Dave Winer recommends that RSS aggregators adopt a River of News approach to displaying information, and I have to admit that it is a nice – and fast – way to scan items from many feeds. In fact, it’s similar to how I use FeedDemon.
As I’ve written before, by default FeedDemon acts much like an email client simply because that’s how most people are used to receiving information, but this isn’t how I use FeedDemon at all. Instead, I scan the headlines of an entire channel group of feeds. When I see something that looks interesting, I’ll read the first sentence or two of the article, and if it continues to hold my interest, I’ll either read the entire article or copy it to a news bin so I can read it later.
I think more people would use FeedDemon this way if I made it simpler to do so. Right now, those starting out with FeedDemon often don’t realize that they can radically alter the way information is displayed by choosing a different newspaper style, so I decided to create a new default newspaper style for the upcoming FeedDemon 1.51 that contains a number of different display options.
As the screenshot shows, the new “Surfer” style will enable you to change how items are sorted and grouped, and you’ll be able to toggle between full, short and no descriptions. You’ll also be able to collapse groups, and even launch links in a separate tab within FeedDemon. Plus, you can choose to copy an item to a news bin directly from the newspaper, which is great for link-mavens like myself.
My preference is to show short descriptions, which are generated by FeedDemon itself – basically, a short description is the first sentence or two of an item’s description with all HTML tags except hyperlinks removed. This makes it easy for me to get an idea of what each article is about without having to see the entire description. Although others have recommended doing away with any grouping of items, I personally like grouping items by channel (feed). I want to know the feed an item belongs to because it sets the context for how I’ll interpret it (for example, if a headline is from Boing Boing, I’ll think about it differently than if it’s from The New York Times).
Getting this all to work required enabling newspapers to “communicate” with FeedDemon itself, so I’m afraid it can’t be used with existing versions of FeedDemon. However, we’re planning to have an alpha release of FeedDemon 1.51 before too long, so I believe the tease is only a short one:)