Recently I came across two blogs I thought were interesting and would love to follow regularly; Chris Dixon's blog and the Inside Windows Live blog. What surprised me was that my first instinct was to see if they were on Twitter instead of adding their RSS feeds to my favorite RSS reader. I thought this was interesting and decided to analyze my internal thought process that led me to preferring following blogs via Twitter instead of consuming the RSS feeds in Google Reader + RSS Bandit.

I realized it comes down to two things, one I’ve mentioned before and the second which dawned on me recently

  1. The first problem is that the user experience around consuming feeds in traditional RSS readers which take their design cues from email readers is all sorts of wrong. I’ve written about this previously in my post The Top 5 Reasons RSS Readers Went Wrong. Treating every blog post as important enough that I have view the entire content and explicitly mark it as read is wrong. Not providing a consistent mechanism to give the author feedback or easily reshare the content is archaic in today’s world. And so on.

  2. The mobile experience for consuming Twitter streams is all sorts of awesome. I currently use Echofon to consume Twitter on my phone and have used Twitterific which is also excellent. I’ve also heard people say lots of good things about Tweetie. On the other hand, I haven’t found a great mobile application for consuming RSS feeds on my mobile phone which may be a consequence of #1 above.

So I’ve been thinking about how to make my RSS experience more like my Twitter experience given that not all the blogs I read are on Twitter or will ever be on the service. At first I flirted with building a tool that automatically creates a Twitter account for a given RSS feed but backed away from that when I remembered that the Twitter team hates people using it as a platform for rebroadcasting RSS feeds.

I realized that what I really need is a Twitter applicationthat also understands RSS feeds and shows them in the same stream. In addition, I may have been fine with this being a new app on the Web but don’t want to lose the existing Twitter clients on my mobile phone. So I really want a web app that shows me a merged Twitter/RSS streams and that exposes the Twitter API so I can point apps like Echofon/Twitterific/Tweetie at it.

As I thought about which web app could be closest to doing this today I landed on Brizzly and Seesmic Web. These sites are currently slightly different web interfaces to to the Twitter service which [at least to me] currently haven’t provided enough value above and beyond the Twitter website for me to use on a regular basis. Being able to consume both my RSS feeds and my Twitter stream on such services would not only serve as a differentiator between them and other Twitter web clients but would also be functionality that Twitter wouldn’t be able to make obsolete given their stated dislike of RSS content on their service.

I’d write something myself except that I doubt that the authors of Twitter mobile apps will be interested in making it easy to consume a Twitter stream from sites other than unless lots of their users ask for this feature which will only happen if services like Brizzly, Seesmic Web and others start providing a reason to consume Twitter-like streams from non-Twitter sources. 


Monday, January 4, 2010 4:20:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think the main problem with RSS Readers is they think of themselves as RSS Readers. Like you mention, they bring the email metaphor to RSS, but fail to help you make sense of the much higher volume of items. I've used both Seesmic and Brizzly, and prefer Brizzly between the two of them. It does an admirable job being a twitter interface but I find it much better for Facebook than actually going to the FB site.

The app I'm the saddest about is Omea, I really liked the direction it was going where it'd bring all your info together. Its what a next gen of Outlook should/could be. Sadly, Jetbrains stopped development of it a few years ago, but did release the code publicly. It has a big problem of not having any option for a mobile interface, but I think that the spirit of the app is the direction our aggregators should go.

I currently use Fever as my reader of choice, its a pretty decent option if you have a server somewhere to stash it on. I'm experimenting with adding some custom code around it to better integrate twitter into the experience, creating sort of a metacontact record for people to associate their various feeds (i'm cheating and consuming twitter via XML).

I'd be interested in seeing what other people are hacking together in their own environments to meet the same need.
Monday, January 4, 2010 5:08:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
[disclaimer: I am the CTO of Inbox2]

Hi Dare,

Check out where we are marying email with Twitter/Facebook/Yammer/etc. We have not added RSS feeds yet but this is on the horizon. Within a few weeks we will be launching a native desktop client that brings quite an interesting take on the intersection of email/the social web and rss to the table.

Here is an invite code you could use: "waseemfriends" (without the quotes). Would love to hear your thoughts on this area if you can find the time (waseem at inbox2 dot com).


Monday, January 4, 2010 6:11:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Have you looked at It's like FriendFeed going the other way--rather than relying on other people to join the service and publish their info, you pull in your contacts from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. *and* you can add RSS feeds to any friend's stream in the system. The UI is kind of noisy with all the various services in the stream, but it lets you create tags for the various friend streams as well--something I wanted to do with Twitter lists but was stymied by their 20-list limit.
Monday, January 4, 2010 8:48:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I remember being struck dumb years ago (2002? 2003? yeesh, how time flies) by the sheer potential of Abe Fettig's HEP -- an early attempt to "flatten" the online experience by providing a consistent interface to feeds, email, blogs, etc.

Of course it has lots of rough edges, it's completely stagnated since then, isn't really mobile-focused, doesn't incorporate Twitter or other Web 2.0 platforms, etc etc etc. But I'm still amazed that in all the years since I first saw it that potential is still unrealized...

Monday, January 4, 2010 9:06:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Maybe I'm "conservative", but what's wrong with using Google reader in list view? I get headlines, like in Twitter, and it's much easier to read news you are interested in, because Google Reader loads them faster (full feeds at least) than clicking on the link in Twitter and waiting for the whole page (with adds!) to load!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 9:35:59 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I subscribe to twitter via the RSS feeds and pull them into my homebaked RSS reader. You can see it here:

As you can see, it's done as a stream of articles - so none of the 'management' aspects of marking items read or unread. In the non-public view I can also go back in time to look at earlier posts and bookmark some for reference later.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 4:01:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Neil, I think the issue is not that RSS readers think of themselves as RSS readers but that they focus on the feed as the organizational structure, when they should be putting the emphasis on the article, like fever does. I've been hacking my own reader for a bit, my name should link to my blog about it.

Dare, I'd like (and might build) a reader that separates tweets with links and those without, maybe even manually decide how it's handled per stream. tweets with links would act somewhat like a google shared item feed and tweets without would show in the same application similarly to seeesmic or other twitter clients.
Thursday, January 7, 2010 2:40:40 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Thank you for your sharing.!
Friday, January 8, 2010 4:05:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The RSS future is so bright and thanks to sharing this informative post.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 5:32:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
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