Right before I started typing this post I removed the Google Reader bookmark in my bookmark bar. And my life.
When you use something for 7 years and filter through 210,000 pieces of content using it, it really becomes part of your life. I used Google Reader more than any other single piece of web technology. I’ve been using Gmail since July 2005 because it is the best. I was using Reader because it was the best at aggregating content and dumping it in one easy to consume place. None of that mattered once Google announced they were shutting it down. This felt like a long term girlfriend breaking up with me and saying “it’s not you, it’s me”.
Feedly and The Old Reader came out as initial front runners, but:
- Feedly – Nope, interface sucked, couldn’t consume fast enough, mobile app restarted and lost your state if you clicked out to an article in browser
- The Old Reader – Great concept and have their heart in the right place, but not ready for primetime, interface and speed issues, longevity questionable without revenue and high server costs
After The Old Reader finally imported my feeds so I could at least pilot the service, I saw this post on Lifehacker: How to Build Your Own Syncing RSS Reader with Tiny Tiny RSS and Kick Google Reader to the Curb. It looked promising from the get-go and I was no stranger to hosting my own web apps like I do with WordPress. It was very promising indeed.
I fired Tiny Tiny RSS up on my shared host and got my feeds imported. It was just as fast and easy to use as Google Reader. It is more customizable than Reader and there’s a ton of potential for it to grow. Want to add some functionality, plugins. Want to change the look and feel, custom CSS. I’ve already taken CSS tweaks from other users and adapted them to my own taste. This is my feed reader how I want it. It’s awesome.
So my search for a Google Reader replacement is over. Tiny Tiny RSS will be serving up my RSS feeds until the Internet figures out a way to make RSS obsolete. Plus the $2 Android app is really good.
If you want to try it out let me know and I can give you access to my install.
Whenever I read or clear out my Google Reader subscriptions I’ll browse through my Recommended Items list to see if there’s anything of interest. The problem is Google populates this list based on some unknown factors and it’s currently impossible to customize. Clicking “Not Interested” does nothing and I’m pretty sure Google knows this considering the number of support threads started about it.
I’d say the current algorithm is about 30% accurate. The funny thing is all the stuff Google is assuming about me:
- That I like sports in general
- That I really like baseball
- That I like the Seattle Mariners
- That I live in Kansas
- That I like University of Kansas sports
- That I live in Tulsa
- That I’m on a paleo diet
- That I like Apple products
- That I participate in the martial arts
- That I have an Xbox 360
The other problem is some items show up from sites I’m already subscribed to. I’m subscribed to xkcd, but every time a new comic is published it shows up 2 or 3 times in Recommended Items.
Skim through the list of Friend Blogs, you might be missing out on someone’s site. Try running your own subscriptions through the parser and post it up. Would be cool to see what people are reading and if there’s anything others might be interested in.
Google posted up a video guide that goes through how to use Google Reader. I posted about using Google Reader to keep up on your friends’ blogs back in 2007, but a lot of people have joined our little blogging circle since then. If you aren’t using a feed reader and still click through to everyone’s site then give Google Reader a try.
I’m also experimenting with Facebook imports, so if you are seeing this on Facebook, come visit our blogs if you have never been before. My siblings have to fly under the radar at http://theblarg.com and http://myrighteousindignation.com/.
I love RSS feeds, but sometimes one site will cover way too many things and post way too often, clogging up Google Reader with stuff I know ahead of time I don’t want. Lifehacker is a good example of this and there are lots of posts about Linux, Macs and iPhones that I would normally just filter through the titles and skip 80% of the posts (even filtered I only read 14%). I managed to filter my Lifehacker using a hand crafted RSS url:
Most sites aren’t capable of filtering out content based on tags or categories so that’s where Yahoo Pipes comes in. You add a source feed and then filter it like so:
That filters a bunch of stuff out of the feed that I don’t care about and as things show up I don’t like I can filter out that specific tag. It’s a shame that most sites don’t offer an easy way to customize RSS feeds. I created a feed customization system for CSUSB’s news site at my old job and it let’s you pick exactly what you want. Something like this would be great on a WordPress blog. But check out my filtered Engadget HD feed: