In searching for something better, I actually found something that’s similar in many ways, but with options that work better for me. Newsblur has the goods to please a lot of people who aren’t all looking for exactly the same thing. I should mention: I need something browser based, that doesn’t require a download of any sort, including a Firefox extension. For those of you who don’t need something quite so portable, there may be other options. But I doubt any of them will actually be better than Newsblur.
How it’s like Reader
First, the ways in which Newsblur can function just like Google Reader:
- You can read a folder full of stories all mixed together and sorted by date, or you can pick a specific feed and read just from it.
- As you scroll past an item, it’s marked as “read.” This is an option (as it is in Reader), so you have other choices.
- You can “save” stories (like starring them – just puts them in a neat little spot up at the top so you can check them later).
Better than Reader
- You can set it so that clicking a story link automatically opens the link in a new tab. One click, and the story’s open elsewhere.
- With a right click on a story link, or a click to the arrow beside the title, you can send that story to Instapaper, Twitter or Facebook.
- The interface is beautiful. That won’t matter to everyone, but it’s so clean and inviting. I’m easily distracted by visuals, but NewsBlur’s look focuses me on my reading.
- In some views, you can see the original website instead of just the feed. How well this feature works depends greatly on the sites in your feed. For example, SearchEngineLand has an excerpt feed, and that’s all you’ll see in any view on NewsBlur. But LifeHacker gives you this really gorgeous view with the ability to click through for the rest of the story.
The Intelligence Trainer
Possibly the single coolest thing about Newsblur is that you can teach it what stories you like and dislike, then filter accordingly. For example, I read a blogger who talks about a lot of subjects. I like her posts about internet marketing, but am not interested in hearing about her house renovations.
- I click the arrow beside one of her renovation posts.
- I get several options, including the Intelligence Trainer, which I select.
- It asks me what I liked and disliked about the story, indicated with thumbs up and thumbs down icons. I click thumbs up for her name, because I do like her writing. Fortunately, she’s tagged this house renovation post, so I click “dislike” on that tag. Or maybe she’s got the words “house renovations” in her title. I can select those words and tell Intelligence Trainer I don’t like them.
Once you’ve worked with Intelligence Trainer long enough, you can move a little red, yellow and green slidebar over toward the red, and it will filter out stories it thinks you won’t like. You can always return to the yellow (which shows most stories) or green (which shows absolutely everything) if you think you’ve missed something. So far, this feature is working wonderfully for me.
Free and paid options
NewsBlur is the product of a lone developer working on his own. It’s absolutely free for up to 64 feeds. You can import a blogroll of hundreds and test it out when it asks you which 64 you’d like to turn on for now. If you like it – as I did – you can shell out $2/month for a “‘premium” membership, which gives you unlimited feeds. Considering this guy doesn’t have the sort of financial backing Google has, I think he’s offering a lot for nothing and even more for not much.
The other reason so many people are loathe to leave Reader is that so many online feedreaders have failed in recent years.
I had a tech issue which turned out to be my browser acting up rather than anything wrong with NewsBlur. Developer Samuel Clay responded to my email within maybe an hour, which I consider excellent for a lone developer. He was very courteous and helpful, zeroing right in on the problem. He also encouraged me twice to report any bugs because without the help of end-users, those things are hard to track down. Clay is serious about his product and the support of it.
NewsBlur is definitely worth trying. It’s the first feedreader ever that I find it hard to tear myself away from. Now I can’t wait to start slogging through my hundreds of blogs, which have been neatly pre-filtered to give me just the stories I want.Updated: March 8, 2011, first published: Posted in Productivity.