FeedWordPress Collapse Filter

There’s a serious dearth of FeedWordPress filter plugins out there. I aim to rectify the situation. FeedWordPress Collapse Filter will collapse multiple posts being imported from a single feed into a single post. I use it here on Plutor.org to keep Flickr photos (which I frequently upload by the handfuls) from overwhelming everything else. Each syndicated feed can be separately configured to collapse (or not) with a different time threshold.

Download FeedWordPress Collapse Filter 1.0

Plutor.org v10

In celebration of what was apparently Plutor.org’s sixth birthday a couple weeks ago, I hereby unveil version 2.0 7, let’s say it’s version 10 of my blog. Simpler, cleaner, no more silly orange stripes or fixed menus. I hope the individual pages put more emphasis on discussion, and I hope that in the future, I spend more time writing than linking.

Thanks to Brian and Chris for being the actual impetus behind this change. They staged a webdesign intervention, and to them I am grateful.

Apple's Font Rendering and high DPI displays

The release of a beta of Apple’s Safari for Windows earlier this week has resulted in an interesting flurry of activity in web designer circles. Nevermind the instant security bugs and the quick release of fixes from Apple. I’m talking about typography.

The day that the beta came out, Jeff Atwood asked “What’s wrong with Apple’s font rendering?" He pointed out that others had discussed this before, but it wasn’t until the difference was visible side-by-side on the exact same machine with the exact same fonts (and with presumably the exact same font libraries) that it became truly surprising. Joel Spolsky responded with the answer: Apple and Microsoft have very different priorities when it comes to font rendering, and at current screen sizes and resolutions, Apple’s total respect for the letter shapes can mean blurriness. Their diligence becomes especially impressive when you consider the work that Apple must have had to go through to get Safari to run on Microsoft’s home turf but render fonts the way it would on Mac OS X.

Dave Shea piped in with his own opinion and a caveat: I like Mac’s look better, but I think Microsoft’s is a better choice for the medium. But more importantly, he points out that as soon as higher-DPI screens are available, the whole question will be moot. Microsoft’s deference to the pixel grid will be essentially meaningless. Which brings us back to what Jeff Atwood does best: a big post with research and quotes and numbers showing how far screens have come since the release of the PC AT and Macintosh. Not far. The sad realization:

Short of some kind of miraculous technological breakthrough, I can't see computer displays reaching 200 DPI in "a few years". It's unlikely we'll even get there in ten years. I'd love to be proven wrong, but all the evidence of history-- not to mention typical consumer "bigger is better" behavior-- is overwhelming.

Can e-ink or OLED be the miraculous technological breakthrough we need? Possibly, but neither of them are yet ready to replace CRTs or LCDs.

[1] The always brilliant Joel ends with a great metaphor about how people usually prefer what’s familiar. He doesn’t say it, but I think he was implying that this is a big contributor to entrenchment in computing holywars: Mac vs. PC, vi vs. emacs, KNF vs. OTBS.

So long, Planet

For the last year or so, I’ve been using Planet to aggregate my del.icio.us links (white background), Flickr photos (blue), blog posts (yellow), and recently Last.fm music history (tiny text with eighth notes). I knew from day one that there were a few shortcomings, but I was able to code around most of them, like collapsing multiple consecutive items from the same source into one (like how photos show up with “and 3 more”). And I needed to write plutor.org twice, in two totally different templating languages. But in the last few weeks, several minor annoyances have become bigger. I never liked having my archives across several different sites. And some feeds are too short (Flickr, occasionally, but definitely Last.fm). Since planet was totally stateless, and just grabbed the RSS on every execution, once something fell off the source feed, it’d be gone. Even if it didn’t yet need to fall off plutor.org.

Starting today, I’m using FeedWordPress to import these external feeds directly into Wordpress. No more Planet necessary. There’s a totally separate list of things I need to code around, and some of them are less trivial than they used to be. But I’m hoping that getting that data pulled into Wordpress will allow me to make plutor.org even more complete than it already is. Twitter? Netflix? What else can I integrate?

Is Google a killer?

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Google has grown to the point where it can be a real challenge to compete with it. The first public demonstration (in my memory) came this week when web calendar Kiko went up for auction on eBay, and the obvious reaction was to think that it was killed by Google Calendar. Paul Graham went so far to say that the big lesson here is “to stay out of Google’s way”. The Kiko team itself came away with some rather different lessons.

But I think that David Heinemeier over at 37signals said it best. Google isn’t the be-all end-all. In fact, no one product or application or website will ever be the best thing for everyone. There are plenty of Google applications (among them the Calendar), that while neat, don’t suit my needs. When people balked at this idea, claiming “Google is big. Backpack calendar is small. They win, you just haven’t realized it yet,” Jason Fried piped up with defining your own success. Success is not a zero-sum game. Two competitors can both succeed.

And that’s probably the most important lesson.

Upgrade and coComment

Some behind-the-scenes stuff: I’ve finally upgraded this blog from WordPress 1.5 to 2.0.4. While I was at it, I decided to install the coComment plugin, so that you can follow your comments with coComment. They have a new Firefox extension that makes it even easier than before. Almost trivial, in fact.

Update, 13 Aug - I've created a small plugin to add the slash:comments element to my RSS feed. That should fix the discussion counts on my home page, and it's a cleaner solution than hacking the WP code directly.

The Dilbert Blog on Intelligent Design

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams has a blog that I was pointed to by a cow-orker a couple weeks ago. Half-surprisingly, he’s very well written, funny, and intelligent; so it makes a pretty good read. And he posts quite regularly.

The other day, he posted about the Evolution versus Intelligent Design debate. He didn’t debate the issue, mind you (he says “I’m not a believer in Intelligent Design, Creationism, Darwinism, free will, non-monetary compensation, or anything else I can’t eat if I try hard enough”), he decided instead to discuss the discussion.

As if that wasn’t meta enough, he focused on how both sides of the debate mischaracterize the other side’s arguments. As I was reading it, I thought “man, he’s not doing a very good job here; I’ve never heard any of these points that he’s complaining about.” And then I realized that was the whole point. He was either using his own misrepresentation as a meta-joke, or he was just interested in stirring up trouble. Or probably both.

He then got 300 angry comments from both sides.

Today, Scott posted a follow-up. He essentially verified my theory, but apparently he had taken it a step further. “I was waiting to see how many people fell into the irony trap and misrepresented my blog entry and then attacked it.” (The answer is “a lot”.) He links to one blog post in particular, but the page is currently down. He reiterates his point, and at the end leaves the whole thing open for more recursive straw men.

I applaud his willingness to be stung by hornets just for the sake of a joke. But what’s more amazing is that, in the end, his joke was proven correct by those who were trying to refute it. It’s also more than a little disturbing. Can’t we engage in intelligent dialogue anymore?

Hello, WP!

Welcome to WordPress. This is my first post with the new system. Things are going to be a little hairy here for the next week or so, as I make things work the way I want them. But the important things are all set.

New uberfeed

I just spent the time this morning making a single over-arching RSS feed for Plutor.org. It should now include my Flickr photos, del.icio.us links, and moblog and blog posts, like the HTML version of the site does. Please use the new URL to follow my incoherent ramblings and unrelated links. For the uninitiated: What is RSS?

Google Reader

I’ve figured out what I don’t like about Google Reader, Google’s new RSS aggregation service. I keep having to think. I’m not used to doing that with a Google product. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid feed reader, but the navigation isn’t quite intuitive. “Down” should be at the bottom. There should be a way to scroll through the new posts without viewing them (or having to mark those you viewed as “keep unread”, which, by the way, is really far away). But one of the things I’d really like, in contrast to Bloglines, is the ability to see which feeds have new items at a glance (and sort by that criterion). In the “My subscriptions” view in Google Reader, I can’t tell what has new items nor can I even resort them as far as I can tell.

I have high hopes and I plan to keep coming back to it — it is the big G, after all, and they have a track record of improving services in response to user feedback — but I’m going to stick with Bloglines for now.

E3 moblogging

I hope that I don’t regret allowing any of the E3 folks to moblog to the front page here. The new design makes it really easy to integrate new sources of posts, like the E3 moblog, or the “standard” moblog.

The old location of the E3 moblog is also available, if this page is too ugly for you.

On the demise of Mefi

Reading through this four-and-a-half year old thread on the demise of MetaFilter bends my mind. I find it extremely ironic that the linked article complains about the increase of noise to signal in the blue, but the comments are some of the most well-thought, cogent, and intelligent things I have ever read on MeFi. I wonder what the author thinks about the current state of the site.