Feed Me Some Feedly

Many of you are probably aware of Google’s recent announcement to decommission their Google Reader product on July 1st, 2013. I’m first to admit there’s something a bit dated and clunky about RSS readers (or news aggregators, as they’re sometimes called). Yet, I’d come to rely on Google Reader quite a bit, over the years.

Google Reader logo in multiple colors.

There are a number of excellent blogs and websites I find quite important to my efforts, and I’m always interested when something new gets posted on one of them. In most cases, I’ll subscribe for email notifications (if provided), or watch for announcements of postings on dedicated Twitter feeds on my phone.

[Assuming, of course, that the authors make an effort to regularly publicize their new postings via Twitter, something me and my good friend Allison Bailes both seem to excel at!]

But it’s still nice having an RSS reader to organize all your feeds, and keep you informed of changes. I like to think of it as “bookmarking with active alerts”, which essentially is what a reader is.  In the particular case of Google Reader, a very devoted, user community surrounds the product, and I feel very sorry for these folks facing the prospect of having Google Reader taken away from them. I’m sure I’d be just as disappointed if, for example, Twitter were suddenly sunsetted with little warning and no obvious alternatives on the horizon.

Google claims the popularity of their Reader declined in recent years, and as a result, it ended up on a long list of products Google either is consolidating or scuttling. I’ve heard some folks speculate that reader-like functionality might be added to Chrome. I’ve also read where Google might want to reallocate Google Reader resources to Google+. But I’m not aware of any subsuming technology coming out of Google itself. And the only remedy suggested by Google seems to be exporting Reader subscription data to an XML file via Google Takeout, and then possibly importing it into any of a number of similar products. Not really all that helpful, frankly.

Feedly logo.

But recently, Feedly has been getting a lot of good press as a Google Reader replacement (two other alternatives also being talked about are Flipboard and Pulse). So, I decided to give Feedly a try. I installed a Feedly Chrome extension, gave it access to my Google account, and lo and behold, Feedly was all sync’d up with my Google Reader subscriptions. I also found that if I added a new RSS feed either to Feedly, or to Google Reader, it automatically appeared in the other reader. So it seems Feedly directly uses the Google Reader subscription file.

The Feedly user interface is indeed pretty minimalistic, but I rather like it. I also like the display options, especially the magazine and cards views. I’ve read that it’s highly flexible and configurable, but I suspect I’ll have neither the time nor the patience to really explore it much further than this.

Screen shot of Feedly display showing home energy feeds.

My feed subscriptions to a number of home energy publications, as displayed by Feedly in magazine format. For those very few sites that publish no feeds, I simply bookmark them in the browser (note my categorized bookmark bar above), and just check up on them from time to time.

I also installed the Feedly app for Android on my Nexus phone, and once again, so far, so good. It synchronizes with my existing Google Reader, and the user experience isn’t that far off from the browser UI. I suppose there’s something positive to be said about having all your Google stuff kept in synchrony under a single Google identity, and having a phone that’s likewise aware of that identity.

Screen shot of Feedly display showing cards format.

My various feed subscription categories are shown in the tree control on the left, with the “Lost Arts Masters” category selected, and its various feeds’ content being displayed in cards on the right. Note this article is also being displayed as a card, since I make it a point to monitor my own outbound feed.

I often wonder and worry about the future of certain other Google products I’ve come to rely on, like Webmaster Tools, and especially FeedBurner, given Google’s decommissioning of AdSense for Feeds last fall. It’s certainly disconcerting when anything you find useful is suddenly deemed not so useful by the people in charge, and then taken away from you.

Feedly app running on an Android phone.

Feedly on Android.

Postscript

One of my favorite uses of Google Reader is monitoring Google Alerts that I’d configured for various keywords occurring on the Internet. Since these alerts are realized as RSS streams, they can easily be captured by a reader. Late yesterday, an alert based on the string “Birmingham Point” was triggered, as a result of my publishing this very article that you’re now reading. So it was nice seeing Feedly, as my Google Reader replacement,  performing this activity for me, as well.

Google Alert captured by Feedly and displayed on a smart phone.

Google Alert content for the keyword “Birmingham Point”, displayed by Feedly.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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2 Responses to Feed Me Some Feedly

  1. Pingback: Feed Me Some Feedly | A Preservationist's Technical Notebook | Technolgy-Related | Scoop.it

  2. John Poole says:

    Hello Feedling…

    If you’re happy with the way you get notified of new postings on your preferred blogs (e.g., via email alerts or Twitter), then there’s no need to take on yet another tool you probably don’t really need.

    Personally, I find readers convenient because everything I want to track is all in one place and organized by categories, and I don’t have to go from site to site or email to email to get synopses; I can peruse the summaries all at once, on a single magazine page.

    ~ Pooley

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