Here’s why I gave up trying to explain the Chinese family tree to people.
You have to admit, though, that with this system, you know exactly where in the tree someone is in relation to the person referring to the relative.
And today in Bike Lane Hazards:
We’ve got the perfect summer-break job for someone who digs data, has a nose for news and works fast.
It’s six weeks on WNYC’s Data News Team. Join us and you will:
- Help WNYC cover breaking news, like our Hurricane Sandy work
- Help reporters find and mine data for major stories
- Help make maps, charts and web apps
- Help brainstorm and build feature projects, like the Dogs of New York
- Help the journalism we do in New York and New Jersey
- Have a fun time with a fun team
Our ideal helper loves the challenge of finding information and data, and enjoys working with it once it’s in our hands. They’re creative, inquisitive and unafraid of new technologies.
The gig runs from mid-May through June, and pays $3,000 for the period. It’s geared for college students, especially those in a journalism program with data skillz or those in a computer science program with interests or experience in journalism.
It’s a limited-time offer, so act now! Apply with this quick form.
photo by Alex Howard / @digiphile
A choice New Yorker cartoon caption contest submission by Roger Ebert.
Harsh, but fundamentally correct.
You: You’re freaking out about Google Reader shutting down.
Me: You should use Newsblur, by my friend Samuel Clay.
Here’s what he’s done since the Reader shutdown announcement, and what you can look forward to in the coming months. I’ve been using Newsblur since its beta and paying for it since they offered a premium user level, and it’s been great.
At 4:16pm last Wednesday I got a short and to-the-point email from Nilay Patel at The Verge with only a link that started with the host “googlereader.blogspot.com”. The sudden spike in NewsBlur’s visitors immediately confirmed — Google was shutting down Reader.
Late night at the office
I had been preparing for a black swan event like this for the last four years since I began NewsBlur. With the deprecation of their social features a year ago I knew it was only a matter of time before Google stopped supporting Reader entirely. I did not expect it to come this soon.
As the Storify history of the Reader-o-calypse, NewsBlur suffered a number of hurdles with the onslaught of new subscribers.
A few of my challenges and solutions
I was able to handle the 1,500 users who were using the service everyday, but when 50,000 users hit an uncachable and resource intensive backend, unless you’ve done your homework and load tested the living crap out of your entire stack, there’s going to be trouble brewing. Here’s just a few of the immediate challenges I faced over the past four days:
- My hosting provider, Reliable Hosting Services, was neither reliable, able to host my increasing demands, or a service I could count on. I switched to Digital Ocean and immediately got to writing new Fabric scripts so I could deploy a new app/task server by issuing a single command and having it serve requests automatically within 10 minutes of bootstrapping.
- It didn’t take long to max out my Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) account’s quota of 10,000 emails a day. So a few hours into the melee I switched to Mailgun, which unfortunately resulted in emailing myself 250,000 error reports. If you tried to email me and couldn’t get through, it’s because 50,000 emails about lost database connections made their way ahead of you in line.
- Eventually, I was just plain blacklisted on SES for sending too many emails.
- Fortunately, when the PayPal fraud department called because of an unprecedented spike in payments, I was prepared.
Paypal’s fraud department just called, asked me what’s going on. Asked the rep from Omaha if she’s heard of Reader, and then a big Ohhh.
- HAProxy would serve errors (site is down, maintenance, timeouts, etc) with a 200 OK status code instead of the proper 500 Exception status code because of a ridiculous undocumented requirement to include HTTP Headers at the top of the error template. When your webapp uses status codes to determine errors, you get extremely strange behavior when it loads utter crap into your DOM.
- The inevitable file descriptor limits on Linux means that for every database connection you make, you use up one of the 1,024 file descriptors that are allocated to your process by default. Changing these limits is not only non-trivial, but they don’t tend to stick. This is responsible for bringing down Mongo, PostgreSQL, and the real-time Node servers, all at different times of the night.
- The support queue is enormous and I’ve had to spend big chunks of my 16 hour days reassuring paying customers that eventually Stripe will forgive me and my unresponsive servers and will send the payment notification that is responsible for automatically upgrading their accounts to premium.
The sad extent of my St. Patrick’s Day
As a one-man-shop it has been humbling to receive the benefit of the doubt from many who have withheld their judgment despite the admittedly slow loadtimes and downtime NewsBlur experienced. Having the support of the amazing NewsBlur community is more than a guy could ask for. The tweets of encouragement, voting NewsBlur up on replacereader.com (If you haven’t yet, please tweet a vote for “#newsblur to #replacereader”), and the many positive comments and blog posts from people who have tried NewsBlur is great.
It has also been a dream come true to receive accolades from the many who are trying NewsBlur for the first time and loving it. Since the announcement, NewsBlur has welcomed 5,000 new premium subscribers and 60,000 new users (from 50,000 users originally).
NewsBlur users are intelligent, kind, and good looking!
The next three months
Over the next three months I’ll be working on:
- Scaling, scaling, scaling
- Launching the redesign (which you can preview)
- Listening to all of you
For those of you who are still trying to decide where to go now that you’re a Reader refugee let me tell you a few of the unique things NewsBlur has to offer:
- Radical transparency. NewsBlur is totally open source and will remain that way.
- It still feels like RSS, just with a few more bells and whistles. NewsBlur provides actual list of posts, as opposed to the more curated magazine format of some of the other popular replacements. This clean interface makes it easy to see the stories you want. One innovation however is the four different view options you have. NewsBlur can show you the original site, feed, text or story view.
- It has training. NewsBlur hides stories you don’t want to read based on tags, keywords, authors, etc. It also highlights stories you want to read, based on the same criteria. This allows you to find the stories you care about, not just the stories that the hive cares about. And best of all, NewsBlur will show you why stories are either highlighted or hidden by showing the criteria in green or red.
- NewsBlur has rebuilt the social community that Google had stripped out of Reader. Users can share stories through their Blurblog and discover new content by following friends’ Blurblogs. The People Have Spoken is the blurblog of popular stories.
- Because NewsBlur is entirely open-source, if you don’t want to pay you can host your own server. Instructions are on GitHub, where you can also find the source code for the NewsBlur iPhone + iPad app and Android app.
- Most importantly, NewsBlur is not entirely a free app. The immediate benefits of revenue have been very clear over the past few days. Not only are NewsBlur’s interests aligned with its users, but as more users join NewsBlur, it makes more revenue that can be used to directly support the new users. Not convinced that paid is better than free? Read Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski’s essay Don’t Be a Free User.
Shiloh during better times. Your premium subscription goes to both server costs and feeding her
With NewsBlur’s native iOS app and Android app, you can read your news and share it with your friends anywhere. And with the coming improvements over the next three months, you bet NewsBlur will be the #1 choice for Google Reader refugees.
Join NewsBlur for $24/year and discover what RSS should have been.
I run into some version of this essay by some moneybags twig-bishop about once a year, and it bugs me every time.
Here’s the thing. Wealth is not a number of dollars. It is not a number of material possessions. It’s having options and the ability to take on risk.
If you see someone on the street dressed like a middle-class person (say, in clean jeans and a striped shirt), how do you know whether they’re lower middle class or upper middle class? I think one of the best indicators is how much they’re carrying.
Lately I’ve been mostly on the lower end of middle class (although I’m kind of unusual along a couple axes). I think about this when I have to deal with my backpack, which is considered déclassé in places like art museums. My backpack has my three-year-old laptop. Because it’s three years old, the battery doesn’t last long and I also carry my power supply. It has my paper and pens, in case I want to write or draw, which is rarely. It has a cable to charge my old phone. It has gum and sometimes a snack. Sunscreen and a water bottle in summer. A raincoat and gloves in winter. Maybe a book in case I get bored.
If I were rich, I would carry a MacBook Air, an iPad mini as a reader, and my wallet. My wallet would serve as everything else that’s in my backpack now. Go out on the street and look, and I bet you’ll see that the richer people are carrying less.
As with carrying, so with owning in general. Poor people don’t have clutter because they’re too dumb to see the virtue of living simply; they have it to reduce risk.
When rich people present the idea that they’ve learned to live lightly as a paradoxical insight, they have the idea of wealth backwards. You can only have that kind of lightness through wealth.
If you buy food in bulk, you need a big fridge. If you can’t afford to replace all the appliances in your house, you need several junk drawers. If you can’t afford car repairs, you might need a half-gutted second car of a similar model up on blocks, where certain people will make fun of it and call you trailer trash.
Please, if you are rich, stop explaining the idea of freedom from stuff as if it’s a trick that even you have somehow mastered.
The only way to own very little and be safe is to be rich.
“Nevertheless, the fact is that there is nothing as dreamy and poetic, nothing as radical, subversive, and psychedelic, as mathematics. It is every bit as mind blowing as cosmology or physics… and allows more freedom of expression than poetry, art, or music… Mathematics is the purest of the arts, as well as the most misunderstood.” - Paul Lockhart
A couple weeks ago we ventured to New York City for an Iconathon at The New York Times building - a suitable venue for creating symbols around the theme of Investigative Journalism. Our goal for this Iconathon was to make symbols that will help visualize information and data in the news, as well as create symbols that can be used by reporters to discuss current events. A mix of journalists, editors, graphic designers, web developers and civic-minded participants volunteered their Saturday to help accomplish this goal.
Chrys Wu (Hacks/Hackers NYC), Scott Klein (Editor of News Applications at ProPublica), and Matt Ericson (Deputy Graphics Editor at The New York Times) started off the day with insightful presentations on how symbols help to share information with the public through new age journalism. In today’s digital era, symbols are frequently used on mobile news apps and interactive websites to effectively communicate information about current events in politics, government, environment, technology, etc. Given the abundance and depth of information for a lot of these topics, visual graphics help tell these stories in a way that is easy for anyone to understand.
(Presentation by Matt Ericson from The New York Times)
After the presentations we split into teams and generated ideas for concepts like Gerrymandering, Wire Tap, Fracking, Dark Money, Abuse of Power, and Drone.
We ended the day with a group critique to discuss which ideas were the most successful at illustrating each concept. The open discussion allowed everyone to compare sketches and work in a collaborative effort to choose the most comprehensive symbols. The best ideas from each topic will soon be transformed from rough sketches into graphic icons that will be free to download as public domain.
A huge thanks to all of the volunteers who participated, The New York Times for sharing their phenomenal space with us, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews for sponsoring, and ProPublica and Hacks/Hackers NYC for helping to organize the event!
More photos from the Iconathon are on Flickr.