Contentless RSS feeds

I’ve been using Feedly regularly now and am loving it. Being able to stay up to date with the websites I like without having to follow them on Twitter or Facebook has made me more of a follower than I was.

There are however certain feeds that make it hard for anyone to like them. The Dilbert Daily Strip for example, apart from its weekend comic, the feed only has the following content:

Dilbert readers – Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.

This is what shows up in my reader everyday. Thankfully, Feedly has an option to open the linked web page directly, which is what I have now done for this feed.

Why do publishers do this? To get more ad impressions? Are ads not allowed on feeds? I’d really love to know the reasons behind this strategy.

Nearby Wikipedia articles for the Pebble

The Nearby API from Wikipedia has always fascinated me, so when I received the Pebble Time last month, I knew I had to use it to make an app for my wrist.

In the excitement of the Kickstarter campaign I had already started dabbling with the JavaScript SDK using Cloud Pebble. It took me a while to get started with the SDK on my computer because I couldn’t find a clear way to initialize a JS project. Things went smoothly once I realized that I had to clone the pebblejs repository first, and copy my files there.

The Pebble.js environment is still in beta and it shows. While the documented features work, I kept wishing for more, especially those that let me add color. I could get a few colors using textColor, and highlightTextColor, but couldn’t find any documentation on what was actually supported. I made my peace with the lack of colors and released the app on the Pebble app store.

splash

Analytics tells me that around 400 people are using this app and that makes me happy. The people are nice too — I got two emails reporting an issue on iPhone (I am working on it), both being informative and polite. This might not mean much, but I feel its an important litmus test for the community.

I hope more APIs get exposed to Pebble.js soon, until then feel free to contribute code and bug reports on Github.

Programming Chrome Apps

By Marc Rochkind

This book gives a soft introduction to the Chrome Apps infrastructure, APIs and current capabilities. Considering when it was published, it would have been nice to have more than just an appendix on mobile and cordova. Even so, it was just the book that I was looking for.

The Year Without Pants

by Scott Berkun

This book is a form of participatory journalism where the author talks about his experience of being one of the first managers at Automattic (the company that runs WordPress.com) . He gives a commentary on the culture of the company as it moves from a flat to a hierarchical structure. He often contrasts it with his experience at Microsoft.

This contrast isn’t as clear as Cathedral and Bazaar. The author even points out instances where WordPress’ culture tends towards cathedral and Microsoft’s towards bazaar. The quality and quantity of work done amidst the chaos of the open source project amazes him, and he attributes this success to the people at the organization – who are passionate about their work, and to Matt Mullenweg – who grants these people autonomy, and encourages them to experiment. He also talks about how he manages his team which is distributed across the world and sometimes even across timezones.

This is the first time I’ve read about open source culture from a manager’s viewpoint. His critique for the communication tools used at Automattic resonated deeply with me. Reading it I was able to look at the Wikimedia Foundation, its work, and my place in it through a new lens.