Since Google announced it would be shutting down Google Reader everyone who makes regular use of RSS, and who’d succumbed to Google’s hegemony over feeds, has scrambled to find a good alternative. I’ve been following other folks’ posts about the various options they’ve chosen, and it’s been interesting to see the diversity in how people make use of their RSS readers. Some simply use them to read content, others use them to share content, and still others curate their own feeds of interesting or useful items.
In making my own switch from Reader, I toyed with a broad variety of tools including but not limited to Thunderbird, NetNewsWire, Pulse, Netvibes, Yoleo, and Feedly. There were so many directions to go that I ultimately had to take a step back, take a break from all the marketing messages enshrouding each service, and ask myself what I wanted out of an RSS reader.
Here’s what I decided I needed:
- Access from anywhere. I switch frequently between my personal Linux machine and my OS X work computer, and I wanted access to my feeds from both devices. That ruled out most desktop applications, and particularly platform-dependent ones. I figured it also wouldn’t hurt to be able to access my reader from my tablet or other devices on the go.
- Ability to publish and curate my own feeds. Over the years, I’ve greatly appreciated the ability to publish my own RSS feeds made up of curated links from items in my reader, as well as self-authored items. I’ve used curated feeds with my classes and also as a way of feeding custom content into web development projects. Once upon a time, before I fell into Google Reader, I used an excellent open source web application called reBlog for curating feeds, but that project was orphaned and it unfortunately broke with the introduction of PHP 5.
- Control over my data. If ever the service or application ceased to exist, I wanted to be able to leave with my subscriptions and all my data intact.
- Extensibility and control over the software. I’d prefer some level of control over upgrades and functionality, as opposed to being one of the lowly chorus of users who complains helplessly about changes to a service (e.g., “I don’t like the new Facebook/Gmail/Twitter/etc.”).
After looking at a bunch of different options and consulting with my inner Dave Winer, I finally decided on Tiny Tiny RSS (TT-RSS for short). TT-RSS is a self-hosted web application, meaning I run it via my own server. This means my data will always belong to me, and I can export it at any time in any format I need. And since it’s web-based, I can access it from anywhere on any device.
It’s an open source application and it has an extensible plugin architecture, meaning that where necessary I can modify it to suit my needs, as well as take advantage of tweaks provided by other users. It’s written in PHP, which for better or for worse is the server-side scripting language with which most of my core competencies lie.
And, last but not least, it has some very flexible tools and methods for publishing and curating your own RSS feeds. TT-RSS’ interface also includes a bookmarking feature for adding and remembering content from anywhere on the web, and as such I find that it’s rapidly supplanting my need for tools like Del.icio.us or Scuttle.
So, that’s it. It’s the solution that worked for me. I’m not planning on running a hosting service, but if you’re a friend or colleague who’s interested in TT-RSS, but not quite technical enough to install it yourself, I’d be happy to create an account for you on my server. Just email me and I can get you set up.