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news in one page -- but not a webpage


Another "clevercactus tip of the day". :-)

The other day, Dave was saying that using the three-pane paradigm to present news in an aggregator was not the way to go. Today, he linked to a piece by Adam Curry in which, among other things, Adam puts forward the same idea. One important difference (aside from the UI) between typical three-pane readers and web-page readers is what Dave refers to as "the queue". Adam mentions that another advantage is that part of the "freshness" of RSS feeds is how you can get a view of a number of different POVs on the same idea.

Both of these uses (and more) are not just legitimate, they are also clearly useful in many cases. But sometimes I want to see what just one person has said recently, and for that the three-pane view rules. Additionally, at times an item might contain more than a short description, it might contain the full text of the entry, for which three-pane views rule as well (since the full text could be really long).

So, is it possible to have both?

Absolutely :)

When reading feeds in clevercactus you can get the combined effect of a "one-page" view with the benefits of a three-pane view. As an example, consider the following two screenshots. Number one shows the "aggregated" view, where all the feeds are shown together. Number two shows only the space that is aggregating Scripting News. Just one click takes me from a bird's eye view to a more specific per-blog view.

How does this happen? In clevercactus, a space is recursive, that is, it automatically shows not only its contents but the contents of its subspaces (which are also recursive, and so on) with the proper ordering. So this effect happens transparently and automatically.

Now this is close, but no dice yet, since (as opposed to the way in which webpage aggregators do it) the news items remain there in the aggregator, which can potentially (and very quickly) create clutter (This is another one of Dave's good points). In an upcoming version of clevercactus, you'll be able to set the "decay rate" of items (automatically set by default to a sensible value). This means that after, say, seven days, feed items will be deleted automatically unless explicitly marked for permanent storage through a one-click procedure on the item itself (An icon saying "Store this") -- And bingo, we've got the functional equivalent of the aggregated webpage view, but in a three-pane UI, with "entry decay" for the first time.

Some users will still prefer a webpage view (which you can also get in clevercactus using webaccess, btw!).

And that's what it's all about isn't it? Giving the users choice.

Update: Ted was commenting on this entry and comparing clevercactus to FeedDemon. He said:

it seems to me that Clevercactus looks a lot like FeedDemon, except that FeedDemon can do a newspaper, and Clevercactus can't, and Clevercactus has PIM info, which FeedDemon doesn't
I didn't know about FeedDemon's Newspaper View. Very nice! However, I must say that clevercactus has a lot more than "PIM info"-- some examples are the webaccess feature, weblog posting, email, and Real Soon Now a bunch of other cool things, such as real-time collaboration and synchronization. Reading feeds (Both RSS and Atom) is just one more of the information channels that clevercactus can handle.

Update 2: Sam linked to this entry and Dare commented that SharpReader and RSS Bandit support this kind of functionality. Dare was also wondering whether I thought that cc was first on this, and I replied:

Clevercactus was first. CC was originally called spaces, and it was released publicly on November 11, 2002 (the name changed in April this year), supporting exactly that functionality (on both feeds and email), which predates most if not all the 3-pane aggregators that I know of, and certainly those that do recursive aggregation (of course, corrections are welcome--you never know :)).

That said, I was just pointing out that it didn't have to be a choice of either/or, and of course I used my own software as an example since I can fully explain what it does and how.

Additionally, when I said "for the first time" I was referring to the concept of "entry decay" plus the rest of the stuff (Of course, if anyone's aware of other aggregators that are currently doing that--i.e., allow you to set the time after which entries dissapear on a per-feed basis-- please let me know and I'll correct it). I was of course aware of others (although not of its FeedDemon's Newspaper view, which I noted in the post after Ted's comment).

As usual, corrections or more comments are welcome. :-)

Update 3: In another comment on Sam's blog Dare noted that he implemented "entry decay" in RSS Bandit about a month ago. It's not deployed (then again clevercactus isn't either), but this predates my first public mention of this feature by at least a week (obviously more, since Dare noted the release of the code on that entry, rather than the idea as I did). Cool.

PS: Are we all in sync or what? :-)))

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on August 14 2003 at 12:08 AM

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