As I mentioned a while ago, I'm now using Bloglines as my news/blogs/rss/etc aggregator. It took a bit of time to adjust to using the service, but overall I'm pretty happy with it so far. It has caused me to change the way I read in a few ways, but nothing earth shattering. And I've found a few minor annoyances along the way too.


First off, I had to adjust the way I update the blogroll on the right hand side of my main blog page. To do so, I slightly modified my script and added a cron job to fetch my subscription list from Bloglines.

It looks something like this:

wget -q -O subs.opml

I love the fact that I can get at my subs via a simple REST interface without needing to jump thru cookie and/or authentication hoops.


A few things that bug me or I'd like to see changed...

  1. Sorting is very haphazard. I can sort my list of feeds alphabetically but then when I add a new one, I have to re-sort because it ends up at the end. Why not provide a default sort order?
  2. I'd like an option that hides feeds that have no new content since my last visit. That'd greatly reduce the scrolling I do.
  3. The unread counts aren't reliable. Sometimes it'll say "12" but when I click on the source I find that only 2 things have updated. I haven't quite found the pattern to what causes this yet.
  4. I'd like it to respond to what I do. My old aggregator would track the feeds I read most and sort them in that order. Bloglines could do the same thing. It turns out to be incredibly useful and I'm really starting to miss it. Implementing #2 would help, but it's not the same.
  5. I'd like to be able to toggle a "headline only" mode. It seems that 80% of the time, I want to read the full-post feeds I subscribe to, but 20% of the time I just want to skim headlines.

Disclaimer: Some of this stuff may actually exist and I simply haven't found it yet. If so, please let me know.

Posted by jzawodn at April 03, 2004 09:52 PM

Reader Comments
# Chris L said:

You should drop a note to the bloglines folks if you haven't already. #1 and #2 would be fantastic.

#3 is strange and I can't say that I have seen anything like it...

on April 3, 2004 11:26 PM
# Sikko2Go said:

I use bloglines evey day now since some weeks. The most convenient thing to me is that my list of blogs is kept on the web, so no more synchronising between multiple computers is neccessary.
#3: I'm not sure, but what I do know is that of course blog entries can get re-posted by the blogger. aube your point has something to so with that, although I doubt it. Bloglines now has a new feature making this reposted entries invisible. Hope that helps.
As to the other points, I so't think they provide in them so far, there doesn't really seem to be a learning feature in BL

on April 3, 2004 11:38 PM
# david said:

I see they're now telling the owners of said content how many subscribers are tuned in.

My pitiful blog and worthless blog has two people tuned in (not that those two are worthless and pitiful, only my blog).

Bloglines/2.0 (; 2 subscribers)

on April 4, 2004 01:01 AM
# jayseae said:

Hi Jeremy -

I agree that dropping a line will work wonders. Mark listens very well to suggestions, especially those that make a bunch of sense and will help people make better use of the service.

I'm not quite clear on what you mean with #2 - are you using folders? Even the main "subscriptions" option is a folder. If you click in the left pane, you'll only see feeds with updated items in the right pane. You can then scroll through, and mark those unread that you don't want to read at that time. All the time you won't see anything that doesn't have updated items. Is that something like what you're after?

I've seen #3 in two instances: If you leave your window displaying for a while, and the left pane hasn't updated, then the counter there might not quite match the count in the right pane. The other is if there are updated items in the right pane. The counter updates for new and for updated items. You can turn off update tracking per feed if you don't want to see that. No way I know of to keep update tracking on, but not update the counter.

Anyway - just some thoughts. I use Bloglines regularly and love it!

on April 4, 2004 04:53 AM
# Ste Grainer said:

Not a bad list of suggestions. I, too, have been using Bloglines for a few weeks now, and love it.

In response to:

1. Default sort order would be *great*. To be honest, though, I collapse all of my folders and read new posts for the whole group so I don't often need the individual feeds to be sorted.

2. Why not just view new entries by group instead of by feed? I have 9 folders for my 130 feeds: Personal, Design, Technology, Comics, Photos, Quick Links, General, Mac, and My Site. Clicking on the folder will show all of the new entries for that group of feeds.

3. I've never had an unread count higher than the number of actual new entries for a feed. On the other hand, a lower count is possible because Bloglines only refreshes the left-side panel once every hour. So if it refreshed awhile ago, there may be new entries for the feed that aren't reflected in the update count. The updated count is based on the number of new items, not the number of updated feeds. So 2 feeds might have 6 new entries each, and that would show up as 12 in the update count (if you're reading by group).

4. Again, this would be nice, but I find that it's not really that useful if you read by groups instead of by individual feeds.

5. Even better would be the ability to customize how each feed is displayed with a template of some sort. For example, with slashdot entries, I don't want the description at all because it's often cut off before any useful information about the new entry is shared.

on April 4, 2004 05:12 AM
# sil said:

"The unread counts aren't reliable. Sometimes it'll say "12" but when I click on the source I find that only 2 things have updated. I haven't quite found the pattern to what causes this yet."
If you mean here that when you click an item with unread count 12 and only two items show up in the right-hand frame, then I have no idea what the problem is; never had that happen to me :)
If it's that it shows 12 items in the RH frame but you've seen ten of them before, then it's probably a bug with the generation of the RSS feed by the source; they're changing something that they should not be changing. We ran into this problem when generating a feed from phpBB -- the code was updating the date in each item every time it rebuilt the RSS feed, so Bloglines thought that each item in the feed was new every time it fetched the feed.

on April 4, 2004 06:24 AM
# David Janes said:

Jeremy, any chance you can send me an e-mail? Something I want to discuss off-line.

I don't see a "contact me" button, though this early in the morning there's a chance I may be just blind.

on April 4, 2004 06:42 AM
# Suresh said:

any reason why you don't use the automatic bloglines blogroll service ? (they provide an rpc url that automatically renders your blogroll). Or do you do additional formatting on the blogroll once you wget it ?

on April 4, 2004 08:50 AM
# Dror Matalon said:


Fastbuzz provides an online aggregator like bloglines.
1. You can sort your feeds and new feeds are added to the end of the list.
2. This is the default behavior in fastbuzz. It doesnt show feeds that have no new articles.
3. We have a similar problem with unreliable unread counts in some feeds. The problem is that when we show the count for all articles, we count duplicate postings of the same article. When we actually display the articles we only display the article once.
4. That's a good idea. We already track which articles you've read (so we don't redisplay them), so it shouldn't be too hard to display the feed list in the order of "most read feeds."
5. We provide that in "page mode" but not in "channel mode."

We provide two views to the feeds. Channel mode is very similar to how bloglines displays feeds.
Page mode let's you organize your feeds in pages. For each page then, you can specify:
1. One or two column view.
2. Maximum number of articles per feed.
3. Display the description or just the headline.

We also let you create scrolling headlines from a page. You can see an example of that on Hope this wasn't too long of a commercial :-), but I thought it was relevant material.

on April 4, 2004 11:12 AM
# Hashim said:

#3 happens to me also. I have no idea why.

on April 4, 2004 12:50 PM
# Manish Jethani said:

You've summed up the annoyances pretty well. I don't have #3 on my list though.

on April 4, 2004 02:46 PM
# Tim A said:

I've been using Bloglines for a long while and haven't noticed #3 at all.

on April 4, 2004 06:08 PM
# Kev Spencer said:

I started using Bloglines at the end of last year. After getting rather peeved at the 'synching RSS aggregators over multiple boxes' problem, I went looking for a server-side solution. Bloglines seemed the perfect fit at the time and I've stuck with it ever since.

Perhaps the only Bloglines gripe that I can think of is the lack of auto-sort when adding a new feed to your blogroll (#1). Seeing as Bloglines is a free service, I think I can live with clicking 'sort by ascending' after each feed addition :-)

on April 5, 2004 12:17 AM
# Liudvikas Bukys said:

For me the wrong-unread-count is related to the content-in-wrong-frame glitch: if you open a second BlogLines window, clicking on a subscription puts the content in the right-hand frame of the first BlogLines window, not in the current window. I work around this by training myself to have only one BlogLines window open at a time.

on April 5, 2004 12:51 PM
# Dror Matalon said:

I liked number 4 enough that we've implemented it in fastbuzz. Now you have the option to make your most popular channels "float" to the top.

on April 6, 2004 11:56 AM
# Shantanu Oak said:

I have switched to My Yahoo RSS aggregation after using bloglines for about a year. Not because of the annoyances (though they are there and really bug me) but because I did not like the "Framed" design.

on April 7, 2004 07:54 AM
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