A Brief History

For years, I had used various news collectors on the 'net - programs and sites that promised to build the greatest personal portal an ape could ever want. Never truly satisfied with the various options out there, an evolutionary process was apparent however. I bided my time, living with the lies of perfection and hoping for something better.

Chapter One: The Plant is Seeded

I fondly remember starting with My Yahoo!, settling for the twenty or thirty sites I could stick on one of a few templated pages, and changing the colors to reflect my "bad coffee" / "good coffee" moods. I thought this was the greatest possible portal available - who could beat the mighty Yahoo!?

Chapter Two: The Geek Arises

Then the Linux geek starting rumbling in my throat and, on a learning jaunt through Freshmeat, I discovered Daily Update, now called NewsClipper. I was ecstatic! A program which had unlimited possibilities for plugins and unlimited design potential due to it's templates. For months, I used NewsClipper but eventually noticed a common problem in many open source projects: entropy. Plugins stopped working and were never updated. Bugs weren't being fixed. Not knowing Perl at the time, I was helpless to save my beloved portal.

Chapter Three: Ishmael Cast Aside

Dejected, I returned to the smaller, but functional My Yahoo!. It slowly became a scar. My interests were changing, and Yahoo! wasn't following them. Entropy visited My Yahoo! as well - customized color schemes were no longer welcomed feature upgrades. I grew listless, and cast off the shawl of "portal", content to spending hours a day going through bookmarks for my news.

Chapter Four: The Pink Whale Caught

The sky turned blue again the day I found OnePage.com. They didn't try to force pre-jarred content down my throat. They pointed me to a small box, said "type in the site you want", and allowed me to clip parts of that site into one page. Immediately, I spent a weekend splicing all of my bookmarks into OnePage.com. When I finally finished, my daily routine was shortened by an hour or more. OnePage.com saved my dying portal lust and remains a favorite to this day. 'Course, nowadays, the site is dead for end-users, but hey...

Chapter Five: Syndication Masturbation

Throughout the above, a syndication format was slowly being introduced, embedded in the then-whispered halls of XML. Netscape began the trend with a format called "RSS" in their My Netscape service. Dave Winer from Userland had started the same initiative with a format called "Scripting News".

The goal? To allow easy access to the latest news of any site that participated, without the need for HTML, images, or any of that other crap that clouds up what we really want. Eventually, Netscape and Winer collaborated, releasing an improved version of RSS which only cemented it's usefulness.

Suffice it to say that years later, around the same time I was falling in love with OnePage.com, RSS had become intensely popular, partly due to the enthusiam the industry had shown for XML. Tools were being released to read and write RSS, aggregators and sites were beginning to integrate and share headlines, and I started to reinvestigate the options available.

Chapter Six: Little Orphan Annie Radio Show

Because of my growing interest in RSS and syndication in general, I had become a regular reader of Dave Winer's Scripting News. With furtive murmurs here and there, my lips whispered at night "My Userland on the Desktop", a product that Winer was soon releasing that sounded like the greatest little aggregator that could. I couldn't wait to see it.

A month or so later, rechristened Radio Userland on the Desktop (RUOTD), I got my hands on a beta copy the day it was publically released to the frothing herds. I shook in my boots: this was good! I focused all my energies on it... once again, my weekend was spent tweaking, hemming, and hawing.

A week later, my enthusiam was stronger, but not for RUOTD - rather for the next stage of syndication evolution. RUOTD was a wonderful piece of work, but little things here and there were slowly contributing to a nagging sense of unease. There was something that bugged me about RUOTD - a collection of "should have"'s and "wished for" that seemed too fickle to be acted upon. My primary disgust was user friendliness - this was not a piece of software for my mom, girlfriend, or favorite teddy wearing mistress.

AmphetaDesk appeared rather suddenly one day and nicely solidified a firm distinction between "I wish there was..." and "Hey! I'll roll my own!". See, ever since the Linux Geek starting awakening in Chapter Two, I had taken a firm interest in Perl. Realization dawned: I could code what I wanted! A rushed email exchange with fellow developer William Eastler (how he codes with only three fingers is beyond me) solidified the lust. The sky and sun turned cheerful blue.

Don't jump to conclusions, however. I don't believe AmphetaDesk to be the next step of the evolutionary process. I consider it a step toward bringing RSS aggregators to the masses. There's some unique individual out there who knows the future, he just needs to be pushed in the right direction. And with the ease and happiness of AmphetaDesk, maybe he'll turn on his proverbial lightbulb.

Chapter Seven: A Few Minutes Ago

After that realization, AmphetaDesk is busting strongly ahead, focussing on user friendliness and removing and fixing the nagging desires RUOTD placed in my head, as well as attacking all the discomfort each previous solution (My Yahoo!, NewsClipper, and OnePage.com) had presented.

AmphetaDesk is for you and me. It's for my mom, the mistress I can't believe I mentioned, and the 50 year old gardener who cries when she commits illegal operations. Whereas RUOTD is powerful for the expert, AmphetaDesk is accessible to the neophyte, yet lovable to the hacker.

And if you don't like it, tough... I do.

- Morbus Iff

flesh beings call me Kevin Hemenway