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RSS

A 16 post collection


Still Using Feedbin

 •  Filed under RSS, Posts, Tools

A while a go I wrote about my move to Feedbin from Feedly and my reasons for the move. At the time I was still getting used to something other than Google's great RSS reader. Feedly in itself was fine but it didn't have the staying power I wanted. I had to login back in on different devices and there wasn't much in the way of new features. So I moved to Feedbin and over two years later I'm still using it. Here's why.

Features, Features, Features

Feedbin is under continual development and every few of months there's a new feature released or small improvements made to the user-interface. It might seem like a lot of time in between releases, but from the start Feedbin already did everything that was essential. You could subscribe to RSS feeds and read them when you wanted too. Everything that has followed has been "nice to haves" and each one of them makes the experience of using Feedbin even better.

A Great Web Interface

From the start the Feedbin web interface was good. Overtime it's been gradually tweaked and made better. Add to the mix a customisable interface with settings for fonts, text size and themes and you have a web interface that negates the need for any desktop RSS reader. Just use it in your browser.

Also the keyboard shortcuts allow you to move about your feeds without having to reach for the mouse. Even sharing articles to your favourite services like Instapaper and Pinboard is easy because you assign keyboard shortcuts to each of your share locations.

The Notifier App

Finally there's the notifier app. Now maybe I'm alone in this but RSS feeds are a great way of monitoring and tracking services. Funneling these notifications into a single device means that you can stay on top of essential services for clients. As a freelance web developer I have clients that need to know when their websites are likely to face downtime.

To do this I keep a track of the different service they use by subscribing to their status page's RSS feed. In the Feedbin notifier app I can then get notifications of these updates as and when they happen. If a client is likely to see downtime on their website I can give them a heads up on it and we can arrange suitable changes for them if needed.

Feedbin is still one of my essential tools as a web developer, both for consuming content and for keeping up to date with any urgent news. I highly recommend Feedbin if you're in the market for a versatile RSS reader.

Subscriptions Cleanout

 •  Filed under RSS, By Me, Reading

I cleaned out my RSS feeds over the weekend. The following feeds have been removed for different reasons:

I've also found a few blogs that have been added to my feeds list:

  • Engine Yard Blog - I don't have anything deployed to Engine Yard, but they're always producing good content from a developers perspective.
  • Iand.net - Ian Dick is a fellow dev from Scotland with a blog that has a good mix of content.
  • Scribbling.net - I have always been a fan of Gina Trapani's work. Even though she's not part of the Lifehacker team anymore, it's good to see she's still writing
  • The Art of Manliness - There we were, me and the boys trying to entertain ourselves when we hit upon the idea of making paper airplanes. Took it to the next level though and made some paper airplanes using the designs from this blog. What more reason would I need to subscribe?

Getting the Most from Feedbin

 •  Filed under By Me, Tools, RSS

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.

Save Time, Save That Search

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.

Bad Assumptions

 •  Filed under By Me, Tools, RSS

Assumptions about the Internet based services we use lead to the fact that only the more popular ones are catered to when it comes to subsequent tools being built.

Assumptions on the Internet are everywhere. It's in the networks that we can share articles to, the growing number of companies using Facebook as their sole Internet presence and in the ways that we can connect services together.

For someone like me it's pain in the backside.

There's a campaign at the moment to stop the development of greenbelt land in our town. The local council want to sell the land to developers to build a thousand more homes for our town. Trying to coordinate with other campaigners on this issue has proved difficult. The only point of contact I can find are on Facebook and even there they don't give an email address to contact them. The assumption here is that everyone has a Facebook account but that's just not the case.

Then there's the services that require you to register using an existing social network account without providing users with a chance to register with their email address. Assuming that we're all on once social network or another is a bad assumption to make and in the end it's only going to lose you potential users and money.

I make an assumption on this website with the sharing links at the bottom of each article. You can share to App.net or Twitter. I choose these because at the time I did have accounts on both, but now I only have an App.net account. Am I going to reduce the sharing options to just App.net? Definitely not, as I see that these are two of the quickest ways of sharing links now.

When compared to the assumptions that bigger companies and organisations have made about social network choice and prescence then my site doesn't seem so important, so I guess then that my assumptions are not too damaging to others. More of an inconvience really, but there are other ways of sharing my website.

Not everyone is connected in a way that we can be accessed on any of the more popular social networks. Some of us even choose to stay away from these in favour of reaching people directly through email or publishing updates to an RSS feed. The good thing about these is that they're the most open formats avaialble for the sharing and consumption of data. No one controls email or RSS feeds, they're free for everyone to use.

I'm more selective about the services and tools I use. I try to use services that provide open endpoints such as RSS so that I can connect services together. They don't depend soley on specific social networks and give me more of a choice. Choice is good, assumptions are bad.

Unread - The Simple RSS Reader

 •  Filed under Links, RSS, Apps

It isn't often you find yourself using an app that is just effortless and simple to use. If you have an account with FeedBin, FeedWrangler or Feedly, then you'll want to check out Jared Sinclair's new app, Unread.

RSS is not dead

 •  Filed under RSS, Blogging, Posts

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.