January 22, 2006

Five Days of Feedlounge

In my quest to find a feed reader that actually meets my needs, I signed up for a month of Feedlounge when it was finally released on Jan 16. Here are my first impressions after using it for about 5 days. I am attracted to a web-based feed reader, because I really want to sync my feeds between my home and work computers. It drives me crazy to have to re-scan all my feeds to figure out which ones I’ve already seen, and hurts my productivity as well. The only client-based feed reader that offers syncing is NetNewsWire. This served me for a while, until all the servers I use disabled FTP access, switching to SFTP exclusively. I can’t blame them for doing that, in fact I’m glad they did. However, it rendered NNW syncing useless to me. I have tried just about every web-based reader out there, and am unsatisfied with all of them. Lately, I have been switching between Newsgator online and NNW synched through Bloglines. There are problems with both of these, though, and I looked forward to the release of Feedlounge as a potential replacement. Feedlounge’s interface is very nice compared to other web-based readers. You can choose between 3 different layouts, and use keyboard commands to navigate through feeds. It emulates a client-based reader, but is not quite as flexible; for example you can’t adjust the width of the panes. This kept me from using my favored widescreen layout, because the proportions of the panes caused the pane with the text to be too narrow for comfortable reading. But this is a constraint I can live with. Design-wise, Feedlounge is also much nicer than the other online alternatives. They really took some care with this, and the app is nice to look at. Compared to Bloglines, it is heaven. Feedlounge includes a couple of other bonus features, such as feed and article tagging, and a history of read articles. I don’t tend to use this kind of functionality in my feed readers, so these aren’t selling points for me. The seem to be functioning nicely, though, aside from a little bugginess in Safari, which is slowly being worked out by the developers. In general, the experience of using Feedlounge is very nice, and I would be very happy to make the switch if it weren’t for two factors. First the update interval of the feeds. From the Feedlounge FAQ:

We take the average time between posts for each feed and update the feed at twice that interval. If a feed has a new item every 8 hours, we update the feed every 4 hours. New feeds are updated every 4 hours until the average posting time is determined. No feed is updated more often than every 30 minutes. No feed is updated less frequently than every 48 hours.

This is a problem for me, because it assumes that feeds that are updated less frequently have lower priority to me. This is simply not the case. For example, ALA updates only about once a month, and I don’t want to wait 2 days to know about new articles. Similarly, feeds of my friends and family or from my Basecamp or Backpack accounts aren’t updated that frequently, but they are much more important to me than someone’s link blog that they update daily. I have tried to live with these update intervals for the past 5 days, and I can’t. The second issue is the price. Feedlounge is currently available for $5 a month or $49.95 for a year. I don’t want to debate whether this is a fair price. It probably is, if the reader meets your needs. But it is too much for me to take on for a reader that doesn’t do what I need. At this point, I am thinking I will probably be canceling my Feedlounge account at the end of the month, and sticking with NetNewsWire synced through Bloglines. It is a pain to have to manage feeds in one service and read them somewhere else, but at least this setup gives me what I need. The best case scenario would be for NNW to start supporting SFTP synchronization, or (even better) for NewsFire to add synchronization features. Until then, I guess I am stuck with being frustrated…

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