RSS Spring Cleaning

Recently I found myself hitting the "mark all read" option in Reeder (iOS) and ReadKit (OS X). When staring at an unread item count of several hundred, it's easier to do that than trying to catch up. I realised that I had less time to read the "feeds". Some feeds had less compelling content than I had thought, and many had stale content. Some feeds posted news almost as fast as it happened, often with little analysis and insight. So why read them?

Earlier this week, I switched1 from FeedWrangler to Feedbin. The Feedbin feed management tab allows me to sort my feeds by the name of the date they were last updated. I had a lot of feeds that had not been updated in several months, and some of the sites were no longer online. I got rid of everything that had not been updated in two months. Some sites may not update often but have excellent content. But thirty days is a good cut-off point.

I also got rid of any sites that were too "spammy". I had some sites that had several updates every fifteen minutes2! And many of those posts are just short one-paragraph links to longer articles on sites I already followed. I got rid of the "dupes".

I am now able to find more wheat than chaff in my feeds. I am hitting the "mark all read" button a lot less.

  1. I started using FeedWrangler shortly after Google Reader shut down. Recently I've had very little luck getting any support from the developer.  
  2. That's how often I set Reeder and ReadKit to refresh.  

I'm (mostly) free of the Google "Collective"

I'm (mostly) free of the Google "Collective"

Google launched Google+, their social network for nerds1, in 2011. It had almost no impact on real people, and growth was slow. Being the impatient type -- wanting Facebook type numbers without the effort -- Google decided to force everyone using any Google service to use Google+. They have been inflating their numbers via tricks on Gmail signups, requiring Google accounts for Google Play and YouTube comments and turning Google search into a social ranking system. They've managed to convince the cheapskates of the world -- the people addicted to FREE -- to hand over information that Google then mines and sells to advertisers. You are the product, not the customer. Your web behaviour is being tracked and analysed in EVERY Google service even when telling Google, not to and Android device. Google probably knows you better than you know you.

But unlike Google's legions of fandroids and glassholes, I know better. For the head-up-Googles' ass types who might be reading this, if you have no worries about privacy and nothing to hide, I suggest attaching a GoPro -- sorry, I forgot you have Google Glass -- to your body and live streaming your life to your personal YouTube Channel. Your sex life, your showers, your masturbation habits, your intimate conversations ... broadcast them all. You have nothing to hide, and you don't need privacy.

I am on a quest to reduce my reliance on Google services. I am willing to delete my Gmail account, one that I've had since the beta launched in 2004, and move to another service. I'm eager to move my Google Calendar, the one letting Google know who I'm with, when and where. I'll find a way to share photos without using Picasa web and without having Google do face recognition them so that they can better track us. I'll find a less creepy way to share documents and videos than Google Docs and YouTube. Google won't be able to track my phone calls and text and listen to my voice-mail anymore.


I will no longer use Google Chrome. I don't trust it. For day-to-day use, I have switched to using the WhiteHat Aviator or Safari with the Disconnect privacy extension.

WhiteHat Aviator comes ready-to-go with hardened security and privacy settings, giving hackers less to work with. And our browser downloads to you – without any hidden user-tracking functionality. Our default search engine is DuckDuckGo – not Google, which logs your activity. For good measure, Aviator integrates Disconnect – a crucial extension that blocks advertisements and much of the privacy-destroying tracking users across the Internet.


I plan to move my Gmail and Google Apps hosted email accounts to a paid IMAP service provider. The shortlist includes FastMail and Runbox. These services offer trial accounts, and I moved one domain during the trial period. These two services offer migration tools for importing all existing mail, including folders, to the new account.

Gmail has some great spam filters. I'm not sure either FastMail or Runbox can match it. I'm already looking for alternatives. I don't mind paying a nominal fee for spam filtering.


I've never been a heavy user of Google Drive or Google Docs. I prefer Dropbox or Box. Apple updated iCloud this summer, and it now offers similar functionality to Google Docs. In fact, on the Mac, it's better. I can start a presentation in Keynote on OS X, save to iCloud and continue working on my Pages on my iPad, or make edits in Pages in a browser in Dropbox or Box documents can be opened/saved via any iWork apps on iOS or OS X. The combination of Dropbox/Box and iCloud easily replaces Google Drive. Office365 is a great paid replacement for Google Drive if you prefer Microsoft products.


I found a few alternatives to Google Voice. I created an account with Line2, and I am researching [Phonebooth] and SendHub. Neither Line2 nor Phonebooth seems to match the features of Google Voice -- call forwarding and voicemail being the major ones. SendHub seems feature complete but won't be cheap. But that's a small price to pay compared to starving Google of the value of my personal phone call information.

[Phonebooth]: https://phone


Moving my calendar should be relatively easy. While Google Calendar integrates more easily with Google+ events, there are no benefits to Google Calendar over, Live Calendar, or Zoho Calendar.


I've started to upload my videos to Vimeo. The free account limits my bandwidth to only a few videos uploaded per month and limits the quality of the video. That's good enough for now. I may, at some point, decide that the quality gap is too high and upgrade to a paid account. In the meantime, I've deleted my YouTube account. I've had that account for almost a decade, but I didn't have any qualms about deleting all my videos and the user account.


I've had a Flickr account before PicasaWeb (now Google+ Photos) and integrated it into their data collection empire. I've started to rely on that service more in the short term. Yahoo and Google are in the same data collection business. I also have a paid account on 500px but prefer to reserve that account for only my best. I want a platform to share photos with my friends and family. Perhaps a paid user account with SmugMug might be best.

  1. Seriously, it's a photo/tech nerd sausage fest. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise. Frack off! 

Feed Me!

In a few days, Google Reader will permanently shut down. Google's decision has left many geeks in a quandary. Smaller but well-known providers1 in the space are scrambling to "coral" as many people as possible. In navigating the services field, I've had to decide not to decide.

Right now, I"m using Feedly, a free service. The service has been mostly reliable and performs well. The iOS app ( I mainly read on my iPad ) is functional. The web front end is well-designed and responsive. Some RSS software developers are claiming they will support it soon. While I could stick with Feedly, I'm concerned about relying on another free service. How exactly does Feedly make money?

I searched for alternatives shortly after Google announced. I followed the advice of Dave Winer and set up my own River server on AWS. When the first bill from Amazon2 came due, I decided River wasn't an option for my budget. The CU and bandwidth costs were very high. I also found very little feed-reading software that supported the service.

Soon after that, I found Fever. I follow over 200 feeds, so I liked what Fever was offering.

Fever reads your feeds and picks out the most frequently talked about links from a customizable time period. Unlike traditional aggregators, it seems Fever works better the more feed I follow.

And the price was right. A one-time license fee of $30 and a few lines of code, and I had a Fever server running on one of my domains. However, the server didn't perform well. Syncing took a while, and the iOS version of Reeder was the only app I found with Fever support. I may need a beefier server.

So I continued using Google Reader with the Reeder app, hopeful that something would happen before July. There was some buzz around Feedbin, so I registered for the service. The service is usable, but the performance is poor. Downloading RSS feed items with Feedbin takes minutes instead of seconds with Google Reader.

The performance on Feedbin continued to suffer, and the developer took the service offline for over 7 hours to upgrade his infrastructure. I dropped the service. Perhaps it was a rash decision, but when I'm paying for a service, I expect you to perform better than FREE. I expect a better communication plan than a tweet linking to a blog post. The support request system leaves much to be desired. Sometimes the cost of a service isn't an indication of quality. Did Ben Ubois only create his service for software developers?

Some digital cognoscenti3 are voicing support for Feed Wrangler.

ReadKit for Mac just added Feed Wrangler support, so I’m trying that out now. Reeder for iPhone will get it shortly, and Mr Reader for iPad already supports it. Marco

I have yet to try Feed Wrangler. All of these services (except for Feedly ) are paid services costing about $24/year. I want to try Feed Wrangler if, but I already paid for a full year of Feedbin service, and I'm not sure when/if I'll get a refund. I purchased the ReadKit apps and am testing that out with Fever. It's a beautiful app but lacks most social sharing services I want.

Reeder is my current favourite RSS app. The iPad and Mac versions lack support for other feed services beyond Google Reader. However, Reeder's developer has removed the iPad and Mac apps from the store and has made the iPhone app free until he can release an update.

The current version of Reeder for iPhone will be free, starting today. Version 3.2 (already submitted) will support the following services as alternatives to Google Reader:

  • Feedbin
  • Feedly
  • Feed Wrangler (No support for smart streams yet in Reeder)
  • Fever
  • Standalone/Local RSS without syncing

I've tested the iPhone version, which supports Feedbin and Fever. It works well, but I’m looking forward to having support for the other services. I want to use my choice of feed reader on iOS and OS X with support for all the current offerings from RSS aggregators and sync services. If I’m patient, it would seem that Reeder will be that app.

In the meantime, I’ve exported all my feeds and will use Feedly Web and iOS apps. The Verge reviewed several alternative services and apps I have yet to try.

  1. The amount of "spam" from Feedly and Flipboard is obnoxious, but I have a few other options that work on iOS and OS X. 
  2. Running River on a Windows server instance cost me almost $11. I do not want to pay hundreds of dollars yearly for sync services. 
  3. I was searching for a word that means "people in the know," which seemed to fit.