As the Dust Settles – my RSS setup

Leading up to the shutdown of Google Reader on July 1, I gave consideration to a number of options regarding where I would turn for my RSS feed source, and whether this would in turn lead to a change in my reader of choice.

Now almost a week later, I believe I have things pretty well sorted out for my needs. Feedly’s free service has been working well as my feed source, and though their style of reader does the job well, I prefer a slightly different interface when reading my articles. As far as the performance of the free service is concerned, I have had no problems at all. Many ‘power users’ will most likely prefer the advanced features of a paid reader such as Feed Wrangler or Feedbin, however Feedly has done everything as expected for my usage pattern.

So, the readers (my consumption is entirely on iOS – I have no need for a Mac or PC application)…

iPad – Mr Reader

Mr Reader screenshot

At least 90% of my RSS feed consumption is done through my iPad, as I generally have enough time when connected to WiFi either early in the morning or evening to sync and get through my feeds (which generally number around 80–100 articles per day on average). The key features I require? Simply a UI that is appealing to me, and easy sharing, scrolling and an article view I can customise. As I have just listed features of every available reader, the choice then comes down to the overall style of the reader, and Mr Reader fits the bill here nicely.

Mr Reader. 2

iPhone – Reeder

Reeder Screenshots

Reeder had been my iPad reader of choice for some time leading up to this change, however does not at this time have Feedly support (I believe the app has been pulled from the App Store whilst under further development). A recent update to the iPhone app now integrates Feedly support, and on the odd occasion when I do use my phone to catch up on articles, Reeder does the job well, and I find the UI very well designed for use on the iPhone.

Reeder Screenshots


With the many services out there available for both the ‘feed’ and the ‘read’ end of RSS consumption, there is a great opportunity to try a few combinations and find a set up which suits your needs. Whilst the above system may not be for everyone, the interfaces and functionality are spot on for me at the current time. Let me know in the comments below of the system you have settled on, and how well it is working for you.

A reminder – you have until 15 July to export your list of feeds via Google Takeout, and if you haven’t done so already or migrated to another service I would strongly recommend doing so.

Via the App Store:

Inbound Outbound – The power of mobile technology

The past month has seen a frenzy of prediction, adulation, debate and derision, all in the name of technology. From WWDC 2013 and what Apple has in store for us next, to the shut down of Google Reader, and the race to either be, or be a user of, the next big thing in RSS Feeds.

Amidst times like these it is easy to have our eyes fixed on the horizon, and overlook the power of what we have today. Nowhere is the power of today more evident to me than on my daily commute to and from the office. My own philosophy on this has always been “inbound for learning, outbound for burning”.

That is, on my way to work in the morning when I am fresh and (mostly) ready to take on the world, I ensure I undertake some form of education or self-development activity. However on the way home, when my brain is functioning somewhat sub-optimally, if at all, I allow myself to waste or ‘burn’ time by watching my favourite TV series.

“inbound for learning, outbound for burning”

The mobile technology I carry with me (16GB iPhone 4s, 16GB WiFi iPad) makes this all possible. In the morning, standing in line at the bus stop, I can:

  • Check today’s weather on Forecast
  • See what’s happening on Twitter through Tweetbot
  • Check and triage email using Mailbox for iOS
  • Post something interesting or witty on Glassboard for my family to read

Once on the bus and have an hour-long commute in front of me, I typically:

  • Listen to my favourite Podcasts through Downcast
  • Take notes about the podcast in Drafts, sending the notes to my Evernote account
  • Tap the show links and read further, view videos on the topics or download recommended apps to try
  • Search the web in Safari for additional information

Other days may involve reading books or articles in the Kindle app or iBooks, drafting blog posts in Byword, checking my calendar, adding tasks or reviewing projects in Omnifocus, or catching up on RSS feeds in Reeder. The journey is usually completed with a ten minute walk to the office and a few songs played via iTunes Match, making for an enjoyable last few minutes before those dreaded elevator doors close.

Home? Well that is an entirely different story. Again a quick check on Tweetbot and email at the bus stop, but once on the bus, I switch off and relax, catching up on TV shows using AV Player HD.

Upon reflection, the above I now take for granted (all of which were not possible even five years ago), some things so much so they are not even in the lists above (text messages, phone calls anyone?). The power we have to consume information or create content has never been greater, and this has certainly changed the way we go from A to B.

Do you have any typical patterns you follow or apps you use on your daily commute? Let me know in the comments below.


July 1… Google Reader’s Done

Google Reader

Given recent news you are likely aware (or perhaps are not depending on how you routinely consume your Internet content), Google Reader ceases to exist from 1 July this year.

For those who this means very little to, perhaps you should skip the rest of this article, or, if you are interested in a more efficient way to stay up to date with your favourite websites, then read on. If you are in the category of people that do use an RSS reader but this means very little to, then you definitively need to check out what is below, otherwise the reader you use will be a little light on for content come July.

Why should you care about this?

Probably the answer to this question begins with a description of what RSS is and actually does, and whether you therefore really need to be in any way concerned by what is coming in a few days.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication (RSS), put simply, is a way to subscribe to your favourite website content in a way that avoids having to provide your email address and go on some sort of distribution list, which often involves receiving numerous emails with content you may not necessarily be interested in. It also provides a way around needing to bookmark and check in on your favourite sites regularly to avoid missing anything of interest that may be posted. In summary, it is a great way to stay up to date with a large (or small) volume of content in a time efficient way, and depending on what ‘feed reader’ you use, provides an easy means of saving articles to read later, or sharing with others.

The process itself is best summarised as follows:

  • a website creates an ‘RSS Feed’
  • once the feed is created, it is stored on a server ready for subscriptions
  • a feed ‘aggregator’ (most often Google – which the consumer creates an account with) then supplies the content to supported ‘RSS readers’
  • viewing or reading a particular feed is through an ‘RSS Reader’ application (through which the user logs in to their aggregator account and accesses their feed)

Therefore, the entire process requires the feed creation, storage and aggregation or collection at the back end, and a front end experience for the user that allows reading of the articles in their feed. This is where Google reader comes in (and for that matter is about to go out). Google Reader for many years has provided both the back end feed aggregation, as well as the ability for users to view their content through Google Reader (though the proliferation of mobile devices has increased many-fold the number of third party ‘Reader’ applications).

Google was not the first service of this nature, though due to its scale, and being at no cost to the user, quickly became the standard for this type of information transfer on the web. I am not sure of the exact statistics, but I would expect the majority of RSS Reader accounts use Google as their feed aggregator.

So, after July 1, Google will no longer be providing the feed content to the many third party applications currently utilising this service, with these applications either needing to develop their own back end feed aggregation, or support other services that have stepped in to fill the void.

As far as possible replacements go, remember we are talking about two distinct services here. Firstly, the feed aggregation (supply) of content, and secondly, the viewing or reading (consumption) of the content once it is delivered to you through a ‘reader’ application. Some alternative applications will do both, some will not.

Feed Aggregators

There are a few providers that are ready to step onto the breach and lead the charge in RSS feed aggregation (all of which also have readers):

  • Feedwrangler ($19 per year)
  • Feedbin ($2 per month or $20 per year)
  • Feedly (Free; paid pro option rumoured)
  • Newsblur (Free or paid options with additional features)
  • Digg (in development)

Those listed above are the more likely replacements for many users, and all have have their own forms of readers, either through a web app, and/or platform specific mobile apps. As can be seen, some are paid options, with the benefits of this being ongoing support of the developer, likely increasing the longevity of the service, and providing resources for ongoing support and upgrades or advanced features. As with many apps or services, there is always the fear that ‘free’ results in an unsustainable business model over the longer term (Google Reader was free remember; and no, Google is not struggling for cash, however part of the reason for shutting down Google Reader was to allocate resources to areas of the business that will generate revenue).


Although the feed aggregators above also serve as readers there are some very functionally and visually appealing third party readers that have relied on the Google feed for some time now. These will continue to exist, though will need to rely on feed content from elsewhere, most likely from the providers listed above. Some of the available reader applications include:

What do I use? Currently Feedly, which, once I created an account, synced all of my Google Reader feeds across, and is now running its own aggregator, Feedly Cloud, which I understand will also provide support to other third party reader applications. In the past I have also used Reeder, Flipboard and Feeddler Pro. All have good saving and sharing options, however very different interfaces. I switched to Feedly only recently, as it was one of the free services that offered replacement feed aggregation quite soon after Google’s announcement. Depending upon feed support options, I would be happy to recommend any of these apps, with personal preference playing a role in what type of interface you like to interact with. You will simply need to match the reader you choose with the supported feed provider – information readily available on the respective websites.

Should to wish read more, the following may be useful:

There are many resources out there regarding what may be better for you to use, and a simple Google search will bring up numerous articles to read on the subject. This brings us back to the original question of why you should care about this.

What you should do

If you are a ‘power user’ of these types of services you would already have a strategy in place and most likely aren’t reading this article anyway. For the rest of us, my recommendations are as follows:

  • export your list of feeds from Google Reader prior to July 1, instructions are contained in this Lifehacker article
  • open an account with a free service such as Feedly

The above options will give you an XML file of your exported feed list ready to import to another reader, and also a working aggregator and reader (Feedly), to keep things running in the short term when the shut down occurs. This will allow you more time to consider your options for the longer term. There will also be numerous reviews and opinions written after July 1 on how the various services are working, which is a good opportunity to read about any issues that may be occurring with a particular service, and allow any early bugs to be rectified before you commit to one or the other.

Another possibility that has been suggested is to abandon RSS altogether and use something like Twitter for following when your favourite creators post something new. Personally, I prefer the RSS type of view, and would not rely on Twitter for this, though I can see the logic.

In conclusion, I hope the above is of some assistance, and maybe you should spend a little time over the weekend looking at your options, though as I have noted above, there are a couple of fairly straightforward ways to ensure your feeds continue in the short term at the very least.

I am optimistic this is an opportunity for great improvement in the RSS realm, as more interest and resources are thrown at this area by developers, with the coming months an interesting time to see what ultimately ensues.