Monday, June 17, 2013

River of News 2.0 will be exclusively for iOS 7

Google Reader shuts down on July 1. If history is an indicator, iOS 7 will be released in late September. That's a gap of about two and a half months. I've decided that River of News will be dormant for that gap.

I'm excited about iOS 7. The design looks great and there are new capabilities that directly benefit an RSS reader. It will be difficult to support both iOS 6 and 7 and will lead to a product that isn't as good as it could be if focused on iOS 7 only.

River of News 2.0 has a new visual design that I love... for iOS 6. It will immediately look old and tired on iOS 7. I want to make a product that I feel is great. The one I'm looking at now won't be great on iOS 7.

I'm sorry that you won't have a version of River of News to use for the next few months. I've received a lot of encouraging emails telling me they don't want the app to go away. But the reality is I don't have the time to make a polished product for iOS 6 and 7. I'm a one-man show for River of News and it's revenue is small. My time is mostly dedicated to developing products for the awesome Savvy Apps mobile agency and it's clients.

I know I'm going to lose some of you as customers and that makes me sad. I hope when iOS 7 comes out you'll reconsider River of News because you want an app that is designed exclusively to be great on that platform.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

River of News (not) for Google Reader

Boooooo, Google!

You may have already seen the news that Google is shutting down Reader on July 1. I never understood why Google didn't try to expand Reader's usage and extract value from all of that data. Google is in the business of selling targeted ads, right? Google Reader is my gateway to the Internet. Even more so than search, it reveals my interests and creates an accurate profile of me.

You are probably reading this post because you want to know what will happen to River of News. The short answer is I don't know, yet, what it will look like but I intend to keep River of News alive in some form. I've put too much time into it and I like the product too much to abandon it. And the iPhone version is kick-ass! I read my feeds constantly on my phone which I never did in the past because I didn't like any of the available apps.

My suggestion to you is not to panic and don't feel the need to immediately find a replacement for Google Reader. You don't need to do anything for three months. Google Reader and River of News will continue to function.

The most important aspect of Google Reader is the ecosystem around it. The technical functions of syncing your subscription list and aggregating content from multiple sources are straightforward to replace. (That doesn't mean it wouldn't be time consuming to implement but the path is clear.) What is hard to replace is the ubiquity of a single platform that uses the Gmail account you already have and is accessible from any browser or tons of native apps for every operating system and device.

That's why I'm not going to decide my next move immediately and I encourage you to wait before finding a replacement

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Excitement!! Thrills!!

Thank you so much for all of the thoughtful responses you gave to my survey. It kills me that I have to turn so many people away but I received four times as many responses as I have slots available. I sent out invites this afternoon. I learned a lot from your responses and it was good reinforcement that I'm building a product that people want. I think River of News for the iPhone will hit the mark for a lot of you.

My wife said I should have been more excited in my last post.

I'm really excited about the iPhone version! I was never quite sure if the scrolling and swiping would translate well to the smaller screen. There's a lot more space to work with on the iPad and it's more suitable for long form reading. You may not sit down to read a long article as often on the iPhone but the navigation principles in River of News work beautifully on the device. Scrolling and swiping are simple and consistent gestures that you can execute with one hand.

One of my biggest complaints about iPhone apps are deep navigation hierarchies that require me to maintain a mental model of where I am. It's a small screen so app designs often feature lots of screen wipes that lose context. Think of the common newsreader hierarchy. It starts with folders, then you tap into feeds, then you tap into article summaries, then you tap into a single article. That's four levels to go down and back up with screens that often look kind of the same.

Remember the two screen shots I posted the other day?

There it is, your entire app hierarchy. It's two levels with distinct visual designs and no screen wipes. If you want to navigate to an entirely different spot in your feed list you open the drawer and choose the feed. Isn't that better than tapping up through three levels of lists and then back down again?

Of course, swiping between feeds carries over from the iPad to the iPhone. You don't ever have to look at your feed list. Lists aren't fun. They feel like work. The goal is to enjoy the content, not manage it like email. Set up your most commonly used feeds in Google Reader to be sequential and you just swipe through them.

You are often doing things in short chunks of time on the iPhone. You have a couple of minutes to kill so you start up your newsreader. Do you want to spend your time choosing this or that or from little lists or do you want it to show you big pictures and engaging content? Do you want to find little buttons to tap while one hand is carrying a grocery basket and you are shuffling in line, or do you want big sweeping gestures like scrolling and swiping?

Something else I don't like about many iPhone apps are tiny pictures and unhelpful ten word snippets of text. This doesn't draw me in. It doesn't tell me whether I want to read the article. Most of the time it causes me to just gloss over the content and three minutes later I'm done and I haven't read anything. When I use River of News I read things. Big pictures and full article text gets me interested.

I'm reading my feeds far more than I ever have on the iPhone. Facebook had even replaced RSS as my go-to time killer on the phone. But finally having River of News on the phone changes that. I have a way to read my news that doesn't feel like a chore and fits how I use my phone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

River of News for the iPhone progress update

I've been hard at work on an iPhone version of River of News. It's coming along nicely. The feedback is positive and I think it's a joy to use. (Surprise! The developer likes it.)  Ragnar Freyr has, once again, provided a brilliant design that is beautiful and lets the content shine.

These are screen shots from the unfinished app. They are not pixel perfect (Ragnar is cringing) but will give you a feel for where the app is going.

Beta Testers

I'm expanding my team of smart and shockingly handsome beta testers. I'd had bad luck with people signing up and then disappearing. This is a problem because Apple only lets developers install software on a limited number of iOS devices. If I assign one of my slots to a device, it's locked for up to a year. I'm running low on open slots and I need a high percentage of active participants from this round of sign-ups.

I'm looking for people who access Google Reader from their iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS6. Your device has iOS6 on it if you have Apple Maps instead of Google Maps as the built-in mapping app.

Reasons you might want to beta test
  • You love River of News for the iPad and can't wait to use it on the iPhone.
  • You're opinionated and you wish app developers would listen to you because you have great ideas.
  • You're like me and you have an insatiable curiosity to know how the sausage is made.
  • You want to support an independent developer. You don't want the same four companies to make all of the software you use.
  • You want a free copy of the app when it's released.

Reasons you might not want to beta test
  • You don't have time to deal with an app that has bugs.
  • You're too shy or busy to send emails giving feedback about what you like and don't like.
  • You hardly ever use Google Reader or your iPhone or the two of them together.
  • You would rate every app as 1 star or 5 stars with nothing in-between.

If you'd like to beta test, I ask that you complete a short survey. I'm sorry to make you jump through hoops but I can't invite everyone so I need to gather the best group I can. I'll collect responses through the weekend and send out invites early next week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

River of News is now free to download

A new edition of River of News hit the App Store this weekend. It is now free to download. That's right - free! Tell your friends. Tell your mother. Tell your accountant.

The free version is supported by ads and doesn't have any sharing with external services like Facebook, Twitter, or Instapaper. You can purchase an upgrade within the app to remove the ads and enable sharing.

I have many new things planned for River of News in the coming months.

Edit: I should have made it clear that existing customers who've purchased River of News will never see ads. It's safe to upgrade.

Monday, September 17, 2012

River of News 1.6.1 submitted

I've received a few reports of crashing and stalling in loading feeds. I still don't have a great handle on the problem because neither I nor anyone on my beta team has experienced the issue.

I identified a possible cause and fixed it as well as putting in better crash logging so that I can diagnose problems like this in the future. I'm sorry that it's been frustrating for some people. I try hard not to let that happen.

Version 1.6.1 has been submitted to Apple and awaits the blessing of their app reviewing elves.

Friday, September 7, 2012

River of News 1.6 is in the App Store

Thanks, everyone, for the support and kind words.

Release notes:

✭ Press the couch icon or two-finger tap an article to convert it to Readability view. This works even for feeds with partial text! 

✭ New sharing services Readability and Diigo. 

✭ New preferences in the app. Choose your font, change title sizes and be sure to try out the gestures. 

✭ Bugs were harmed in the production of this release.