Newsgator Online Beta: Better Than Before – Still Not Good Enough

The long awaited next version of Newsgator Online is being shown to some bloggers tonight and will be announced next week. It’s pretty good; click that first link in this post and you can try it yourself.

The truth is, it’s much less awful than previous versions. I love Newsgator but their web based feedreader has been so choked and slow that it’s been unusable. Not so any more. That’s great. The new version reduces the number of pageloads required by performing a number of functions with an Ajax pop-up box. The remaining page loads happen much faster than before – even with 500 feeds. They’ve also added a “loading” image with progress bar, which makes any wait much more tolerable (at least you know the darned thing is working.) There are a number of other small changes as well but none seem super important. The new version is so far still much less pleasing to use than Google Reader or a desktop reader. It still feels like something that was broken has now been covered up with a new layer on top.

Other issues. Embedded video is stripped out of the feeds – there’s not even any indication when a YouTube video should appear. Bloglines and Google Reader let you view Flash video players without leaving your feed reader. Google Reader provides a number of Flash video and audio consumption capabilities inline – that should be expanded on. Also, there’s still no hope of using Newsgator Online on my Nokia phone. I would have kissed someone if that had worked. If I had a different phone, they do have software for that.

Windows users can grab a Newsgator browser plug-in that provides an autodetect and subscribe button – though your browser already supports this itself (click the RSS icon in your address bar.)

Why should you use Newsgator Online? Well, you may already be using one of the company’s desktop feed readers – NetNewsWire or FeedDemon. Those are the best feed readers on the market (except perhaps Google Reader, if you insist) and they sync automatically with your Newsgator Online account. So if you’re a person who uses more than one computer you can log in to your list of feeds from anywhere, be synced up and have a much more pleasant experience than Newsgator Online provided before.

The best thing about Newsgator Online is that it allows me to view things in “river of news” format – what’s most recent no matter which of all my subscribed feeds it came in on. Google Reader lets you do that too, as does NetNewsWire.

I can’t remember if Newsgator’s enterprise product uses this same interface as Newsgator Online. If so, that’s good news for those users. Otherwise, this new upgrade isn’t going to win any new users – Google Reader has set the standard for web based feed readers and no one else has met that standard yet. Google Reader still isn’t as fast as a desktop reader, but it’s getting close. As web based readers go, though – I put this new version of Newsgator Online in second place behind Google Reader and ahead of the too-inflexible Bloglines. I haven’t used a web based feed reader in months, anyway. NetNewsWire on the desktop, NetVibes for a start page and various RSS alert systems work together best for me.

Digg Jumps Into the Presidential Election; No, Kevin Rose Isn’t Running

Digg just announced the addition of two new topics on the site – one about a boring software company I don’t follow and the other, the US 2008 Presidential Election. It’s going to get heated in there – people assume that Digg has a liberal bias but conservatives are very comfortable going there as well. Michelle Malkin, besides making one of the most well produced video blogs on the web, has encouraged people to go there in droves, if I remember the story correctly. (Here’s the discussion of the announcement.)

Anyway, what better time than now to post here a wonderful SplashCast creation – one embedded media player that contains all the candiates’ offical YouTube videos and updates automatically as it’s populated by RSS feeds. Woo hoo! I’m going to be working on promoting this one and many other related channels to relevant bloggers in the coming weeks. I don’t even like any of the candidates – not at all, I just think this is a very cool use of SplashCast. So let’s celebrate Digg’s insane move into thumbs-up, thumbs-down partisan politics on a large scale with a player right here and now.

Google In Belgium: The Best Explanation

Having run out of dour topics to post about here 🙂 I thought I’d share a quick link that I think people will appreciate. Are you wondering just what’s going on with the Belgian papers suing to get out of Google News? Danny Sulivan has written an excellant post about it, complete with an interview from one of the Belgian parties. It’s here.

The shortest version of the story here is that Danny suspects that the Belgian papers don’t really want out of Google, they just want Google to pay them before indexing their content. That’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. Very interesting story though, in its details.

Dead Men on YouTube

A week after a number of media sources wrote about Arab terrorists posting violent footage on YouTube, some press has begun to take note of video on the site uploaded by drug traffickers in Mexico. See the example video embedded at the end of this post. Though these films are essentially murder-photo montages set to music celebrating gang warfare, few of them appear to have been removed from YouTube. I hope they don’t take them down. This is a very real part of life in this world and people ought to see it. Why do these men end up shooting each other and making videos about it for money, adventure and dignity? For political context, I’ll refer you to my favorite article on the topic.

Further context is offered if only indirectly from the Wikipedia entry on involuntary human trafficking, including the estimation that 14,000 people are trafficked into the US as slaves every year. A fair number of those people are brought through or to the city I live in, Portland, Oregon. Just some things I’m thinking about this morning.

I’m filling in at TechCrunch – send me tips

Starting Sunday or Monday I’ll be filling it at TechCruch for a couple of weeks while Michael Arrington is traveling. He’ll still be posting but I will help make sure things get covered while he’s on the road. I’ve been more focused on the video/media sharing part of the web 2.0 world lately than I have on the industry in general – so if you’ve got hot tips send them my way. I can be reached for this purpose at I’ll keep posting at SplashCast during this time as well and I hope you’ll read the blog there too. Wowzers, here comes a couple weeks of super blog-o-rama insanity. I’m looking forward to it, for old times’ sake if nothing else.

Anthro prof makes great video about the nature of the web

Check out this great video about the nature of the web by Prof. Michael Wesch of Kansas State University. Very well produced and thought provoking. It’s titled “The Machine is Us/ing Us” and I found it via Frank Gruber. After the first video plays, check out the other videos Mr. Wesch has posted to YouTube (they are in the same player on this page). If you’re reading this post via an RSS reader and can’t see the SplashCast player below – here’s a link for you to preview the whole show I’ve put together with the RSS feed of Wesch’s videos.

What a great use of online video for education!