Category Archives: FeedSeeder

FeedHub: HAL, er MAPE, Filters Your Feeds

Graeme pointed me to FeedHub – another next generation feed filtering service. On first glance, it reads like FeedRinse – import a bunch of feeds, apply some filters, drop the resulting aggregated feed into your regular reader. The difference, FeedRinse’s filters are manual and FeedHub’s are automated.

My first hiccup with the FeedHub service: Registration.
Right on the top of their main page is a sign-in form with an OpenID link. I click it, authenticate, and enter my OpenID url and receive an error.

Huh? I guess they don’t automatically create my account – even though they have everything they need from my authentication to do so. Hmmm.

Back to the main page to cick the big ‘Register’ button – then another OpenID link. And a button to upload my OPML. Three attempts later, the OPML file stuck. Then they asked me questions about how much of the items I wanted, I chose “the most interesting stuff” (how do they know?) which seemed far more useful than “60% of the items”.

I then loaded up the feed url they gave me and was reminded:

“While you can normally expect to see new content in your feed every 3-4 hours, it will currently take 24 hours to start getting content in your new feed.”

While I wait for the propreitary, trademarked mPower Adaptive Personalization Engine to do it’s magic, I caught up on some early reviews of the service:

“One problem: for me it doesn’t work. It doesn’t pick the stuff I’d really like to read from my feeds. Almost none of the items match my link blog, for instance.” – Robert Scoble

Confirming what I’ve said before – I’m not confident with computers identifying what’s relevant or interesting to me. Spam is easier – there are patterns. I’m not convinced interestingness does.

UPDATE:
My lone FeedHub feed updated and it pleasantly surprised me. At the top of each item in the reader is a FeedHub control bar with a number of links including one I’ve only seen in one other service – 'don't show items like this'. Yeah for FeedHub. I’m less enthusiastic about the meme-organizer it feels more like a distraction and oddly disconnected from the reading process.

FriendFeed.com – Just Aggregating Your Friends' Feeds?

“…if you’re brilliant enough to create Google Maps, Gmail, et. al, move on to inventing a flying car or something.” – Rex Hammock

A while back, when I was regularly publishing to multiple sites, I had a thing I called the gFeed that pulled all those feeds (probably a half dozen at my peak) into a single feed.

Sure some people subscribed to it (I believe some still are) but straight aggregation isn’t actually that useful1 – and if you’re crazy enough to want all my feeds, your crazy enough to know how to get them yourself. Soon, FriendFeed will start offering to do the same for you or me, or us.

The value isn’t in the aggregation, it’s in what happens after ther aggregation.

While my exposure to FriendFeed, Streamy, and FeedEachOther is very limited at this point, they all feel too “social network” heavy at this point. Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest missing piece in today’s aggregators.

1. I’ve stopped promoting the gFeed because it’s easier for both of us if I publish more in fewer places.

FeadEachOther.com = Facebook + Bloglines

Ben just pointed me to FeedEachOther.com another entry in the social feed space.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to know which feeds your friends subscribe to? Shouldn’t you be able to find new feeds by topic? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could browse feeds related to your subscriptions? Shouldn’t you be able to share things that you find in your reader without clogging up your friend’s email? How great would it be if your reader could automatically point you towards other interesting, like-minded people?”

Also, reading comments inline is nice.

As you can tell from the above intro from founder, Udi, this is the closest I’ve seen to the project I’m working on 1, so I’m real happy to see forward progress made elsewhere in feed land.

Marshall Kirkpatrick’s Analysis:

“The only shortcomings I’ve seen so far are the absence of offline and mobile modes, weaker analytics than Google Reader offers and a limit of 500 feeds by OPML import. Those problems are big enough that I’m not likely to use FeedEachOther.”

Those aren’t showstoppers for me – and hey, this is day 1. I just don’t think FeedEachOther is intended me, Marshall, or anyone with a serious feed problem. Walking through the intro screencasts it definitely feels like a Facebook + Bloglines (or Google Reader + Orkut if you believe the rumors), with corresponding RSS Feed 101 language and tone.

I do have 1,223,948,234,981 invites remaining, so you can expect one soon.

UPDATE:
Based on the further comments @ ReadWriteWeb, it looks like FEO has been having some issues supporting the number of people that want to check out the service. I think that hurts everyone – the service provider and the people that want to use the site. For free services, there are only a few ways to minimize the bad experience. Unfortunately, throwing up a 500 is probably the easiest way to do it.

1. While my perspective may be skewed – 10 minutes from now feeds will be ubiquitious and we need more and better tools than we have today to help us stop drinking from the firehose. That’s just one reporters opinion.

Innovation in Feed Aggregation = Search?

“So what do I say when people want me to switch my reader away from Google Reader? I answer ‘it’s too late.’” – Robert Scoble

1

Anyway, in the comments, there’s a pointer to fav.or.it. Like streamy and aiderss it’s another attempt to make a new kind of aggregator. From the screencast, it seems more in the realm of techmeme (5000 channels and nothings on) rather than newgator/bloglines (just the channels I want).

The most interesting innovation in feed aggregation can’t be Google adding search. There’s got to be something else. Please let there be something else.

Then again, I’ve been building2 and haven’t been paying super close attention.

1. On a personal note: This comment makes me smile. It’s a fine line between promoting the next hottest app and proclaiming lock-in.

2. I’m planning to go more public with it at this month’s ruby.mn meeting. So, shhhh if you’ve already seen it, thanks.

Re-Tweeting FeedSeeder

If you’ve been reading my twitterings over the past week or so, then you’re already read this stuff. I’m posting it here to include it in the FeedSeeder category archive fer later.

“…there are only very few instances where unsub’ing from a feed makes sense.”

“@swirlspice – exactly. the real issue is how always find the relevant/intersting things in feeds that don’t always have them.”

“no, ‘reading’ is not a gesture of any value, nor is ‘opening’. At best, it’s a comment on the effectiveness of the headline copy.”

“this new feed thingy is working out pretty well for me. While not perfect, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything nor do I feel overwhelmed.”

“…is thinking about what I as a publisher want from a feed reader. The more I think about today’s feed readers, the more I shake my head.”

Me: “I don’t like lengthy sign-up forms”
Them: “It’s 6 fields”
Me: “Too long.”

Unread Bug

“Unread counts now go to 1,000, so that you can know just how far behind you are when you come back from vacation.” – Google Reader

WTF? Telling me there are a 1,000 new things in the world is a feature? Hell, where’s the count of all the people I haven’t met, all the foods I haven’t eaten, all the places I haven’t gone, all the women I haven’t slept with.

None of those numbers are valuable, useful, or relevant.

Plus, as proven by the recent addition of search, if I’ve read something – there’s a far great chance that I’ll want to find it and read it again. So if anything, there should be a ‘read’ count.

Seems so much more optimistic and encouraging.

UPDATE Oct 5, 2007:
I’m now confident that ‘read’/’unread’ – whether in email or RSS readers – promotes poor inbox management. If you can visually identify new stuff, there’s no reason to eliminate the old stuff. Want to reach Inbox Zero? Turn off your read/unread.

ELSEWHERE:

“In, let;s just say, Gmail, do you need a statistical breakdown of how many people you have BCC’d in the last day? Week? Month?…In Google Calendar, do you need to know the average number of appointments you have had on Tuesday afternoons, over the last year?…No, because that would be freaking stupid.” – Gabriel Cheifetz

“I give up. Select all, mark as read.” – Lou Springer

“Been neglecting my Google Reader feeding list for days. Terrified to log in.” – nathantwright

What's Better?

In 10 minutes, everything will have an RSS reader built into it; email clients, browsers, audio/video/image players, phones, every single website. Each application parsing and presenting feeds in a way that’s contextually appropriate.

I hope.

If you want a ‘good enough’ general purpose feed reader, use Google Reader or Bloglines, or Newsgator, or or or or or or or or or or or or or or or.

Starbucks to Caribou Coffee to Dunn Bros all have good cups of coffee. An expected level of quality for the volume they serve. Better than Folgers, but not change your life.

“[Google Reader]‘s a great app, easy to use. So much so that it actually kept us from launching our own reader over a year ago, even though we were about 80% complete….Maybe it’s time to build the better reader.” – Aaron Mentele

There’s lots of definitions of ‘better’.

Any one will do, I’ve picked mine. :)

First Invite Out, 20 To Go

Over lunch today, I sent out the first invitation to the FeedSeeder project.

This is the first real test of the system and I’m anxious. Despite the edges being very rough, the functionality is in there. Finally.

Enough to: 1) talk about 2) start polishing.

Since I’ve been working on this project about 10 of you have asked for early access. Your invites will trickle out over the next couple of weeks.

I’ve got room for 10 more people in this super early stage. Drop me an email to get on the list.

If your email doesn’t make the cut… :)

Oh yeah, and Greg from Perfect Porridge just reminded me: if you like Google Reader or Bloglines, then this probably isn’t for you.

Streamy.com: Kicking Off the Next Generation of Feed Aggregators

Looks like somebody else out there is building a next-gen feed aggregator: Streamy.com Beta.

“Our goal is to bring you personally relevant news in an engaging, collaborative environment….we do intend to kill the dry, boring RSS reader. I’m talking about the inbox-style RSS reader that is not intriguing, not social, and makes little or no attempt at personal relevance. ” – Don

Yeah! Gives me hope. In the I’m-not-the-only-crazy-one-here kinda way.

I Still Don't Care What Everyone Thinks

AideRSS (a feed-filtering service) is starting to pick up traction in my blogosphere.

“[AideRSS] analyzes the activity around each item in an RSS feed – Technorati hits, comments, Del.icio.us links, traffic reports, etc. – and calculates a score for the item. It then creates four feeds from the original feed, each set to a higher activity threshold.” – Matt Thompson

Centralized metrics are a great idea from the publishers perspective – potentially more comprehensive than both Technorati and FeedBurner. Now, do you see the problem from the reader’s perspective?
To paraphrase Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests – just because something is internet popular, doesn’t means it’s personally relevant.

A year ago I wrote:

“[T]here isn’t an easy way to glean the conversations, emerging and otherwise, within the comparatively small group of people I trust.”

It’s still needed.

Why Browser-based Feed Readers are Free

“I +love+ the new Google Reader app on Facebook. Interesting that most people only have around five to 10 feeds.” – Robert Scoble

I now understand why start pages (NetVibes, PageFlakes, iGoogle) have traction. A volume that low has a lot of flexibility in presentation – and comparatively light on server resources. Things get interesting once feed quantities hit triple digits – it stops being live bookmarking and more like email.

I'm Demoing The FeedSeeder Project @ MinneBar 07

If you’re on the fence about attending MinneBar, I’ll be demoing the FeedSeeder Project. Maybe that’ll tilt you either way.

I’ve got a stack of index cards listing features that should be implemented by then. 16 features, 16 days. Tick tock.

Update 11 Apr 2007:
I’ll also be leading a session on ‘Designing for Use’. Bring your UI design problems and we’ll work through them, getting them to a place that’ll make people smile.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 2:35:10 PM

Trawlr. Another browser-based, Rails-built, RSS reader thingy. As I await my opml import (tick….tock…tick…tock), I’m not impressed. Confirming there’s lots of work to do in RSS land. Yes, I’ve got horse in the race….but only ’cause I haven’t found another horse worth betting on. ;)

Monday, March 26, 2007 2:49:38 PM

It’s a beautiful day. Blue skies. The Dashboard widget says 77°F. Our home weather station says 80°F. That aggregation project I’ve been working on since last fall is coming along nicely. Some big, pleasant surprises this morning. Still miles to go, but it’s fulfilling the vision – even at this early stage. Yes, it’s still my only aggregator. The hardest thing about making the switch – breaking the habit of launching NNW.

This Close to Unsubscribe All

“You might wonder why you subscribe to all of this information with no immediate context.” – Aaron Mentele

The whole reason for the Feedseeder Project is that current feed readers aren’t cutting it and I don’t see them set up to change. I’ve talked about this is a number of posts. In fact, I actually think the models behind NetNewsWire, NewsFire, Google Reader, (not to mention much less useful readers like PageFlakes, My Yahoo, and Google Homepage) are stagnant. And, as much as I of a Dave Winer fanboy as I am – the OPML and Userland Radio haven’t clicked with me either.

I’m actually thiiiiis close to ignoring the entire current crop of feed readers. Yes, I’m threatening to uninstall NetNewsWire, just so I can focus on a more appropriate model without being sucked into the current email-based models. As a colleague pointed out this afternoon, it’s even worse than email – at least in email, it’s easy to forward items. For me, feed reading, like podcasts are rarely about immediacy – much more about long term. Constantly gather everything I’m interested in….and make it easy to find relevant things over the long term. Something between the River of News and Google models. (It’s not a far jump to connect this thinking with my interest in hyperlocal journalism).

“Adding someone to your feed list is a relatively big decision.” – Chris Saad

I disagree with Chris here. Adding someone to my feed list is a very small decision. The actual question I ask is: ‘does this writer have the potential to provide me with something interesting?’

Since most of the new feeds I add are referrers from the people I already read, the answer is almost always: Yes.

Related:

“Now imagine walking into your local grocery store, and you notice all of the traditional taxonomies have been removed because product classifications are a form of metadata. The aisle signage has been removed.” – Chris Saad

Based on my customer research experience – this is how people shop. Signs are only read when there’s a problem with the organization of the products.

Update:
Over the weekend, I left NetNewsWire.

Pipes v. Seeds

I’ve been asked if Yahoo Pipes is like FeedSeeder.

Sorta. Both merge multiple feeds and allow a level of filtering on the results within a browser-based interface. Though, that description includes quite a few other projects as well. So, I thought a Q&A would be a better way to compare and contrast [P]ipes and [F]eedSeeder.

Does it create really cool diagrams?
P: Yes
F: No

Is it useful to Garrick?
P: No
F: Yes

Is it free?
P: Yes
F: No

Is it live?
P: Yes
F: No

Postponed Due to Lack of Vision

I’ve been fighting with one aspect of FeedSeeder for quite a while now. None of the approaches I’ve taken ended up solving the problem in a useful way – many of them just mucked it up worse. The imaginary screen in my head that tells me ‘what it should be’ was blank and it was sucking up all the energy.

So yesterday, I dropped the feature. For now.

Removing it made everything else fall into place much easier. The imaginary screen flickered back on.

The need for this feature will still be there and I’m pretty sure it’ll sort itself out quite nicely when the time is right.

LATER:
Oh, so this new approach is called ‘procrascipline’.

What Do You Think I’ll Like?

Aaron, one of the masterminds behind FeedRinse, asks that all RSS Reader provide feed-recommendations.

While I agree there is value in RSS readers making it easier to add relevant sources, my experience with the recommendation engines like Netflix and Amazon has them batting .30. It’s rare that I purchase or rent anything either of those engines think I should. It’s far more likely that I’ll be inspired by another person providing a recommendation.

It’s not the engines fault. Star-rating, past purchases, and high-level genre categories don’t provide enough information to generate a quality recommendation.

That said, RSS is a pretty good recommendation engine itself. Nothing like email, but still pretty good. It could be better sure, and I’ve got some ideas around that.

LATER:
I just received an email from Ben Moore pointing me to Tim O’Reilly’ s post about Yahoo’s new Pipes service. Ben thought there might be some similarities between Pipes and some of the projects I’m working on. Ben’s probably right (the site’s down right now).

While Pipes sounds interesting (“Pipes opens up mashup programming to the non-programmer” – Tim’s words). What’s more interesting to me is that Ben pointed me to it. A relevant, personal recommendation.
Thanks Ben.

New Year. New Approach

The FeedSeeder Project is awakening from a brief hibernation. While the core ideas will remain (they’ve even gotten more defined), the code is undergoing a rewrite (thankfullly, there wasn’t much to begin with).

First item on the To Make Better list: OPML import speed.

Undead End

After reading an article in my RSS reader, there are a number of actions I’d like to perform. All of these are about moving the ball forward. How many of these does your aggregator do easily?

  • Post a comment to the original article.
  • Email the author.
  • Post a reaction on your own public blog while quoting, crediting, and pinging the original article.
  • Email a article to someone that doesn’t read your blog.
  • Save the entire article to a private archive.

Aggregate Trust, Filter Relevance

“I want to subscribe to other people who I can trust, and also, who I can dial down a little” – Eric Rice

I like and trust Eric Rice…though I’m not as psyched about Second Life as he is. Same with Mark Cuban and basketball. Same with Doc Searls and photography. Same with Dave Slusher and SciFi. I subscribe to many others where there’s just the occasional interesting bit – that I gotta dig for.

Our current RSS aggregation tools don’t handle this problem very well. In fact – RSS is very different than email (just as radio is different than voicemail). All but 1 of the aggregators (share.opml.org ) I’ve played with treat them the same.

Elsewhere:

“We have always measured, instead, relevance, trust, usefulness, interest, attraction, action, value. Those are the measurements that matter, always have been, only now media must catch up to us.” – Jeff Jarvis

“I’m happy to let her sift through the left (and right) blogosphere for me and pick out the gems, that way I don’t have to read either.” – Dave Slusher