SiliconFilter

Tweetbot 2.0: The Best iPhone Twitter Client Just Got Even Better

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As Twitter has decided to focus on simplicity, its iPhone app is now a shadow of its former self for more advanced users (and for Twitter, search and lists apparently qualify as advanced features). Thankfully, there are some very good alternatives on market and among those, Tweetbot has long been my favorite. Today, the app's developers launched version 2.0 of Tweetbot and it’s a worthy upgrade to what was already – in my view – the best iPhone client for iOS.

Speed and New Features

The first thing you will likely notice when you start Tweetbot 2.0 is that it is significantly faster than previous versions. Searches, for example, now feel like they take a quarter of the time to appear on your screen.

Besides the speed, though, the app also now sports a number of new features. The updated timeline view, for example, now lets you immediately click on links and usernames. Before, you first had to select a tweet before these links became active. The timeline now also features in-line image thumbnails that let you quickly view an image with just one click.

Another nifty new feature is support for Readability as a mobilizer service. Just like Apple's Reader feature lets you see a text-only view of a website, you can now set Tweetbot to immediately see a text-only view of any link you click on (or you can toggle back and forth between the Readability view and the regular page).

Here is the full list of new features:[list]

  • Updated timeline view
    • Image thumbnails in timeline
    • Links now colored and single-tappable
    • “Retweeted by” bar now integrated and tappable
    • Cell colors adjusted for better contrast
  • New direct message view.
  • Redesigned “New Tweets” bar (Can be dismissed by tap and configured in Settings > Display)
  • Timed auto-refresh (timeline, mentions, and DM’s will refresh every 5 minutes)
  • Readability added as mobilizer service
  • Much improved tweet replies view
  • Links in user’s bio now tappable
  • “Huge” font size option in Settings > Display
  • Improved scrolling performance[/list]


11:37 am


Safari’s New Reading Lists Are Glorified Bookmarks – Not Instapaper Killers

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When Apple announced iOS 5 earlier this week, a lot of the discussion after the announcement was about the third-party tools Apple may have killed by copying a good part of their functionality. One of the most obvious candidates for this death row was Instapaper, the popular tool that allows its users to easily save articles for later and then displays them in a pleasant, text-centric view without ads or widgets. With Safari’s new Reading List feature, which also allows users to bookmark stories, sync them between computers and then read them later, it did indeed look as if Apple was going to put a stake through Instapaper’s heart. After spending some time with Safari on iOS, though, I can’t help but feel that Apple’s tool is far too limited to pose a real challenge to Instapaper.

Reading Lists: Just Specialized Bookmarks

safari_cant_openApple’s Reading Lists are basically just glorified bookmarks. While Instapaper lets you save articles in its easy to read text-only view, Reading Lists don’t make use of Reader, Apple’s new text-only mode for Safari at all. Reading Lists just take you to the original article and then you have to click the Reader button – Instapaper already formats the story for easy reading. Even if you add an article to your Reading List while you’re using Safari’s Reader feature, you will still just get a bookmark to the original page.

Another problem with Apple’s tool is that there doesn’t seem to be an offline mode. iOS 5 is obviously still in beta and this could change, but for now, you can’t save a few articles before you leave and then read them on the plane. That leaves Instapaper or its close competitors Read It Later and Readability as the only real option for those who want convenient offline reading.

This, combined with the fact that you will have to use Safari on the desktop to make use of this feature, makes me think that Instapaper can only profit from Apple’s efforts. As users get frustrated with the limitations of Apple’s Reader and Reading List, they will likely look to Instapaper and Co. as alternatives.



9:18 pm


rdd.me: A New URL Shortener With Built-In Readability

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Readability, the service that reformats websites for distraction-free reading, just launched rdd.me, a new URL shortener. Even though there are already plenty of choices out there for shortening long domain names, this new one is worth a look. Once your friends click on an rdd.me link, they will either get a link to turn on the distraction-free mode above the regular website if they are on a desktop, or immediately see a Readability-enhanced view if they are using a mobile device.

Given that the extension will still show the full website with all its ads and distractions most of the time, I would think that most publishers will have no issue with this service (and Readability also has a program that compensates publishers,too).

Readability rdd.meOne major issue, though, is that rdd.me doesn’t currently feature a bookmarklet or browser plugin that would make shortening links easy. The developers promise to at least offer a bookmarklet in the next few days, but for the time being, you have to either use the regular Readability extension first and then use the share button from within the Readability view to get the link, or head to rdd.me and copy and paste the links there.

If you’re really serious about your social media metrics, you probably won’t like rdd.me, as it doesn’t offer any of the statistics that Bit.ly and Co. offer.

For those who are already big users of the Readability extension, though, rdd.me is definitely worth a look.



8:46 am


Wikipedia Beautifier Beautifies Wikipedia

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Wikipedia is undoubtedly among the most useful websites on the Internet, but it definitely is not among the prettiest. Its utilitarian design does the trick, but it doesn’t exactly look inviting. If you are a Chrome user, however, a new extension now makes the site far more readable. The Readability-inspired Wikipedia Beautifier fades out all the extra crud around the text and allows you to fully focus on the article itself.

One nice aspect of the extension is that all of Wikipedia’s features are still available. Just mouse over the top or left of the page and they will fade in.

Here is the full list of its features of the extension, which was developed by Berlin-based programmer Scott Wheeler: [list]

  • Swaps out the content fonts to nice, big, serif fonts
  • Fades out the navigation bars to the top and left when not in use
  • Justifies text and adds automatic hyphenation
  • Makes a handful of margin adjustments to make things line up in more presentable ways[/list]

To install this extension, just head over here and look for the “click here to install the Chrome extension” link in the middle of the page.wikipedia_prettier

wikipedia_beautifier



5:04 pm


Donahue: A Better Conference Backchannel from the Makers of Readability

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The developers of Readability, the service that makes reading text online better by stripping sites down to their basics and allowing readers to just focus on the text, just launched their newest project at the SXSW conference in Austin. This new application, Donahue, provides conference attendees and presenters with a new way to interact during talks. The idea behind Donahue is based on the reality that the audience members at most tech conferences today often spend more time looking at their screens than at the presenters.

Sadly, the app isn’t available for anyone to use yet. Instead, Arc90 will continue to iterate on the ideas the team developed while building this tool for the SXSW presentation. The hope, though, is to release this as a full-blown tools in the future.

As Arc90’s Tim Meaney and Behavior Design‘s Christopher Fahey (the two companies collaborated in the development of this product) noted, great talks start conversations – and more often than not, these conversations today happen on social networks and sometimes not even in the room where the talk is being presented. Indeed, as Fahey pointed out, “speakers and audiences are becoming more disconnected from each other.” Partly this is due to the fact that the audience members are often paying more attention to their Twitter feeds than the presenters, but Fahey also pointed out that it would be wrong to blame the audience and the presenters for this.

Presentation  Donahue

To fix the conference experience, Donahue wants to help “empower the audience.” Many presentations today, said Fahey, suffer from the fact that the speakers too often try to hide what they really want to say. Donahue instead wants to ensure that the audience can hold the presenters accountable.

So what does this look like in practice?

Danhue bullet points

Donahue’s developers argue that bullet point-style presentations have outlived their usefulness, but more importantly, audiences and speakers need better tools to interact with each other. A conference backchannel – like Donahue – should be opt-in for both the audience and the speaker. Just putting up a big screen with tweets on the stage is not a good solution to this problem (mostly because it encourages too many snarky remarks) and Donahue hence doesn’t display tweets in the presenter view that can be shown on a projector.

In its current form, Donahue provides users with a two-pane view: the presentation slides on the left and a stream of related tweets from the audience on the right. Bringing these two together on one screen is imperative, as human beings are easily distracted and putting them into a different interface to tweet about a talk would make it too easy for an audience member to just focus on anything else but the talk.

Once the app is released, it will also include a Keynote-like interface for building slides.

With Donahue, the developers aimed to create a backchannel that blocks “irrelevant distractions while enabling relevant distractions.” Instead of having to switch back and forth between different apps, both presenters and audience members can see the slides and reactions simultaneously.

The app also keeps an archive of all the related tweets so that the conversation around the talk remains available even after the talk is over.

It’s important to note that Donahue does not provide those who are not in the audience with an audio or video feed – this is really meant to be a tool for those who are in the audience.



2:24 pm


The New Readability: Distraction-Free Reading Without the Guilt

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Arc90s Readability bookmarklet has long been a staple of my online experience. Once installed, the Readability bookmarklet allows you to see a clean, beautifully typeset text view of any article you are looking at. The service wipes away all the distractions from the site, which makes for a great reading experience – but for publishers, this can also make it harder to monetize traffic. Today, Arc90 launched a new version of Readability that goes far beyond its earliest incarnation. This new version introduces Instapaper-like reading lists and a micropayment system that pays publishers based on how often readers use the tool on their sites.

Here is how this works: when you sign up for the new Readability, you decide how much you want to pay for the service per month (the minimum is $5 and payments are handled by Amazon). Then, at the end of every month, Readability will evenly divide 70% the money you put into your account to all the publishers whose articles you read using the service. Readability keeps the other 30% to keep the service up and running.

Readability Enjoy Reading

For publishers, Readability offers an API, as well as a ready-made embed button. I just embedded the button here on the site. You can find it right under the logo image on the top right of this article.

The basic distraction free reading experience also received a major facelift. While you had to choose your presets before installing the bookmarklet before, you can now customize the reading pane at will whenever you are using the service.

A free version of the basic service remains available, though you will have to pay if you want to save texts to the Readability web service for accessing them later.

Readability – Enjoy Reading, Support Writing from Arc90 on Vimeo.

A Micropayment Flat Rate

This passive micropayment system has the potential to be a real game changer. One issue with micropayments is that users don’t want to feel as if a meter is running in the background while they are browsing the Internet. This system is more akin to paying a flat rate. You don’t have to worry about exceeding your allotment and paying overage charger. Instead, you simply decide how much you want to pay per month and Readability takes care of the rest.

Reading list readability

Mobile Apps and Syncing With Instapaper Coming Soon

All of this would be quite exciting in and of itself, but Readability’s developers have also teamed up with Instapaper, one of the best services for time-shifted reading. Instapaper is not only building a custom iOS app for Readability, but according to that service’s developer Marco Arment, Instapaper users will soon have the option to sync their reading activity on that service with their Readability accounts. The two are already quite complimentary and it is great to see them working together.

It’s also worth noting that Apple used the open-source code of Readability to power the new “Reader” feature in Safari 5. We don’t expect Apple to support Readability payments anytime soon, though.

Readability new



12:24 am