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Old 01-25-2007, 01:22 PM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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MobileRead newsletter - your input is needed!

As some of you know, we are planning to launch a newsletter for e-reader devices. In particular iLiad users might enjoy this because this newsletter should become available automatically via the iRex iDS. But of course we want to support other readers as well, such as the Sony Reader.

Yesterday I've started coding the necessary backend. It's going along fine, but now we need your help. Here are my questions and I would love to hear as many answers as possible:

1. What exactly should we include in the newsletter? Right now I've written the code to include all frontpage articles of one week, including all replies. A related question: how often should we publish? Daily? Weekly?

2. What is the best PDF format for your device? We've discussed PDF formatting ad nauseum, but I'd be happy if you could help me and just write it down here instead of me having to find out by scanning the older threads.

3. How should we make the newsletter available to disconnected device, such as the Sony Reader? Via a simple download or via e-mail subscription?

That would be all for now!

Related:
Proposed MobileRead newsletter, Whatever happened to MobileRead via iDS?
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Old 01-25-2007, 01:37 PM   #2
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I guess once a week.
We'd need all news, all new threads with the first entry and all threads with at least one new post that week.

If someone could write a little app. that would make it so when we are connected to the site it would prompt us to plug our reader, whatever it is, and write directly to it. Of course there are security issues. They have to be addressed. I would'nt want to have anyone write anything on my reader, and I would'nt want viruses.

It's a great idea Alex!
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Old 01-25-2007, 01:53 PM   #3
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Still not sure why the current RSS feeds are sufficient... Then anyone can use their favourite tool to convert it as it best to their device...
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Old 01-25-2007, 01:59 PM   #4
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I agree with jaed, RSS seems like a good choice. Anyone could still generate a PDF out of it with what we're implemeting on Feedbooks for example.
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Old 01-25-2007, 02:00 PM   #5
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The best PDF for me right now is 'not a PDF at all' - I've got an ETI-2. :/
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Old 01-25-2007, 05:50 PM   #6
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I still only have Palms (Zire and Treo 650) or iPod (a 5G), so I'm not sure how useful my input will be. If there's a choice, I'd prefer RSS like now or via email. If some form of PDF, I'd appreciate it if it was Palm Adobe Reader-able.

Not sure what need you're trying to address that you don't already address here.

(Yes, I want an e-ink reader, but I'm waiting for 2G... and waiting... )
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Old 01-25-2007, 06:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Studio717
I still only have Palms (Zire and Treo 650) or iPod (a 5G), so I'm not sure how useful my input will be. If there's a choice, I'd prefer RSS like now or via email. If some form of PDF, I'd appreciate it if it was Palm Adobe Reader-able.

Not sure what need you're trying to address that you don't already address here.

(Yes, I want an e-ink reader, but I'm waiting for 2G... and waiting... )
Well as long as the PDF is dynamically generated, it can be Palm friendly or adapted to anything else that supports PDF.
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Old 01-25-2007, 08:15 PM   #8
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Hmm... I guess I have a different opinion... I'm pretty consumer tech savy, but the myriad of tools to convert docs into readable PDFs on the Sony Reader is really overwhelming. So, I would love it if MobileRead produced a newsletter that I could simply drag to my Sony Reader to view. Someone, I don't recall who, posted an issue of the Economist in PDF. It looked great on the Reader. I'll look for the thread and post here.

Also, I like the idea of an email subscription. That way, I don't have to remember to grab the newsletter.
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Old 01-25-2007, 09:52 PM   #9
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Given that you are going to produce a newsletter (if only because you can), then include all articles for the week even if they never made it to a splash presentation on the front page. Also, include all new and updated posts for the week.

If you want a daily version then include the new articles for that day along with associated threads. I would favor a version that had all new and updated threads for the day.

Now I know this could be generated on the fly as each person requests his or her own copy. My background is big iron (read mainframes) and the policy there would be to select a date change (like GMT) and preproduce the newsletter so all we have to do is to download it. This ensures that we don't miss an article if we download Wednesday's daily version 3 hours after we downloaded Tuesday's daily version or get the same article twice if we download a few hours earlier on the second day.

RSS is nice and great for those that like it. I never liked the process that much and dropped using it. For me the chance to read MR offline on the Sony Reader sounds like something I would enjoy. I could (and would) explore areas that I don't get into now.
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Old 01-26-2007, 02:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ojleblanc
Hmm... I guess I have a different opinion... I'm pretty consumer tech savy, but the myriad of tools to convert docs into readable PDFs on the Sony Reader is really overwhelming. So, I would love it if MobileRead produced a newsletter that I could simply drag to my Sony Reader to view. Someone, I don't recall who, posted an issue of the Economist in PDF. It looked great on the Reader. I'll look for the thread and post here.

Also, I like the idea of an email subscription. That way, I don't have to remember to grab the newsletter.
I could do this with RSS, instead of using some tool, a simple URL would do the trick and format everything for your Sony Reader (or any other device).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rwood
Given that you are going to produce a newsletter (if only because you can), then include all articles for the week even if they never made it to a splash presentation on the front page. Also, include all new and updated posts for the week.

If you want a daily version then include the new articles for that day along with associated threads. I would favor a version that had all new and updated threads for the day.

Now I know this could be generated on the fly as each person requests his or her own copy. My background is big iron (read mainframes) and the policy there would be to select a date change (like GMT) and preproduce the newsletter so all we have to do is to download it. This ensures that we don't miss an article if we download Wednesday's daily version 3 hours after we downloaded Tuesday's daily version or get the same article twice if we download a few hours earlier on the second day.

RSS is nice and great for those that like it. I never liked the process that much and dropped using it. For me the chance to read MR offline on the Sony Reader sounds like something I would enjoy. I could (and would) explore areas that I don't get into now.
Well... I could store the last time you downloaded the PDF and then generate the new PDF only with articles published after this date. This way you generate the PDF whenever you want, and you're always up to date with all the news.
I don't think that preproducing is such a big issue, it would be easy to generate this in realtime...
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Old 01-26-2007, 04:55 AM   #11
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A dedicated newsletter would be superior to RSS because it allows us to pull all kinds of content directly from the database. Example:

Newsletter:
MobileRead newsletter - your input is needed!
<reply 1>yvanleterrible said: ...
<reply 2>jęd said: ...
...

RSS:
MobileRead newsletter - your input is needed!
No replies.

Of course, you could try to write a program that would follow the RSS links and try to parse the replies via complicated regular expressions; but obviously this method is not as elegant as pulling the information directly from the database, plus the RSS + Regex method would cause more strain on our server.

A newsletter could also contain other information, sorted in groups. For instance, we could include a paragraph listing all new polls of the weeks. Another paragraph could mention all recently uploaded forum attachments.

And let's not forget iRex iDS. iRex offers us to host the newsletter via their iRex Delivery Service, meaning iLiad users can synchronize the newsletter directly upon connecting to iDS.

We'd try to keep the PDF as simple as possible from a formatting point of view. So no columns or other difficult structures. Even users with smaller screens, like PDAs, should be able to read them (assuming that they can read PDF). Of course, I am open to suggestion for different file formats. RTF perhaps?

So this is why I think a newsletter could be a lot of fun for most of us. Back to my original questions:

RWood mentioned two scenarios:
1. Weekly: all articles, including new and updated posts. Here, the newsletter could become quite huge which might be a problem. Plus, what do we do with an article whose posts span over several weeks? Should we just include the updated posts, meaning skip the old stuff? Take the Some suggestions for Software Updates article for example. Currently it has 178 replies. Assume we have two new posts by the end of this week. Should the newsletter only include the article's title plus the two newly added posts? What if these posts refer to earlier posts which were included in last week's newsletter or even before that?

2. Daily: all new and updated threads of the day. What about if you cannot download every day and hence occasionally miss a daily newsletter? Would updated threads still make sense if you missed the earlier updates and hence the posts?

I hesitate to generate the newsletter on the fly and customize it for each user. Firstly, it wouldn't work with iRex's iDS service. And secondly, it would generate considerable strain on the server.

This discussion is going very well.
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Old 01-26-2007, 09:44 AM   #12
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True about the amount of information, that could be daunting.

Since we already have an excellent email 'subscribed thread' notification, how about:
Complete weekly news, new threads of the week with the original post and a simple list of all updated thread titles. That would make up around 3 pages if you use smaller fonts and single line.

By the way I've printed some threads and there is no way to change the font size to take up less paper space.

A daily newsletter would be too much and some days there would be no news.

And maybe you could put up a 'On request' option for those who do not wish a regular feed.
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Old 01-26-2007, 10:29 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
A dedicated newsletter would be superior to RSS because it allows us to pull all kinds of content directly from the database.
Yes... But I'm not sure what the newsletter would give that the current rss feeds do currently. It would be more elegant than html scraping, but what does it *add*...?
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Old 01-26-2007, 10:38 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Yes... But I'm not sure what the newsletter would give that the current rss feeds do currently. It would be more elegant than html scraping, but what does it *add*...?
While our RSS feeds only display the first post of each article, the newsletter would display the entire thread with all replies.
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Old 01-26-2007, 10:57 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
While our RSS feeds only display the first post of each article, the newsletter would display the entire thread with all replies.
And, in the rss feed, there's a link from the article to the discussion of that article...
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