ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms
Musings20 Apr 2008

I’m pretty late in my embrace of the RSS paradigm, but I understand it’s how the kids are getting their internets pumped through the tubes these days, and I’m not one to be left behind the times.

For a while I’ve been subscribing to the feeds from various blogs I read using Firefox’s live bookmark capability, and that was fine, but I’m approaching the limits of its usefulness.

Keen to get in on the ground floor of the next bandwagon (to steal a caption from a recent New Yorker Cartoon), I thought I’d employ some “crowdsourcing” to solve my RSS problem. Let me describe my requirements, and perhaps some lurking reader or randomly googling good Samaritan can sweep in make some suggestions.

The feeds I follow fall into roughly two groups. The first group are those feeds that update often, but I’m selective about which entries I read. A good example is the BBC news. In this case, live bookmarks are adequate. They let me see everything with one click and choose what I want to read.

The second class of feeds are those that update rarely (once a day or less) but I read every entry. These are mainly blogs of people I know and/or admire. Right now, I have them grouped in bookmark menus, which means in order to see if there is anything new to read, I have to mouse over each one in turn. This is starting to get unwieldy, especially since I’ve started grouping them by haphazard category (my “Writers” list contains blogs of writers that I read, for example. Incidentally, when does Neil Gaiman get any work done? He seems to blog an awful lot…).

What I imagine as the Utopian solution to my drudgery of menu-mousing is the ability to add several feeds to a single menu and see all of the unread items at once, aggregated together. It would form a list a bit like the BBC’s feed, except from different sources. The key is that I don’t want to put all of my feeds in this menu, just some of them, or else the BBC is going to muscle everybody else around. It would be a global “what’s new” list for my selected favorites.

I tried out a couple of Firefox RSS extensions in the hopes that one of them might do something like this, but no luck. I got close with one that added a “feeds” sidebar, but it didn’t seem to quietly update in the background like Live Bookmark does and tended to slow down my browser at regular intervals. Possibly this is because downloaded the content of each post into a preview window, which I don’t really care for since I prefer to read the actual poster’s page. For the same reason, stand-alone RSS readers don’t really interest me, and lordy I get enough email as it is, so anything that integrates with my mail client is probably a no go. Also, it needs to be well behaved – I tried out one that adds a kind of “stock ticker” to the browser’s bottom bar, scrolling the headlines along. What a distracting mess.

Dear reader, do you know of anything that might do what I describe? And what of your own RSS browsing habits?

2 Responses to “RSS SOS”

  1. 21 Apr 2008 at 8:16 am Rob

    Well, I also had a hard time finding an RSS alligator, for a while I used Sage, the add-on for Firefox, which existed as a sidebar, but I moved away from that into Google Reader, since it follows me around. I use Google as my homepage, so I turned it into an iGoogle, where you can sprinkle little gadgets all over the place.
    I have one box with my RSS feeds, which refresh as they are updated, and that is where I put the ones that update <= daily. The ones that update more frequently (CBC from all my favourite provinces) get their own little boxes, because while they update all the time, I don’t read all the posts.

    If you Google, you should iGoogle.

  2. 21 Apr 2008 at 6:13 pm Jamie

    DaringFireball linked to this a while ago:
    http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/03/26/Input

    FWIW, I use Safari to keep track of RSS feeds on blogs I like, but I would use a separate program for news reading (BBC, CBC, /., etc)

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