New RSS System

RSS is used for a lot of things, but most people know it as the way to consume blogs and websites in a consolidated way. Google Reader pretty much owned a monopoly on RSS reading, or at least providing the backend for reading, for years now. Google’s decision to shut the service down as of July 1st was a blow to most people, and many new apps have popped up already, but my whole RSS flow has changed.

A year ago RSS was something I looked at if not daily, at least 4-5 times a week. I would spend some time starring stories that I wanted to read later, and other times I would spend just reading, always trying to not let the backlog get too big. Somewhre along the way though, this stopped happening, and as of like 6 months ago I really wasn’t checking RSS at all. Most of this was because I was just busy with other things, but part of it can also be attributed to Twitter providing plenty of things to read.

But as I prepared to archive my feeds off Google Reader, I started to think about my workflow. I had gotten to the point where I had been saving any links I found on Twitter or elsewhere on the web in Instapaper and realized that it really makes sense to use that as my reading queue instead of starring things in Google Reader.

It had become clear in the latter half of June that my favorite RSS app Reeder would not be updated across all three of my devices (iPhone, iPad and Mac) to support any one service in time for July 1st. Therefore it was clear that whatever option was selected had to stand on it’s own. The three options I considered were Feedly, Feedbin and Feed Wrangler.

Feedly immediately turned my off by requiring a Google account to login. I understand why people like this feature, and why they would offer it, but there is no reason they needed to make it the only option. I don’t always want to share accounts across apps/services. So Feedly was never really considered.

The other two options are not free. Feedbin is $2/month which ends up meaning $24/year, and FeedWrangler is $19/year. Besides being cheaper, Feed Wrangler also offered both iPhone and iPad apps and had been the preferred service by many of the internet nerds I follow.

Feed Wranglers apps are very plain and limited though. It basically provides a list of articles for the current feed (or smart feed) in descending chronogical order. Why do apps insist on sorting things like this? Why would I want to read articles in the opposite order they arrived? I don’t understand why Twitter and Facebook do this too. Are they telling me I should only care about the two most recent updates? Back to Feed Wrangler, which doesn’t even allow the artile sort order to be changed. It also doesn’t display the author’s name anywhere, which really sucks for sites that have multiple writers working for them.

The actual reading experience in the Feed Wrangler apps is pretty bad, but I suppose that is a product of both wanting to get sometihng out fast and also marketing Feed Wrangler more as a service and less as apps.

My favorite feature of the Feed Wrangler apps is the one click ability to save things to Instapaper (or Pocket, which I have recently moved to). Only one service can be selected, which irks some, but it makes triaging stories so incredibly simple.

That is important, because triaging is basically all I do in my RSS apps anymore. The only feeds I keep in there are blogs I really love to read, and most of which are very low volume. They are sites that I don’t want to miss an article on, but usually things that don’t need to be read withint 48 hours. RSS allows these feeds to basically queue up so nothing is missed. Then when I have a few minutes I skim through the stories and decide what I want to save for later.

My high volume feeds were added to a Twitter list (called “Faux RSS”) that I check about once a day and again save any stories to Pocket that I want to read later. Missing something here is no important though, and if I don’t have time I won’t miss anything that is old.

About 10 days into this workflow it’s working really well. Reeder added support for Feed Wrangler on their iOS app, but it’ jut not as fast for triaging because there are two clicks required from article view to save an article instead of one. At some point this might get me to explore other RSS apps, especially if the Feed Wrangler apps don’t at least improve a little bit.