February 7, 2006

Gregarius: The answer to my feed reading issues?

I think I may have finally found a feedreader. I have been maniacally switching readers every couple of days for several months, trying to find one that meets all my needs. Apparently I have a lot of needs. High maintenance, moi? Anyway, sometime during my obsessive googling for feed readers I came across Gregarius, which is

a web-based RSS/RDF/ATOM feed aggregator, designed to run on your web server, allowing you to access your news sources from wherever you want.

  • Completely web-based (runs on your web server)
  • Simple, password-protected, administration and configuration
  • AJAX powered item tagging
  • Full-text search
  • Committed to web standards: renders XHTML/CSS, supports OPML
  • Gregarius is FREE software and is released under the GPL

Perfect! In other words, if I don’t like how it works I can fix it my damn self. Which is what I have proceded to do. I had played with feed on feeds in the past, and gave up on it for some reason that I can’t remember now. I think it is probably similar to Gregarius, but the advantage that I saw with Gregarius is the active development of themes and plugins, and modular structure that makes this development easy. I was able to install Gregarius and create a rudimentary theme in a couple of hours. You can see my efforts, and read my feeds if you’re really bored, at interllectual.com/rss. I went with a Backpack-esque theme, with my own color scheme, to tie together all my various presonal data sites that I deal with every day. (Despite recent controversy over 37signals’ bad attitude, I really like the simplicity of Backpack’s design and typography, and one less design to process in my travels is a plus for my productivity.) I also like the fact that I can leave my reader public, and lock y’all out of the admin area so you can’t mess things up. Better than a blogroll— you can see exactly what I’m reading. I am also able to mark feeds private”, so that you can’t see feeds for my personal data or the fact that I’m suscribed to dooce.com (damn— I need to remember to mark that private). I will be releasing the theme in the near future, after I make a few tweaks to some of the functionality that isn’t quite perfect yet. For example, I want to hide the Refresh” and Admin” tabs from non-admins, make the Category display the default instead of the list of feeds, and have it collapsed by default. And there are some style tweaks with the favicons and footer I still need to do. And I suppose I will also have to test in in that one browser that I have so far avoided, since I never use it, and this project is for me and me alone. I can also tag feeds and keep them around for as long as I want. There is an easy way to trim old feeds from the database after a certain number of days, but keep any article that is either tagged or marked Sticky”. So when someone figures out a way for me to consolidate all the crap I have tagged in my feedreader and del.icio.us and flickr, I will have a nice tag cosmos available to me. There are a few bugs in the software, but not enough to keep me from using it. It is being actively developed, so those should be worked out soon enough. The biggest change to get used to is that it takes a few minutes to refresh all the feeds. This happens much faster in a desktop app, but I am trying to cut down my feed reading and email reading frequency a bit anyway. Gregarius will check feeds in the background after a specified period of inactivity, which is working out great for me at work— by the time I go back that tab to read feeds it has already refreshed them for me. So, I must say that my Gregarious experience so far has been a good one. The only thing I can really complain about is that the name of the software is spelled wrong on purpose* which is one of my biggest pet-peeves. If you’re a compulsive feedreader switcher like me, you could do worse than to give it a try.

*OK it’s really not supposed to be gregarious”; gregarius” is apparently Latin for flock” or group”.

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