‘Carthage must be destroyed’

I have about 630 RSS subscriptions and I read them all through Kinja. In making that admission, I become a Kids in the Hall punchline: “I have A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARDS MENSTRUATION. That’s right, I’m the guy!”

Either I’m just terribly avant-garde or something is seriously wrong, because I know all you A-listers use NetNewsWire and swear by it. (One-third of my hits are from newsreaders.) Well, nearly two years ago I started adding blogs (short for “Web logs”) to Kinja and simply adapted to its approach of using a single-page Web site to list RSS excerpts with links. I can read blogs from my friend’s place or any of my computers. It’s actually convenient, though this approach is unimaginable without tabbed browsing.

Recently, Kinja was taken down for an overhaul. I had to do without it for a weekend and I nearly went nuts. I tried all the Macintosh newsreaders, each of which was unusably slow with that many subscriptions – e.g., five minutes to start up, and a minute and a half at best to simply display a list of items from a site, plus a similar delay to show the item. And even then you aren’t reading it in a browser; you have to switch. (Using the other machine with Safari as default browser, every entry opened in a new window. What is this, 1999?)

I tried Bloglines and it didn’t even load the OPML file correctly; I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that Kinja exported invalid OPML and always did. I also could not put up with the two-pane metaphor of Bloglines; I am, it should be noted, a Eudora/Pine man for E-mail and use single windows there, too.

I am aware that my choice of Kinja is nonstandard, but it has not been made illegal yet to make nonstandard choices. In theory the RSS standards themselves should permit nonstandard choices in the way that Web standards permit you to use batshit-crazy devices like Opera for Macintosh or Jaws for Windows.

I was told that Kinja’s CSS, if nothing else, was scheduled for an upgrade well over a year ago, though that did not happen. What we have now is a Version 2.0 of Kinja that uses an unchanged approach; now, thought, Kinja also spatters the screen with Sploidesque roundrect boxes listing dozens of allegedly related blogs you can read. (I have never been able to tell if they are all taken from the set of my existing subscriptions, or all not, or a mixture.) There’s so much hovering involved to make the user interface for each square visible that it’s scarcely ever worth it.

Plus those blobs further the complaint of Patric(k) King (q.v.) that Weblog owners – including, apparently, Denton – have no conception of visual hierarchy. (Yes, I’ve disagreed with Denton before, but so what? I don’t give a shit. I feed links to Gawker; I write for Fleshbot; I use Kinja. It doesn’t really matter if I have objections; this isn’t a boycott.)

Notes and observations on Kinja usage

  1. To add a blog to your digests, you can manually enter its own URL or its feed’s URL, or you can use a bookmarklet once you are viewing the actual page. This works well with a site Kinja already knows, at which point it presents a trading card for that site (see mine). If it doesn’t know the site already, it acts like a drooling slack-jawed yokel (“I ain’t never heard of that thar ‘blog’ ”):

    Alert screen reads: Weblog does not exist. Sorry, the specified weblog does not exist in Kinja

    I wasn’t asking if it existed in Kinja or not. You can’t just go fetch it right then and there?

    You can subscribe anyway, at which point it thanks you:

    Alert screen carries the heading: Thanks for suggesting blog.largetony.com for Kinja
  2. Some of the functions on the trading cards (like Gez Lemon’s readability analyzer) merely send you to some other page and do not feed the URL in question into that remote service. As such, the links are pointless.

  3. When I subscribe to blogs that Kinja does not know of, I do not leave the process with any conviction at all that I really have subscribed and really will view postings. Additionally, there are quite a few sites to which I subscribe and also visit from time to time, and I often find postings during the actual visit that never made it through to the feed.

  4. The Kinja bookmarklet should immediately add a blog to my favourites, not present me with its card and its tiny, hidden “Add to My Kinja” link. If nothing else, make that link the size of the Titanic and use JavaScript to bring us back to the original site à la Delicious.

  5. If I try to use the bookmarklet to suggest a site Kinja has never seen before, which is kind of a strange concept, all it does is add it to the system. Obviously it should also add it to my digests; that’s what I wanted in the first place. Kinja seems to want me to:

    • remember which items I submitted to a system that should auto-discover them anyway;
    • remember to keep checking back after the site is “crawled”;
    • and resubscribe then
  6. The system gets confused if you try to subscribe from a permalink page. Unless the homepage and item page have different RSS feeds, I never want to see an alert like this:

    Alert screen shows a base URL and a full permalink and the heading: Sorry, the weblog you requested wasn’t found in Kinja. Pick from one of the suggested URLs below to add the site to Kinja
  7. The system remains confused even if there is only one choice:

    Alert screen shows a single URL and the heading: Sorry, the weblog you requested wasn’t found in Kinja. Pick from one of the suggested URLs below to add the site to Kinja
  8. I don’t really know how to subscribe to only one RSS feed from a page that offers several.

  9. It should go without saying that Kinja pages are not valid HTML. It should go without saying. But this afternoon my digest page is valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional and has more-or-less-adequate semantics. As of this afternoon, Kinja manifestly is not a Failed Redesign.

  10. You may add tags to each blog. I suppose this is great if you are a new user, but I’m not going to go back and tag 630 sites.

  11. Tags containing a dot or ending in a space are deemed “invalid.”

  12. If I add only one blog, “Your bookmarks have been added” (plural) is incorrect.

And in an amusing case of circularity, your collection of RSS feeds in Kinja are themselves an RSS feed that one may subscribe to. Hall of mirrors?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.01.18 18:16. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2006/01/18/kinja/

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