When I first started working on RSS Bandit I wanted an application that looked and acted as much like Microsoft Outlook as possible. Two years and over a hundred thousand downloads latter I realize that there are a number of drawbacks to using this model for reading feeds [or any information for that matter]. Mike Torres describes some of these reasons in his post Why I dig Bloglines, he writes

Part of the problem for me is that applications that look and feel like Microsoft Outlook tend to make me feel like I am working, and I am immediately in "information overload" mode (we get hundreds of pieces of email each day at Microsoft.)  Catching up with friends, reading Scripting.com, or checking out Engadget shouldn't be tedious.  But for some reason, it was.  Until I switched to Bloglines.
Anyway, here is what I like about Bloglines:

  • I can scan dozens of feeds in less than a minute.  With NewsGator for Outlook and other Outlook-style interfaces, it just simply took longer.  Probably because Bloglines shows me the feed in the way it is supposed to be presented - reverse chronological order on a single page.  Not as individual messages that I have to click through. 

This is the bane of the current information viewing model paradigm favored by email and newsgroup readers which many RSS aggregators have decided to inherit. The major problem is that the Outlook mail reading paradigm has a fundamental assumption which turns out to be flawed. It assumes you want to read every item you get in your inbox. This flawed assumption leads to the kind of information overload that hampers the productivity of lots of people I know at work. I've met several people who seem to always have hundreds unread items in their email inbox. For this reason I always have to learn who's easier to reach via IM or swinging by their office in person than sending them mail.

Most people I know get four classes of messages in their information aggregators (I am lumping reading email, reading news and reading RSS/Atom feeds into a single category). These are

1. notifications (checkin mails, comments to my blog, etc)
2. headlines (email newsletters, feeds from news sites, etc)
3. messages sent directly to me or that is similarly relevant
4. messages sent to an interest group I am a part of (XML-DEV mailing list, comp.text.xml newsgroup, etc)

The problem is that the typical Outlook inspired information aggregator treats all of the above as being of equal relevance. Even though Outlook does provide mechanisms for managing assigning relevance to incoming messages, they are either hard to find or cumbersome to use.

This is definitely one of the areas that needs to be improved in the world of information aggregators in general and RSS/Atom readers in particular. There are a number of features that I'm working on for the next version of RSS Bandit aimed at making it easier for people to consume information from various sources in a flexible manner according to what relevance they place on the information source.


Saturday, December 11, 2004 12:27:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I use Jetbrains Omea Reader now (although I can't pronounce it) and it has the typical 3-pane view but also has a "view as newspaper" option that works more like bloglines. It also has an import from bloglines option, so I guess those 2 features might be somewhat related. It is nice to be able to switch back and forth but I haven't really decided which way I prefer.
I'm looking forward to trying out the next RSS Bandit drop.
Saturday, December 11, 2004 6:09:08 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I use 2 readers - one within Outlook (IntraVNews) and one separate from Outlook. The reason for using IntraVNews for the almost 2000 feeds is twofold:
-Offline viewing of selected feeds.
-Leveraging Outlook Search folders.

While I feel your pain regarding the different solutions, you can't write them off to easily as there are different consumers.
William Lefkovics
Monday, December 13, 2004 11:59:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dave Winer has pretty much been saying this for years, that 3-pane feed readers are not as efficient. The thing is, optimum reading UI is a function of how the author writes and how the user reads (and how important the user considers the feed). For example, I find 3-pane great for Raymond Chen's weblog, but a newspaper layout would be ideal for the Scobleizer. Similarly, pretty much any excerpted feed would be best viewed in newspaper mode.

I really hope RSS Bandit gets this right, none of the aggregators I've used have quite been comfortable enough to adapt to my reading habits.
Monday, January 3, 2005 10:05:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The reason I use RSS Bandit is that it keeps track of which blog posts I have and haven't read, and lets me sync that between multiple PCs. The concern I have with this "newspaper view" is that the app wouldn't have any way to know which posts I have and haven't actually read. It would pretty much have to either (a) mark everything as "read" the instant it first generates the newspaper view (which ignores the possibility of me being interrupted and not finishing reading the entire "newspaper"), or (b) not even track which posts I've read, and just always show the 25 most recent (leaving it up to me to figure out which of those I have and haven't read). I don't like either choice. Or did you have something else in mind?
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