What’s the best way to read a feed?

Feed icon

Well, it appears that everyone has much better things to do than blog at the moment, except for me, so news is very thin on the ground. So, I thought I’d empty my mind of all the thoughts I’ve had about reading RSS feeds and dump them into this post. There is, I’m afraid, rambling ahead.

I suppose it all starts from where you should read your feeds. In a standalone application (FeedDemon, er…)? With your web browser (ie using FireFox live bookmarks, or an extension, or IE7’s built in feed aggregation)? In your web browser (Bloglines, Newsgator, Google Reader)? In your email (Thunderbird, Newsgator for Outlook)?

I currently use the first option, the standalone application – to be precise, FeedDemon. One of the first problems with this approach is that you can’t read your feeds on anyone else’s computer. FeedDemon avoids this by allowing you to sync your feeds with NewsGator, a web-based reader (which is, incidently, more or less the only thing that recommends NewsGator…).

Having the standalone app allows you to do more with your feeds – saving posts in news bins, for example, or setting up watchlists so that any posts with certain keywords in them are saved in one place automatically for you. It makes blogging much easier. Actually, there is a problem with the watchlists in FeedDemon – if a post is relevant but doesn’t contain the magic words, you can’t just drop it in.

FeedDemon also helps you to make blog posts – you can click a little icon, which bungs the text and a link that belong to a post into your chosen offline blog editor. This is nice – but not so nice if you don’t have an offline blog editor. Only…I’d like to be able to do my blog posting inside the same application as I do my blog reading. It’d just be neater. I’d also like to be able to build a blog post from more than one original post and from more than one original blog. I’d like to skip around my feeds, selecting bit to quote and adding comments and links here and there as I go. A bit like Google Notebook, really, only eventually being published on a blog.

But I suppose, the more I think about it, if I’m going to combine my blog editing and blog reading software, shouldn’t I just combine my browser too? But the problem is that the browser-based feed readers are a bit on the lame side – FF’s Live Bookmarks are pretty much unusable for anyone who is subscribed to more than two blogs. I haven’t found a plug-in that I’ve liked, either, which is a shame because with Performancing for FireFox, you’ve got the blog editor there too. The built-in RSS support in IE7 isn’t too bad at all, with with the Live toolbar you can automatically blog an entry – if you use Live Writer, that is.

The web-based readers, for me, just don’t offer the functionality that FeedDemon does, especially around the grouping and saving of posts for later blogging. Bloglines and Google Reader let you produce a sort of link-blog thing, saving posts at a viewable URL for later reading. But it’s just not the same.

The closest I can think of to my ideal is Firefox with an RSS reader plug-in which mirrors the functionality of FeedDemon and which can sync with an online feed reader so I can get at my feeds when I’m away from the PC. This needs to be coupled with a blog editor plug-in, like Performancing, which allows me to build a post from multiple blogs, as I mentioned above (does PfF do this already? I don’t actually know) – I don’t want to be copying-and-pasting stuff from all over the place.

Is this too much to ask?

[tags]rss, feed readers, blog editing, blogs, feeddemon, performancing, google reader, bloglines, firefox, ie7[/tags]

The shape of GoogleOS?


Read/WriteWeb have another of their articles trying to predict what a Google-produced operating system might be like. There’s no reason to suggest that Google are even developing such a thing, but that doesn’t stop the guessing game being fun.

Their conclusion is that it will be a stripped down Linux, which literally just boots the computer into FireFox to connect with Google’s many web services, rather than a Web based OS like YouOS, or a fully functional Linux distribution.

It’s a cute idea, and one which I think has some legs – even if Google themselves don’t do it. I do believe, for example, that the future of the web is mobile – maybe a Blackberry sized device that boots into Firefox via wireless connections and then hooks up with web services like those offered by Google and of course Zoho and others.

This approach would completely knock out the need for any kind of syncing between the mobile device and a desktop workstation, because the systems and interfaces you are using are exactly the same.

One of the problem with this approach is what you do with data. Will people be happy that every file they own is stored online, with Google’s ad bots running through them picking up on everything we do with our computers? It’s obvious that business will have a problem with this although whether that is true of the average home user, I don’t know.

Another fundamental issue is over the technology that is being used to produce so many of the web apps that are out there, and specifically Ajax. Bill Thompson puts it much better than I could:

There is a massive difference between rewriting Web pages on the fly with Javascript and reengineering the network to support message passing between distributed objects, a difference that too many Web 2.0 advocates seem willing to ignore. It may have been twenty years since Sun Microsystems trademarked the phrase ‘the network is the computer’ but we’re still a decade off delivering, and if we stick with Ajax there is a real danger that we will never get there.

It’s an interesting debate though, and one that hyprtext will be keeping a close eye on.

[tags]read/writeweb, google, googleos, bill thompson[/tags]