A Positive Outcome from the Apple Ebook Judgement

Say what you will about the ruling in the Apple e-Book price fixing case, at least one outcome will be beneficial to actual humans:

Apple will have to let rival retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble include links to their online bookstores from inside their apps under the terms of a Department of Justice proposal that was published on Aug. 2. Apple does not allow apps to link to outside stores.

Buying Kindle books on iOS has been the user experience equivalent of being flogged with a rubber hose since Amazon was forced to take out their store link a year or two back. 

Instapaper or Pocket

Instapaper is a better reading experience.

Pocket has a better user experience.

Instapaper lets you share articles without promoting itself.

Pocket has a better sharing feature set but uses branded URLs and mentions itself when sharing.

Instapaper charges a buck for the full feature set.

Pocket must be a front for the mafia or some kind of human smuggling operation. Because it’s free.

Instapaper feels like it got a little stale but could become even better if Betaworks does a good job.

Pocket feels modern but will likely have to make changes to make money.

Instapaper is used by the Head Nerds.

Pocket is used by the proletariat.

Guess I’ll just play Clash of Clans.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

This is gold. Especially liked this one: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

1.  You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
2.  You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
3.  Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
4.  Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
5.  Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
6.  What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
7.  Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
8.  Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
9.  When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Feedly’s Killer Feature

I’ve been using Feedly ever since Google announced they were going to 86 Reader.

The plan was to use it as a bomb shelter while the world of RSS was glassed and the survivors set out to rebuild a post-Google syndication world.

Because, clearly, it couldn’t be a permanent solution. Web apps are not acceptable substitutes for desktop clients, and not being compatible with Reeder or Mr. Reader seemed unforgivable. Just hunker down and wait for the right service to come along.

It turns out that there was one problem with my plan: Feedly has one simple feature that makes it much more useful than any other RSS reader I’ve used: Auto Mark As Read.

Feedly renders feed headlines on cards, so instead of scrolling through an endless list, you look through 10 or so headlines on a card, look at any articles that pique your interest, and then flip the card to see the next card of 10 headlines.

With Auto Mark As Read checked, every article on the card will be marked as read when you flip past them. So if you flip through a few headlines while standing in line somewhere, they are marked as read on the server and you never have to scroll through them again.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you use it. The benefit is that it makes processing RSS into something you can do intermittantly throughout the day rather than a major undertaking where you either have to read everything, manually mark every article as read or mark an entire category of links as read. It’s just not as precise, and it leaves me constantly scrolling through content a second time after I get interupted and come back later.

Though I’ll still be paying attention as more new services roll out throughout the months ahead, anything that doesn’t offer a similar feature will be a tough sell.