October 4, 2011

Questions

The first: Is there anything I can do to format this blog so it works better on a smartphone (without making it worse on a computer)? I don't have a smartphone, so I'm not sophisticated about what people who read my blog on a cellphone would prefer. I try to make minor changes as seem warranted. For example, over the years, as broadband became more popular relative to dial-up, I increased the number of postings on the main page. But, lately, I've cut the number down to 14 for the benefit of people on slower mobile devices. But, I'm pretty clueless about what else to do. (Plus, I'm lazy, so I probably won't make the changes you suggest, but at least you can take comfort in knowing I'll feel mildly guilty about it.)

The second is more general: I'm constantly seeing websites, such as the Washington Post, excitedly announce that they have custom-programmed a new "app" that you can download from the Apple App Store for reading the Washington Post. But isn't the whole point of the World Wide Web and web browsers that you don't need a custom-designed program to read the Washington Post? How is this a step forward?

Around 1995, I did some consulting for Peapod, the company that delivers groceries you order online. Back then, Peapod had their own custom software program to load on your computer and their own bank of modems with their own phone number for your modem to dial, none of which worked terribly well at great expense. I told them they should get on this new fangled thing called the Web. For a long time, that seemed like pretty good advice. But now it's fashionable to have your own app.

What would an iSteve app do, anyway? 

My old articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

53 comments:

David Davenport said...

Steve, you basically need to modernize iSteve. You seem to be quite stubborn about not doing so. ... Rather Luddite.

Next, off topic but it interests me, People You Used To Know Who End Up In Surprisingly Bad Way Dept. :

The U.S. Supreme Court won't hear the appeal of J. Reece Roth, a 74-year-old former UT professor emeritus convicted in 2008 of violating federal arms control law....

Roth's next stop will be prison, where he must serve a four-year sentence. He'd been free on bond during his appeal. ...


A retired University of Tennessee professor will make a date soon to report for federal prison.

I took a course from good old Perfesser Grease Broth back in 1981.

Anonymous said...

Visiting a site with an app is stupid. But some sites will automatically load a mobile version if accessed from a mobile device. I often appreciate this.

David Davenport said...

Steve, I don't think an iSteve app is a top priority.

You need to stop requiring people to click on iSteve.com to get to iSteve at Blogspot. Doesn't matter if readers lose access to some ancient iSteve entries, or soemthing.

You need to get a digital camera -- a cheapie model will do -- and liven up iSteve with some photos. Southern CA is visually interesting. Your readers would like to see some pix. Check out what Ann Althouse does over at her blog, Ann Althouse

Also like at the way Ann A. pushes some product: Buy official
Althouse stuff


Oh, I left a sentence in the previous post:

Roth, a professor emeritus of electrical engineering, worked as a consultant on an Air Force project to develop technology for unmanned drone aircraft. He used graduate students from China and Iran on that project and took documents from the project to China in 2006 — even though the university and his contract had warned against doing either. ...

Anonymous said...

"Your readers would like to see some pix."

Not this reader. We can see pics anywhere we go on the Net. We come to iSteve for Steve's thoughts.

AllanF said...

As far as I can tell, Apps are an insidious Trojan Horse to get people to pay for content again. Don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

The idea that Steve should go around taking photos for this blog is silly.

Bill said...

You should switch to wordpress.com for easy management and a nicer layout, but in the meanwhile just get an RSS feed and that should be fine on smartphones, etc. Feeds are automated XML broadcasts that work in all sorts of readers.

I'd recommend using Feedburner to broadcast, as Google owns it and you obviously already have a Google account. This means setting up your feed will involve no more than a few clicks and pasting your url. After that, just stick a feed link in your sidebar and you're done.

Read about it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FeedBurner

Instructions:

http://blogknowhow.blogspot.com/2009/04/burn-blogger-rss-feeds-feedburner.html

L{DiracDelta(t)} said...

Mr. Sailer,

testiphone.compurports to be an iphone web browser simulator. Go there and enter in your blog address to see what it looks like.

I think cleaner with as small margin pictures as possible is probably the winner. Mrs. Wood over at The Thinking Housewife has a very clean and classy look.

In my opinion, apps for media sites are a fad. To paraphrase a well known programming blogger/podcast'er they're snatching nickels from a bulldozer. The browser will eventually do everything that these app' dev's are putting in their Times/WaPo apps

Anyways, I'd recommend making your blog template *very* clean, so mobile browsers don't end up rendering your page borders such that they take up 30% of the screen.


All that being said, the best way to follow blogs on PC or mobile phone is to use reader.google.com . I only ever see your blogger template when I click through to read your comments and I'm impervious to what you do with your homepage.

- L{DiracDelta(t)}

David Davenport said...

Since you're an Enonymaus, you can get to Hell.

" We come to iSteve for Steve's thoughts."

Horsehit. "We're only interested in rareified, abstract thoughts on an Olympian height." That is pretentious snobbery.

Back to to the real context, what a neophyte Web vistor to iSteve.com sees as of about one minute ago:

Interracial Romance

Start Searching Right Now!

Interracial Romance

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Steve-o, I will have my wife get in touch with you about upgrading. She is a liberal social democrat but has your site on some sort of feed. RSS I think.

Matthew Walker said...

Your site looks fine on my Android. It's got a biggish screen but they all will soon enough. I mostly read you via RSS in the google reader app, which is better than the Blogger site. I'm not clear why WaPo needs an app; maybe just that RSS isn't any use for that. But they could just do a mobile html version.

Anyway, your site is fine. Don't waste your time fixing what isn't broken.

Nanonymous said...

Steve, you basically need to modernize iSteve. You seem to be quite stubborn about not doing so. ... Rather Luddite.

No, Steve, you basically don't need to modernize anything on iSteve.com There is nothing to modernize. It's an archive: there are links and there is a search capability. function. That makes it 100% functional.

Your readers would like to see some pix.

I am pretty sure such readers are small minority.

As for the apps, it seems that you already know the answer - the whole fashion is a total stupidity pushed by the same useless people who push constant web page redesigns that make them uglier and less readable.

airtommy said...

This is currently the best formatted blog on the Web.

AustinGONE said...

Make the link to your blog's RSS feed more prominent. There's apps like Feedly that will aggregate your posts automatically; making your RSS obvious will make it easier to consume your offerings via these apps.

Bill said...

AustinGONE said...
Make the link to your blog's RSS feed more prominent. There's apps like Feedly that will aggregate your posts automatically; making your RSS obvious will make it easier to consume your offerings via these apps.


Yeah, I looked again and saw the feed link waaaay on the bottom of the page -- never noticed it before.

Just moving it to the top of the sidebar should do the trick.

Anonymous said...

There's absolutely no need to change anything at all. I read you on my phone all the time and it's just as good as on a computer. I guarantee you any changes you make to this blog's format will be for the worse.

top conservatives on the twitter said...

Currently the blog looks fine w/ an RSS reader, even your occasional picture attachments, and I am mostly using Google's which is generally fine in phone/pad browsers (the WebKit-compatible ones, at least). How the RSS feed version looks is not typically what profit/publicity-maximizers want to hear about, though.

Just adjust the home page to detect mobile browsers and show a compressed listing, and leave the Blogger part as it is. WordPress might be superior to Blogger, but... something is always about to change next year, or the year after that ("The Web is dead" decreed Wired Magazine in 2010) so why bother. An iSteve app would be funny, and not that hard to create actually, however I can't imagine "rich interactive content" you'd be supplying to justify such an effort. Perhaps you could implement the movie review indexer thing from jamesbowman.net?

Anonymous said...

As research, I would check out Drudgereport. He has apps for both Ipads and iphones. Even though my eyesight is not great, the iphone app DOES improve the read-ability and navigation relative to the "desktop" or computer version. The Ipad screen is big enough where the app is not really necessary.

Anonymous said...

The new smartphones can render web pages pretty darn well; if you are going to change anything, make the code cleaner and less bloated, avoid graphics or flash, and make the margins small and the text big so it shows up well on a small screen. There's no need anymore to make a special site just for mobile browsers. Your site is ok as is.

As for apps, unless you are a large business or mainstream publication, they are a waste of time. Apple likes apps because they have total control over their app store and make lots of money off of them, but any app for a website really is not necessary (except that iOS doesn't render flash so apps get around that - but you should not be using flash anyway for a simple blog site). As smartphone web browsers get better there's less and less need for apps - apps really are just a temporary backwards step.

I'm not talking about things like games or other non-web oriented programs, of course; just apps that do nothing but access a particular website. Those kinds of apps simply duplicate what a browser does. A website app is for convenience only but for blogs and rss feeds accessing something like Google Reader over a web browser makes more sense than building a seperate app for every blog you like to read. Google Reader and similar types of news feeds are the way to go.

Mercer said...

"liven up iSteve with some photos. Southern CA is visually interesting. Your readers would like to see some pix. Check out what Ann Althouse does over at her blog, Ann Althouse

Also like at the way Ann A. pushes some product:"

No. Please do not clutter your site with boring photos of the restaurants, parks and shops you visit. I am also not interested in any isteve clothing.

I think your site is fine as it is. One change I would suggest is adding a link to shop amazon to raise money. I see some amazon book ads but it is not stated whether you would get money if I used them for shopping.

the brand Chimerica trusts said...

One argument pro Blogger is that your updates are (in theory) indexed quicker by GOOG, Destroyer of Worlds. And unless you've got some problem with them doing that (I've never detected it) what's not to like? Plus the occasional post about a paucity of Google results for some Statistically Probable Phrase (e.g. "vanished black middle class of Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco after 1970") has been a persistent entertaining sub-genre of the blog.

Natural E-Complex said...

Looking around I didn't see the rss feed, but here it is, following the pattern of all blogspot blogs:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/rss.xml

Anonymous said...

David Davenport said... "You need to stop requiring people to click on iSteve.com to get to iSteve at Blogspot."

What are you talking about? I just come straight to isteve.blogspot.com. You don't have to go through iSteve.com.

No pictures, please! Just cerebral content. Thanks!

Nadaav said...

I read only some of the comments, so I hope I'm not repeating when I summarize my advice:

1. Don't worry about an app. Don't even think about it.

2. I get all your posts via RSS feed (which is already formatted just fine on my phone) and only actually go to your blog to comment (like right now) and I comment rarely enough that it's not an inconvenience.

3. Even if I simply HAD to leave a comment and I was reading your blog on my phone, it wouldn't be too hard to do it on my phone's web browser.

4. So, don't change anything. Just keep doing what you've been doing.

Alec Plumb said...

I second Naadav's recommendation to keep on keepin' on. The RSS you have is perfectly functional for everyday reading.

Fred said...

Steve,

Your blog is fine as is. Apps make some sense for primarily print publications such as newspapers and magazines that want their fancy photo layouts to fit an iPad just right -- not an issue for you.

Also, ignore the previous commenter's suggestion to go to Wordpress. Wordpress is insanely complicated to use (way too many features) compared to Blogger, which is a breeze. I'd rather you spend your time coming up with interesting ideas to share with us than cursing your screen trying to blog in Wordpress.

Veracitor said...

Screw the "app." I often read iSteve on my smartphone (Motorola Droid) and I really like the fact that you just have two columns and your main text is long and narrow--because I can zoom in so your text fills my tiny screen (I can horz scroll to the right side bar of links if I need them--I often do that to visit sites in the honor roll).

Filling my little screen with your words makes those words much easier to read. I don't mind scrolling down as I go, that's MUCH easier than scrolling back and forth across a wide column (which would be too tiny to read if zoomed out so it didn't need horizontal scrolling).

Look, if you insiste upone doing something special for smartphone users you need what's called an alternate "CSS" layout for mobile users.

You could make your weblog slightly mobile-spiffier that way, but you could also make it a lot more annoying, because many off-the-shelf "mobile" layouts require extra taps (clicks) to expand each post.

So please, please-- stick to the long, relatively narrow main column-- that is the best for mobile readers anyway.

James said...

You definitely don't need an app, and although mobile versions of sites are nice, it's true that most people will probably be reading your site through an RSS feed reader if on their phone. That's how I do it.

For your website, I say use a mixture of the old iSteve (because that had personality) and some super simple blog template like this or this.

If you went back to hosting your own site you would want to use WordPress and then your comments pages could match your posts. Not sure if that's possible with Blogspot.

Tscottme said...

I frequently read the site on my non-smart phone, sometimes on my ipod Touch, and often on my Kindle.

Anyone reading text on small screens should surf to www.skweezer.com or Mowser. You enter web addresses, or bookmark them, and Skweezer will do the simplifying for you. Skweezer strips out photos and most of the non-content portion of normal web pages.

Anyone can get a free Skweezer account, which allows you to bookmark sites on Skweezer so your bookmarks are available whatever device you use to surf.

AMac said...

I also keep tabs on Steve's posts via Google Reader at my iGoogle home page. This uses your Blogspot RSS feed, which has already been discussed and linked.

Perhaps you could make the RSS link more prominent. And also link to one of the how-to articles on "RSS for dummies." I don't seem to be the only one.

Having to go via iSteve -- ?? That reader could revamp his access to your blog.

A few idiosyncratic/righty bloggers have had Blogspot suspend their blog, upon Google receiving complaints that the material includes Hate Speech. This has meant that old posts are suddenly gone; the author can't access them either. IIRC, usually this tale has a happy ending (restoration of service on appeal). But sometimes comments get lost (again, IIRC). Blogspot does allow you to export your entire blog to your local machine in some standard format (e.g. in order to move it to Wordpress). Given iSteve's weakness for doubleplusungoodthink, archiving probably should be part of your regular routine.

(No smartphone, so no directly on-topic commentary.)

Felix M said...

as with the others, I urge you not to update the site's format

and avoid pictures etc - confine this to a the rare occasion where a diagram is near essential to understanding the point

but may I urge that you update the list of links

Jeff Burton said...

Anyone who is reading your blog on a smartphone and not doing so through an RSS reader deserves whatever poor experience they get. Don't change a thing.

Baloo said...

Stick to Blogger. Wordpress is klunkier and you can't have Google Ads there.

Plethon said...

Baloo: You can use Google AdSense on WordPress, it's just more difficult & (I believe) it requires you own your own hosting. For the having a mobile site thing, WordPress is indeed better, though.

Steve: Just change to a simpler, cleaner layout for better smart phone access. Since most popular mobile browsers render zoomed in text well, even this isn't really necessary, but a clean layout (like the black & white version of the "simple" layout here on blogger) would help.

Plethon said...

Another thing I just realized, Steve, you should change your comments page on Blogger to get Google Ads on them as well. And probably hire a couple of non–writing "co–bloggers" (or just get a couple of trusted friends) to cover moderating your comments when you cannot be around. Keeping the comments moving and keeping ads on the comments will result in a lot more views/clicks for you.

Baloo said...

Thanks, Plethon. My blogs were on wordpress, and a couple years back I researched and they said Google Ads were not allowed, but they didn't say anything about hosting it elsewhere.

Svigor said...

I'm constantly seeing websites, such as the Washington Post, excitedly announce that they have custom-programmed a new "app" that you can download from the Apple App Store for reading the Washington Post. But isn't the whole point of the World Wide Web and web browsers that you don't need a custom-designed program to read the Washington Post? How is this a step forward?

That's the point for the consumer. For the producer, proprietary is the point.

The MotU would like nothing more than to make the web proprietary.

That's why I hate Flash and all that shit. Well, that, and I'm still on dialup out here in the sticks.

Hackers vs. the MotU. Everybody who hates the MotU needs to make nice with the Hackers. We're going to need them.

Svigor said...

Back to to the real context, what a neophyte Web vistor to iSteve.com sees as of about one minute ago:

Just thinking out loud, but maybe the way to solve that is to move them out of neophyte status as quickly as possible? I can't remember the last time I saw an ad on a G**gle blog. Firefox and adblock take care of that.

Speaking of Firefox, anybody else downgraded back to 3.6 lately? I just couldn't stand the crashing.

Kylie said...

"You need to stop requiring people to click on iSteve.com to get to iSteve at Blogspot."

I don't click on iSteve.com to get to Steve's blog. I just found the blog one day and put its address in my favorites.

Paul Mendez said...

Blogs I follow using Wordpress automatically know if I'm using my computer or my iPhone.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what everybody has against adding pictures. I think it's a great idea. I doubt Steve will do it, but I like the idea.

slyboots said...

I LOVE the lack of Google Ads. Please, please don't include them in your site!

Ditto to all the comments that say don't go changing' to try and please [us].

As you are a California resident, you can no longer take advantage of the Amazon affiliate thing another commenter mentioned - this is where you have a link to Amazon that anybody can click through and you get a slice of whatever they spend there.

Amazon will no longer pay affiliates in CA, in retaliation for the state's grab of online sales tax.

NOTA said...

One thing I find entertainng about the whole "download our app" routine from media sources. At the same time that all sorts of good sources of informaition (BBC, Pro Publica, NPR) want you to download an app to your smartphone, there is this still ongoing scandal in the UK about news organizations hacking into voicemail and tapping phones. Smart phones are a scary target for spying, because via a single compromise you could get access to my phonecalls, voicemail, emaiil, calendar, pictures, voice recordings, passwords, and periodic updates on my location. And yet, here are these organizations that are all about digging up the dirt on people, wanting to put an app on your phone, and nobody much bats an eye....

Anonymous said...

You had the idea that Peapod should use the internet? The guy who started Peapod, who is regarded as a genius in his (and my) home town, is getting social credit for your input.

The reason you might consider making a couple features (doesn't matter what) available through an iSteve app is that such a strategy would reflect the feel of your work, which carves out an identity, yes, outside of the mainstream media, but also, and crucially, outside of the mainstream blogosphere.

As you point out your website isn't too sharp-looking, but if there is a question of opportunity cost, I feel sure most of your long-term readers would prefer to see an extra blog post, rather than a blog interface-lift. A new look might be smart, however, for attracting new people. If you're not too proud to shake a tin cup for cash, why not ask tech-savvy readers to give an in-kind donation of a custom-designed Wordpress blog, along with specific instructions about how to port your data, and instructions about how to ensure that you have sole access to login info?

--Morgan C

C. Van Carter said...

In Blogger click Template, then Mobile, to enable a mobile friendly version of your template.

Get Off My Lawn! said...

I agree with the consensus: no app.

On the other hand, I do like the idea of pictures. I'm not sure what the others who object are imagining, but I'm sure you wouldn't be posting random pictures as though this were your Facebook page.

Instead, I think it would be a great update to the blog if you started posting pictures that are relevant to the story you tell, that is, pictures that you now link to. It's more convenient if the pictures are posted right on your page, and - given that you seem to have good taste - would probably be visually appealing, too. Or maybe just funny - your posts about the MLK statue would have been even funnier if the glaring whiteness of the statue had been part of the posts themselves.

Aaron Baugher said...

Steve, those company-specific apps are not a step forward, for precisely the reason you guessed. They're an attempt by media corps to drag us back into the AOL/Compuserve/GEnie/Prodigy/Delphi/etc. days, when all the various online services were separate and had deals with various media companies to supply them with exclusive content you could only get by paying for that service, so people actually had to dial into AOL for some stuff, hang up, dial into Compuserve for something else, etc., and pay for each service. I'm sure today's phones make the process smoother, but still -- no thanks. Sites can offer a mobile-friendly version by using an appropriate stylesheet; no need for any special software.

Slyboots, iSteve does have google ads. They're on the right, but you have to scroll down a ways to see them. Anyone with a clue who reads many blogs won't see them though, since he'll be using an RSS reader, as others have said. (You can have ads in an RSS feed, but Steve doesn't.)

Anonymous said...

Check out Zero Hedge. Its webpage is formatted to work well on smartphones. No app required. It also reads fine on a regular computer screen, though I notice the formatting doesn't respond well when you try to enlarge the type.

Kylie said...

"I don't know what everybody has against adding pictures. I think it's a great idea."

No, it's not. Pictures are too noisy.

David Davenport said...

No, it's not. Pictures are too noisy.

That's a Muslim sentiment.

Steve here are the ads on the right hand side of iSteve.com a few minutes ago:

Real
interracial
dating

View Gay Singles
in Your Area

Meet Mature Women
Over 45 Yrs Old
Seeking Local Males

Steve, you need to clean up and gentrify iSteve.com. xyz.com is a better address than xyz.blogspot.com. xyz.com sounds more professional. It's also easier for a those seeking the Internut home of iSteve to type ... Easier to type means more clicks.

Anonymous said...

don't change anything

David Davenport said...

I LOVE the lack of Google Ads. Please, please don't include them in your site

Steve needs to make some $, cuz he doesn't have a lot.

Can you understand that? Grasp the concept, even if your grip is tenuous?

epobirs said...

You can implement a redirect to a mobile version of the site. Beyond that, don't do anything. It just isn't worth it. My Blackberry Curve is as minimal as a smartphone can get while still having any real web capability and it can handle your site OK.

It's a look like the e-book reader problem. I do production work for some author friends like Jerry Pournelle. It's just a hobby right now but I hope I might make some money at it.

Essentially, in e-books, if it looks good on a regular Kindle, everything else is secondary. The nook has an identical screen resolution and better formatting options, so you know you'll be alright there if you hit your Kindle target. Between those two you've cover almost 80% of the market. From there the next thing to consider is the Apple iPad but that has a considerably greater screen resolution than the e-ink Kindle and so is hardly worth worrying about for testing.

I've stopped testing against the iPhone and other small displays. If I needed to do something that doesn't work well on those without the user adjusting scale or whatever, it just isn't worth the trouble to find a fix for a tiny market segment. If there is anyone buying books to read exclusively on a smartphone, that is just too bad. When one file has to work everywhere, some display devices will be more equal than others.