WARNING: Techy post coming up!
I’ve been using an RSS reader for quite some time now. I started out using some of the desktop-based aggregators and ended up using FeedDemon pretty regularly (it’s still an excellent program, btw, and Bradbury makes great software). Problem was, I’d have to have two copies of the program–one at work and one at home, and they didn’t talk to each other. So I’d read a bunch of feeds at work and mark them as read, but then have to scroll through them again at home.
I started using a personal web-based reader called Feed On Feeds. It’s very basic, but it resides on my server and I can get to it from any internet connection. It’s worked very well for me for several months. I’ve even tried out some of the hacked versions of Feed On Feeds, but I always preferred the original. FOF lists all new items in one long list. It’s not organized by topic, so after several dozen feed subscriptions, it gets tough to read through everything. And inevitably I end up missing stuff, since I may not be in the mood to read that particular topic.
So I started shopping around for a new aggregator/reader (I think those words are used interchangably). First, I looked around for comparisons on the web, but didn’t have much luck. A VC has a brief review of some stuff, but I needed more. I knew I wanted a web-based one, since I want to get to it from home and work. I know there are a bunch of entries flooding this space these days, but here’s what I’ve tried: a customized Yahoo! page, Bloglines, Kinja and Rojo. The bummer is that they’re each so different that it takes a while to decide whether you like ’em or not. I’ve been flipping through each of them off and on for a while now, and I’ve decided that I really like Rojo. They’re a relatively new entry, but the stuff they’re offering is, so far, just what I’m looking for. They bill themselves as adding a social networking bit to the RSS reading. Whatever. I don’t care too much about that, though it’s always interesting to see what other people subscribe to. The social bit isn’t unique, of course, since both Bloglines and Kinja have similar features, but Rojo (unfortunately) makes the social bit explicit–you’ve got to invite others, or know how to find them before you can review their subscriptions.
My brief review follows…
This did fine for my wife, who just tracks a few blogs and wants to see
who has updated and what the headline is. She likes the customized
page too, so she sees more than just the RSS jive. It just didn’t do
it for me, though. I want more than the headlines–I want to see a
summary and have some options to work with each post. Yahoo, just
doesn’t offer it. They’re doing well at what they do offer…I just want more.
Bloglines is real nice. They have a two-pane interface which seems to
slow things down for me, though. Otherwise, I like the ability to
organize feeds into groups and it’s fun to browse other people’s
subscriptions (when they’ve made them public), and I like seeing how
many people have subscribed to a particular feed. They allow you to
make a kind of automatic "blog" from specific postings that you flag,
and they also let you "clip" postings…kind of a bookmark manager
thing. I’ve got nothing against Bloglines–they’ve really done a nice
job. They’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about their
organization scheme, but it never really clicked for me, and I just
didn’t need all their bells and whistles.
Kinja’s big strength is that you can add non-RSS feed pages into your
"Digest." The digest is one long list of updated feeds, though. Kinda
like how Feed On Feeds does it. They make it easy to add feeds to your
"favorites", but as far as I can tell, you can’t sort or categorize
your favorites. They also let you see who else is subscribed to a
particular feed and then you can go browse that person’s feeds. It’s
voyeuristic and fun. Gotta have the categorization, though. I’m done
reading all my feed items in one long list.
Rojo appears to be a ‘by invitation only’ kinda thing for now. If you
want an invite, let me know. I liked Rojo’s organization and I like
the "recommended channels" thing, where they evaluate what you’re
already subscribed to and point you to similar stuff. It was pretty
right-on for me. As with the other readers/aggregators, you can import
an OPML file (this made it much easier to compare services). Rojo lets
you organize your feeds by tagging them–each feed can have multiple
tags. Very gmail-ish. I haven’t poked around that feature much, but
I’m guessing that if you read an item that was in two places, you would
only see it once. Haven’t experimented, though, so don’t take my word
for that. You can also easily expand/contract individual feeds and
items–this is a very well-implemented feature, if you ask me. My one
gripe with Rojo is that they force you to add "contacts" if you want to
browse other people’s subscriptions (apparently only during this ‘beta’
time). You can browse for contacts, but you have to phish around,
guessing what userids might be, or putting in your friends email
addresses to see if they’re members. I really hope that when they get
out of beta, they everyone a flag where they can turn on or off their
public profile, like Bloglines does. I like poking around and seeing
what other people read. It’s one of the reasons I like del.icio.us so
much, I guess. It’s wide open and accessible. No monkeying around
with invitations, etc.
So anyway, Rojo works for me (for now). Seems to be as fast or faster
than Kinja or Bloglines and it has the features that I’m specifically
Got something that you prefer? I’m not entirely burned out on reviewing yet, so leave a link in the comments (no html, sorry). If I get desperate enough (and I’m getting there), I may just end up doing a comparative spreadsheet on web-based readers/aggregators. But definitely let me know if someone has beaten me to it!