Friday, March 15, 2013

Useful Lessons from Google Reader's Demise

Why Did Google Reader Die? And what free Web service will be next? by Farhad Manjoo

Anyone using web apps with some regularity, especially if you rely on them heavily, should read this article. What are web apps? Everything that does something for you online. I use Google Reader, Google Voice, Google Docs, Twitter,, Gmail, Google Plus, Diigo, Flickr, and others. Many are really useful and would not easily be replaced by desktop applications.

The bottom bottom line lessons from Farhad's article:

  • Consider an app's business model before investing in it--how does the company expect to keep it going? (And remember, you're investing in it simply by getting used to it, putting your data and time into it.)
  • Remember that your favorite service might just die anytime. Unlike desktop software, there is no possibility of continuing to use your legacy product you love so well. You might or might not get your data back.
  • If you use a web app that has a paid version, support it by paying, if you can afford it--how else do you expect it to remain viable?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End of Google Reader ... What Will You Use to Replace It?

Google has just announced the end of Google Reader on July 1.

Most people haven't even heard of Google Reader, but among those who have, it's quite popular. It's a free online service that lets you organize your  newsfeeds. Haven't heard of news feeds, either? They likewise may not be as hot as when they were developed some years ago, but the concept is great: just add websites or other information sources to your incoming feeds, and you'll be able to check all the new items from a single source on your computer. Forget visiting all your favorite blogs and news sources, just open your newsfeed and see everything in one place.

Many applications help you manage your newsfeeds, but Google Reader has been a popular one. It is very simple to use and is just there when you want it. Click on a title and the whole article opens up in the same window (if the feed included all the content) or a new window if you want to see the original. Mark the articles you want to remember, share, and so on.

My first reaction at hearing about the "retirement"--death seems a better word--of Google Reader was dismay. But then I thought, maybe there is a silver cloud. I haven't even looked for a better solution in years. Yes, well, I didn't see a need, and why fix what isn't broken. I still feel that way, but at least the death of Reader will force me to get out there and explore new options. This CNN article mentions Feedly, Pulse, Flipboard, and Zite. I'm not checking out Zite since it seems to an iOS-only app.  But they all have nice-looking home pages, and that's a start!

What about you? What news readers do you already use and love, or what are you planning to do now that Google Reader is terminal?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Warning to Airtel Nigeria Internet users

Airtel has a pattern "chopping" or exhausting the entire credit balance on your phone or modem if your data plan ends. This has happened to many people.

In my case, I got a notice that my plan would auto-renew in a few days, so I added 8000 naira credit to allow the auto-renewal. The next day, the plan ended because the gigabytes were exhausted. Airtel did not renew the plan despite the credit on my phone, they simply charged me the whole 8000 for "browsing without a plan," while never informing me that I was doing so.

Despite several useless phone calls to customer service (where they did not even know where my city Jos was), an hour in person with the local customer service, and an appeal to the manager, Airtel insisted that I was at fault, and they would not give a refund.

I know some other providers (MTN, I think) will drop the data connection until you explicitly say you want to continue without a plan, but Airtel conveniently "forgets" to let you know; you simply move with no notice from operating under your plan to exhausting your credit balance. While Airtel has provided good service, this fact would make me cautious about recommending it. I understand that Glo is also very good, but don't know how they handle this billing issue. Furthermore, Glo's Plans are cheaper with 7,500 naira for 8 GB as opposed to 8,000 naira for 5 GB with Airtel.