reclaim your rss feed reader

So Google is killing Reader:

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favourite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Translation: Thanks for letting us mine your activity and data for a few years. We’ve decided you just don’t make enough money for us, and we’ve decided to stop using your activity to feed into our search algorithm. You are no use to us anymore. We’re killing Reader. End transmission.

Translation 2: Using a web page to read feeds is emasculating.

I’m not at all surprised by this. (remember iGoogle?)

But there is an easy way to reclaim your feed reader, so nobody can take it away from you, or cripple it, or mine your activities and data.

I switched to Fever˚ a couple of years ago, migrating all of my feeds from Google Reader. And haven’t looked back. It’s not free – it costs a whopping $30 for a license. But the licensing fee goes to support a fantastic developer, and means that there are no ads or data mining or anything skanky.

Here’s my current Fever˚ “Hot” dashboard:

Screen Shot 2013 03 13 at 6 40 39 PM

Here’s my “★★★★★” folder of must-read feeds:

Screen Shot 2013 03 13 at 6 46 31 PM

Here’s my “Photos” folder – mostly from Flickr users, but also people posting photos elsewhere. All in one handy feed display:

Screen Shot 2013 03 13 at 6 47 42 PM

It’s also got a great iOS app, Reeder (which is best on the iPhone – pixel doubled on iPad for some reason).

Screenshot of “hot” items in Reeder on my godphone:


And the five-star feed folder:


You can still “share” items – you can expose an RSS feed for items you star within Fever•, and – wait for it – anyone can subscribe to that feed, using any reader that hasn’t been “sunsetted” by a giant corporation. I display my “shared” items on a page on my blog, powered by a self-hosted instance of Alan’s awesome Feed2JS tool.

It’s my Fever˚. No company can decide to “sunset” it. Well, I guess Shaun can decide to abandon it, but even if that happens, the software is running on my server, so worst case scenario I don’t get updates provided by him (through the fantastic automated software updater, btw).

Anyway. Google kills Reader. Not surprising. If you’re still relying on anything Google provides, it’s now shame on you. Reclaim your stuff.

Gehl, R.W. (2013). What’s on your mind? Social media monopolies and noopower

Gehl, R.W. (2013). What’s on your mind? Social media monopolies and noopower. First Monday. 18(3).

On noopower1 through marketing and repetition extended into ubiquitous social media:

Operating within the larger political economy of advertising–supported media, it is not surprising that Facebook, Google, and Twitter mirror marketing’s penchant for experimentation and repetition. Software engineers working for these firms pore over data about what actions users most commonly take — that is, what is most often repeated within the architectures of the sites. These engineers then constantly tweak their interfaces, APIs, and underlying software to reinforce these actions and to produce (they hope) new ones. The tiny changes in the Google homepage, for example, are akin to ripples on the surface of a body of water caused by motion deep underneath, as software engineers seek to increase the attention and productivity of users of these sites.


Real–time data collection on links clicked and videos watched provide marketers with the data they need to experiment with different messages, images, sounds, and narrative structures, allowing them to tailor messages to target publics, and then this process is repeated, ad nauseam, in a cybernetic loop. Behavioral tracking of users allows marketers to repeat messages across heterogeneous Web sites as users visit them, as well as make sales pitches via mobile devices as users travel through space. The messages that result in sales are repeated; those that do not are archived (perhaps they will be useful later). Liking, “+1”ing, or retweeting an ad enters users into a contest to win a trip to the theme park built around the movie that was based on the video game currently being advertised, a game in which the main character must use social media to build a following to solve a crime. All of this is, of course, a marketer’s dream: the observation, experimentation upon, and ultimate modulation of the thoughts of billions, the chance to increase what they call (in some of the most frightening language imaginable) “brand consciousness” over other forms of consciousness and subjectivity. It is the reduction of the scope of thought to a particular civic activity. It is the production of the flexible and always–willing global consumer as the real abstraction of our time. Consumption über alles.


Thus, to counter the reductive noopower operating in and through the social media monopolies, activists and technologists must create systems that allow for radical thought and heterogeneous uses, for differences that make a difference. The alternatives to social media monopolies must be built with protocols, interfaces, and databases all designed to promote new political thinking — noopolitical thinking — and to resist reduction of thought to repeated marketing messages of all varieties. We all can agree that this is probably impossible, but we always must keep a better future on our minds as we work with what we have on our minds.

  1. “power over minds, power over thoughts” []

Bassett, C. (2013). Science, delirium, lies?

The potential for thinking through new re–combinations, new ways to draw up code and language into a new media politics are suggestive. But I want finally to return to the question this article began with: more or less? This text has been framed by a belief that social media monopolies ought to be disrupted — and in the name of at least two of the things they are axiomatically understood to promote (social justice, solidarity as a form of community) and do not. It has been argued that this disruption might be attempted through a toolset — silence, disruption of language, and the exploitation of language’s capacity for polysemy (the metaphor and the lie) — that is not often considered as apt for such a task. My conclusion, and here I return to salute Ivan Illich, is that these tools can be deployed to produce other kinds of more convivial engagements — a better commons — than our apparently ‘social’ media enable. Above all, I have wished to take seriously the idea that communication density, and increasing communicational volume, does not — in and of itself — indicate more understanding, freedom, openness, or ‘good’. To make this case demands also taking seriously the idea of a media politics that begins with silence.

Bassett, C. (2013). Science, delirium, lies?. First Monday [Online]. 18(3).

moocs vs. innovative learning experiences

I’ve been uncomfortable about the MOOC hype. There are a few reasons, ranging from the neoliberal commodification and privatization of education, to the extension of largely passive didactic pedagogies.

Basically, it’s an emphasis on education-as-content, and an exercise in the controlled dissemination of that content1. Students learn through receiving access to content in the context of a course.

Sounds familiar.

the future of education

wait. we’re innovating. there are better graphics now.


Except the students are now removed from an intimate educational context. Course completion approaches gold farming. Eventually, instructors will be reduced so institutions can take advantage of massively open class sizes. Eventually, students will outsource their participation rather than grinding their own experience points. AI instructors, teaching AI students. But massively.

And that’s all fine. Given the environment we’re building, the success stories will be written by those that can best take advantage of the rules and affordances that make up the system.

But what about real innovation in learning? MOOCs are all about the course. And the instructor. And in granting access by students to the instructor and whatever content has been produced. The course is designed within the context of a program and possibly toward a terminal goal of a degree or credential.

What if the course wasn’t important anymore? (is it important now?) What if the only thing that mattered was people coming together to explore and learn together? What would that even look like?

Well. Where’s the venture capital opportunity in THAT? It’ll never fly.

But that’s the real change that can be enabled by the same tools and affordances that have been built to enhance the status quo as MOOCs.

It’s also not a new idea. Dewey wrote about this a century ago. Postman, over 40 years ago. And some old dude, a couple of millennia ago.

This isn’t a technical or software problem. It’s a cultural shift, to emphasize individual control and co-operative learning. That’s where the interesting stuff is happening. And where it will continue happening.

This is why DS106 and ETMOOC3 and many others are so interesting4. It’s not about the stupid animated gifs, it’s about people coming together to explore and play together, and to provide critical analysis and discourse of each other’s work. Most of the participants aren’t there for credit, don’t actually take the course, and do it because they’re interested in doing something for themselves. That’s interesting.

But. As long as we’re collectively spending our time rebuilding and entrenching traditional institutions and paradigms, we’re avoiding the real innovations in education and learning that are far more interesting than forming a consortium of elite lecture providers.

  1. even if the MOOCs are open, the content is carefully constructed, often custom-built to support an instructor’s or institution’s needs, and access controlled – MOOCs that lock content behind logins with enrolment caps. How do they define open? []
  2. spock in school, from Star Trek 2010 []
  3. it’s called a mooc, but interesting because it is another of the ilk of experiences that are the anti-Coursera/EdX/Udacity/etc… []
  4. the interesting ones avoid the temptation of being Massive. Small open online courses. []


just slapped on a fancy new 45nrth xerces tire on the rear wheel of my trusty kona dew fs winter bike, to replace my now-janky schwalbe snow stud. the new one is thinner – 700x30c rather than the 38c I had been using in the winter. and 140 aluminum carbide studs. should be fun on the icy morning rides, while still being fun on the melty afternoon rides home 🙂

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