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ReadKit 2.3 Launches with Streamlined Sharing and a Snazzy New Icon

ReadKit 2.3 Launches with Streamlined Sharing and a Snazzy New Icon

ReadKit [1] has become my favourite desktop app for reading my RSS feeds, and reading and managing articles I save for later reading and/or sharing. ReadKit sports a clean, intuitive user experience, and supports a wide range of feed, read-later and sharing services, including Feed Wrangler, Fever, Feedbin, Feedly, NewsBlur, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Pinboard and Delicious.

I first started using ReadKit as a clean desktop app for both Instapaper and Fever. In the case of the latter, it was an interim solution until the long-awaited Reeder for OSX update which promises to support Fever and more.

Today the Webin team have released version 2.3, and along with a snappy new icon, it now supports a feature that I’ve long wanted – a one click ability to move an item from a web feed (such as Feed Wrangler or Fever) to a bookmarking service such as Pinboard or Delicious.

In fact, I requested this very feature via an App.net conversation with the ReadKit team back in May, with the following post

@readkit In v2 beta, is it (or would it be) possible to have a single click to create a bookmark from a Fever post, bringing up the dialogue box to save to Pocket/Instapaper/Pinboard, etc? Thanks!

Within minutes, they came back with this reply:

@desparoz you can drag the posts between accounts. Just drop it on the unread folder of the read later/bookmark service.

My reply indicated I was aware of this, but outlined why I still wanted a one-click process:

@readkit I realise that, but then I have to go to extra steps to bring up the box to type in description, etc. I use IFTTT to pull from Pinboard to App.net & Twitter. So it adds steps to my workflow.

I loved their response:

@desparoz I see. We’ll solve it soon 😉

This is a great example of a developer paying attention to the needs and wants of its customers. I’m hardly the most prolific of bloggers [2] and this simple automation allows me to the quickly share some posts I’ve found to be important and/or interesting.

The ReadKit team has put a lot of thought into my this process as simple as possible. Clicking on the share buttom brings up a list of choices that now includes Pinboard and Delicious. Selecting Pinboard (in my case) brings up a dialogue box with options to edit the title, tags and description. The title and description information defaults from the article being saved.

Simple Pinboard sharing with ReadKit

So far this works brilliantly. The only feature request I can see to date is to have an option for selecting whether a post should be private or shared from the dialogue box.

I now use Pocket instead of Instapaper, and Feed Wrangler instead of Fever. Even though Pocket has a beautiful OSX app, the simple integration of these services, and Pinboard, makes ReadKit an absolute winner. I’m no longer waiting for an update to Reeder for OSX [3].

If you’re using an RSS service, read-later and/or bookmarking services and you’re a Mac user I strongly suggest you give ReadKit a try.


  1. Affiliate link. Thanks in advance!  ↩

  2. I do try to be more regular, but there is a lot of good stuff going on in my world at the moment. So I’ve had focus my limited time and attention.  ↩

  3. I love Reeder for iPhone. On the iPad, I prefer Mr Reader. These and ReadKit on OSX allow me similar workflows to quickly share items using Pinboard with an IFTTT recipe to share to App.net, Twitter and LinkedIn.  ↩

A New Dawn for RSS

A New Dawn for RSS

It’s morning here in Sydney, Australia on the 1st of July 2013. In a few hours time, Google Reader will be no longer.

As an RSS power user for many years, Google’s evolution from embracing to dominating then ignoring and finally abandoning the RSS market has been astonishing. I first started using RSS well before the advent of Google Reader, initially with web based tools then Google Reader through the browser and most recently to Google Reader as a backend to tools like Mr Reader (for iPad), Reeder (for iPhone, iPad and OSX) and others.

Like most people, I was disappointed but not entirely surprised when Google abandoned Googe Reader, but I have cometo the opinion that this move might well be a good thing for the future of web feeds, and might have interesting and positive benefits for personal privacy issues.

For web feeds, once Google dominated the RSS market, in many ways it stopped innovating and there was little effort to build further on top of the nascent capabilies in RSS. The barriers to entry for others to get in were high – Google held near 100% market share, and provided a free offering. For its own part, Google had few options to monetise a free offering, especially when many users (myself included) simply used it as a backend to smart phone, tablet and computer based apps.

So advertising revenue (Google’s primary income source) was limited. I can only assume that Google could not find a way to extract value from knowing what information sources its users were subscribing to, reading and clicking through on.

On the personal privacy side, I am a great believer that we, individual users, need to be more responsible when it comes to how we share our information. I think it’s responsible to not put all our eggs in one basket (be it Google, Facebook, Apple or any organisation), especially when dealing with free products. With such free products, we are not the customer, but the information we provide and generate is the product the company sells to its actual customer – the advertiser.

So I now spread out my digital footprint across multiple services, and I favour those that charge a realistic and fair price, and who have a good privacy policy. This may cost a little more in subscription fees, but it means no one company has a complete picture.

So what do I use now?

I have two back ends that now work with an identical set of front end apps.

For the back end providers, I user the cloud based service Feedbin and a self-hosted Fever installation. Overall, I like the idea of the self-hosted service, and the developer has done much to create something unique. But, Fever is low on his list of priorities, and I am not confident there will be regular, continued development of new functionality. Already, the app API does not support subscription management, something I consider important.

So Feedbin is my primary RSS management system, and for $2 per month ($24 per year) it meets my needs nicely. It works well (especially since an infrastructure upgrade last week), and has a nice web interface supported by an API that has a good legion of apps.

At this point, my primary tools for accessing my Feedbin feeds are Mr Reader on the iPad and Readkit on OSX, supported by Reeder on iPhone when I am out and about. These apps all support both Fever and Feedbin, giving me a consistent user experience (in so far as this is supported by the API).

I really like fact that there is serious competition in the RSS marketplace now. I am keeping an eye on services like those offered by (or soon to be offered by) companies like Feed Wrangler, Digg, News Blur and others. Whilst my platform of Feedbin/Fever and Mr Reader/Reeder/ReadKit support my needs well now, I will be keeping a close eye on further developments and evolutions, and am excited by the future of RSS.

Apps for Fever Update

Apps for Fever Update


Last week I published a post on the State of Play for Fever RSS and Apps, providing an overview of the iOS and OSX apps available to support Shaun Inman’s brilliant, self-hosted, RSS system Fever.

After a long period of little development on the app front, this last week has seen some exciting developments. I hope these new developments are a sign of things to come. I plan to review each of these separately over the next week or so, but thought a quick update would be worthwhile.

Fever Apps for Mac OSX

ReadKit – OSX (US$4.99)


ReadKit is a wonderful tool for Mac OSX, providing support for browser based reading and sharing services like Instapaper, Pocket, Pinboard and more, in a native app. It has already been an important part of my workflow for sometime, and the addition of support Fever in the beta of version 2 is an exciting development.

Whether you’re a Fever user or not, ReadKit should be a part of your reading workflow.

Fever Apps for iOS

Sunstroke – iOS Universal (US$4.99)


Sunstroke has displaced Reeder as my go-to Fever RSS app on iPhone, and since the release of version 1.4 last week, on iPad. Sunstroke has support for a wide range of social sharing and read later services (almost as wide as Reeder), and it has a gorgeous UI and a UX (user experience) that works best with my workflow.

At US$4.99 (A$5.49), Sunstroke is well priced as a universal app [1] and I suggest that this is the one iOS app for Fever, at this time. The developer is extremely responsive on App.net and Twitter.

Ashes – iOS Universal (US$5.99)


The Ashes app has been (re-) released as a universal app for iOS devices at an introductory price of US$5.99 (A$6.49). According to the website, it will increase to US$8.99 from 9 May. Ashes fully supports all native features of Fever, and has an elegant design. It is visually pleasing to use, and seems very stable.

At US$5.99 Ashes is appropriately priced for a niche product that supports both iPhone and iPad, and makes a good choice for someone wanting an all round app for Fever. The developer is actively talking to users on Twitter and App.net.

Reeder – iPhone (US$2.99)


Version 3.1 of Reeder for iPhone was released during the last week. This added support to the iPhone version of the app (which already supports Fever) for Feedbin.

Clearly the developer is focused on iPhone and Feedbin at this time, and so we will have to wait a while longer for iPad and OSX support for Fever. With apps like ReadKit and Sunstroke, this is no longer the problem it was only a week or so back.


  1. In the State of Play article, I mentioned that I thought Sunstroke was overpriced. Compared to Reeder as an iPhone only app, that stood. But for a universal app for iOS, the price is just fine!  ↩

The De-Google-fying of my online life…

The De-Google-fying of my online life…

My Retreat from Google

A few weeks back I posted about my Return to Google following my move away from it in 2012. I have been growing increasingly wary of Google’s creepiness, especially relating to its free offerings and the fact that it is collecting enormous amounts of data which it uses to filter search results, and to sell to advertisers.

At the time, I had decided that I was perhaps overdoing things a little, so decided to allow Google back into my life in some areas, while spreading out my data. And using paid Google services where possible. Just 4 days later, Google announced the closure of Google Reader, along with discontinuation of several other services/products. I, like many users, was disappointed with this.

Inspired at least in part by Ben Brooks’ post You Can’t Quit, I Dare You, written in response to Marco Armant’s post Your favorite Thursday sandwich, I have taken on the challenge of De-Google-fying my online life to as a great an extent as is feasible. Marco made the provocative statement:

Want to really stick it to them? Stop using Google. All of it. Search, Gmail, Maps, the works. Delete your account and start using Bing. Ready?

Yeah. That’s the problem. You won’t. I won’t. Nobody will.

Now I would have to agree that it is virtually impossible to completely remove Google from your life, because they are ubiquotous and deeply embedded into so much of the online culture. But I think it is important that we pay careful attention to where we store our data, and what information we give freely (perhaps in return for a free service) to any single company or organisation.

For me, that means that I am de-Google-fying[1] to a large extent. Here’s where I am at so far:

Search


My preference is to use DuckDuckGo wherever possible due to its well regarded privacy policy. I have made it my default search in both Safari and Firefox. Firefox makes it easy to do so, by way of an extension. With Safari I had to edit the hosts file to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine.

My iOS devices now use Bing as the default engine. I have also installed and use a DuckDuckGo action for Drafts, and use the DuckDuckGo app for iOS.

Email

All of my email (from multiple domains) redirects into my Fastmail account – a paid service. As my Google Apps subsriptions expire, I will direct the domains directly into Fastmail, and bypass Google altogether. I no longer use Google for a front end. I also use the CloudPull app to grab all my historical data down from Google.

I am using Airmail as my front end email client on OSX, and the native iOS Mail app.

Calendars and Contacts

All have moved back to iCloud. I look forward to full 2 factor security for all iCloud data, along with all other Apple ID related services.

Documents

I wasn’t a huge user of Google Docs, at least in recent times, and instead use Dropbox and, to a lesser extent, iCloud. CloudPull has ensured that I have my historic documents.

RSS Reader

I have moved back to my own Fever installation. I had been using Fever for a while, but moved back to Google Reader due to the limited number of front end apps for Fever, particularly on OSX and for iPad. I am using the excellent Reeder app which supports Fever on iPhone[2], and I am using the browser interface on OSX and iPad for now. Rumour has it that Ashes app is being rebuilt to support Fever on all iOS devices[3].

RSS Feed Redirection

I have moved all of my website RSS feeds away from Feedburner to Maxime Valette’s uri.lv service. I’ve taken on a Premium account for the additional services, and so that I can support the developer.

Maps

Another easy one for me, at least on my iDevices. I’ve gone back to Apple Maps. They’ve improved in many areas, and it’s up to users to keep using and providing feedback so they continue to improve. I don’t use maps on desktop that much, and will probably use Google for that wherever needed. I’ll reconsier if and when Apple comes out with a true alternative.

Google Earth

I love this app, and do use it some of my training activities. I’ll probably keep using it. As a standalone app, it’s not really that connected to the big picture view of the data stream coming in.

Social Networking

I am not a big fan of Google+. In some respects G+ represents the essence of the so-called creepiness factor about Google. My social networks of choice are App.net and Twitter, and I rarely use Facebook or Google+, although I do have accounts.

G+ has some fantastic photo sharing capabilities, and some wonderful groups for photographers. With that said, Flickr is still my preferred photo sharing site.

The thing I do like about G+ is the hangouts. So I keep it around mostly just for that.

Youtube

I surf Youtube. I have a paid Vimeo account for hosting and sharing my own videos.

Browsers

I use Safari and Firefox as my browsers of choice. Neither are logged into any Google account. I use Chrome exclusively for Google, Google+ and Youtube.

Authenticator

Google provides an excellent app called Google Autheticator, which allows you to establish and access 2 factor passwords for a variety of services. At this time, I haven’t found an alternative that I feel comfortable switching to. Since I don’t have to logon to a Google account to use the app, it’s a standalone island on my iPhone. So I am not uncomfortable using it, as I don’t believe Google to be likely to gather or maliciously use this data.

AdSense

Played around with this some time back on a couple of my sites. I’d rather do selected, targeted promotions of offerings I like and use through referal programs and/or sponsorships.

Analytics

My sites are on Squarespace or are self-hosted WordPress sites. I get all the analytics I need from the built in Squarespace tools or the Jetpack analytics on WP.

AdWords

I have used these on occasion for my Karate Dojo in Sydney and my scuba instructor training courses. I probably will again.

Conclusion

It’s still early days, but I have already moved substantially away from Google. I feel comfortable that my data is more distributed, largely amongst service providers who are committed to providing quality products, at a fair price and with an appropriate level of security/privacy.

I am not trying to “stick it to” Google. For many years I was a major Google advocate, and in fact encouraged others to adopt Google services. I don’t regret this – it was the right choice at the time. But times, people and organisations change. They continue to do a lot of good things, but some fundamentals have changed, causing me to reconsider my own stance.

Gabe Weatherhead expressed his reasons for his move away from Google beautifully in his post Getting Off the Google Juide:

Why go to this effort? Is this a conspiracy? No. Google is just being true to their mission: provide ever increasing information to advertisers so as to increase adverting revenue. I just don’t feel like being part of that. I’d rather pay for anonymity and data privacy. Google has not earned my trust and Apple, DuckDuckGo and Wolfram have.

I am simply (and similarly) taking ownership of my own data and online identity. In so doing, I want to to support providers who support users, and who have “earned my trust”. I hope others will consider these factors and make appropriate decisions. For those that choose free products, from Google or any company, I would encourage them to consider the true price of free.

I’d be interested to hear your views – are you de-Google-fying? To what extent? What apps/services have you adopted to replace Google services? Let me know in the comments.


  1. I am not trying to create a new word using a Google trademark. I’ll leave that to the Swedes
Google announces closure of Reader service

Google announces closure of Reader service

In the week that I discussed moving back to Google for some of my usage, including RSS feeds, Google has announced that it is killing Google Reader.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

I like the way Google snuck this announcement in as the fifth bullet point on a post about spring cleaning aimed primarily at developers.

As Brett Terpstra said in a post on App.net:

“Usage of Google Reader has declined” = tons of people using it for sync, but we can’t put ads in that

Google Reader was free to we users, meaning we were the product, not the customer. Brett is spot on – if the majority of users access through apps where Google can’t control advertising, then the service isn’t viable.

It’s one reason why I initially moved to Shaun Inman’s Fever – having a self hosted, paid platform meant that I was the customer, and that the provider would not be in a position to simply shut up shop and go away.

I moved back to Google Reader solely because apps like Reeder and Mr Reader don’t support other RSS reader platforms, like Fever 1. I wanted more than a browser interface, particularly on iPad.

So, we’ve got a bit over 3 months for the developers of Reeder and Mr Reader to support other RSS platforms. I hope that Fever is first among them. I will move back as soon as there is a good iPad app – which I fully expect will happen in that time.

I also wonder whether the App.net social media platform will have a foundation upon which developers can build an alternative RSS service.


  1. I realise that Reeder 3.0 for iPhone does support Fever. I moved back to Google Reader because I need iPad and OSX support for it as well. Browser based access was ok, but not powerful enough for my usage. 

My return to Google

My return to Google

In June of last year (2012) I posted about how I was concerned about how Google was becoming “creepy”. At that time, I decided that I didn’t want any one company to have all my data. This would prevent Google (or anyone other company) having a complete picture of me, and also it would mean I wouldn’t be too exposed if any one company was to go away.

I was also concerned that as a user of Google’s services, I was more of a product than a customer. This may be the case for the free versions of those services, but as a paid Google Apps user, I may have over-thought this a little!

To achieve my move away from Google, I moved my email, calendar and address book to iCloud, and I moved my RSS feeds to a self hosted Fever installation. I also started playing around with alternative search engines, including DuckDuckGo and Bing. I thought’d it be interesting to check in with how that process has gone.

Let’s start with search. I found DuckDuckGo and Bing to both be excellent – I was particularly surprised by Bing, which I didn’t think would hold much chop. At this time, Bing is my default search engine on my iPhone, while Google plays that role on my iPad. It’s not possible to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in iOS, but I do use the app, and have made it the default on my MacBook. All are good, but in general I do tend to find that Google continues to excel in giving accurate, fast and relevant search results. I’d say 70%-plus of my search goes to Google.

As for RSS, I continued to happily use Fever for sometime, but the lack of choices for quality apps, particularly on iPad and OSX continued to grind. Navigating the web interface on iPad was bearable, but clunky. Reeder for iPhone was and is an excellent choice, but interestingly Reeder for iPad and OSX has yet to be updated to include Fever support. In the meantime, other apps were released to support Google Reader, but none have Fever support.

Notably, MrReader became more and more recommended by many power users, and my curiosity grew. In particular, it’s support for URL schemes made it compelling. So around New Years, I made the call to switch back. It was nothing to do with the excellent Fever platform, but with the lack of quality front end app support. I may well switch back if app support for Fever takes off. 1

The most recent switch back has been to move all my email, contacts and calendar back to my paid Google Apps account. There were three things that gradually became show-stoppers for me with respect to Apple’s iCloud:

  1. The lack of ability to host your own domain with iCloud. I don’t want a me.com or icloud.com email address when I have my own domain. I want my contacts and calendar fully integrated with my email, so they all travelled together.
  2. iCloud calendar sharing outside iCloud is difficult, at best. I want to share calendars with colleagues easily. Google App’s systems are generally more open.
  3. Security. I am of the opinion that any online site which I use for storage of personal, sensitive, business-in-confidence or confidential information needs to have more than simple password security. A minimum of 2-factor security is my requirement, especially since the security attack on Evernote.

I know that there are other options for hosting my online world, but with a paid Google Apps account with 2-factor security enabled, I believe this is the best option for me, going forward.

As for my documents, these are for the most part in Dropbox. I have a small number of files in iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud service. These are a small number of iWork and specialised documents for which I really appreciate the fast and seamless syncing. But since most of my writing is in plain text using several different apps for iOS, OSX and the web, these best live in Dropbox. I am not considering using Google Drive for these.

Any choice of services utilised is a fine balancing act, considering a range of factors, including security, open-ness and functionality. At this point in time, Google offers the best options in the email, calendar, contacts and RSS for me. I also consider Google the primary option for most search requirements.


  1. Update on 2013-03-14: Google announced the closure of Google Reader, effective 1 July 2013. I will definitely be moving back to Fever between now and then, probably as soon as either Reeder or Mr Reader supports Fever on iPad. 

Reeder for iPhone Supports Fever

Reeder for iPhone Supports Fever

I am addicted to RSS feeds. Well, addicted may overdo it a tad, but RSS is certainly the way I prefer to keep an eye on various websites, and thus to get my daily dose of technology, scuba and martial arts news.
For a long time I was a committed Google Reader user, which served well the back end management of my list of RSS feeds, and the syncing of then. For the front end, I loved the Reeder app for iPhone, iPad and Mac OSX.

Reeder is a simple but powerful app that syncs with Google Reader, providing a pleasant UI and easy interaction with services like Instapaper, Twitter, Readability, Pocket, Evernote and others. I much prefer to browse my RSS feeds in Reeder than in Google.

But, Google has been getting increasingly creepy for me (among many others), and have actually crossed the “creepy line”. I’ve decided to spread my data out among various providers (including Google, Apple and others), and one thing I did was to move my RSS feeds off Google Reader and onto Fever, a self hosted RSS engine. I’ve been loving it, and enjoying the fact that my data is now under my own control. Google now has less of a complete picture of me.

Fever works beautifully and because its web based it syncs seamlessly across devices. It has built connectivity to some of the services like Instapaper. The only thing I’ve been missing is the dedicated apps for iPhone and iPad, as I generally prefer apps over browser on these devices.

Granted there is the Ashes app for iPad. I found that it worked clunkily for a few days and now just crashes every time (literally every time) I try to do something radical, such as read my feeds. Waste of time and money!

I was pretty excited today to see the launch of Reeder 3.0 for iPhone, which supports reading Fever, Readability and Google Reader feeds. So far its working beautifully, bringing back the joy of a dedicated iPhone App for my RSS feeds. The seamless linking to Instapaper, Email, Evernote, etc is a joy, and I find that I can browse feeds much faster in this app than on a browser interface.

I’m looking forward to an iPad version too, but in the interim I will be happy to use the iPhone version at 2x on my iPad.

If you’re into RSS and use an iPhone, get Reeder. And if you want Google to have an incomplete picture of you, consider moving your feeds onto Fever.