Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 16 Mar 2009

A better RSS reader

I came fairly late to the wonders of RSS and Atom. I think I first used them in a limited way on NewsIsFree and then to full effect on Bloglines. That worked pretty well for me. I looked at Google Reader when it first appeared, but it was slow and awkward. Once they had got it working properly I imported my feeds and have not looked back.

I subscribe to over 100 feeds. Most of these update infrequently. I see that as the real value of the technology as you can keep up with certain sites without having to keep checking on them. I've stopped following some of the busier sites as I can just visit them when I have time to see what's new. I'm using Postrank on one feed to filter it a bit. It's supposed to just give me the most popular posts, but you pay a penalty in getting them a bit later. I can live with that.

One of the things I feel that I miss using this sort of application is the comments. If you see each post as it appears then there unlikely to be many comment then and Reader does not make it obvious when there are some. Some feeds do include a comment count, but I think that's just part of the original post. I do click through to the original site when I feel the need to post a comment, but otherwise I might not see the responses.

Some sites offer one of a couple of ways to follow the comments. You can either check a box to opt for emails as comments come in or subscribe to a further feed of the comments. The emails can be overwhelming on a busy site and having lots of extra feeds to manage is a pain. What I'd like to see is an extra button in Reader that allows subscribing to comments on a particular post, but as a sub-feed of the main one. I don't know if RSS or Atom have anything to support this directly, but it should be possible to automate if there is either a feed for each post's comments or for all comments on the site. So has this been implemented anywhere?

A case in point is Steve Lawson's post about Twitter. It has gained over 50 comments today. I'm getting emails, but at one per comments it's a bit too much of a good thing.

I suspect that some people will watch the comments on a post for a while and then unsubscribe from the email or feed. If anyone happens to come along months later and add something useful to the discussion then it's unlikely to be read by many. I'm sure I've read something by Jeff Atwood on this, but can't find the appropriate post.

On the subject of Twitter, I gave a talk at Herts LUG about microblogging. I tried to explain what it offers as I know very few members who use it. Rob did a counter-talk where he ran through some of the issues with Twitter. These included those of security and identity. I've probably already overexposed myself on-line. It's probably possible to pull together all sorts of information about me from my various on-line identities. I've not noticed any problems with this so far and am wary of exposing details of my family or certain personal information. Other are less wary. You only have to browse Facebook to see examples.

That's enough of my waffling. Time for some guitar practice. I'm always happy to see comments on this site, apart from spam, but I don't get many. As I only have a few readers according to Google and Bloglines that's not too surprising.

[21:15] | [] | Comments | G
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