Burn, RSS, Burn!


This has been an unusual weekend indeed.

FeedBurner is toast

First off, I’m making my RSS feed available outside FeedBurner.

I’ve been using FeedBurner since 2006, primarily because it saved me a lot of bandwidth1. It broke on occasion (sometimes spectacularly), but it was a great boon, and it pains me to have Google drop that ball as well, but I think the writing’s on the wall.

Given the way they’re handling this it makes sense they’ll break publishing as well as reading news, so I’ve set up http://the.taoofmac.com/rss as the main feed – FeedBurner will feed off that while it lasts, but you’re advised to change as soon as possible, and the feed itself already carries a warning regarding that.

Oh, and of course you can follow @taoofmac on Twitter to keep abreast of posts here, or me directly (@rcarmo) if you’re curious.

rss2imap

Meanwhile, and until a credible replacement for Google Reader surfaces, I’m deploying a backup plan (or two).

newspipe works well, but the codebase (even my Bayesian classification fork, which I neglected) is a little dusty, so I picked up the rss2email source and patched it to access an IMAP mailbox directly.

It delivered feed items via SMTP just like newspipe, but with IMAP I can file messages directly into folders and not have to bother with SMTP delays, spam filtering, message capping and whatnot.

It was a bit eerie picking what was originally Aaron Swartz‘s code eight years later, but despite the Python idiom of the time being somewhat cluttered, it was an easy enough hack.

Toss in a little CSS, and the resulting messages look pretty dandy indeed:

So I’m running that now in parallel, and actually enjoying it – a lot of the little annoyances in Mail.app were fixed over the years, and all that I’m really missing is the hjkl shortcut keys – but then again, I implemented a Mail.app plugin for that once, so I suppose I can do it again (I had a report it stopped working after recent updates, but it might be fixable).

MUA Madness

What about mobile, I hear you ask? Works fine, really:

Seriously, the experience is surprisingly good. I’ve been trying out as many mail clients as possible, and here’s what I came up with in terms of common actions:

I find it odd, really, that e-mail clients are so far behind news readers in terms of flow. Both Reeder and the Android Reader client sport sliding gestures and easier ways to deal with whole folders of items at once, but everyone uses e-mail. Right?

So why are we putting up with sub-par user experiences in mobile mail clients in this day and age?

Still, there are a few extra niceties – for instance, both platforms will ask whether you want to download inline images, although Gmail is more specific as to letting you specify that from each “sender”. The flip side is that image caching when offline is a bit hit and miss (but then again right now I’m not storing the images like I did with newspipe).

Meanwhile, in the back burner…

Since I’ve been using Reeder almost exclusively for a long while, I’m naturally most inclined to stick with it.

Alas, its three editions (iPhone, iPad and Mac) are hardly in lockstep, and only the iPhone version supports one alternative to Google Reader – Shaun Inman’s Fever, which sports a simple (and apparently efficient enough) API.

As part of this weekend’s hacking I cobbled together a little API clone and got as far as getting my iPhone to log in and display a set of bogus feeds and feed entries from static files – so I know I can clone the whole API without much hassle.

Building a back-end for it shouldn’t be much trouble – but it’s utterly pointless unless all editions of Reeder support it, and the API spec currently lacks support for adding feeds and other niceties, so I’m not going to be tinkering with it much.

I’m sure to play around with it a bit more for kicks, but building a full feed aggregator isn’t something I really have time for – and even if I did I’d stick to the API, since I have zero interest in building a web app for reading feeds.

But it’s doable, if/when Silvio Rizzi updates the apps. Just sayin’.

A note on Feedly

I tried it. First thing I did was read this and switch off all the “nice” but pointless junk in the mobile UI. Hated the browser extension (uninstalled it instantly).

Still, it might be a useful alternative in a few weeks’ time (basically once they have a big, fat “un-magazine” button in their mobile apps).

One can hope, at least.


  1. Back then, when this site was a lot more popular, RSS accounted for over 25% of raw traffic. These days, since everyone is on FeedBurner, I have no idea of the traffic impact – but then again these days I’ve taken my HTTP tweaks up quite a few notches… ↩︎


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