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Frustrated Citizens of the Future Living in the Today

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 05/10/2007

It’s time to improve my RSS News reading and re-mailing regimen, which is cool and effective, but hopelessly inefficient. I’m using the Sony-Ericsson P910 with the UK phone-based newsreader software, Headline, for reading RSS feeds. When there’s an interesting story, I struggle to copy-and-paste the article into my phone email program. When I want to inform people of the story, I email it to them. When I want to re-blog it, I email it to the special blogger email address that publishes what you send it.

I’m living in the past.


Yep. I’ll draw a picture of tomorrow. Then, I’ll state exactly where we should be today with social community news that still passes the journalistic integrity muster, and has business models aplenty to keep advertising-driven media afloat.

Tomorrow, it’s ePaper. In tomorrow’s tomorrow, it’s heads-up displays in Geordi LaForge sunglasses (but much more stylish) that detect and respond to your sub-vocalizations. But that’s for another article. Tomorrow, it’s simply cheap, renewable, and infinitely recyclable ePaper that picks up it’s feeds over the cellular network one laptop per child (OLPC) style mesh networking.

Video-laden newspapers will auto-assemble themselves to your unique interests, divined from your patterns and profile. But it will be influenced by your social network, the members of whom think you need to read this-or-that for your own good. Mother-in-laws will zap you Real Estate articles. Your boss will send you industry trends to watch. Your girlfriend will drop hints about vacations she’d like to take. And it will all sort itself appropriately into your reading experience, over which you will still have ultimate control, least it could not work.

Sony’s awesome patents on semi-vicious foldable PSP-like devices will mean you can fold your 11x17 profile ePaper into a wallet-sized pack, and zap it into full magazine format readable goodness with a pinch. In fact, to re-pack it, forget about folding. It’ll have materials-that-remember–a form of electronic muscle that regain their original shape when electrical current is no longer applied. Bottom line: turn it on, and it unfolds from a wallet-size pack into a perfect high-resolution color video-capable low power magazine format reader that pulls news and entertainment out of the air. Turn it off, and it folds back up. Keyboard and mouse optional. Sub-vocalization voice recognition systems will provide the feedback loop so you can annotate, re-publish, and generally be an civic-minded citizen, while to all onlookers, you’re merely reading.

So with each device-experience I choose now, I’m trying to stay on the bleeding edge, inching my way towards this future. Today, it’s the Sony-Ericsson P910a with 3rd party software. Tomorrow, it might be the iPhone (yet to be proven).

But where SHOULD it be today with the next generation?

First, it’s gotta have incredibly low-power consumption (until batteries improve), high contrast display suitable for reading, which means ePaper. But it’s taking so long for ePaper to infiltrate mainstream products that I’m beginning to think its vaporware. Where are you, Sony? I look at every new model phone. Every LCD screen I see basically sucks. I’m looking forward to some of the OLED ones. But still, I can’t wait for the ePaper.

Second, it’s gotta have sufficiently intelligent back-end stuff. Again, every RSS reader I’ve seen is somewhere between barely functional, and better off without it. It’s got to operate offline, so it works on the subway, airplane or car. It’d be nice if it read the news to you, so you could consume the media while driving or working, but that’s another future-article. Today, I’d be happy with a perfect wheel-driven one-handed U.I. which lets you read and re-mail or republish rapidly with one hand while you sit (or walk) and read. Nothing even comes close, and I fear I may have to write it myself. And even then, I have to go in baby steps, because I’m not going to program the RSS reader. Instead, I’m going to use technology like Yahoo Pipes to bake an RSS feed for better re-publishing capabilities. I’ll still have to copy and paste between the RSS reader and email, but at least it will be marked up with the original article URL and all the other things that get lost in re-sending. And even with something like Yahoo Pipes, there’s the question of whether I use someone else’s’ tool, or whether I just write the RSS masher-upper myself and dedicate a personal server to the cause.

And that’s all within the easy realm of today’s capabilities.

That would result in a single RSS feed that I read daily. The composition of that RSS feed would have to be easy to modify and expand, also daily. And the details of how additional data gets inserted into the article body of the datafeed would have to have LOTS of control, so when JUST the article body is forwarded, it carries with it the subject line, the URL of the original post, and maybe even graphics links (one can hope).

This has ramifications for the modern information worker (ala Peter Drucker), for the Web publisher making money on advertising, and on society as a whole, as such this technology becomes employed to further the advance of hobbies, interests, and civic behavior.

I was joking with my buddy, Adam Edwards, a co-worker at Connors Communications the other day about how him and I are actually frustrated citizens of the future living in the past.