Putting newsletters in the newsfeed

This is handy:

Introducing email newsletters in your RSS reader.

You can now forward your email newsletters over to NewsBlur and then read your email newsletters right in your browser/phone/TV/tablet.

For me, newsletters fall into two categories. The first is marketing bumpf none of which has any value. These are the mails that I try to avoid signing up to in the first place (always uncheck that “Please send me offers” checkbox). Sometimes I forget, though, which has me either looking for the unsubscribe button or – if all else fails – automatically filtering them out of my inbox and into the trash.

The second set is where Newsblur will (hopefully) come in handy. These are the newsletters associated with accounts I have or campaigns in which I am interested. These are the mails that are not urgent enough for me to want them cluttering up my inbox, but which I do want to read at some point.

I have a Newsblur account and have set up an initial filter. It will be interesting to see the effect of moving a little more clutter out of my inbox and into my RSS reader.

NewsBlur: First Impressions

As mentioned in my last post, Google Reader is no more so I decided to switch to NewsBlur. There has been a bit of a delay between the decision and implementation because the NewsBlur site clearly collapsed under the weight of the Google Reader refugees. But the responsiveness has improved and, today, I signed up.

Getting my feeds out of Google wasn’t quite as painless a process as I’d hoped. The Import From Google Reader link didn’t but (and this is to Google’s credit), it’s pretty easy to export my feeds as an xml file and (to NewsBlur’s credit) import the file. So all my feeds are loaded up and sorted into the folder structure I use.

And then I discovered that there are preferences everywhere. You can set options by site, by folder and by feed. This does give you a great deal of control over how the feeds are delivered, but it also takes a bit of getting used to.

The same can be said of the keyboard shortcuts. While many of them are logical, there are a couple that were a little unexpected – for me, at least – and I still find myself hitting the wrong button on occasion. I could just use the mouse, of course, but shortcuts – as their name implies – allow you to get to the same functionality faster.

These are minor gripes, though, and I have to say that the site handles the basic RSS requirements (speedy navigation through a large collection of stories) very well indeed. NewsBlur is also showing a great deal of potential. The most obvious of these are the social features which allow you to share stores and comment on stories that others have shared. And it’s a rather nice touch that all of your shared stories are collected on a blurblog, which will make it easy to find them again as time goes on.

Overall, I am liking NewsBlur. A lot. It’s not perfect – yet – but has gone a long way towards being everything Google Reader could have been.

Farewell Google Reader, Hello NewsBlur

There are times when I have the impression that Google is so determined to be social that they lose sight of the fact that their online dominance is a result of being useful. This morning was one of those times when I hopped online to check the headlines and was presented with an announcement that Google Reader is to be retired.

This is not entirely unexpected, Google seems to have been looking for an excuse to kill off their RSS reader for a while. Their reasoning seems to be that ‘social’ means kitten videos, so the community of news junkies that has built up around Reader isn’t ‘social’ and should, therefore, be killed off. With fire, if necessary.

Google have already taken steps in this direction, such as removing social features from Reader and trying to push Reader users into Google Plus, and I would be willing to guess that most users of Reader knew that the application’s days were numbered. Now we have a number: On July 1st 2013 Google Reader will be no more.

This means, of course, that I now have to pull my finger out and find an alternative. I did, briefly, consider going back to Liferea, the desktop RSS reader that I used until a few years ago, but what I really want is an online solution. I use several devices and want to be able to access the same news feed from all of them.

A quick scoot around the web turned up NewsBlur, “a social news reader with intelligence.” It’s an open-source application and the README on GitHub does provide full instructions for installing your own instance. But I’m lazy and went to look at the hosted service instead. They have two sign-up options: Free for people subscribe to fewer than 64 feeds, and $1 per month for real news junkies.

One nice feature on the site is a ‘Try out NewsBlur’ option that lets you play around with the features without committing yourself to anything. It’s a bit slow but, poking around the community feedback pages revealed that this is down to a sudden influx of visitors. Action is being taken and things should improve shortly.

$1 a month isn’t much, so I shall be signing up to NewsBlur as soon as the Import From Google Reader link stops timing out.