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Declan McCullagh
Works at Recent.io
Lives in San Francisco bay area, CA
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I don't think I posted previously about this Easter egg that's been in Recent for the last month or so: Type ///time from the search screen to see your boot performance.

I mentioned it in the linked blog post about boot times and bloat...
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Declan McCullagh

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I just posted this: On why the mobile web is becoming so bloated, and how we engineered Recent to load in 1 second from a cold boot. (It's still a few tenths of a second faster on Android than iOS.)

If you're an early user of Recent, you can see your boot performance via an Easter egg: type in ///time from the search screen...
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+Declan McCullagh who do you like in the DNSSEC failure-to-adopt sweepstakes, convergence.io or okturtles.com?
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For iOS users: We received requests to add a sharing option directly from the web page view (after you tap "CONTINUE READING").  I'm happy to say that's in the latest version, build 40, which is on TestFlight.

We already had that direct sharing option for Android users, so it was a shame not to have it on iOS as well. Now it's there.
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PS: Some of the changes in build 40 that are relevant for non-iOS users too: 
- Improved tablet and card view support
- Home tab shows topics for all layout options (very useful for tablets)
- Android Facebook sharing fixed
- Better detection of iPad mini with retina display
- Fixed iOS memory leak bug when displaying web pages
- Added "Load Recent account" option to settings screen (for syncing multiple devices)
- Revamped search screen
- Proposed topics will be shown after boot instead of during boot
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I'm happy to say that a new version of the beta (build 36) is now published for Android and iOS. Just in case anyone's desperately interested, here's the list of changes:

- Revamped intro screen to group topics
- Reverted to square checkboxes (from round)
- Improved relevance of All Topics tab based on topic frequency
- Added "Sample topics recently read" to account statistics (under Settings)
- Added Journo-mode for journalists (makes source more prominent) by typing ///shanklandize into search box
- Added news outlet name to Compact layout
- Added better crash handling
- Added Android preference (in Settings) to share headlines
- Recommended-required counter decrements as articles are read
- Fixed "0.9 minute" to "Less than a minute"
- Changed intro checkbox text to: "Include more news about"
- Back button no longer exits from proposed topics screen
- Darkened gradient on article screen by 25%
- One-time feature reminders now appear at top of Home screen
- One-time popup introducing features appears on article screen
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Declan McCullagh

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I'm very happy and a little nervous to say we've started sending beta invites for +Recent: Your news, customized, now.

What's a bit surprising is that a clear majority of early adopters use Android: nearly 60%. I would have expected the majority to be iOS.

There's a risk of generalizing from a relatively small amount of data, but the breakdown so far is pretty clear. So we may have been correct to decide early on to develop & release simultaneously for both. If had I picked a single platform, it would have been iOS (perhaps because I'm an iPhone user). And that would have been a mistake.
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My decision to use Android was actually a decision to explicitly not use Apple products. Their business practices are offensive. Their unapologetic use of slave labor in China reprehensible. Their tax dodging practice means I will not give them a cent of my money, not ever.
I would not use their products even if it were a condition of my employment. Windows is no better. Android is barely tolerable and Google is almost as evil, but even in our barely morally adjacent culture, Apple should be condemned. They provide absolutely nothing of value commensurate with their absurd prices. It's overpriced garbage made by slaves.

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Declan McCullagh

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We're planning to release a beta Android and iOS version of Recent​ this week! If you haven't already, you can sign up for the beta list here: https://recent.io/

For anyone keeping track, yes, this took a lot longer than we thought it would (some of you were even brave enough to test a prototype last summer!). On the other hand, Recent is much smarter than it was a year ago and, I hope, more useful as well.
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Declan McCullagh

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I'm sorry to hear that Circa​ is on indefinite hiatus. Its founders had the courage to create one of the first companies focused on mobile news, back when it was hardly clear that mobile was eating the world. They devoted years to their vision of helping people learn about the world more easily and quickly—and they influenced other apps that followed.

Circa's iOS app was cleanly designed, fast, easy-to-use, and had innovative features. The obstacle was generating sufficient revenue to pay all those talented writers and editors: Crunchbase says the company has between 11 and 50 employees, which could mean a burn rate of $2M+ a year for 11 employees (perhaps $15K a month with salary, payroll tax, employer tax, rent, insurance, etc.). That adds up quickly.

We took a different approach when building +Recent: News powered by artificial intelligence. AI techniques are now powerful enough, and cloud costs now cheap enough, that an engine to predict what you might want to read can be operated relatively inexpensively—after, of course, the significant engineering costs involved in building it. The Recent engine attempts to deeply understand the day's news; after some 14 months, it has 1.8 billion entries in its index hosted on Google App Engine. And today's operating costs are, as of noon PT, only $10.87.

Our philosophy at Recent is that journalists should be freed from mundane tasks like grouping articles together (which Circa's editorial staff did) or assigning them to different categories based on topics. The Recent engine performs topic assignments and clustering automatically, as you can see in the below screenshot from our iOS app. Journalists' unique talents should be used to research and report.

Some good reporters and editors at Circa may now be looking for jobs. Circa editor-in-chief +Anthony De Rosa has posted more information, and if you're in a position to hire, please take a look: http://www.antderosa.com/2015/06/24/team-circa-editorial/
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Declan McCullagh

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So I dropped off the signed signature packet at Fenwick & West (photo below) to incorporate https://recent.io/ as a Delaware C corp. before public release. It's an exciting moment (for me, at least!).

Even reaching this incorporation step took far longer than I thought after I left CNET/CBS last year. Note to founders just starting: Debugging and testing on multiple platforms and a bunch of different devices will take far longer than you expect. Note to journalists: creating a company is a lot harder than writing an article, or investigative feature, or even most books! 
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I'm happy to say that a new Recent beta is now available! The biggest difference is supporting orientation changes (that is, landscape mode). We hadn't planned to do this, but those of you with tablets felt strongly, so we devoted the engineering time to make it happen. That includes using four side-by-side cards by default for larger tablets in landscape mode.

We've also added a battery saver, which reduces network activity by disabling preloading. You can turn it on via the settings screen. Note even if battery saver is turned off, Recent will conserve your battery by performing no background operations.

Besides bug fixes, other changes include:
- For new Android users, changing default "CONTINUE READING" to use the system browser instead of the webview component. (Existing Recent users can adjust this in settings.)
- Adding "+" add topic button in main screen menu in landscape mode or on tablets
- Adds topic search and card view option during initial signup

Google has published the new version, build 46, and it's in the Play Store as I write this. Unfortunately for iOS users, Apple has not yet published the new version; it's usually a 10-minute delay but after 45 minutes it has not yet appeared for TestFlight users. :( I'll post here when the iOS build is published.
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Yay. New version for my new phone. A cheap Blue phone. Delivered today
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I've been pleasantly surprised by early interest in using Recent on tablets. While a tablet version has been on our roadmap, given our limited resources we've spent minimal time testing the current version on tablets and it looks, frankly, pretty ugly.

But something like 1 in 10 of beta users are already using Recent on tablets, so we're doing to do a bit more to help as an interim step. The main screen layout will now default to the tablet-suitable card view, which will also be used for the search, bookmarks, and history screens. The left menu and certain other UI elements will be sized appropriately on tablets. The article screen will be more responsive. These and a few other changes will appear in the next build.

We've also fixed a fatal tablet-specific bug that appeared at launch only on tablets of a certain size.

Note this is not a beautifully revamped tablet version of Recent -- this is just enough tablet support not to be so ugly! We didn't think early users would be this enthusiastic about tablets, but you are, and we want to make you happy. :)
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And build 40 is now on the Google Play store...
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I received this feature request via email from an iOS user and was wondering if other folks with iPhones would echo it. The request is: "Would like system share sheet to appear first. Really no need for custom share sheet. I most frequently save to instapaper. Share to email: subject of email should be title of article."

When you share on Android, Recent hands off the data to the OS sharing mechanism immediately. On iOS, a bottom sheet appears with the most commonly-used options first and the OS sharing mechanism under "More sharing choices..."  (See screenshot.)

Is there interest among iOS users in adding an Android-style sharing mechanism immediately as a preference in the Settings screen?
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I'm happy to say that after talking to some iOS users we've added this feature. Here's a screenshot: https://goo.gl/photos/piDLdoj9UmAGuoKx6 It will be in the next iOS daily build.
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Declan McCullagh

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I’m sorry to learn that +Circa has been unable to raise another round of funding. They are a competitor, true, but it’s incredibly difficult and painful to start a company and their app is well done.

I suspect Circa’s experience shows that hiring something like 20 writers/editors to select and summarize a subset of the day’s news may not be the most viable approach. One thing I’ve learned while building https://recent.io/ is that it’s more expensive initially to write code, but less expensive once the recommendation engine is complete (even with Google App Engine frontend instance hour costs!).
Mobile news app was unable to raise new venture capital funding.
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San Francisco bay area, CA
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Washington, DC
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Entrepreneur, software developer, writer, pilot. Now creating Recent.io.
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Creating forthcoming news recommendation engine and Android/iOS app -- sign up for the beta at Recent.io. Ex-CBS, CNET Networks, Wired, Time Inc.

Living on San Francisco peninsula. Recent-related email: beta@recent.io. Contact: declan@well.com and http://mccullagh.org/.
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Founder, Recent Media (http://recent.io/)
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  • Recent.io
    2014 - present
  • CBS Corporation
    2008 - 2014
  • CNET Networks
    2002 - 2008
  • Wired
    1998 - 2002
  • Time Inc.
    1996 - 1998
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