Category Archives: Uncategorized

Findings

A community manager from Findings, one of my favorite social reading services, recently sent an email to see how the service was working for me. What great community management! I took the opportunity to give some feedback from a user perspective. Here’s my reply.

I’m glad Findings exists. From supporting Instapaper to the recent development of manual clips from paper sources, you’re doing so many things right.

As a brief review, I jotted down this feedback that you might want to consider:

Functionality:

Attribution could be improved to include author name. A post includes title and website as a default, but not author, and it seems like it should. (Not sure how you’d do this, since you’re pulling from the site information.) Maybe you could have a default space to enter the author name(s) manually, which would then display with each post.

When improving the bookmarket, note that some nested formatting, such as bullet points, is lost in a clip.

Improve thumbnail image support. Many clips have a generic (non)image.

Improve iPad functionality. Manually adding a clip with an ISBN gives and endless hourglass and can only be done through the web.

Promoting Discovery:

I’d like to be able to scroll through more “Latest Sources,” or set defaults so that only certain categories of sources will come up for me: by genre, location, etc.

Are you doing any work with publishers that you can share? This could be a great way for publishers and authors to promote discovery.

I’d like to see Findings connect with the Goodreads API to find books/reviews on Goodreads.

Community:

Keep publishing on the Findings blog (for example, with your new series about reading). I (and presumably others) want to hear about how the project is going and what developments are in store.

Warmly,

Michael

Readmill

I’m a fan of Readmill, the digital reader app for non-DRM EPUB files. Why? It’s simple, and doing the work of realizing the Open Bookmarks standard for social reading. They also come across as being passionate and reader-focused.

This book needs Readmill

However, there are a number of simple features that make Readmill less appealing to me than iBooks. Here’s what I think Readmill should consider exploring in order to improve the reading experience.

– Enable readers to open books from a Box account, instead of Dropbox only.

– More font sizes. The smallest current size is still too large. I like to read with a small font. Readmill at least needs to match iBooks with this setting.

– Enable searchable books, including notes. I can’t do this in Readmill.

– For linked text within a book, reveal what the link is before launching. Currently, I have to launch in Safari before knowing where I’m going.

– Allow highlighting across pages. If I have a highlight that extends past a page break, I have to change the font size in order to get the highlight I want viewable on one page.

– Allow for different note colors. If I have different kinds of things I want to highlight, I need a color other than the default yellow.

– Allow editing of highlights. Currently, I have to delete and re-highlight if I want to change something.

– Allow readers to toggle which highlights are shared. For example, sometimes I just want to highlight a word that doesn’t need to be shared – in fact, it would be confusing for my followers to see words out of context.

– There also needs to be a place to add comments separate from highlights. Sometimes I just want to make a comment separate from a part of the text, but before my review of the book after it’s complete.

– Better note visibility. Currently, I can’t tell if a highlight has a comment unless I click on it, and interrupt my reading flow by bringing up the separate highlight pane.

– Highlights should be sortable (even if I have to do this through the web). I want to be able to read them in order of their position in the book, not in the order that I applied them. If I read a book out of sequence, for example, and want to go back and read my highlights as a group, in the current sort order this is difficult to make sense of.

– The timer and “% complete meters” are the beginnings of a data platform so that publisher affiliates can find out how people are reading (and pay for that information). On Readmill, reporting this data has a long lag time. Goodreads does this feature better. I would also like the option of manually entering my position in the book.

For every digital reading experience, there are some features that really matter, and others that are minor. But every time I see how Readmill has taken the time to match the bookmark in their logo to the loading icon, I feel they should have been focusing on some of the things in the above list, too.

Theme/Variation

Listening to this casually professorial interview with guitarist Johnny Marr (from BBC’s Imagine: The Story of the Guitar) got me thinking about how underrated the idea of “theme and variation” is. Not only in music, but elsewhere.

Take the three “punk” chords, which, after hearing the alternative, are actually kind of boring. “Going inside the chord” like Marr does makes for more compelling music. (While that phrase will never roll off the tongue as nicely/banally as “thinking outside the box,” it’s a musical version of the metaphor.)

Combining this kind of knowledge of technique with a personal history of how it’s been done gives you authenticity. In this case, Marr knows the list of “songs that have a tremolo guitar that sounds like x.” He owns a knowledge of the history, so he can make powerful variations.

What do these ideas have to say about other kinds of technique? Say, in business?

Phrase Scanner 7/14/11

cultural diabetes: idea that media production and consumption behaviors are out of equilibrium. I don’t know if the headliner came up with that phrase, but the article is in New Scientist by Peter Lunenfeld.

sensorium: Total sense environment. Word is from the 17th century. Also the title of an MIT Press book on the “techno-human interface.” Book is from the 2006 century, which feels just as long ago.

Feltron: “Nicholas Felton is a leader in the field of information visualization and personal data-tracking.” The Feltron, then, is like his own personal data presence/pseudonym.

bitcoin: a person-to-person digital currency.

Remnants

A printing press gets “up to color” by printing sheets and throwing them away until they’re right. Trash/treasure: in Italy the photographer was with kept these “makereadies” for each of his projects and bound them up into his own kind of alternative book afterwards. Purple where green should be…smudges…missing colors…wrinkles.

This scrambles the fetishization of the “final product.” Keeping the remnants is a part of being open about your work. Put another way, the work is all just a series of remnants.

Visual Editions is selling some extra sheets from their Tree of Codes project.