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Published by: FeedJournal on Apr 30, 2008
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Jonas Martinsson's Blogjonasmartinsson.blogspot.comNov 12, 2007 - Apr 29, 2008
Using FeedJournal #1: Choosing Feeds toImport
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 13:36 Mar 3, 2008
This is the first in a series of postsdescribing how you can makeFeedJournal into the newspaper youalways wanted. Future planned postsin the series are " Filtering ActiveFeeds", " Sending Any Web Page toYour Next Issue" and "G etting FullArticles from Summary Feeds".My RSS subscription list weighs inat 105 feeds today, which I believe isa normal number. How do I figure outwhich feeds will benefit from beingmoved to FeedJournal Reader?To get to the answer, I ask myself 4questions to see if a feed belongs inmy regular RSS reader or inFeedJournal Reader:• How likely am I to be interested inreading a random article in this feed?I subscribe to this feed for a reason. If I am not interested to read all stuff inthe feed, it typically means that I amdigging for gold, waiting for thatgolden post to arrive. If that's thecase, I would be better off reading itin Google Reader, and when thatgolden post shows up I may tag it,and subscribe to the tag inFeedJournal.• What is the length of articlespublished in the feed? If the articlesare too short it might not be ideal tohave them printed, as FeedJournalreally shines when it comes toreading longer articles, uninterrupted.If the posts are short, odds are youwill be able to read them withequivalent comprehension in yourelectronic RSS reader.• How urgent is it for me to readnew items in this feed? If the feedcontains alerts that I need to act onASAP, I want to have them in myregular RSS reader, using a prioritytag/folder, instead of wasting timeprinting them and maybe reading ithalf an hour later.• How likely am I to be wanting tofollow a link to get moreinformation? If the feed containsshort summaries or referencing otherresources on the web, like a newsoftware patch or a forum post, Ishould be reading this on a computer.Expert geeks might want to look intowrapping such feeds with YahooPipes and move the linked contentinto the actual feed - to have itultimately served to FeedJournal.These four questions can serve asrules of thumb for identifying feedswhich might not be ideal forsubscription in FeedJournal Reader.Feeds which pass these questions,will serve as excellent news sourcesfor your print edition, and soon youmight start to consider these bloggersas journalists.As an example I will describe how Ipicked out which feeds to move frommy Google Reader account toFeedJournal Reader. First, I dividedmy 105 feeds into categories:• Niche blogs (Blogs specializing insubjects close to your heart): 36subscriptions• Friends' blogs: 6 subscriptions• Local content (local bloggers andnewspapers): 5 subscriptions• Product blogs (software andservice updates): 30 subscriptions• Ego searches and my blogcomments: 16 subscriptions• Discussion fora: 6 subscriptions• Alerts of new media (podcasts,video blogs and torrents): 6subscriptionsYour feed subscription list canprobably be categorized in the samesections. Let's examine thecharacteristics of each category:Niche blogs is the largest category,hosting one third of all mysubscriptions. These are the primarycandidates for FeedJournal. AsFeedJournal will print a maximum of 8 articles per feed in one issue (alimitation which will soon behistory), you should ask yourself if you could afford to miss an article ortwo if the feed is very active. Anexcellent solution to feeds with tooheavy traffic, no matter if you arereading them on paper or not, is toroute them through AideRSS, a freeservice that filters out less populararticles from any feed.Blogs of friends I want to keep upwith is usually an excellent group touse with FeedJournal. It's very neat tohave your friends' blog entries in yourmorning (or evening) paper!Local content also works very wellto have printed in your newspaper,especially if you're readingFeedJournal on public transportationas it might be fuel for conversation.You might also run into the bloggerand break the news about herpromotion to journalist!Product blogs, ego searches, forumalerts and media alerts typically havecontent that requires access to acomputer. These feeds normallybelong in your RSS reader'ssubscription list.As you can see, about half of myregular feed subscriptions (47/105)are candidates for being moved toFeedJournal, where they will have abetter life. They will be printed onquality paper where they will have animtimate tete-a-tete with the reader,without interruptions from e-mail, IMor twitter alerts. And, it's better foryour eyes.
Release Retrospective
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 14:33 Feb 26, 2008
It's been an interesting week. OnFebruary 19, the brand newFeedJournal Reader service launchedand created a small buzz, boostingmy daily unique visitor count to10,000. Seven days later the traffic isstill up there, and I thought it's a goodtime to do a retrospective to seewhich lessons could be learned formthis experience.What I did to promote the release:- Sent a press release with pr.com.- Submitted suggestions to majorWeb 2.0 blogs and media.- Notified 30 powerful sneezers.- Blogged about itBefore the release I alwaysimagined the press release would bemy strongest card for generatingbuzz. I figured print media should beinterested in a technologicalinnovation related to their field. Asfar as I know, the press release wasonly picked up by one source(online)plus Google News, so that was a bigdisappointment. I suspect pr.commight not be the best service forpublishing press releases. I chosethem because I knew Google Newswould pick it up, and I thought thatwould be worth something. Nexttime, I'll go with another service.More encouraging was thatDownload Squad picked up the newsextremely quickly. I had beenunsuccessfully pummeling them withsuggestions to mention FeedJournalPublisher back when that wasreleased. No doubt that Reader issexier than Publisher, so I don't blamethem. Lifehacker followed suit, beingtipped off by Download Squad, andsuddenly all the traffic I ever dreamtof was coming my way. gHacks werealso quick to post a review of theReader service, and from those 3sources the news rippled through theblogosphere.Unfortunately my hosting providercouldn't handle the traffic! It waspainfully clear to me from looking atmy inbox that anyone who visited thesite ran into server errors. Bad...verybad! What should I do? It was lateand my head was spinning. I made acalculated guess that it must be thenewly enabled image support thatwas the culprit. Fortunately I had areadily available switch for it, and Ihit it. The service seemed to be back in action. Some hours later, I posted ashort message on my blog about thescaling issues and the temporaryimage disabling (re-enabled by now).Unfortunately many of the commentson the big blogs originate from thetime when the site was experiencingproblems.I was surprised to see the number of blogs simply regurgitating the initialannouncement from the big blogs.These "posters" don't offer anythingoriginal, and I am not talking aboutlink posts here. Perhaps it is somerogue SEO technique used to scoreincoming links; no matter what's thereason, it smells fishy.It has been fantastic to get loads of e-mails with feedback, comments,praise, feature requests, bug reports,you name it. I am pushing all of thatinto my to do-list. The reception of the service has been great, morepositive than I had dreamed of.Generally people either love it orthink it's silly- but many many peoplethink it is innovative enough to try itout or even more importantly,mention it in online discussions.In summary, you can't say but thatthe release has been a success, bymeasuring the number of users. Ishould have prepared better forscaling issues, but with a little bit of luck I managed to solve it in asatisfactory manner. Now it's time tolook forward and to deal with theitems in the to do-list!
2Jonas Martinsson's Blog
Reading on Paper vs. onScreen
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 12:59 Nov 12, 2007
One of the basic premises behindFeedJournal is that it's better to readtext on paper than on a screen. Whileit might not sound like a boldassumption, it still is an assumptionand as such worth to examine deeper.Today, office workers and manyother professionals are required tofocus their eyes on a computer screenduring most of their work day. Manyof them continue to use the computerat home. FeedJournal was createdwith many goals in mind; one of themis to release you from the screenwhile enabling you to read thecontent you love. You shouldn't haveto spend more time reading off ascreen, just because you want toaccess fresh and relevant content.Recent research has found thatreading a longer text on paper is 25%faster than reading the same text on acomputer screen. At the same time,reading comprehension and articleoverview are improved.Although screen resolutions haveincreased and font renderingtechnologies such as ClearType makeit much easier to read on the screen,the experience is still not ascomfortable as when reading onpaper.But the largest problem withreading on the computer is that yourattention is constantly being diverted.These diversions come in manyforms: an incoming e-mail or aninstant message, an ad flashing in thecorner of your eye, a teasinghyperlink in the article text, a criticalsoftware update alert that pops up, analert that your laptop battery needscharging, your other browser tabsneeding attention, etc, etc. I could goon for a long time listing frequentdiversions begging for your mouseclick. On top of that is the pagenavigation required to scroll the text -it doesn't require a rocket scientist butit's still an additional interaction youcan't escape from.The situation gets even grimmer if you choose to read you articles on amobile device. Not only that youhave the same digital diversions as aregular computer user, you will needto make do with a much smallerscreen estate.Readers of text on paper typicallyconcentrate fully on what they'redoing, while readers of screen contentare either hard at work fighting off distractions or have resigned togiving the text only cursory attention.It is actually a small wonder thatanyone manages to read longerarticles on a screen. Which is too bad,considering that the quality anddiversity of content has literallyexploded with every blogger nowbeing a amateur journalist, publishingcontent on a more or less regularbasis.In the face of this, how does itsound to you to have a printednewspaper in your hands while sittingin your favorite chair, and just read.I'm not talking about just anynewspaper, I am referring to thenewspaper you have personallydefined, with articles from yourfavorite sites and blogs. This is whatFeedJournal offers, a better chance of keeping your attention on what youchoose to read.With these arguments I am nottrying to stop you from reading RSSfeeds on the computer or on the go. Ido that all the time. I am simplysaying that feeds with longer contentgreatly benefit from being read inpaper format. Feeds with shorter alert-type content (new version released,ego searches, answers to blogcomments, etc.) is perfect for the RSSaggregator on your computer, whileFeedJournal is optimal forsubscribing to feeds with longerarticle content.In a future post I will describe howany web page you visit can bemarked for publishing in your nextFeedJournal Reader issue.FeedJournal Reader is still indevelopment, but expect private betatesting e-mails to be sent out shortly.FeedJournal Publisher is availabletoday for bloggers who want to beread on paper.
HOWTO: GTD with Google Docs &PocketMod
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 11:36 Dec 26, 2007
Take control of your unwieldy to do-list by combining Google Docs andPocketMod. With the systemdescribed here you will always beready to take notes, and never run therisk of losing an idea!I use a subset of GTD (" GettingThings Done") by having a digitalcopy of my next actions, sorted bycontext (@Home, @Office,@Shopping, @Computer, etc.). Thislets me easily look up what I need todo, depending on where I am.However, a digital copy is not veryuseful by itself, since it is notaccessible when I am offline. Puttingit in my PDA is not ideal either, sincethe overhead of adding a new note istoo big (turning on the device,opening the right application, havingit recognize my handwriting). That'swhy I print out my to-do list on paperonce a week and carry it in mypocket. It's the ideal way of accessingand editing tasks. Before I print out anew list I spend a minute or twocopying the edits from my old printedlist to the digital copy.So the question is, what format ispreferred for the digital copy and howdo I best print it? This question haslead to an unending debate amongGTDers, and David Allen, the guruhimself, doesn't offer any concretesuggestions. For me, it is important tobe able to access the digital copyfrom multiple computers. At the sametime, the printout needs to be smallenough to fit comfortably in a pocket.I have previously blogged about theadvantages of managing your to dolist with the online GTD-applicationToodledo. I especially like the way itlets you print your tasks as a foldedcredit-card sized 8-page booklet, easyto carry with you at all times.Unfortunately, to be able to print abooklet with one page per context, aToodledo Pro package subscription isrequired. It's only $14.95/year so itmight be a good deal for some, but Iwas looking for alternatives.Actually, you can achieve theneeded functionality for free by usinga combination of Google Docs andthe PocketMod converter. Togetherwith a Pilot G-2 XS pen, whichalways writes and fits great into eventhe smallest pocket, you are alwaysready to take notes, and never risk losing an idea! Below, I describe thesystem I use.Requirements:• A free Google Docs account. If you own a copy of Adobe Acrobat(not the free Acrobat Reader) youmay use that instead and skip the 3first steps below.• PDF to PocketModconverter. This Windows-onlyapplication will be used to shrink the8-page PDF into a single page.• APDF reader ( Adobe Reader or FoxitReader) for printing the final result.Steps:• Import my document template intoGoogle Docs, by choosing "Upload"from the main menu. In the field "Orenter the URL of a file on the web:",enter"http://jonasmartinsson.50webs.com/ docs/gtd-template.html" and click the"Upload File" button.• Customize thedocument so that it will be useful toyou. Enter your contact informationand the contexts you need, and makea brain dump of your current tasks.•From the Google Docs file menu,choose "Export as PDF..." and savethe document as a PDF file on yourcomputer.• Open "PDF to PocketModconverter". Click the "Open PDF"button and select the file you savedfrom Google Docs in the step above.Next, click the "Save as PocketMod"button, name the PDF file for thebooklet and wait for the process tofinish.• Print the file generated in thelast step using your PDF reader.• Cutthe printed sheet and fold it into an 8-page booklet according to theseinstructions.Next week, reopen the document,copy your edits from your booklet,and continue from step #3.Enjoy! Technorati Tags: gtd
How WeGot Here
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 10:42 Jan 5, 2008
Monitoring reactions of FeedJournalReader's beta testers is veryinteresting. This is a project I've beenliving and breathing for two yearsnow, and it feels great to make itavailable again.FeedJournal had a short life as aWindows desktop application duringthe 1st half of 2007. This wassubsequently removed in order topave way for the web solution, whichtoday is called FeedJournal Reader.That decision was made as a result of a blog poll, which showed a strongpreference for a browser-basedproduct.Along the way of finalizing the firstversion of FeedJournal Reader, Inoticed some interest among bloggersand content providers to publish theirarticles as a PDF newspaper. As sucha solution would be much simpler andfaster to implement, and would offera theoretically easier way to generateincome via subscriptions, I decided totake a detour in the developmentwork and offer FeedJournal Publisherfirst.Today, FeedJournal Publisher is ahealthy baby. Many blogs takeadvantage of the basic free service(sans images), and it's been garneringpositive reviews in the blogosphere.The full version with the wholeshebang is available as a free demo totry out by contacting me.
Images Are Back
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 12:12 Feb 25, 2008
Just a quick note to let you knowthat image support is re-enabled withyesterday's update and everythingseem to be working well so far.Next up here on my blog, will be apost reviewing the FeedJournalReader release. During the weekendthe site was blasted with traffic, and Iwith e-mail; I'm sure there are a lot of lessons to learn from that experience.After that I plan to run a series of posts describing how to best takeadvantage of FeedJournal, and how itintegrates with different 3rd partyservices.
3Jonas Martinsson's Blog
Bankroll-Breaking Even MoneyBets
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 11:45 Dec 16, 2007
Some ten years ago I ran Gambol, ashort-lived gambling fund thatinvested money in statistical sportsbetting. I even managed to convincegullible friends to invest. Eventually,the fund lost all its money to theonline bookmakers, and I tried tofigure out what went wrong. I ran lotsof simulations to better understandwhat had happened, and in one of them I encountered somethingremarkable. Recently, I was indirectlyreminded about the paradox I haddiscovered, which I still have a hardtime to understand intuitively. Here'sthe story of our gambling heroAndrew, who despite being anintelligent gambler, here takes atumble and loses his entire bankroll.When Bob offers Andrew to flipcoins for even money, Andrewwrongly assumes that this couldn'tpossibly be a losing proposition. Thecatch is that Andrew needs to bet x%of his bankroll on each coin flip. Heis free to choose the value of xhimself, provided that x stays thesame throughout the game.Theoretically, the expected value of each betting round is +-0 for Andrew.His chances of winning each coin flipis 50%. When he loses a flip, hisbankroll decreases by x% and if hewins he gains the same amount.Andrew decides to bet 10% of hisbankroll, which is $100. Let's take alook at possible scenarios for theoutcome of the first rounds. After thefirst betting round Andrew's newbankroll will be either $90 or $110. If he ends up losing the first bet, his betfor the second round will be $9 (10%of his new bankroll of $90), and if hewins the first bet, his second bet willbe $11. After round two he will endup in one out of the following fourscenarios:• 1st round lost + 2nd round lost:$81• 1st round lost + 2nd round won:$99• 1st round won + 2nd round lost:$99• 1st round won + 2nd round won:$121It is important to note that in 3 outof 4 cases Andrew is a loser afterround #2. Theoretically, each bet iseven money, and the average bankrollin the four scenarios remains $100 -but still Andrew is likely to be a loserin the long run. The more bettingrounds there are, the more likelyAndrew is to eventually lose hisentire bankroll. There is also a chancethat he will win a lot of money, butthat chance is getting slimmer andslimmer for each betting rounds heparticipates in. After the third roundAndrew happens to be back at a 50%chance of being a winner, but this is just a temporary fluctuation as he isagain a likely loser after the fourthround.Below is a graph showing howAndrew's bankroll develops in 50simulations of 2,500 betting rounds,betting 10% of an initial $100bankroll. After 2,500 bets the bestcase out of the 50 simulations hasAndrew's bankroll at less than $60.The blue line in graph below showshow many of the 50 initial scenariosare in the black (with a bankroll notsmaller than the initial $100). The redlines displays the average bankrollover the 50 scenarios. The averagebankroll should have stayed aroundthe initial bankroll, since the expectedvalue of the bet is +-0, but due to thelimited number of simulations (50 inthis case), we eventually run out of winning scenarios. No matter howmany scenarios I choose to run, I canalways make the average bankroll godown towards 0 by running enoughbetting rounds.This bet, which theoretically is evenmoney, makes you lose your moneyin real life - a fascinating paradox!Note that the final outcome where thebankroll dwindles towards 0 does notchange, no matter which value ischosen for x (the ratio of yourbankroll wagered on each round).Technorati Tags: game theory,gambling, martingale, kelly betting
Web PageChange Alertwithout RSS
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 10:38 Apr 29, 2008
Once upon a time I wrote a desktopapplication named ContentSpy. It letyou monitor web pages for changes,and notified you as updates becameavailable. When I recently heard of the new Google App Engine beinglaunched, I figured I would take astab at porting ContentSpy to thatplatform. I am happy to report that Istopped my endeavors, afterstumbling upon ChangeDetection,which offers exactly what Ienvisioned, for free!Another good thing coming out of this discovery is that it won't distractmy focus from working onFeedJournal...According to Alexa,ChangeDetection has been onlinesince 02-Nov-1999. On the otherhand, their Alexa history is onlyavailable since last summer.Wayback Machine doesn't have anyhistorical records either. Technorati'soldest indexed post referencingChangeDetection is from December2007, so I assume it's a new service.Besides, I can't imagine it havingescaped me for that long!Anyway, ChangeDetection iswonderful in many ways! It sports asimple Google-like interface and sign-up procedure, and offers all therelevant features. I currently need thisservice because I want to buy amobile phone from the local operatorand expect prices to drop soon. So Isimply tell ChangeDetection tomonitor the price list page for me.When a change becomes available Iam notified by e-mail with the actualchange highlighted.Another site I added for monitoringis IBM's " Ponder This" challenge.Each month IBM publishes a newbrain teaser for the community tosolve. Amazingly enough they don'toffer any way of subscribing to newchallenges, but ChangeDetectioncomes to the rescue once more.I don't see RSS feeds andChangeDetection overlapping in anyway. For my private use, they areperfectly complementary. All siteshave pages not covered by RSS feeds,and there will always remain sitesthat lack feeds completely.ChangeDetection is optimally suitedfor monitoring modifications on thesepages.I welcome you to add comments tothis post about pages of publicinterest that you have chosen tomonitor with this service. Please, gocheck it out!
Real Newspaper Thumbnails
By Jonas Martinsson (Jonas Martinsson - Blog)
Submitted at 12:52 Dec 5, 2007
FeedJournal now creates anauthentic thumbnail of the generatednewspaper's Page One. An examplecan be seen in the left column of thisblog.Existing widget users don't need toworry, the functionality has beenautomatically rolled out and isavailable to you now. Every time yougenerate an updated newspaper of your blog, an accompanyingthumbnail is generated as well. If youuse the widget on your blog, it willautomatically find the location of thethumbnail. For those of you who liketo write your own HTML code, theimage is in the same path as thegenerated PDF file - just replace the".pdf" extension with ".png".This service is available to allFeedJournal users. Users of the freebasic service get a thumbnail sized140x200 pixels, while silver and goldmembers will have the ability tocustomize the size (soon to beavailable). If anyone needs thiscustomization urgently, just give me ashout and I'll get it done sooner.

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