liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
So I have two problems, which I think are basically the same problem, and I even think I know what the solution is, except I can't quite get it to work for me. Basically what I want is for the future to be even more futuristic, and deliver me all the reading matter I need in a format convenient to me.

Problem 1: Lots of my friends are moving to "proper" blogs now. People look back with nostalgia to mid-2000s LJ, but honestly it wasn't really that great, it was just about the only game in town, which in turn meant it was a lively, active mixed community. (The online equivalent of a Jane Jacobs-approved city, perhaps.) If you wanted to post banal stuff about what you had for breakfast and endless pictures of your kids or pets, you used LJ because there was no Facebook. Likewise, if you wanted to keep in touch with more acquaintances than you could reasonably email regularly, or to organize social events with minimum effort, you used LJ because there was no FB. If you wanted to share links and discuss articles, TV programmes etc, you used LJ because there was no Twitter. If you wanted to reblog memes and post stills from your favourite TV show, you used LJ because there was no Tumblr. If you wanted to post fanfic and fannish meta, you used LJ because there was no AO3. And if you wanted to post serious, thoughtful essays with links and citations, you used LJ because, well, there were alternatives, but they were hard work in comparison, and anyway all your audience was on LJ because of all the other activities going on there.

Nowadays Wordpress and Blogger and other systems are at least as easy to use as LJ, and more fully featured, and often a better way of reaching a wide audience. But they're scattered all over the place, and one feature they don't have is a way of reading all the content on one page, in chronological order, in a layout and format that you can design, with the ability to see at a glance whether there are new comments. If I have to make a list of bookmarks and check them regularly for updates, if I have to put up with a page plastered in flashy blinky adverts and all the text in a tiny narrow column down the middle, if it's a pain to navigate backwards to find old content if I'm away for a while... in the end, I'm not going to keep up very well. And this is annoying, because I miss out on the interesting things my friends are saying, and on updates about what's going on in their life.

This problem is about to become more acute because, rumour has it, LJ is going to start serving friends pages Facebook-style. That means using their ugly blue and white default site scheme rather than a page where I have control of the appearance. And it means a commenting system which is totally dependent on JavaScript and breaks in mobile browsers or image-free browsers. And worst of all, since (unlike many people) I am actually physically capable of reading the small black-on-white text with too much white space default style, it means a page that autoloads earlier content as you scroll down. That's a pain for so many reasons; it freezes up the browser more often than not, even on my fairly powerful, fairly modern computer, and I'll lose phone access, for example, but in specific it's going to make it really hard for me to follow my normal habit of finding the place where I last left off reading and move chronologically forwards from there. If this rumour becomes reality, I'm going to have to start slurping LJ content to another system, because I'll never keep up with a FB news feed style friends page. The problem is, what other system?

Problem 2: I want to follow the giant floating conversation around writing and books and SF, and it's scattered between lots and lots of blogs. I'm not so interested in book reviews or book promotion, it's more things like the recent discussion of portal fantasy, or the discussion earlier in the year about sexual harrassment at SF cons. For years, I've been using LJ as a crude feed reader for this, but this is becoming increasingly unsatisfactory, especially as this kind of mixed professional and fannish discussion is, like all the other interesting material, moving more and more away from LJ. There are probably about 100, maybe 200 blogs that are part of this conversation, some of them being group blogs where I'm only interested in one or two of the bloggers and it's hard to pick them out of the mass of uninteresting ones (Jo Walton at Tor, Sherwood Smith at Book View Café, etc). I can read that much, because I am a very fast reader and addicted to the internet, but not if I have to make more effort than opening a page and reading.

It's probably hard to get through more than a couple of sentences of this without immediately noticing that this is a solved problem: this is exactly what RSS was invented for, right? But what reader is out there that will be as convenient as my DW reading page?

I am not going anywhere near Google Reader; I didn't mind when they told advertisers about what blogs I followed, but now there's a serious danger that they'll broadcast my reading list to everyone I've ever emailed, or everyone that their algorithms thinks might be connected to me. So that's not an option.

I have used two different RSS readers on two different phone OSes (Viigo on Blackberry, and RSSDemon on Android). Both more or less worked for me, with some limitations. The big one was that certain feeds would simply stop updating, for absolutely no reason. Sometimes I'd think, oh, I haven't heard anything from friend so-and-so for a few months, I wonder what's up with them, and find I'd missed dozens of postings. Once this happened, I was never able to fix it; force updating didn't work, deleting the subscription and resubscribing didn't work. I'd be sent back to having to visit their page manually, and the number of people who have blogs outside LJ and DW, and whose RSS feeds have mysteriously stopped working for me is getting too unwieldy for that to be an option. I really don't understand why an RSS reader should do this, but unless someone can suggest a solution I'm a bit reluctant to trust keeping up with my friends to any RSS-based application.

I could get email alerts when pages update, but that's only slightly less inconvenient than going through a long list of bookmarked pages. Ideally I want all the content on the same page, cos that's been my habit for nearly a decade of LJ/DW now and it suits me.

Using DW itself as a feed reader seems like an obvious solution, and it's one I'm leaning towards. There are some slight problems with that, though. Partly, the network effect of DW is a killer feature for me, and if my reading page is cluttered up with several hundred feeds of non-DW blogs that effect is spoiled. People can't readily see whom I'm connected to, and they'll filter me out of their network pages if they're nothing but RSS feeds. DW as a feed reader doesn't do authentication, so I'd miss people who post friends only on LJ. DW feeds don't show new comments at all, so I'd have to keep clicking through to see what conversation is going on. There's also a privacy issue; if my reading list of DW accounts is very similar to my RSS feeds list, it's easy for people to snoop my social graph, and many people who do have "real" blogs want to keep their identities separate from their DW handles.

One approach is to create a separate account, not connected to this one, just for reading RSS feeds. That's what I did with [ profile] realwriters on LJ, and the big problem was that I could never be bothered to log out of my main LJ account and log in to the feedreader account to add new people who seemed to be part of the conversation, so my list is getting increasingly out of date. At some point DW has promised us a feature where you can link subsidiary accounts to a master account, but it's one of those pie-in-the-sky things (like full featured image hosting or a decent mobile app) that I'm increasingly losing hope of ever seeing.

So, any suggestions for an RSS reader? I need one that:
  • Works reliably
  • Shows me all the updates in chronological order
  • Lets me customize (at least to some extent) the appearance of the reading list
  • Shows me the posts themselves and at least the number of comments, not just the title
  • Deals with authentication and has reasonable privacy
I'd rather pay than deal with intrusive ads, but at this point I'll accept existing at all.

Assuming I do get this sorted, if you do have a presence not on LJ or DW, and you'd like me to follow you, please let me know where I can find your writing. If you're on Twitter I probably already know, because Twitter at least has an adequate mobile interface. Feel free to add me, u/n individeweal, if we're not already connected. But if you're on Tumblr or a "real" blog please tell me about it. If you are ok with me knowing but don't want the entire internet to see the connection between your DW handle and you blog, feel free to PM me instead of commenting.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 12:11 pm (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
I've been experimenting with Newsblur. It's free for up to 64 feeds and has an Android version as well as the web, though I haven't tried that yet. Not sure it does everything you want or that I want either but it was the closest to what I was looking for that I've found so far. Perhaps I should just give in and create a DW account just for feeds.

If anyone comes up with other suggestions, I'd be interested too.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 02:44 pm (UTC)
elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
From: [personal profile] elf
I use Google Reader. No idea how well it works on mobile devices; I like the folders options (I subscribe to over 50 publishing-related blogs/feed-things).

It does not customize worth a damn, but I find the default setup easy to deal with, if I use the condensed layout. (If you like the default, that's great; if not, ugh, sorry.)

It shows number of comments on some things; I think that's based on the original feed setup. Sometimes there's also a "comments feed" option, which I find incredibly not-useful; every comment gets its own post. I've still subscribed to that fora few blogs.

Showing "title" vs "intro paragraph" vs "whole post" is a matter of RSS settings on the original. Many DW accounts are set to "cut tag" as their length of RSS feed post.

Privacy... it's Google. It involves dealing with The Goog Empire.

It does, however, work reliably.

I have long thought that the coder who can create a "grab yesterday's posts and comments and throw them into ebook format" script, for individual blogs or a list of them, could make millions.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 03:13 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
I use DW for this stuff, and I think there are ways around some of your concerns (though not all). You can filter your reading page by optional filters, as well as by types, so you could pull all the feeds out easily into a separate link, and you can set your default view to not show the feeds, so you'd get both sides of that quite easily.

I think your "social snooping" is probably less of an issue than you're thinking? If you're following 200 feeds, and 300 people on DW, the fact that there's some overlap isn't going to be as obvious as if you were following ten of each, just from the scale. Is this a major concern for you?

Showing post and comments vs just title: I believe that's a thing that depends on the blog owner's settings rather than anything else. When you set up a feed, you can typically define full post vs intro snippet, and I don't think your feed reader can change that, although obviously it's possible that some feed readers will *only* show short versions. Comments is another tricky thing - I know some places do feeds for both, but it's clearly a non-trivial problem to solve, pushing comment counts over RSS, because RSS doesn't update in a way that would work well for that.

I agree, though - it seems ridiculous that there are so few really convenient ways to manage RSS feeds. The DW / LJ style is vastly superior, for me, to anything else I've seen, which makes no sense when you consider that it's essentially an add-on rather than a core feature.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 03:52 pm (UTC)
foxfirefey: A guy looking ridiculous by doing a fashionable posing with a mouse, slinging the cord over his shoulders. (geek)
From: [personal profile] foxfirefey
Some places (DW feeds included) do comment counts as an embedded image.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 03:19 pm (UTC)
zhelana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zhelana :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 08:49 pm (UTC)
zhelana: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zhelana
It would make me happy :p

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 04:05 pm (UTC)
mathcathy: number ball (Default)
From: [personal profile] mathcathy
I use bookmarks in Mozilla for RSS feeds. It shows me which articles I haven't read and as most sites have a "next entry" button it's easy to navigate through once I've found the start from my bookmarks. It hasn't got all the features you describe but works well for me for all non-LJ, non-DW blogs.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 04:32 pm (UTC)
foxfirefey: A guy looking ridiculous by doing a fashionable posing with a mouse, slinging the cord over his shoulders. (geek)
From: [personal profile] foxfirefey
I have an install of Gregarius on shared hosting and am really...used to it, in a way I'm used to LJ/DW friend pages, even though it's practically abandonware:

It shows all updates in chronological order.

If you can do PHP/CSS, you can make it look however you like.

It can handle feed authentication.

Sometimes RSS feeds do stop updating, but as far as I can tell that is because the feed itself has stopped.

Not really sure how well it would do on mobile, though, would probably depend a lot on the theme being used.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 04:26 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
So, YOU'RE the other Gregarius user!

Have you actually got it authenticating against LJ/DW? I thought that feature was broken.

Not really sure how well it would do on mobile, though, would probably depend a lot on the theme being used.

My Greg isn't public. But because the login interface is AJAXy, I can't get to it on my mobile device, so I've never managed to log in to my Greg and so have never used it from a mobile device. :( A back-burner project is making a non-AJAXy, well, all of Gregarius.

ETA2: Practically, schmactically: I submitted a patch about a year ago, and I might as well have dropped it into a black hole.
Edited Date: 2012-10-26 04:35 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 08:00 pm (UTC)
foxfirefey: A guy looking ridiculous by doing a fashionable posing with a mouse, slinging the cord over his shoulders. (geek)
From: [personal profile] foxfirefey
I think the first thing that I would do in such an instance is try and see if the feed validates. Maybe some invalid code ended up in the feed, choking the program until the offending parts stopped appearing in it.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 06:43 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
What I would desperately like is a RSS feed aggregator that lets me say how interesting items are and then uses Bayes Theorem to show me only other interesting ones (unless I say I want to see the not interesting ones too).

Like POPFile, which can be taught to sort POP3 email superbly well in a couple of days use, but for RSS feeds.

Various people have started projects like this, but they have 'issues' one way or another.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 08:41 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
I will have a look, but my problem is wanting to look at feeds where perhaps 1% is what I very much want and the rest is what I don't.

If I convert it into email, POPMail could find that 1% with 99.9% accuracy, given a little training.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-27 03:32 am (UTC)
ursamajor: people on the beach watching the ocean (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursamajor
I filter some feeds through Yahoo Pipes - that lets me generate an alternate feed containing only the stuff I want. For example, the Free iTunes Downloads feed includes both music posts and video posts, and I don't care about the video posts - so I pull in the original feed, insert a filtering instruction to "only show me posts with '[music]' in the title," and pull the resulting new feed into an RSS reader elsewhere.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-27 07:39 am (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
Alas, that's nowhere near good enough for this.

Think of the problem of getting rid of spam on a heavily spammed email account. Saying 'nothing with "casino" or a bank name in the title' isn't good enough, especially if you do want some banking email and mail that calls, for example, the stock market a casino.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-25 08:39 pm (UTC)
snakeling: Statue of the Minoan Snake Goddess (Default)
From: [personal profile] snakeling
Hi! Here via the network (which I browse with ?show=PC appended to the URL so I don't get feeds, btw).

A few words to start: how much is shown (title, title + blurb, title + entire post) depends on the settings on the blog itself, and there isn't much you can do about it.

The first question you have to ask yourself is: do you want something web-based, or desktop-based?

Desktop-based is good if you only plan on checking your feeds on one computer. There is a lot of software available, but given I've never used them, I can't give you advice. Live bookmarks in your browser are desktop-based, btw.

Web-based is when you use a website to check your feeds, which means that it's synchronised across the board (all RSS readers mark posts as read once you've scrolled by them).

There aren't a lot of players in town that are web-based, unfortunately, even though people increasingly use several devices, probably because RSS has always stayed confidential. (Apparently a lot of people actually check the sites to see whether they've updated. Madness!)

Google Reader is one, which I've been using for ages. It's the least worse I've found. It's black on white, Google-ugly, though you can find Stylish themes to prettify it. It works reliably. If you don't use folders, you'll see all updates in antechronological order. AFAIK, it doesn't deal with authentication.

Newsblur I tried about 6 months ago. I found it a resource hog, very pretty, with a lot of functionality. Most interestingly for you, it has a setting where you can choose to have the feed actually download the article for you, regardless of how the blog is set up. I don't know whether it deals with authentication, though. You have to pay to show more than 64 feeds, which was the dealbreaker for me: I follow about 150 feeds, and I just didn't find Newsblur good enough to pay for it.

Bloglines is what I used before Google Reader, back in the day. It grew increasingly slower, which is why I switched. I think it's still in the business of feed reading, but any info I could have would be incredibly out of date, so.

Netvibes is not strictly speaking a feed reader, though they can do that if you use it in reader mode. Don't be frightened by the truly outrageous price tag: they're mostly used by businesses, but the free version should be enough for your needs.

Finally, if you're willing to do the hard work, there's Tiny Tiny RSS. I keep meaning installing it, but it's not trivial and I always have something more important to do :P

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tamouse
How much would you be willing to pay someone to write something for you?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-27 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tamouse
Yes, those are great questions, and rather hard to get real answers to without knowing someone in advance. Still, there abound people who do this kind of thing, and several of them do hang out on irc in the dreamwidth channels on freenode (#dreamwidth is the main one).

(There are also plenty of people who write code and applications and such who would be offended if asked for a commission, but the DW community doesn't seem like such a bunch.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 07:04 am (UTC)
shreena: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shreena
I have a food blog here -

I won't be devastated if you don't follow or anything, but putting the link out there in case you'd like to.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-26 06:55 pm (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
I have a "money and London" blog at but you might know that already!

I don't have any advice about readers - I use Google Reader but wish I didn't, so I'm reading recommendations to you with interest.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-27 04:47 am (UTC)
ursamajor: people on the beach watching the ocean (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursamajor
Oh, man. I've been looking for a replacement RSS reader for awhile, and it's irritating how kludgy I've been finding their UI and UX to be, so thanks for giving me an excuse to search around again.

Things I've tried that haven't worked for me, but might be worth a shot anyway: NewsBlur (I read way more than 64 feeds, and didn't like it enough to give them money), Bloglines (slow and strangely too tiny).

Works reliably: Google is absolutely the best of all the web readers I've gone through, sadly. Though NetNewsWire (the desktop RSS reader I've been trying out this week) seems to be reasonable on this part. It doesn't autorefresh as often as GReader, but that's a fairly minor quibble. It does tout that it can sync with GReader, but I am specifically not letting it, and it's working just fine.

Shows me all the updates in chronological order: I thought this was pretty standard for true RSS readers, though I know the trendy "next generation" idea is that the reader takes your feeds, figures out which stories are "hot," and floats them to the top for you. Based on what G+ does, it would not surprise me if Google Reader stopped doing strict reverse chronological at some point sooner rather than later.

Lets me customize (at least to some extent) the appearance of the reading list: I think you're really looking at Dreamwidth here, or a custom-hosted solution; most of the readers I've come across seem to think it's revolutionary that you might want to customize font size, let alone colors. Google's customization gives you three settings: "comfortable, cozy, compact." NetNewsWire allows for some font-size and text color customization, but not background color.

Shows me the posts themselves and at least the number of comments, not just the title - I don't know of an RSS reader that keeps track of comments to a given post. I believe that some blogs will let you subscribe to "comment feeds," but I'm not sure which blog platforms correspond to what comment feed availability, and I'm pretty sure individual blog writers have at least some control over the existence of said comment feeds. I've seen "subscribe to all comments on this blog" feeds, and I've seen "subscribe to comments on this entry" feeds.

Deals with authentication and has reasonable privacy: as far as I know, web-based RSS readers that deal with authentication do not exist. Last I'd heard, even Google didn't do this. NetNewsWire, on the other hand, *does*. So I'm thinking I will bring the feeds of the last few friends I still have posting there into NNW, and just look at that from home. Or maybe shell out the $5 for the iPhone app, and use that as a DW/LJ mobile friends page. ... (You know what, if the NNW mobile app can handle authentication, this would actually be a really workable solution for me. I may have to do this. But I don't think NNW exists for Android, unfortunately :( )

So, um, yeah.

One last small point in LJ's favor: they're getting rid of external ads, so at least those won't show up on a friends page. I'm not sure what they mean by journal promo blocks, though, at least in terms of where these promo blocks appear.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-27 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tamouse
In general I want the articles in linear order (not mosaic'd all over the page as seems to be fashionable now), and the text as wide as possible with as much text on a single screen as I can get. If I find a system that looks like that out of the box, then fine, it doesn't need to be fully skinnable. But those criteria are more important to me than font and colour, and since they don't match graphic design fashions at the moment, customizable may be a better bet.

This is the main thing that irks me about FB, and it's HUGE, because it affects nearly everything I try to do there.

I've been thinking about this lately myself, anyway. I am being nastalgic for news readers of old, that could easily thread conversations (other aspects of usenet unusability aside).

The really, really sucky problem I see here is the services wanting people's words to only really exist inside their little walled garden. The means to get to see things on all these different services is tricksy, and sometimes doing so violates their ToS.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-11-07 02:21 am (UTC)
shoaling_souls: Fish swimming independently but still together in a group (Default)
From: [personal profile] shoaling_souls
you didn't mention what OS your computer uses, just phones, and i don't know anything about phones, but I use liferea on Linux for RSS and I'm reasonably satisfied with it. It works reliably, if you put all the feeds in a single folder (you can have subfolders), you can get it to show you everything in chronological order. i do that sometimes but there are blogs that i look at immediately whenever it tells me they've updated. you can tell it to check for updates as often as you'd like it too (once a day works best for me) and you can have different update intervals per feed. I'm not sure how customisable the reading list is... it uses whatever theme your OS has so if most of the programs in your OS look a certain way then it will look that way too. You can read the posts themselves for most blogs (some blog owners turn that off and there's nothing you can do about it), and you can specify a password and login name for any feed to see protected entries.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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