Ask the Web.AppStorm Editor #3

Over the past couple months, we’ve started a new Ask the Editor series across the AppStorm sites. As you may have heard, I’m the new editor of Web.AppStorm, and am excited to get to answer some of the questions you have sent in over the past several weeks.

In today’s edition of Ask the Editor, we’ll see how you can read your Twitter, Facebook, RSS, and more together, tips for getting started building webapps, and ways to get inspiration. Additionally, we’ve got a special section with tips from our Twitter followers on managing multiple Gmail accounts. If you’ve got another pressing question about webapps, feel free to send in your own question at the end of this post!

Is there a web app that aggregates Twitter, Facebook, and a RSS reader, marking the read and unread items of all these services?

-Gabriel Fernandes Monteiro

A webapp to aggregate webapps definitely sounds like a good idea. The biggest problem with networks like Facebook is that they end up being data silos, with all of your data saved in that network and nearly impossible to move. Thanks to RSS feeds and APIs built into most major web applications today, though, you can build services that bring all of your data together from all of the networks you love.

The one webapp that does the best job integrating tons of networks and services, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader, is FriendFeed. It’s a social network in its own regard, and feels somewhat like Facebook mixed with the publicness of Twitter. But, if you just want an integrated way to view your Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader updates in one app, it works good for that too. The only problem is, FriendFeed was purchased by Facebook in 2009, and their blog and service have seen few updates since then. So it’s a service you can use for now, but it may not be around for forever.

FriendFeed: Owned by Facebook, updated by none

Another great app for bringing together your Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, and more is Seesmic Desktop. Seesmic Desktop is actually a Windows and Mac desktop program, so it’s definitely not a webapp, but it does a great job letting you bring together your updates from literally dozens of services. Seesmic Web, the webapp version, lets you integrate Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, and a couple more services, but doesn’t include RSS feed support.

Seesmic brings all of your networks and services together

What are good starting points for building web apps? Or apps/extensions for Chrome?

-ripu jain

Reading about exciting new webapps can get you wanting to create your own. Today, there are many eBooks, guides, and websites that can help you learn how to develop in HTML5 and CSS3 to create future-proof webapps. Here’s some of the best resources, once we’ve learned from and use regularly:

  • Mark Pilgrim’s Dive into HTML5 is a Creative Commons licensed eBook that you can read for free online or purchase from O’Reilly Press. It includes detailed information about HTML5 in a beautifully designed site. Best of all, it’s an interesting read.
  • Designing for the Web is another free online eBook that you can purchase to read offline if you wish. This helps you think through the best approaches for designing sites and apps that are user friendly, and includes information on typography, layouts, design, and more.
  • Chris Pine’s Learn to Program is available to read free online, and is a great resource for learning Ruby programming from scratch. Even if you’re not planning on using Ruby, it’s a great introduction to the world of coding.
  • W3Schools is one of the best reference sites for CSS, HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and more. Be sure to bookmark it; you’ll be coming back frequently!

Dive into HTML5 is an amazing resource for learning to develop webapps

Once you’ve learned how to design web apps, it’s not a huge leap to design Chrome extensions. The Chrome team has put together a great guide to creating your first Chrome extension. That site also includes all the documentation you’ll need to get started creating even more powerful extensions. Then, if you want to create Safari or Firefox extensions, check out their respective documentations for more info at the Safari Developer Program and Mozilla Extension Wiki.

I’m interested in developing a cool web application. What do you think the internet is missing today? Do you think the world needs a simpler task management app , a better online personal organizer, a better personal diary app …

-Anand Narayan

As you can quickly see from Web.AppStorm, there are thousands of amazing webapps out there today. So many, in fact, that it can quickly feel like there’s no where to innovate. For almost any given app you can think of, there’s likely someone out there who’s already made an app like that. Does that mean you shouldn’t try to make a better one? No!

One only has to look at Flow, the newest task management app, for proof of that. There are so many GTD apps, including the ever-popular Mac programs Things and Omnifocus, as well as webapps such as Remember the Milk, Producteev, Wunderlist, and so many more. That didn’t stop the Flow team. Instead, the took the very best of Mac app design, brought it to the browser, then created a super-powered todo list that could take on Basecamp for project management! Flow is one of the nicest webapps we’ve used lately, and shows how much innovation is still left in webapp design.

So whether you take an existing idea (task management, email, diary, or anything), or come up with something no one has ever made before, there’s plenty of room for innovation. If you’re stuck for ideas, reach out to your network: your Facebook and Twitter followers, blog visitors, and more. Or, check out communities like BuilditWith.me, that aim to bring designers and developers that have great ideas for apps with others that have the know-how to build or design apps.

BuilditWith.me has tons of inspiration and opportunities to collaborate

And, of course, once you’ve created an amazing new app, feel free to let us at Web.AppStorm know about it. We’d love to know what you’ve created, especially if you were inspired by our articles!

Your Say!

In a slight twist, this week I asked our followers on Twitter: What’s the best way to manage multiple Gmail accounts? I’ve got a standard Gmail account, as well as several Google Apps accounts on other domains, and it can get pretty confusing keeping up with all of you mail. My problem isn’t unique; most of us have many accounts to keep up with nowadays. So, I thought I’d see how everyone else handles this, and got some awesome responses, including the following:

By the way, you can download this extension, Gmail Checker Plus, at http://enva.to/mKyiVo

That’s a lot of different ways to manage your email. Thanks for all the answers, everyone! Want to join in next time? Be sure to follow us on @webappstorm

Until next time…

That’s all for today, but there’s always another opportunity to get your questions answered. What would you like to learn in the world of webapps? Got a difficult problem you’re not sure how to fix with a webapp? Fill out the form below, and we’ll pick the most interesting questions to answer in the next installment of our Ask the Editor series!



  • Dan

    I would recommend checking out http://www.Gtdagenda.com for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  • http://www.twitter.com/marcloney Marc Loney

    Regarding the list of resources on building web apps I full heartedly recommend Mark Pilgrim’s Dive into HTML5 as one the best resources for getting a real feel for HTML5 as it was meant to be used.

    On the other hand though I would take some issue in recommending W3Schools to beginners looking to get into web app development (or development of any kind), due to the inaccuracy of the information they publish. Take a look at http://w3fools.com/ which is an open letter to W3Schools from a number of well known web developers that most of us probably already follow.

    • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

      Thanks for the tips on W3schools!

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