Shrook Thoughts, Day Two

I am too much of an impatient spazzmo to wait, so even though I was pissed off at not being able to import my OPML file, I went ahead and migrated most of my subscriptions the hard way. I copied the link from my FeedOnFeeds panel, and one at a time created new channels in Shrook. That’s when Drawback Prime started to kick in – Shrook crashes. Not like once in a blue moon, but a lot. It did four or five times while I was importing my subscriptions and approaching a dozen times since. I don’t believe I have seen it run for a solid hour yet. Whether this is related to the brand new support for OS X 10.2 in the 2.0 product I don’t know. I do know that it is pretty hard to use a tool that disappears on you with such alarming regularity. I’m half considering setting the same keep-alive script as I did to keep the also crash prone RadioLover (which has gotten much better in recent releases) up and running. Thus far, it is a little disconcerting. At least it seems to be keeping most of my state between crashes, so I’m not losing that much.

Big Drawback #2: The web client isn’t really usable for serious work. Last night I tried to use it the same way as I would the FeedOnFeeds. Reading the posts in one of the blogs I follow, I clicked the “mark as read” link. As tedious as it would be to do it 8 times to mark the 8 of 10 articles I wanted to mark, I was willing to try it. The results of that didn’t leave me in the same page – the group view – with that article gone but took me back to my front page. To do the next one would have required navigating back to it to follow the second link. The tedium of doing this just went up dramatically. I can’t see myself really using the web client in this incarnation.

Another annoying bit of usability problem is that the 2-panel view that I prefer (the leftmost of the 4 panels is nearly useless to me and the third not that much better) seems to be tied to actually viewing a post. If you go navigating through your groups, whenever you reach a point where are are not actively looking at a post, you automatically bounce back to the 4 panel view. I hate that. In fact, until you pick an article to read you can’t even get to the 2-panel view because the place where that happens is a button in the article panel that isn’t there when there is no article being viewed. I think that’s bad UI design. If you are reading along and hit the end of your new blogs, the “move me one down” logic bubbles all the way to the left, when it moves me from “Library” (my subscriptions) to “Channel guide” (canned list of RSS channels from when you first started.) Is there any real need for reading my subscriptions to flow into this list of suggested channels? By definition, anything in there to which you subscribed has already been viewed so this list is now composed of a mix of things you’ve already read and that you don’t care enough about to subscribe to. Navigating into it does nothing for the user. Where this tool needs to be optimized is playing to the strong suit of the folks who would want to use this – people who are trying to manage many RSS feeds and want to quickly and easily read their new news. I’m finding lots of impediments to that in ways large and small.

Even though this might sound like I’m down on the program, I still quite like it. I can even see registering it just to keep the money flowing and increasing the chances of it being improved in the directions I would like. It still does need the work though. The crashing frequency is unbearable.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.