The Case for RSS

For several years now, the trend among geeks has been to abandon the RSS format. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a way to queue up and serve content from the internet. The MacSparky RSS, for example, gives RSS applications a list of all the articles I post here since you last checked int. It is a great way to read blogs and the backbone of podcast distribution. As social networks took off, a lot of my friends that were previously big RSS fans gave up on the technology and instead relied upon sources like Twitter and Facebook to get their news.

That was never me. The reason I’ve stuck with RSS is the way in which I work. Twitter is the social network that I participate in most and yet sometimes days go by where I don’t load the application. I like to work in focused bursts. If I’m deep into writing a book or a legal client project. I basically ignore everything else. I close my mail application, tell my phone service to take my calls, and I definitely don’t open Twitter. When I finish the job, I can then go back to the Internet. I’ll check in on Twitter, but I won’t be able to get my news from it. That only works if you go into Twitter much more frequently than I do. That’s why RSS is such a great solution for me. If a few days go by, I can open RSS and go through my carefully curated list of websites and get caught back up with the world.

A long time ago, I used Reeder as my primary RSS application. It’s clean, fast, and attractive. Then a few years ago I switched over to Unread, which I found to be slower but a little more delightful. For the last week, I’ve been using Reeder again just for giggles. Their addition of dark mode for iPhone X is great, but ultimately I don’t know where I’ll land between these two great RSS Apps.

If you are thinking about using RSS, I have a little advice. Be wary feed inflation. RSS is so easy to implement that it's a slippery slope between having RSS feeds for just a few websites and instead of having RSS feeds for hundreds of websites. If you’re not careful, every time you open your RSS reader, there will be 1,000 unread articles waiting for you, which completely defeats the purpose of using RSS. The trick to using RSS is to be brutal with your subscriptions. I think the key is looking for websites with high signal and low noise. Sites that publish one or two articles a day (or even one to two articles a week) but make them good articles are much more valuable and RSS feed than sites that published 30 articles a day.

Reeder 2

Today Reeder 2 hit the iOS App Store. The new version looks great and works on both the iPad and iPhone. Using Reeder again on my iPhone and iPad feels like slipping under a warm blanket on a cold night. For more details, check out the MacStories Review. 

Reeder ♡ Feed Wrangler

Well … sort of. Today’s Reeder for iPhone update supports Feed Wrangler. It does not, however, support Feed Wrangler’s Smart Streams feature so for now you just get one big master unread list. I understand that drawback is temporary. Even with this limitation, it's nice to have Reeder available again.

Google Reader Export Help

If you haven't already exported your Google Reader subscription, today is the day. Google is pulling the plug on Monday. If you are still flummoxed as to how to export your Google Reader feed list, Katie Floyd made an excellent tutorial (using MPU sponsor Clarify) to show you the way. 


My RSS Setup

I was a bit coy in the MPU RSS show about exactly what I’m doing about RSS as the big change is upon us. Here it is, plain and simple.

The Engine - Feed Wrangler

Feed Wrangler is innovative and exactly what I was looking for with this change, something to move the ball forward. I’m not sure if I’ll still be using Feed Wrangler in a year but I suspect I will. Creating Smart Streams that serve me up posts I’m particularly interested in is great. Letting me create filters to automatically mark posts including words like patentlawsuit, and Ballmer as read so I never see them is magical. (If you are trying to wrap your head around Smart Streams and Filters,Shawn Blanc explains further.) Feed Wrangler’s developer explains they are going to put even more logic into these features so I can create filters that contain Boolean logic terms (e.g., Filter: Samsung AND commercial). There are other tempting services out there but for me, Feed Wrangler scratches the itch.

The iPad - Mr. Reader

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I most often check RSS on my iPad. I took a few cheap shots at Mr. Reader’s icon yesterday on Twitter and received a mixture of scolding and agreement. I can’t help it. Those RSS eyes creep me out. Once you open, Mr. Reader though, it is a really nice experience. I’m using it for now. When Reeder lands on the iPad with Feed Wrangler support (which is promissed), I’ll switch back to my precious Reeder unless Mr. Reader wins my heart in the interim, which isn’t out of the question.

iPhone - Wrangler App

I know Reeder is coming but have yet to find an attractive app for the iPhone. The free Wrangler App is not a long term solution. I suspect a lot of good RSS app developers are consuming vast quantities of coffee right now.

Mac - Wrangler Website

The Feed Wrangler website isn’t bad. It has keyboard shortcuts, runs fast, and is in your browser so you can quickly open articles in additional tabs for sending to your read later service. Again, I’m not convinced this is a long term solution. I just bought ReadKit and am playing with it as a possible replacement. I also expect we’ll get back Reeder for Mac when they add Feed Wrangler support.

In Summary

As you can see, this is still a bit of a work in progress but even with the juggling I’m doing on the client side, the Feed Wrangler Smart Streams and Filters have me feeling really great about Google’s decision to pull the plug. Innovation in RSS is back.


MacSparky RSS Update


As part of the domain transfer, the name of the RSS feed has changed just enough to have lost hundreds of subscribers. I've switched the Feedburner address and installed handy buttons to the right. In the meantime, if you are not getting these posts in your feed, please re-subscribe. That is all.