Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Replacing Google Reader

I once had a boyfriend who I discovered had a habit of finding replacements before breaking up with his girlfriends.  When he made his dramatic exit to stage right, he already had another woman waiting in the wings.  While making fun of him with my girlfriends and commiserating over drinks I discovered that there is a type of person who hops from one relationship to the other because being single is the worst fate on earth.  

Google Reader, on the other hand, decided to prepare me in advance for the demise of our doomed relationship so that I could begin planning for our future without it.  Google is moving on to bigger and better things and leaving me in my rut of RSS reliance.  I tried to work it out and even joined Twitter this week but while I like certain aspects of social media, I am not ready to commit.  

It took a few weeks but I finally came out of my breakup funk and I'm trying out the other RSS feeders that are out there.  Here are a few that I have tried out so far:

The Old Reader
This will be the solution for those of us who are looking to replace our old boyfriend with a duplicate copy.  With The Old Reader I can transfer news and blog subscriptions and connect with friends from Facebook and Google contacts.  Unfortunately the duplicate boyfriend doesn't have a mobile app, which I need, so it's not going to work out.

Feedly seamlessly syncs with Google Reader so you don't even have to do the export/import actions.  I can't believe that I am saying this but I might like the Feedly interface even more than my beloved Reader.  The variety of viewing styles offer text lines, text and images (like Reader) or a sexy image based layout similar to a Pinterest board.  I liked the look and feel of Feedly's mobile app.  The downside was that Feedly is occasionally slow, probably due to the sudden upsurge in subscriptions (I have heard that 3 million joined since Google's announcement) and the fact that Feedly syncs with Google Reader right now instead of carrying the subscriptions over.  

Newsblur has a lovely layout that allows you to see each feed through the original site, which solves one of RSS's biggest criticisms: that people prefer to see the layouts from the sources of media and not  sterile reader layouts.  Apparently you can also personalize your own Blurblog but I didn't get to do all of that because I wasn't willing to pay US$24 per year for a service that I wasn't completely sold on.  NewsBlur allows you to use it for free if you only have 12 subscriptions which is a joke and didn't expose me to the full experience in any way that would convince me to purchase it.  Maybe if they offered a free month trial period I would be won over but I'll never know.
* since the time of my review, NewsBlur upped the free subscriptions to 64 but you still need a subscription to view more than that number.

Like Feedly, Bloglines will easily sync with Reader and also features a widget type of format.  The widgets help to organize and personalize the feed, even making the feeds specific to location, which is a great asset for me since I tend to read local stories from Hong Kong, Ithaca, or Texas along with general world news.  The bad news is that the Hong Kong feeds were in Chinese even though I marked my language to be 100% English.  I like the visual display style of Bloglines very much on its regular display but the mobile app is too text based for my liking.  I will bookmark Bloglines for now though, because with Reader's demise I suspect that all the other readers are scrambling to add features that will draw in former Reader subscribers.

Google Currents
I wonder if Google Currents will expand to include some of the features of Reader.  So far it is only available on tablets and smartphones, and I need a reader that works on my laptop so it is currently out of the running as it stands.  If you only want a mobile reader, Currents does a great job at delivering magazine layouts in full website views as well as sidebar navigation similar to Reader.  Currents also has a translation option for foreign stories.

Rolio is the new kid on the block and, unfortunately, still needs a lot of work before they win me over.  The import function was very slow and it didn't/couldn't import all of my feeds, bringing over only 77 of 128 feeds.  On the other hand, Rolio does one thing that most of the other readers don't: it integrates with social media feeds like Twitter and Facebook though so far you can't respond to tweets or updates as it is only an aggregator.  Oh, if only the others thought of it!  For that reason alone I am bookmarking Rolio in hopes that it will improve quickly.

Digg, which is an okay social news website has been working on a reader, but it is still in the Beta stage so I can't review it.  I only mention it because they have made a lot of exciting promises such as incorporating social media services, which none of the other readers is doing with the exception of Rolio aggregating tweets and Facebook posts.  Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc. will be incorporated, and Digg promises to not only aggregate, but allow users to respond to updates.  As all of the critics of RSS feeds keep telling us, social media is the way of the future.  I agree but I just can't quit my RSS feeds.  

So far I am leaning toward Feedly.  Its computer and mobile applications answer all of my current reader needs in an attractive format.  It also has given me more than I asked for with its sexy layout style and ease of organization.  But I will be watching Bloglines, Rolio and Google closely for any changes that will put them above Feedly in my estimation.  Of all the possibilities, Digg seems to be the answer to everything and more.  If they do come through on social media incorporation it will be hard not to choose them, even if their interface is inferior to Feedly.  

After experiencing the shock and horror of having Reader ripped from my clutches I am moving on and looking forward to discovering a life beyond RSS.

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