Posts Tagged “rss-tag”

Getting the Most from Feedbin

There’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of years that RSS is dead and it certainly didn’t look good when Google closed their RSS reading service, Google Reader. Since the news that it was closing though there has been a number of new RSS services that aim to fill the gap. Having tried a couple I evetually choose Feedbin. It looked promising from the start and I’m glad to see that today it has grown into an amazing application and makes managing and reading your RSS feeds easy.

Over the course of the last year or two, Feedbin has added a number of great features to the service. I thought I would round up some of my favourite features that I use daily to manage my RSS feeds.

Time To Unsubscribe?

One of the problems I had with Google Reader was that it was difficult to see when a feed was last updated and how active it was. Overtime people lose interest in keeping their site updated so eventually feeds start to stagnate. It was hard to see this in Google Reader. Unless you were aware of the decline in posts, which is easy if you only follow so many accounts, there wasn’t a way to check your feeds to see which were active and in-active.

Feedbin solves this problem on the feeds page of your account. Not only can you search and unsubscribe from feeds, you can also sort them according to when they were last updated and also how active the feed is. This makes it easy to spot the sites that are slowing down in posting and might be worth unsubscribing from.

Showing the feed activity on Feedbin

Take A Shortcut

Google Reader had a great set of keyboard shortcuts. I even created a mind map for the shortcuts to help me memorise them. They were essential in allowing me to quickly scan through all my feeds and mark those that were worth reading later on in the day. You’ll be glad to hear then that Feedbin also has a great collection of keyboard shortcuts at your disposal. With these you can navigate around your feeds, search, action articles and even share them to your own connected services such as App.net and Twitter.

If you’re not a software developer then you might be more familiar with using the mouse when it comes to navigating your applications. For applications such as Feedbin, I say give the keyboard a try. While you might hit a few stumbling blocks at the start, trying to remember what key does what, keep at it. Using the keyboard is a much faster way of interacting with the computer and the keyboard shortcuts for Feedbin are minimal. There are only 20 sets of shortcuts to remember with most of them being a single key, but even learning just a quarter of these will make such a difference. And the best part, just press ‘?’ on your keyboard while using Feedbin and it will display all the shortcuts you need.

Action!

One of my early gripes with Google Reader was the lack of automation. Some feeds I subscribed too always needed a specific action or used for logging purposes. For these feeds I wanted them starred or marked as read as soon as they came in. In Google Reader this wasn’t possible, but it can be in Feedbin.

Feedbin has a section in the setting page called Actions. Here you can define actions that meet one or multiple feeds. The two actions available are starring an article or marking an article as read. There might be more in the future but for now these make automating the management of your feeds a lot easier. Why would you do this though?

Showing the actions for Feedbin

Some feeds are always interesting. I subscribe to the Caesura Letters newsletter through an RSS feed. I star the article every day so that I can find it at lunchtime for further reading. It’s one less action to do on a daily basis but it still saves a bit of time.

Searching your RSS feeds is a routine thing for me. Maybe I’m looking for a specific set of articles or articles that feature a specific keyword. What happens though when you want to do that search over and over again? Well you save it!

Feedbin has a great feature called saved searches that lets you save the searches you carry out over your feeds. These appear in your sidebar with the search icon beside them so that you can differentiate them from the rest of your feeds. One saved search I have is my ‘Recently Mentioned’ search.

Showing my saved search from Feedbin

I follow a number of blogs that are part of an relaxed circle of bloggers. We link to each other’s posts for other people to see. It’s not a traffic building thing, we just link the stuff we find interesting from each other on our blogs. I was getting mentioned a few times when I thought about having a search for this. With my saved search now, I can see when I was last mentioned. You might call it an ego thing, but I prefer to think of it as a validation tool to see what people find interesting. It helps to find out what people link to on my blog and whether I should publish similar content.

Use Your Favourite Reading App

Feedbin also has an API that allows other apps to connect to Feedbin. While Feedbin excels as a great application on the big screen of a desktop, laptop and tablet, I find the mobile interface not that easy to use for scanning feeds. My app of choice for checking my feeds on my iPhone is the wonderful Unread by Jared Sinclair. With simple gestures for quickly scanning and actioning articles, it is by far the best app I have found yet that connects to my Feedbin account.

Feedbin is a great RSS reader and I use it daily, often multiple times a day. The best part of Feedbin though is the automation. The actions and sharing to your favourite services are the best time savers for me. With feeds handled automatically in the background and one key press to share to other services like Instapaper, I can breeze through hundreds of articles on a daily basis.

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RSS is not dead

While trawling through my RSS feeds looking for blogs to unsubscribe from, I came across Andrew Chen’s blog post about his decision to completely remove the RSS feed from his site.

As of today, I’ve removed the links the RSS feeds on this blog, and ultimately will phase them out completely in favor of email.

RSS I quit you.. by Andrew Chen

Not a wise decision in my eyes and here’s why.

Your inbox isn’t an RSS reader

Using email to subscribe to web sites only works for a handful of blogs. You could comfortably subscribe to about five blogs and you would be able to manange reading a few emails a week from these blogs if they were not to frequent. Doing this for anything in the double digits number of blogs is a bad idea.

I don’t want to flood my inbox with tons of emails from different blogs. Thats why I use RSS. That’s why I use a RSS reader. I subscribe to the sites that I want to follow and then I can batch my reading of those sites to a time that suits me.

It’s convenient and it works.

RSS isn’t dead

Many people are starting to wonder if Google Feedburner will be next for the chop from Google but even if it was to be shut down, that’s no indication to say that RSS is dying or dead. All it says is that Google isn’t interested in dealing with a an RSS product.

RSS is alive and well everywhere. You can still find RSS feeds for millions of blogs and websites and Feedly are doing a great job of bringing over hundreds of people from Google Reader to their feed reading service. In the last few years there have a number of great RSS feed readers released on tablets and smartphones so that you read on the go.

Completely removing the RSS feed from your blog is a bad idea. After reading Andrew’s post I found another website that I can unsubscribe from.

Sorry Andrew.

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A little idea for monitoring RSS feeds

The loss of Google Reader as an RSS reader is a great shame but one thing that I am definitely going to miss is the trends page of Google Reader. This page provided data on what you’ve been reading and when you were reading it. Not only that but you could see what blogs you are following are active and which are not.

I use the last feature as a way of unsubscribing from blogs that are no longer active. Every month I look back to see which blogs were not active over the last three months and unsubscribe from them.

So now that Google Reader is being killed off, what do I do about the tracking of the blogs that I follow?

Due to the lack of products that I could find that do this, I thought about rolling my own RSS watch list so that I could see which blogs were not active over a given time period.

The idea is simple. You upload your OPML file of your RSS feeds and the watch list will monitor your feeds on a daily basis always checking to see when content on each blog feed was last posted. Alerts are emailed to you when a feed stops posting after a number of days that you specify.

A simple idea and one that I hope that I can build in the next few weeks.

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Tips on getting through your RSS feeds faster

Let me get this clear to start with. I only use my RSS reader to scan feeds from blogs that I am subscribed to. This post is just tips for getting through your RSS feeds without taking the time to read anything.

Group your feeds

Grouping your feeds is a great way to batch feeds for scanning. I group my feeds into a number of groups based on the general topics of each feed. I have groups for web development, tech businesses, bikes, picture blogs and online products and services I use.

Grouping feeds in this way means that when you scan the feeds, you’re scanning a particular topic rather than scanning a list of feeds of completely different topics.

Scan the headlines

Don’t read everything. Unless you’re following between 10 and 20 blogs, you’ll never be able to read everything in a short period of time. Instead scan the headlines of your feeds for interesting posts.

I used to read everything in my feeds in case I missed something, but reading everything takes a long time. Yes, scanning the headlines of your feeds might means you miss an interesting post, but you’ll get through your feeds a lot faster.

Use a read it later service like Instapaper

RSS readers are great for categorising and scanning your feeds, but I like to use a separate service for reading. Many RSS readers let you favourite individual articles and send them to another service like Instapaper so that you can read them at a later date.

Read it later services also let you collect articles for reading at a later date when it suits you. I tend to get through my feeds first thing in the morning. I favourite posts I want to read later. When I favourite my posts, they are sent to my Instapaper account so that I can read them later on. Many RSS readers have this feature built in and read it later services like Instapaper also have settings that let you import favourite posts from your RSS reader.

Keep a list of blogs to scan daily

I have a group of feeds that I want to scan on a daily basis. I scan this group every day first thing. It’s a collection of blogs of varying topics, but they’re blogs that I find highly valuable and therefore they’re the blogs I scan every day.

Trim dead or rarely posted feeds

I don’t subscribe to a feed that posts once a month or less frequently. I like content on at least a weekly basis from a feed. Every 2 or 3 months I check the feeds I am subscribed to determine if they’re still delivering a steady stream of content. Google Reader is great for this as it tracks the stats of each the feeds you have subscribed to. Staying on top of your feeds this way means that you can delete stale feeds and therefore have less headlines to scan.

RSS feeds and readers have fallen out of fashion with many on the Internet, but as long as people are still blogging, there will always be a place for RSS readers to consume these blogs.

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