1. Using Feedly in Chrome just got a lot easier

    Posted September 15, 2013 in How-to  |  No Comments so far

    When Google Reader died I switched to using Feedly. I like it a lot – enough that I don’t miss Google Reader – but one thing that’s been a bit of a headache is easily subscribing to RSS feeds from within Chrome.

    In the days of Google Reader it was pretty straightforward but the Feedly transition made that process a lot harder. Various Chrome extensions failed to solve the problem, subscribing me to comments feeds instead of main feeds, or simply failing to find feeds at all. Before long I’d reached the last resort of viewing source, doing a Ctrl-F for “.rss”, then copying and pasting that into the Feedly web interface. Going through those steps is enough to make you think that RSS is indeed doomed.

    Anyway, I’ve just found out how to sort this problem out once and for all, integrating Feedly with Chrome just as Reader once was. The solution is posted over here at Coderwall by Rod Hilton and will let you add RSS feeds to Feedly using the standard Chrome RSS extension. It’s just like in the good old days and will allow me to spend a few more months pretending to myself that RSS has a future.

  2. On the demise of Google Reader

    Posted March 14, 2013 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    So Google is shutting down Google Reader as of July 1st 2013.

    We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.

    As someone who uses Google Reader pretty heavily (54,770 items read since April 17th 2006) this isn’t great news. But it’s not as bad as it could be: this post from Feedly was exactly what I, and I guess many other Readers users, needed to hear earlier on today:

    Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader. This is something we have been expecting for some time: We have been working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API… When Google Reader shuts down, feedly will seamlessly transition to the Normandy back end.

    With people like Feedly preparing to step up when Google steps down, it looks like the asteroid hurtling towards Planet RSS will be obliterated or diverted and cast off harmlessly into space. So we can all breathe a sigh of relief about that.


    Given that this is the internet and everyone has to have an opinion about Google Reader shutting down, here’s mine.

    I think Google has a right to do what it wants with its products, so if they want to shut it down then fair enough. As a user of Google Reader however I have a right to be annoyed that it’s closing down. In my line of work the phrase “put the user first” is something of a mantra, so while I’m tempted to stroke my chin and consider this from Google’s perspective as a question of strategic resource deployment or whatever I’m going to approach it instead from the user’s perspective – my perspective – and give Google a thumbs down on this one. Bring back Google Reader you scoundrels! And so on.

    I bet Larry Page is quaking in his boots.

  3. Growing page views through ineptitude

    Posted November 10, 2010 in media  |  No Comments so far

    If you’re an online publisher that’s missing out on page views because people are consuming content with RSS readers, here’s a strategy that might help: break things.

    By breaking your RSS feed and screwing up its formatting, people like me will be forced to click on your links and leave our reader applications, giving you the ad revenue you crave. But you need to obey the following rules:

    • Only break things at the formatting & layout kind of level, nothing more fundamental. The feed still needs to actually work
    • Make sure all the content can be seen in the feed, even though the formatting is broken. This will give us the incentive we need to click on the link. (and no, the first paragraph alone won’t be enough to achieve this. The whole article should be visible, but broken)
    • Let some HTML code or something leak into the feed output so that we know it’s really broken and you’re not just making it deliberately hard to read.

    I’m writing this post because Fast Company seems to have followed these points and succeeded, at least where I’m concerned. Their RSS feed has broken and it’s led to me actually visiting their site (and generating ad revenue) for a change.

    Fast Company's broken RSS feed

    It works because the reading experience is so poor that you’d never go through the entire article, but your eye can flick up and down the block of broken text, getting a good sense of the content. Interest is pigued but satisfaction is withheld. Is this just ineptitude on Fast Company’s part, or is there a kind of evil genius at work over there?

  4. Is RSS the “vinyl” of digital media?

    Posted January 26, 2010 in media, web  |  No Comments so far

    For large stretches of my life, I’ve allowed my obsession with music to burn up huge chunks of my time as well as my money. Illness, poverty, hangovers, rain – none of these things would stop me leaving the house and spending whole weekends wandering London, going from record shop to record shop. Over time my vinyl collection grew while my bank balance fell, but I didn’t mind – because that collection of vinyl was (and still is) valuable in lots of ways. I didn’t just enjoy listening to those records – I also enjoyed playing them out. I played in clubs, made compilation tapes and distributed mixes over the internet.

    My vinyl collection helped me evangelise the music I loved to like-minded people. And before the worlds of music and the internet collided back in 1999, this sort of behaviour occupied a useful niche in the music ecosystem. Vast numbers of releases, especially in genres that flew under the radar of mainstream promotion, were filtered, curated and recompiled, helping normal people – who had better things to do than waste their lives exploring dusty record shops or compiling mixtapes in their bedrooms – explore obscure fields of new music. In this way vinyl kept influencing the public’s relationship with music long after it stopped being a mainstream format.

    Some records

    It’s a common mistake, especially when thinking about media formats, to see things in a binary way where the only two states are ubiquity and death. Many made this mistake when vinyl was eclipsed by the CD, thinking that its death was just around the corner. But this thinking was wrong. Although vinyl sales fell, its role remained important and it still is today – in fact, vinyl sales in the US actually increased by 33% in 2009.

    RSS, unlike vinyl, isn’t a formerly dominant format that’s finding a smaller niche. Instead, it’s a new format that’s failed to go mainstream: usage of RSS readers is in decline and Twitter is supplanting it as a mass-market feed delivery channel. But there are definitely similarities between the formats, and the role they play in their respective ecosystems.

    You can’t ask mainstream users whether or not they use RSS in their daily course of Internet usage any more than you can ask the average couch potato whether or not they use Cathode Ray Tubes or Liquid Crystal Displays – Mashable, October 2008

    Not everyone wants to get to grips with concepts like Atom or OPML, learn how to use an RSS reader and incorporate it into their daily routine. That’s understandable: I know lots of voracious online readers who’ve never got to grips with RSS. Similarly, many people in the 1990s, despite loving music genres that released mainly on vinyl, didn’t want to join the anorak-wearing record shop brigade and start buying expensive import 12″s.

    But for media owners (whether websites or record labels) that vinyl-buying, RSS-reading audience is worth reaching if only because they’re in the habit of evangelising. A heavy RSS user is more likely to run their own website on which they’ll compile and re-publish that content, just as turntable owners are more likely to create mixes that showcase obscure records to a larger audience. RSS heavily influences how information moves online, and plays an indirect role in shaping the online experiences even of those who have no idea what it is.

    So even if RSS is never destined to become a mainstream format for delivering content online, reports of its death will prove to be greatly exaggerated. The internet needs a format which, like vinyl, appeals to the obsessives and whose very nature encourages compilation and re-transmission.