Lifehack: RSS Reader Fu: Heavy Traffic folder

I’m a heavy RSS user; one of those 4% of web users who read their content via a news reader. I’m a Google Reader user myself, but in the past I’ve tried many feed readers: I even registered both FeedDemon (for Windows) and NetNewsWire (for Mac OS X); both have since been bought by NewsGator and are now free -_-;… But ever since Google Reader got that major upgrade, that’s where it’s been at for me.

Anyway, a common problem with RSS reader users is they suffer from too-much-unread-post-itis. If I don’t read my feeds, in two days I’ll have 1000+ unread items.

Here’s my tip: if your reader lets you put one subscription into many folders, make a ‘heavy traffic’ folder, and put all those feeds that publish far too many posts, and that you only read when you have copious amounts of time. I have Slashdot,  Techmeme, Joystiq, Wired News, and 901am in my folder, with many more to be copied there.  Now when you’re feeling the overflow, you just mark that entire folder as read, and your unread count will drop substantially, and you won’t feel so bad anymore!

Gmail gets IMAP support

I haven’t tested Gmail‘s new IMAP support thoroughly yet, but I’m pretty excited about it. POP does have its problems and limitations, specifically Gmail’s 450-messages-per-check-for-new-mail. And the fact that sometimes you’ll get duplicates of the same mail, and the fact that when you change file or delete something in your mail client, such as Thunderbird, Apple Mail (Mail.app) or Microsoft Outlook (hah, no link for you!), the change is not reflected when you log back into Gmail.

It’s no surprise that Gmail has pushed this out solely because of the iPhone and it’s built-in mail client that requires IMAP — no POP support for you, iPhone owner, you lucky dogs you.

I’ve been using Gmail since June 16th 2004, and started using it as my main email client in October 2005, and haven’t looked back! Its got a whole lot of great features: Google Talk (XMPP) integration, conversation threading, excellent spam filter, address book, filters.

But I’m most ecstatic because I can finally have my Gmail offline, thanks to IMAP! I can carry my laptop with me, and know that I can access that message I received a few weeks back because a copy is stored right there on my laptop, and if I do anything with it, it’s going to be accessible through the Gmail web interface! That and templated messages… 🙂

If you want Gmail IMAP, you just need to log into your Gmail, click on Settings in the upper right, and click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and follow instructions there. If you don’t have that option there, log out of Gmail and log back in.  Failing that, wait a couple days and everyone will have this feature enabled on their account.

The Age of Expertise

After reading Andy Oram’s post on O’Reilly Radar What comes after the information age, I was struck by the fact that because I’m a tutor, I might be in the right industry!

Andy makes a case that because we have ubiquitous free documentation, in the form of text-files, wikis, videos, how-to websites, screencasts and readily available specialist books (from O’Reilly no doubt), information is no longer the problem any more. Expertise is the new scarcity. Mentors and tutors and guides and people who know how to do things is the problem now.

I have a lot of industry contact in my tertiary level tutor role at Natcoll, and I keep an eye out on the jobs available in the web development industry in Wellington that my students can go into. That’s all well and good, but we’ve had organisations like mine are having a hard time finding highly skilled staff to relieve classes and even take on full time roles, and I understand it is the same at our different campuses around New Zealand — there are just not enough people who want to get into upskilling people up. There’s no shortage of people wanting to learn the ins and outs of design and development though, with no sign of slowing.

Teach NZ is always advertising on TV and on the Wellington buses for graduates who might want to take up Secondary School teaching (high school age for you non-kiwis). Now teaching in a secondary school is not for the faint-hearted, guaranteed. But what about universities? You’d probably need to have a Masters before you could get a good job teaching at a university.

There are other ways we learn other than attending institutes too: one-on-one mentoring, attending short courses, night classes, special interest groups (SIGs) including software user groups. And then there’s the communities on line too!

So why is teaching not a popular choice?

Why aren’t many people taking up the challenge of teaching? Do the people who think they want to be a teacher end up going to teacher’s college and having the life force sucked out of them? One friend of mine has a science degree and went to a teacher’s training college here in Wellington to become a teacher, went into a high school to teach physics and science and then after doing that for a year or so, switched careers! The challenges of high school teaching aside, he said he didn’t like it. Why? I don’t know, but I’ve got some ideas.

Teaching is a selfless job. You’re there as a servant. You serve the students concepts and information, challenging their pre-conceptions and assumptions, with the goal of them ‘getting it’; seeing the cogs in their heads suddenly mesh, and switch into gear and take off!

At least, that’s why I do it. And I’m not even formally trained as a teacher. All I have is a few years industry experience and a passion for being the best I can be at what I do. And I teach so that I can change the world I live in.

The internet is sometimes called the largest and most successful collaboration between individuals and organisations in the history of the human race. The internet was created so people could communicate over long distances. So they could share ideas and discuss the implications of what they were working on or what they themselves had discovered.

Specifically, I teach web development so that it can make the internet a better place. If that previous paragraph doesn’t sound like something to spend time understanding and improving, then let me know why you think so.

I could get a career as a web developer out in the industry tomorrow; there are plenty of jobs for the people who can do things out there.

But there aren’t enough people shaping those ‘do’ers.

There aren’t enough ‘teach’ers.

There aren’t enough specialised teachers. Well at least in the web industry there’s not. Not enough people teaching the hard stuff that requires masses of prerequisite knowledge. Even though the Web is just under 15 years old, the amount you need to know to make a successful website, or even a successful online community is tantamount to experience.

If you want to create a website these days, you have to know HTML, CSS, Javascript, a server side language such as PHP, Ruby, Perl or *shudder* ASP or similar. You need to understand the design and implementation of databases and how to use SQL. You need to have an eye for design, usability. You need to have a mind for communication and writing. You need to understand the human-computer interface and it’s strengths and weaknesses and how to wield these things.

Being a web guy is hard work. Still, web developers, even ones who are good at what they do, don’t get the industry recognition they deserve: a web developer or web designer (but not a ‘web decorator‘) will get paid less than a traditional ‘software developer’ who is making applications for Windows or services for the back office. But a web developer or web designer might have to a lot more than a traditional ‘programmer’.

And that prerequisite knowledge stack is only getting larger by the day! The most published thing online (other than cat pictures and pornography) is in my opinion information about the internet itself. There are tons of sites out there detailing the technologies I allude to above.

There’s lots of information online about what we web developers do. Freely available, just waiting for you to read it, if you so desired. But I believe there’s not enough people who are making it their life’s mission to mentoring and teaching and guiding individuals through this jungle of things out there waiting to be discovered.

You can go to Te Papa by yourself and see the Britten motorcycle. But that doesn’t mean you can go to Te Papa by yourself and learn about the fascinating story behind it.

But if you have a guide, they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Firefox on Mac OSX, fixed!

My biggest gripe I’ve ever had with my Mac experience has been with my favorite of applications: Firefox.

My place of employment, Natcoll, uses an internal proxy to ‘measure and protect’ bandwidth usage. Because I take my MacBook to and from work, I have to tell my mac to switch to my Natcoll network location, so that everything that needs to get online knows to use Natcoll’s proxy.

Doing that manually was a hassle, but now with Marco Polo 2.0.1 automatically changing my network locations better than ever, that’s been solved. I tried Marco Polo when it was 1.0 but it didn’t have all the evidence sources that I needed, but it’s all good now 🙂

Even with Marco Polo to reconfigure my network settings for me, it wouldn’t affect Firefox — Firefox doesn’t look at the operating system’s settings, and just uses it’s own damn settings. This is true on all platforms. Camino for OS X watches Network Location, but Camino doesn’t have all the neat plugins that Firefox does.

Turns out my solution for this was… yet another Firefox plugin! Specifically, System Proxy, which gets Firefox to inspect OS X’s Network Location for proxy settings! Hooray! Firefox plugins, is there anything you can’t do?

So with Marco Polo and System Proxy, I can just pop my computer open at home and at the office and have it just connect, without me having to worry about it, which is the way these things are supposed to work, right?

WeeWar is pretty fun

weewar.com corner

If you’ve ever played Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS, then you’ll be instantly familiar with Weewar. Weewar is a web-based turn-based hex-based pixel-art war game what you play in your browser. Lots of fun and works quite well. Go check it out!