RSS Zero isn’t the path to RSS Joy

Feed overload is real

The week before last, Katie shared with me that article from last month, Who killed Google Reader? I’d read it before so I didn’t bother clicking through again, but we did end up chatting about RSS a bit1.

Screenshot: Google Reader Notifier popup advises of "461 unread items".
I ditched Google Reader several years before its untimely demise, but I can confirm “461 unread items” was a believable message.

Katie “abandoned feeds a few years ago” because they were “regularly ending up with 200+ unread items that felt overwhelming”.

Conversely: I think that dropping your feed reader because there’s too much to read is… solving the wrong problem.

A white man with dark hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, moves to push over a stack of carboard boxes, each smaller than the one beneath it. From bottom to top, the boxes are labelled: stress, email client, mobile pings, doomscrolling, social media silos... and the very top, very smallest box, which glows with sunbeams emitted from it, reads "rss reader".
About half way through editing this image I completely forgot what message I was trying to convey, but I figured I’d keep it anyway and let you come up with your own interpretation.

Dave Rupert last week wrote about his feed reader’s “unread” count having grown to a mammoth 2,000+ items, and his plan to reduce that.

I think that he, like Katie, might be looking at his reader in a different way than I do mine.

FreshRSS sidebar, showing 567 unread items (of which 1 are comics, 2 are friends, 186 are communities, 1 are distractions, 278 are geeky, 1 is "me", 57 are youtube, 13 are strangers, 1 is software, 7 are rss club, 29 are podcasts, and 3 are polyamory. A further 107 are marked as favourites. The "friends" and "rss club" categories are showing warning triangles.
At time of writing, I’ve got 567 unread items. And that’s fine.

RSS is not email!

I’ve been in the position that Katie and David describe: of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unread items. And I know others have, too. So let me share something I’ve learned sooner:

There’s nothing special about reaching Inbox Zero in your feed reader.

It’s not noble nor enlightened to get to the bottom of your “unread” list.

Your 👏  feed 👏 reader 👏 is 👏 not 👏 an 👏 email 👏 client. 👏

The idea of Inbox Zero as applied to your email inbox is about productivity. Any message in your email might be something that requires urgent action, and you won’t know until you filter through and categorise .

But your RSS reader doesn’t (shouldn’t?) be there to add to your to-do list. Your RSS reader is a list of things you might like to read. In an ideal world, reaching “RSS Zero” would mean that you’ve seen everything on the Internet that you might enjoy. That’s not enlightened; that’s sad!

Google Reader's "Congratulations, you've reached the End of the Internet." Easter Egg screen, shown when all your feeds are empty.
Google Reader understood this, although the word “congratulations” was misplaced.

Use RSS for joy

My RSS reader is a place of joy, never of stress. I’ve tried to boil down the principles that makes it so, and here they are:

  1. Zero is not the target.
    The numbers are to inspire about how much there is “out there” for you, not to enumerate how much work need have to do.
  2. Group your feeds by importance.
    Your feed reader probably lets you group (folder, tag…) your feeds, so you can easily check-in on what you care about and leave other feeds for a rainy day.2 This is good.
  3. Don’t read every article.
    Your feed reader gives you the convenience of keeping content in one place, but you’re not obligated to read every single one. If something doesn’t interest you, mark it as read and move on. No judgement.
  4. Keep things for later.
    Something you want to read, but not now? Find a way to “save for later” to get it out of your main feed so you. Don’t have to scroll past it every day! Star it or tag it3 or push it to your link-saving or note-taking app. I use a link shortener which then feeds back into my feed reader into a “for later” group!
  5. Let topical content expire.
    Have topical/time-dependent feeds (general news media, some social media etc.)? Have reader “purge” unread articles after a time. I have my subscription to BBC News headlines expire after 5 days: if I’ve taken that long to read a headline, it might as well disappear.4
  6. Use your feed reader deliberately.
    You don’t need popup notifications (a new article’s probably already up to an hour stale by the time it hits your reader). We’re all already slaves to notifications! Visit your reader when it suits you. I start and end every day in mine; most days I hit it again a couple of other times. I don’t need a notification: there’s always new content. The reader keeps track of what I’ve not looked at.
  7. It’s not just about text.
    Don’t limit your feed reader to just text. Podcasts are nothing more than RSS feeds with attached audio files; you can keep track in your reader if you like. Most video platforms let you subscribe to a feed of new videos on a channel or playlist basis, so you can e.g. get notified about YouTube channel updates without having to fight with The Algorithm. Features like XPath Scraping in FreshRSS let you subscribe to services that don’t even have feeds: to watch the listings of dogs on local shelter websites when you’re looking to adopt, for example.
  8. Do your reading in your reader.
    Your reader respects your preferences: colour scheme, font size, article ordering, etc. It doesn’t nag you with newsletter signup popups, cookie notices, or ads. Make the most of that. Some RSS feeds try to disincentivise this by providing only summary content, but a good feed reader can work around this for you, fetching actual content in the background.5
  9. Use offline time to catch up on your reading.
    Some of the best readers support offline mode. I find this fantastic when I’m on an aeroplane, because I can catch up on all of the interesting articles I’d not had time to yet while grounded, and my reading will get synchronised when I touch down and disable flight mode.
  10. Make your reader work for you.
    A feed reader is a tool that works for you. If it’s causing you pain, switch to a different tool6, or reconfigure the one you’ve got. And if the way you find joy from RSS is different from me, that’s fine: this is a personal tool, and we don’t have to have the same answer.

And if you’d like to put those tips in your RSS reader to digest later or at your own pace, you can:  here’s an RSS feed containing (only) these RSS tips!


1 You’d  be forgiven for thinking that RSS was my favourite topic, given that so-far-this-year I’ve written about improving WordPress’s feeds, about mathematical quirks in FreshRSS, on using XPath scraping as an RSS alternative (twice), and the joy of getting notified when a vlog channel is ressurected (thanks to RSS). I swear I have other interests.

2 If your feed reader doesn’t support any kind of grouping, get a better reader.

3 If your feed reader doesn’t support any kind of marking/favouriting/tagging of articles, get a better reader.

4 If your feed reader doesn’t support customisable expiry times… well that’s not too unusual, but you might want to consider getting a better reader.

5 FreshRSS calls the feature that fetches actual post content from the resulting page “Article CSS selector on original website”, which is a bit of a mouthful, but you can see what it’s doing. If your feed reader doesn’t support fetching full content… well, it’s probably not that big a deal, but it’s a good nice-to-have if you’re shopping around for a reader, in my opinion.

6 There’s so much choice in feed readers, and migrating between them is (usually) very easy, so everybody can find the best choice for them. Feedly, Inoreader, and The Old Reader are popular, free, and easy-to-use if you’re looking to get started. I prefer a selfhosted tool so I use the amazing FreshRSS (having migrated from Tiny Tiny RSS). Here’s some more tips on getting started. You might prefer a desktop or mobile tool, or even something exotic: part of the beauty of RSS feeds is they’re open and interoperable, so if for example you love using Slack, you can use Slack to push feed updates to you and get almost all the features you need to do everything in my list, including grouping (using channels) and saving for later (using Slackbot/”remind me about this”). Slack’s a perfectly acceptable feed reader for some people!

Screenshot: Google Reader Notifier popup advises of "461 unread items".× A white man with dark hair, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, moves to push over a stack of carboard boxes, each smaller than the one beneath it. From bottom to top, the boxes are labelled: stress, email client, mobile pings, doomscrolling, social media silos... and the very top, very smallest box, which glows with sunbeams emitted from it, reads "rss reader".× FreshRSS sidebar, showing 567 unread items (of which 1 are comics, 2 are friends, 186 are communities, 1 are distractions, 278 are geeky, 1 is "me", 57 are youtube, 13 are strangers, 1 is software, 7 are rss club, 29 are podcasts, and 3 are polyamory. A further 107 are marked as favourites. The "friends" and "rss club" categories are showing warning triangles.× Google Reader's "Congratulations, you've reached the End of the Internet." Easter Egg screen, shown when all your feeds are empty.×

Killed by Google – The Google Graveyard & Cemetery

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Fusion Tables… Fabric… Inbox… Google+…… Goggles… Site Search… Glass… Now… Code… Bump!… Gears… Desktop Search…

Just some of the projects and services that Google has offered and then killed; this site aims to catalogue them all. Some, like Wave, were given to the community (Wave lived on for a while as an Apache project but is now basically dead), but most, like Reader, were assassinated in a misguided attempt to drive traffic to other services (ultimately, Reader was killed perhaps to try to get people onto Google+, which was then also killed).

Google can’t be trusted to maintain the services of theirs that you depend upon (relevant XKCD?). That’s not a phenomenon that’s unique to Google, of course: it’s perhaps just that they produce so many new and often-experimental services that they inevitably cease supporting more of them than some of the many other providers who’ve killed the silos that people depended upon.

How could things be better? For a start, Google could make a better commitment to open-source and developing standards rather than platforms. But if you don’t think you can trust them to do that – and you can’t – then the only solution for individuals is to use fewer Google products to break the Google-monoculture. Encourage the competition to weaken their position, and break free from silos in general where it’s possible to do so.

148+ projects and services dead. But hey, we’re getting Stadia so everything’s okay, right? <sigh>

Alternatives to Google Reader

I’m aware that many of my friends use Google Reader to subscribe to their favourite blogs, comics, and so on, so – if you’re among them – I thought I’d better make you aware of some of your alternatives. Google are dropping Google Reader on 1st July (here’s the announcement on the Google Reader blog), so it’s time to move on.

Google Reader
Ah; Google Reader. You were my RSS reader of choice for a long time, until you started fucking with the user interface the other year.

Getting your data out of Google Reader

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to get all of your feeds out of Google Reader, and import them into your new feed reader. You can export everything from your Reader account, but the most important thing in your export is probably the OPML file (called ‘subscriptions.xml’ in your download), which is what your new reader will use to give you the continuity that you’re looking for. OPML files describe a list of subscriptions: for example, this OPML file describes all of the blogs that used to feature on Abnib (when it worked reliably).

Choosing a new RSS reader

You’ve got a few different choices for your new RSS reader. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Tiny Tiny RSS – if you’re happy to host your own web-based RSS reader, and you’re enough of a geek to enjoy tweaking it the way that you want, then this tool is simply awesome. Install it on your server, configure it the way you want, and then access it via the web or the Android app. I’ve been using Tiny Tiny RSS for a few years, and I’ve made a few minor tweaks to add URL-shortening and sharing features: that’s what powers the “Dan is reading…” (subscribe) list in the sidebar of my blog. It’s also one of the few web-based RSS readers that offers feed authentication options, which is incredibly useful if you follow “friends only” blogs on LiveJournal or similar platforms.
  • NewsBlur – this is the closest thing you’ll find to a like-for-like replacement for Google Reader, and it’s actually really good: a slick, simple interface, apps for all of the major mobile platforms, and a damn smart tagging system. They’re a little swamped with Reader refugees right now, but you can work around the traffic by signing up and logging in at their alternative web address of
  • Feedly – or, if you’re happy to step away from the centralised, web-based reader solutions, here’s a great option: available as a browser plugin or a mobile app, it has the fringe benefit that you can use it to read your pre-cached subscriptions while you’re away from an Internet connection, if that’s a concern to you.
  • Blogtrottr – If you only subscribe to a handful of feeds, you might want to look at Blogtrottr: it’s an RSS-to-email service, so it delivers your favourite blogs right to your Inbox, which is great for those of you that use your Inbox as a to-do list (and pretty damn good if you set up some filters to put your RSS feeds into a suitable tag or folder, so that you can read them at your leisure).
  • Finally, don’t forget that if you’re using Opera as your primary web browser, that it has a great RSS reader baked right into it! As an Opera fan, I couldn’t help but plug that.

Or if you only care about my posts…

Of course, if mine’s the only blog you’re concerned with, you might like to follow me on Google+ on on Twitter: all of my blog posts get publicly pushed to both of those social networks as soon as they’re published, so if you’re a social network fiend, that’s probably the easiest answer for you!

Further reading:

Google Reader×

Goodbye Reader

Goodbye, Google Reader. It was fun while it lasted.

Long ago, I used desktop RSS readers. I was only subscribed to my friends’ blogs back then anyway, so it didn’t matter that I could only read them from my home computer. But then RSS feeds started appearing on news sites, and tech blogs started appearing about things related to my work. And smartphones took over the world, and I wanted to be able to synchronise my reading list everywhere. There were a few different services that competed for my attention, but Google Reader was the best. It was simple, and fast, and easy, and it Just Worked in that way that Google products often do.

I put up with the occasional changes to the user interface. Hey, it’s a beta, and it’s still the best thing out there. Hey, it’s free, what can you say? I put up with the fact that from time to time, they changed the site in ways that were sometimes quite hostile to Opera, my web browser of choice. I put up with the fact that it had difficulty with unsigned HTTPS certificates (it’s fine now) and that it didn’t provide a mechanism to authenticate against services like LiveJournal (it still doesn’t). I even worked around the latter, releasing my own tool and updating it a few times until LiveJournal blocked it (twice) and I had to instead recommend that people switched to rival service FreeMyFeed.

The new Google Reader (with my annotations - click to embiggen). It sucks quite a lot.

But the final straw came this week when Google “updated” Reader once again, with two awful new changes:

  1. I know that they’re ever-so-proud of the Google+ user interface, but rebranding all of the other services to look like it just isn’t working. It’s great for Google+, not-bad for Search, bad for GMail (but at least you can turn it off!), and fucking awful for Reader. I like distinct borders between my items. I don’t like big white spaces and buttons that eat up half the screen.
  2. The sharing interface is completely broken. After a little while, I worked out that I still can share things with other people, but I can’t any longer see what other people are sharing without clicking over to Google+. This sucks a lot. No longer can I keep track of which shared items I have and haven’t read, and no longer can I read the interesting RSS feeds my friends have shared in the same place as I read (and share) my own.

So that’s the last straw. Today, I switched everything over to Tiny Tiny RSS.

Tiny Tiny RSS - it's simple, clean, and (in an understated way) beautiful.

Originally I felt that I was being pushed “away” from Google Reader, but the more I’ve played with it, the more I’ve realised that I’m being drawn “towards” Tiny Tiny, and wishing that I’d made the switch further. The things that have really appealed are:

  • It’s self-hosted. Tiny Tiny RSS is a free, open-source solution that you host for yourself (or I suppose you can use a shared host; there are a few around). I know that this is a downside to most people, but to me, it’s a serious selling point: now, I’m in control of what updates are applied, when, and if I don’t like the functionality of a part of the system, I can change it – I’m in control.
  • It’s simple and clean. It’s got a great user interface, in an understated and simplistic way. It’s somewhat reminiscent of desktop email clients, replacing the “stream of feeds” idea with a two- or three-pane view (your choice). That sounds like it’d be a downside, until you realise…
  • …with great keyboard controls. Tiny Tiny RSS is great for keyboard lovers like me. The default key-commands (which are of course customisable) are based on Emacs, so if that’s your background then it’s easy to be right at home in minutes and browsing feeds faster than ever.
  • Plus: it’s got a stack of nice features. I’m loving the “fresh” filter, that helps me differentiate between the stuff I’ve “saved for later” reading and the stuff that’s actually new and interesting. I’m also impressed by the integrated authentication, which removes my dependency on FreeMyFeed-like services and (because it’s self-hosted) lets me keep my credentials securely under my own control. It supports authentication using SSL certificates, a beautiful and underused technology. It allows you to customise the update frequency of your feeds, so I can stalk by friends’ blogs at lightning-quick rates and stall my weekly update subscriptions so they don’t get checked so frequently. And unlike Google Reader, it actually tells me when feeds break, so I don’t just “get no updates” for a while before I think to check the site (and it’ll even let me change the URLs when this happens, rather than unsubscribing and resubscribing).

Put simply: all of my major gripes with Google Reader over the last few years have been answered all at once in this wonderful little program. If people are interested in how I set up Tiny Tiny RSS and and made the switchover as simple and painless as possible, I’ll write a blog post to talk you through it.

I’ve had just one problem: it’s not quite so tolerant of badly-formed XML as Google Reader. There’s one feed in my list which, it turns out, has (very) invalid XML in it’s feed, that Google Reader managed to ignore and breeze over, but Tiny Tiny RSS chokes on. I’ve contacted the site owner to try to get it fixed, but if they don’t, I might have to hack some code to try to make a workaround. Not ideal, and not something that everybody would necessarily want to deal with, so be aware!

If, like me, you’ve become dissatisfied by Google Reader this week, you might also like to look at rssLounge, the other worthy candidate I considered as a replacement. I had a quick play but didn’t find it quite as suitable for my needs, but it might be to your taste: take a look.

The new sidebar, showing what I'm reading in my RSS reader lately.

Oh, and one more thing: if you used to “follow” me on Google Reader (or even if you didn’t) and you want to continue to subscribe to the stuff I “share”, then you’ll want to subscribe to this new RSS feed of “my shared stuff”, instead: it can also be found syndicated in the right-hand column of my blog.

Update: this guy’s made a bookmarklet that makes the new Google Reader theme slightly less hideous. Doesn’t fix the other problems, though, but if you’re not quite pissed-off enough to jump ship, it might make your experience more-bearable.

Update 2: others in the blogosphere are saying good things about Reader rival NewsBlur, which recently turned one year old. If you’re looking for a hosted service, rather than something “roll-your-own” like Tiny Tiny RSS, perhaps it’s the tool for you?

× × ×

The Death of Abnib

Next month, Abnib will die.

It’s been unmaintained for several years now, just ticking along under its own steam and miraculously not falling over. Nowadays, everybody seems to understand (or ought to understand) RSS and can operate their own aggregator, so there doesn’t really seem to be any point in carrying on running the service. So when the domain name comes up for renewal next month, I shan’t be renewing it. If somebody else wants to do so, I’ll happily tell them the settings that they need, but it’ll be them that’s paying for it, not me.

“But I still use Abnib!” I hear you cry. Well, here’s what you can do about it:

Option 1 (the simple-but-good option): switch to something better, easily

RSS aggregators nowadays are (usually) free and (generally) easy to use. If you don’t have a clue, here’s the Really Simple Guide to getting started:

  1. Download the Abnib OPML file ( and save it to your computer. This file describes in a computer-readable format who all the Abnibbers are.
  2. Go to Google Reader and log in with your Google Account, if you haven’t already.
  3. Click Settings, then Reader Settings.
  4. Click Import/Export.
  5. Click Browse… and select the file you downloaded in step #1.
  6. Click Upload

Ta-da! You can now continue to read your favourite Abnib blogs through Google Reader. You’ve also got more features, like being able to not-subscribe to particular blogs, or (on some blogs) to subscribe to comments or other resources.

You don’t have to use Google Reader, of course: there are plenty of good RSS readers out there. And most of the good ones are capable of importing that OPML file, so you can quickly get up-and-running with all of your favourite Abnib blogs, right off the bat.

Option 2: switch to something better, manually

As above, but instead of downloading and uploading an OPML file, manually re-subscribe to each blog. This takes a lot longer, but makes it easy to choose not to subscribe to particular blogs. It also gives you the option to use a third-party service like FreeMyFeed to allow you to subscribe to LiveJournal “friends only” posts (which you were never able to do with Abnib), for example.

Option 3: continue to use Abnib (wait, what?)

Okay, so the domain name is expiring, but technically you’ll still be able to use Abnib for a while, at least, so long as you use the address That won’t last forever, and it will be completely unmaintained, so when it breaks, it’s broken for good. It also won’t be updated with new blog addresses, so if somebody changes where their blog is hosted, you’ll never get the new one.

Goodbye, Abnib…

It’s been fun, Abnib, but you’ve served your purpose. Now it’s time for you to go the way of the Troma Night website and the RockMonkey wiki, and die a peaceful little death.

From Feed Proxy To FreeMyFeed

As those of you who use my Feed Proxy service to get your LiveJournal friends’ blogs (including friends-only posts) into Google Reader or a similar service know, the service hasn’t been working for the last few days.

I made all of the changes that LiveJournal’s bot policy required of me. I e-mailed them; no response. I e-mailed again; no response. I e-mailed to ask were they receiving my e-mails – yes, they were, but the person responsible for unblocking the bot “wasn’t in” at the moment.

I e-mailed again: yet again, no response.

I’ve been finding it harder to keep up with my LiveJournal friends because of this, and I know that a lot of you are pissed off, too. But it looks like LiveJournal aren’t going to be cooperative any time soon. So it’s time to switch services.

I’m moving my authenticated feeds over to FreeMyFeed. FreeMyFeed provides many of the same services at Feed Proxy did, although it also works for a wider variety of web applications (for example, you can also use it for Twitter, if you’re one of the dozen or so people who still uses Twitter).

If you’re already a Feed Proxy user:

Within the next few hours, each LiveJournal friend you’re subscribed to through Feed Proxy will produce a post explaining how you can convert their feed over to FreeMyFeed with about two clicks. I suggest that you mark that post as “read” and then click the link, and the rest of the work is mostly done for you. You’ll see some “read” posts all over again (boo!) and FreeMyFeed doesn’t convert LJ “moods” and “comment counts” for you automatically, but apart from that it should serve you well.

If you’re not using Feed Proxy or FreeMyFeed yet, or you’ve deleted your Feed Proxy-powered feeds from Google Reader:

Google Reader’s a great way to keep up-to-date with all your friends’ blogs – as well as with news, comics, and more – both in and out of LiveJournal. To subscribe to a LiveJournal blog in Google Reader or a similar service, friends-only posts and all, go to the FreeMyFeed website and enter into the boxes:

feed url:
(replace username with the LiveJournal username of the person whose LiveJournal you’re subscribing to)

user: your LiveJournal username

pass: your LiveJournal password

Thanks for all of the support you LiveJournalers have given me over the years, both for Feed Proxy and for it’s predecessor, LiveJournal-To-Google Reader. It’s been fun.

Feed Proxy Bug Fixes

BREAKING NEWS: On 1st October 2009, LiveJournal blocked the Feed Proxy bot. I don’t know when they’ll unblock it and it’ll come back up: see the latest here.

I’ve fixed a handful of bugs in the popular Feed Proxy tool (which, as you probably know, allows you to read LiveJournal and Dreamwidth “friends-only” posts in Google Reader or your favourite RSS reader tool, even where that RSS reader doesn’t support the necessary authentication systems to normally be able to pick up these posts). These include:

  • A number of users identified a problem relating to some mixed-case LiveJournal usernames having to be entered into Feed Proxy in lowercase to work. These usernames are now automatically corrected to lowercase as necessary.
  • Feed Proxy now automatically detects those passwords whose characters may cause problems with the cURL library, which is used to fetch the feeds from LiveJournal/Dreamwidth, and produces a warning message, rather than the previous unfriendly error message. A better solution will be investigated in the future.
  • Downloading an OPML package of some or all of your feeds now works correctly in Google Chrome. I didn’t know so many of you used it!
  • The FAQ has been expanded with a few more common questions, including the (very) frequently-asked question about multiple source accounts of the same type (which will be properly supported at some future point).
  • It’s now possible to read the FAQ without having an account or logging in. Sorry I forgot that – whoops!

I’ve finally gotten around to responding to all of the e-mails I’ve received so far from users: sorry about the delay, folks, but a lot of you had questions to ask!

To those that have asked about open-sourcing it: yes, I still fully intend to open-source the project (as I did with it’s predecessor, LJ-To-Google Reader) so you can run it on your own server if you like, but only once it’s reached a point of stability. Follow this RSS feed if you want to hear about updates to Feed Proxy, including when the source code becomes available.

LiveJournal-To-Google Reader Back Up

BREAKING NEWS: On 1st October 2009, LiveJournal blocked the Feed Proxy bot. I don’t know when they’ll unblock it and it’ll come back up: see the latest here.

The LiveJournal-To-Google Reader service is back up again, rebranded as Feed Proxy. It’s pretty much bare-bones right now, but I’ve got a meaningful framework that I can add to in the future, and I’ll try to keep it up-to-date by adding all of the features that everybody requested back when it was LiveJournal-To-Google Reader (I’ve already added a few, as described below).

My sincere apologies to everybody affected by the day and a half of downtime that was involved in this change-over.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you already use LiveJournal-To-Google Reader

All of your feed links have now broken. Sorry, but this was necessary! You’ll probably want to delete your subscriptions to all of the old links, because they won’t work any more. You’ll also need to set yourself up with a new account on the new service, Feed Proxy. Choose yourself a username and password, log in, and associate your account with your LiveJournal account. Then you can click “show feeds” and start subscribing to your LiveJournal friends’ feeds using Google Reader.

New features:

  • Where possible, shows how many comments, link to comments, poster’s “mood”, and security status (public or private [i.e. “friends only”]) of each post.
  • OPML export, so you can easily get all of your feeds back into Google Reader (or whatever RSS reader you prefer) again.
  • Links that don’t change for no reason
  • Better support for communities

If you don’t have a clue what this is all about…

Feed Proxy is a tool that I originally wrote because I didn’t like having to go to my LiveJournal “friends page” to catch up on all the “friends-only” posts being made by people I knew. I already used Google Reader for every other blog in the world; why should I have to go to another site? I also didn’t like that I couldn’t “group” my friends on my friends page, so I could see which ones were related to my different interests and just focus on those at once. I also wanted to be able to easily mark which posts I’d already read. Google Reader already does all of this.

But if you subscribe to a LiveJournal account using Google Reader, you don’t get the “friends only” posts. It’s just not possible.

Feed Proxy makes it possible. And now, it adds a lot of other nice features, too.

If you use LiveJournal (or your friends use LiveJournal) and you’d rather have the slicker interface of Google Reader at your disposal, give it a go.

If you want to hear about updates…

Please subscribe to this RSS feed of Feed Proxy-tagged posts on my blog.

LiveJournal-to-Google Reader v2.0

I’ve just (finally) gotten around to releasing a brand new version of my LiveJournal-to-Google Reader proxy server, which makes it possible to easily read your LiveJournal friends’ “friends only” posts in your Google Reader account (or whatever other RSS reader you use that doesn’t normally make this easy).

I’ve announced the new version on the new LiveJournal-to-Google Reader blog. Hopefully users will feel able to subscribe to that, rather than this, blog, if they want to hear about updates to the tool. /runs a quick SELECT COUNT(*) on the database/ There’s over 900 of them, now!

Regular blogging will resume when I get a spare five minutes.

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.

Google Reader For LiveJournal Users

There’s a new version out: click here!

My previous post reminded me that I’d never gotten around to writing something I’d promised a few of you already: that is, a guide to using Google Reader and LiveJournal together effectively (Google Reader doesn’t support digest authentication, which means that it’s not possible to use Google Reader to pick up, for example, “friends only” posts, so I’ve written a bit of software that bridges the gap).

I’ve used a number of bits of newsreading software over the years before realising that what I really needed was a web-based reader that I could use from “wherever.” I implemented my own, Dog, which worked adequately, but Google Reader has since matured into a wonderful program, and it seemed a waste not to use it.

In case there’s anybody else out there in Abnibland who wants to be able to use Google Reader to centralise all their blog reading into one place and who has LiveJournal friends who make “friends only” posts (it’s nice to have all the comics I read, all the news I’m interested in, and all of the blogs I follow – including those on LiveJournal – integrated into one place with reminders when new stuff appears, searching, etc.), here’s my guide:

Google Reader For LiveJournal Users

  1. You’ll need a Google Reader account – if you’ve got some other kind of Google account (e.g. GMail), just log in, otherwise, sign up for one.
  2. You’ll also need one or more LiveJournal accounts through which you can read the “friends only” posts you’re interested in. Another advantage of this system is that if you have multiple LiveJournal identities you can read the blogs of the friends of both in one place. If you don’t have a LiveJournal account, why are you bothering with this guide? Just go use Google Reader itself like a normal person.
  3. Log in to LiveJournal Feed Fetcher using your LiveJournal username and password. Then, just click on each of the “Add To Google” buttons in turn for each of the friends whose blogs you’d like to syndicate.
  4. Remember to add other people’s (non LiveJournal) blogs to your Google Reader account, too!

Now, whenever you log in to Google Reader, you’ll be presented with the latest blog entries from all of the blogs you read, including “friends only” posts, if available, from your LiveJournal buddies.

Advanced Tips

  • Install the Google Reader Notifier plugin (mirror) for Firefox. This sits in the bottom-right corner of your browser window and lets you know how many new posts you’ve got to read, and provides a convenient shortcut to your Google Reader account.
  • In Google Reader, click Settings, then Goodies. Under “Put Reader in a bookmark” you’ll find a bookmarklet that you can drag to your Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar (or a similar place on the user interface). This will appear by default as a “Next” link that you can click to immediately go to the web page of the next item in your reading list.

I hope this short guide will reduce the demand for further maintenance of abnib help people to get a handle on Google Reader and on reading syndicated LiveJournal blogs. The LiveJournal Feed Fetcher can very be easily extended to cope with similar systems (DeadJournal, etc.), so just let me know if there’s anything it’s “missing.”