On

Not quite as offline as i expected – good. So here’s what happened:
On sunday i was in a casual scholomance run with my lvl 59 rogue in a pickup group of ten when my ibook suffered from random slowdowns. The symptoms seemed eerily familiar. An incomplete diskdump later it became clear that my two-month-old harddrive was quite dead, again. Seriously, these apple care protection plans might seem a bit expensive, but considering the trouble i’m going through with apple’s hardware lately i wouldn’t go without them. Interestingly the trouble just started one week out of the default 1-year warranty – just a coincidence i guess but without apple care i’d be royally fucked at this point.
As a sidenote, when bringing my ibook into repairs i had a chance to play around with a m… mouse for a few minutes and it’s actually even worse than i anticipated.

The new last.fm

A few days ago the news that last.fm merged with audioscrobbler (they’ve been deeply interconnected all along, so i don’t really know what to make of this so-called “merger”) made the rounds. Being an active user, but hardly visiting the site (most interaction happens by way of some nifty menu extra residing in the menu bar) i went there to check it out, but couldn’t reach the site whenever i tried. Right now it appears to be up, so go check it out – it’s all very red and it’ll take some time to get used to, but it’s a neat, unobtrusive service and you don’t have to do much besides listening to music to use it. You can find my profile here. Great example of object-centered social software &c.

Slate Audio Tours

I’ve been rather skeptical about podcasts in the past but slate audio tours looks kinda neat – unofficial museum audio tours. Their usage of rss enclosures for delivery seems funky: 11 audio chapters in separate mp3 files + pdf map as distinct items without any frame holding it all together – it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll go about publishing new content in this channel. (via boingboing)
Come to think of it, it needn’t necessarily be unofficial museum tours for this to be neat – publish your lame, old official museum tours freely on the web for instant appeal to the podpeople and watch the white earbud-toting masses stream in. Even if you know squat about rss or enclosures and just dump a link to some mp3-file onto your dusty website you’ll easily get away with calling it a podcast in these podcrazy days for additional webcred. Any museums already doing this?

M… Mouse &c

A new apple mouse with more than one button and a name that makes me cringe whenever i come across it. Which uses only one button and touch-sensors to distinguish between left- and right-clicks. Which apparently has the unfortunate side effect of forcing the user to lift his index finger from the left-“button”-side of the mouse before you can actually perform a right-click. In case this isn’t glaringly obvious to anyone outside apple’s qa department: Dumbest. Thing. Ever. I’ll have to have a play with the m… mouse at my local apple retailer, but i really don’t see this working very well.
While i’m bashing apple: this article about user interface shortcomings in spotlight is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good start. The mac user interface is steadily deteriorating, but looking at “nine things kde should learn from mac os x” it’s easy to see why i haven’t switched to something else yet: the mac isn’t so much good as it’s a lot less bad than its alternatives.

Web Application Pricing

Alex King recently wrote about the feedlounge investment and mentions a few interesting numbers about launch and maintenance costs. He also expounds on a possible $5/month pricing for the pro-plans, a price-point corroborated through reader feedback, though there’s no indication that this will indeed be a final price for a paid feedlounge plan. They asked for some feedback in a recent newsletter and in response to the “how much would you be comfortable paying for the paid version of FeedLounge” question i wrote:

Considering that i paid $25 for my NNW-license i’d say i’d be comfortable with paying up to $40 per year if it really has something to offer that i can’t get out of a desktop-aggregator, otherwise possibly less. I wouldn’t be particularly happy with a monthly subscription rate as i usually find these on the expensive side. This is something that imho flickr got right and backpack got wrong.

A few thoughts on this: with lots of free or open-source desktop readers, the advent of online services like bloglines and rss support in mainstream services and browsers such as my yahoo!, firefox and safari, rss readers are quickly becoming commodity software. Only a minority will be willing to pay for rss readers soon, much like browsers are commonly expected to be free these days. When you’re about to introduce a for-pay service or application in this area you’re not really competing against the free alternatives any longer – you’re competing against other for-pay services and applications. I don’t have a pre-release feedlounge account, but let’s just contrast feedlounge with my feedreader of choice, netnewswire, purely based on pricing. Netnewswire is available as a free lite-version and a for-pay version with additional features and for all i’ve heard about feedlounge they’ll offer free and for-pay versions as well. The for-pay version of netnewswire costs $25, Alex King mentions that based on preliminary feedback a lot of people would be willing to spend $5/month for feedlounge – that’s $60/year, a pretty steep price difference. Feedlounge would have to be a radical improvement over netnewswire to make me jump ship, and i already regard netnewswire one of the finest pieces of software i’ve ever used, so that’d be quite an accomplishment. What i find interesting here is the difficulty of competing against desktop-software with a web-application. If you really have to charge $60/year for your web-based feedreader to cover operational costs and keep afloat you might have a hard time competing against desktop-software. Charging $5/month instead of $60/year might cover the real costs to some degree because, let’s face it, a pack of cigarettes or a coffee at starbucks costs as much, but as soon as your customers start doing the math and comparing the alternatives, you might be in trouble. Unless you aren’t competing against desktop-software at all – flickr isn’t competing against iphoto or anything else on the desktop. What they’re doing wouldn’t work offline, the web isn’t just a platform of choice, it’s the only possible platform for a service like flickr.
Don’t get me wrong, i’m not trying to bash feedlounge before i’ve even tried it. I’m just curious whether the people behind feedlounge have anything up their sleeves that’ll make it more than just yet another feedreader and if not it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll succeed against their competition on the desktop based on equal grounds – ease of use, features and pricing. But then, perhaps i’m just behind the times and desktop apps are really on their way out – just look at email and think about how many of your peers haven’t used a desktop email client in years. Most people i know are perfectly content with gmail et al – not that they are paying for webmail, though…
To get back to the monthly vs yearly payment thing, the day after i replied to the feedlounge survey with above quote i came across a post by Chris Heathcote about subscription fatigue. He writes:

So what about pure Internet services? I think there will even be a push here to make more one-off purchases rather than continual drains of cash. Compare, say, Flickr to the old-fashioned way of pricing – Typepad and Backpack. Flickr is $24.95. Sure, you are actually buying one year of service, but it’s sold as a one-off purchase, a yearly event; far less taxing that a constant auto-renewing drain.

Well, uhm, i agree with this. Go read.