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Semantic Web Social Web

My Feedly wishlist

Richard MacManus wrote about the state of feed readers as he saw it in his AltPlatform.org post titled “The state of feed readers”. He mentioned a couple things in his Feedly wishlist that prompted me to think more about what I’d like to see added to Feedly.

Feedly – ye olde feed reader for the Information Age

If you haven’t heard of Feedly, it is a feed reader. Yup, those old fashioned services that use RSS to subscribe to new blog posts and other content available through RSS and then present it to you to read through at your leisure.

Many people have announced that RSS died with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard or any number of other “Web 2.0” services. They are wrong.

While feed readers may not be as popular as they once were[1], they remain one of the best ways to receive the updates you care most about.

I loved using Google Reader back in the day and I switched to Feedly when Google killed Reader off. I still don’t understand why Google did that. Thankfully Feedly stepped into the void that Reader left behind.

It’s where my stuff is

I really like using Feedly. I think I’ve been using it since about 2008. Twitter is useful for breaking news but when I want to go through the content that matters most to me, I generally go to Feedly.

Like MacManus, I am a Feedly Pro user and it’s been worth it. I probably couldn’t tell you what all the Pro features are but I’m happy with the end result so I keep renewing my subscription.

I was meandering through some dusty directories on my Mac recently and I came across a Feedly benefit that I completely forgot about. It turns out that Feedly has been backing up my OPML files[2] to Dropbox since 2014 (possibly when I started paying for Pro).

Feedly has a “read later” feature but I haven’t really used it all that much. I have preferred using Instapaper or Pocket for that.

I also realised that I forgot that Feedly has also been saving articles I marked to “read later” using its native tool as PDFs in my Dropbox folder. This is a pretty useful feature and it probably would have been even more useful if I remembered that I had enabled it!

A more recent Feedly feature is the ability to highlight text in feed items rendered in Feedly itself. This only really works when you subscribe to full feeds and doesn’t extend to pages that open from Feedly.

I love this feature in Instapaper which I started using as a research tool because I could highlight text as well as annotate it with comments. Feedly doesn’t go quite that far but it has real potential.

My Feedly wishlist

As much as I enjoy using Feedly, I’d love to see a few more features added. For one thing, I’d really like text highlights to be made portable somehow.

I can definitely see myself using Feedly as the research tool I thought Instapaper may become (for me at least) but I’d need to be able to do more with those notations. Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, would make Feedly so much more useful to me.

More useful highlights

I’d like to have the ability to capture text highlights into some sort of text file that preserves the context/source of the highlights (in other words, the article title, source and perhaps even highlight timestamps). IFTTT doesn’t have access to highlights so that isn’t an option at the moment.

It would also be great to be able to share highlighted text coherently and contextually through 3rd party services including to blogs, perhaps using IndieWeb tools.

Better sharing options

On a related note, imagine if Feedly baked IndieWeb functionality such as Micropub that enables users to share highlights or some other form of marked up content outside Feedly?

In particular, I’d really like to be able to share a highlight or even just a post I like directly to my blog on my phone.

I can already do something like this in my desktop browser. Sharing to WordPress from my browser invokes the WordPress “Press This” functionality, which is great.

At the same time, I find that I use my phone more than my laptop and given how many people use their smartphones as their primary computers, it makes sense for Feedly to make mobile a first class citizen.

Perhaps this could take the form of a pre-formatted share directly through the WordPress app or an intermediary step with a text file.

Feedly doesn’t even seem to offer an option to see my highlights in one place like Instapaper does.

Instapaper notes
Instapaper highlights and notes view.

I’m not sure what is possible, technically. At the same time, I’d like to be able to select something I have highlighted and share it on my blog with the contextual data about that highlighted text preserved, much like you can see in this screenshot of some of my Instapaper notes.

You could even take that further and enable other Feedly users to highlight that text and capture it into their own profiles almost like Amazon enables people to see what other readers have highlighted in Kindle books and add those highlights to their own collections.

Doing more with Feedly Boards

Feedly has something called “Boards” which are basically lists of articles you save to pre-defined lists. I’d really like to be able to share an RSS feed of my boards on my blog, for example.

Feedly board example
An example of a Feedly board.

Fortunately, I can use IFTTT to capture the articles I save. Still, I’d like to be able to create a sort of link roll based on my Feedly boards as an option from within Feedly.

I imagine I can do something similar to this through IFTTT but this is something that would probably work better as a native Feedly feature.

Just putting the thought out there

As I watch this IndieWeb thing gather steam, I’m hopeful that the ethos spreads not just throughout the online publishing world (aka the Blogosphere vx.0) but also to services like Feedly.

There is a lot to say for social media services. In many ways they have connected the online world in a way that Humanity hasn’t experienced. At the same time, we desperately need independent services like Feedly that empower us to consume the information we choose the way we prefer to do it.

My suggestions may not be even remotely on Feedly’s roadmap so I’m not expecting them to be implemented. At the same time, if they are, the result could be an even better service that we have at the moment.

Featured image credit: rawpixel.com


  1. Thinking back, I don’t think feed readers ever actually had mass appeal, just a dedicated core group of users who saw the value in customisable content streams.  ↩
  2. OPML stands for “Outline Processor Markup Language”. My OPML files are basically lists or indices of my RSS subscriptions. They are a great example of data portability in action because you can usually import OPML files into new feed readers and retain all your content sources.  ↩
Categories
Blogs and blogging Tutorials Useful stuff

Is Medium just a RSS reader?

medium-rss-iftttThe general consensus on Medium seems to be that Medium is a publishing platform, essentially. Rian van der Merwe has a different take on Medium which he explains in his post “Medium as RSS reader”:

But then it dawned on me… Indie publishers have been thinking about Medium all wrong. We’ve been thinking about Medium as a thing that eats all the world’s content with zero regard for publishers. But Medium is, in fact, nothing more than a next-generation RSS reader.

It is an interesting idea and I’m not sure I agree or would want Medium to become a fancy RSS reader. That said, his IFTTT recipe for automatically publishing his blog posts to Medium offers an alternative to the buggy Medium plugin for WordPress which I stopped using on my site.

View at Medium.com

Looking at Rian’s Medium profile, the IFTTT recipe seems to be working pretty well although I’m curious whether Rian needs to do any post-publication editing to fix formatting issues? I usually have to delete extra line spaces and fix quotes when I import my blog posts into Medium. If not, this is a good option for, at the very least, republishing blog posts to Medium.

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Useful stuff

Mystified by all the interested in Feedspot

I started noticing a number of emails from people inviting me to use Feedspot. I was curious and took a look at the site. It turns out, this is what Feedspot offers:

Receive daily updates from all your favorite websites in your email inbox
Multiple Newsletters clutter your email inbox. Feedspot combines all in just one digest email.

(Source: Feedspot – A fast, free, modern Rss Reader)

I don’t understand the appeal. I already receive way too much email. The prospect of adding another huge digest email with updates from websites I follow to my crowded inbox makes me feel queasy.

Source: feedly press kit
Source: feedly press kit

I’d rather just use a good RSS reader (I use feedly to subscribe to feeds and catch up either using Reeder or feedly’s reader). Why would you want digest emails with website updates when you can just open an RSS reader and catch up with everything there?


Images sourced from Feedspot’s and feedly’s press kits.

 

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Full feed lament

This is probably going to sound pretty old fashioned but I miss the days when more blogs published full feeds and the exception to that norm was a truncated feed. Back then, in the old days of blogging, publishing full feeds just seemed to be more honest.

When I subscribe to a feed these days and receive a full feed, it feels like a rare honesty in a Web of selfish truncated feeds designed to pull me onto a page with banner ads I ignore. For the most part I only click on those links to reach the main page which I send to Instapaper without much thought about the ads the site owner was hoping I’d click on.

Sure, people should be able to earn a living from their well tended and populated sites but give me an option to still get my full feeds. One model I haven’t seen replicated much (actually, at all) is Ars Technica which charges me less than $5 a month for premium content and, wait for it, full feeds. There are times when I don’t read many of their posts but, when I do visit my feed in my feed reader, I am reminded how grateful I am that I have the option of subscribing for the convenience of full feeds.

Categories
Business and work Tutorials Useful stuff

Tip: get your LinkedIn Network updates in your feedreader

I am on a mission to reduce the amount of email I receive each day. I’ve noticed that a significant majority of my daily email comprises updates from various social services (many of which I set not to send me emails). I don’t really see much value in most of that email so I sat down this morning to work through about 25 emails from one day and unsubscribe from as much of it as I can.

One of the emails I receive is a daily email with updates from my LinkedIn network. I am interested in what people in my network are doing but I really don’t want email about it all the time. I was messing around in my settings the one day and noticed a cool option – Network updates by RSS!! I use RSS daily and get most of my news and content through my feeds (I use Feedly either in the Web app or through Reeder on my iOS devices). This appeals to me because it doesn’t clutter my inbox and I can scan through updates when I check my feeds.

Here is how you can enable your Network updates in a feed:

Step 1

2013-10-13_LinkedIn_RSS_option_1

Step 2

2013-10-13_LinkedIn_RSS_option_2

Step 3

2013-10-13_LinkedIn_RSS_option_3

Step 4

2013-10-13_LinkedIn_RSS_option_4

Celebrate!

Once you have done that, go through all your email settings and edit those email frequency settings to suit your preferences. Here is a handy help article that will explain how to do it. Check through all the options. It will take a little time but it will be worth it!

Categories
Blogs and blogging Useful stuff Web/Tech

Google Reader is closing down and taking more of the open Web with it

2013-03-14_Google_Reader_landing_page

Google Reader, visually, is awful but its value is not its interface but what it does. Google Reader is the feed synchronisation engine that powers many popular feed readers and enables users like me to follow a variety of terrific blogs. It isn’t the only way to keep up to date on what is happening in the world but it is still a really good way to curate your streams and focus on the stuff you want to see more often.

So why is Google doing this?

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

I share Om Malik’s thoughts about these reasons Google gave –

I take issue with Urs’ comments about usage declining. It declined because the company put no resources into the product and took away social features that made it useful for many. It was a project that was orphaned because it didn’t fit into Google’s vision of a machine-driven reading experience. Despite minimal resources devoted to it, Google Reader was one of the better apps built by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

It is probably my second-most used Google service — after GMail — and I have always been befuddled by Google’s lack of desire to make Google Reader into a bigger reading platform. It could and it still can evolve into a Flipboard type service, but that would mean that Google would have to put resources and some real creative thought into Reader.

2013-03-14_Feedly_view

I’ve been using Feedly and Flipboard as my interface for Google Reader and they are far better than the native Google Reader interface. That doesn’t mean that Google Reader isn’t important to me and to how I keep up to speed on what is going on in the spaces I have an interest in. As Scoble pointed out, this is a real blow to the open Web and, to me, indicates that Google is just as interested in expanding its corner of the Web more than it is about encouraging a truly open Web. It may be that Google has just decided that fighting Twitter’s and Facebook’s inclination to develop more closed communities and infrastructures isn’t worth it and it may also be Google’s decision that there is simply more money to be made channeling users into the broader Google+ ecosystem. Either way, users are not the winners here, regardless of how you may feel about venerable RSS.

My Google Reader view in Flipboard

Thankfully, Feedly is working on an alternative and is positioning itself to fill Google Reader’s vacuum. It doesn’t address Dave Winer’s concerns about a company holding the keys to our consumption kingdoms but it does offer a smooth transition option. In the meantime, also take a look at the Data Liberation Front’s page with guidance for exporting your Google Reader data.

I pulled together a few links and stories which you may find useful in a Storify, below:

Google Reader is closing down

Google announced it is shutting Google Reader down. It caught many people by surprise and it points to a worrying trend on the Web.

Storified by Paul Jacobson· Wed, Mar 13 2013 23:41:43

The announcement from Google.
Official Google Reader Blog: Powering Down Google ReaderPosted by Alan Green, Software Engineer We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the ac…
Opportunity
Transitioning from Google Reader to feedlyGoogle announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader. This is something we have been expecting from some time: We have be…
Casualty
Nick Bradbury: The End of FeedDemonThis is a hard post for me to write. I’ve used FeedDemon every day since I created it back in 2003 – it’s part of my daily workflow, the first thing I turn to after pouring myself a cup of coffee in the morning.
Commentary
If you are lamenting the loss of Google Reader, do take a minute to thank @cw @mihai @shellen & the many others who brought it to us.Anil Dash
Sad to see Google Reader go. I know many apps added @Readability APIs (see http://2.dashes.com/X8d3fd ) expecting this, but still a shame.Anil Dash
Google puts a stake through the heart of RSS. That is so wrong, Google. It is a technology of openness. Protest! http://support.google.com/reader/answer/3028851Jeff Jarvis
Google To Close Google Reader On July 1Google Reader user? Say goodbye. Google has announced the service is closing: We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.
Google kills Google Reader, will go offline on July 1, 2013Google is doing second round of spring cleaning – euphemism for small projects it finds unworthy of its time and efforts – and is killing…
Wow. Google is closing Google Reader. Truth is I don’t use RSS anymore but I know lots who do. What killed this? Flipboard and Facebook for me. Prismatic too. The trend line was there: we are moving our reading behavior onto the social web. Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to subscribe to tweet feeds. <br> But this is sad. Particularly shows the open web continues to be under attack. We have to come into the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to read and share. Here’s a problem: a few of my friends have deleted their Facebook accounts. Dave Winer and Ryan Block, to name two famous examples.<br> <br> So they will never see my words here. The open web is going away and this is another example of how.
Thread: Goodbye Google ReaderAnd besides, I didn’t think the mailbox approach to news was right. Who cares how many unread items there are. I like the river of news a…