Archive for the 'Software Development' Category

Horizon of Social Network Applications is expanding

November 2, 2007

Hopefully, by now you have heard of the “Facebook Platform” and the up and coming MySpace Platform.  Additionally, you should also know that companies like iLike, Slide, and RockYou are making some descent waves building applications for the Facebook Platform (they won’t divulge how much but I can only imagine it is a descent amount).  Certainly the 33 million monthly users of Facebook produce a large amount of ad revenue (Certainly Microsoft agrees – since they just inked a 240 million dollar deal for a 1.6% – yes 1.6% – stake in Facebook – in return for the exclusive advertising platform rights)

Many pundits of the “Facebook Platform” will complain (and rightfully so) that the closed Facebook architecture is actually deterring growth in the  Internet and Social Networks in general.  I happen to agree (read my article about content ownership: “I want it all back“).  I think that the work that Facebook is doing while exciting and powerful, may not support the same passion and desire which made the web what it is today.  Additionally, I don’t really want to learn another freakin language to get my foot in the door somewhere.

What I am looking for is a way to post a link and have that link show up in 4 places: My Blog (with some descriptions on why I think people should read it, In a widget on Facebook, on Twitter and on my Del.icio.us account.  Why, because there is no way that everyone will read my blog, no way that all the people that I know will be on Facebook, not everyone uses Twitter (in fact this has the least amount participants for me anyways) and Del.icio.us by default is my place to store links.

There are are some other reasons why this should ‘spread” across the network.  Some of these are closed networks (in fact besides my Blog – which is free =) and Del.icio.us) which means only the people I “know” or I allow to “know” me will see it.  Some of the inherent value of Social Networks in general is that I can discover or find new people that are interested in similar things as me.

Well there is hope yet (and I truly think that this is the tip of the iceberg).  Yesterday, Google announced that it has begun work on a new type of platform.  One built on currently available technology (no need to learn something new).  The platform called “OpenSocial” is designed to allow applications to be built and shared amongst many social networks (like TypePad, LinkedIn, Okut, Ning and Friendster – amongst others).  With potential support from Oracle and Salesforce, this appears to be legit.

Supposedly, the application framework should be launching shortly and will be available here.

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When will we outgrow our current Social Network applications?

August 10, 2007

I will be the first to tell you that I am glad that MySpace is in trouble. After working with Facebook for the last few months I have decided to pull all of my content off of MySpace and just link to My Facebook account. However it and a recent article (LinkedIn to Open Platform in Response to Facebook) it has become clear that we are rapidly outgrowing the services available in some of the earlier Social Networking applications that we have been using. LinkedIn is a great site (I use that as well) and I think that both Facebook and LinkedIn have their values.

However as the networks grow and the companies producing the applications understand more and more about how their software is used things change. Sometimes the change for the worse (Wis.dm)! What has become increasingly clearer to me is that we will begin to outgrow some of these applications rather quickly. I agree with Michael – LinkedIn is here for the near term. They do however have some interesting challenges as applications which provide similar capabilities begin to produce more user retention.

The problem LinkedIn faces is a market suffering from too many social networking options; Facebook offers a one stop shop that for many is becoming their main and in some cases their only choice in social networks. LinkedIn must evolve to compete, the move to open their platform is a definite step in the right direction.

Evolution is key and we are already beginning to see the challenges ahead as “applications” like Twitter and Pownce begin their trek through the uncharted waters of social networking.

As the fundamental communication process is transfered to the Web we will see a myriad of options available to us.  Who knows maybe some day instead of posting to all of the sites, we may actually have a “LifeComputer” at home which publishes strategically to social network stations which publicize our lives for those that are interested.

Not your average social networking site

March 27, 2007

I have been participating in the alpha/beta for a new site designed to connect you with your friends and help you find new ones. In addition, the site has become an excellent source for discovering new content. The site however, is very different then its predecessors in that it has stronger social tools like contacts, comments (something delicious lacks), votes (another piece delicious lacks) and just added “teams”.

The site is called Wis.dm and to be honest it is this “wis.dm” (or wisdom for you non-2.0 lovers) which truly separates this site from its collective siblings. The content on this site is actually really good and I have “met” many people who share the same love for the Internet as I do. In addition I have found many new sites (blogs, marketing sites, forums etc…) to get new fresh content from.

The changes in this site have been phenomenal over the past 6 months and its semi “organic” growth has been fun to participate in. They have scratched their “Web 2.0″ look and, while at first I was disappointed the look of the site has grown on me. What works for me is the sites functionality and while they are still in Beta I recommend you join so that you can see for yourself. Like any social networking site, you get out of the site what you put in. I will demonstrate what works (and doesn’t work) for me on the site and discuss why you should join

General Concept
The general idea of the web site is actually a few layers deep and in fact I have found it easier to participate on this site then I have with sites like MySpace or Facebook (both similar sites). For me, the idea of “hollering out” to my homeys on my website and having 145,983 “friends” that send me messages like “sorry we missed you while you were in town” is so superficial to me. Wis.dm offers a layer of networking which to me works:

1. Add Wis.dm WidgetFind a website (or post or whatever) that you find interesting and add a link to it. I use Firefox and they have created a very unique link which “pops” up a window (Figure 1) that will collect the information for the site (Title, description, tags and optional team). This tool is one of the best “add” tools out there. It really makes it easy to add links to Wis.dm.

2. Instantly your link (originally called “interests”) is available for people to see. In addition, your link gets one “vote”. While I disagree with this the nice thing about the site is that this may change (seems that the path of the site is being driven somewhat by the users which is great). People can now go to the page, vote on your link (currently +1 or -1) and add a comment.

3.Top movers Your activity on the site (links voted and commented on) in addition to the people you invite effect your “Points”. Points help you understand how active a person is (and it there is a little bit of fun watching your points increase) and how “reliable” their posts tend to be.

4. Join a Team. Just added a day or so ago, this feature is very interesting. I have been interested in Marketing lately and more specifically how marketing is changing in this new consumer content based marketplace. So, I created a group called “Marketing redefined”, gave it a description and invited some people that seemed to also be interested in marketing. The group is small but what I hope to accomplish is the ability to have a concentrated group of people that will help define my impression of what is going on today. When adding links, we can target the link to the team and hopefully we will create a small community within the community where we can invite like people. Should be interesting.

Finding Content
Popular Another major task on the site is finding content. I will have to say that this part of the web site that I find difficult (or at least it was when I first got stated). The ideas are simple (and this is where some of the design is laking – more about this later) you tag you content (this part is easy) and so you can search by clicking tags in both your profile and the “popular” cloud. Both implement the common font size increase familiar with most link sites.

Additionally, you can “free text” search for content links by using the “Search” box which appears on each screen. The search feature seems to be pretty quick and the search results are pretty accurate (you would surely expect this at this point).

Probably the most effective way to find new content is to camp out on the “popular” page which is essentially the home page to wis.dm. This is where the most popular (currently I think all content comes through here) links are highlighted. At some point I would imagine that this feature of the site will work much like digg.com works today with the community pushing links to the top.Recommended

A nice feature that they have added is the “Recommended” option. It is designed to look at all of the content you upload, all of the links you comment and vote on and offer some example links that you may find interesting. So far, I have found some good links by keeping an eye on the box. Very helpful.

Dislikes
So of course I have an opinion (everyone is entitled to one). I think that there are a few things that don’t work so well in the site:

1. The top navigation. I know that the owners of the site are trying to build the “atypical” Web 2.0 application but I think that they have done themselves a bit disservice here. I know that craigslist has been popular by emphasizing the content vs the tools but I find their implementation of “tabs” in effective. See below – the word “Explore” is slightly larger then “my wis.dm” or “submit”. They need to have a better signification of being in a section of the site. In addition, the sub section links (which are difficult to separate) also are displayed as “on” with a different color (red).
Top navigation

2. Tagging. When you add a new link using both the JavaScript button in Firefox or the submit option on the site, the tag adding process is not supported with “helper” tags like you get on Del.icio.us. I am not saying that wis.dm needs to copy the process directly from Del.icio.us, but I am saying is that they need a new process. The difficulties arise the first couple of times you tag. Invariably you are going to tag something with “Web2.0″ only problem is in order to get your tag supported by others you need to make sure that you choose the correct terminology is it “Web2.0″ with one word or “Web 2.0″ with a space. Luckily they did add an option to edit the links after the fact but it becomes difficult to remember your tags and so you sometimes end up double tagging something.

3.Wis.dm team posts. I know that theonly way sites like this are successful is if they attract users and that content attracts users. Since you have people that you are already paying, why not offer incentives for them to post to the site. Sometimes what happens with these posts is they become inside jokes which eliminates the opportunity to collaborate on comments.

Company Challenges
1. Finances. What has become unclear (maybe because I have not asked) is where this company tends to make its money. Will they continue with the advertisement route which they appear to be travelling down currently (as the site is free to all users) or do they take a different approach and charge for use of the site.

2. Numbers. In either case, the number of users has to increase way beyond where they are today. Probably need 5+ million users to be considered as an elite social networking site (Facebook has 17+ million and MySpace has 100 million). The true beauty of viral networking is that the best survive. And they grow fast. We are all familiar with the explosive growth of sites like YouTube. In order for this site to grow the content and social services need to be top notch.

3. Performance. Some grumblings have been heard around the blog sphere about performance at Facebook and MySpace are attributable to their massive growth. So what happens when the site gets its 5th million user? Will their site fall to pieces. I am confident that the team they have assembled should be capable of handling this.

If you would like to join click the link below to join – I think you will find the time you spend is completely valuable.

Join Wis.dm


Best Web Application of 2007 (possibly ever)

March 7, 2007

Ok, the web is changing, web applications are becoming more sophisticated, social networking is growing …

Yes, we all know this, but I have to say that Geni has the best interface of any web application that I have ever seen, ever (so far)! I found the application yesterday while perusing through some new news feeds I found whilst I was constructing my new PageFlakes page. The company has been around for a few months now and has already secured $100M $10M in funding (yes million). An astronomical amount of money for a 12+ person company.

When you use the application it is very clear to see why this company is garnishing this much praise (and money). The company is lead by the former COO of PayPal, David O. Sacks so I am sure he has the ears of a lot of people in Internet technology.

My Experience
I am going to try and contain my excitement about this application and explain my experience as I built out my family tree (at least as much as I could). The process of adding my account was simple, First Name, Last Name, Email Address and Password (password confirm field as well). So, simple I forgot how I did it (hopefully I can remember my password). I was instantly “logged in”. No need to retrieve a temporary password or confirmation URL. Nice.

Geni, genealogy made funI then got started adding people and by the time I got to my mother the application was put the test. My mom is divorced and remarried. Handled that like a champ. I was surprised but I guess if you are going to build a genealogy application in an era where divorce rates are high, you better handle that well. They did. When I got to my Sister who has been married twice and had a child with two different people it handled that smoothly by presenting me with an option to choose which mom/dad combination created this child.

I could not stop, I was completely addicted and I am not sure if it was because I was having fun or I was interested in seeing my family tree in the “tree” layout which looked so good.

I started adding every family members email address that I had, my mom, my aunt, my wife’s aunt as far as I could reach. I wanted to see what they thought. It has been less then 10 hours (slept 5 of those) and I have already received very positive response. I am hooked. I can not wait to see how this grows (hopefully someone will hold my Grandmothers hand through the program so that she can add her family lineage).

Organic growth
Although I started this family tree, this is not mine. I participate in this with my family members which is great. My sister in-law started adding details to my wife’s side of the family and I saw the real power of the application. Everyone participates in this. She had added a great uncle and all of his details, added a picture for my father in-law and it appeared she was hooked as well. I think that this will not only be enjoyable but I think that this application will actually bring my family closer together and offer my children a birds-eye view of our family (something that I can honestly say was difficult to do before this). Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy it when my grandmother brought out the manila envelope which contained the several pieces of graph paper with the family lineage she constructed.

I recommend that you give this application a chance, if not because you enjoy genealogy then simply because it is fun and it may help you understand how to organize information on the web.

Software as a Service

February 9, 2007

I had some time today to catch up on my “links for you” (links your friends post to their account they believe you would be interested in) at del.icio.us. and I cam across a link to an article a friend of mine had sent to me a week or two ago on the RSS reader. The article entitled: Death of the RSS Reader / Software as services was written in December 2005 (Yes) by Phil Waineright who rights an “Applications on demand” blog for ZDNet (I added his blog to my list because he is dead on here). While I am not sure that he has captured the full value of “Software as services” (which I believe goes way beyond RSS) I think that he has a point.

Software as a service (SaaS)
The idea of software as a service has been around for quite some time. SaaS is well documented on the web and has its own place even at Wikipedia: SaaS. I was involved in a few startups that were early adopters of the idea except we called ourselves Application Service Providers or ASP’s. Back in the day we built applications and “rented” the use of those applications out to companies in return for a monthly fee (the holy of all holies – recurring revenue). These applications were maintained by us. We handled the server and network architecture (we obviously outsourced this), we updated the software and managed the data. The client simply opened a Web browser and worked with their data.

There is however, a big difference in SaaS to the business (b2b) and SaaS to the consumer (b2c). A while back the industry thought that the b2b software industry was going to explode. Services between companies have certainly moved to the web and that continues to increase, but not nearly as much as the b2c side.

Today you can see software as a service almost everywhere. Google and Yahoo compete for the consumer’s attention all of the time with their applications which help you do everything from manage links and video to email and favorite TV shows. There are also many other smaller applications (who are continually swallowed up by larger organizations) that offer niche market applications like Flickr and Dandelife to name a couple.

I think a notable Software as a Service in the consumer space is PeaPod. While you may not think about it as a traditional SaaS, for the consumer it is most definitely a contender. What better services then the ability to virtually attend a supermarket, order some goods and have those goods delivered to your home. On that same level, you could include Netflix, Blockbuster and the like in their as well.

While the RSS Reader online can certainly be considered a service, I am not sure that he has done justice to the explosion in SaaS on the consumer side.

I want it all back!

January 19, 2007

Yeah that’s right, you heard me I want every interaction with every website that I have ever done back. It’s mine isn’t it. Even with an article that you right for an online (or not online) publication, you have the right to own a copy of it.

Here is my thought, I have a blog, I have some images that I post on Flickr, I have some links that I keep on del.icio.us, I have some entries that I keep in my Google Calendar or Google Documents and let’s say I have some interests I keep and comment on at one of my new favorite sites Wis.dm.

Now I really want to get involved with a new site Dandelife but I am just getting sick of all the URL’s all of the passwords all of the different UI and bits of information that I have out there. All of the sites that I interact with are all a part of me (jeez I did not even mention YouTube). They make up the collection of information out there that is me and what I am interested in and what I know and who I interact with. I want it all back. Yeah that’s right, it’s mine and I want it back.

So I know that the ebb and flow of the Internet follows many patterns that have been on going in technology in general. Terminal Computers – VT 100 (Centralized) then Personal Computers (Distributed) then Thin Clients like Flash, Flex and even Ajax applications (Centralized) …

The number of “social networking” sites out there is so staggering and the landscape is so saturated it is hard for good ideas to get any real traction. There are more applications out there then there is attention time available. Participation applications are popping up all over the place and it becomes more difficult each day to spend quality time interacting with your peers on particular subjects.

Solution – lets shift the paradigm here. Let’s get this whole home computer piece working in the reverse direction. Let me keep all of my data on my machine in my on way. My videos, my posts, my pictures, my responses etc… After all they are mine. Then let me choose to share this information with other sites. Like this:

I go to my mikull.com and find a post or a discussion thread of interest that I want to participate in, I add my comments or my thoughts and instead of the information being stored on his blog on his computer the information is on my computer in my house. The applications would talk to each other and essentially what I would be giving mikull.com is the ability to subscribe to my thought. Essentially, an RSS feed of my thought with a uniqueID (URL) would be given to the post or discussion thread for it to display. In the process, some sort of service level agreement would be made between the two trusted systems which would give me rights to my thought with mikull.com having rights to display the thought as they see fit (essentially a copy of the thought). This way I would keep a record of all of my interactions with the web sites out there (maybe my home computer would enter into an agreement with mikull.com so that I could have a copy of the post for reference).

I like this idea, a lot, who is with me?

Forget January … 2007 is the year of the connection

January 11, 2007

Yeah you heard it here first (although trendwatching.com is predicting it for the month of January) this year will see the advent of connecting on line as the premiere method for communicating with people that are both located in and out of our immediate proximity.

Don’t get me wrong the connections we have made without technology will not go away, we will just enhance those connections through tools on the Internet.  You will learn more about the world through people then you will the Internet.  What you get from these new web 2.0 applications that are popping up is trusted views of what is out there.  Your Aunt Jenny’s web links will be available through her del.icio.us account and your long last friends blog will let you know what he was up to over the last 10 years.  This is the year.

Today I was contacted by three people within the course of an hour and a half via LinkedIn to connect with them.  I know that may not seem like such a strange occurence but take into consideration that the last time I was contacted from someone on LinkedIn (after they found my profile) was over 2 months ago.  3 people contacted me within an hour and a half.

My question, and the krux of my post, did they read the article posted at trendwatching.com (or similar prediction from someone else) and think to themselves “Hey you know what, they are right I need to connect with some people” or better yet did they say “If this is THE thing to do this month, I better get a head start and not be left behind, nobody likes to be late to the fad party”.

Either way I am satisfied because like a good glass of beer, no matter how that pint got into your hands, eventually you will like it.  I am glad to see that people (in the mainstream) will be using these tools for communication with their networks, proves that our applications work.

Apex (Salesforce API 2.0) is announced

October 10, 2006

Details for the much anticipated Salesforce API 2.0 have been released and I will have to say that my first impression is that there is a whole lot of marketing going into this. As an example they have registered a new 1-800 number (didn’t all 1800 numbers become extinct at one point) – 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE.

The number gives away the whole idea behind Apex (afore mentioned API upgrade). General idea is that a subscription to Salesforce allows all out of the box capabilities (Account, Contact, Lead’s etc. management) of the standard CMS, with an extremely flexible architecture which allows unique custom application development. The tag line is “Develop. On Demand.” I have some mixed opinions about this but before I weigh in let me talk a bit about some of the features it does have:

Java based development interface
Essentially, what they have done is taken the application tier and opened it up to interact with Server Side applications that you build. If you are familiar with the current Java API, they look very similar. The difference being that you can:

1.) Bind business logic coding to almost any user interaction – buttons, views, forms, reports etc…
2.) Build triggers to update data to enhance the Business Process Flow (something that was very lacking before this).
3.) Expose interaction as Web services
4.) Completely write compile and execute code in a “test” environment without the cost of hardware/software licenses (this is the marketing side)

Some of the extension coding that you can do (outside of the previous SOQL language and Salesforce Object instantiation) now is incredible, especially for this individuals that use or have built custom objects. For instance now you can:

Create a custom object and allow content that is updated in that custom object directly modify content located in standard Salesforce Object. In our case, we have built a custom Statement of Work object that we bound to the Projects custom object. When a Statement of Work is created it would be nice to update the Project’s Statement of Work delivery date. Or, if you have a Time Entry objects against a Statement of Work object, each Time Entry can update the Estimated Statement of Work and Project Tasks Custom Object.

All tasks that you would do in normal application development.

Questions currently unanswered
What about security? Since users will essentially be loading scripts to a server that is technically available to everyone, how do we prevent people from uploading miscellaneous scripts to extract data from other accounts?

What about the interface? It would seem likely that this would fit nicely into the Eclipse platform. A plugin that allows a developer to enter their SForce username and password and develop “locally” with no startup hardware/software costs.

What about .NET developers? Not that I care too much, but the syntax for this API is based on the constructs of Java which means users that have currently built applications that integrate with Salesforce and are written in .NET will be missing out (unless they want to learn another language).

What about access for Professional level accounts? Currently the extensible API calls for Salesforce are only available for Enterprise customers. Salesforce would have a larger audience if they opened this API up to Professional Level subscribers.

In retrospect?
Is this really that new of an idea? What if you compare this to say ColdFusion (or the like). ColdFusion applications can be pre-compiled server side objects that interact with data. What about the Building Blocks API in Blackboard where you have a core set of data objects, interface objects and global methods for data manipulation. Is Salesforce building something revolutionary, or are they putting a lot of marketing behind a few ideas that have been around before but that nobody has positioned correctly for proper public acceptance?

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Add-Ons for IE vs. Extensions/Themes/Add-Ons for Firefox

October 10, 2006

Before we begin we need to be clear on the definition of on Ad-on.

Ad-on’s ARE:
1.) Applications that offer time saving benifts and enhance your online experiene
2.)
Applications that are integrated directly in the browser (Developer’s
tool kit, Flickr upload tool, Sage RSS Reader, GMail account tracker,
IE View etc..)

Ad-on’s are NOT:
1.) Links to external applications from within the browser
2.)
Applications that add completly no value or have no clear definition of
purpose (this definately comes from both sides of the camp – IE:
Developers Toolbar – Firefox: US Department of Homeland Insecurity
Idiocy Level)

General
Ad-on’s are becoming a hot topic especially with the impending launch of IE 7 (which appears to be next month). Currently there are 1800+ Add-on’s available for the Firefox browser and approximately 435 available for IE7 (which is not to bad considering the browser is still in beta). The idea behind the growth of Ad-on’s is pretty simple – improve the experience of the online user. We are constanly on-line working in or around our browser. Whether we are searching for information on the web (hopefully work related) or we are using the Web to access information from various Web based applications. The Web browser is our window into the world of information.

A while ago the notion of the “Web browser as the desktop” became a popular topic of discussion and quite frankly it makes a lot of sense. For instance, right now I have at my finger tips (i.e. without leaving Firefox), the ability to check my email, look at all of my RSS feeds, post to my blog, upload pictures and find any information I want. Although I have other tools opened (One Note, Eclipse, Outlook and IE 7 – doing some comaprisons), a majority of what I need is all right here. Why would I leave.

Sophistication
The main difference between the IE7 and Firefox “tools” are the level of sophistication. Firefox has been at it longer and the developer’s community has responded. Additionally, the API’s available for the Firefox browser require “lite” programming knowledge (you don’t need to know Com Objects, Java Objects or true Object Oriented programming). I will admit, there is a lot available to you in Javascript that has an Object oriented feel (and I may be bias because I like JavaScript so much) but it seems easier to understand.

With the launch of the Windows RSS Platform, Windows and IE7 are starting to tip the scales a bit. You can details here, but the general idea is that your OS would manage a Common Feeds List. Firefox Add-ons currently can post your RSS feeds (and bookmarks) to various placess, but there is no central repository. One that I feel is important. While this Platform is interesting, the only application that is currently taking advantage of this is the “Desktop Sync” application which is not truly an Ad-on since it breaks rule number one of the Ad-on’s definition.

What is interesting though is the concept of the Platform. What I could envision are many RSS applications tied into the browser as Ad-on’s that utilize this common-feeds architecture.

Accessing the outside from within
The idea of updating a hosted Web application from the browser is not totally new. Firefox has allowed developers to build unique tools which keep users up to date with their information stored in various applications. For instance, there are a few GMail extensions available in Firefox which will notify you when a new email arrives and will even show you a snippet of that email. I am actually a bit surprised that non one has written an extension which allows for easy uploads of RSS feeds to NewsGator (would be really nice if it also notified you when a feed is updated).

IE Addons – http://www.ieaddons.com/default.aspx?cid=4&scid=79 (also available from within the IE 7 browser)
Firefox Addons – https://addons.mozilla.org/ are also available within the browser.

The edge clearly goes to Firefox here and that goes even without talking about Themes (Azerty III for me currently).

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Windows RSS Platform

October 9, 2006

Finally, Windows has stepped up to the plate and has begun to leverage their OS to enhance their Web 2.0 offerings. As a part of the launch of IE7 (and with Vista), Windows XP will have a sub layer for RSS communications called the “Windows RSS Platform”. As RSS becomes more and more a part of our daily life (with or without or knowledge) a subsystem integrated in the OS will offer some unique benefits. NewsGator has already begun to take advantage of this with a new beta project which will constantly update your NewsGator online site with RSS feeds and notify you when feeds are updated.

From the “MSDN“:

As part of the RSS support in Windows Internet Explorer 7, users can
discover and subscribe to RSS feeds within the browser. When the user
subscribes to a feed, it is added to the Common Feed List,
which is available for clients to use in addition to or instead of
their own list. For example, in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, the
user’s subscription list can import feeds from the Common Feed List.
This enables the discovery of feeds within Internet Explorer and then
for those discovered feeds to appear in other applications.

I have been trying various approaches to managing my feeds (see the posts I had about Sage and the almost defunct News Reader from Flock). Everything from Web sites to applications. The key features for me are:
1.) Display the feeds that I subscribe to and how many new posts there are
2.) Allow me to easily add feeds to my list (this is the most challenging portion so far – without FeedDemon this is next to impossible)
3.) Let me mark either an individual post as read or an entire feed as read
4.) Display a formatted post (HTML please) in the browser pane. I prefer the full post but will settle for excerpts as long as they are longer than Digg excerpts
5.) It would be nice to post a feed item directly to del.icio.us without actually downloading the feed
6.) This would be essential – download the contents of the feed and allow me to read it off-line (this one is only available in applications now)
7.) The ability to group and order  feeds at will

When you use Firefox a lot (like I do) and you want to have a single source list of Feeds then you are out of luck unless you commit to one company for feed delivery. Sounds like the “Common Feed List” approach is the right one. “Store all of my feeds on my computer in a common directory and then add API calls to that feed list”. That way service providers (Feed Readers) can offer their features without applying a burden to the user to “constantly” import/export the feeds. Don’t get me wrong I am fan of OPML but it gets a bit annoying having to keep a constant updated OPML file every-time I want to demo a new Feed Reader.

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