Google Reader Alternatives

Google Reader, an online app that allowed you to read and be notified of updates to blogs like this, will close on July 1st. It’s unlikely that anyone reading this isn’t aware of that but just in case. Export your data now!

google-reader

There are a number of alternatives to Google Reader, each one has it’s own quirks and advantages. Gamma Goblin has listed a few on his blog but I’ll recommend my favourite one, Feedly.

After the frankly stale and unmaintained user interface in Google Reader the UI in Feedly takes some getting used to. At first I hated it but in the last few months they’ve improved it. I could try and describe how they’ve changed it but I’m just a user of the service. I notice when things go wrong but when they work right I don’t notice. However, I was reminded by Joseph Scott that Feedly doesn’t have an export option so make sure you backup your data out of Google Reader or you won’t be able to try other services quite as easily as you can now.

Feedly is moving at a great pace. Make sure you follow their blog (in Feedly, or the WordPress app as it’s on WordPress.com!) for further updates.

Also make sure you subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so already!

Blogline's new interface is beta

Bloglines beta screenshot

Bloglines have announced a beta of their new interface, just after I jumped ship to Google Reader. The new interface looks snazzier than the old one and they’ve adopted some of the conventions of Google Reader. Clicking on a subscription doesn’t mark all items as read for example.

The same accelerator keys still work, and “s” still jumps to the next feed, but they don’t have the star and sharing features of Reader. If you’re reading this through a feed reader jump to the front page of ocaoimh.ie and you’ll see an “I like these” list on the sidebar. Those are my shared items. Damn, I found something sticky in Reader that I can’t live without.

bloglinesbeta-views.png

Bloglines now has 3 views of your feed. Like Google Reader you have the Quick and Full views, but a third view, the “3 pane view” looks more like an email client or news reader. Nice, but I’m too used to the full view to switch now.

If i hadn’t already moved to Google Reader I’d be disappointed. The new 3-pane-view is nice but not enough to make me jump back to Bloglines. It’s beta, so hopefully it’s not too late to add a few new features.

My life through Google

  • A large part of my online income depends on Google Adsense.
  • I filter my email through gmail and since this morning I’m feeding a backup gmail account with a copy of every single email I get. Thanks Matt for that idea.
  • I use Google’s search engine to find solutions to my problems.
  • Like Tom and Matt I now read my feeds through Google Reader. Not being able to hit ‘S’ to go forward a feed still sucks but my workflow has changed to accommodate it.

It’s a bit scary how much I use we use Google.

PS. I’m testing a new WordPress plugin. It needs comments to work on, so please leave a comment! It’ll hopefully see the light of day tomorrow! :)

What the heck is that RSS thing anyway?

I’m not going to explain it but a short video I found on Conor’s blog will. It’s produced by Common Craft and explains in easy to understand terms why and how this stuff can make your online life so much more efficient and fun. When you’re done watching the video, click on the Subscribe link over on the sidebar and subscribe to my blog to see how easy it is! You’ll never look back after you discover the power of RSS syndication!

And one final tip, if you’re following the comments on a blog post, you can subscribe to that post so you’ll be notified when a new comment appears! Say you don’t like cats, well my 8 reasons to hate cats post would be right up your alley. It seems to be very popular for some reason. Instead of refreshing the same page over and over again, look for the “Feed for this entry” link and subscribe to it. The cat-hating conversation appears in your news reader along with all your other feeds!
PS. I love cats!

WP Plugin: Import your Flickr comments

I have had a plugin running on my photoblog In Photos for quite a while now that imports comments on my Flickr stream into my blog posts. It prefixed “Flickr:” to the username and linked back to the Flickr comment.

Due to overwhelming demand (two people asked!), I cleaned up the plugin a bit and put a configuration page on it and called it the Flickr Comment Importer. There are a few things to consider if you want to use this plugin but it’s straight forward to install and configure and it’s all documented on the plugin page.

Download it now!

How I know who's talking about me

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but Scott Adam’s post about using Google Alerts to find people talking about Dilbert prompted me to put fingers to keys this afternoon.

When someone anywhere in the world mentions my name in a blog post or even a comment, on Flickr, on Zooomr or anywhere with an RSS feed I know about it within a few hours. Occasionally it might take longer, maybe a day or so, or even a few months sometimes, but that would be unusual.

How? I use a “news aggregator” called Bloglines to track my favourite websites. Bloglines also has a search engine to search through their database. Nothing extraordinary there, but the magic happens when you subscribe to that search. “Subscribing” is just like subscribing to a magazine. You’re sent updated news and information as it happens at the source. When you subscribe to a blog, every time that blog is updated their new post appears in your aggregator. No need to fret about missing the latest news any more.

Instead of having to reload a search page every few hours Bloglines does that job for me automatically. The Bloglines feed list reloads periodically. A quick glance at it’s page in my browser window shows me if someone mentions me. It’s less stressful than checking my email all the time and news is delivered into my browser where I want it.

To be sure I search as much of the Internet as possible I do the same search on Technorati too.

I wonder will Scott find this post or comment on it? Probably not but hopefully someone else will find this useful.

Too Frickin’ Cool

Find new stuff with the image wall

While everyone seems to be running to the new kid on the block, Google Reader, I stuck with Bloglines because I prefer the old-style interface and the sorting options over the new fangled web 2.0ish Google upstart.

At the same time, I’ve lusted after some of the new features of Google Reader but Bloglines have been busy with a new feature I quite like called the Image Wall. The wall is basically a collection of images grabbed from the latest posts that Bloglines sees. The wall refreshes continuously bringing in new content as you’re watching. Clicking on an image leads to the Bloglines preview of that post where you can then click through to the actual post.

It’s not perfect. The images don’t always fade in correctly, sometimes stuttering or suddenly appearing or changing for some reason. That’s only a minor problem compared to the big one. When you hover an image, a popup appears with a large verson of that image, and allows you to mark offensive images. Unfortunately to get to an image in the middle of the wall you have to move your cursor over other images, thus suffering more popups. If you haven’t tried it, image what it would be like to mouse over a Snap Preview powered page full of closely formatted links. Ugh.

Besides that problem I really like the idea. I found a blog with an hour’s worth of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody remakes yesterday because they included a screen grab from that song’s video. Unfortunately my browser crashed shortly afterwards so I can’t share it with you. I can see you’re disappointed.

Just in case you’re worried about such things, you have to click through the following disclaimer each time you activate the wall.

The Image Wall is comprised of dynamically generated images from user feeds and may contain material of an explicit sexual nature or other adult content.

You do read the small print don’t you? Don’t go complaining that you weren’t warned!

bloglines-imagewall.jpg

Edit: Looks like Bloglines have listened to the complaints and have responded.

Effective today, Bloglines will move the Image Wall to its own, new domain at http://www.bloglinesimagewall.com. Now, any school, library, parent/guardian or third party filtering service can add this full domain to their list of restricted domains to be blocked.