WordPress Reader

Can I use WordPress Reader as a social RSS reader?

In a recent blog post, Jason Becker reflected on the challenges of measuring engagement and building communities on personal blogs when you don’t have analytics. Jason linked to a blog post by Monique Judge calling for a return to personal blogging.

This paragraph by Monique resonated with me.

People built entire communities around their favorite blogs, and it was a good thing. You could find your people, build your tribe, and discuss the things your collective found important.

That’s what I want when I use silos such as X, Threads, Facebook or micro.blog. But when compared to IndieWeb principles, these platforms often fail to satisfy my needs for a sense of community and communication. One key issue is that these platforms demand that I establish a distinct identity within their closed ecosystems, and they impose rigid rules and guidelines enforced by centralised authorities, usually dictated by one person.

@camacho I try my best to adhere to the IndieWeb principles of POSSE. I host my blog on WordPress because, unlike micro.blog (µB), I control the platform. µB is just another silo platform, after all.

This is limiting and frustrating, as it restricts my freedom to interact and express myself authentically. To avoid these constraints, I have tried alternative solutions, like decentralised social networks or open-source platforms, where users have more control over their online presence and interactions. These platforms aim to promote user autonomy and reduce the influence of central authorities. But I still find them lacking.

This got me thinking about social RSS readers and WordPress Reader.

A social reader can refer to two concepts related to reading and social interactions. A social reader is a modern interactive reader that allows you to directly respond to posts (with a like, comment, etc.) right there in line with posts as you read them (as people do in social media), in contrast to legacy feed readers which are one-way read-only experiences that provide no mechanisms to interact with or respond to posts.

When using a social reader app, individuals can discover articles others share in their network, follow specific topics or publishers, and see what their friends are reading or recommending. The app might curate personalised content based on the user’s interests, preferences, and social connections. This combination of reading and social engagement enhances the user experience by fostering discussions, facilitating content sharing, and expanding one’s knowledge through diverse perspectives.

Social reader apps can increase engagement with content and a sense of community among users who share similar interests. A social reader represents a convergence of content aggregation and social networking.

Google Reader was an example of a popular social reader. It offered features that allowed users to share articles with friends and engage in discussions around the shared content. A social reader represents a convergence of content aggregation and social networking.

My WordPress posts were syndicated to Facebook (via Automattic’s JetPack) before they shuttered their API access. Automattic and µB stopped supporting Twitter after Elon Musk raised prices. I still syndicate to µB via the RSS feed, but the presentation is weak without Open Graph.

WordPress has a built community via JetPack and WordPress Reader. WordPress Reader has been around since 2013 and is the WordPress equivalent of µB’s chat feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what inspired Manton. Most of my comments and readership come via WordPress Reader.

Screenshot of JetPack Reader
JetPack Reader’s Discovery Tab

I was syndicating to Mastodon, but there is some problem with duplicates being created on my m.b. time when I do that, so I disabled it.

I know to have the sort of online life I want, I need to participate in multiple small, or at least not billionaire-run, communities. No small single service, community, etc... can meet even my meagre needs.

Screenshot of JetPack Reader
JetPack Reader Likes

While I don't have a large following on Twitter (about 1,500) or Instagram (around 500), I've been fortunate not to encounter the common issues that some people associate with these platforms.

One of the reasons for my positive experience on large social platforms is that I already have genuine in-real-life connections with friends and family on those platforms.

Screenshot of JetPack Reader
JetPack Reader’s conversation timeline

Forming deep connections with strangers solely through casual and trivial conversations on social media is challenging. While I value my interactions online, I think true belonging and understanding can only be found through genuine, in-person encounters. It's easier for me to fully know someone beyond their avatar and screen name with the opportunity to meet face-to-face. I’ve never expected to make strong "friends" online.

Screenshot of JetPack Reader

Maybe part of my frustration with m.b. is that I know what’s possible. I hope that ActivityPub and Wedmentions (or a combination of the two) become part of the popular blogging and social media platforms to foster inter-blog inter-platform messaging that links everything together.

On this Day in History: On 19 November 2006, Nintendo released the Nintendo Wii in the United States. It was Nintendo’s fifth major home game console, following the GameCube.

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. 

Google Reader is gone. Now what?

Sigh! Dave is right.

Many geeks, including myself, are paying the price for our dependence ( addiction? ) to "FREE". Google had decided that Google Reader is a service they no longer want to sink money into. Google is an advertising-driven company, and Google Reader has no ads. It made sense for them to shutter the service.

But now what? What do geeks like me who have become dependent on the service to host our daily firehose of information? The main features of Google Reader I depended on were aggregation and sync. I needed a replacement that had at least these two features. It would be nice if the service supported one of my favourite RSS apps. I'm exploring several options, one of which is running my news aggregation service using River 2. I set River up on a Windows AMI, but I'm not confident about it. I also think Fever° meets the need.

After setting up the software on my Linux host, I exported my OPML from Google Reader and imported it into Fever°. Fever° has an API for apps like Reeder to interact with it.

Reeder does a great job of integrating with Fever°, including adding the Hot List. I find Fever° to be faster than using Google Reader in Reeder, but that depends on the web server's performance.