Standing on the shoulders of tech giants

        
                

southzuck

I’ve been reading a lot of good writing about Facebook, lately. Critics are fair and give us a lot to think about our relationship with the always on social network and the idea of “Building a global community”. As always, even before the Internet, it’s not enough we repeat “technology is neutral”. It is neutral, but we must commit so we get more good than bad, as Kevin Kelly said 7 years ago. But how can you work with something you do not own or comprehend? Because Facebook, as Max Read puts it in the first article you’ll read here, is «like a four-dimensional object: we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize». So we need a four-dimensional approach, and a lot of patience.

Facebook’s actual value system seems less positive than recursive. Facebook is good because it creates community; community is good because it enables Facebook. The values of Facebook are Facebook.

The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything what was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook.

Their amount of concentrated authority resembles the divine right of kings, and is sparking a backlash that is still gathering force.

We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?

               
        

The best food review of the year

        
                

noblerot

I believe this is the best food review I’ve read this year.

Black Axe Mangal

Lamb Offal Flatbread*

There are dicks and vaginas on the floor. Metallica on the sound system, and the menu sometimes features something called a deepthroater. It’s so tempting to hate it. But then you eat former St John head chef Lee Tiernan’s dayglovibrant riffs on kebab-house fare, and you can’t help but acknowledge that you’re eating the future. A future where the quality of the ingredients and the care taken in their preparation run up against the trashily enjoyable dishes they appear in, erasing forever the distinction between high and low. A future where the food is just a part of the noisy fun you’re having, but remains of paramount importance. A future rooted in London but content to range promiscuously across most of the world map. A future that’s bright, but that’s also dicks and vaginas.

NobleRot Magazine- Sex & Drugs & Pinot Noir - issue 14

*btw, that’s a Lamb Offal Flatbread: it looks harmless, doesn’t it? It’s not.

       
        

Let's Save Net Neutrality

        
                

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers should not control what we see and do online. The rules prohibit Internet providers from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—"fast lanes" - for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else.

Battle for the web

Let’s Save Net Neutrality

       
        

The new electric spring of the News River

        
                

electric-river

One week ago in Perugia, during the annual Journalism Festival, Dave Winer talked about journos taking back their online distribution system, now firmly in silos’ hands (blue silos, big F, you got it). He called that Plan B.

First step, he said, forget your readers for a moment and start your own News River. It is something he’s been working on for years, basically a feed aggregator with no fancy stuff. It is radical because, when you use it, you just see what your sources publish when they do it: no algorithms, no distracting images, no ads. It’s like newsrooms in the old times, with the AP feed on your monitor.

Now I’m simplifying but the old News River needed a server, a bit of programming and a few bucks to let everything run. Why bother if you have amazing free products like Feedly? So now Dave shipped Electric River, a Mac app easily customizable - well, you can enjoy more if you know some coding - you can run on your desktop with no cost at all.

I did it.

But I’d be naive if I thought Electric River was that easy. I still think it has a steep learning curve for the average journalist (at least here in Italy).

Basically you have to:

  • Run a Mac.
  • Know what rss feeds are.
  • Be able to get them from your favorite sources.
  • Have some favorite sources.
  • Mix your sources so you don’t have too much information, aka too much noise.
  • Be happy with the super basic OPML editor Dave provided, or tweak your rivers building a few tabs (which I did)
  • Be happy with no images, no embedded videos, no automagical hierarchy, no likes, comments, retweets.

All considered I’m good with all the stuff above. But I’d really like some improvements to make Electric River not just a techie smart app but an app a journalist could use more at work.

ACTUAL IMPROVEMENTS
  • some kind of pagination: because if you’ve been away for a while, you lose too much news.
  • search: I’d start with some cmd + F for searching the page, but a search box would be amazing.
  • stars/readitlater: some kind of selecting items so you can work them later or just remember.
  • synch: Electric River is totally desktop, but our lives are mobile and multi-device. Some kind of feed memory would help.
  • sharing: Dave offers his awesome Radio3 for tweeting and posting on Facebook. I’d love some more customization for sharing directly in Instapaper, Pinboard, Slack etc…
  • All of the above functions are already available from Feedly, Feedbin, etc…

UI STUFF

  • I’d really could use a “Return to Top” arrow.
  • I’d love to change the default font, text size, and background (like you can on Kindle or Instapaper).

That is my feedback after one week. Electric River is only 0.40e, so it has still to grow.