RSS queries

As many of you know I am anti-RSS but I would like to understand the phenomenon better.  So I have a few questions for you.  What feature in an RSS reader do you not have but long for?  What would cause you to switch from one reader to another?  Would you ever consider a reader that forced ads on you, bundled up with the delivered post?

Don’t worry, we’re not planning or even contemplating changes in our RSS feed, I simply would like to learn.


I use Bloglines' beta version and, with the risk of sounding like bad astroturfing, I wouldn't change anything about it.

I like web-based readers because they're always up to date, by definition, and I hate installing software on my machine other than what's necessary. Also, they mean less traffic.

As for ads, it's a deal breaker for me. I know I can always use a open source, no-frills reader so my participation constraint is really high.

Actually, I don't want "features" in my reader. I just want to be able to track changes in 100+ sites without going bonkers.

The only RSS reader I use is Google Reader, largely because it is 1) web-based (making my bookmarks available everywhere to me) and 2) lets me burn through lots of posts just by using my spacebar (it lets me process content without much bother).

However, it won't replace my browser because I like the visual variety and context of viewing discrete web pages. The monotony of viewing the feed gets dull after a while.

If Google imposed ads in some way, and they were more obtrusive than their current implementation in Gmail, I'd use the service less.

I don't know, for RSS to bust out of its ghetto, I think it needs an app or an interface that parses the content and then presents it in a much more appealing, robust way. I know they tried robotic newsreaders at Ananova a long time ago; that isn't the answer. Who knows.

I currently use Google Reader and I can't really think of anything that it's lacking now that I really want. My wife an I frequently use it to share stories with each other and I used to really want them to add a feature where we could annotate those stories with out own comments, but they've recently put that in. I guess I'd also like to see someone implement a way to better tag and save certain articles for latter. Google currently allows you to "star" them, but it's a pretty blunt instrument.

As for ads, I think it depends on their obtrusiveness. A lot of the feeds I read include ads of their own at the bottom. These I don't mind really, especially if it means the difference between them including the whole article in the feed instead of just the first paragraph or two.

I wouldn't have a problem with ads in my RSS Reader. What would be great is if Google Reader, what I use, could sort duplicates out of my list. One article shared by three friends, on two shared feeds and in the original feed will show up six times in my reader. Painful.

At various points in the past I have used Newsgator, Bloglines and Google Reader. Google Reader is perfectly fine; Bloglines (BETA!) is adequate; Newsgator is a lost cause.

I still use Bloglines to export my blogroll to my blog, which to my knowledge is a feature no other aggregator provides (except Blogolling .com perhaps). If Google Reader were to offer script-based exporting to a blog, then it would be unstoppable.

Other features that some value but I do not are a browser add-in (i.e., direct subscription via IE/Firefox toolbars) and pre-defined subscription buttons to post on one's own blog.

I'm very curious to learn why you don't like RSS? I scan over 100 feeds/day and do it quickly thanks to RSS. I've tried many readers but keep coming back to

2 things:

1) Connecting the dots so that all articles about the same subject in a given time period are grouped together and sorted by some order of worth.

2) Viewing comments for articles I care about without seeing them for those i don't.

Highly subjective and therefore next to impossible to implement. I live or die by my feedreader though, it easily saves me an hour or two a day.

I use Net News Wire which used be pay but is now free. I prefer the better performance of a native application over something web-based like Google Reader. The best analogy is the difference between Outlook or Mail and webmail. Apps are almost always better, in my view, but web-based sevices offer the portability.

1) A feature I long for: Flash/video capability in NNW's built-in browser (which is otherwise excellent).

2) Something that would cause me to switch: An app that reconceptualized RSS reading in a novel way.

3) Ads: Never. I have a free reader that doesn't do that, why would I accept one that did?

I use Google Reader. I subscribe to a lot of blogs, with turnover depending on my interests and blog quality, and set a roughly fixed reading time. I scan headlines for 5-10 minutes either skipping, reading short articles, or putting articles that are more substantive or where I want the comments in a background tab.

Features I would like: Statistical scoring at the single article level. The nearest I've seem was gnus scoring for nntp.

Switching feature: Speed of scanning and reading. Google Reader had excellent 100% keyboard driven support and, unlike, bloglines, wasn't buggy.

Feeds with ads: Text would be fine. Anything animated or similarly distracting would be cause for unsubscribing.

Google Reader. The only thing I would change is to have some way to mix private and public RSS feeds. I'm not sure that an RSS feed can be secured, but if so, I would like to have Google Reader be able to have private subscriptions.

I use NetNewsWire and the Newsgator site for RSS.

One feature I would love to have is some 'discovery' mode. RSS is great for plowing through the things I know I want to look at, but lacks the discovery aspect of surfing sites. A reader that could provide more information than simply the body of an article would be exciting. Who is discussing the article, what other sites does this site link to regularly, who disagrees with this article, etc, etc.

In terms of switching readers, I need 1. a native desktop client 2. syncing with an online client 3. a great UI. Any reader which could give me more background/social information along with an article (as described in my 'one feature') could get me to switch, provided it had my other required features, and didn't sacrifice my speed in reading and using the app for the new feature.

As far as ads go, it doesn't bother me as long as it is done tastefully and securely -- no adware or ads that make noise by default (any site that does this gets an immediate close window no matter how good the content).

Google reader... follow about 150 feeds.
Missing feature: Authenticated feeds (feeds that need a username/password)
Real missing feature: being able to read my mail in the Google Reader interface. The "river of news" style of reading that Google Reader does so well allows me to read an amazing amount of material every day.

Ads: If they are web-based, I'm going to filter them out... like I've done since 1998.

I just started using RSS and Google Reader relatively recently, and I very much agree with all the comments about it making scanning lots of headlines much easier.

I don't have any burning feature requirements. I'd like less duplicate headlines from the NYT and more robust tagging. I can't think of a likely scenario that would cause me to change readers since I don't have any known unmet needs or any particular pain points with the current one.

Also, some of the NYT listings already include little text ads. I don't particularly mind, nor do I pay attention to them. I don't care in principle about the ads, as long as I can easily ignore them.

Wow, I don't think that I can add anything that hasn't already been said above.

I use Google Reader. I love it. I can read through a ton of different websites' posts extremely fast. I also use the Google Reader for my Google ig page (personalized Google) so I don't leave Google Reader open all the time.

I subscribe to way too much information to go to every different website. I also have no qualms against going to a website if they give a good enough post where I would want to respond (such as this).

I gave up freakonomics in my reader because they only did half posts after switching to the nytimes or whatever. I know I'm not the only one to drop them too.

I wouldn't mind ads, as long as they unobtrusive (perhaps placed at the bottom of the post, or something along those lines).

What's don't you like about RSS?

Surprised you don't like rss, as i get the impression you like to dip in and dip out of things quickly. rss makes reading feeds so much more efficient, and consistent keyboard controls lets you mark and save posts on different blogs with ease.

It's true that some blogs have nice designs. It would be nice if blogs could embed "rss skins" that would allow them to show off some of their design skills in Google Reader.

Also would be nice if it was easier for blog writers to count the number of users reading via rss feeds, i don't know if this is possible

@cjc re: synthesizing the same story in blogs/feeds.

It's a convoluted process, but you can always use Yahoo Pipes. Pipes has a feature that gathers a bunch of rss feeds and then you can syphon posts that contain same links, same headline etc. You then turn that pipe into an RSS feed.

Without an RSS reader, I wouldn't have seen this post. With it, MR becomes a daily read. So whatever you do, remember that RSS is the only way/reason you reach some readers. Thus, keep full posts, etc. I use Newsfire, by the way. I appreciate web-based readers, but prefer something that pulls the data down and stores it locally. Find a geek to pump some code in that'd sync up feed status between desktop RSS readers and you'd be onto something.

I use Mobile Google Reader on my BlackBerry. I've never liked RSS readers on the desktop, but I LOVE being able to take interstitial time and turn it into web browsing via RSS. The RSS is a great way to focus content instead of fluff onto the small screen. I've found that it reduces the time that I waste websurfing at my computer.

More than anything else, I'd love to see data mining techniques applied to my feeds so as to filter out redundant articles.

I subscribe to a very large number of RSS feeds (as well as newspapers, magazines, etc.) and inevitably there is overlap. Particularly when an important news story comes out (like finding ice on Mars), everyone blog finds a need to link and comment on that subject, but once I've read one summary (and gone straight to the source), I have no need to see it another dozen times.

Easier said than done of course, but this is what I'd hoped Persai ( was going to do. Instead, they took the "easy way out" and just recommend more stuff for you to read. As if I had that kind of time.

What is this internet obsession with always adding more data to my life? I want products that synthesize and compact what I'm already aware of, not add new feeds.

If it helps - I began Google Reader as a small project while working at Google (I've recently moved on) and had been working on it as a core developer for the last 3 years and recently I wrote a post about first principles for feed reading I learned during Reader's development. Possibly useful post, but it's probably a little too long.

Regarding ads or monetization-that-might-not-be-ads...I've said publicly that it seems worth exploring whether feed reading apps and sources can somehow help each other - so I'm going to do that weird thing of quoting myself. :) I've said that

"I don't want the enterprise of efficient, elegant syndication on the web to sit on the sidelines while good resources in investigative journalism bleed out. (Seriously, it looks like they're bleeding out.) And the feed reading space is growing rapidly. There has to be a way for all of us in the feed community to help."

And as requested, here's some things that don't currently exist that I'd love to see in feed readers:

  • Full feed content for all sources in the world, especially news, and I'd be happy with starting with CNN, New York Times, Reuters.
  • Translating content from languages foreign to me.
  • A way to create and follow conversations about things I'm reading in the place I'm reading them. (Some services can use Google Reader's shared items to do this e.g FriendFeed)
  • A way to follow an aggregation of all current public conversations about things I'm reading.
  • Recommendation or filtering of items to me based on implicit and explicit positive signals by people who are reading things similar to me and/or whose opinion I trust.

Things that could be better for every web-based feed reader:

  • Faster crawls of feeds, though this is getting better every year.

Things that don't exist in Google Reader I'd love to see given enough time and resources to develop them:

  • Filtering content by keywords.
  • Access to authenticated feeds.
  • Sorting of items or sources by recommendations based on my reading habits. (Do I jump to this source every morning? Ok, in the morning promote that source a bit.)
  • Feed normalization. (A difficult problem to solve that would help tremendously with some forms of duplication.)

Slightly off-topic, I read your post about "the demerits of RSS" where you mention that "I also fear that ongoing use of RSS would lead to reading inflation" and, yeah, I can confirm this often happens to people. Thankfully, the trends data within some feed readers which can show you which sources you're not reading combined with the ability to mark whole sources as read and the overall ease of unsubscribing can help to curb inflation. (Couldn't help myself with those last two words. Mea culpa?)

Four things I want:

1. Ability to comment while still in a reader

2. Ability to click a link that will open up in the reader, and not in my browser.

3. Ability to print a page in the reader

4. More frequent updating; I find there's about a two hour delay between a blogger posting something and it reaching my Reader

I find Google Reader to be exceptional, and what I consider the edited and slimmed down version of the internet which I receive on the Reader I vastly prefer to the normal internet. Most internet graphics are subpar in comparison to other forms of art, and advertising, even unobtrusive advertising such as Google ads, I find to be annoying and distracting. The New York Times website's advertising comes to mind as one of the most egregious examples of this. Who needs vidoes of some douchebag from ExxonMobil talking about how he's saving the environment?

Moving on, I'm surprised by how negatively Tyler and others view RSS feeds. Every morning, I open my reader up to about 200-300 posts (it used to be more). Because I can manage my subscriptions through Google Reader (I assume other readers allow you to do this) I actually read my blogs one by one, not altogether as a massive conglomeration of 200 posts. I find the pages load much faster than a normal blog, and I love not having to click through to the full page. I can skim much faster, and I can move beyond posts that are boring, offensive, or just not to my liking more easily. My reader simply allows me to read my blogs better and more freely. I also think I'm more likely to click on the links included...

Oh, and if you're shopping for something on CL or Ebay, a reader is indispensable (but keep in mind that 2 hr delay).

Feature I would like: I want to be able to read a blog from the beginning at my own pace.

I use NetNewsWire on the Mac. For certain blogs & feeds, particularly those in my industry, it's an excellent way to scan the morning news without scrolling through a web page. I can usually tell by the subject line whether I want to read the full post. If so, I just hit enter to open it in my browser. For other blogs, though, -- like this one -- I prefer to go to the web site every few days and meander.

These are two different modes for me - one is a task (make sure I'm informed about work) and the other is entertainment. There is a bit of overlap, but this has worked well for me since I nuked about 300 feeds in my reader two years ago. With that many feeds catching up on RSS started to feel like a job all by itself.

As with food, information has become so abundant that evolution works against us - I have to carefully monitor my diet lest I do things like comment on blog posts during work (i.e. right now).

1. What feature in an RSS reader do you not have but long for?
Duplicate detection. I don't want to see the same story more than once. I may want to see varying commentary on the same issue (for example, several different economics blogs writing about a Fed rate cut), but I don't want to see the exact same headline reblogged six times, as often happens.

2. What would cause you to switch from one reader to another?
In the past, performance has been the main motivator for me to switch. Many RSS readers get creaky after a hundred or so feeds, particularly desktop applications. My current reader, Google Reader, doesn't suffer from this issue.

3. Would you ever consider a reader that forced ads on you, bundled up with the delivered post?
It's moot. I filter ads in my browser, so I'd never see them. I generally shy away from heavily ad-burdened sites and applications, though.

Oh man. RSS changed the way I use the internet. I am less likely to use sites that don't have an RSS feed because I will only sporadically remember to go back and check them, and when I do check them I have already missed the good comment thread or the upcoming event I would have liked. I'm kind of astonished that someone with your reading habits hasn't adopted it!

RSS makes it much easier for me to read what I'm in the mood for and sort out what I don't. I use Google Reader because it's web-based and I can use it anywhere. It makes my procrastination more efficient -- no constant checking back to see if there is a new MR post; I know if it's updated or not. It makes it easier to follow sites that update very infrequently; I don't have to keep checking back and wonder if the blogger has given up because I'll get a new post when it comes. I can tackle the firehose of a high-volume, low-content blog in bursts and remember where I left off more easily -- or simply ask for all posts that mention a given topic and never touch the rest.

I'd like to be able to thwart receiving partial feeds without installing special add-ons to do it -- and yes, I'm annoyed when you post something that has a jump, especially because I'm not always expecting it. I really enjoy Language Log and Freakonomics and yet I read them much less often that I do other sites simply because I have to click through to read full posts. Perhaps counterintuitively, I visit the sites that offer full feeds more often, because if the post is good I want to see the comments too. I don't care much about site design and for that matter if a site is too flashy and high-design I'd rather just read it stripped-down.

I'd like to be able to subscribe to a feed of comments on an individual post without leaving my reader, especially if I read the post before anyone else has commented. (But I don't want this badly enough that I've figured out if there is already a way to do this or not.) For that matter I'd like all blogs to offer comment feeds!

I'd like to get announcements of events/time-sensitive items marked differently than regular content posts so I can sort them into their own folder, by date -- especially since I subscribe to several feeds that are mixed news items and event postings. A blog I only read every once in a while may still announce something time-sensitive I am interested in.

Ads don't bother me much; I often don't even notice them.

I'd be more of a fan of Google Reader if it were a little less slow. If it weren't web-based I'd be using an open source reader with a little more customizability to tweak little interface and preference things. Another web-based reader that offered a little more customizability without losing my favorite features would probably have me, but I'd have to stumble across it since I'm not actively looking...

I use Google Reader, which I like a lot for the fact that it lets me discover new feeds related to my interests fairly easily. One thing I always missed in an RSS reader was a "ticker" - something that would scroll across my screen with constantly updated feed info. I found what I was looking for in an Adobe AIR-based app called Snackr. Does most of what I really want. Feeds scroll by at a user-variable speed with just enough info to let me decide if it is interesting enough to warrant my attention. I can ignore it or even minimize it when I don't want the distraction. When I click on an article in the scroller, it pops the article (or a summary depending on the feed settings) up in it's own floating window (not a browser window, and I can decide if I want to click through to the website itself. One thing I wish it did that it doesn't do is let me grab and scroll backward if an article slides past before I have a chance to check it out. Take a look at if you want to try it out. I'm not affiliated, just a happy user.

I use Bloglines (non-beta) and watch 208 feeds, although only about 80 daily (I've organized my feeds into Daily, Frequently, Infrequently, and Rarely folders and crack open folders according to how much time I have).

Feature requests: Better (or any) support for authenticated feeds in web-based readers. Currently only client-side readers support authentication to any reasonable degree, which completely precludes private feeds from being used in my main reader. Causing a switch: A reader that could support my feature request as well as be much smarter about filtering content based on what I'm interested in. Both collaborative filtering and more individualized content recommendation are basically commodity algorithms at this point, and there's no point a reader couldn't (especially given explicit feedback from me in the form of upvoting or rating content) figure out which topics interest me more to a high degree of accuracy. I'd start with pseudo-Bayesian categorization.

Ads: Why should the reader insert the ads? Ads can come in feeds, and they probably should, since this gives the content creator more control over which advertising accompanies their product.

I like Chris Wetherell's point about the role non-ad-monetized RSS could play in saving good journalism. Let's HBO-ize / iTune-ize the magazine, newspaper, and blogger businesses.

Why can't I read Entertainment Weekly or fancy-pants magazines in my RSS reader? I have money; they have content. Instead they are selling some sort of paper-and-staples product that I don't have time for.

I'm grumpy because no one will take my money in exchange for more Wilkinson-quality philosophical interviews and Yglesias-quality political commentary.

Markets in everything, please.

Google Reader is a perfect RSS application.
The only advertising I can accept is the one actually written into the story.

Google reader and I WANT KEY WORD FILTERING too, I mean it.

Currently use Google Reader; used to use NetNewsWire.

There're two things from NNW that I miss in Google Reader:

  • Being able to press a key and have the current article open up in a new window (or tab) behind the current window, so what I'm doing at the moment isn't interrupted.
  • NetNewsWire lets you see updated posts in feeds, so if updates happen to posts, they'll be marked as new again. Further, there's an option for the changes to be marked for you so you can see what bits have changed.

I have been slow to convert to RSS, but I'm using it consistently now. I use Google Reader, and the only thing I miss is instant access to comments. On my own feed, readers can see the number of comments on the post, and subscribe to the comments feed separately. It's a clunky solution. As a blogger, I also wish there were accurate ways to gauge RSS traffic.

I read a lot of blogs on my iPod touch, and Google Reader has a solid interface for the smaller screen. I also like being able to read the same blogs as frequently or infrequently as I like, without having to constantly click back and find no new entries, or scroll down and remember where I left off.

The trick is to see your 'unread items' number as a variety of attractive options, instead of a very long to-do list. Otherwise it gets overwhelming. Don't worry about getting it down to zero.

I think RSS is a real lifesaver for single-writer amateur blogs. It's not worth clicking over to my site every few hours - sometimes I go a week without a post. If I know that my readers are automatically notified via RSS when I've written something, there's less pressure to pump out low-quality, high-volume material.

I use google reader, and I subscribe to about 120 feeds. Most of these feeds post less than once a week and are devoted to mathematics or computer science. I like RSS because it lets me keep up to date with infrequently updated by high quality blogs. (I find that the highest quality academic blogs usually update infrequently, though there are plenty of infrequently updated crappy blogs.)

I would like the ability to easily rate posts by whether or not I read them and got something interesting out of them. For example, I usually use the 'j' hotkey to scan to the next post, so 'h' could mean "not very good". This would let me eliminate blogs with lots of low quality posts. Perhaps there could also be some kind of Bayesian filter like those commonly used for spam that could try to guess whether a post would be interesting to me. (For example, I subscribe to a number of food blogs, and I find that restaurant reviews for cities I don't live in to be depressing (since I couldn't afford most of them!), but I like many of the recipes on them. I think a Bayesian filter could easily filter out most restaurant reviews, with few false negatives. Similarly video game reviews on Ars Technica, etc.)

I use Bloglines and like it a lot - given some time I could think of a lot of narrow features that would rarely be used.

Two of those off the top of my head would be to read comment threads from the RSS feed. This is a little different than most RSS enabled comment feeds as it would be directly linked to the original post.

Second would be an aggregation of responses and links to the post - think of Technorati + Facebook + digg all rolled into one and accessible as part of the feed itself.

I would rather read the articles on the site's page than in the reader (especially if the reader only shows a blurb) and extra click-throughs annoy me, so I hacked up my own little RSS reader that shows the headlines in one frame and loads the articles in the main frame. I wish there were another reader that did this, but there isn't.

Nobody using netvibes? It is the best rss reader for now, I find it much more powerful, fast, secure than google reader...

as a user of google reader for all the reasons i managed to read above, there is one idea i would like to see incorporated: a mashup of a google search + RSS feed. i want to be able to follow certains news events or topics via reader without having to go perform the onerous task of clicking too many things. wasn't that the original idea behind agents?

The best thing about RSS, and the Web in general, is that each viewer controls its appearance and "features". Thus any forced-ad-display scheme would be unlikely to work for very long. People put up with ads from Google, Yahoo, and Mapquest because of those sites' usefulness in other ways, but even their ads are pretty easy to ignore on most popular browsers.

About the worst thing that could happen to your feed, in my estimation, would be to have it download so much material that it takes 5+ minutes for a page to come up via dialup (example: ). If that ever happens, each of us has to reevaluate the cost/benefit of viewing that site, and for most dialup users there are few or no sites that would be worth the wait. May it not happen.

I use Google reader.

I would like to have an option to read only 2-3 lines, even when the blog provides full feeds.

Every success is based on continuous efforts. It is not possible be done over nigh.

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