RSS & Readers – Which to choose?

Because of the interest in our company in our weblogs and the fact that still not a lot of (non-techie) people know what exactly they are and how to use the rss feeds, I thought of writing an article on rss and the readers. First I want to explain a bit what rss is, where to get rss feeds on these blogs and how to consume them with rss readers.

RSS
RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. It’s mainly used by news websites and weblogs. A program that uses RSS is called an RSS aggregator or feed reader. These programs check the RSS-enabled webpages on behalf of a user and displays any new and updated article it can find. The benefit of this is that users don’t have to repeatedly visit every site they want to check for new items, and most readers notify the user of new items with a small popup from the system tray, near the clock in Windows.

RSS itself is plain XML with predefined tags that describe the text, which the reader knows how to use. A little difficult however, because there are multiple standards, although a new standard is developed called ATOM.

Below is a short example of an RSS message from this blog:

 

   1: <item>
2: <dc:creator >Dennis v/d SteltSPAN class=html>dc:creator>
3: <title>New .Text version?SPAN class=html>title>
4: <link>http://bloggingabout.net/dennis/archive/2005/01/12/1887.aspxSPAN class=html>link>
5: <pubDate>Wed, 12 Jan 2005 13:17:00 GMTSPAN class=html>pubDate>
6: <guid>http://bloggingabout.net/dennis/archive/2005/01/12/1887.aspxSPAN class=html>guid>
7: <description><P>Well, seems telligent systems themselves are already blogging ...
8: SPAN class=html>description>
9: SPAN class=html>item>

 

Where to get RSS on these weblogs?
That’s easy, wherever you see this little xml image (), you know where the rss is. Right-click the image, choose copy shortcut and use that in your favorite rss reader. From that moment on, your reader will notify you when a new item has been placed, or one has been updated.

On these weblogs, the main page aggregates all feeds from all weblogs. So if you want to get notified of every single weblog at once, use that feed, it can be found in the upper left, right under to sponsor logo. Don’t get confused with the opml list there, however.

Some bloggers however, choose to write posts or artciles and not include these in the main aggregated feed. Like Carlo who occasionly writes about his efforts to run a marathon, or here on my blog, where I try to put some effort in making people like demos! 😉
Because these posts don’t show up in the aggregated feed, it’s sometimes not a total loss to subscribe to bloggers there personal feed!

A list of main blogs on BloggingAbout.NET:

Which RSS reader to choose?
There are multiple readers, I will discuss a few here. Two are stand alone products, one is an integration into Outlook and the last one is a free online reader.

RSSBandit (download)
RSSBandit is my favorite reader because a version compiled under .NET 1.0 was available. At my current project, we still develop under 1.0, and although Microsoft says 1.0 and 1.1 can run side by side, I can’t create unknown problems by doing so. Besides that, it opens links in every feed in an external browser (by choice) instead of in the reader itself, like SharpReader does. However, I’ve never seen RSSBandit update a post, that wás updated on the weblog itself. So that’s a small problem there.
Another benefit is that it can read comments from the blogs and show them internally.

SharpReader (download)
SharpReader always was my favorite, until I had to run it under .NET 1.0. It’s a very easy, straightforward reader. Only problem I had with it, was that it sometimes messed up some feeds and made a dozen items or so unread, as if they were updated.

NewsGator Outlook Edition (download trial)
NewsGator Outlook Edition is also a very popular reader. It integrates into Outlook 2000 or later and it looks just like you would normally read your email. One problem however, it’ll cost you money! You can tial it for 14 days however.

BlogLines (website)
BlogLines is a website that works as an online feed reader, for free! A great solution if you want to read all subscribed feeds everywhere you go.
My problem with it, is that I copy all my subscribed feeds into my memory stick and bring it to my next client. I also think they graphical design of BlogLines is really ugly, and not user friendly.

I hope I could bring you up to speed on weblogs and their RSS feeds. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve done research on almost every reader you can think of, and RssBandit is by far the most buggiest of all, even though it has nice features.

    Currently I’m on Saucereader 1.10beta, which works ok and is free too. There are a lot out there, but frankly, almost all of them are simply crap, including the commercial ones. Some can do this, but can’t do that, others can’t do that but can do this… some can’t show inline images etc. etc… the main item among the rss readers is that they add features only people who don’t know what a computer is would like, but no features a normal person would like. For example: desktop alerts only on a few feeds, not all of them. Flagging items so that they’re added to a separate folder so you can keep track of them easily. Newsgator can do this, if you have just 1 mailbox, but if you have more, it’s useless (and very slow).

    Rssbandit has nasty bugs in the threading code: during the day it hangs itself up and won’t refresh feeds. It also overwrites xml internally somewhere which makes feeds to fail with obscure errors the faster your computer is.

    Sharpreader can’t jump to bloglinks with a ‘#’. This is typically annoying as the support forums we use have rss feeds on the forums and the postnumber is in the item url so you can jump directly to a message…

    Omea reader is as buggy as rssbandit, perhaps even more buggy. It can also do a lot of other things you don’t need.

    Saucereader is ok, but also has some bugs, for example it uses infragistics grids, which are buggy by default (column resizing shit…) and it’;s pretty slow, even on my 3Ghz xeon box

    Feeddemon is ok too, but the programmer definitely didn’t understand that if you write a READER you should add functions for READING / handling the information, not all kinds of crap features which have more to do with WRITING than with READING. Oh well.. 😉

  2. I am currently using the lastest rssbandit. This is my favorite. Saucereader is a heavy recource application but looks quite good.

    I also like rssbandit because I can post reaction’s on compatible blogs.

    I never have problems with rssbandit. I just run it.. update it each 30 minutes and keep the data for 7 days. It gets a little slow when having lots of blogs in a category and purging data older then for example 2 months. Took me quite some time before I discoverer that 🙂

    @Otis: Nice workstation specs by the way 😉

  3. Great, only now do I discover that all text is blue. Man, do I love BlogJet. To bad I can’t post on multiple locations with it, and that I cannot post articles with it.

    I’m more seriously think about writing my own blogging system every day. A new version of .Text is about to be released, but as far as I can tell from what Telligent Software employees tell us, it’s gonna include the forum and the galley in one package. Now that’s definitly not what I want! 🙁

    And MetaBlogApi isn’t all that great as well. I need much more features. Uploading images through the webservice would be nice as well.

  4. Martin Schmidt says:

    I am quit happy with JetBrains <a href="http://www.jetbrains.com/omea_reader/">Omea Reader</a>. I just started using RSS some days ago and I gave Omea a try because their IDEA and Resharper is way cool. RSS reading is only one of Omeas features, but it’s the only part that is really interesting for me. Their is a limited time offer to get a free licence until March 2005.

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