Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Release Retrospective

It's been an interesting week. On February 19, the brand new FeedJournal Reader service launched and created a small buzz, boosting my daily unique visitor count to 10,000. Seven days later the traffic is still up there, and I thought it's a good time to do a retrospective to see which lessons could be learned form this experience.

What I did to promote the release:
- Sent a press release with pr.com.
- Submitted suggestions to major Web 2.0 blogs and media.
- Notified 30 powerful sneezers.
- Blogged about it

Before the release I always imagined the press release would be my strongest card for generating buzz. I figured print media should be interested in a technological innovation related to their field. As far as I know, the press release was only picked up by one source (online) plus Google News, so that was a big disappointment. I suspect pr.com might not be the best service for publishing press releases. I chose them because I knew Google News would pick it up, and I thought that would be worth something. Next time, I'll go with another service.

More encouraging was that Download Squad picked up the news extremely quickly. I had been unsuccessfully pummeling them with suggestions to mention FeedJournal Publisher back when that was released. No doubt that Reader is sexier than Publisher, so I don't blame them. Lifehacker followed suit, being tipped off by Download Squad, and suddenly all the traffic I ever dreamt of was coming my way. gHacks were also quick to post a review of the Reader service, and from those 3 sources the news rippled through the blogosphere.

Unfortunately my hosting provider couldn't handle the traffic! It was painfully clear to me from looking at my inbox that anyone who visited the site ran into server errors. Bad...very bad! What should I do? It was late and my head was spinning. I made a calculated guess that it must be the newly enabled image support that was the culprit. Fortunately I had a readily available switch for it, and I hit it. The service seemed to be back in action. Some hours later, I posted a short message on my blog about the scaling issues and the temporary image disabling (re-enabled by now). Unfortunately many of the comments on the big blogs originate from the time when the site was experiencing problems.

I was surprised to see the number of blogs simply regurgitating the initial announcement from the big blogs. These "posters" don't offer anything original, and I am not talking about link posts here. Perhaps it is some rogue SEO technique used to score incoming links; no matter what's the reason, it smells fishy.

It has been fantastic to get loads of e-mails with feedback, comments, praise, feature requests, bug reports, you name it. I am pushing all of that into my to do-list. The reception of the service has been great, more positive than I had dreamed of. Generally people either love it or think it's silly - but many many people think it is innovative enough to try it out or even more importantly, mention it in online discussions.

In summary, you can't say but that the release has been a success, by measuring the number of users. I should have prepared better for scaling issues, but with a little bit of luck I managed to solve it in a satisfactory manner. Now it's time to look forward and to deal with the items in the to do-list!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Images Are Back

Just a quick note to let you know that image support is re-enabled with yesterday's update and everything seem to be working well so far.

Next up here on my blog, will be a post reviewing the FeedJournal Reader release. During the weekend the site was blasted with traffic, and I with e-mail; I'm sure there are a lot of lessons to learn from that experience. After that I plan to run a series of posts describing how to best take advantage of FeedJournal, and how it integrates with different 3rd party services.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Images Temporarily Disabled in Reader Due To Heavy Traffic

I wasn't prepared for the massive amount of traffic influx that suddenly hit FeedJournal Reader yesterday. I know that some of you ran into errors due to the heavy load, and I apologize for that. As a temporary measure I disabled image support in FeedJournal Reader. But don't worry, images will return soon! I am working hard to find a new and better scalable solution.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FeedJournal Reader Is Launched

The time has come for FeedJournal Reader to get rid of its private beta scaffoldings. All users are now able to try the free service I've spent many nights on. Welcome in!

I dislike beta tags so I am not sticking that label to FeedJournal Reader, despite it being a young solution. While I consider it to be stable, I will closely monitor how my web hosting provider handles up-scaling the traffic.

The launch doesn't mean that I am planning to start to go to bed early. Far from it, I'm eager to continue working on new features for both the Reader and Publisher services. So please keep those feature requests, bug reports and comments coming. I'm committed to make FeedJournal a first-grade solution, both in terms of usability and usefulness - and I won't be able to do it without passionate users.

A big "Thank You" to the testers for their comments and encouragement!

Here's the press release:

FeedJournal Reader Launches Free Service for Generating Personalized Newspapers

FeedJournal Reader lets web surfers generate a personalized newspaper from any web source, using award-winning technology. The free Internet service allows users to fetch news content from more than 100 million blogs and other news sources worldwide, and print it out in newspaper format.
Tel Aviv, ISRAEL - February 19, 2008 - FeedJournal today announced the general availability of FeedJournal Reader, an Internet service for generating your personal newspaper. Users of the free service can select web feeds from more than 100 million bloggers as well as many other web resources.

"The realization of FeedJournal Reader turns every blogger into a journalist", says Jonas Martinsson, who founded FeedJournal in early 2006, and has since managed the software development based on his original idea. "The long tail of the blogosphere has finally reached printed traditional media. Today's newsrooms cater to a general audience while FeedJournal puts the editorial decisions in the hands of each reader."

FeedJournal Reader accepts all RSS and Atom feeds, and transforms them into a PDF file, in the format of a traditional newspaper. The user can then print it out and read it offline, where interruptions are typically less frequent. Research has shown that reading on paper is 25% faster then reading on screen; and reading comprehension is much higher for reading texts on paper.

About FeedJournal

FeedJournal was founded by Jonas Martinsson and is the original solution provider of personalized newspapers. In 2006, the prototype to what is today FeedJournal Reader won First Prize in Microsoft's "Made In Express Contest". FeedJournal also offers a Publisher version where content providers, such as bloggers or non-printed newspapers, can offer visitors a printable version of their content in newspaper style.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

GTD with a Full Inbox

"Getting Things Done" (GTD) tells you that keeping your inbox empty reduces stress. I like that. However, continuously removing and filing incoming items requires effort, especially if you're getting lots of e-mail. I've been toying with an alternative solution lately; one where you don't have to actively file e-mails but still get the benefits from the GTD process.

My idea is that instead of your e-mail client opening the inbox by default, you instead go to a custom view with all your unread and starred/flagged messages. That way you will only see e-mails that are action items. By using this approach, e-mails will automatically disappear from the list as soon as you've opened them. If you need to follow up on an e-mail you simply star it and it will be visible in the start view until you remove that star.

GMail does not officially support saved searches, but there are simple ways to make this work. Basically you can save a search as a browser bookmark and then use that to open GMail. Bookmark GMail Action Items (drag and drop it to your bookmark menu) to save a GMail view of unread items in your inbox plus any starred items.

At GMail Search Bookmarks you can create a bookmark for your own GMail search. The syntactic reference for search queries can be obtained from Using advanced search at Google Help Center.

I tried to to something similar in Office 2007, but couldn't figure out how to write logical operators (and, or) for custom search folders. Anyone knows if that's possible?

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Monday, February 4, 2008

FeedJournal Reader Updates

Those of you who follow the FeedJournal updates in the discussion forum know that quite a few updates have trickled in lately. The most significant of those is probably the free inclusion of images for all users of FeedJournal Reader. I was initially toying with the idea to try to charge money for image support, but have since come to my senses.

The feedback from the private beta testers have been very positive and the ride has been surprisingly smooth so far. I expect to launch the service within the coming weeks. The features I want to get in before are:

  • Global image switch when generating your newspaper (handy when you want to save ink)
  • JavaScript optimizations

So, all in all, we're very close to a launch - crossing my fingers!

Lift-off