NewsFeeds. Just don't get it. Help me to. Get it, that is.
November 16, 2005 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Please help me get the most out of newsfeeds/RSS/Atom/etc in order to best utilize my limited web time.

I switched careers about 6 months ago, and my new job allows me zero internet access during work hours. I'm finding that I'm spending an uncomfortable number of my non-work hours online, just to try to catch up on the numerous sites I like to read.

I been using Thunderbird on a Mac for email and, when it was first available as a feature, I set up a bunch of feeds from my favorite sites. But it just never felt natural or intuitive to me....there's some block there that's keeping me from adopting it fully. Maybe it's not the best reader for me? It's also downloading the same article numerous times, which is a drag to constantly have to delete.

So, please help me optimize my feedreading experience...what's everyone's favorite software? Is Thunderbird worthwhile? Would I be better off using a Google homepage? Money is an object. What are your favorite tips and tricks? I need my life back, damnit!
posted by nevercalm to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
Bloglines is my most favourite news reader. Since it is web based you can access it from anywhere (well, except you, at your work, hehe). The name is terrible but extremely useful and friendly. Slightly more intuitive than Google's web based reader.
posted by furtive at 6:30 AM on November 16, 2005

My favorite RSS feeds are Metafilter and AskMetafilter! What I appreciate about getting these in RSS form is that I can browse the entry titles quickly, then when I go to any of the entries I immediately see the discussion on the thread.

As for RSS feed reader, I use Thunderbird for two main reasons: getting RSS "email style" is the most natural way IMO to receive the feeds, and Thunderbird preserves css style and layout, which is strangely important to me.

My biggest tip is to be *extremely* conservative in the number of feeds you receive. Currently, I receive 9 feeds:
Ask MetaFilter
Coolest Gadgets
Library ELF (very cool, sends me a message when i have books due at the library)

I tried getting straight news feeds, but found that I prefer going direct to websites for "real" news coverage.

You might try upgrading your Thunderbird as RSS support is new and continually being improved. I used to have the duplicate article download issue, but don't with the version I'm using now (1.0.7)
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:36 AM on November 16, 2005

I really like the Live Bookmarks offered by Mozilla. I have them in the bookmark bar above the browsing area. Pull-down, review stories, done.

Simple, no extra software needed.
posted by unixrat at 6:37 AM on November 16, 2005

You're on a Mac and not using NetNewsWire? (The Lite version is free.)
posted by mcwetboy at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2005

I have to second the usage of Bloglines - however, if you want to do offline browsing, Bloglines really ain't the one for you.
posted by antifuse at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2005

I've just jumped on the RSS reader bandwagon within the past month or so, and I've been using Newsgator. It does a number of things I like, but there's also a few things I wish it did.

  • Can display items from all your feeds interfiled chronologically, rather than feed-by-feed. This is nice when you either have only a few new items, or have plenty of time to view all the items in your feeds. (Bloglines, AFAIK, cannot do this.) Of course, you can view items from only a single feed too.
  • Can arrange your feeds into folders, and view all items from the feeds in a single folder.
  • "Mark all posts on this page as read," so once you've read a number of items, you can delete them all with a single click rather than one-by-one.
  • For each item, a single click saves it to a "My clippings" folder, which is great for MeFi/AskMe threads I want to remind myself to check again later.
  • Displays the entire post on the front page, if it's in the RSS feed. That's my solution to the people (not many, mind you, but enough to be annoying) who post very short and not terribly descriptive questions to the front page of AskMe.
  • Web-based.
  • Free.
Things I wish it did that it doesn't do:
  • Keep unread items as unread even when they have fallen off the site's current RSS feed. For example, AskMe's RSS feed includes the most recent 25 questions, so if there's more than 25 new AskMe's since I last checked Newsgator, Newsgator still shows only those 25 as unread. I can view the older ones by going to the "Older Posts" page, but that also includes all the items I had already marked read.
  • Ability to select whether it displays just the post title, the summary, or the full post on a feed-by-feed basis. Showing the entire post is great for AskMe, but I also subscribe to some feeds which have very long posts, and would prefer not to have to scroll through the entire thing in Newsgator. For some reason, just the other day I thought it was possible to do this in Newsgator, but I spent quite a bit of time poking through the preferences and couldn't find it--I may have been confusing Newsgator with some other RSS reader I had looked at.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:06 AM on November 16, 2005

DevilsAdvocate: Can display items from all your feeds interfiled chronologically, rather than feed-by-feed. This is nice when you either have only a few new items, or have plenty of time to view all the items in your feeds. (Bloglines, AFAIK, cannot do this.) Of course, you can view items from only a single feed too.

I'd just like to second this as an essential feature in an RSS aggregator -- I don't actually understand why all solutions don't include it as a feature. If you're digesting more than a few feeds (which it seems is your intention) rolling up all your political feeds to "Politics" for example, is essential.

If the whole idea of an RSS aggregator is to separate content from presentation for more efficient digestion, then grouping feeds by category is a logical extension of this purpose. I read DailyKos, Americablog and Think Progress primarily because I want to read up on new political news -- putting them all together makes complete sense contextually. This feature is even more useful when dealing with and other sites that have complementary feeds -- if I want upcoming events in the Boston area, I should be able to digest Boston, Cambridge and other communities as one chronological list.

Firefox LiveBookmarks and other services that simply (a) display a feed in their friendly format rather than in the original page's format, or (b) simply provide a list of bookmarks to individual articles are useful for lightweight digestion of a few feeds, but don't truly leverage the technology. With tool (a) all you're doing is taking the data from one page and displaying it in another format. That makes your aggregator nothing more than a fancy bookmarks organizer. Tool (b) is even less useful for the digestion of decent amounts of information -- all you end up with is a list of each entry's title and a link to that article.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:39 AM on November 16, 2005

None of the different readers worked for me (although I used some Firefox Live Bookmarks) until I tried Google Reader. Now I'm up to 100 feeds. Give it a twirl.
posted by muckster at 9:10 AM on November 16, 2005

I'm fond of the Firefox extention, Sage.
posted by phearlez at 9:16 AM on November 16, 2005

I have nothing of real value to add, but I would just like to third the Bloglines suggestion. I've used live bookmarks in Firefox and Thunderbird's built-in RSS functionality but never really got into them. For a while I used Opera as my RSS reader and that was pretty good.

But I got tired of Opera, switched back to Firefox and began using Bloglines and I've never been happier with my RSS feeds.
posted by sveskemus at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2005

I know that throwing yet another application out there to try might not seem all that helpful, but after trying a lot of different solutions on my Windows and Linux boxes as well as all of the Mac solutions I could find, I keep coming back to Newsfire. Yes, it costs money to actually use it, and I know you said money is an object, but it's hands-down my favorite RSS reader out there-- it definitely gets the "Mac feel" right. All I do when I want to read news is sit there and hit the spacebar, paging through piles of news and opening link in the background in Firefox when I need more information. I think it's probably the least intimidating aggregator that still has as many features as you would want. I think the non-pay version lets you add a really small number of feeds, just to let you get an idea of how it works, so I'd suggest giving it a try.
posted by ckolderup at 9:32 AM on November 16, 2005

Bloglines w/ "show only updated feeds" set in your preferences. It's the only way to fly.
posted by fletchmuy at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2005

I use NetNewsWire, but I don't use it for sites like MeFi, that will always have new content. I use it for the dozens of sites don't publish daily.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:47 AM on November 16, 2005

I'll second the NetNewsWire recommendation. I've been using it daily since I got my PowerBook in July, and I love it. If you try it and like it well enough to get the full version, NewsGator just bought Ranchero (the company that develops NetNewsWire), so you'll be able to sync your feeds across multiple computers using NetNewsWire (I think only with the full version, though) once they release the next update of it.
posted by Trinkers at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2005

Do any of these other newsreaders do what Shrook does? Shrook loads the page the item links to - not just the text given in the feed - into a WebKit browser pane next to the chronological-interfiled list of items from all your feeds that was admired above. It rocks.
posted by nicwolff at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2005

I use feeddemon and it works great. I'm looking for a job too. I put in a "Job" channel, searched on goggle and used "jobs +my town name +rss" and pulled a number of feeds with my small town in it. Feeddemon has a "unread" feature that only brings up new, or unread links. Hope this helps...
posted by orlin at 1:21 PM on November 16, 2005

43 Folders: Too Many RSS Feeds? Put 'Em on Probation.
posted by WCityMike at 2:01 PM on November 16, 2005

hrook loads the page the item links to - not just the text given in the feed - into a WebKit browser pane

Netnewswire does that, too, although I don't care for the function in any RSS reader.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:44 PM on November 16, 2005

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