(Before I get started with this review, a note of caution about one of my other gizmos. My Sony PRS-500 eBook reader has developed some kind of display problem; the leftmost inch of the screen no longer updates. I checked around online and the going price for this repair appears to be about $250. That's on a gizmo that sells for $279 on Amazon right now. Not a good deal. I'll check with Sony and update this information if I get a better price.)
I'm not going to beat around the bush here, Streamy is a Web service I've been looking forward to getting my hands on for some time now. Well, to be exact, it's been just more than a month since I first heard about it, from a mysterious YouTube video that caught my attention. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the still-private service earlier today. I've been testing it for the last hour or so and am already impressed. Not because it looks really flashy (which it does), but because it has the groundwork for a very socialized surfing experience without requiring you to install a new Web browser, or discontinue using services you're already familiar with.
In a nutshell, the service is a hybrid between Digg, Facebook, your favorite instant-messaging client, Google Reader, Twitter, and Del.icio.us. By its very name, Streamy is a mashup service. It pulls together a variety of your social streams: be it your favorite blog feeds, news alerts, or friends updates, and rolls them up into a slick package.
On the social networking and bookmarking side of things, every user gets a profile and an online presence. You can fill the profile with all sorts of information about yourself, but the real clincher here is a listing of what feeds you're subscribed to and groups you've joined. The feed reader itself lets you subscribe to as many RSS feeds as you'd like and view them all without having to leave the page. If there's any embedded content like video or music players, that comes along for the ride too.
If you find anything interesting while browsing, you can share it in several ways. There's the typical "e-mail this" option and quick links to publish it to the Streamy community, to a group you're a member of, or your friends. Much of the interface is drag and drop, and as an "aha!" moment earlier, I shared something with another Streamy user by simply dragging a story headline onto their buddy icon. Cool.
I intend on giving Streamy some more of my time to really get a feel for how it handles a huge influx of feed subscriptions and a growing user base as the service opens up. In the meantime, here are some screenshots of the interface. There are several more after the jump, so be sure to click the "read more" link below.
What is Google Reader and why should you use it?
Google Reader is a free, Web-based reader for RSS feeds. You can find feeds on nearly every Web site. RSS feeds offer a simplified view of Web content down to just text, pictures and videos--minus the site's style and formatting, which can sometimes hinder or befuddle casual reading.
Google reader lets you subscribe to these feeds as easily as typing them into your browser's address bar, and lets you read them like you're browsing through e-mail. There are many online RSS readers available, but Google is one of the best. It's easy to get a grip on Google Reader basics, but there are several tips and tricks that can make it extremely productive.
Setup: Finding RSS Feeds
As mentioned earlier, nearly every site has an RSS feed, and you can usually find it by scrolling around and hunting for the little RSS logo (a little orange box with three white waves). What makes Google Reader particularly useful is that it can take any old Web site URL and find the RSS feed on its own. If you don't quite remember the name of the site, or the exact URL, Google Reader has a built in directory you can search by keyword. There's also a neat feature called "bundles" that has over a dozen themed groups of preselected feeds you can subscribe to at once. Adding one of these bundles organizes the newly subscribed feeds into a handy folder.
Once you get going with Google Reader, you'll likely have a bunch of sites that need organizing into groups. The easiest tool to handle this is folders. To begin this process, just click on manage subscriptions in the lower left-hand corner of Google Reader's main page. This will take you to an options menu where you can create and delete folders and feeds, as well as quickly categorize the feeds you have into folders.
To change or make a new folder, there's a drop-down menu on the far right side of each feed. To make a new folder, click on it, and pick the New Folder option. After naming it, the feed you clicked on in the first place will automatically be sorted into this folder. Once you've created a folder, you can quickly add several feeds by clicking the drop-down button on the far right to change folders.
Seasoned Gmail users might be familiar with "starring" and labeling, Google's simplified version of managing feeds and stories instead of folders. Google Reader is no different, letting you star or tag posts with labels for quick sorting later on. There are two ways to star a story--either click on the star icon on the top left of a story, or add star option on the bottom left. To read through just starred items, pick the starred items feed on the top left menu.
Labeling is a slightly more complicated affair, but a powerful tool to swap through genres of feeds with just a few keystrokes. Like stars, you can tag any feed item on the fly by clicking the edit tags button on the lower right hand side of the story. You'll notice right away the story has automatically been tagged with its parent folder. To actually search through tags, you'll have to use a simple keyboard shortcut by pressing G followed by T. This will pull up an overlay that lets you sort through stories by tag using your keyboard arrows. We'll get into more depth on keyboard shortcuts in the advanced tidbits section below.
Continue reading to learn how to read and share feeds, along with some advanced tidbits for taking your reading to the next level.
Here's a new service I can't wait to use--in part for its good looks, and also for its attempt at combining several different news and social services together in a user-friendly manner. It's called Streamy, and the easiest way to describe it is a mashup of Google Reader, Meebo, Del.icio.us and Twitter. The emphasis however, is on Web content, and how to make it both easy to read and share with others.
This morning AOL launched myAOL, a group of three services wrapped up into one customizable page. MyAOL is made up of three services: myPage, a customizable start page akin to Pageflakes or Netvibes; Mgnet--an audiovisual mashup of news; and Favorites--which for all intents and purposes is a Web-based RSS reader. All three offer various ways of browsing, reading, and discovering news and Web content.
Since most users are already familiar with the concepts of myPage and Favorites, the real surprise here is Mgnet. This is one of the cooler things I've seen lately, and somewhat similar to Google's recently released Google News image browser. Users can pick out topics they like or are interested in, and Mgnet will pull up a small array of images linked up with story headlines. Clicking one brings up the story description in a separate pane, and users are able to vote it up or down (a la Reddit) as well as see related news stories (which are powered by Sphere).
In addition to providing stories it thinks you'll be interested in, Mgnet also keeps track of "what's hot," a small list of the most-clicked and voted-on stories. I found this more interesting than the actual AOL front page, since it's a little more visually stimulating. The one missing piece in this system is a way to see how user voting is affecting each story, something AOL will likely add later down the line.
Favorites is also impressive. As an RSS reader it's well-equipped. There's a fairly extensive listing of prepicked feeds from a variety of Web sites. There's also the option to add your own feeds, either with a straight RSS address, or by searching by URL. To keep track of your various feeds, you can set up folders, a little bit like Google Reader. You can also go in and reorder feeds with simple dragging and dropping. The one missing piece is a trashcan to delete feeds you don't want anymore, which instead is handled in a separate feeds manager.
AOL's got a pretty solid lineup of Web apps in one spot with myAOL. What it lacks in true originality, it makes up for in execution, as all three services are simple to use and feature-rich.
See more screens below.… Read more
Today I take my lead from a Reuters article that describes two alternative display technologies that may some day replace (or at least augment) LCDs in mainstream computer systems.
Both are on the market today. OLED (organic light-emitting display) technology, used on some cellphones, creates what amounts to an array of tiny LEDs. This approach is theoretically superior to the way LCDs work, which is to combine a white backlight with colored filters and tiny shutters (the liquid crystals) for each pixel. All the light generated by the OLED is visible to the user, but most of the light in … Read more
This simple and flexible feed reader for iPhone lets you decide what news you want to see. Simply find the RSS link (.xml link) on your favorite news site and add the URL using iPhone Feed Reader's simple interface. We like the simple interface and the ability to hit the All Feeds button for short summaries of stories. Though there's not a lot in the way of customization, iPhone Feed Reader is a great place to store and access your favorite RSS feeds.
iPhone link: http://www.iphonefeedreader.com/ifeeds/index.php
Apple will begin selling the iPhone on Friday, but I'm not buying one.
It isn't that I don't like Apple hardware. I'm typing this on a MacBook Pro I bought last November. I have a stack of older PowerBooks (literally), a couple of iPods (one dead, alas), and a Power Mac G5.
It isn't that I don't like to buy new toys. I just counted: I carry around ten battery-powered devices every day, four of which are less than six months old.
But I don't need a new phone, especially not … Read more
Google Reader is a Web-based RSS feed reader. Users can subscribe to as many RSS feeds as they want, then browse them in a lean and simplistic two-pane story browser that feels a little bit like Gmail. RSS feeds give users a visually simplified version of Web content. In addition to photos and text, Google Reader will also display embedded video clips from several popular services.
In addition to reading stories yourself, you can also share them with others. Google Reader gives users the option to create sharable feeds of subscribed stories, including the ones they mark as … Read more