I don’t use Bloglines anymore, but I saw this link to their top 1000 blogs, and will be checking it out for new feeds to add to Google Reader.
Noticed that in Google Reader, where there are audio files embedded in the RSS post, there’s now a little link to pop the embedded player out into a separate window. I think before if you navigated away from the post it would disrupt the player, so being able to pop it out is a nice little touch. Even if the player didn’t stop if you went to another post, it’s still nice to have it in a separate window for easier access. I don’t usually stream from Google Reader, but in a pinch it’ll do.
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A friend of mine just informed me that when you e-mail stories from Google Reader, that e-mail doesn’t show up in your Sent Mail mailbox. I hadn’t realized this. Google Reader used to shuttle these e-mails to my Sent Mail mailbox; that was one big thing I liked about Google Reader over other web-based RSS aggregators. ARGH.
Google Reader team: please fix this.
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Earlier today I got linked to an article on louisgray.com talking about how Engadget posts too many updates, causing people to unsubscribe to their feed. This article was spurred by Ryan Block’s post on his personal blog asking, “Is Engadget’s daily wall-to-wall coverage too much of a good thing?” Perhaps I’m just too much of a gadget junkie, but I don’t understand the question. *smirk*
Seriously, though, I guess the question can be asked of several blogs/RSS feeds that update too often. However, with the “river of news” method of reading RSS feeds in Google Reader and other aggregators, how difficult is it to just scroll on by? I do admit that I do not scour hundreds of feeds in order to stay on the bleeding edge of all things tech or whatever for my blog, so maybe my POV is not one that applies to this question. But when someone commented on Ryan Block’s blog post and said it takes him a half-hour to plow through 60 stories, I was truly puzzled. Does it take you that long to scan the headline and realize you’re not interested in the article? Perhaps my uber-skimming causes me to overlook some articles I’d otherwise be interested in and would perhaps blog about or share in my Google Reader shared links, but often if a story is interesting enough, I’ll see it pop up in other RSS feeds and I’ll eventually read it. Again, I’m not a professional blogger, so YMMV.
I do admit to checking Engadget and my other favorite feeds several times a day, so I guess that’s another way to break down the reading into more manageable chunks. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think 60 posts a day is overly much for a gadget blog that has high traffic and a sizeable editorial staff. I guess I also have a rather focused set of categories of gadget tech that I’m interested in, so if Engadget goes on a tear and reports about all these LCD TVs or monitors that were announced in a day, I’ll probably scroll past all of those entries. A lot of the silly USB toy posts will get quickly skimmed over. Though I’m interested in new cell phones, probably 80% – 90% of the stories posted about a new, thin cell phone with generic specs will get skipped over. River of news is a lot more efficient than clicking on each article headline to preview the article text, e-mailbox-style. Maybe that’s why that guy was taking so long to view a mere 60 articles. *shrug* Maybe you need to have a short attention span in order to get through prolific feeds??
Oh well. It depends on your level of attention, and need for the information that these various feeds are pushing out. I’d have to say, though, that if you’re a gadget blogger and don’t read feeds like Engadget, you’d miss a lot of stuff. I’d recommend reading your feeds in a river-of-news style so it’s easier to get through them. I guess if any one feed is too prolific, just unsubscribe. It’s okay. Really!
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I =love= Google Reader. Ever since they improved their format for the feeds, I’ve been using it exclusively. (Yeah, I dabbled again with Pulp Fiction Lite for about 2 seconds after I set up my iMac, but ran back to Google Reader.) I even like the mobile version of Google Reader for viewing on my phone, even though it’s missing some of the features of the full version.
My one wishlist item for the moment: that I could see my starred items organized by feed. Right now, if I click on the link for starred items, they’re all mashed together. Hard to search for an article you think you starred to keep around for reference.
There are many other wishlist items I have, but I wanted to quickly write about this one, since I had to deal with this limitation recently.
More wishlist items later.
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As I mentioned in my previous blog entry about the new changes to Google Reader, there is an option to share feed entries on a publicly-accessible site. Google Reader also offers an RSS feed for it. So I’ve added the RSS feed to my blog’s sidebar.
If you’d rather see the HTML version of the feed, check here:
Or, if for some reason you want to add the RSS feed to your own aggregator, here’s the raw link:
So at least if I am not able to blog about things due to busy-ness or laziness ( ), I can still share interesting articles with you guys this way. I’m warning you all right now, a lot of the articles are probably going to come from Engadget, Gizmodo, JKOnTheRun, or GottaBeMobile, so if you read all of those sites already, my “interesting links” feed will probably seem redundant. But I am interested in stuff beyond gadgets (shocking, no??), so occasionally other feeds will show up, like Moleskinerie, or DPReview, or perhaps even a link to a podcast or two.
Another warning, I may get tired of marking items for sharing at any time, but I’ll at least try it for a week or so, to try and add content for you all to check out between blog posts. Let’s see how the experiment goes…
Last night I stumbled upon a story about the changes that Google made to their web-based RSS aggregator, Google Reader. Then I saw the article on JKOntheRun about it, after I went to check the new Reader out. I didn’t like Google Reader much before because the interface for scrolling through the feeds was kind of clunky. There was this smooth-scrolling sidebar that listed your feeds, and then when you clicked on one, the sidebar would then list the stories in that feed. It was too slow to navigate many feeds in a short amount of time.
But now they’ve changed it up, and I like it! The integration with Gmail is particularly nice. Sometimes I will use Furl or the e-mailing functionality in Newsgator or Rojo to forward articles to my friends, but I would inevitably forget to copy myself on it, so I didn’t have a record of what stories I forwarded, or to whom I forwarded the stories. Now with Google Reader, when I e-mail a story, it gets stored in my Sent Mail “folder”. Nice!
I haven’t played around with it too much yet, but I know I like the “river of news” expanded view, because it matches the way I read my RSS feeds. I basically just choose one feed and skim the articles until I end up at an old article I’ve seen already. I prefer this method over the “list view” in Reader, which looks like a Gmail view of article headlines — the headline is analogous to the subject line of your e-mails, and then there is an excerpt of the article presented following the headline. If you have Gmail you know what I’m talking about. I guess I kind of sort through my interest in articles by the photos that accompany the headline. Then if there aren’t any photos, I take more time to consider the headline. Sort of judging a book by its cover, I know, but hey, that’s how I skim my feeds.
There is a way to mark articles to share them on a public page that you can share with other people, kind of like how people on Digg can see what their friends have been Digging, or how del.icio.us/Furl users can see what other people are reading.
Another new (?) feature in Reader is the ability to stream audio and video (?) content, like podcasts (or netcasts, like Leo Laporte would like to rename them ). Actually, I’m not sure if video content can be streamed through Reader, because I know there are some Gizmodo articles that embed YouTube videos, and those weren’t visible in Reader.
I probably won’t use this feature very much because I prefer downloading the content and listening/viewing it offline on a mobile device, but again, it’s a nice feature to take advantage of in a pinch.
I’m glad to see these updates to Google Reader. I am more inclined to use it now, because of its integration with Gmail, as well as its clean, simple interface. I was switching back and forth between Newsgator and Rojo (mainly using Newsgator recently, due to Rojo’s flakiness during their upgrade) ever since I decided to go back to online RSS aggregators instead of desktop apps. I really like Newsgator for the most part, and I may still switch to it if Google Reader starts acting up, but for now I’m going to stick with Reader for the next few weeks or so and see how it works out. Yes, I’m willingly getting sucked into the Google Grid.
GreatNews is my standalone RSS reader of choice. Last weekend I did a "blitz test" of a bunch of other standalone RSS readers just to see if there was anything possibly better. I tried out a TON of different ones, like SharpReader, FeedReader, FeedDemon, Awasu, etc… None of them bested GreatNews for the way I liked to view my RSS feeds.
IIRC, FeedReader had a similar "newspaper" layout like GreatNews, with different styles, but it ultimately lost because there was no way to mark individual entries to save them for later (that I could see; please correct me if I'm wrong). GreatNews has a feature where you can "label" a blog entry. It's basically an implementation of tagging to save and categorize certain blog entries (although I've found that labeling blog entries doesn't actually save the entry to your machine, which is disappointing; if you delete the feed, the labeled entries disappear, too). That's the main way I mark off RSS entries that I want to blog about later, or just save them to read them in more detail later. I think FeedReader also lacked "e-mail this entry" capability, too, but don't hold me to that.
FeedDemon, for all the praise it gets, reminded me of why I dumped NewsGator as my online RSS reader — sometimes feeds aren't fully updated. I loaded up Engadget and my other RSS feeds into FeedDemon, and when it downloaded the available entries, a lot of the feeds were only partially downloaded. The Engadget feed's latest entry was from earlier that morning, and I knew for a fact that it had been updated since then. I tried to futz around with FeedDemon to try and make it really update the feeds, but it didn't work. Useless. Plus it didn't have a similar newspaper layout like GreatNews. Yes, it has a "river of news" view (IIRC), but GreatNews does one better and can lay out the blog posts into two columns, as if you were reading a newspaper, if you choose the "newspaper" style. There are other layout styles to chose from in GN, but "newspaper" is my fave. If you are handy with CSS style sheets, you can create your own layout style to use within GreatNews.
The rest of them lacked one feature or another that GreatNews had, so they all got uninstalled as quickly as they were installed.
I decided to stop using Feedlinx for a few reasons, the biggest one being when I clicked on a link to e-mail a blog entry to someone (from within GreatNews, not an e-mail link that some blogs have embedded in each entry), it would fill in the Feedlinx link instead of the original post link. Luckily the Feedlinx link had the original link at the very end, so I just had to delete the junk in front of it. But that was a fussy step I didn't want to deal with.
In addition, I started to see some entries that I know should've been marked as read by Feedlinx still left as unread. In general, I have not actually been reading RSS feeds on computers/devices other than my Tablet, so the syncing feature hasn't really been necessary. For the few times I did check my RSS feeds on a different device, like my Pocket PC, there weren't many new stories on the feeds, so it was easy to tell when I'd hit stuff I'd already read.
Finally, I did not like the fact that GreatNews would load up stories I had already seen, merely because their titles were updated with the "::R::" string that Feedlinx uses to mark stories as read. Kind of defeats the purpose… Before I really knew what Feedlinx was and how it worked, I just envisioned a service that would centrally keep track of read articles, and whatever wasn't marked as read would get pushed out to your RSS reader. Instead, Feedlinx just puts a little string at the beginning of read entries so that when you're visually inspecting the headlines, you'll see you marked certain posts as read earlier. Gets the job done, but not in the way I had hoped. It's definitely an interesting service, and I'll check up on it from time to time to see how it evolves, but I will not be using it on a regular basis anymore.
Getting back to GreatNews: After I moved all of my feeds back over to their original feed links, I noticed that clicking on the "Email This" link for a post would still bring up the Feedlinx version of the post link! @#$! I couldn't get GreatNews to stop doing this until I completely deleted all of the feeds, and then reimported them. What a total PITA.
So while I love GreatNews, it still has its bugs. I highly recommend GreatNews to anyone looking for a standalone RSS reader. If you have a different reader that I haven't mentioned, please post a comment. I'm always on the lookout for new programs to try out.
I was going to post a comment about GreatNews and RSS Bandit in response to Shannon (creator of Feedlinx) under my blog entry about Feedlinx. But I thought it would be better to make the comment into a blog entry so that more readers can see the initial impressions I have about the two RSS readers without having to dig through comment threads. Both RSS readers earn points with me because they're freeware, yet they both have a lot of great features that are similar or surpass features on commercial/shareware RSS reader software. I'm actually more inclined to buy/donate to software companies who offer their applications for free…but let's not get into a debate about that.
I'm grateful to Shannon for mentioning GreatNews. I did a quick search for the developer's site and checked out the application. Its feature of displaying the stories in a more newspaper-like layout was intriguing, so I installed the app and tried it out. It is very nice! I love the different layout styles (there are more than one) that use two columns, making the "river of news" look more newspaper-like. Very cool for reading RSS feeds in slate mode on my tablet. Actually, the different styles available are just CSS files, so you could create your own. I already saw a couple posted on the discussion forum for GreatNews at the developer's site. This might just push me to learn some CSS to create my own styles.
At first I was going to take away a point or two from GreatNews because it seemed like there was no way to view the feed headlines, in case I didn't feel like viewing the stories in a "river of news" layout, but I figured out that I just needed to enable viewing the "News List" under the View menu. I liked how RSS Bandit could either display news stories in the "river of news" format (which I often prefer), or as a list of headlines, like a list of e-mails in your e-mailbox that you can click on and preview individually. So I was glad that GreatNews has the same feature.
Both GreatNews and RSS Bandit have tabbed browsing if you want to use the internal web browser to view links from the stories, but I set both of them up to bring up links Firefox instead (too dependent on mouse gestures and such). Both RSS reader programs somehow know to open up a Gmail window in Firefox, rather than try to open a dormant installation of Outlook Express (awesome!).
In actuality, both GreatNews and RSS Bandit have a lot of similar features, but they trade off with the more interesting features. RSS Bandit allows you to comment on a feed entry if certain comment protocols are supported. GreatNews can track comments as an RSS feed, given certain circumstances/support. RSS Bandit supports Usenet newsgroups. GreatNews uses tagging to keep track of feed entries you want to save (very Web 2.0), while RSS Bandit uses the more conventional "flagging" of an item to save it for later.
I haven't fully explored either program, but for right now, GreatNews's nice "river of news" layouts are winning me over. Perhaps in a week or two I can post a follow-up to see which one eventually "wins"…until I find another RSS reader to try out. (The centralized "syncing" service that Feedlinx offers would make trying out new RSS readers a lot easier…note to self to enter my "essential" feeds into Feedlinx sometime soon!) In the meantime I suggest you check out each program's feature lists (GreatNews here and RSS Bandit here) and try them out yourselves. If anyone has any comments, or new suggestions for RSS readers I should try, please post in response to this entry.
Last week I decided to try out a standalone RSS reader application again, to see how it would compare to using an online RSS reader (mainly so that if Rojo or whatever online feed reader I'm using goes down, or has some maintenance issues, I have a "backup"). In the process of trying to find a decent freeware RSS reader — I decided on RSS Bandit; will blog about it separately later — I found out about this free service called Feedlinx. It is not a typical online feed reader service like Rojo or Bloglines. If you use it one way, you can essentially convert your RSS feeds to automatic e-mail lists (you can control the frequency of the e-mails).
However, the more interesting way of using Feedlinx is to sync up the read/unread status of your feeds with any RSS reader you use, online or standalone. As I understand it, you enter your feeds into Feedlinx. It will, in turn, convert your feeds into a special Feedlinx URL that you plug into your feed reader of choice. So if you use a standalone reader at home, and another standalone reader at work, each application will reflect the same read/unread status for your feeds. Same with using an online reader.
I haven't yet tried out this service, but if it works as promised, this can free you up to use different methods of monitoring RSS feeds without having to do manual synchronization (if it even applies to the particular reader you're using), as well as keeping feed status synced between different devices like your tablet and your PDA/Smartphone.
Pretty cool! I will try this out sometime and report back on how well it works. If anyone tries this out before I follow up, please let us know how it works out.
I saw a post on JKOnTheRun about how Google has come out with a mobile version of Google Reader, their online RSS aggregator page. It’s rolled into their mobile personalized Google page that also has links to Google News, Gmail, and of course regular, plain ol’ Google search. I thought this might be a good way to get mobile RSS feeds on my black RAZR so that I can stave off my longings for a PDA phone a little longer. Well so far the RAZR was more of a zero than a hero.
I admit, I only have the bare-bones GPRS data plan from T-Mobile since I do not use the web on my RAZR much. (I’m sure if I had a better data plan I’d use mobile browsing more.) But even just trying to get out to a simple URL on this phone is a major PITA. And scrolling down a little page to get to what I want is agonizingly slow. So far I am 0 for 3 in trying to load up the mobile Google Reader page. I’m going to try a few more times just to prove (or disprove) that the site will work on my phone, but UGH I want a PDA phone already! WAP totally is teh suXX0rz. *GRUMBLE*
P.S. I know Kevin says in the article I linked above that his PDA phone can’t load Google Reader for some reason, but I would just use a mobile RSS reader like NewsBreak from Ilium Software, or hit a site like Bloglines. Unfortunately my online aggregator of choice, Rojo, doesn’t have a mobile version yet.
If you don't know what I'm talking about when I mention RSS, don't worry because
- I'm planning to write a more thorough post extolling the virtues of RSS later
- The link that I'm going to talk about may cause you never to need RSS (which would be a travesty).
Anyway, I like to use an online RSS aggregator called Rojo to keep track of the various websites that I like to follow, like Engadget, Lifehacker, Boing Boing, Google News, a bunch of Tablet PC-related blogs, and on and on and on… Sites like Rojo allow you to aggregate the content from several websites onto one page so that you can get all of the information from those various sites (as long as they provide an RSS feed link) in one place. Using a news aggregator can also show you what sites have been updated, when they're updated, so that you don't have to waste time hitting a certain page every so often, only to find out that it doesn't have any new content. But the main advantage to using an aggregator (online or using a desktop application) is that you can view a lot more information in less time. Some would argue that RSS aggregators can be huge timesinks because you can hit more websites in less time. Let's save that argument for another time, shall we?
The site I want to talk up is a different kind of web aggregator, though. Instead of you setting up which websites to track, popurls.com has a predefined list of sites that it presents headlines for (in the case of media sites like Flickr, it presents thumbnails) in a sort of 3-column-newspaper kind of motif (sort of).
I stumbled upon popurls.com accidentally. IIRC, I was reading a comment thread on Lifehacker about what RSS aggregators people liked to use. I visited the site and was very impressed. It takes popular "Web 2.0" and/or news websites like Digg, Flickr, Youtube, Fark.com, del.icio.us, etc. and presents their top 20 stories (or pictures or videos) of the moment. I'm not sure how often they update the site, but I'd guess it's updated at least hourly to keep the content fresh.
I was going to intersperse some screenshots here, but WordPress is being a PITA, so I'll just mention a few things about the site and let you explore it further, if you wish:
- Its design is nice and clean
- At the top right is a little toolbar of sorts that lets you customize the look and amount of content on the page, as well as open a little form to enter a search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com, Technorati, Amazon, and Wikipedia
- You can hover over the headlines and get a little "tooltip" story summary
- At the end of the list of 20 headlines, there's a link to display more stories, which extends the column of headlines
- The media sites that are tracked (Flickr, Youtube, Google Video, etc.) display sets of thumbnails that nicely break up the columns of text
- There is a very good diversity in site coverage — it isn't just all tech news sites
A lot of the sites that popurls tracks were new to me when I first visited, so I think a lot of people would find new and interesting content here. Since their goal seems to be tracking the "latest buzz", you can get a pretty good idea of the major stories that are on the Net's collective mind. Popurls is a good alternative if you like which sites it tracks, and aren't really inclined to create your own account on an online RSS aggregator or set up your own desktop application. Even if you already have a favorite RSS aggregator, I think Popurls is a good supplement.