What’s wrong with feed readers

The recent Glassdog post about what’s wrong with feed readers has generated some buzz, and in general I agree with this post. Feed readers need to do more – much more – to help locate and navigate related information, and this is something I’ve thought about for quite some time.

Before coding FeedDemon 1.0, I sat down and really studied the other RSS readers, looking for what was missing. It was (almost) immediately obvious that other feed readers did nothing to find information for you, instead acting as though you’d want to read everything. It seemed to me that as feed readers caught on, it wouldn’t be long until people were faced with feed overload – too much data, most of which they don’t care about. This was why my design specs for the very first release of FeedDemon focused on the importance of features such as “watches” and “search channels” which help you find information you’re actually interested in. I also made sure to add basic filtering, grouping, etc., so you wouldn’t be stuck with “sorting items by date,” as this post suggests.

I considered doing more along these lines in 1.0, but I decided that since most people consider RSS to be brand new, they would need to be introduced to reading feeds using a familiar, email-like UI that wasn’t overloaded with RSS-specific features. I know that sounds odd, but the more unfamiliar features a product has, the higher the learning curve – and the slower the adoption. So, my goal with FeedDemon 1.0 was to make it easy for those new to RSS to start reading, without the added complexity suggested by this post. Now that more people are using FeedDemon and other feed readers, of course, I can take things much further in future versions :)

One big problem I see with this post (and others like it) is that they talk about rating/ranking individual items, but I believe that the vast majority of users don’t want to spend time doing this. Relationships between items can be made without requiring the user to do anything, so this will likely be my focus. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m ruling out ranking items in FeedDemon, just that I’m not planning to make ranking items central to using FeedDemon.

7 thoughts on “What’s wrong with feed readers

  1. The problem with smart applications…

    … it’s that sometimes they try to be smarter than you, and fail.
    Following a rant by glassdog, the discussion about smart feed readers has reopened. Basically, it goes the argument, current feedreaders suck because they’re developed by (gosh!) com…

  2. I agree that rating the posts is not valuable to me, however, folks can already rate the feeds with News Bins. Create a newsbin for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 star items and move the posts in there. It may not be quite the solution he’s after, but I don’t think people care about 1-2 star items and 3 star items you could search for. 4 and 5 star items are quick and wasy to throw into a ‘save’ News Bin.
    Thanks for such a great product!

  3. Feed Readers: The New Web Browsers

    A recent post by Nick Bradbury about what’s wrong with feed readers got me to thinking a little bit about how RSS (or Atom) feeds are changing the way we access content on the web.

  4. I’d like a tool where I can program the filtering myself. It needs a library of functions to do grunt work like Bayesian filtering. I can then do interesting things, like rating (when I really want to or need to), putting a channel on probation when I get annoyed with it, blacklisting…
    Some way to splice in my own mechanism would be great.

  5. Synchronizing feed readers

    Nick Bradbury comments on Glassdog´s post on what´s wrong with feed readers, but then however only discusses watches, filtering and other features to help locate and navigate information. An aspect which is missing from Nick´s post is mentioned at g…

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