Five Ways to Improve Web Based Feed Aggregators


I’ve been planning a feed aggregator “must haves” post for the last two weeks. Richard’s Has Bloglines dropped the ball? prompted to finally get my thoughts from the scribblings in my notebook onto my blog. My original idea was to focus on what I believed were feed aggregator essentials or “must haves” but I am switching gears in order to join in the fun. I’ll be writing a more generic feed aggregator introduction in the future but for now, here are five ways to improve (web based) feed aggregators, as they currently exist…

  1. Better Feed Management: Rojo does it the best but no one does it right. Feed management is so bad across the board, that I often export my feeds via OPML, just to manage them in a client based aggregator (using GreatNews right now). With all the talk about AJAX, why can’t I just drag and drop a feed from “biz” to my “must read” category? Feed management should be simple, not a chore.
  2. Multiple Criteria to Display Feeds: I’ve been a beta tester of SearchFox RSS over the last month and one of the reasons it is becoming my default reader (and I have accounts with just about every web based aggregator out there) is that I like the large variety of ways I can choose to easily (i.e., one click) display my feeds. I can display my feeds via their score, different time criteria (last week, last month, etc.), by clicking on an individual feed, or by clicking on a particular category.
  3. Different Feed Views: Rojo and SearchFox RSS both offer the River of News style, which means I can leisurely scroll through the updated feeds from all my sources. As opposed to showing feeds in their entirety, I like that I see only the title, the source, and the date of a post – I can expand a post I want to read. I can view feeds in this format by selecting various criteria (as in the previous point). This style helps me read my feeds quickly. Some people may not like this style though – they should probably also offer users the ability to see the entire post (without having to expand it) or provide the more traditional Bloglines approach.

    I know I am being greedy but I’d also like a “dashboard” style to read my feeds. The “dashboard” approach is the way I can see my feeds on Netvibes, start.com, or my personal Google page. I typically begin my day by heading over to Netvibes because it gives me a quick snapshot of my most important feeds.

  4. Easier Feed Subscription: I shouldn’t have to worry about another blogger carrying a branded “subscribe with feed aggregator X”. If you want to make it easier for your users to subscribe to a feed, go check out what BlinkList is doing in the social bookmarking space. When I want to subscribe to a feed, I should just click a bookmarklet that pops up a new, smaller window that has grabbed the feed and the feed title. The user should then be able to assign it to a specific category. BlinkList makes adding a web page to my social bookmarks as easy as it is to blink. No aggregator is good enough for me to copy the feed address, open up a new window, sign-in to my account, and then add the feed – that is why I still subscribe to any new feeds via Bloglines.
  5. Keep Track of What I Read: One of the reasons I really like Findory, is that it keeps track of past “Articles” I read. It saves those articles that I clicked through and places them in my “Articles Read” history. This feature is important to me. Chances are, if I clicked through the article, I was interested in it and may want to quickly reference it in the future.