, just give me a shout.

Update: Just had a “duh” moment – instead of just having a “flagged” bit (which is by definition a binary toggle), what about following iTunes and iPhoto by having star ratings for feeds and items? Then I could filter on previous items that were ranked 3 stars or higher… Actually, following the iTunes/iPhoto model for “get info” would work as well – being able to set multiple DublinCore-ish fields to help find stuff later… Educational Directory Update

Keeping the “too hot to go outside, so getting trivial tasks cleaned up” theme for today, I finally got around to updating the Educational Directory – adding 18 new feeds.

Sorry for the delay – a couple months on some of them – and I’m hoping most/all will find their ways into the iTunes podcasting directory…

It’s supposed to hit 36˙C today and tomorrow – that’s darned near 100˙F, which is waaaay hotter than we’re used to in Calgary. Heck, it’s even hotter than Honolulu or the Caribbean right now. At least it’s a dry heat :-) We’re roughly on par with Las Vegas or Phoenix for the next couple of days… Melting…

Slight theme tweakage

The tabs in the header of this site have been bugging me for months – just never enough to prompt me to do anything about it. For now, I’ve just moved them to the top of the banner, so they don’t fight with the image description on the right side.

I’ve also added 8 more images to the banner image rotation. Several from the summer trip to Hawaii (including my new personal fave, from Hanauma Bay on Oahu), and a couple from around town. If you don’t want to keep hitting Command+R to see them all, just view the image list.

If you only read the blog via RSS, then this won’t affect you. Move along. These are not the banners you’re looking for…

Of course, this means I’ll get more emails from people asking me why I have pictures of other places in the blog banner. The pictures are for me – serving a similar purpose as iPhoto and Flickr – to help me remember places/events. Like having my own personal flashcards to help the memory. That’s the major reason I do the blog in the first place…

BBEdit + Automator = Happiness

For the Mavericks project, I get to manually “fix” several large xml documents that are spit out of a couple of piped legacy databases and content management systems. Each time a file is exported, it is slightly different, and after the file is handed off to me I get to go in and manually massage the distressed bits so I can use it in a meaningful way.

Until now, that meant going in and doing the tweaks by hand – fixing stupid MS Word quotes and dashes and stuff, and replacing some crazy legacy-induced formatting tags etc… I’d occasionally miss something, or do what comes naturally to a mundane repetitive manual process – screw it up.

But, BBEdit 8.2 now has a boatload of handy Automator actions, and it looks like I can now trivially automate this tedious task. Here’s what the workflow looks like:

BBEdit + Automator

Spam Karma and Referrer Karma

If you’re running WordPress, run – don’t walk – and install Spam Karma 2. Best spam killer I’ve ever seen. And it’s transparent – no Captchas or false-turing-test-attempts involved at all. It’s a work of art. Shared blacklists. Regular expression matching for blocked comments/trackbacks. And way more.

And, if you’re running any PHP website (including WordPress), run – don’t walk – and install Spam Karma’s cousin: Referrer Karma. It works on any PHP-based website, and can share the blacklist with Spam Karma 2 for a nice integrated spamroach killing machine.

Referrer Karma is a bit more involved to install – you have to manually install the files and configure by hand, and edit your main index.php file yourself. But that’s only so it can be as effective as possible – it triggers before any WordPress code is called, so it wouldn’t work as well as a nice easy plugin. Trade-offs. I’d rather file referrer spam into /dev/null than have an easy install…

I’d installed SK2 at the suggestion of Alan Levine, and it’s been 100% bulletproof since. RK has put a stop to to the annoying spamroach that was trying to game my non-existent referrer log to link to a fake pharmacy site. 1000 attempts in 12 hours. Good bye, spam roach bastage.

The pharmacy spamroach was hitting my blog repeatedly. See if you can see when I activated Referrer Karma in this screenshot:

Referrer Karma in action

It’s the bottom 2 entries that are now blocked. As soon as I threw the switch on RK, the “real” referrers started showing up (or rather, the noise dropped out).

Update: To the spamroach that keeps trying to get around the blacklists: bring it on. In the mood I’ve been in lately I would love nothing more than to mix it up with some drooling cretin hiding behind IP proxies… If you think you can get in, go for it.

Solar Car Race – Texas to Calgary

The North American Solar Challenge finished today (official photos from entire race), with the finish line and reception area at the University of Calgary. The team from the U of C finished to cheers of hundreds (but I couldn’t see because I was stuck in a huge line for a free BBQ burger…)

Solar Race Finish - 27

Lots of cool (but scarily tiny) solar powered cars. A surprisingly huge turnout – crowd was huge! And some irony thrown in for good measure. They lit the Olympic torch for the duration, burning more fuel than was consumed by all cars for the entire duration of the 2000-mile race. And a local shopping centre showed up with their Hummer2, to, well, be cool n stuff. Bling. And use more fuel than the entire race consumed (if you don’t count the fleet of supporting vehicles…)

Solar Race Finish - 5
Solar Race Finish - 14

Pachyderm Beta 3.0 Info via iChat

The Pachyderm programming team is starting an experiment in live, online feedback for Beta3.

If you’re working on authoring a presentation in Pachyderm 2.0 Beta 3, it might be a good idea to keep this AIM chat group (pachydermbeta3) open so we can send notices/warnings about changes to the beta. I’ll try to keep the chat group open when I’m available.

Note that this is not a “live technical support hotline”, nor is it a “help me create my presentation hotline” – it’s a place where we can warn you before we make drastic changes to the beta application – so you can tell us to hold off for a bit if you’re in the middle of something.

It’s just that email isn’t timely enough for this, and a listserv would spam all registered beta users, not just those who may be affected.

Mavericks Authoring with Pachyderm 2.0

I’m plugging away at authoring the Mavericks online exhibit, using the current Beta3 snapshot of Pachyderm 2.0. The content is basically all prewritten, and structured into screens with links to assets etc… So the hard part has been done long before the content gets to me to implement.

The basic workflow we’re going with right now is:

  • Exbibit is broken down into sections by Glenbow
  • Sections are laid out on paper, to set up screen structure, linking, assets, etc… (ballpark 150 screens per section)
  • Supporting content is written for use in appropriate screens.
  • Assets and metadata are exported from ContentDM by Glenbow
  • Assets and metadata are imported into Pachyderm via a custom back-end app
  • Sections are divided between implementing authors (primarily Shawn so far, but I’m taking more sections now that Beta3 is out the door)
  • Screens for each section are entered into Pachyderm, and any deficiencies are identified (missing content, missing assets, missing metadata)
  • Screens within each section are linked up, and a test publish is conducted
  • Published section is reviewed, section is modified as needed
  • Sections are stitched together into a single überpresentation (ballpark 1000+ screens?)

I’m currently getting around 45 screens per hour in straight data-entry authoring mode. So, it should take me in the ballpark of 3 hours to do the basic implementation authoring for a new section of about 150 screens.

We’re getting to the point now where we’re hoping to start the test-publish stage for the first 5 of the 13 sections.

WP Plugin: Popularity Contest Plugin (beta)

Popularity Contest Plugin by Alex King is like a stats plugin on steroids. Not the cheap horse steroids, but some kind of high-end East European Gymnast steroids.

It breaks down all posts/categories/dates/comments/trackbacks on your entire WP blog, and ranks them relative to each other. Handy for telling at a glance where the most “interesting” (at least to everyone but yourself – you likely know the stuff that interests yourself already) stuff at a glance.

Popularity Contest is a WordPress plugin that uses page views and feedback (comments, trackbacks, etc.) to determine how popular each of your posts are (in relation to each other). The values given to each type of view and feedback are configurable1 and popularity for all posts is recalculated whenever they are changed

Update: Wow. This plugin is sure handy for identifying where the spamroaches are trying to sneak into my blog! Posts that should be receiving no traffic are skyrocketing up the “popularity” charts. Amazing. Stupid spambots.