LiveJournal For Google Reader v1.3 Update

Earlier this year, I released my LiveJournal Atom Feed Digest Authentication Proxy (also known as LiveJournal For Google Reader Users). This tool allows Google Reader users to subscribe to “friends only” posts in LiveJournal weblogs, which normally isn’t possible because Google Reader doesn’t support the necessary authentication methods.

Thanks to the hundreds of users that use the service, and in particular to Mike, Aaron, Thom, and Nat, who filed particularly valuable bug reports, this post announces the new version of the tool – version 1.3. If there were a tagline for it, it’d be “at long last, it’s stable!” The source code for this version is also available for download.

Here’s the “for dummies” guide to getting it working:

Using Google Reader To Get “Friends Only” LiveJournal Posts

There are lots of good reasons to use a newsreader (like, for example, Google Reader) to subscribe to your friends’ LiveJournals. The big and obvious one for me is that it’s possible to subscribe to your other friends’ non-LiveJournal weblogs, too, and to other comics and news sources and all kinds of things all from one place, so you don’t get stuck in a cycle of “check the LiveJournal friends page, now check this blog, now check that one,” and so on. But if you’ve used Google Reader already, you won’t need to be told about how great it is.

The problem is that if you just use Google Reader to subscribe to LiveJournal weblogs, it doesn’t pick up your “friends only” posts. That’s kind-of irritating, and could be a showstopper, unless somebody wrote a tool to get around the problem. Hey look, somebody did!

  1. You’ll need a Google Reader account. If you already have a Google Mail or similar account, you can use that, or you can make up a new one to make it hard for the all-seeing Google to link together all of your online activities into their massive databases. If somehow you don’t have one already, create a Google account here.
  2. Next, you’ll need a LiveJournal account. Unless you’re one of these fancy folks who uses OpenID to authenticate and read your friends’ “friends only” posts, you probably already have one of these. If not, create one here and then get everybody you know to add it to their friends list!
  3. Finally, you’ll need to log in to LiveJournal For Google Reader Users. This bit’s really easy, because you just log in using your LiveJournal username and password. If you don’t like the idea of your LiveJournal credentials being stored on some site somewhere that isn’t LiveJournal, you’ll want to download the codebase and run it on your own server.

Then you’re ready to go! Just click the “add to Google Reader” links (or use the “atom feed” links to get links you can use in other reader tools, if Google Reader isn’t your thing).

And Here’s The FAQ

What’s new in this version?

It works properly, for one. Previous versions have had bugs when picking up feeds of users whose usernames contained dashes or underscores, or when your username had uppercase letters in it. These irritating little bugs took a while to be found, and are the result of strange behaviour on the part of LiveJournal’s server. They’ve now all been fixed, and all feeds should work perfectly.

What about… OpenID…? Communities…? DeadJournal…?

If you’re looking for extra features; here’s the round-up:

  • Support for OpenID probably won’t ever happen, and certainly won’t happen soon, because it’s horribly complicated compared to the simplicity of the rest of the program. I love OpenID, I really do, but LiveJournal For Google Reader Users will probably never support it (unless you feel like writing that bit of it). Sorry!
  • Communities probably will end up supported in the next version, so you can pick up friends-only posts in them, too. Stop asking.
  • Related journalling systems like DeadJournal can probably be really easily supported by this or a similar system. I’ll implement it as soon as somebody asks me to.
  • Another feature that’s in the pipeline is an indication of friends-only posts. Right now, in Google Reader, there’s no little “padlock” icon to let you know that what you’re looking at is a friends-only post: they all look the same. This’ll probably be fixed in a later version.

Got other suggestions? Leave a comment to let me know!

I’m already using Google Reader to subscribe to LiveJournal. What should I do?

You should unsubscribe (sorry!) from every single LiveJournal you’re subscribed to, then re-subscribe to the addresses given to you by LiveJournal For Google Reader. It’s a painstakingly long process, and I wish I could think of a way to make it easier, but I can’t. If you want to do it a few blogs at a time, that’s fine – and I suggest you start with the blogs which most-frequently make friends-only posts.

Why do I have to give you my LiveJournal username and password?

To get access to friends-only posts in your friends’ feeds, LiveJournal must be supplied with your username and password. LiveJournal For Google Reader stores these for you and provides you with a complex URL that doesn’t contain your username and password (so people can’t work out your password just by looking at the list of feeds you subscribe to).

To help you feel more secure, the entire application is open source (you can read the code and see that it’s not doing anything malicious) and you can even run a copy on your own server, if you don’t trust me at all.

Alternatively, if security is a concern for you, open a second LiveJournal account and have your friends add that one to their friends’ lists, and use this new account with LiveJournal For Google Reader. This way, your own personal LiveJournal account remains completely protected. Can’t say fairer than that, I guess.

If you change your LiveJournal password or close your LiveJournal account, LiveJournal For Google Reader will stop working until you supply your new credentials.

Why do you get all mysterious towards the end of FAQs?

You’ll have to wait and see.