The biggest reason I stopped using RSS feeds and went back to trawling sites by hand was simply because RSS feeds are so hard to manage, even with a good RSS reader. If you miss even a day of reading you come back to an inbox with anywhere from 50 to a few hundred unread items depending on the number of sites you follow. For someone who reads mainly during a lunch break such as myself, working my way through old news before being able to focus on ‘new’ news became too much of an annoyance. Once Twitter came on the scene I found it was easier to get my news in the form of tweets and then filter them using a client like TweetDeck and this still works really well for me.
I tried Google Reader but it reminded me too much of all the other RSS readers and clients out there except I accessed it through a web browser rather than a desktop application. Don’t get me wrong, Google Reader has some really wonderful features that make RSS easier to deal with but it still didn’t present it to me in such a way that I enjoyed reading, it was still a chore and at the end of the day one that required management.
A couple of months ago after looking at the list of extensions for Chrome I came across a plugin called “Feedly” which claimed “Feedly organizes your favorite sources in a magazine-like start page.”, that sounded like it was worth a look. After installing, I very quickly realised that the Feedly plugin only acts as a gateway to the Feedly website which is where all the real action takes place. It is worth noting at this time that Feedly only supports Google Chrome and Firefox however there are plans in the works to break it out and make it available on other platforms including iPhone.
On the surface Feedly is a better, friendlier, more manageable interface for Google Reader (which is a better, friendlier, more manageable interface for reading RSS feeds) and is becoming a mash-up of social networking sites and RSS. Feedly doesn’t take the usual “list” approach to displaying feeds, instead it provides a more “magazine style” layout for your news items, showing pictures in the summaries if the item contains one or picking out featured videos for you. Through the use of non-obtrusive AJAX controls you can dismiss any item as read (by clicking on the ‘x’ beside it), read any item inline if the RSS feed providing it actually gives you the full thing or, if it doesnt, display an in-page preview of the article on the original website meaning you never have to leave Feedly.
The UI AJAXiness doesn’t stop there, while looking at an individual news item you can choose to post it to your favourite social networking sites such as Twitter, Buzz or Facebook, you can “share” it which essentially says you liked it and others might to (other Feedly users for example) or you can even save it for later which essentially is the same as ‘Star’ in Google Reader.
Granted, Reader can provide a lot of this too and for the most part it is rather intuitive, but using Google Reader reminds me of ploughing through an overflowing email inbox that always seems to have an “Unread” count that goes up rather than down no matter how much you read. This is where Feedly (in my book anyway) gets it right. Instead of watching how many more unread items you have to go, you can simply refresh your current view and any “read” items are replaced with new content. Feedly will always try to display the most recent items first (otherwise it would be a bit pointless) but once those start to run out it can work through your backlog of items.
This is an application which can cater for a very large portion of users by providing a number of ways to view content.
This is good as a browser home/start page since it provides columns filled with varied content and can be a good way to kick off your browsing
Provides more of a breakdown of your feeds and categories, picking out featured content and displaying a number of items from each of your categories while providing useful information on the right hand side (such as read/unread counts)
This is for the list lovers and the people who want to see their feed items in chronological order without any of the fancy shenanigans. Clicking on each item brings up the full version in-line so you get the best of both worlds.
Taps in to your Google Buzz account to show you what other people you follow have been “buzzing” about. Not found this overly useful so far but then I have Gmail and Feedly open side by side most of the day.
As you may expect this shows you popular articles on the net that other people are reading. This is similar to the way Google Reader recommends feeds for you and tries to complement the types of feeds you read.
You can view each of your categories on it’s own which then breaks down items by their feeds as well as providing recommendations on the right hand side.
- At A Glance
A breakdown of your feeds and categories with unread counts
This is an interesting idea, if you are logged into Twitter or provide your Twitter name, Feedly will determine karma based on clicks and retweets. So if you have shared an article and provide /cc @feedly in the tweet, Feedly can then track your tweet and determine how many people click the link and how many people retweet it. Not sure of the practical applications but the idea is nice.
- Saved, Shared and History
Pretty standard options for looking up items you have saved for later, shared and rather helpfully items you have marked as read which is great if you have accidentally marked an item as read and it vanishes.
In addition to the layouts, Feedly synchronises with Google Reader both ways, so if you add a feed in Feedly, it is added to Reader and vice versa. Quite helpfully this also goes down to the category level too so that if you have organised your feeds on one, they are automagically organised on the other. This means that if you chose to leave Feedly but didn’t want to lose your feeds, you wouldn’t have to export them or do anything really.
After using Feedly for a couple of months now I can say that I actually look forward to lunch and other times when I can check up on my feeds. This is a web application that has done a lot of work on getting a good user experience and improving on it while listening to feedback to move in a direction the users want it to go. The company behind Feedly is DevHD, a small startup that was founding in California at the end of 2006. They are focusing very strongly on Feedly and the work is paying off, just have to hope that someone sees value in the work they are doing.
So, want to start getting the best out of your dusty, unmanageable RSS feeds? Get Feedly!
- Feedly – http://www.feedly.com