Feed Readers/Aggregators

Posted on 12 August 2007 by jose

About a year or so ago, my friend Colleen, the most under-appreciated, bestest Librarian evar (it's okay, she doesn't read this, so she won't be embarrassed), convinced me to start using feed aggregators to handle my endless list of content I was trying to keep up with. I'd tried Sage, the Firefox aggregator/feed reader, and the entire exprience had left me hostile to the technology, but with her admonishment/recommendation in mind, I tried out Bloglines.

Bloglines, unlike the early Sage (I haven't looked at it in a couple of years), doesn't suck. It doesn't suck mostly because it's web-based. Points in my book for this, because it means my feeds are available to me wherever I go. But at the time I looked at it, it did have a major annoyance: when you look at a feed, the entire feed is marked as read. This is fine if you have enough time to actually read all the items in the feed. But if you're looking at high volume feeds (like, say, BoingBoing's feed), chances are you won't have time to read every item. When you try to return to the feed, at a different computer, for example, you won't be able to finish reading the items you hadn't gotten to. Unless there's some setting I'm missing somewhere, in which case my complaint isn't one about functionality, but rather of poor UI design.

So I used Bloglines for a while, but the all-or-nothing feeds annoyance eventually drove me to try to find a better mechanism for keeping up with content. This is a step up from my reaction to Sage, which led me to ignore feed readers for a good long time before Colleen frog-marched me back to sanity. I ended up going with Google Reader, which is my feed reader of choice to this day.

It authenticates against the same credentials you'd use if you're a Gmail user (which I am). Basically, if I'm logged into Gmail, I'm logged into Google Reader. Very convenient. More convenient is that it is flexible enough to let you mark an entire feed as read, or its default behavior, one by one as you read items in a feed. So I can read 5 items in the BoingBoing feed, read a couple of Groklaw News Picks, go back to BoingBoing, and then see what my friend Eric's been up to. Even if I fall way behind in reading any of these feeds, Google Reader makes it really easy to keep up with them. And I find subscribing to new feeds even easier than in Bloglines, where it was pretty easy to begin with. The interface is straight outta Gmail, so, again, if you use Gmail, it's instantly familiar (and to my mind, easy to use). I highly recommend it.

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