What I use: RSS feed readers

Not a long time ago there was an active debate on the Web — or at least among the technorati — after someone declared that ‘RSS was dead’. Well, I don’t know about that: if you take a look at my setup, you’ll think it’s very much alive. And for me it is. Sure, some say that Twitter can be a great tool to receive news bits on the fly, but I simply can’t rely on Twitter’s transience. The way I want my feeds is all about redundancy.

Passive intake

More than a dual-monitor setup, I have a dual-computer setup. On the left of my main monitor, I have a second monitor, a big 22″ acrylic Cinema Display, which is attached to my trusty Power Mac G4 Cube. Its main function is to offer additional information in my field of vision. Stuff I can glance at every now and then without having to leave my workspace in the MacBook Pro by jumping to other applications. The Cube displays RSS feeds and my Twitter stream all day long, and the monitor isn’t close enough as to divert my attention every two minutes. Since the Cube runs Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, my software options for RSS feeds are somewhat limited. I decided to use one of the last versions of NetNewsWire that’s fully compatible with Tiger. That version (3.1.7) was the last before NetNewsWire started featuring Google Reader synchronisation, but it’s not a problem for me, since this isn’t the only way I get my feeds.

Active management

That solution is perfect for my ‘passive’ intake of news feeds. When I need to actively read articles and do something about them, like linking to them in my blog, putting them away for future reference, or citing and responding to them in one of my articles, I do that on my MacBook Pro using Reeder. Reeder has everything I need: an interface that is beautiful to look at and interact with, Google Reader syncing, lots of sharing tools. Now that it has a “Post with MarsEdit” option, it’s even better, since I use MarsEdit for all my blogging.

Thanks to Reeder’s pleasant interface, I often find myself reading entire articles without leaving the application. (My preferred font for reading in Reeder is Neuzeit S LT Std Book at 16 pt.) Reeder makes that easy thanks to its Readability integration and built-in browser. Reeder has also become the sole RSS reader on my iPhone.

A broader view

I have a lot of interests, and for that reason I need to compartmentalise when it comes to news feeds. If I put all the sites I’m subscribed to in my main feed readers, the situation would get out of control pretty soon. The feeds I have in NetNewsWire and Reeder are a selection of websites & blogs about technology, design and typography. However, sometimes I’d like to stay up-to-date with broader topics. Sometimes I’d like to be able to open a virtual newspaper and read stuff from other sources such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Wired, etc. For that, Pulp is perfect. It even has an iPad version I can’t wait to try as soon as I purchase an iPad.

Finally, one last place I keep some RSS subscriptions is Mail.app. There are sites like Mac OS X Hints or Apple’s Mac OS X Knowledge Base for which I want to have an archive where I keep all headlines since I subscribed, and quickly look up information as needed. For this task, I think that Mail is excellent, more so under OS X Lion, since the Spotlight search facility has improved a bit.

How about RSS feed bankruptcy?

In my case it’s a non-problem. Some people have an uneasy relationship with their RSS feed reading: they say they’re overwhelmed by the increasing unread items count, that they’re anxious to reach some sort of ‘Inbox Zero’ peace of mind. I find that a bit amusing. For me, it’s obvious that with this constant flow (overflow) of information, you have to skim. No one buys a newspaper and starts reading every article from the first page to the last. Not every news bit gets my attention or interest. With the number of sites I follow, I would be on my RSS feeds reader all day! I currently have 809 unread items in NetNewsWire: it’s an inflated and ultimately meaningless datum. I’ll probably read in full just 30 of those 809 articles over the weekend, and then I shall ‘Mark All Read’. If I feel I’ve been too hasty, I can go back and skim some more as soon as I have some time for that. It’s that simple, really.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!