August 31, 2002

The Perfect RSS Aggregator

I'm on a quest to find the perfect RSS aggregator. And I'm starting to feel like I'll end up having to write some code to get it. That makes me unhappy because I've got roughly a billion other things I need to be spending my time on.

I'm slowly convincing myself that I need an e-mail based aggregator. Yeah, that's right. I think I want an RSS aggregator that sends me all the interesting bits via e-mail.

The real problem is that I use several different computers and operating systems each day. And I've yet to find one that'll give me what I want. My current favorites are AmphetaDesk and NetNewsWire. The former is a client-server application (I have it running on a co-located server so I can access it from anywhere) and the later is a GUI application for Mac OS X. For me, they're two "best of breed" applications.

So, let's look at the general cases.

Web/Server based aggregators

The Good

  • Can access the content from anywhere.
  • State can maintained in once place, so you don't see the same content twice and you don't have to subscribe to the same feed several times.

The Bad

  • No off-line viewing capabilities.
  • Performance can be sluggish when net latency is high.
  • Browser-based apps aren't as feature-rich (compared to NNW).

Desktop/GUI aggregators

The Good

  • Great performance.
  • Rich user interface (sorting, mark read/unread, etc.).

The Bad

  • Can't easily share state between machines.
  • Source code is rarely available.

And now the specific cases:


The Good

  • Easy to setup.
  • Runs on my own server.
  • UI can be customized, as seen in AmphetaOutlines.

The Bad

  • Uses a rather strict parser. Feeds randomly fail to parse.
  • Has a memory leak. I've seen the process get as large as 96MB before I restarted it.
  • The default UI doesn't scale. I read about 80 weblogs. That makes for one really large page.


The Good

  • Fast development cycle. Author is releasing new versions a few times a week.
  • Awesome UI and features. It acts like a news reader but doesn't have any clutter.

The Bad

  • Only runs on the Mac. I use Windows and Linux systems more often than the Mac.
  • Lacks a few key features, like sorting and ranking of feeds.

What I really want...

I'd like to combine aspects of both models. I'm thinking of a server-based process that can gather all the data and give it to me in one of several ways. Maybe I can just point my browser at it and catch up on the news--just like AmphetaDesk. That's great for when I'm on-line and in a surfing mood.

I'd like it to do RSS auto-discovery.

I'd like the option of having updates sent to me via e-mail and possibly instant-messenger. Heck, I'd like to be able to subscribe via e-mail or IM as well.

By having an e-mail option, I can work off-line whenever the mood strikes me or connectivity vanishes for some reason. And if it provided a XML-RPC or SOAP-based API, I could imagine having a nice selection of desktop GUI apps that can provide a nice interface to the data--on any platform (Linux, OS X, Windows).

Anyone know of such a beast? Sounds like it'd be a fun project to build. It breaks down nicely into logical units, I think. There'd the be the core server. It polls all your feeds, figures out what's new, and so on. Then there's an API for subscribe/unsubscribe and reading content. You could then have clients or bridges that speak Jabber, XML-RPC or SOAP, POP or IMAP, etc.

Hmm. If only I had some more spare time. This is starting to sound really fun. Heck, it'd even be a good excuse to learn one of the languages I've been wanting to get into: Python or Ruby.

Sigh. Back to doing work.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:32 PM

Google Loves Me!

As of this moment, if you search google for "jeremy", you'll find that my weblog is the first link returned. And, better yet, there are no ads or sponsored links on the page.

I wonder how long this will last...

Posted by jzawodn at 04:45 PM

Cats Rock!

I just watched Barnes, one of my cats, catch and eat a fly. I have trouble killing flies with a fly swatter, but he was able to do it with a swipe of his paw. Wow.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:03 PM

Microsoft's Newest Challenger: Moore's Law

According to Business 2.0:

Entire PCs can now be bought for less than the cost of one copy of Microsoft Office software -- and an interesting new market is born.

Hmm. Suddenly it's clear that Microsoft might be getting a bit too expensive for the low-end market.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:47 PM