Google Reader Powering Down

Google just announced it’s shutting down Google Reader in three and a half months… I am participating in the friendly Reddit DDoS-hug of all the alternatives (list, but scroll around in the thread for a few more). Darn.

It’s very early to pick an RSS replacement, but I think I’m going for The Old Reader. It’s mainly a process of elimination: I don’t want to pay money or get my own server, Pentadactyl doesn’t seem to like Feedly (extension for the Fox), and I don’t think I want to create any accounts or link anything to Facebook, so there was my choice. Their blog post makes them seem ready for the challenge, although some waiting seems involved.

Well, on the bright side, happy Pi Day! It’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday. TIL.

Now on GitHub!


Right now I feel about this a lot like I felt about getting Twitter. Nobody I know personally is there, but all the “famous” “technological” people are, and something like 90% of the open-source projects I bump into are too.

Just like Twitter, I barely know how to use Git either, but that’s okay. For version control I’m going all command-line now! Last time I tried to link stuff up with Eclipse everything exploded, but after I ran git init from the terminal this time, it’s highlighting things red and green everywhere like it’s suddenly begging me not to forsake it for the command line. Nice try, Eclipse. You can’t even get your “presentation compiler” to stop crashing.

Anyway, I’m recoding my grid-puzzle-drawing project from scratch (Step 3 of writing a complex program, according to Knuth) and having a lot of fun (ab)using Scala monads.

def tryToInt(str: String): Either[String, Int] = {
  try {
  } catch {
    case e: NumberFormatException => Left("Error: cannot parse int: " + str)
def tryToInts(strs: Seq[String]): Either[String, Seq[Int]] = {
  ((strs map tryToInt).foldLeft
    (Right(List.empty): Either[String, Seq[Int]])
    ((collected, next) =>
      for (c <- collected.right; n <- next.right)
        yield (c :+ n)))

Unread Count

Why do so many people have these three- or four- or even five-digit inbox unread counts? I become uncomfortable when I have more than about five unread emails, or if there are twenty emails of whatever status in my inbox — the rest get archived, of course. Out of sight, out of mind. Whew. It’s hard for me to fathom how anybody can sleep knowing they have such a scary number of unread emails waiting for them.

Why does the status of being unread matter, one might ask? There are already so many ways to classify things in the typical inbox: stars or labels or folders or flags or whatever your mail service may call them. Well, the thing that makes the unread qualifier stand out is that it already has meaning; you don’t need to assign it any. It means you haven’t read it! Thank you, Captain Obvious.

If you know how to use email, there are no good reasons to ignore the status. Is the email actually not important to the point where you won’t even bother to read it? In that case, why is it even in your inbox? If it’s spam, mark it as such; spam filters are pretty effective nowadays, but only if you train them, and even if not it only takes one click to get rid of it. If it’s some notification you don’t care about, unsuscribe or fine-tune your subscription. As invasive as web services are getting nowadays, I haven’t yet seen a legitimate one that doesn’t provide a link to let you do one of these things, even if it’s concealed in small gray text at the bottom of the email. Should you encounter a notification that doesn’t have these links or doesn’t stop spawning evil clones after you tell it to, don’t think twice; it is spam and should be mercilessly filtered as such. And if you still have two hundred emails left after all that, you should either rethink your values or start reading them now.

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Twitter Bandwagon

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha look at all the services


So, if you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last decade, Twitter is a platform for microblogging, i.e. blogging with very short posts, called tweets, which have to be under 140 characters after they shorten all the links for you for no reason, often after you’ve already shortened it once somehow-or-other. And yes, I hopped onto the bandwagon during procrastination. Everybody who matters on the technological edges of the internet seems to have one.

I’m not arrogant enough to imagine I could compare Twitter to anything else authoritatively… I only barely count myself as using it. But a brief set of first impressions should be okay. Twitter is very public: you can see everybody’s tweets, who everybody is following, and who everybody is being followed by; the single privacy setting is a simple binary choice to lock up your account, so that everybody who wants to see what you posted needs your explicit authorization.

My Facebook feed consists of entries such as:

  • photographs of people I barely recognize, which I scroll past quickly… unless my mom comes up and says “Who is that?” and spends ten minutes looking at more such photos while asking me questions like “How do you go to the next picture?” or “Why is this photo so blurry?”
  • context-less fragments of some larger conversation, e.g. “LOL!” or “linglinglinggg” (copied verbatim from a status)
  • alerts of J. Random Person having taken a Personality Test or scored too many lines in Tetris
  • Meta-Facebook infographics, like a cloud of your closest friends or number of status posts. I tend to… have an extraordinarily negative impression of the type of narcissistic achievement-reliant… people… who need rewards at every step, except that they seem to be everybody… *sigh*

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Web Service Envy

I discover things on the internet. That is, I think, a very large portion of what it’s for. I follow links and links to links and repeatedly refresh an RSS reader once every five minutes. But there are so many places to look, so many environments to feel out, so many services to pick from that I agonize forever over all of the choices.

Sometimes I wonder, why can’t we all just have one service for The Internet? Take a look at this wonderful array of icons I bumped into during geography research! (Images are an extremely important way of engaging one’s audience, but I’m not using a screenshot so you won’t be tricked into trying to click on them and because it looks cooler. Hence the awesome horizontal artifacts.)
[A badly taken picture of a box of icons for too many sharing services]
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