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Once More, With Flavor!

Chris has posted a review of an advance copy of PulpFiction - understandably based on his own expectations, opinions, etc. - and I'm hoping that it's not in poor form to respond. After all, the dang thing ain't even out yet. I'll attempt to be brief.

…the overall responsiveness is, well… not very.

This has been improved, and will continue to improve as we learn how people use the application. The advance copy of PulpFiction was sent out with a lot of threads running in a queue and locking up the UI. We now update the UI less frequently, run some database transactions in parallel, and do what we can to speed things up. Speed is a sensitive issue, and it's one we're committed to improving with each release. That having been said, and without saying "twice as fast" or anything like that, I can say that significant leaps have been made here.

Even if your preference is set to "Use default web browser," new windows are launched in front… which is massively distracting when the task at hand is "skimming through feeds, finding interesting stuff to read later."

This will be fully supported. ⌘-Enter will toggle the current preference setting for your default browser (i.e. PF or the system's default).

…just put "the feed" … into the drawer. Filters are for filtering content, they're for distributing articles amongst folders; they’re not for throwing all the articles of a single feed into a folder.

I'm not sure where Chris goes with this. Some people have 500 subscriptions. Do they really want 500 folders in a big list in a drawer? We didn't think they would. However, several of our beta testers wanted the option to quickly do so, and they have it in "Filterize."

Me? I like to use PulpFiction's Filters to do what Chris suggests: filter content. I use filters that search the article's body or title for key words, and I group them with other feeds (like those specifically geared towards the things those key words indicate) to sort incoming articles into varying folders based on their content. Mail calls filters "Rules." We deviated from Mail here for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we feel "Filters" is a better title (and my own empirical data backs this up). After all, filters do just that: they feed content through a series of sieves until one of the pieces "catches."

NNW has a list of subscriptions. PulpFiction does not - we have a list of folders that you've set up. If you prefer to view your feeds as NNW displays them for you, all it takes is one click. For those who wish to filter on content, as Chris suggests filtering is best used to do, they're welcome to with PulpFiction's filters.

Repurposing filters this way [feeding each subscription to its own folder] is like setting up a Smart Playlist for all songs from the album "the White Album" from the artist "the Beatles" instead of just setting up a static playlist — it doesn't make sense. Is there anything simpler than direct manipulation?

It makes sense. It's not how I use PulpFiction, but over 60% of our beta testers wanted a way to quickly create a folder and a filter, and it's there. I've used it too: I added a bunch of iTunes feeds recently and I chose one and clicked "Filterize." Then I selected the remaining four and clicked "Add to Filter -> iTunes." Within a few seconds I had a filter and five feeds going to it. I know what the content is - it's iTunes Music Store charts.

In PulpFiction, this Shift–Space behavior doesn't work as expected.

This has been fixed internally. It bugged me, I fixed it, and we moved on. Five minutes. Some bugs are easier than others. 🙂

Custom stylesheets: Let's begin this frankly: custom stylesheets rock. More than that, custom stylesheets with custom templates rock harder. But I do have to correct an oversight I made earlier. Customization is not per–feed; I was mistaken and I was, perhaps, projecting just a little. Nobody will be putting links on their website to CSS files with the text "customize my feed in PulpFiction." And now I'm crying.

PulpFiction is a brand new product on a computing platform with 3% market share. We want to do this - we really do - but we're hardly in a position (with 0% market share - but growing! <grin>) to ask that blogs, news sites, etc. provide custom CSS. How would they do it? In other words, we're not the type to push a standard at this time.

The other question becomes one of implementation. Should users encode the location of their custom stylesheet into their feed? That sounds like a great way to go… until someone forces an ugly stylesheet on people and they want to change. Plus, the syndication folks would have a fit about "style" data being included in their "content" data. Maybe we should we just allow it as a per-subscription preference setting? That possibility fails for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that people are highly, highly unlikely to change the settings once they create them the first time.

I've long been a supporter of a release philosophy I believe belongs to BareBones Software: don't work to a deadline — squish all the bugs and commence two–week beta trial. If new bugs are discovered, squish them and restart the trial.

That sounds like a great way to never ship software, especially as frequently as "bug" is confused with "feature request." 🙂

PulpFiction ships May 15. And yes, it seems that Chris may be pleasantly surprised.

5 Responses to "Once More, With Flavor!"

  1. Excellent... [tents fingers]

  2. Woah, I was never aware that shift-space did anything. Cool.

  3. Yeah, thanks for having space shift not work as expected, now I know what to expect when I press it.

  4. I don't think it's an issue of 1 feed per folder (which is silly IMHO), but it's the ability to organize into other folders. If you read 500 feeds a day you probably want a little bit of organization, such as 'friends', 'work', 'news', 'other-interesting', 'other-boring' and so on.

    What I wanted to see was the ability to easily set up those 500 feeds (imported from wherever) into those 5 or 10 different categories so that when you read them and when you search their content, you have a little more context to what you are doing. The filtering system in PF is very good, but there are some things (ie: drag feed to a folder and have it autmagically be added to that folder via filterize) which would make this organization even better.

    You aren't going to use the app the same way as me, or $otherdude, or $otherotherdude. Best thing you can do is identify the "core sets" of uses that go on and ensure the app works well for most major cases. And I think that PF is well on it's way, or at least, to satisfy my uses 🙂

    The other in-escapable fact is that NNW is the defacto standard right now (IMHO) and most people grew up on doing RSS that way, so they are used to it.

  5. As far as the per-feed stylesheet is concerned, why not just have the feed publisher use the "xml-stylesheet" processing instruction. It requires no change to any feed spec, is easy to parse correctly, and is an official W3C Recommendation.

    As far as dealing with ugly ones, the user should be able to set a single custom stylesheet in PF. Then, should have the option to "turn-off" the publisher's stylesheet in any given feed, which will then fall back to the user's cusom sheet (or the default if no custom was set). It seems like the toggle for this should have a keyboard shortcut to toggle the current feed -- maybe cmd-opt-S or something?

    Maybe also have a global "Use publisher's style sheet if provided" preference that defaults to "on".

    I wish I could play with this myself 😛 Waiting not-so-patiently over here.