Monday, September 20, 2010

On using a feed reader, or no, not everything is on Twitter

By now, the news that Bloglines, the RSS reader service, is shutting down on October 1st is old news. I started using Bloglines practically as soon as I discovered it. I keep track of a lot of feeds, both professionally and personally, and Bloglines at the time was a lifesaver. I reluctantly moved to Google Reader when Bloglines began to prove unreliable (down times, freezes, other technical issues). I also tried Newsgator, but they also shut down their web-based feed reader. However, Bloglines was the first place where I could arrange my feeds into folders as well as save clippings. So it does bring some fond memories, and its shutdown is bad news since I dislike the idea that Google pretty much has the monopoly on this field; a desktop feed reader for me is out of the question. For one, I am not allowed to install anything on my work computer without permission (that is a whole rant there about being treated like a child by IT. And no, I am not interested in any IT geek trying to defend that position on the basis of "security" or some other nonsense. All that policy really does is make my work more difficult, but I digress). Two, I move too much, and I read my feeds in various locations. So web-based is preferred.  I have been trying out a few alternatives, but none of them have proven up to the task just yet. Writing about some of those alternatives may be a topic for another time.

However, what irked me a bit was the opinion of some people that feed readers are dead and that tools like Twitter are the way to go. Twitter, while it may be a wonderful tool for some people, certainly is not one that meets my needs. Much like Liz B over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, I ask too:

"What am I supposed to do to keep up on blog reading, because I’m sure not going back to the olden days of going to each individual blog every day to see what, if anything, got posted. I love Twitter, but it’s all real time so unless I’m on when someone posts their feed to Twitter (a practice, by the way, some people don’t like), I’ve missed it. Facebook has similar time/timing issues." 

I am not checking my feeds 24-7, but I do check them often. The fact that I can check them when I get to them is the convenient part. That I can arrange things in folders by topics is also helpful. A tool like Twitter does not offer that level of filtering and control. Plus, to be honest, if I have to just trust my friends to post stuff that is relevant to me, all I will get are kitty pictures, Glenn Beck stuff, and other oddities. Please don't tell me I have to get better friends. Please don't tell me I have to just know who to follow on Twitter. Even if I did create a Twitter list, it would still lack the power and granularity my feeds arrangements have. And then there is the fact I can save clips from the feeds. This is not the same as posting to Delicious for instance, which I use for something else anyhow.

At the end of the day, what bothered me is the pretentious tone some people took in saying that feeds are dead, and if you can't get it all on Twitter (or some similar site), then you are reaching obsolescence.  By the way, just visit some of the other links I provide to go read what those people wrote. I will actually suggest that if all you do is get your news from Twitter, you are not doing nearly enough to keep up.

Finally, this blog post over at Inside Higher Ed also asks about using feeds and readers. Made me think, and the comments may be worth looking over too just as the comments Liz B got are worth a look as well. I just hope Google does not suddenly decide to shut down their reader in some moment of revelation. More incentive to see what else is out there.

No comments: