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Google Reader announced its shutdown exactly a year ago

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In this industry, you gotta be tough.

I’m just kidding. We’re a bunch of literates who enjoy reading so much that we built our own news readers. But when a behemoth like Google makes a call that places you at the business end of 100,000 frantic power users, reminding yourself how tough you are is one way of dealing with the madness.

Google announced Reader’s sunset at 4pm on March 13th, 2013. At that point I had spent three and a half years building my vision of a better news reader. I clearly wasn’t doing it for the money, since my paltry salary didn’t even cover my market rate rent in San Francisco. RSS was a decidedly stupid technology to piggyback off of to try and cover that financial disconnect.

Take a look at this graph. It shows NewsBlur’s income versus its expenses for the past 16 months. Just look at those few months before the Google Reader shutdown announcement in March 2013.

It was never hard to justify to others why I worked on a news reader for three-some years, partially because I’d been justifying it to myself for so long. I had the delusion that it would all work itself out in the end, so long as I kept pushing my hardest and shipping features users wanted. And, at the time, with 1,000 paying subscribers, it certainly felt like I was getting somewhere.

If you’re curious about why expenses are so high, think about what it takes to run a modern and popular news reader. This graph breaks down expenses for an average month from the past year.

Why spend all that money on subcontractors and new tools? Because I’m investing in building an even better news reader.

Fast forward a year and let hindsight tell you what’s what. I was irrational to think that I could make it on my own in a decaying market, what with all the air sucked out by Google. But that three year hallucination kept me persevering to build a better product, which positioned NewsBlur well as a strong candidate for a Reader replacement. When the sunset announcement dropped, it didn’t take long to fortify the servers and handle all the traffic. NewsBlur permanently ballooned up to 20X the number of paid users. People flocked to NewsBlur because it was among the furthest along in creating real competition. As we say on NewsBlur, the people have spoken.

The post-Google Reader landscape

I run a very opinionated news reader. If you think somewhat like I do, you couldn’t be more pleased with the direction NewsBlur goes. But this is still a power tool, and in a world of casual readers who don’t care where their news is coming from so long as it’s in their interests and matches their biases, NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress. Most people want drip coffee and they don’t bother wasting mental energy on caring about the difference in taste or quality. It’s a binary to them: coffee or no coffee. There’s nothing wrong with that, they just choose to focus on other things more important to them than the sourcing or control they have of their coffee.

Many competing news readers are visual and offer a similar experience. When you want to give up control in exchange for the digested output of sophisticated and heartless algorithms, they’re your best bet. When you want to exert control and know what you want and from which sources, NewsBlur is the only option. No other reader gives you training, statistics, and sharing in one multi-platform app. Nobody else cares so much about RSS as to work on a news reader when it was still a financial inevitability of failure.

Future work on NewsBlur

If the past is any indication, NewsBlur is going to continue to see many more improvements. This graph of contributions from the past 365 days shows my level of unwavering dedication.

One way people speak is by committing code to NewsBlur’s GitHub repo. Try developing your own pet feature. I’ll even do some of the hard work for you, so long as you give it a good try and submit a pull request.

Meanwhile, I’m using the windfall to develop a secret project that will complement NewsBlur in a way that hasn’t been tried before with any reader. And if that fails, I’ll find an even better way to make my users happy with their purchase. If you thought I was relentless before March 13th, 2013, just wait until you see what I’m capable of with the finances to build all the big ticket features I’ve been imagining for years.

And while you’re here, do me a favor and tweet about NewsBlur. Tell your followers, who are probably looking for a better way to read news, about how much you rely on NewsBlur. Reading positive tweets about NewsBlur every morning (and afternoon and evening and before bed) make this the best job I’ve ever had.

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tuxedosteve
3067 days ago
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In my own head
popular
3074 days ago
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30 public comments
nb_test
3057 days ago
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Good story
windexx
3061 days ago
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Great newsreader. I haven't even touched all the features yet much less incorporate them into daily use. But it's nice to know they are there.
Bedford, Virginia
jantdm
3069 days ago
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Go NewsBlur!
Munich, Germany
rosskarchner
3074 days ago
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I'm glad to see that Newsblur seems to be on a sustainable path. Go, Samuel!

(I'm also testing out using iffft .com to turn my newsblur shares into blog posts)
DC-ish
kerray
3074 days ago
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This is how you do it :)
Brno, CZ
kyounger
3074 days ago
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Love this product.
tomm74
3074 days ago
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Newsblur is something worth paying for - I'm very much in the camp of "if you're not paying for it, you're the product" - and I for one prefer to pay for my services directly, rather than by having my data sold.

I like NB so much, I've been developing my own Windows 8 Metro UI for it!
Cardiff
romkyns
3074 days ago
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Well, it looks like renewals are about to start rolling in, right? So you're fine? I hope you are :)
redheadedfemme
3075 days ago
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I love NewsBlur. I'm happy to be a paying customer. It's a worthy replacement for Google Reader.
amaiman
3076 days ago
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Have been using @NewsBlur ever since and haven't looked back.
New Jersey
p4ul
3077 days ago
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Keep up the awesome work!
Wellington, New Zealand
zelig2
3077 days ago
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I was oblivious of other readers when I used Google but I'm honestly glad they shut down their service as I really enjoy NewsBlur.
BiG_E_DuB
3077 days ago
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Great post
Charlotte, NC, USA
boltonm
3077 days ago
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Very happy to have paid for the last year of Newsblur - Google Reader first replaced and since superseded. iOS app continues to improve. Looking forward to more great value in the coming year.
London, UK
alliepape
3077 days ago
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I came to NewsBlur for odd reasons, but I now use it every day and it makes my life actively better. It also allows me to share the writing that's important to me. Thanks, Sam.
San Francisco, CA
Eldaria
3077 days ago
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I switched to Newsblur from Google, and I'm certainly renewing my subscription. I will also head over to twitter and tell about you.
kimmo
3077 days ago
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I’m going to renew my subscription to NewsBlur in 11 days.
Espoo, Finland
acdha
3077 days ago
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I hope that there will be a corresponding spike as people renew those annual memberships which are all about to expire
Washington, DC
koffie
3077 days ago
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Gladly pay for this great RSS reader! Only hope it's healthy financially speaking, the graph does cause some concern...
Belgium
Brstrk
3078 days ago
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With the google reader apocalypse, I was infuriated, because most solutions, both online and offline, always lacked the general usability I needed, especially when it comes to having many feeds. Them Reddit suggested some replacement alternatives. Newsblur was among them. I'm glad I paid attention back them.
chriskayto
3078 days ago
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Just tweeted my support of NewsBlur! Thanks for creating such a great product.
Toronto
leilers
3078 days ago
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Very happy with my decision to move to NewsBlur, even though it was forced upon me by Google pulling Reader. Definitely worth the investment. #newsblur
Northern Virginia
jcherfas
3078 days ago
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I STILL like Newsblur. And I don't even use it on iOS.
tante
3078 days ago
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"NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress"
Berlin/Germany
stsquad
3078 days ago
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happy to pay for this service.
Cambridge, UK
chrisrosa
3078 days ago
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For RSS "@NewsBlur is the coffee equivalent of the AeroPress." Great quote. Even better product.
San Francisco, CA
musictubes
3078 days ago
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Gotta say, Newsblur is my most used app on my iPad and iPhone. Happy to pay for it:)
Falls Church, Virginia
taglia
3078 days ago
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Since I found NewsBlur I have never once looked for another newsreader. Can't say this for many other services!

Also, I am kind of in awe when I see what a single person can do!
Singapore
lasombra
3078 days ago
Same here. There's no other newsreader that satisfy my needs so neatly.
leiter420
3078 days ago
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I love this news reader. It's so much better than Google Reader ever was, and that's saying something.
jimwise
3078 days ago
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Neat. There's this great rss reader called... Ok, you're using it.

Internet Censors Came For TorrentFreak & Now I’m Really Mad

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chillSomeone once told me never to go food shopping when hungry, never to argue when drunk, and more recently never to write when angry. Take a deep breath, go for a run, get the aggression out anyway you can first, I was advised.

I’ve done all of that this morning and none of it has worked. In fact, I might be even more fired up than before. This website blocking nonsense that is beginning to pollute the Internet has gone way too far and is becoming my sworn enemy.

Here at TF we’ve long been opponents of website blocking. It’s a blunt instrument that is prone to causing collateral damage and known for failing to achieve its stated aims. We recently discovered that thanks to Sky’s Broadband Shield filtering system, TorrentFreak is now blocked on one of the UK’s largest ISPs by users who think they are protecting their kids.

Our crimes are the topics we cover. As readers know we write about file-sharing, copyright and closely linked issues including privacy and web censorship. We write about the positives and the negatives of those topics and we solicit comments from not only the swarthiest of pirates, but also the most hated anti-piracy people on the planet.

If the MPAA, RIAA, FACT, BPI, RightsAlliance, BREIN and every DMCA takedown company on earth want to have their say they can do that, alongside the folks at The Pirate Bay. We won’t deny anyone their voice, whether it’s someone being raided by the police or the people who instigated the raid. Getting the news out is paramount.

We are not scared to let anyone have their say and we embrace free speech. But apparently the people at Sky and their technology masters at Symantec believe that we should be denied our right to communicate on the basis that we REPORT NEWS about file-sharing issues.

That’s just utter nonsense.

Symantec write about viruses and malware ALL THE TIME, so are they placed in the malware and virus category? Of course not. Thanks to their very own self-categorization process they wear the “Technology and Telecommunication” label. Is their website blocked by any of their own filters? I won’t even bother answering that.

Examining other sites helpfully categorized by Symantec and blindly accepted by Sky reveals no more clarity either. UK ISP Virgin Media runs its own Usenet access, customers can find it at news.virginmedia.com. From there it’s possible to download every possible copyrighted movie and TV show around today, yet that service is listed by Symantec as a “Technology and Telecommunication / Portal” site. Download.com, possibly the world’s largest distributer of file-sharing software, is also green-lighted through.

stopstopOn the other hand, TorrentFreak – which neither offers or links to copyrighted files and hosts no file-sharing software whatsoever – is blocked for any Sky household filtered for under 18s? Really? Our news site is suitable for all ages yet when Sky’s teenager filter is turned on we are put on the same level as porn, suicide, self harm, violence and gore.

Are you kidding me?

Thanks to Ernesto’s annual ‘most-pirated‘ charts we have been cited countless dozens of times in the past few weeks by fellow news resources all over the Internet. Yet Sky users who are “protecting their children” find that when they try to follow the link to the source of those stories they are effectively informed that TorrentFreak is unsuitable for anyone under 18. What does that do for our reputation?

As an earlier statement from Sky points out, the parental filters can be modified to let certain sites through, TorrentFreak.com included. However, when someone in a family asks the account holder for a site to be unblocked (they are the only person who can do that), why would they do so when Sky and Symantec make it very clear on their block screen that we are a file-sharing site? Who will most people believe, a teenager or a “respectable” corporation that cares so much about kids? Furthermore, what are the chances that the account holder even remembers how to turn filtering off once the initial ‘default on’ settings are accepted?

There can be little doubt that little by little, piece by piece, big corporations and governments are taking chunks out of the free Internet. Today they pretend that the control is in the hands of the people, but along the way they are prepared to mislead and misdirect, even when their errors are pointed out to them.

I’m calling on Sky, Symantec, McAfee and other ISPs about to employ filtering to categorize this site correctly as a news site or blog and to please start listening to people’s legitimate complaints about other innocent sites. It serves nobody’s interests to wrongfully block legitimate information.

And to Sky, please don’t try pretending that you’re actually trying to stop file-sharing with your parental controls, because if you really meant business you would have blocked the actual protocols, not merely some websites. But that would cost you money in customer churn, and we obviously need to avoid that at all costs.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

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tuxedosteve
3146 days ago
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New F2P sandbox Fantasy Realm Online invites everyone in to play

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Fans hunkering for a free-to-play sandbox game that's reminiscent of Ultima Online have a new place to hang their hats and crafting tools: Fantasy Realm Online. The new game just opened its doors to the public, and players can adventure through the world and collect treasures while dispatching mighty foes or explore as a merchant and apprentice under a shopkeeper, harvest, and craft. Fantasy Realm Online is a blend of single-player RPGs and MMO and is designed to be played either solo or with others. Want to get a glimpse of the action? Check out the trailer below. Then if the game is your cup of tea, head on over to the official site to download and jump in.

[Source: Fantasy Realm Online press release]

Continue reading New F2P sandbox Fantasy Realm Online invites everyone in to play

MassivelyNew F2P sandbox Fantasy Realm Online invites everyone in to play originally appeared on Massively on Thu, 02 Jan 2014 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    tuxedosteve
    3147 days ago
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    Iconic ZX Spectrum Home Computer Of The ’80s To Be Reborn As Retro Gaming Keyboard For iOS

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    zx-spectrum-keyboard

    In the U.K., the iconic 8-bit home computer of the 1980s was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Few keyboards have surely been pounded as hard as the Spectrum’s rubberised complement of grey rectangles. 

    Released in 1982, the 48K computer-in-a-keyboard was last produced in 1990. But if this Kickstarter campaign (from veteran Spectrum games dev Elite) hits its funding target then the ZX Spectrum will be reborn as a Bluetooth keyboard for iOS, initially, with plans to add support for Android, Windows Phone, PCs and Macs down the line.

    Elite is seeking £60,000 (~$99,000) in crowdfunding to fund production of the first 1,000 units and bring the Spectrum back to life. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum will be able to be used, not so much as a tough-to-type-on Bluetooth keyboard, but to recreate that authentic rubbery Spectrum gaming experience in conjunction with future app releases from Elite that will be available to buy from the iTunes App Store (and later from Google Play, Amazon’s App Store and Microsoft’s Windows Store).

    The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum keyboard will also be backwards compatible with Elite’s existing ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection apps — which feature Spectrum gaming classics such as Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Cybernoid, Monty on The Run and Skool Daze (to name a few). The apps will be sold separately to the keyboard — which is being priced at £50 to early Kickstarter backers (which includes Elite app credit and delivery in the U.K.).

    The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum keyboard may also work with some third party apps — so you could use it for other keyboardy functions, albeit the form factor was never designed for speedy touch-typing — but Elite notes that compatibility cannot be guaranteed. 

    Elite is licensing the ZX Spectrum trademark and has been granted the right to replicate the Spectrum’s form factor — and says it’s the only company that has been granted that right from the IP holder. 

    Nostalgia fans should direct their clicks to Elite’s Kickstarter page. The company has raised £17,000 of its £60k target so far — from more than 280 backers, and with 28 days left to run on the campaign. If successful they are aiming to ship the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum keyboard to backers next September.


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    tuxedosteve
    3148 days ago
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    UK ‘Porn Filter’ Blocks Legitimate File-Sharing Services (And TorrentFreak)

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    blockedInternet filters are now on the political agenda in many countries around the world. While China and Iran are frontrunners for political censorship, the UK is leading the way when it comes to porn and other types of adult content.

    Last summer Prime Minister David Cameron announced a default filter for all Internet connections. This means that UK Internet subscribers will be required to opt-in if they want to view adult content online.

    Sky was one of the first ISPs to roll out its network level filter in November. As a result, new subscribers will now have to opt out from Broadband Shield‘s default PG13 setting if they want to see adult content. Later this year existing customers will also be forced to make the same choice.

    While most of the discussion has focused on porn, Sky’s filter – and those operated by other ISPs – actually block a much wider range of content. Below are the options Sky users are given at the moment, showing that if people want to block porn, they also have to block various other categories.

    The 13-years-old-and-over setting is ticked by default, which also includes dating, anonymizers, file-sharing and hacking.


    Sky’s blocking options

    skyoptions

    In other words, those customers who don’t opt out from the ‘porn filter’ will also have file-sharing sites and services blocked. A quick round on the internet reveals that this category is rather inclusive, and not limited to ‘pirate sites.’

    Among the blocked sites are BitTorrent.com, who work with Madonna and other artists on a regular basis to release free-to-download content. The same is true for other BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, Transmission and Vuze. Tribler, which is developed at Delft University of Technology with EU taxpayer money, is filtered as well.

    Websites which offer perfectly legitimate content via P2P downloads are also filtered by Sky’s default settings. This includes VODO, the distribution platform for indie filmmakers, the download page of the Linux-based Fedora, as well as the download portal Linuxtracker.

    In addition, several websites that merely write news about file-sharing issues are blocked by the filter too, including TorrentFreak.


    TorrentFreak blocked by Sky’s filter

    sky-tf-blocked

    According to Sky, the decision to extend the filter beyond porn and other adult content was partly made based on input from subscribers.

    “Our customers have told us they want the option to control the content that enters their homes. As part of this, they have also told us what sort of content they would like included in Sky Broadband Shield,” a Sky spokesperson told us.

    The provider further points out that account holders have the option to turn the filter off or allow certain sites to be unblocked.

    “We know that no single setting will suit everybody, so our product allows customers to make their own decisions about individual websites, overriding the pre-defined categories to unblock a particular site if they wish. This gives any Sky home the ability to fully customise their filters.”

    The question is, however, how many people will be familiar with this unblocking option. There is little doubt that the filtered sites will see a drop in visitors, which may become problematic when more and more providers employ similar filters by default.

    TorrentFreak spoke with the Open Rights Group (ORG), who have been very critical of the filtering schemes in the UK. According to Executive Director Jim Killock, Sky is not the only problem here, as other UK ISPs employ overbroad blocking schemes, including the older mobile network filters.

    “Most of the filters seem to encourage parents to block anything that is related to anonymizers, hacking and filesharing. In short, the filters seem to adopt a strategy of stopping under 18s from learning how to do anything useful with a computer, in case that helps them get round blocks,” Killock says.

    ORG stresses that the filters may prevent young people from learning much-needed computer skills, which could eventually hurt the local computer industry.

    “It could damage the learning of a generation, and the competitiveness of the UK computer industry. Computer related websites and discussions should always be available to young people as it is part of their right to an education.”

    To find out what is being blocked exactly, ORG has been building its own checking tools, as well as a website where false positives can be reported.

    Whether anything can be done against the overblocking and false positives that are reported remains to be seen. For now all legitimate file-sharing services and sites remain blocked, including the article you are reading right now.

    Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

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    tuxedosteve
    3148 days ago
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    What a surprise. Impressive feature creep for a "porn filter"
    In my own head
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