Clearly, I Can Now Begin a New Week

Being largely out-of-town for more than a week does leave a feed addict like me with, well, quite a backlog. I must say, I wielded a pretty strong scythe to get down to zero this time, but I’m there now. Sadly, NNW still doesn’t do this as swiftly as FeedLounge did. I miss FeedLounge’s Ui but not its craptacular performance.

The best thing about resolving not to Really Try and Read all this stuff? I missed almost all the early bitching about the iPhone. [Yes, based on what I saw in the Keynote, I’ll buy one; I’m already a Cingular customer, so I’m used to their rates and it’s not going to be a huge cost increase over my Treo 650. Plus, it’ll be something other than my Treo 650, which is a good thing. I keep waiting for Unit #3 to die on me.]

Whittling

I still feel like a big sack of crap—to the point that I came home from work early today because I was dizzy and didn’t want to drive home in traffic—but I got everything done that I needed to get done. I did get the nice ego boost of someone saying, “I felt like my left arm was gone without you here yesterday,” combined with a co-worker all-but-happily-tackling me when I walked past his door this morning. It’s nice to be wanted and to feel like you’re an integral part of an organization, to be sure.

[And yes, I say it organIzation, like I’m from Mississauga or something.]

That said, I have felt like doing not much of anything since getting home; after some sleep to knock down the pain/dizziness, I woke up sweaty—why the hell are we pushing 80F in the last week of November? Please explain—just in time for my next medication run. Woooo. The wick still annoys the hell out of me, but it’s getting better. Part of the issue right now is swelling [from irritation] in the area behind and under my ear, which I’m treating with heat. [I just looked it up on WebMD, and maybe I should be doing that with cold. Dammit. But it feels better.] I’ll stay awake until as close to midnight as I can, take the next round of drops, and crash. [I’m so in polyphasic sleep right now, heh.]

In other news, I’ve whittled my new-item backlog in NNW down to 3003. The reason that my migration is taking a long time is because I’m having to switch from FeedLounge’s superior tag-cloud-style filing system for feeds back to a tree-like structure. I will be very, very, very honest: not wanting to leave a tag-cloud system kept me on FL for the last … six-to-eight weeks. When I first found out that Alex was leaving FeedLounge—okay, actually before it was public, back when I was spending time talking to both Alex and Scott on the phone about it, agreeing with how both of them felt about the situation [probably much to their consternation, heh]—I made some preliminary looks to moving, and everything told me that I wanted to stay with what I’d been using.

But … well, at some point, the features of actually, oh, getting your feeds to actually aggregate trump everything else. Tonight, I found that one of my RMFO-Bloggers had 15 spammy comments that were just sitting there, all because FL hadn’t been aggregating his comment feed for me.

So anyway … the transition to a tag-style architecture to a tree is a slow one. Essentially, what I’ve done with every feed I’ve cleared so far is put it into a lowest-common-denominator group in NNW, which has typically been firstname_lastname. I will, at some point in the future, begin organically grouping these folks back into trees. [I’ve actually started with all the RMFO-Blogs feeds that I follow.] Essentially, I’ve gotten back to a flat structure, which I’ll then go back to treeing.

Good gracious, when are more people going to start supporting tag-style architectures? It may be a hard problem—I honestly don’t know—but it makes so, so, so much sense. Kottke.org’s remaindered links? I want those in “jason_kottke” and “linklog”, because sometimes I feel like perusing all the linklogs I follow, and sometimes, I want just Jason’s editorial voice. The same way with groups of my friends—I want Jonathan and Ashley in both “cabal” and “creekmores”, because sometimes I want to catch up with all my friends, and sometimes, I just want to know about what’s going on down the road from me. And best of all, I want my Bruins-related feeds from boston.com in “boston”, “bruins”, “hockey”, “nhl”, and “sports”, depending on what mood I’m in. [Why the bifurcation of “hockey” and “nhl”? Hell, I follow and eat/live/breathe college hockey, people.]

When one first encounters tag-style architectures, it seems a bit much, but so can treeing … you can get very, very specific with trees. Why do I prefer tag-style architectures? They slice horizontally and vertically.

So anyway, incoherent rambling over. I’m suck it up with going away from tag-style. I’m in mourning, but not enough to switch back. Right now, I’m fixing everything in NNW, essentially doing all my feed-reading at home [which is fine, because I’m busy at work], and then hoping to go to FeedDemon soon and have this setup all completely done so the OPML import into FD is a thing of simplicity when I’m ready for it.

Goodbye, FeedLounge; Hello, Newsgator

I’ll write more about why I, the first release honoree of FeedLounge, am leaving the FeedLounge service behind, but this post primarily notes that I’ve moved to a client-side-married-to-a-server solution: NewsGator‘s offerings are my new feed-reading home.

Leave all the questions that I’m sure you’ll have in the comments. I’ll answer at-length soon. But in short, enough has proven to be enough.

Enough Is Enough

FeedLounge’s parsing queue is down right now, and while people have reported the outage since about noon yesterday [and I escalated it early last night], no one has heard anything. I understand that Scott and his wife are new parents, but if they want this service to be viable, this much queue downtime is absolutely and utterly unacceptable without a response, unless there’s been an emergency that can be explained later.

From my end, Scott’s got until 1800 CDT today to at least respond or I’m gone [barring something wholly understandable, like a medical emergency]. As the first release honoree for FL, I hope that sends the appropriate message—enough is enough. In the words of The Cardigans, “If this is communication, I disconnect.”

Update: It appears that Scott’s been having travel issues, and I’m glad that he’s doing the one-month service credit. That’s a fair resolution. Now to make sure that there’s a backup when he’s on travel … 🙂

Alex Leaves FeedLounge

I guess I can stop saying “Alex and Scott” and just say “Scott” when I’m talking about FeedLounge, as Alex has left FL. Alex has also taken the time to post more about his thoughts.

I’ve talked with both of them pretty extensively on the subject. I understand why both of them have made the choices that they’ve made here. Alex, thanks for building a killer UI for the front-end. Scott, thanks for continuing to offer FL. I know that it could have gone either way, and I would have understood either decision path … but man, I’m glad not to have to migrate to another tool.

I’ll be interested to see 1) how the FL community reacts and 2) how Scott carries FL forward from here.

FeedLounge.info

Remember when I gave the FeedLounge guys a little bit of crap for their recent downtime? The next morning, I shot Alex and Scott an email:

Something I meant to write about but didn’t: I might suggest registering FeedLounge.info as a wholly off-site, emergency-case info site about FL outages. I have rocksmyfaeoff.info on a whole other server and my folks know to check there when the site’s unreachable.

If you want to do it and want a place to host it, I’d be happy to host it gratis.

They took my suggestion and made it awesome. FeedLounge.info is now going to be a status log for FeedLounge, which will be helpful on the quite rare occasions when FL.com is unreachable. Plus, feedlounge.info is faster to type than feedlounge.com/support/status/.

Best as I can tell, they’ve automated it as much as is possible, which is always a good thing. Status is necessary, but status over progress is never a good idea [unless you work for the government, and then it’s SNAFU].

Happy to be a tiny part of it, guys.

Deconstructing the FeedLounge Downtime

If this were Slashdot, I’d file this under the so-meta-it-hurts department. It’s not, though. It’s IJSM.org, which means that the audience is smaller, “FR1ST P50T!” is a rarity, and Natalie Portman isn’t pouring hot grits down anyone’s pants. [See? Even my Slashdot jokes are three years old.]

Anyhow, so FeedLounge had some downtime, related to a minor oversight that ended up being a colossal Charlie-Foxtrot: Alex’s server was, for a bunch of understandable but inexcusable reasons, the single-point-of failure for DNS authority for FeedLounge.com. When Alex’s server burned up, it all went to shit—FeedLounge the server was running fine, but no one could reach it. The DNS system was unable to route around the damage because there was a single point of failure.

I think Alex is pretty clear, in retrospect, that he didn’t address this well enough the first time, so he did, as he termed it, an “O’Grady style Q&A” to answer the questions regarding FeedLounge’s outage. I want to slice-and-dice to the relevant parts:

Why didn’t you also check this for feedlounge.com?

Unfortunately, the answer is really simple – we forgot. We moved the feedlounge.com web site to a dedicated server in a data center in New Jersey last summer around the same time we move the ‘Lounge onto our big servers in our rack space in San Francisco.

Since feedlounge.com was no longer on boxes at the Austin data center, we didn’t think to check the DNS records for feedlounge.com.

Do you now feel that was monumentally stupid?

Um, yeah. And then some.

Are you saying that if this had happened a week ago, it wouldn’t have caused any trouble?

Most likely, yes. We’d have replaced the fried box just like we’ve done, but the backup DNS servers would have shouldered the load while we did so.

Sounds like you guys should have paid more attention to this.

Agreed. Lesson learned – the hard way.

So what do you do now?

Besides offering an apology to our users, there isn’t much we can do. We have to wait for the changes we’ve already made to take effect.

I’m not satisfied or happy about this.

Trust me, we’re not either.

Ok, now what?

It was a bad day for FeedLounge. With apologies to our users, we fix the problem and move forward. As we do, we’ll continue to work hard to make FeedLounge as reliable as possible and continue building the features our users are asking for.

That’s really all they can do. The guys just learned a painful—and, probably, unprofitable—lesson. We’re at the “mistakes were made” portion of the program. As a user of the system, it’s easy for me to be upset—and yes, I was inconvenienced by this. But I talked to Alex (and some to Scott) while it was on-going, and so I knew what the problems were and that it would be a pain to fix them. DNS is a royal pain in my ass, and downtime is, too.

While there’s room to be disappointed in the early responses given—telling users to hack their DNS isn’t a good solution; I’m reasonably handy with computers, and I didn’t know how to do it straight off—those are simply the responses that you unthinkingly give when you’re reacting rather than acting. To be fair to the guys, they had a lot of reacting to do—“I’ve tried A! I’ve tried B!” Sometimes you have to do what Deke Slayton—at least I think it was him—referred to as “the JC maneuver”: “Take your hands off the controls and put it in the hands of a su-per-nat-ur-al pow-er.”

Some days, you’re the cow, and some days, you’re the pasture. FeedLounge was definitely the pasture recently, but remember … fertilized pasture grows really good grass. 🙂

FeedLounge APIs

Scott and Alex have been talking about APIs for a while, and now they’ve released APIs for grabbing data from FeedLounge:

  • Feed List API
  • Notification API

I could definitely find value in this in generating a blogroll, if nothing else. I just gave mine a test, and it gave me a good little start. [I’d link it, but it has Susan’s full name, and I don’t like linking her full name publicly. She doesn’t like it, either. 😉 There’s probably other folks there who don’t want their full names used, as they may be pseudonym-blogging, so … ]

Also getting some love in all this is Matt Walters. Congrats for the named release, Matt.

FL Openness: Who’s the Newbie?

Alex was interviewed by Basement.org about FeedLounge, and this tidbit was right up top:

How many people were involved in the building of Feedlounge?

It was primarily me and my partner Scott. Brian, an intern at Scott’s consulting business, did a bit of work on it too, especially as we were getting started last year. We recently added another team member to focus on performance and scalability and allow Scott and I to return our focus to building a great application.

Who? We want to know, Alex. [By “we”, I mean myself and Chris Meller, of course.]

[Hey, it’s the old reporter in me that comes out from time to time that asks these questions.]