Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Et Tu, Google?

Google was recently granted a patent on personalized newspapers. Until now, I have been having the market all to my self with FeedJournal, but I welcome the competition. A player like Google can really help to boost the awareness for these kinds of solutions. Yes, I am one person, and Google is somewhat larger than that. But still, I think it is a good sign that FeedJournal-like sites start to pop up. It will increase multitude, and the competition will help to drive the projects forward and prevent stagnation. In the end, users will gain by having better products.

The granting of the patent seems somewhat dubious to me, considering that FeedJournal has been alive and kicking for a long time. The patent could have been a good requirements specification document for FeedJournal.

I am obviously very curious to see where Google is going with this, if they decide to use the patent to build a product. Will they offer both a reader and a publisher version of their product? How will they integrate advertising? They definitely have big potential to integrate many of their existing services into a new solution.

But don’t worry! I’ll continue to put late hours into FeedJournal. Small operations like this one depend heavily on word-of-mouth, since time and resources don’t allow much else in the way of marketing. So please, any mentions of FeedJournal is greatly appreciated. I am grateful and indebted to my small but dedicated group of enthusiastic evangelizers (Joel, Simon, Mike, and many others), who helps me to build a better newspaper.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reading on Paper vs. on Screen

One of the basic premises behind FeedJournal is that it's better to read text on paper than on a screen. While it might not sound like a bold assumption, it still is an assumption and as such worth to examine deeper.

Today, office workers and many other professionals are required to focus their eyes on a computer screen during most of their work day. Many of them continue to use the computer at home. FeedJournal was created with many goals in mind; one of them is to release you from the screen while enabling you to read the content you love. You shouldn't have to spend more time reading off a screen, just because you want to access fresh and relevant content.

Recent research has found that reading a longer text on paper is 25% faster than reading the same text on a computer screen. At the same time, reading comprehension and article overview are improved.

Although screen resolutions have increased and font rendering technologies such as ClearType make it much easier to read on the screen, the experience is still not as comfortable as when reading on paper.

But the largest problem with reading on the computer is that your attention is constantly being diverted. These diversions come in many forms: an incoming e-mail or an instant message, an ad flashing in the corner of your eye, a teasing hyperlink in the article text, a critical software update alert that pops up, an alert that your laptop battery needs charging, your other browser tabs needing attention, etc, etc. I could go on for a long time listing frequent diversions begging for your mouse click. On top of that is the page navigation required to scroll the text - it doesn't require a rocket scientist but it's still an additional interaction you can't escape from.

The situation gets even grimmer if you choose to read you articles on a mobile device. Not only that you have the same digital diversions as a regular computer user, you will need to make do with a much smaller screen estate.

Readers of text on paper typically concentrate fully on what they're doing, while readers of screen content are either hard at work fighting off distractions or have resigned to giving the text only cursory attention.

It is actually a small wonder that anyone manages to read longer articles on a screen. Which is too bad, considering that the quality and diversity of content has literally exploded with every blogger now being a amateur journalist, publishing content on a more or less regular basis.

In the face of this, how does it sound to you to have a printed newspaper in your hands while sitting in your favorite chair, and just read. I'm not talking about just any newspaper, I am referring to the newspaper you have personally defined, with articles from your favorite sites and blogs. This is what FeedJournal offers, a better chance of keeping your attention on what you choose to read.

With these arguments I am not trying to stop you from reading RSS feeds on the computer or on the go. I do that all the time. I am simply saying that feeds with longer content greatly benefit from being read in paper format. Feeds with shorter alert-type content (new version released, ego searches, answers to blog comments, etc.) is perfect for the RSS aggregator on your computer, while FeedJournal is optimal for subscribing to feeds with longer article content.

In a future post I will describe how any web page you visit can be marked for publishing in your next FeedJournal Reader issue. FeedJournal Reader is still in development, but expect private beta testing e-mails to be sent out shortly. FeedJournal Publisher is available today for bloggers who want to be read on paper.

Friday, November 9, 2007

KillerStartups Feature

FeedJournal was featured on KillerStartups.com yesterday. I'd be grateful to anyone who would be willing to vote for me. All you have to do is go to the review and click on the plus icon next to the FeedJournal logo. Thank you!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Widget For Your Blog

It's now super-simple to add a FeedJournal widget to your web site or blog. You can see it in action in the left-hand column of my blog (http://jonasmartinsson.blogspot.com if you're not already here). Since you are probably using one of the more common blog platforms or social networks (listed below), you're only a few clicks away from having the widget installed to your site.

WidgetBox.comDeveloping this widget is something I've intended to do for a long time. It makes integrating FeedJournal with your site so much more easy. Thanks to the November 2007 article on widgets in "Inc. Magazine" I realized that widget development platforms has now reached a level where it is a very trivial task. All-in-all it only took me one hour until the widget was ready for prime time. All thanks to WidgetBox.

So, what does the widget do? First and foremost it contains a thumbnail snapshot of the FeedJournal newspaper and a text link, both linking directly to the newspaper version of your blog. Second, it allows every visitor to your blog or web site to simply share this PDF with the rest of the world, by e-mail or blog post for example.

How do you install it? In 3 simple steps:
1. Visit http://www.feedjournal.com/webservice.html, fill in your blog's feed URL and click submit.
2. Wait for the e-mail with the URL from where you can download the generated newspaper.
3. Click on "Get Widget" to add the widget to your site and configure it with the PDF URL from the e-mail.
When you are ready to update the PDF with the latest feed content, you just have to repeat step #1, since the URL to the PDF stays the same.

Future developments of the widget will include an authentic thumbnail of your PDF file's first page, and the possibility to further customize the look and feel of the widget. If you have any other requirements, I promise to take them into consideration.

Installing the widget to your site is trivial if you're somewhat familiar with HTML. You will only need to paste a HTML tag into your site's source code. To install it on one of the services below is even simpler, doesn't require any HTML knowledge and doesn't take more than a few clicks:

  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Pageflakes
  • netvibes
  • iGoogle
  • Piczo