July 20, 2006

River of News

Believe it or not, for someone who has so many sites in his blogroll and spends a good amount of time daily reading blogs, I’ve never used an RSS aggregator. I’ve tried before. I’ve used NewsGator, and Bloglines, and RSSBandit, but I just never got into it. Well, now I’m trying it again, but this time I’m trying it differently. Instead of using the folder-based approach like all those other aggregators do, where each feed is in its own folder, and you have to click into one folder then click on each item, much like reading e-mail, I’ve been on the search for a “River of News” aggregator. This is the concept that some of the first RSS aggregators, including the ones created by Dave Winer, used. And when I first heard about the idea it sounded wrong, but, like most of Dave’s ideas, I warmed up to it over time. The idea behind a River of News is that all the items from all your feeds are smashed into one column that scrolls down forever, organized by date. It’s like a single blog page that all your favorite writers contribute to. You don’t have to click and click and click, you just use your scroll wheel to breeze through it.

So once I had convinced myself I wanted to try a River of News aggregator, I thought the hard part was over. It wasn’t. Next I had to find one. I looked at Bloglines, and it didn’t do it. It came close, but even when you “view all feeds” the items are still grouped by feed, not mixed in together. RSS Reader didn’t do it. And I looked at the feature set of a bunch of other aggregators, and none of them had what looked like a river of news built in. When would I ever find one?

Well, I found one this week. Omea Reader from JetBrains. It’s free, and it has both models built in. There are folders, but if you click on the top level of a folder, and turn on “Newspaper View”, the program gives you a perfect River of News:

And yet, the folders are still right there, so if you have some favorite authors where you don’t want to miss a thing, you can still get a view just from thier site.

So now that I’ve finally found the right program to use, I have to get used to reading blogs this way instead of visiting each site individually. That’s going to take the most getting used to. After all this work, I might end up ditching this aggregator too. But so far I’m having fun with it. We’ll see what happens.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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