Taming the Feed Beast

We have mentioned a couple of times that we tend to have enormous feed subscriptions, despite our best efforts to keep the numbers manageable. Artem raised the question about how we manage these but no answers were forthcoming so I thought I would revive the topic here.

First my tool of choice

By now someone must have built the ultimate feed reading tool to beat all others?

I have been on a constant lookout for a great feed reader ever since I discovered RSS. Bloglines, sorry to the fans, just doesn’t do it for me. I use a web interface as a backup, not as my primary reading method.

Newsgator was ok but I found a better Outlook RSS plugin with Attensa. With Attensa I can sync with their web based service, this means my primary mode of RSS reading is available in addition to a roaming web interface, perfect. Well, almost. I had to spend a LOT of time with their very helpful staff to work out why it had nuked my Outlook install. All resolved now, happily.

How I manage my feeds

The one thing Attensa does not have that others I tried, such as Blogbridge and even Attensa’s own web based service, is the “river of news” view. If they added this to the Outlook tool I would be very happy in deed.

The way I work is to store my feeds in folders by “project” rather than topic. So feeds I read to find out the news that is relevant to Performancing go into a Performancing folder, good photography blogs go into my DSLRBlog folder, the best .NET blogs go into the folder for my techy blog etc.

I still have “second tier” folders for all the rest of the blogging news, but by shifting feeds into very paired down collections I am only looking at the good stuff, the ones I can really rely on. This saves me time as I am not wading through irrelevant stuff that might be fun but isn’t immediately useful.

An important folder contains all the non-blog feeds I keep up with, our BaseCamp projects, my Tadalists, etc. This is the main advantage of my feeds being in Outlook. I have outlook open all the time so if something new pops up I know right away.

Once I have got the important feeds out of the way and posted some (obviously brilliant and insightful) blog posts I can read the rest to keep abreast of news and catch up with what Dilbert is up to today and what is going to happen next on Battlestar Galactica.

If while looking through the other feeds I find a feed that looks like it will be useful I will move it. Looking through the feeds at this time also helps me find new blogs. I follow all the linked sources and have a look to see if I want to subscribe. Feeds I haven’t found useful for a couple of weeks get nuked. It’s like feed Darwinism, only the best survive.


What software do you use and how do you manage your feeds? How many feeds do you subscribe to?

18 thoughts on “Taming the Feed Beast

  1. Chris recommended BlogBridge.
    That RSS reader/aggregator is a very cool Java application.
    Smart-Feeds, Reading lists, synchronization with server, … you name it.

    I am having problems with the underlying network structure. I am sure it is not BlogBridge fault but BlogBridge is a pretty good stress test for the (Java) network socket … it seems to (be able to) break the network connection with JRE 5 version 6 … or my Kerio Personal firewall … or my F-Secure virus shelter. I am still checking on that.

    I am testing BlogBridge 2.13 and it is pretty cool. I am willing to work out that network problem to keep that reader.

    Oh, and the support reaction is fast!

  2. It was causing my outlook to error but not so bad that I would lose anything or cease to work, just would cause delays and not download rss. They provided me with an exe that cleaned everything up, after reinstalling attensa it is all fine

  3. I struggled with NewsGator for Outlook for a while, but kept having little nagging problems. Then I tried the new FeedDemon 2.0 Beta (now owned by NewsGator). I find it to be the best tool out there. It’s very intuitive and flexible, plus in syncs with NewsGator on-line… so you can install FeedDemon on several machines and/or use NewsGator on-line and always be up-to-date. There was a small issue with the synchronization that wasn’t very clear, but there is a fix.

    NOTE: It sounds like it has almost the exact functionality as NetNewsWire, only for Windows. That makes sense since NewsGator owns both now.

    Now, just today, I downloaded IE 7.0 Beta Preview which includes support for RSS. I must say, I’m pretty impressed (though I’m not sure of their plans for synchronization). It’s a little buggy and there are some kinks to work out, but certainly worth a look.

  4. Chris,

    About Attensa: When you say “it had nuked my Outlook install” what do you mean exactly?

    I’m looking for a decent outlook reader and I’m seriously looking at Attensa.

    BTW, I could never get into Bloglines, don’t know if I’m missing something as it’s seems to be so popular…

  5. Currently only available for Macs.

    It has Smart Feeds which are a way of filtering your feeds. Eg I have a blog about portable entertainment players, so I set up smart feeds for MP3 players, portable DVD players, portable game consoles, etc etc. Very useful. I also setup a smart feed that shows me all news items that are (possibly) reviews

    It also has feed grouping which makes browsing much easier as I can then group my feeds into my main areas of interest. eg Portable entertainment, Apple news, Other news, Blogs, Blogging (eg Performancing), Sport and Software

    It also lets me blog a news item with it’s Post to Weblog button.

    You can flag news items (which I stopped doing since too many accumulated)

    And probably best of all, it has a built in web browser (based on the same engine as Safari), which means you can launch and view the news item’s page within NNW.


    I’ve tried Safari’s, Opera’s and Firefox’s builtin newsfeed and find they just don’t work the way I do. Ditto Bloglines and other such services.

  6. Well, that was a useful post to read: I’ve just installed Attensa and it looks like it will be much better than bloglines, which is what I’ve been using up to now, with the feeds more or less squashed into project folders. I try to be disciplined and keep no more than 10 top quality feeds for each project.

  7. Being an RSS evangelist, I’ve had to try out a dozen or more feed readers. I like Klipfolio, which I wrote about here in Performancing a while back (but the post seems not to be on this site anymore). I also use Newsfox, which is an extension for Firefox, and FeedReader. Purely for testing and analysis reasons, I tend to use a few readers at the same time.

  8. I run a very, very clean newsreader broken down by what types of information is being pulled in.

    At home I’m using SharpReader and away from home I use the beta Google Reader.

    All in all I try to keep my subcriptions around 200. There was a time when 500 feeds were managable but I would spend most of my time reading and not writing; 200 feeds affords me enough fuel to get the gears turning and allows me to quickly acquire new info to research.

  9. Hi there!

    I recommend you to try http://www.newsalloy.com, its working beta but very close to release and suits many blogger demands.

    I personally use it (as i developed it for myself with help of many fans and users who usually want more than regular feedreader. Newsalloy is also useful with combination of your Perfomancing plugin for FF, which makes reblogging very easy!

    PS do not consider as promo – it is topic relevant and i’m real fan of Perfomancing plugin!


  10. Chris, by Outlook you mean the full Outlook, not Outlook Express, don’t you? It means, that you have to purchase the Office first.

    At the moment I am using Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5. You can direct different feeds to the same folder, etc, but it is quite slow (at least for 30+feeds on a good Athlon 64 machine) and has a number of bugs. E.g. quite often it fetches the same article twice and you never know if it follows the “Don’t load the web page” setting. I also tried Sage extension for Firefox. It looks very nice, and you’ll love it.. if you track only small amount of feeds and Sage doesn’t schedule the feed retrievals, you have to manually click the “Refresh”.

    What I dream about is a bug-fixed fast Thunderbird with the ability to drag’n’drop feeds between folder PLUS a web based backup for the travel time.

    Have anybody seen a tool like this? What other tools are there, that have a web-based backup?

  11. I like RSSBandit but lately I’ve been using Portable Thunderbird as my RSS Reader on my Thumbdrive so I can take it to and from work. I’m going to see if I can trick RSSBandit into running this way, I think it is a better RSS Reader.

  12. I have been using Attensa for Outlook for about a month now and love it. There are a few hiccups occasionally, but over-all it is seamless. I am especially impressed with their open forums where they seem to truly listen to feedback on functionality.

  13. Not having my own Computer, and finding that my portable drive does not like programs running on it (I was using GreatNews, but my portable drive kept on deciding that it wasen’t formated, and so forcing me to format it, lossing all my info on it). After Cheaking out online readers, and finding that for them to be worthwhile I would have to pay (Not an option) I set myself up a Gmail acount as a Rss reader. read here < http://askrra.blogspot.com > how I set it up. It can be set up on any email acount, (Using Gmail, you also have a rss feed search (using Gmail clips option) and a search for posts that you already have read, no more losing that one important post).

Comments are closed.