Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Save Icons and the Floppy Disk

Why do we still use the floppy disk as the icon to save? This has been hashed and rehashed a few times in the last few years, but there has yet to be a consensus on the topic. Some good attempts have been made, but overwhelmingly, people argue that the disk is ubiquitous and therefore hard to supplant. A strong argument in favor is the phone icon used on smartphones. A telephone handset? When's the last time you saw one of those?

That being said, I don't remember the last time I saw a floppy and anyone under 18 likely has never seen one other than in a toolbar in Microsoft Office. We don't necessarily save things to removable disks anymore. It could be to a hard disk, an SSD, a CD, a DVD, a network drive, a flash drive, an external disk, or somewhere in the "cloud." Heck, I can save a document to a cloud folder by printing the document. Save is not tied to media. In the case of iOS, disks have never existed on the platform.

Apple avoided the concept of what to do about the save icon by removing it and making save an automatic action you never need to worry about. But, there are times when you need an icon to indicate you want to save, such as when you want to "Save As…" or duplicate or "Save a Copy" of a file. Or, in my particular case, I'm working on an iOS app where the user has the option to save/keep/store his document if he or she wants to. Here, I need some sort of icon to put on a button (other than just using the word "Save" which doesn't fit the UI) that means, to the user, "I would like to save this one for later."

On one level, there's the concept of favorites or bookmarks, but these don't quite match the paradigm here. Down arrows generally mean "download" to me. Using a folder generally means "file" or "organize" (or, gasp, "Open…") to me. I, like others, will be wracking my brain on this one.

Do you, dear reader, have any ideas? Hit me up on Twitter or drop me an email. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Demise of Google Reader

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours or so, you've probably read or heard somewhere that Google is shutting down Google Reader on July 1, 2013. This, of course, has led to weeping and gnashing of teeth, an onslaught of comments on social media, and unending blog posts about what may or may not come next. (Of which this is one.)

I agree with Marco Arment that Google shutting Reader down will finally lead to innovation on the feed consumption front. A number of years ago, RSS was a great idea to syndicate sites and allow you to receive easy, periodic updates. When Google came along back in 2005 with Reader, it changed the landscape. Throughout this time, Reader was the red-headed stepchild in Google's portfolio and never really received the support it needed internally (see here for some inside scoop). In fact, the API was never even official, despite its ubiquity. One could argue that Google Voice is in a similar predicament at this time, as well.

All in all, this tweet summed it all up from a business perspective:

Don't believe there's much more that can be said there.

What's Next?

That's the big question. The last 24 hours have seen a veritable onslaught of product announcements from Feedly, Digg, and others. Reeder, the mainstays of feed readers on iOS and Mac tweeted this:

And another popular reader app for iPad, Mr. Reader, tweeted the following:

Recent approaches to the feed problem have taken the magazine/newspaper presentation (Flipboard, Pulp, The Early Edition) and others have attempted to help float the most important articles to the top (Feedly, Cream, Fever). These are all noble attempts, but they don't generally solve the problem, and often both rely on Google Reader and don't address the multi-device needs of today's users.

In other words, the future is open. The next few months will be a watershed of innovation. It's time for our feed consumption to move to the next level, whatever that is. In today's world where users move from Mac to Windows to iPhone to iPad to Kindle to even their TVs, the way we consume our lifestream needs to accommodate it. This is likely one of the reasons behind Google Reader's demise and likely one of the reasons Mountain Lion didn't even ship with a bundled app that could read RSS (removed from both Mail and Safari).

As I've been looking at the alternatives, I've found that there are plenty of good options, depending on your needs, but for my needs, nothing quite meets my workflow. Yet. Is my developer's brain working on it? Sure is. As are probably many others. I, for one, have no plans to act on my ideas unless they gel into something that's truly revolutionary (I'll accept semi-revolutionary). The market, as they say, is ripe.

In the meantime, I'll stick with Google Reader until the lights go out.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Across the line…

Been heads-down recently finishing up my next iOS app, Missives and just pushed 1.0.0b1 out to testers. Can now take a breather and look toward some interesting technical things to talk about. Stay tuned.