Google Reader (the Google online RSS reader) got a bigass update last week, and although I’m practically using it daily I didn’t really look into any of the new features it has until now.
Once again they improved on an already good concept, so Bigup the Google kru! Boh!
Keeping up with a ton of websites is easy peasy with this web app, and it’s fast too. I love the shortcut keys, which makes it easy to process a ton of items in no time by clicking the j/k keys for the next & previous function, while starring the items you want to read later on with “s”.
It also includes a sharing functionality now (shift-s), which is funny because I faked exactly the same thing with the previous version by publishing a feed of all the items I labeled with a “share” label.
No need to do that anymore I guess, and now I also have a neat looking share page as well. I’m pumping it through feedburner as well, because it doesn’t seem to pick up using the firstRSS plugin, probably because Google is publishing an atom feed, and not a plain RSS one.
I’m using firstRSS/sideRSS to publish a “what I’m reading” list in the sidebar in case you’re wondering. It seems to be nicer to do it that way than post a ton of links on the blog every day right?
After reading this lifehacker article about using reBlog as a newsreader I got less satisfied with using my Bloglines account for reading and aggregating my RSS feeds.
The idea of skimming through new posts from all different feeds quickly and only marking those of interest that you feel like reading later seemed like a good and fast way to process the ever growing amount of information.
Bloglines doesn’t really allow this in a fast and easy way. I started looking for a way to do this, and the closest I got was to go through the feeds as ussual and “clip” whatever I felt like reading later on. This worked ok, but it’s mighty slow. Using the “Clip this” link opens a popup, loads a text editor as you can also blog from the same window, and then you have to click the “Save as a clip” button. Then it does a form post and then you can manually close the window. Too damn slow indeed.
Setting up a reBlog isn’t something I have gotten around to myself yet, but I checked out the Google Reader again and that seems to be pretty damn close to the approach mentioned above. So I exported all my Blogline feeds using an OPM file, imported the list in Google Reader, and gave it a shot.
You can skim through the latest feeds using the j/k keyboard shortcuts, and mark everything for later detailed reading by pressing the “s” key, and thus “star” it (like in GMail). Later on you can go back to the starred items, and start reading your selected articles and posts.
And it’s fast too of course, cause it’s full of AJAX-Google-magic powered sweetness.
There’s some things I still need to work out though. In Bloglines I was a number of folders to store feeds I didn’t really read, or at least not frequently. Those show up in my feed list now with the occasional post, which I skip. I’m guessing those feeds don’t really belong there, and I should store them somewhere else, and pick them up from there if I have some spare time to read them.
I also had a “trash” folder where I stored feeds I used to read, but felt like they had more noise than signal to them. There doesn’t seem to be a way to excluded or deactivate feeds without completely unsubscribing from them in Google Reader, so I’ll have to kill those permanently now, and hope I wont be subscribing to them again in the future without knowing I already did that at some point.
And of course there’s tagging. You can tag posts (using some nifty ajax-magic again, try the “g-l” shortcut keys), and actually publish a new feed from a tag you selected. Now that sounds nice doesn’t it? You can even have the tagged posts emailed to people and all, but who still uses email these days when you have RSS right? Well I do, but lets not go into that. Anyway, I’m pleased with the Google reader actuallly, and I didn’t quite think much of it at first. It looked too damn simple, and actually that just where it power lies now.
I guess it simply doesn’t hurt to check back and reevaluate things now and then.
Just found out about this neat feature in Bloglines which allows you to integrate those typical announcement-only mailing lists as an RSS feed.
Every time you create one of those Bloglines email feeds, a unique email address is created, which you use to subscribe to that particular mailing list. Every mail sent to that address will be listed as a new post to the feed.
Bloody brilliant innit?
I had to search for it a little while before I found where they hid this neato feature, so here’s how you create an email feed in short:
in your feed list click “Add”
click Email groups
click “Create an Email Subscription” at the bottom
enter the feeds data, and click the create button
after the refresh, you’ll see the email address listed to use for this feed
subscribe to the mailing list using that address
and you’re done
There’s some more creative options to exploit this kind of feature of course. You could also create a email feed for a Todo list for instance, or use this to have reminders from your Yahoo! calendar (or any other service) compiled into a reminder-feed.
RSS and Atom are here to stay. That’s for sure as more and more sites are putting up feeds, and it’s a great way of checking updates fast and ruthlessly efficient just like the Spanish Inquisition.
Keeping up with a number of news sites and fora (yep, all those php boards should have RSS feeds imo) has been a lot more convenient since I found out about RSS aggregators or feedreaders. I started out using the Open Source RSSOwl, written in Java, to keep track of my favorite feeds. It does just that, and it does it well, but the thing that annoyed me was that if I read a number of feeds at home, and I checked the same feeds at work, they where unread again… which is completely normal, since there is no way to synchronise the two different systems. Well, there might be a way, by manually exporting to OPML from RSSOwl oslt, but that’s too much hassle for me anyway.
But basically I started looking for an online, web based RSS reader, which would solve this issue nice and easy.
It was harder to find one than I thought, mainly because there are a lot of RSS aggregators online, and to filter out those that are purely web based isn’t as easy as it seemed at first. But after some clicking and refining searches I found a few, of which most I discarded quite quickly because they where either too limited, or because they required payed subscription.
I know! What are they thinking! Isn’t the internet supposed to be freeeee!!?.
Anyway, then I came across Bloglines, which turned out to be just what I was looking for.
It’s concept is simple. You register a number of feeds, you get those in a frame on the left, when you click a feed, you see the new items on the right. When you click the folder you’ve assigned the feeds to, you get an aggregated version of the feeds inside the folder.
Simple as that.
The GUI is basic, which is what I prefer, and quite responsive, which is nice.
Blogs can be added manually, or you can use the built in search function, and even check out some of the blogs/feeds they suggest you might like, depending on the ones you have already picked out.
A nice feature is the possibility of marking posts as “Keep new”, which keeps them.. euhm, new… as in, “you’ll see them in the new items as long as you keep that checkbox checked”. Handy for those, need-to-checkout-when-I-have-more-time things.
The feeds are updated server side, every hour or so, so that is in fact not as fast as your offline reader since that one will fetch the feeds itself over the internet, which will ensure you always have the freshest and latest at your fingertips.
Just a small inconvenience imo, and looking at it from a bigger perspective, Bloglines is doing us all a favor by saving our precious bandwidth by caching the feeds onsite for all subscribers.
Yes, Bloglines is making the internet a better place for all us geeks to surf in, and as a geek you might also appreciate this neato feature no offline reader has to my knowledge (with is pretty limited when it comes to this subject in fact, but I’ll take this chance anyway). Each feed also displays the number people that have it in their feed list… so if your own blog is in there, you can see how many people are actually reading your ramblings! Now how cool is that from a geeky ego tripping perspective!? Pretty damn cool if you ask me, and I have like one subscriber for my blog, and it’s ME!
Oh, wait, that kinda sucks… oh well.
Oh yeah, you can set up a blog there too, but as you can see, that wasn’t really necessary in my case.
And I’ve added this button on my blog as well that allows you to easily add it to your feed list in a single click! Well, maybe not a single click, but you wont have to touch your keyboard if you’re lucky.