from the and-now-for-something-completely-different dept
Our weekly Awesome Stuff post generally deals with interesting and/or useful new products currently being crowdfunded. This week's post will be a little different (actually, entirely different) as I was tapped to fill in for Mike and, unlike many award winners claim while being handed a statuette, I actually had nothing prepared.
So, rather than put together a small list of poorly researched crowdfunded projects, I have decided to write what I know. This post will deal with the tools I use as a Techdirt contributor, as well as with some of my favorite places on the web. Will it be as awesome as most Awesome Stuff posts? Considering we have a pretty active set of commenters, this question is far from rhetorical.
We'll start (I say "we" as if you had a choice where we start) with my most-used tools.
When Google decided to pull the plug on its RSS reader, it prompted a panic among those who had become reliant on a service they assumed would be around forever. (There's a lesson in there that has something to do with eggs and baskets…) I'm currently subscribed to 400+ feeds (nothing compared to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who claims more than 1,900), so a capable replacement was essential, rather than just a nicety. After trying a few others out, I settled on Feedly, which offered a streamlined, text-only feed that roughly approximated the Google Reader experience.
I find Feedly's mobile version superior to the desktop version and use it almost exclusively. Sharing is pretty seamless and its inline browser can usually handle the job. I do wish Feedly would give you the option to open links in another browser because when it can't handle a site, it tends to lock up for a bit before gracelessly crashing to the "desktop." The other small issue I have seems to be cache-related. Clicking on one article might open up one from a "page" or two back, or from somewhere else on the current page. This is often more disconcerting than annoying and is liveable.
Another essential tool. Anything I think I might write about or simply want to read later is sent to Evernote via Feedly. Unlike Feedly, the desktop version is actually superior to the mobile version, and it has an extension that allows you to "clip" nearly anything from any webpage.
It's a very streamlined note-taking tool that I rarely use to take actual notes. Mine's filled with links to articles and posts (nearing 4,000 at the moment) and that number swells by about 300 notes per month. I often look at the growing number of notes and swear that I'm going to clean it out, but I think we all know that's not going to happen. Falling storage costs have made the idea of "cleaning something out" (email, Evernote, etc.) completely absurd. Why clean it out when you've got space to store it all?
This became my go-to composing tool once Google released its offline version. Even without a Wi-fi signal, I can still write and simply sync it up when a signal is acquired. A lack of a signal is becoming increasingly uncommon, but it's still handy having that option, just in case.
That's the Holy Trinity (as it were) of my writing process. From Feedly to Evernote to Google Docs before ending up on Techdirt. The main problem with the feed reader is lag. Feeds trail other sources like Twitter, where information flows almost instantly. To make that change would mean organizing lists on Twitter to trim down its firehose tendencies. And building lists on Twitter is about as enjoyable as bathing multiple cats. Failing that, I could just do what Mike Masnick does and keep the entire internet open at all times.
Moving on from the essential, here are some other essentials not entirely related to the writing process.
If you're going to browse Reddit using your phone, do yourself a favor and pick up BaconReader. It's a much cleaner experience, it handles multiple accounts, and it has an inline browser that actually works without periodically dumping you out of the program. (I'm looking at you, Feedly.) The premium version is only $1.99 and completely worth it.
Reddit Enhancement Suite
If you're going to surf Reddit anywhere else, you have to grab RES (Reddit Enhancement Suite). Visible vote counts on comments and posts, an inline Imgur/Youtube viewer, Never Ending Reddit (a tumblr-esque neverending scroll of posts) and a ton of other enhancements makes vanilla, unenhanced Reddit about as appealing as navigating the US government's PACER system.
And if you're going to surf Reddit, you may as well subscribe to these subreddits:
Speaking of which, if you have to navigate PACER, go get RECAP. It's an extension that will fires up when PACER is accessed and lets you know if the documents you seek have already been archived (at the Internet Archive), thus allowing you to browse those without paying the US government $0.10/page for documents created with taxpayer funds. If the documents you're attempting to view aren't already stashed at the IA, RECAP will stash them as soon as you access them, which means your $0.10/page hasn't been spent in vain. You may be getting screwed (by both the per page charge and PACER's hasn't-been-updated-since-1995 interface) but at least you're helping pry some PDFs out of The Man's hands.
The Great Suspender
Another useful extension targets those of us who keep too many browser tabs open. The Great Suspender (whose name riffs on the The Platters' classic hit) suspends tabs once the user-defined time limit has passed, freeing up more RAM. This is a Chrome essential because as Chrome users know, each tab is a new "instance" and multiple tabs leak RAM faster than Snowden leaks documents. (Timely!) Sites can also be "whitelisted" to prevent them from being "put to sleep."
Not everything I read is directly related to Techdirt's many wheelhouses. Hidden among the 400+ feeds are a few sites I read simply because I enjoy them. A few of these publish very infrequently, so subscribing to a feed makes more sense than simply bookmarking them.
The sometimes-home of the wordiest developer/game critic in the business, Tim Rogers. If you like reading game reviews that approach (or frequently exceed) 10,000 words and leave no tangent unexplored, this is the place for you. Rogers' review of Bulletstorm is still a stone classic.
Ministry of Truth
Pseudonymous blogger Unity uses well-researched facts and incisive wit to deflate the hysterical for-the-children claims made by politicians and talking heads. UK-oriented.
Make It So
Detailed deconstructions of the tech user interfaces as presented in Hollywood scifi films -- what works, what doesn't and how it could be improved. 51 posts alone dedicated to the tech on display in The Fifth Element.
That Guy's A Maniac
Named after a badly-delivered line from the original Resident Evil, TGAM tackles Resident Evil stuff, console RPGS and is resolutely Nintendo-focused. Runs on in-jokes, Pokemon and deftly-deployed self-effacement. Tackles the State of Gaming by criticizing game criticism, new console releases and the UK's underwhelming game retail outlets. Some mild swearing.
Finally, here are three blogs well worth reading, all coming from the criminal defense perspective.
NY defense lawyer Scott Greenfield's blog, published early and often and featuring a comment section where fools are suffered not at all.
A Public Defender
The public defense perspective via the pseudonymous Gideon of Connecticut. Published not quite as frequently but still essential. Most recently quoted by Techdirt expressing his shocked disbelief that a grand jury could crank out 276 indictments in four hours. Also helms a fairly entertaining Twitter account.
Houston-area defense lawyer Mark Bennett's blog. Again, no one keeps up with Greenfield, but Bennett has produced some remarkable work, including several posts deconstructing Prof. Mary Anne Franks' misguided legislative attempts to criminalize "revenge porn." Perhaps best known here at Techdirt for calling out investigative reporter Teri Buhl (Gideon from A Public Defender was also involved) for her claims that her tweets couldn't be quoted without permission (and receiving a lawsuit threat in return).
Hopefully, this post pointed you to at least one piece of software/web destination you weren't already aware of. If not, then the good news is that the regularly scheduled programming will be returning shortly. Feel free to make recommendations of your own in the comments so I can scrape them for a quick post if this situation should present itself again next week. (I'm only halfway kidding.)