Waiting for the RSS Enlightenment

May 30, 2013

Waiting for the RSS Enlightenment → via @_patrickwelker

I tweeted about Mr. Reader’s public statement right after he published his post because I’m most excited about what will become of my favorite iPad RSS reader – I check the blog every day to see if there’s something new. Today the link above appeared and I was eager to read it. Here’s my little story how I tackle the issue we all have: (soon) being without Google Reader.

After Google announced that they will abandon Google Reader I was bit upset. To be precise, I had a higher pulse for about 20 seconds and then realized that this is a great opportunity to improve RSS, which practically stagnated for about a thousand years when using the modern calendar of technological inventions. Using this technology always felt like the industry doesn’t care anymore with to consumer crowd only being a relatively small fraction of internet people and Google having a kind of monopol. The stereotypic consumer tends to use the big social networks to get his information and in economic thinking the though of mass trumps minority is still the most popular when it comes to earning cash. But where there is a market, there shall be opportunities. With the major player disappearing over night there must be something good in it for the RSS loving crowd. At least that is what I strongly believe in with technology being my chosen religion.

So, I tried to stay calm. My intention was to keep it that way until 10 days before RSS doomsday. The idea was to wait since 2 months isn’t a very long time span to develop a replacement for Google Reader or to restructure an existing service. Besides, I tend to dismiss a service or application quite fast when it doesn’t fit my needs. In my calculation every day I’d wait longer will provide me with a more mature service when finally taking a look on what is being offered on the menu. This seemed fair to me – who knows what the different services will bring to the table on the last 5 days before end of June? In addition, my plan B was crawling back to Fever waving an I’m sorry sign (at least until I found a fitting new RSS syncing service).

But, what I also knew was that sitting and waiting would be very hard. I’m not good at holding my fingers still when it comes to testing new applications and services. My natural curiosity is to big and owing to that on the next day I hunted down possible alternatives. After I hunter-gathered enough mammoth wool I realized that my initial thinking was right. Waiting is better. It was like having found a treasure chest with a lot of cozy warm furs for the coming winter. The thing is, as a fashion forward Stone Age man you have to wear matching boots – having a great RSS syncing service is nothing without a great iOS companion. I read about 70 percent of RSS in a web app and the rest on my iOS devices. I can’t just wander of if the latter isn’t equally good as the first.

Fast forward. I managed to do nothing about it, but two weeks ago I read “Feed Wrangler: A New RSS Reader With Smart Streams, Filters, Read Later Integration” from Federico Viticci and the next day I bought a subscription. I simply trust Federico’s opinion since he’s an overall good guy with a keen sense on what is or could become practical and useful.

My test drive with Feed Wrangler was a relative short one. Despite the idea behind the service being a great one, I missed folders too much. I’m old fashioned and like working on one feed at a time: opening a folder, drilling down and reading one feed, then advancing to the next. Having the ingenious “smart folders” was more than welcomed, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to stay (for now). I’ll check back on July 1st and can’t wait to see what’s new at that point in time.

Shortly after I got the ball rolling (aka trying on some of the new furs and matching boots), Gabe came along with his The Feed Reader Reviews: Newsblur and I felt right at home reading the article. I bought that one too. So far I’m happy, but also not too impressed. The good things that Gabe highlighted were definitely there, but having just tried out Feed Wrangler I already felt that I miss something. The smart streams are a real innovation – like Federico, I’d would love to see this kind of forward thinking more in other apps and services. What I also miss is a proper search function and moving folders in my custom order. One the one hand I’m nitpicking because all the basic features are there, on the other hand Newsblur has been around for a couple of years and I expect them to make bigger steps than a service which just launched.

Another very important point in deciding which service will be the right one was waiting for what Mr. Reader will support – to stick to the Stone Age metaphors: these are the fur boots that I’d like to wear; they are good looking, comfy, versatile and they are good for hiking as well as chasing mammoths at a high speed. You can only throw a spear far and precise if you have a good grip. The iPad is a great reading device and Mr. Reader makes it easy to file, forward and archive important articles. I really hope Newsblur gets up to speed with improving their API. To be frank, my hopes aren’t high in that regard – I can image that it will take some time and (scenario two:) I can imagine that they might not be interested in tweaking their API. An official statement would be more than welcome.

Overall I’d characterize my needs as very basic:

  1. A decent minimal web interface (preferably close to the screen shot in this post = one preview line is enough for me) and shortcuts would also be most welcome.
  2. Folders, folders, folders (preferably rearrangeable).
  3. iOS clients (preferably a superb API which makes it easy for existing apps to use the service – actually the API should be #1).
  4. A non freemium business model.

And, to repeat myself: although I think the list above is a simple one, I know that those small wishes add up and take time for developers to accomplish them.

For me, what it comes down to is this: I’m as wise as I was before. I (will) wait. Regarding developers I think their RSS service will rise and fall with their API. The mobile market with native RSS clients build around a service is too important to neglect it. The consumers like having a choice, some prefer simpler clients, others are in need of power tools. Making the transition as easy as it gets to the developers of these apps is crucial.1

Last words:

Follow the (Mr.) Reader and get your API straight – then there’s a good chance we will meet again.

  1. I have no idea if building a standard protocol modeled after the Google Reader API allows for adding new features like the Feed Wrangler smart search in a uncomplicated manner and fashion. I imagine it could also be a restricition… I have no clue. I just understand that it makes sense to build something standardized.

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