And so Google Reader is dead.
Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
As in I opened up my feed reader this morning and it returned no new articles.
Now, before I jump into things, I should probably talk a little bit about why I even give a crap seeing as how blogs are dying and most everything ends up on Facebook anyway. The short answer is "clutter." Yes, many blogs and news sources post their articles (or, more likely, a link to their articles) on Facebook. The problem is that my Facebook newsfeed is also jammed up with tons of other stuff. And that's fine... I actually enjoy keeping up with my friends by all the crazy crap they post... but I don't want to have to go digging through all that to find the blog and news posts I'm looking for. I want them in a separate place so I can quickly get to the material I'm seeking. And that material generally breaks down like this...
And so... where am I at now that Google Reader has gone the way of the dodo?
Well, I can't very well give up having a central service to keep track of my feeds so I can make sure things are synced between all my computers and iDevices, so I went looking for another service. At first I hopped on the Feedly bandwagon as most my friend have because, hey, it's free. But what happens when they too realize there's no money to be made in free webfeeds? And so I bailed from Feedly and signed up with Feed Wrangler. Unlike other "free" services with no business model for actually staying in business, Feed Wrangler is charging $19.95 a year to manage your feeds. A relatively small amount that I am happy to pay so I won't have to go through the Google Reader crap again.
And how am I accessing Feed Wrangler?
Well... their web interface is really good. Very clean. They have smart feeds there which is a spiffy feature. But I prefer to use an offline app so I can have a more feature-rich experience and a cache of my feeds so I can read where I don't have internet.
My first "real" feed reader was NetNewsWire. Brent Simmons clearly new what he was doing when he created it, as the thing Just Made Perfect Sense. It worked like a dream. Everything was so smart in implementation. But then Simmons sold it to NewsGator who in turn sold it to an app house called Black Pixel back in 2011. Black Pixel was more like a Black Hole from which information never escapes, so I finally ditched NetNewsWire for a new app called Reeder.
Reeder was slick looking, but pretty much brain-dead. When you "mark all as read" in NetNewsWire, it assumed you didn't want to read any more from that feed and popped you to the next one. Reeder just sat there like a turd after choosing "mark all as read," which made me hate the fucking app every time I had to manually step through shit I wasn't interested in.... WHICH IS WHY I MARKED IT ALL AS READ!!! Even worse, you could only navigate backwards to the previous post IF IT WAS IN THE SAME FEED! If the previous post was in a different feed, too fucking bad, you can't see it. Dumb stuff like that permitted Reeder, but I used it most of the time anyway because the alternatives were worse. Reeder for Mac doesn't work with Feed Wrangler (yet) even though the iPhone version does, so I was forced to dump it at long last.
The app recommended for connecting to Feed Wrangler that works right now is ReadKit. Unfortunately, ReadKit is even more mind-bogglingly brain-dead than Reeder. Not only does it have BOTH the "mark all as read" stupidity AND the navigation failure... it also has stupid keyboard shortcuts that ARE NOT USER DEFINABLE! With NetNewsWire, Brent Simmons picked the biggest fucking key on the keyboard to go to the next article... THE SPACE BAR! With ReadKit, it's the "J" key or something like that. A key you have to hunt for rather than lazily smashing the bottom of your keyboard. Not that it makes any difference... ReadKit doesn't even have a "Next Unread" button. It has a "show only unread" option, but it doesn't work until after you leave the current feed. Insanity.
Meanwhile, Black Pixel finally released NetNewsWire4 Beta. Desperate for a feed reader that actually made it easy to read my fucking webfeeds, I downloaded it. Even though it doesn't sync with any feed service. The good news is that after you "mark all as read," you actually jump past all the stuff you don't want to read to get to the next unread article (would be nice if it popped you to the next feed automatically but hey, it's beta). So far so good. Does it manage to navigate to the previous feed when you hit the back button to navigate back through the stuff you've read? Oh... this is new... there's no back button. NO FUCKING BACK BUTTON!! I know this is beta software, but how in the hell do you justify releasing a feed reader without a fucking back button? There may be a key for that, but I couldn't find it. And there's no documentation to speak of, so whatever.
I give up.
The only person I trust to write a feed reader that makes fucking sense is Brent Simons, but he's out of that game. I suppose I could cross my fingers and hope that on of the many alternative reader developers take a minute to truly understand what makes a good user experience, but I'm beginning to doubt that will ever happen. Everybody seems to be releasing the same reader with the same failings... they just look a little different and have a different name.
And so I'm back to reading my feed bank by using Feed Wrangler's website.
Maybe one day I'll spend the time to develop my own feed reader. One that will remember what articles you've read regard of which feed they're in and let you backtrack through them. One that will actually MARK SHIT AS READ AND THEN MOVE PAST IT SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT ANY MORE. One that has keyboard shortcuts that make fucking sense. One that syncs with Feed Wrangler. One that doesn't make me start dropping F-bombs every time I go to talk about it.
But probably not.
Perhaps I should just follow Google's lead after all and give it all up.