Compliments from Ton Zijlstra

While I wrap up Fraidycat 1.1.3 — which solves the conflict with Firefox’s ‘Strict’ Tracking — here are some kind words from someone who inspired the organizational aspects of Fraidycat, Ton Zijlstra.

A neat addition is also that it shows sparkline graphs next to the name of a blog, so there’s a visual cue as to the frequency of posting. This is something I’d like to see in other readers too. It’s a functionality that might be extended with an alert of changes in the normal posting rhythm. E.g. someone falling silent, or suddenly blogging up a storm, or covering a live event could perhaps stand out with a visual cue (such as changing the color of the sparkline graph). The sparkline is the only cue concerning the number of postings, there’s no indication of how many ‘unreads’ there are because Fraidycat doesn’t know that (as it doesn’t fetch content). This is a good way of preventing any type of FOMO cropping up.

I should also mention that the graphs are getting a subtle tweak in this next minor release. In Fraidycat, the graph is pink (or electric blue in dark mode) if it is showing two months of history and gray if it is showing six months of history.

But, if the site has been inactive for six months, there is no graph.

Example of sparklines in Fraidycat.

Up until now, it would show the pink graph if the blog had recent updates and the gray graph if the blog was stale. However, I’ve changed this.

In 1.1.3, the pink graph will show only if there are more than three posts in the last three months. Otherwise, the gray graph will show. This obviously makes sense, because we want to show the data at a scale where there is enough to see.

The wonderful side-effect of this, though, is that this makes it even simpler to discover inactive writers who have become active again. Previously, the gray graph only ever appeared at the end of the list. However, now when you see a brand-new post with a gray graph, it’s a visual indicator that a very infrequent writer has been sighted again. (I’ll leave it up to you to optimize which colors you mentally want to filter for.)

Here is an example of two sleepier blogs that posted today:

Example of inactive writers posting suddenly.

Key with Fraidycat is that it aims to break the ‘never ending timeline’ type of reading content that the silos so favour to keep you scrolling, and that most feed readers also basically do. Fraidycat presents all the feeds you follow (and it is able to work with a variety of sources, not just regular RSS feeds from blogs) in the same way: the name of the feed, and one line of titles of recent postings.

The pleasant effect of this is that it shows the latest postings of all your subscriptions, not just the latest postings. This means that regular posters, oversharing posters and more silent voices get allocated much the same space, and no single voice can dominate your feed reader.

I am thankful for Ton’s words, because his writings on (I kid you not!) ‘social distance’ were foundational - they really helped me feel confidence in Fraidycat’s sorting method. I am very sorry to Ton that his term got hijaaked!! I continue to use it with his original meaning.

(I’m also very glad for his OPML dump. I used it like crazy during testing.)

You can read some of my favorite takes from Ton’s work (who has been blogging for decades now) on my ‘Infostrats’. Another brilliant word he coined!!

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