Time for a Moment of Honesty

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Chris doesn’t much like it when I get all DNM because I tend to force brute honesty from every orifice of my body, but release 3 of the private alpha, is … well, highly experimental.

Yes, the transit system is flash and fast, but the BagItAndTagItParser seems think that a dropped item due to cache is a failed ‘item injection’ – Bah! I am getting the bugs out slowly, but we are making significant progress. Momentum is growing and (so far) it’s having a positive effect on the project.

Michael has sort of become our unofficial C# and XML consultant; building a few little classes to extend our libraries. He is also extremely adept at spotting the objects I have created, but not initialised, catching those god forsaken object exceptions .NET keeps throwing in my face.

Private Alpha Release 3 (and the impending Limited Alpha) is getting there slowly!

Ahem! Items-in-transit

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Sorry for the overly contemptuous nature of this post, but I simply must emphasise the erroneousness of Chris’ last blog. He, being so caught up with his “buzzwords” (obviously a symptom of his self-diagnosed “dependency on metaphorical crutches“) that he totally understated just how much the revamp of the “items-in-transit” model has improved the TouchStone Attention Engine and API 😉

What I am sure he meant to say was:
We have completely replaced and re-engineered the entire array handling methods of the core. We replaced the visualisation array with a powerful collection of item objects, and collected these together, extending the standard .NET collection class to handle specific scenarios for the needs of the TouchStone Item Cache and the Visualisation Widgets. This not only increases the overall efficiency of the core, but means future innovation implemented with a minimum of code changes.

The new system allowed us to eliminate HUNDREDS of lines of code, and more clearly abstract the various moving parts of TouchStone – something both of us are always working to do. This new mechanism (it’s currently being debugged now) should also allow greater opportunities to expand and clean the current code, which should assist us greatly in releasing the limited alpha sooner then expected.
Oh and go Ariel!

The Would-be Yeti

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Just an update on my previous post about us approaching the public alpha. Good news! I managed to get the touchstone memory footprint from 50mb to 13mb (much more respectful). I guess this means people won’t want to stone me to death when they install the alpha! 😉

Integrating User Feedback

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Hi everyone, just an update to let you know that we are getting great feedback about the Alpha

As a result, I’ve reworked the entire OPML import feature and it now works a little better. It’s still a little buggy, but in the end, you will be able to track multiple OPML files in-place on your hard-drive (maybe eventually on the web too!) We have also reduced the overall memory footprint (we WERE up to about 50mb footprint!) by optimizing various data structures in the RSS adapter and Attention Engine

Overall, things have been moving much slower then before but the outcome is positive

Since Alex Barnett has visited, we have received a sharp rise of communiqué about TouchStone and the whole thing has been very exciting and encouraging.

Don’t forget, that while the private alpha is technically reserved for the elite few, if you really, really want it – let us know! Oh, and don’t forget to see Chris’ screenshots.

The Registry…Friend or Foe?

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Need to establish that u can have more than one OPML file now – an OPML file for your OPML file? I am sitting here with the StormWarden, working on the next release of Touchstone; I can’t help but think about the use of the PC in today’s world. When working on a client-side application – particularly in Windows – the question has to arise – do we use the registry?

As we develop TouchStone, a crucial question we ask ourselves is how do we mine the attention data of the user without sh**ting them to hell? How can multiple attention applications be deployed with a minimum of user configuration?Yes, I know there are a growing number of services on the net that can hold and mane a user’s attention data in the form of OPML or even attention.xml, but what about those who don’t want to post their data for all to see – is a username and password enough? Some privacy junkies may prefer this information to remain local.I wonder if there is enough cause to discuss a common registry key or attention configuration file, where a user’s OPML list can be stored for all a user’s syndication devices to use. Or is it too centralised an option for the avid syndication user?

What's My Server Doing Anyway?

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

While sitting at my workstation, working away (and listening to Alex Barnett’s PodCast on Attention and OPML) – I realized that my system uptime screensaver for my Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition Server was doing many things I want to know about, behind an otherwise black screensaver.

It got me thinking another PERFECT job for Touchstone.

There are RSS, ATOM feeds and other things going on (such as the current state of my Azureus downloads, sever up time and load etc) and Touchstone provides the ultimate engine to bring these together as a screensaver visualisation!

I can imagine, in the near future, LCD screens scattered around a house, streaming attention information to a person based on their current physical location (if I’m in the kitchen I might want to see feeds related to food and current events, while in my living room, my wall is showing me productivity and work related items).

With the ever decreasing price of LCDs and the power of Touchstone, the on-going effect of an attention engine could be greater then we ever imagined.

The Bandwidth Is Behind The Tomato Sauce

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Continuing our current topic of distributed network load sharing (a.k.a Bit Torrent) I was thinking about another way to divert the bandwidth load of syndication feeds even more. It’s possible through the TouchStone architecture to develop a syndication adapter which, by using a centralised tracking server, spreads the load of syndication feeds across other TouchStone clients. This method is quite handy, because it actually moves the data off the web servers completely. Obviously the idea needs fleshing out, and we’re not about to integrate it ourselves (unless someone else wants in and wants to do it), but its handy idea which has a number of useful applications. Also, I was thinking about another fair easier option – shared feeds. An adapter which allows you to share the RSS feeds as your updated, so your buddies can get the feed off you instead of the actual web server. Very exciting stuff.

Alpha by Sunday night? Maybe

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Alpha not far away, guys – in fact thanks to the assistance of a good mate of mine (the StormWarden) who managed to crack a C# AppBar class and get the ticker docking properly. He also added to this by creating types of docks, so you can limit the docking to “Top and Bottom”, “Left and Right”, or “All Sides”. Naturally you can set visualizations to always “float”.

He has offered to extend this class so the visualization will dock to the current window with the focus, giving Chris the title bar ticker he wants SOOOOO badly.

…And now for something completely different:

Bi-Directional RSS – Something Chris and I were discussing in our deluded states last night: It occurred to me that the TouchStone outputs do not have to be restricted to the users screen. I think that the possibility of bi-directional RSS is a great idea, and it’s quite exciting because the TouchStone architecture completely accommodates this idea. TouchStone Server…might be a future side project for unilaterally dissecting, prioritizing and parsing RSS feeds and output them in a number of ways, including back into RSS. Imagine a TouchStone UI which can administer 1000’s of RSS feeds (and other content sources) and filter them for an entire household. RSS alone takes enormous bandwidth – so it would save time and resources (not to mention precious bandwidth) if a UI were developed to determine which household members want which content and using that same UI as an adapter to another TouchStone Core, on another machine. Bi-directional RSS makes this even more powerful again, allowing people to post and reply to content as it is streamed to them live.

According to Site Meter stats the average reader spends 96 seconds reading the average blog. Do our bosses know this?

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

I know this isn’t really anything to get excited about, but I have to say that I’m really excited about us getting ranked 1 and 2 on Google. I think I really want to get ranked 1 for “rss gadget” but I guess we have to start somewhere.

BTW, TouchStone pre Alpha is running at the moment with Chris’ FeedDemon OPML file and “The Office – Email Scandal…” – apparently. 😉

I also had an argument with a person I work closely with (in the real world – as opposed to the ‘TouchStone’ world I seem to have found myself in recently) about the intrinsic value of blogs and other personalised content on the web. They were claiming that blogging is just as bad as the old days of the internet when every second person had a dodgy website made from Word saying “Under Construction” or “this is my website and i have 2 cats and a dog“.

I disagree with this. Passionately! I argued the virtues of blogging and RSS. Blogging is the long tail of publishing. And on the internet, nothing is as important as the long tail. If you think something – and write it down – then the odds are other people in the world feel the same way. It’s a way for us to connect to other people we otherwise never would/could.

I Should'a Put This In a Comment…

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

As you would expect, I read Chris’ last post probably the moment he posted it, and while this is technically a reply to his post – I felt its simply too important to bury.The point, dear bloggers, is that RSS readers are all well and good… but nothing exists to manage your feeds when your being productive – as Chris said, when you’ve got your readers (or other apps) minimised. Having all 120 of your feeds managed and given to you in a way you can actually digest, is what we’re actually talking about.By the way, the BagItAndTagItParser class is well underway