18 October 2008


Started playing with Flock recently.

In part because Opera, no matter how much I love it, has a tendency to bog and crash when using it for news feeds. Especially when you are following 100 different blogs and news sources.

Flock runs off the Mozilla engine and like SeaMonkey and Camino, seems to run much faster than Firefox, which all three are supposed to be built on top of. In fact, it seems both Firefox and Opera have become bloatware in their own right, hogging computer resources and grinding along far more slowly than anything else on my Mac.

So far, I am happy with Flock. It's integration is wonderful, though I still have to try posting to this blog for the built-in blogging tool that comes with it. Still, I have one click connectivity between my daily reading, this blog, my e-mail, and del.icio.us. If I want, I could expand that to include Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Pownce, Twitter, YouTube, Photobucket, Picasa, Piczo, and all the major blog services. It even has as menu-driven set up systems for creating connections with things it doesn't already automatically connect to.

So, yes, as you might expect from all that, the purpose of flock is to more seamlessly integrate technologies for a social Web, sometimes called Web 2.0, as if it were some strange irruption divorced from all that came before.

The only complaint I have about flock so far deals with its newsreader, which is what I am using it for. The reason I was using the Opera news reader until I got sick of bogs and crashes is that it serves the news reader through the mail reader. This gives you three window panes: folders, titles, and content. As with many mail readers, it allows you to filter and hide read items so you only see the unread ones, making it easier to see just how many new items there really are (yes, there is a number in the menu too, but seeing the items is so much clearer). You can, as with any mail, assign labels to important things, and create folders to move things into for future reference. Of course, it doesn't create local copies, so if the threads disappear from their online source you are left with titles that no longer link to content. But still, a very nice, effective way to read the feeds.

Even in its most condensed format, Flock doesn't really let you see more than six news items from a feed at a time, making it very hard to find unread articles you may have missed in a large list.

So, three things that would greatly improve the feed reading experience on flock:

  • The ability to switch to three pane, e-mail style reading, or at least the ability to condense all the way down to one headline per line for fast skimming. Even with the controls on s a separate line, two really tight lines would work just fine.
  • The ability to create folders in the "Saved Articles" list just like you can in the main articles list so that you can organize important things. Perhaps the point of omitting this is to actively encourage you to use del-icio.us for storage of interesing information.
  • The ability to filter / hide previously read articles while looking at new ones.

The only other complaint is that it seems to ignore all posts over 100 from any feed. Bad if you want everything. Good if you have a bit of OCD when it comes to reading the feeds, since it means you can never have a situation where you are now faced with hundreds of new items from one source because you've been busy or away for a while.

So summary: If you are a Web 2.0 person, Flock really seems to be the way to go. A little quirky, but not horribly so. And in the face of a few missing features you get many more in terms of drag and drop subscription tools and one-click connectivity between a whole array of online tools.

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