Archive for January, 2007
Chris Saad, CEO of the young Australian start-up Faraday Media that produces Touchstone, published a rather cryptic screenshot today of the new interface for the Touchstone version that apparently is going to go be available in private beta anytime soon. His blog post is titled I love the new Touchstone Beta + FlickrBabes.com.
A few weeks ago I described Touchstone’s functionality and the potential I see for it in a comment on Dave Winer’s blog:
"I’d vote for the talented guys behind Touchstone … basically scans your browsing history, your bookmarks, e-mail, documents and other stuff that characterizes your personal attention stream.
You then select the sources that are likely to produce information that might be of interest to you. It makes sense to use web feeds for this of course, or people could develop their own input adapter.
I appreciate this method of managing information overload because the Touchstone engine will only display bits of incoming information if they match your attention profile above the granular thresholds that you determine. The more important that information is to you, the more persistent and disruptive its presentation.
With lots of bloggers talking about handling information overload and attention management, I believe Touchstone provides a viable solution for a real pain.
Ties: the CEO’s a Skype buddy of mine and he once paid me dinner."
I’ve fought quite a few Touchstone alpha releases myself over the past few months and exposed several of my closest blogging friends to its bugs, so it’s not that I don’t know what Touchstone is about. What these Australians didn’t tell me so far though is that their new product apparently is capable of sending Flickr feeds to my Windows system tray—look at the enlarged version of the Touchstone screenshot that Chris put in his blog post:
Will the new Touchstone be able to offer streams of rich media to my desktop?
If Chris publishes a screenshot like this, it most likely means he and his development team, led by Ashley Angell, are very close to announcing the private beta. I’ve already Twittered in his direction about it this morning. He’s awfully quiet on Skype, so now all we can do is wait. If you haven’t signed up yet, then rush to the sidebar of the Touchstone website and fill in your e-mail address.
Update: Someone submitted this blog post to Digg (visit to vote) just now. It’s such fun to see my TypePad stats page being swarmed by Digg visitors:
Leon Ho, the Brisbane-based editor of A-list productivity blog LifeHack.org, sparked my inspiration today with a post on his personal blog, titled 0 to 12,000 RSS Subscribers. As his post title reveals, Leon shares several tips that might help you reach a larger readership on your blog within a relatively short amount of time.
First I bookmarked Leon’s post on del.icio.us (direct link to all bookmarks for Leon’s post), then I turned on coComment tracking so that I could follow the conversation. Still, I had some ideas of my own that would fit in nicely with Leon’s and I thought I’d submit a comment myself to add my own 2 cents to the story.
Unfortunately, Leon’s blog comment form seems to lack any basic kind of formatting so I decided I might as well devote an entire blog post to my take on increasing your subscriber base, although I realized all too well my subscriber count is at a mere 1% of his.
Summarizing Leon’s tips: use full feeds, give the RSS icon a prominent
position, provide consistent, high-quality content, offer email
subscriptions and make it easy for people to share your posts with their friends.
I’d like to a couple more tips to the mix that seemed to make a huge difference for me:
- Use large, attractive feed icons, preferably the ones that by now have become the defacto standard. They are freely available for download from FeedIcons. Host the icons yourself.
- Obvious to some: offer a browser-friendly version of your feed with FeedBurner and display the number of subscribers by embedding a FeedBurner FeedCount chicklet into your page, if you dare.
- Let people browse your feeds live from your pages by embedding a piece of code in the sidebar of your site. Really it’s not that difficult. Pick any of the many excellent tools so diligently demonstrated by David Rothman on his current and comprehensive, hands-on review page here: RSS to Web Page: Tool Output Examples.
- Make your feeds auto-discoverable and double-check that they are auto-discoverable indeed. Most blog hosting services take care of this already. If not: make sure the header of your pages contains code like this:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
title="Blog Posts Feed"
- Stick to a certain average posting frequency. To be totally honest I personally need to apply this principle to my own working discipline. When people first add your feed to their aggregator, the feed is likely to be included in a group called Probation or something similar. While your feed is there it has the attention from your subscriber. Your goal is to convince that reader to move your feed to a more permanent group, preferably the one named High Priority. So it’s ok if you don’t blog every day, as only a few people would be able to keep up anyway—just don’t drop the frequency to below once every two weeks. People lose interest or even get annoyed and bounce you off their list.
- Validate your feeds. Paste your feed URLs at feed a validator, such as FeedValidator. Fix errors.
- Consider offering email subscriptions through R|Mail. I’ve noticed a 20% increase since I signed up with Randy Morin’s service. Recipients are apparently very satisifed with how the posts are delivered. R|Mail is free.
- Subscribe to your own feed, both as a feed and by email, so that you know what your subscribers are receiving. Open the email version through web mail: sometimes the plain-text version looks awful. Switch to a different RSS-to-email service if this happens.
Excellent news from Pete Cashmore on Mashable this morning. In his post MuseStorm Launches Widget Tracking he announces that MuseStorm has extended its feed widget arsenal in several dimensions: not only does it now offer various feed widgets both for the desktop and for websites, but it also offers detailed analytics to feed publishers.
The MuseStorm people themselves call their new service the MuseStorm Widget Syndication Service, as they proudly announced in yesterday’s blog post It’s alive! MuseStorm Widget Syndication Service launches.
Needless to say I signed up for the MuseStorm service straight away, following the feed configuration steps offered by the MuseStorm Flash wizard:
Within minutes I had produced a slick, animated-headlines version of the bookmarks that I keep in my del.icio.us RSSonate account:
Note that I resized the widget just to demonstrate that the feed widget can be widened. Several skins and other customizations are offered. Do you see the +sign in the bottom-left corner? It allows visitors of my site to copy the widget to their blog. You can also follow this link: RSSonate Feed Widget.
In addition to Google Gadget and Yahoo! Widget versions for the desktop, feed widget publishers can embed their code into any online web page. You don’t need access to your page templates: just embed the code into your sidebar or even in the body of a blog post.
Here’s a screenshot of the widget selector box:
The base MuseStorm service for publishing feed widgets is free. The Analytics module is charged at USD4 per feed per month, with the first two months free for all users. At this moment my own Analytics panel is rather boring because my panel wasn’t online until I published this post. As soon as people start clicking on any of the links inside the panel and the clickthrough numbers start showing up, I’ll upload another screenshot. This is what the MuseStorm Analytics Dashboard looks like:
And here’s a screenshot of the page where my dazzling metrics will appear:
At this moment support for the Mac desktop is limited to the Yahoo! Widget. Mac Desktop is planned for release though, as well as support for mobile and IM widgets. Keep an eye on the MuseStorm blog, aptly titled Riding the Storm: it seems to me they’ve got some cool releases up their sleeves.
I don’t know how I could have missed the MuseStorm gamma while doing research for web-based RSS tickers, but for me this beats everything I’ve tried so far—both in features and pricing. Would you do me a favor and try out the widget? Click on the links inside it, see how easy you find it copy the widget to your own web site and then let me know if you think I should replace FeedBurner’s Headline Animator with the MuseStorm one.
It seems I’ve been pushing the del.icio.us bookmarking service to its limits over the last few weeks. I use my RSSonate account primarily to describe blog posts related to RSS technology. It has become an annotated mini-blog of some sort. Of course it serves the purpose of building a repository of stuff I come across during my day, but I also use it to practice a more succinct writing style: del.icio.us only allows a maximum of 255 chars in the Notes field, so I’m forced to compose a meaningful summary of the author’s message. To keep an eye on the del.icio.us field length limitations I use an adapted Greasemonkey script similar to the one by Jason Rhyley.
RSSonate bookmarks are automatically mixed with other pointers and then displayed in the CleverJots animated headlines ticker at the top of each blog post here on CleverClogs. Curious how I made that ticker? Check out the latest incarnation of the Headline Animator by FeedBurner. An alternative is Flaremaker by the people from Myzan.
Back to the issue I’m having with del.icio.us at the moment: while I’m tagging those bookmarks with keywords such as "RSS", "information overload", etc, I also add to that same tags field the names of a number of people from my del.icio.us network with whom I’d like to share what I found. Items tagged with "for:account" end up in the "links for you" section for that account, which is a link available from the horizontal navigator at the top of every del.icio.us user’s homepage.
The bookmark sharing feature is documented in a del.icio.us help page called "Links for You". Most of my friends appreciate the link love so much that I’ve been quite diligent in continuing this practice until I found out a few days ago that del.icio.us had not been delivering any of these "for:" links for several weeks to at least four of five of my contacts.
I’m still not sure what causes this delivery problem. I’m grateful to Randy Morin for offering to point it out on his blog after I had a private e-mail exchange about the issue with him: he called the issue "Not so del.icio.us". Randy’s blog has about 50 times as many readers as I do—no doubt someone will be able to tell me what’s causing the behavior. Perhaps it’s even documented?
Before I forget: I am making a FeedBurner version of the RSSonate Bookmarks Feed available so that I can track how many people are adding it to their feed reader..