People and resources added to my reading list in 2017

Tech Life

In 2015 and 2016, I noticed a trend in my RSS subscriptions and management: I was discovering fewer interesting people and resources worth following on a regular basis, while at the same time I was removing people and resources I had previously added, for a series of reasons I detailed in last year’s post. 2016 was a very active year for me, photography-wise, so the majority of discoveries were photography-oriented.

2017 was a terrible year. A sort of reverse-sabbatical where, instead of taking a break to focus on specific interests and projects, I found myself taking a break to… to focus on really nothing specific. Lots of things were left floating in a limbo. My creative writing and projects got sidetracked due to a hazy, unspecified inertia. Only my work with translations and app localisation was the exception, thankfully.

The tech world in general, and podcasts

I have grown progressively weary of how most of the tech debate is conducted today. I like to read people with (pardon the photographic reference) a wide dynamic range; people who don’t lose sight of the bigger picture; people who don’t limit themselves to being serial gadget lovers (i.e. people who lose themselves in every new shiny tree they encounter, rarely taking account of the whole forest; and I promise I’ll stop with the metaphors). Well, perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough last year, but I haven’t found many.

More and more, the podcast seems to be the preferred method of delivery, and well-written tech blogs look like an endangered species. I don’t want to start another tirade about podcasts, but let me reiterate one fundamental criticism: there is simply too much supply, and too little time. I can’t spend my day listening to podcasts, as I find practically impossible to follow a podcast episode while doing other things. Music can be enjoyed even when it’s in the background. I can’t follow what people are talking about while reading stuff on the Web or working. It’s just interference. I have to make time for your podcast. And if I’m going to give you one hour of my time for an episode, you better deliver on the quality and content, otherwise it’s bye-bye.

As a listener, my podcast habits have changed slightly. I used to follow a really short list of podcasts, doing my very best to listen to all their episodes regularly. In 2017 I added a few more podcasts, with the express intention of just listening here and there, loosening my overall commitment. No offense to anyone, but I simply felt it was time to broaden my horizons without also sacrificing more of my time. Here’s the current list of podcasts I’m subscribed to:

  • Covered, by and with Harry C. Marks.
  • Release Notes, with Joe Cieplinski and Charles Perry.
  • John Gruber’s The Talk Show.
  • Citizen Lit, a literary podcast hosted by Jim Warner.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher of Recode and Lauren Goode of The Verge.
  • The Americans Podcast, by Slate Magazine / Panoply [iTunes link] — I’m a huge fan of the series, and this podcast is a great listen after each episode of The Americans. It’s the only podcast I manage to follow regularly, because the output is limited and follows the series’ airings; and because each episode is rather short.
  • The Radiolab podcast, by WNYC Radio. I was recommended to listen to an episode on Oliver Sacks aired in late October 2017, and I kept the podcast in my subscriptions. I was trying to find the words to describe what Radiolab is about. Thankfully the show’s description does a better job at it than what I could possibly come up with: Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.
  • On Margins, a podcast about making books, hosted by Craig Mod.
  • Tomorrow with Joshua Topolsky [iTunes link]. From the description: “Tomorrow with Joshua Topolsky is a podcast about what’s happening right now — and next — in the world of culture, technology and the internet, music, movies, politics, and more.” I don’t often agree with Topolsky on technology, but it’s important to listen to people with different points of view, otherwise it’s all just an echo chamber.

I have listened to the occasional episode of other podcasts, but these are the ones I’m keeping in my subscription list for now. My podcast listening apps of choice are Pocket Casts on iOS (as always), and Podcast Lounge on Windows Phone.

YouTube channels

For the first time, in 2017 I also started paying attention to what YouTube has to offer. YouTube has got rather difficult to ignore altogether, and I dive in with strict moderation, knowing the attention sucker it can become if you don’t keep your consumption in check. I follow some tech-oriented channels whose output is not too overwhelming.

  • For product reviews: Btekt and Mr Mobile (Michael Fisher). Both of these guys, in my opinion, produce great videos (well-edited, not too long and not too short, etc.) and provide rather balanced reviews. I enjoy Fisher’s style and humour, in particular.
  • For product unboxing & reviews with the added lulz: Unbox Therapy.
  • I’ve also added the Computer History Museum channel, because it’s just rich in good-quality technology content.
  • When I have my recurring bouts of retrocomputing nostalgia, I check The 8-Bit Guy.

I’ve added these resources to what I follow. I’m sure there are many more out there, and some may be of better quality or value. I’m not into YouTube much, so if you feel I’m missing some fantastic channels, feel free to let me know via email or Twitter.

Tech blogs and sites

If I had written this piece back in early October, this would have been a completely blank space. Really. The few discoveries I made all happened in the last 2–3 months of 2017:

I’ve always read Peter Cohen’s articles when he wrote for Macworld, The Loop, and iMore. I added his personal site to my reading list back in October 2017. He hasn’t posted anything since, but I hope it’s only temporary.

Since he has been quoted often in recent times by other people I follow, I decided to check his blog more regularly, and I ended up adding it to my feeds. I’m talking about Matt Birchler and his blog BirchTree. What made me decide to add him to my reading list was his recent 8-part exploration of Android from the perspective of an iOS user. I appreciate when tech geeks take the time to explore other platforms, because that usually gives them a better perspective on technologies and products. I’ve done that too, and I’ve learnt a lot.

Speaking of exploring other platforms, after webOS and Android, I felt it was time to take a deeper, less prejudiced look at Windows Phone/Windows Mobile. After a surprisingly positive experience with a Nokia Lumia 925 and Windows Phone 8.1 started in November, I’m currently examining Windows 10 Mobile on a Nokia Lumia 830. Two great resources that have helped me a lot this past couple of months have been:

  • All About Windows Phone, with good reviews and tips; I’ve found a lot of nice Windows Phone apps by perusing the site.
  • Windows Central: it has a broader scope, and its focus is Windows in general, but it’s a good place to keep an eye on to stay informed on what happens in Windows land.

If you’ve known me for long, you’ll surely find my renewed interest in Microsoft and Windows a bit strange. Many other long-time Mac users keep looking at Microsoft and Windows through 1990s-era glasses, and well, I think it’s time to be more open-minded. I’m not switching to Windows, mind you, and I’m not necessarily saying that it has become better than Mac OS. But the hardware is interesting, and Windows has certainly got better than when I was using it more regularly years and years ago.

If I could afford it, I’d probably get a Surface laptop or tablet as a secondary device, to at least have a first-hand experience so that I can better understand the kind of efforts Microsoft has made to improve their hardware and software. I was able to do that with Windows-powered smartphones, and I was unexpectedly, positively surprised. Over the years I’ve come to realise that you can’t be interested in technology without ever examining what’s outside your preferred platform and ecosystem.

That’s it for tech blogs/sites. Again, if you believe I’m missing out on someone particularly smart, insightful, and worth reading, let me know!

People who don’t post as often as they used to, or have stopped altogether — and that’s a real pity

There are a few people whose contributions I used to enjoy, but it seems they’re now either writing very infrequently, or have taken a hiatus. I don’t know why. Perhaps they now have other priorities or are busy elsewhere. I still keep their sites in my RSS reader in the hope they can return someday. I felt like mentioning them here not because I want to single them out and line them up against some wall of shame, but because I believe they’re people worth reading and following. I’m mentioning them as a way to tell them, Hey, I miss your writing. It’s really a pity you’ve stopped posting regularly. I hope to read more from you in the future.

  • Michael Anderson used to have a blog called Building Twenty; the domain appears to have expired now, but this is one of the last snapshots available through the Internet WayBack Machine.
  • Hey Cupertino, by Patrick Dean. Its last entry is from almost exactly one year ago. As I wrote last year: “I really like Patrick’s review style: each review is detailed, well written, and accompanied by meaningful screenshots. One immediately notices how Patrick decides to review an app only after having extensively used it on his device. This means his reviews are generally less superficial, and his recommendations are always worth checking.”
  • The Pickle Theory, by Shibel Mansour. It’s a pity Shibel hasn’t the time to write more on his site. He’s someone whose point of view I’d like to hear more often.
  • MbS-P-B, by Mike Bates. I enjoyed his reviews and I enjoy his photography. His blog has been silent since late 2016. I hope the hiatus isn’t definitive.
  • No Octothorpe, by G. Keenan Schneider. He’s not on hiatus, but he’s one of the few tech writers with a genuinely creative approach to tech writing, and he posts too damn infrequently.
  • Mac Kung Fu, by Keir Thomas. Last year I wrote: “It’s mostly tips and tricks for Mac OS, iOS, Apple TV, Apple Watch, etc. Keir is a competent power user and writer. There’s always something to discover, even if you’re an experienced Mac or iOS user, and Keir often manages to surprise you.” Keir doesn’t update the site as often as he used to, and it’s a pity. Still, I recommend you add it to your list of resources; I’m sure you’ll still be able to find plenty of useful tips in the archives.

My RSS management

Not much has changed from last year. To recap: on my main system, Reeder is still my favourite app. On my PowerPC Macs I use older versions of NetNewsWire (version 3.2.15 under Mac OS X Leopard, and 3.1.7 under Mac OS X Tiger). On iOS for me there’s no better RSS reader than Unread. On older iOS devices that can’t be updated past iOS 5 or iOS 6, I use Reeder instead (the last compatible version on those systems). It offers a great reading experience. A special mention goes to Feed Hawk by John Brayton, a very useful iOS tool to quickly add a website’s RSS feed to your reader of choice. My nano-review of Feed Hawk is here.

Since now I also use Windows Phone 8.1 / Windows 10 Mobile as my secondary mobile platform, I’ve searched for a good RSS reader on Windows as well. I’m currently enjoying FeedLab, but I’ve also been recommended the more feature-rich Nextgen Reader (for both mobile devices and PCs).

And I think that’s all. This article may be updated in the following days, in case I realise I forgot something.

Past articles

In reverse chronological order:

I hope you find this series useful. (Keep in mind that some links in these past articles may now be broken). Again, feel free to send tips and suggestions for more resources, either via email or Twitter. Thanks for reading!

The Author

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!