When it comes to the list of resources I check on a daily basis, in 2015 there have been more subtractions than additions. Nothing in particular triggered this clean-up and reorganisation of my RSS feeds, but in retrospect I can say that it was a consequence of different factors, including:
- The need to read more physical books and ‘offline stuff’;
- A perceived decrease in quality of a few resources I used to follow;
- More time devoted to my writing and the production of original content (fiction and non-fiction), leaving less time to keep up with the once-manageable reading list.
I also noticed an increase in what I call ‘random reading’ — meaning long-form articles and contributions either recommended by people I follow on Twitter and App.net, or found by chance or in connection to something else I was reading. I use the term ‘random’ because in most cases I simply read the piece and moved on: the author hadn’t written anything else worth considering, or hadn’t been updating his or her personal blog in ages, etc.
Tech blogging and podcasts
I have to generalise here, which means that there are exceptions, but overall 2015 felt a bit disappointing with regard to the quality of the tech-oriented blogs I follow. A marked decrease in consistency and quality seems to come from those authors who monetise their site through advertising and sponsors, and/or are engaged in podcast productions (as hosts or frequent guests). While it’s true that I have a certain aversion to podcasts, one cannot deny that if you invest a lot of time and energies doing podcasts, it’s only natural that your site and your writing will feel somewhat neglected.
There are also tech writers who have embraced podcasting as a new means for expressing their thoughts, and it appears that this has been a big trend in 2015, with new podcasts popping up at an alarming frequency. Everyone’s free to express themselves in the ways and via the media they see fit, of course, but as a reader and listener I’d like to point out that burying your opinions in a podcast episode that last 1-2 hours, instead of writing them down in a 500-word article, is a lazy and extremely selfish choice. As far as direct feedback goes, the debate remains confined inside circles and cliques. Bringing the discussion back to the written word means hunting quotable parts in long, sometimes meandering conversations, and then transcribing the bits you want to respond to. And this when you know where to look and are not put off by terse podcast episode summaries or silly titles.
Podcasts demand a level of attention and commitment on the part of the audience that’s simply too much for me; the offer is absolutely overwhelming; the average episode duration is still excessive. As a result, in 2015 I haven’t subscribed to any new podcast except Covered (see below), though I have listened to two or three episodes of other podcasts in an effort to expand my horizons, or because I acted on a specific recommendation, or because there was a specific subject being discussed and I was looking for different takes on it.
I’m still subscribed to
- John Gruber’s The Talk Show, and
- James & John’s RetroMacCast, dedicated to the world of vintage Macs,
although I’ve skipped a few episodes every now and then. While the other two podcasts I follow without missing an episode are:
- Release Notes, with Joe Cieplinski and Charles Perry, a weekly podcast about the business of Mac and iOS indie software development. “We discuss inspiration, design, trends, and tools — everything but the code.”
- Covered, with Harry C. Marks. From the description: “Covered is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Harry Marks about writers and their books. Whether it’s fiction or non, short stories or long, sweeping epics, Harry digs down in each episode to learn the stories behind the stories, the whys and hows of their creation, and what readers and aspiring authors can learn from the process.”
Why? Because Release Notes is brief, focussed, and Joe and Charles are knowledgeable, excellent interlocutors. Covered, too, is focussed, plus very interesting and inspiring. Harry is a great host and interviewer, and thanks to his podcast I have discovered new authors and works. These two podcasts are fun to follow and they never feel overwhelming.
My third-party iOS podcast app of choice is Pocket Casts.
As for new blogs/websites, here’s the short list of new entries in my RSS feeds. All these resources are worth reading, and all fall under the category of ‘slow feeds’, meaning they’re not updated at a breakneck pace, and their authors only write when they have something to say. A very commendable practice nowadays.
- No Octothorpe, by G. Keenan Schneider. I like his direct, no-nonsense style, though it was a very creative post that made me decide to finally add his site to my reading list.
- Barely Legally, by Dominic Mauro. Added instantly after reading Probably Predatory, I decided to keep it in my feeds because I like Dominic’s writing, and since he’s a lawyer, it’s refreshing to read about topics that may be outside my comfort zone, so to speak.
- Building Twenty, by Michael Anderson. One of those tech blogs I wish were updated more frequently. Apart from tech-oriented contributions, Michael also posts great articles with recommended readings such as this one — don’t miss those.
- Dot Info, by Joe Caiati. Another nice find in the tech sphere. I’ve also listened to a couple of episodes of Diagnostic & Usage, the podcast Joe hosts with Cody Coats, and it’s worth checking out as well. (I’d subscribe if I had more time for podcasts.)
- M B S-P-B, by Mike Bates. I really enjoy reading Mike’s contributions, and his regular ‘A-Players’ series of posts with a brief list of recommended pieces is always a nice surprise. Some great photos in his VSCO Grid, too. He exudes a kind of minimalism that feels genuine and not affected.
- Unauthoritative Pronouncements, by Joe Rosensteel. Again, I started following Joe’s website because I appreciate his writing and criticism. His recent (at the time of writing) series of articles about the new Apple TV is well worth your attention.
A couple of ‘special mentions’:
- I discovered the majority of the aforementioned resources, directly or indirectly, via the infamous Samantha Bielefeld. If you don’t know who this person is, perhaps the most informative and less biased reference are two articles published by New York Magazine: Is This Popular Female Tech Blogger a Man in Disguise? and Tech Blogger Accused of Faking Her Identity Finally Speaks. While I obviously don’t condone certain behaviour and the questionable choices SB made during her/his brief period of Internet fame, I still think SB had interesting opinions to offer to the tech debate. A debate that is still in need of more voices capable of going against the current if necessary and change the largely complacent status quo.
- The Brooks Review, by Ben Brooks. I actually discovered Ben a few years ago, but I specifically mention him in this article because, overall, his website and writing have improved over the past year, and I’ve got back to reading him on a regular basis. Both his style and attitude may be rough and direct sometimes, but his honesty is truly refreshing. Well worth keeping in your RSS feeds. And while you’re at it, if you prefer reading more photography-oriented subjects, check out Erin Brooks’ website. It was another very nice discovery for me.
- I’ve recently added two sites which I’d like to recommend if you love mechanical keyboards: KeyChatter (for news, reviews and more), and Mechanical Keyboards Inc. – The Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard catalog, which is an awesome resource for learning more about the technology in this type of keyboards, and for purchasing mechanical keyboards as well.
- pivotCE – webOS news, tips and tricks — I still own a Palm Pre 2 and I’ve been a fan of webOS since the start. I’m glad I’ve found this site: if you still have and love webOS devices, pivotCE can offer tips and resources that will help you maintain your aging webOS smartphone or tablet.
2015 was a great year for me with regard to photography, and film photography in particular. I acquired a few more vintage cameras — which, like vintage Macs, I like to put to good use — and went out shooting a bit more. As I was researching information and looking for inspiration online, I stumbled on a lot of interesting resources and photographers.
The place I kept returning to has been Japan Camera Hunter, Bellamy Hunt’s website. The best thing to do to have an idea of what Bellamy’s place is all about is to just visit the site and dive in, but the About page might be a good starting point. Japan is, understandably, a fantastic place to look for film and film cameras, and if you’re looking for certain cameras that are difficult to find in good condition in the used market, Bellamy can be of assistance in sourcing it for you. His services may not be cheap, but that’s the price you pay for quality.
For me, Japan Camera Hunter has been a great source of inspiration mainly thanks to the recurring series of In your bag posts, where people send Bellamy photos of their camera bag and gear, talk about how they got into photography or how they (re)discovered film photography, and post links to their sites and work. I’ve discovered many talented photographers and enthusiasts this way.
But another cool feature of the site are the photography-related essays written by Bellamy and a few regular guest writers — the most interesting being Dan K (here’s a link to the articles he has published there.)
My RSS management
It’s basically the same as last year. On my main Mac I still use and love Reeder, while I keep older versions of NetNewsWire on my PowerPC Macs (version 3.2.15 under Mac OS X Leopard, and 3.1.7 under Mac OS X Tiger). On iOS, my love for Unread remains unchanged. Unread is also my absolute favourite iOS app with regard to gesture-based navigation. It’s really good and well-designed.
My ‘Read Later’ solutions haven’t changed, either. To the short list I wrote last year, I’ll just add a new tool I’ve been using to quickly share a link between a vintage Mac and my more modern iOS devices or my main Intel Mac, and vice versa: Firefox Sync.
As I wrote on System Folder, I only recently had the proverbial ‘eureka moment’, when I realised that by creating a Firefox account, not only could I keep browser tabs, bookmarks, passwords, history, add-ons and preferences synchronised between my MacBook Pro and my iOS devices, but I could also include my PowerPC Macs because TenFourFox supports Firefox Sync — at least for now. It basically works like the iCloud Tabs feature in Safari, but unlike iCloud Tabs it also includes my older PowerPC Macs in the mix. It’s great and very handy. With the Sharing sheet on iOS, I can send a tab from Firefox on my iPad to TenFourFox on my Titanium PowerBook G4 running Mac OS X Tiger. This newfound backward compatibility is exhilarating.
And that’s it for 2015, I guess.