Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production


Hey there! This article was written in 2007.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

Unable to sleep

Posted 9 October 2007 in renquist

I've been reading a "For Dummies" book about design patterns, which are tried- and-true ways to solve software development problems. Unfortunately, it has triggered a sleepless state that I haven't experienced in a long time, in which I'm unable to quiet my mind because I'm thinking about software development. It's 3:30a now, and sleep is far from my mind.

For the longest time I used a desktop application called Liferea to manage and read my feeds. Not bad, but it had some shortcomings: it was slow, it was buggy, and the developer was making changes that didn't sit well with me. I switched to the web-based Google Reader and have been relatively happy, but there are long-standing limitations with Google Reader. For instance, I can't read my friend Tiffany's feed because Reader doesn't support authenticated feeds (i.e. feeds that require a username and password). Further, it's impossible to do interesting things with Reader. As an example, I'd like to have a Bayesian filter that I can train to separate interesting posts from uninteresting posts; perhaps I like Miguel de Icaza's posts about software, but would rather ignore his political posts.

So what can I do to improve the situation? I could switch from Google Reader to another service, but I still won't have extensibility. I could switch to web-based software that I run myself, such as FoFRedux, but extensibility could very well come at a high price: I don't think FoFRedux is in active development, and my changes will be almost useless when I upgrade to the next version (whenever that may come out). Or, perhaps I could take a lesson from Phillip van Hoof, who used design patterns to create TinyMail (the design of which has impressed me for almost a year now).

Now you're all caught up with what's been going through my mind: I've ideas for writing my own web-based feed reader. Maybe the idea will pass and nothing will come to fruition...but maybe I'll have a pleasant project that I can learn from and enjoy and share with others. Either way, it's 3:50a, and I need to get back to lying in bed.

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