or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

So Long Bloglines, And Thanks For All The Feeds

   September 21st, 2010

Bloglines tombstoneBy now you've probably read other peoples' laments about Bloglines closing down. It makes me sad because I've depended on it for years, personally and for work.

I'm hoping someone will take over Bloglines and continue it, but just in case, I've been testing replacements and thought I would share my findings. (I've heard that RSS readers are a thing of the past, but I have also heard the same thing about email, radio, and libraries, which are also things I use almost every day.)

Anyway, the two I looked at were Tiny Tiny RSS (tt-rss) and NetVibes. There are also others like Google Reader, Pageflakes, FriendFeed, but I already knew I wasn't interested in those.

My criteria was basically everything I liked about Bloglines - a tool that let me get at the information I wanted to read, rather than getting in the way. Specifically, these were:

  • organize feeds into categories
  • sort feeds any way you want, not just alphabetically
  • bookmark posts to read later
  • load quickly
  • email posts to people
  • posts go away automatically after you view them
  • three view options for posts - titles only (click to expand to read fully article), post summary, and full post. And the view option can be set differently for individual feeds

Tiny Tiny RSSTiny Tiny RSS
One catch with tt-rss is that it's not just an online reader like Bloglines, but software you install and host yourself - or, if you're like me, ask someone else to host for you (word up, Chris). But listen to this: Blake Carver of LIShost.org has created LISfeeds.com to host tt-rss for librarians to use! So if you can't host it yourself but would like to use tt-rss, contact Blake to create an account. Thank you Blake!

  • simple and clean interface
  • didn't see a setting for view options - it displays the titles and you have to click to expand
  • can organize feeds into categories, but sorting within categories is just alphabetical
  • doesn't always display videos inline (Netvibes seems better on that score)
  • no ads, which Bloglines did have (although there was a greasemonkey anti-ad script called Stylish to remove them)
  • a little slow - switching between feeds, marking as read, etc. - just everything seemed sluggish
  • unsure about updating - button doesn't always seem to work, so Chris created a special url that forces updates (which take a few minutes)
  • harder to read/skim, because titles are same font and weight as everything else on page
  • lots of options listed under articles, which I don't use and kind of distract me
  • couldn't find a way to email posts
  • no way to see how many other people are subscribed to the feed (which might not be important if it's not a widely-used tool)

It looks like Netvibes' online RSS reader is just one portion of what they do. It's all I want though, so I just ignored all the widgety dashboard parts.

  • the overall interface is nice, but reading posts was still a little easier in Bloglines
  • top portion of the screen seems wasted - Bloglines devoted entire screen to feed reading
  • no ads, which Bloglines did have (although there was a greasemonkey anti-ad script called Stylish
  • setting in top right lets you chose display options per feed - title list, full post, or mosaic
  • a little bit slow - not horrible, but just enough to make me notice it
  • allows categories, and has drag-and-drop feed sorting which is nice (and easier than Bloglines)
  • plays videos inline, which Bloglines had problems with
  • updating can be wonky (which happened to Bloglines too) - sometimes you have to click into each category before new posts are displayed
  • a couple times every feed showed tons of new posts, but most didn't have anything new - but Bloglines did this too
  • it looks like one bad feed can prevent a whole category from loading - I had to delete and then re-add PLA blog feed because it wasn't working for me (but had to go through the category feed by feed to find it)
  • there's a link on each post to click right through to the comments, which is nice
  • one minor annoyance is that the posts' "mark as read" button is all the way on the right side of the screen, which is a pain with wide screen and a trackpad, because everything else I need to click is on the left side. But there is a "mark as read" button for the whole feed right where it should be
  • seems to randomly import posts from long ago, but might be because I'm just starting with it
  • have to either scroll past a post or manually click to mark things as read?
  • opening one article automatically closes another, which means you can't have more than one open at a time
  • handles oddballish feeds better than Bloglines, like Twitter streams and Flickr recent activity
  • does allow emailing posts, but I think it might send a link that requires a Netvibes account to clickthrough to - unless I'm doing it wrong
  • no way to see how many other people are subscribed to the feed (which might not be important if it's not a widely-used tool)

At the moment, I'm leaning towards using Netvibes. Mainly because it's a little bit faster, it lets me email posts (I'll have to work on the link issue though), I can set individual feeds to show either just titles or entire posts, and it seems closest to what I was used to Bloglines. I'm still sad about Bloglines, but I think I could get used to either of these.

Oh, but something else: since I've been using Bloglines for 5-6 years, I have hundreds of posts bookmarked in there, which I now what to retrieve somehow. Sigh, change.

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13 Responses to “So Long Bloglines, And Thanks For All The Feeds”

  1. Dan Says:

    Google Reader meets all of your criteria, as far as I can tell. It’s what I use.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Dan: sorry, I forgot to say why I didn’t want to use Google: I know their tools are generally outstanding, but don’t entirely trust them with personal information, and am uncomfortable with the way they monitor and record everything their users do.

  3. M Wms Says:

    I read your post this morning via Google Reader. I switched from Bloglines to GR about 6 months ago and have liked it much better. But I don’t have the trust concerns you do with Google (and you can opt out of a lot of the monitoring, as I have).

  4. Resource Roundup: Classics Blogs « Becoming a Classics Librarian Says:

    […] was down.  If you hate Google Reader, a librarian blogger I like, Swiss Army Librarian, just did a round-up of RSS readers that are not Google Reader, so you may find one you like.  While twitter and Facebook are discovery tools for new blog […]

  5. bookgirl Says:

    You should use netvibes. the top of the screen isn’t wasted, you use settings to put a cool picture there, like halloween ghosts. it’s fun. and, you know the add content button will find feeds from a URL, so re-adding feeds isn’t difficult. I’ve used netvibes for a long time, and that doesn’t happen often. Also, if the feeds stop updating, clicking on reader view will update them, then you can switch back to widget. they’ll probably fix that. The web note and to-do list widgets are really handy. I have about 7 tabs on my netvibes. you should try the link tool, delicious widget, and the web page widget is pretty cool. obviously, I love my netvibes.

  6. Brian McLaughlin Says:

    Brian- Like you I’m not an enthusiast of Google Reader- I have imported my 300 blogs from Bloglines
    to FeedDemon – even if I have to read it at home –
    or will, after Oct 1, since our network strongly discourages on-the-fly downloads…
    Hope to continue to access your site –
    Regards from Syracuse, NY

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @bookgirl: thanks for the tips – I haven’t explored NetVibes at all beyond the reader, but I definitely will.

    @Brian: I don’t think I said it outright, but another criteria was I was looking for an online tool, rather than a download-and-install one. There seemed to be a lot of those, and they seemed pretty decent. But like you (I think), I want to be able to read feeds wherever I am – home or work (with work being any number of computers, since I’m always bouncing around between my office and the computers at the reference desk). Please let me know how you end up liking FeedDemon, because I am keeping that option open.

  8. Erin Says:

    Great post and great comments.
    @Brian I’ve heard of FeedDemon but not used it before, let me know your thoughts
    I migrated over to Google Reader from Bloglines and had no trouble importing my feeds. Great experience thus far.

    btw, Thanks for linking up in your post!

  9. Marnie Says:

    Thanks for posting your evaluation. I moved to Google Reader, but have yet to figure out how to bookmark items. If I don’t find the key soon, I’m going to change again.
    I, too, have hundreds of Bloglines bookmarks. What are you doing with yours? I’ve been going to the articles and bookmarking each one in my browser, but that is getting out of hand! Do you have a better plan? I use Zotero for genealogy, but maybe that would work for the bookmarks.

  10. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Marnie: I haven’t done anything yet – my plan was to just go through and bookmark them into my Delicious account. I was hoping they’d export, but since they didn’t, I think it will be a one-by-one process – which isn’t a bad thing, since many have been bookmarked for years and may no longer be relevant anyway. If you figure out something better, please do let me know.

  11. fs Says:

    Just found out that you can hide the “wasted” top space: If you use the Reader view, there’s an icon in the upper right corner which resembles a window. Just click it an the top space minimizes.

  12. Brian Herzog Says:

    @fs: great catch, and thanks for sharing. I’ve been using Netvibes since posting this review, and have more or less gotten comfortable with it. Emailing articles isn’t as clean as Bloglines, but otherwise it seems like a fairly 1-to-1 replacement.

  13. Sean Patterson Says:

    I think you’ll be immensely happy with Netvibes, especially the “Reader View” part of it. That’s the only part of the site I currently use since I have a huge collection of feeds and I couldn’t always work out a nice layout for all the feeds. Netvibes does an EXCELLENT job of managing this. I also love threadsy for my e-mail/social network stuff.

    Without making too much of a shameless plug, I went my own “journey” of trying to figure out a system for my feeds and blogged about it. If you’re interested in looking at some other options, check out http://dillieodigital.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/lifestyle-data-management-conclusion/