Ribbonfarm is Now Mobile-Friendly (Sort Of)

by Venkat on November 19, 2010

After lazily sitting out the mobile revolution so far, both as a reader and writer, I am making my first grumpy concession to the tiny-fingered-squinters. I just installed the WPTouch plugin which miraculously makes WordPress sites mobile friendly with just a few clicks (where would I be without all these free plugins?). If you use, or would like to use, your iPhone, Blackberry or whatever else to read ribbonfarm, go ahead and try it right now and let me know if it works for you. I tried my ancient iPod Touch and it worked fine.

There were some annoying configuration hiccups but I think I’ve figured them out. Fingers crossed.

I’ve no idea why anyone would attempt to read my typical 1500+ word posts on a mobile device. Seems like an exercise in masochism to me. But apparently many of you already do, going by the small but significant (and growing) percentage of traffic that comes from mobile devices.  I’ll be watching the stats with interest to see if the better support increases the numbers.

I am quite the Luddite when it comes to mobile. I have to admit I hate the trend. I don’t like pecking away at tiny keyboards and squinting at tiny screens. I only have this iPod Touch because I won it in a contest.

But at some point, sitting the mobile revolution out would be like doing my writing longhand or on a mechanical typewriter. So I suppose, now that I’ve started down this slippery slope, I’ll cave at some point and buy a smartphone.  And then I’ll figure out a perspective that makes me a rabid fan, and allows me to join the digital-leash hordes.

Seriously though, for those of you who DO love this damn digital leash, what do you like about it?

Dan November 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I like the fact that I can read your 1500+ word posts on the train journey to work ;-) Among others.

Guillaume Theoret November 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

While the mobile version of the website won’t be that useful to me personally, it would be useful if I commuted over land rather than underground without a cell signal.

Pretty much all your posts I save to read later with instapaper and then read on the metro to/from work.

Stefan K November 20, 2010 at 2:24 am

I would probably not read a new Ribbonfarm post on my mobile, but I I have reviewed several on train rides. I also read other (shorter) blogs on train rides.

I’m on the fence about mobile reading. You can also think and meditate on the train when you are lucky enough to have non-annoying people nearby. But when there are, you can close yourself off with light blog reading. But I did not do it often enough to justify renewing my internet plan, so my iPhone is a fancy notebook and calender now.

While you hate the mobile trend, I hate the Twitter trend. I have signed up and given up twice, first when it was the hot new startup, and a second time when everybody was on there. I think I “got it” immediately: people like Guy Kawasaki or Steve Pavlina should Twitter. Politicians should too. Stars should twitter to lots of followers. Non-stars could follow some stars, but should never twitter themselves. Twitter allows the non-stars to delude themselves about the number of people that reads what they twitter. I prefer media that don’t, like e-mail, forums, and blogs.

If I seem unenlightened, please awaken me.

Venkat November 20, 2010 at 9:27 am

Hmm…

I’d actually say those are the people who should NOT twitter. I think there are studies showing that so-called celebs have very little actual influence.

Twitter is more a way of making new friends, for regular people.

I am not a huge Twitter user, but unlike mobile, I don’t have strong feelings for or against. I find it a fascinating world to observe, and a somewhat useful world to personally participate in. I blogged about it nearly 2 years ago, but I should probably do a new post about it…

dybyedx November 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I personally feel that Twitter, Facebook and other social crap are all huge distractions which simply steal your focus and attention. I sat out the whole circus and continue to watch it from the sidelines; not that anything amazing would result even if I participated. But that is the whole point. I do not see any outcome out of these experiments that is of serious value. The whole social media exercise is a bubble of sorts built on the imagined strength of a connection and ridiculous plans of monetizing these. I recently heard that a blogging site named tumblr completed a round of funding with the only thought that “it could be the next twitter.” It feels like 1998 all over again.

Barry Kelly November 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

I do a bunch of marginal reading in bed, often using my Android phone (Nexus One). Let me point out that I (personally) detest “mobile-friendly” versions of almost all websites, save those that use ajax or frames heavily. The “mobile-friendly” versions are frequently implemented as redirects from the non-mobile version, and all too frequently to the mobile home page; this means that you follow a link (e.g. from RSS, or from a tweet, etc.), but you can’t read the endpoint of the link because it continually redirects to the mobile home page. Online news websites are particularly culpable of this.

Another problem is text that is too large. My device has a pretty high resolution (480×800), which means that text can get quite small before it becomes illegible. More text on screen means less scrolling, which means less fiddling with the device. Almost always, mobile versions use mobile-specific CSS that inhibits the built-in page scaling and reflowing.

That said, I can currently view your website in its normal, non-mobile view, as I’ve enabled the non-mobile view (Google “android non-mobile view” for details) and it shows the normal desktop version on my device, thankfully.

Venkat November 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

Interesting. Looks like there is an opportunity here for a smart usability researcher to figure out what “mobile friendly” actually means, besides the guess work of mobile app developers.

I suspected some people might have this reaction, which is why I chose the WPTouch solution, since it has the option to toggle the mobile view off and return to the basic one.

But reading stuff on your phone in bed? My god, that sounds horrible to me. But that’s perhaps because I am prone to insomnia and have developed a discipline of avoiding all mental distractions in bed, so my mind doesn’t associate bed with thinking. There was a time when I used to read in bed a lot and it did a number on my sleep.

Venkat

Stefan K November 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

In that post, you say: “The twitter zone is the zone of people about whom you get a constant stream of nonessential trivia, ranging from children’s illnesses to tastes in coffee.”

I rejected Twitter as a way of making friends because the stream of trivia didn’t seem rich enough for a growing friendship, while having unnecessary high reach. After that, the only usefulness of Twitter is commercial or political: stars can use it as an additional sales channel to whomever gave them permission. I think the “twitter zone” you define is split up into a richly humanized part (like normal friends) and a part that is actually from the caricature zone: a friendship that is only intensionally defined.

I would be interested in, and look forward to, that new post. If at all relevant, maybe include new insights on social objects and signaling and cloud work?

dybyedx November 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm

@venkat:But at some point, sitting the mobile revolution out would be like doing my writing longhand or on a mechanical typewriter.

Not necessarily, it just could be that this version of mobile computing is like he earliest version of those ugly and monolithic rear-projection TVs that were oh-so popular in late 90s. I will wait for the next version of the real “mobile” device and not burn up my enthusiasm as an early-adopter.

I work in IT but hate the smartphones and other paraphernalia on it. My phone is a monochrome candy version of a phone. I use it to… wait for it… make phone calls.

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