Word of the day: rubric

Quartz_homepage

According to TheFreeDictionary, rubric means a title, class or category. It’s also used when referring to a subheading or the full title of a file/post or page. Neiman Journalism Lab used it as follows –

The Brief, a tailored summary of business and international news under the rubric of “Your world right now.”

Source: Maybe the homepage is alive after all: Quartz is trying a new twist on the traditional website front door » Nieman Journalism Lab

The article talks about the redesign of a news site, Quartz, in which they added a homepage to their site. Till date Quartz did not have a homepage, but they did have an email newsletter that was their main source of reader retention. Their other means was to target social media. Like a lot of other sites, Quartz has depended on quality content and focussed social media campaigns to drive readers to their site.

I’ve been reading Quartz since some time now. I probably discovered it via twitter or perhaps through WordPress.com’s post streams, which is the platform Quartz is based on. I have often headed to qz.com and till date, I was received by an infinite scroll of articles, one after the other, simply flowing through. This was at times, irritating and at others, helpful. But it was a homepage none-the-less. The new homepage is a lot more traditional. It’s called “The Brief” and focusses on short snippets about top stories. Users can then click through and will again be at the doorstep of that infinite scroll. Other headlines on The Brief are actually short notes, where Qz has linked to news stories from other sources and given you a quick overview to read and share.

The redesign is nice because of design reasons – bigger pictures, more space, less clutter. But here’s something important. The Neimanlab article quotes Qz senior editor Zach Seward as saying that it’s essentially “a chicken-and-egg scenario”. If you build a homepage, people will see it. If you don’t, they don’t. For news sites, a homepage is an essential tool. Throw in some of the important stories of the day and latch on some other stories that you want to push and users will spend a lot more time on your site. There’s an analogy here. Instagram has been a mobile only app for the longest time. They believed that there was no need for a website simply because they were growing at breakneck speed even without one. Yet, the biggest complaint they probably ever received was the lack of a desktop environment and this spawned a host of sites like webstagram. Now, Instagram has an official desktop site, but it still defers you to the mobile app for things such as opening accounts, user management and photo uploads.

The Neimanlab article states that Quartz was receiving 90% visitors through article pages (from their newsletter or social media) and only 10% from qz.com directly (I’m part of that 10%). Yet, this shift shows that they too recognize the need for a homepage from where the casual user can easily find more things to read and the dedicated reader can keep track of headlines. Whenever I go to Qz.com, I’m logged into my wp.com account. Who knows, maybe in the future, they can use my login to tailor posts to my interests and maybe even mark news items as Read/Unread for me. Whatever the future may be, the rubric of Quartz is getting more attention by the day because of quality journalism and excellent design.

BONUS Word: sybaws (“smart young bored-at-work”) source

New Trent Airbender Mini 1.0 review

New Trent Airbender Mini 1.0

I recently bought an Airbender Mini second hand from eBay. I needed a case+keyboard solution for my first gen iPad Mini and this seemed to be a good solution.  The ideal case would have been the new iPad Mini Clamshell, but this was available for a fifth of the price and so, worth the try. I have been using it all afternoon and frankly, this is not the solution I am looking for.

The case is solid, the hinge between the iPad cover and the keyboard is strong and allows me to hold the iPad at any angle (which is nice, since that’s my biggest complaint about the WingStand) and the keys themselves are pretty good, instead of flaky plastic keys that I’ve seen in some other cases. But the design of the keyboard is flawed. Since the general design of keyboard cases is to have the same max size as the device they ensconch, the Airbender Mini’s keyboard is the same width as the length of the iPad Mini, which is not nearly enough to be comfortable while writing longform. (I am writing this using the setup described and frankly, it is not comfortable.)

Besides the small design, New Trent has tried to fit in a lot of functionality into the keyboard, thus cramping the keys even further. The topmost key is the +/=/Lock key and not the Delete key, thus making this the least ideal key for writing instantly. Also, vital keys such as the apostrophe, both slashes and the question mark are all only accessible using a special Function key, thus making it rather difficult to write fluently.

My usual setup is an Apple Bluetooth keyboard with the WingStand. It’s not a covenient setup, because of all the disparate parts, but it works fine because of the Bluetooth keyboard’s large size. The main problem, as I mentioned before, is that the WingStand does not have multiple angles, which makes it very uncomfortable to use when sitting upright. I have even tried a credit card sized solution called the QuikStand by the same people who make the WingStand, but it’s too flimsy.

I believe that I need a keyboard case that’s built for the larger iPad but allows the user to fit the Mini into it as well. That would be the optimum solution. I’d like to write more about that idea, but I’m writing using such a small keyboard that my hands have started to hurt. Oh well, time to restart my search. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Word of the day: calumny

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to Bing Definitions, calumny means defamation or a defamatory statement. Most certainly applied where the writer wants to depict the vilest of attacks on a person’s character, calumny is used by Sunil Dutta in his piece today, talking about the terrible tragedy currently unfolding in Ferguson, MO. He uses it as follows –

It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not murderers.

Source: I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. – The Washington Post

Sunil talks about the Ferguson riots and the near-military state situation from a seat of experience. He was with the LAPD for 17 years before he started his teaching career. While some might see the article as a simple Do/Do Not list for when one is approached by a police officer, the underlying tone is that of frustration. Too often, people overreact to a casual situation when a cop is involved, myself included. Sunil explains how the officers themselves are mere humans who are trained well to be calm in all situations, but have legal backing to take action in case they feel that their own life or the lives of others is threatened.

Sunil’s explanation for police violence is that it is never brought forth against people who follow the rules, remain calm and obey orders. He agrees there are exceptions in terms of corrupt or aggressive cops, but the majority of incidents that happen are because of people who act out against cops. This might seem like a very opinionated view, but that’s exactly what’s needed right now. No one is talking from a coherent point of view from the other side. The police are being demonized by media from all over the world and no one from the authorities are talking about the investigation into the incident.

John Gruber, a blogger and Internet personality, has criticized this article by summarizing the suggestions laid out by the article as follows – “Don’t question authority or you might get beaten or shot. Astounding.” Frankly, that’s a fairly negative and populist opinion. What happened that night in Ferguson was a tragedy, but if you look at it from the side of those charged with not just uphold the law but also to enforce it, you’ll realize that there’s more to every such story than mere shades of black and white.

Word of the Day: metonym

According to Wikipedia, metonym is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is replaced by another that has a similar meaning. That is to say, you don’t want to call a thing by it’s name and you use another name in it’s stead. That is to say, you use it’s synonym instead. Essentially, metonym means instead. Now, where would you find such a convoluted word for such a simple meaning? Why, in The Hindu’s Editorial, of course! Specifically, this is how it is used in an OpEd piece I was reading today – Continue reading

Deleting Duplicate items in Fever RSS

My Fever RSS setup has a lot of feeds that often duplicate items. There are feeds from news sites such a The Times of India corresponding to National, International and Governmental news as well as feeds from tech sites that often repeat things. The end result is that I often see the same title, the same post and thus repetitive news many times during the day. I found the following script to be an excellent way to remove duplicate items from Fever. This works on the MySQL level and so you should be careful when using it, lest you delete everything because of some coding error on my part (though I’ve checked and this works). Continue reading

The boy looked on as raindrops kept falling on the windshield in an uneven fashion. The car was fast and the terrain was whooshing past without refrain. The raindrops were now forming teams and racing down to the bottom, to their ultimate destiny, the race deciding on their fates. The bright light from the sky glinted in the boy’s eyes and he leaned forward to track the race better. The windshield was now nearly full and the two drops that had started it all were gaining speed and weight. The boy was now rooting for one of the drops and hating the other with all his heart. The father, who was driving, noted loudly, “hmmm, can’t see anything!” and simply hit the wiper switch once, to clear the screen. Suddenly, the race was gone, the raindrops were gone and their destinies were gone. The boy stared on, not sure what to do now.

In a few minutes, two new raindrops were racing and the boy was rooting hard for one of them. Indeed, the other one was evil. The drops were now thin, because the rain had increased and as often as the drops picked up new passengers, they were hit by falling drops and split into smaller bits. The father again said, “Bah! Can’t see anything in this rain!” and turned the wiper on. The race was again gone and so was the glint in the boy’s eyes.