Tag Archive for ‘Fever’

Fever to Feedbin

RSS isn’t as hip as it was during the days of Google Reader, but I still launch a feed reader every single day. It helps me keep up with the latest technology news and ensures that I have a steady stream of independent content to read from my favorite weblogs. Twitter can function in many of the same ways, but I prefer to keep my social network as a platform for communication rather than a news gathering service.

Up until last month, I had been using Fever as the backend for my RSS, syncing with Reeder as my primary client. Fever was a tremendous product by Shaun Inman that I first started using shortly after it launched in 2009. It was a self-hosted RSS reader with an API for developers; a beautiful user interface; and a neat “Hot” feature which listed all of the webpages your feeds have linked to, over a given time period, sorted by frequency.

Fever’s Hot List

Fever’s Hot feature was, by far, the most innovative part of the software. And to this day, I’m not aware of any other RSS service that provides this sort of functionality. It let you step away from your feeds for a few days and quickly catch up with the most important news items without having to sift through everything — Fever did all the heavy lifting for you.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Shaun Inman announced late last year that he would be discontinuing sales and support for Fever as well as his web analytics software Mint. Here’s what I wrote at the time of the announcement:

I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun Inman’s software for years — I reviewed Mint and Fever around the time I first installed them and they’ve been my favorite web analytics and RSS syncing services ever since. But the writing’s been on the wall for both of them for quite some time — development has drastically slowed over the past two years. I expect I’ll continue using them for a while, but eventually I’ll have to migrate to something else.

I still use Mint for Initial Charge’s web stats, but last month I transitioned to Feedbin for all of my RSS syncing needs. The process for choosing Feedbin over all of the alternatives wasn’t exactly comprehensive. The only services I considered were the ones that Reeder had support for and I only actually tried one them. There may be other, better services available, but I’ve been more than happy with the decision I made.

Looking through Reeder’s “Add Account” view, my options were Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, FeedHQ, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Minimal Reader, and BazQux Reader. I immediately ruled out all of the services with ugly logos or poorly designed websites. It may seem shallow, but you can usually learn a lot about whether or not a service is going to click for you based on those two factors. And, honestly, life’s too short for bad design. That left me with Feedbin, Feedly, FeedHQ, and Minimal Reader as the front-runners.

I started browsing each of the service’s websites for pricing information or unique features that would pull me toward one of them. After some investigating, I remembered a piece I wrote from last year about a nifty feature added to Feedbin — email newsletter support. That’s all it took. I signed up for the free trial and became a paying customer just a few days later.

Feedbin Mobile View

There has been a big resurgence of email newsletters as of late, especially from the independent technology weblogs that I frequently read. I’m interested in reading this supplemental content, but my inbox isn’t exactly the place where I want to be reading this stuff. I don’t want anything emailed to me that I can’t act upon quickly. And long-form prose often sits for weeks before I have a chance to read it. I want this sort of content in my RSS reader, where I can either read it immediately or save it for later, depending on my available time.

For me, email newsletter support is the killer feature for an RSS service. But there were a couple other niceties worth highlighting that I discovered during my time using Feedbin:

  • A feed list with bulk actions and sorting: After importing my OPML file, I was able to sort all of my feeds by most recently updated. This surfaced all of the, what I believe to be, abandoned feeds and I was able to unsubscribe with just a few taps. And to further thin the herd, I sorted my feeds by volume and unsubscribed from some of the more frequently updated sites that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for.
  • Actions: This allows you to automatically mark as read or star any feed item that matches a chosen search term. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of political talk you encounter on a daily basis, this will work perfectly for you.

One of the best aspects of Feebin, though, is its honest business model. You pay a monthly or yearly fee — I signed up for the $30 per year plan — in exchange for the use of Feedbin’s web app and syncing service. Some of the other services weren’t exactly up-front with their pricing — either omitting it from their homepage or making it almost impossible to find without the help of a search engine. Feedly was the worst offender of this, which is surprising because of how well-known they are.

From Feedly’s homepage, I couldn’t find any information about what they charged for their services. I had to search DuckDuckGo in order to find this page that explains all of the pricing tiers. I guess this information is only surfaced for registered users with free accounts. That seems a little dishonest to me. There’s no indication of premium accounts on the homepage and there are even two “Get Started for Free” buttons that could mislead new users into thinking that all of the features listed on the homepage are free for everyone, which is not the case. Many of the features listed on the homepage require a premium account.

Compare that to Feedbin. They have the monthly pricing information in the header, right above a “Try it Free” button. They aren’t trying to trick you into signing up with a false sense that you can just use all of the features without paying. Feedbin is honest and up-front with their potential customers, letting them know exactly what they’re getting into before signing up. That’s the kind of company I want to give my money to. And of course, it helps that they have a well-designed service with great features and competitive prices. I expect I’ll be using Feedbin for many years to come.

Goodbye Mint, Goodbye Fever ➝

Shaun Inman:

As of today I’m officially suspending sales and support of Mint and Fever. But! As self-hosted software, absolutely nothing changes and you can continue using both Mint and Fever as you were yesterday. […]

I am unbelievably grateful for everyone who found some utility, personal or professional, in these things that I built over the past decade. I also want to apologize to anyone who didn’t get their activation key in a timely manner or has had a pre-sale or support request go unanswered for too long. I hope Mint and Fever treat you well for as long as you continue to use them.

I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun Inman’s software for years — I reviewed Mint and Fever around the time I first installed them and they’ve been my favorite web analytics and RSS syncing services ever since. But the writing’s been on the wall for both of them for quite some time — development has drastically slowed over the past two years. I expect I’ll continue using them for a while, but eventually I’ll have to migrate to something else.

This is sad news, but I’m glad Shaun will be able to spend less time on projects he’s no longer interested in and more time on the software that gets him excited to code.

On Changing RSS Services

Ben Ubois, founder of Feedbin, writing about the service’s newest feature:

You can now receive email newsletters in Feedbin.

To use this feature, go to the settings page and find your secret Feedbin email address. Use this email address whenever you sign up for an email newsletter. Anything sent to it will show up as a feed in Feedbin, grouped by sender.

There’s been a recent trend of tech-focused weblogs publishing email newsletters with exclusive content. I’ve signed up for a few of them, but I don’t really read any of them. The problem is that my email app isn’t the environment where I want to read that type of long-form prose.

When I open Airmail (my new email client of choice), I just want to check for important messages, take action where necessary, and move on. I certainly don’t want to read a couple thousand words on the newest app release. I do want to read about it, but not in my email app.

And that’s why this new Feedbin feature is brilliant. It helps keep your email inbox clean and puts the well-crafted newsletters in an app that’s better suited for that type of text. And it’s also the sort of feature that has me thinking about switching.

My current RSS backend is a self-hosted installation of Fever, which I’ve been using for six or seven years. It works well enough, but it’s become painfully obvious that it isn’t going to be supported for much longer. The last update was released in September 2014 to add support for the latest iPhones’ screen size alongside a few bug fixes.

I still love Fever — its “Hot” category, which displays popular links based on how many of the feeds you follow have pointed to it, remains as one of my favorite RSS features of all time. But the truth is, I don’t interact directly with Fever much anymore. The vast majority of my time reading RSS feeds is from my iOS devices where Reeder is my app of choice. The only time I use Fever directly is when I’m on my Mac — which is a becoming a rarity — or when I’m subscribing to a new feed using Fever’s bookmarklet.

There isn’t much compelling me to use Fever anymore. I like the idea of self-hosting, but not if the software isn’t actively maintained. I like Fever’s Hot category, but rarely use it because of Reeder’s shoddy support for the feature. And other services offer modern user interfaces and newer, more advanced features — like support for email newsletters — that are beginning to pique my interest.

I don’t know if email newsletter support is the feature that will push me to sign up for Feedbin, but there’s definitely a chink in Fever’s armor. The software has fallen behind its competitors and the rise of native RSS client apps has obfuscated the web-based backend almost entirely.

Given that Reeder supports both Fever and Feedbin, I don’t even need to get used to a new user interface. Once I sign up for an account, upload my OPML file, and login on Reeder, I can continue on business as usual. I suppose the only place for me to go from here is to take a look at Feedbin’s other unique features to see if it’s actually worth making the switch.

Sunstroke for iPhone

I was very excited to try out Sunstroke when I first heard that it was coming to the iPhone just a few days before it’s release. When it finally came I was not disappointed.

Sunstroke is an RSS client developed by Gone East that syncs with your installation of Shawn Inman’s Fever. The client works just as advertised. It gives full access to your feeds, saved items, and hot links which are the most popular links among the RSS feeds that you subscribe to.

Navigating through the application is easy and intuitive, tapping on a feed group will list all of the items in that group with options along the bottom to show read items and to toggle between sorting by feed or by date. Tapping on the arrow along the right will list all of the feeds in the chosen group if you’d like to read items from a specific feed.

From the individual item view you can tap on the title to open the item in Sunstroke’s integrated browser or you can save it using the button on the bottom left. If you’d like to jump to the next or previous item in your current list you can use a pull-t0-refresh like action to move between them, which I’ve found incredibly handy for those feeds where I want to read everything published. Along the bottom right in the individual item view there is a sharing button that can be used to open the item in Safari, tweet the link, email the link, or send the it to Instapaper. And, there are even more options for sharing in the application’s settings alongside the ability to show unread counts and tweak some of the application’s behavior.

The Hot Links feature works just like you’d want it to, giving you the option to change the date range along the bottom of the screen. The links are listed with the corresponding link temperature along the right so that you have an idea of how popular a given link is among the feeds that you subscribe to. Tapping on the link will bring you to the web page unless you’re subscribed to that sites RSS feed, in which case it will display the individual item without having to load the web page at all. And, tapping on the arrows along the right will list all of the RSS feeds that have linked to that page.

I don’t find myself using the Hot links very often, only if I haven’t read my feeds in a few days and want a way to catch up quickly. I’ve always been more of a “subscribe only to feeds that matter so that I can scan every headline” kind of guy. But, I still find it useful on occasion.

The design of the application is just wonderful, using a cool (or should I say hot?) white, grey, and red color scheme that makes the applications stand out among most of the feed readers I’ve seen for iOS. The application even pops on the iPhone home screen because of it’s bright red icon.

The application feels really stable to me only hiccuping a few times during the month that I’ve been using it. The few errors that I’ve gotten were that the Fever installation was unreachable but it’s unclear whether that was the application’s fault or a blip with my web server. What I do know is that I haven’t seen the error in several days and I’ve never had the application crash on me.

If you, like me, have fallen in love with Fever but want something that’s a little bit faster for viewing your feeds on your iPhone, I suggest giving Sunstroke a try. The application is $4.99 which may seem high compared to other RSS clients on the iPhone. But, most of those clients aren’t worth your time. And, Sunstroke is competitively priced with other (what I would consider to be) premium RSS clients like NetNewsWire and Reeder. But those clients only sync with Google Reader, and I enjoy using Fever much more than I ever enjoyed using Google Reader.

Sunstroke – $4.99

Gone East Announces Sunstroke, an iOS Fever Client ➝

Sunstroke is coming to the App Store soon and I’m really excited to get my hands on it. I absolutely love Fever but have wanted a native client for a while now. This might be the perfect addition to my iPhone’s home screen.

I just hope it turns out better then the other iOS Fever client that was eventually abandoned by its developer.

Fever API Public Beta ➝

Last week Fever was updated to version 1.14 and with it came the introduction of an API. The API is currently in public beta and supports basic syncing and consuming of content. A future update will allow for adding, editing, and deleting feeds and groups.

I’m incredibly glad that Fever’s developer, Shaun Inman, has decided to build an API for Fever. I quit using Google Reader last summer and have only looked back briefly (simply to test out Reeder). I enjoy using Fever and specifically hope that the developer of Reeder decides to support it in the near future.

I know of one developer who is already working on an app that makes use of Fever’s API. James Finley is working with a friend on an application for the iPad called “Ashes.” He’s published a few teaser images of the app on his Dribbble account and it looks great. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Those that Made for a Better 2009

The year 2009 is over and 2010 is upon us. But, I think that we should reflect 2009, remembering the people that made the year better for us. There have been plenty of people that made my life better last year. There’s the obvious friends and family, but I specifically want to shine the spotlight on some of the writers, developers, and podcasters that made last year so good.

I’ll start out with an easy one. It’s not one person in particular, but all of the folks at Media Temple. They have been great to me this last year. And their fantastic 24 hour phone support is just the beginning, they’ve also moved my database to a SQL burst container (for free) when my web traffic demanded it. My site went down a few times throughout the year but Media Temple’s professionalism and courteousness went well beyond expectations, which managed to make up for any ill will that could have been built up from down time. I haven’t had too many web hosts in my time, but I can safely say that Media Temple is the best.

The next person I want to mention built two fantastic web apps that I started using this past year. Shaun Inman is the man behind Mint, a web analytics app that you host on your own server. Mint has been around for a while but I just discovered it this last year. I had been using Google Analytics for my sites but was very happy to find a good replacement which would keep all of my stuff on my own domain. But, it’s not only Mint, Shaun released an RSS reader in 2009 called Fever. I happily switched to it shorty after its release. The most clever part of Fever (and one of reasons I switched to it) was its use of a “Hot” section which displays the most popular links from the feeds I subscribe to. Shaun Inman has also developed an iPhone app, named Horror Vacui, a URL shortener called Lessn, and a sort of Quicksilver for the web service called Shortwave.

Speaking of Quicksilver, let’s give some credit to Nicholas Jitkoff. Nicholas now works for Google and the Quicksilver updates haven’t been coming as quickly as some of you may have liked, but the app continues to make my life easier every day. Nicholas Jitkoff developed an amazing app with Quicksilver, one with nearly limitless possibilities, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of it. Quicksilver isn’t the only application developed by Nicholas that made my life easier, though. He’s also the man behind Telekinesis, a simple application that you install on your Mac that allows you to access files and share your screen with your iPhone or iPod touch. It’s a clever (and free) application that comes in handy when I need it (albeit rarely). Nicholas has developed several applications and utilities that you can find on his website, Blacktree.

While Nicholas Jitkoff’s Quicksilver helped me be more productive, I’ve spent spent (or arguably wasted) countless hours with Tweetie. Loren Brichter’s delightful Twitter client for the iPhone. Earlier in the year Loren was well on his way to making it into this piece but really kicked it up a notch when Tweetie 2 was released in October. There’s no doubt that Loren Brichter made my life better with Tweetie 2 but his iPhone programming lecture at Stanford was what made me look up to him even more as a fantastic developer. Aside from Tweetie 2, Loren has also developed Tweetie for the Mac and Scribbles.

Later in the year I finally got around to signing up for Marco Arment’s Instapaper. Not only does Marco run Instapaper the service, he also developed the Instapaper app for the iPhone. Before using Instapaper I felt as though I was reaching a point where I was spending way too much of my time reading short-form content rather than the longer, more well thought out pieces that good writers put so much effort into. Marco’s service has made it easy for me to save all of the longer articles that I’d like to read. When I have time to read them I can do so where I’d like, whether it’s on my iPhone with Instapaper Pro, on the web, or on my Kindle using Instapaper’s fancy Kindle-friendly export feature. I really enjoy the fact that I read so much more well thought our pieces by the writers that put a little bit more into their articles, and it’s all thanks to Marco.

Speaking of writers, it’d be hard for me to write something like this without mentioning John Gruber. His website, Daring Fireball, is always the first feed I check when I load up Fever in the morning. Out of all the people mentioned here, John has probably had the most influence on me. Whether he’s writing 2000+ words on a JavaScript framework for iPhone web apps or writing about HTML5 he always manages to keep me interested from the first word to the last footnote.

I happened to discover Patrick Rhone this past year. Patrick Rhone is the man behind Minimal Mac, a weblog about minimalism, Macintosh, and related geekdom. Although I don’t follow Patrick Rhone’s “journal,” I do read every single word he writes on Minimal Mac. I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to keep things simple and Minimal Mac has fed right into my obsession with minimalism.

One of my favorite podcasts is MacBreak Weekly, it’s one of the first podcasts I listen to when it shows up in iTunes. I enjoy all of the regulars on the show but one person stands out above the rest, Andy Ihnatko. Andy Ihnatko regularly writes for the Chicago Sun Times and his Celestial Waste of Bandwidth. But in my opinion, his best work is on MacBreak Weekly. He always has a fantastic pick of the week (whether it be a book or otherwise) and often times is the one trying to keep the other hosts from jumping to conclusions regarding whatever the latest outlandish Apple rumor is. I don’t read his articles as often as I’d like, but I always find time to listen to MacBreak Weekly.

The final person that made my life better in 2009 was John C. Dvorak. He’s another writer/podcaster and like Andy Ihnatko, I believe his best work is in his podcasts. He is a regular co-host on This Week in Tech and co-host of both DH Unplugged and No Agenda. Whether you agree with his political stances or not he does a great job of trying to keep Adam Curry grounded in reality on No Agenda and keeping the folks on This Week in Tech on topic. He always has something insightful to say and often tells fantastic anecdotes about the topic at hand.

2009 was a great year for me. I had a lot of fun, I wrote more than in any previous year, and I certainly read more than in any previous year. I consider all of the people mentioned here to be incredibly successful. All of them and their work certainly meant a lot to me this past year. And, without them, this year wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or productive.

I’ve taken the time to build a Twitter list that includes all of the people mentioned here. If you’re even the least bit interested in any of them I would suggest following them on Twitter.

Update 1/4/09: Somehow I neglected to mention that Marco Arment is also the lead developer of Tumblr. Tumblr is a wonderful weblog platform that I used for a brief period of time in 2008. I really enjoyed using it but eventually decided to keep all of my content on my WordPress weblog instead.

Feed a Fever

Fever Red Hot. Well Read.I’ll admit it, I am an RSS feed junky. I know that there has been a shift recently among all the “cool kids” to using social media to keep them up to date but I just can’t trust that I get everything, so I keep reading feeds.

Up until a few weeks ago I was using Google Reader. I had a love/hate relationship with Google Reader, on one hand it was the best option for reading feeds but on the other hand the developers were consistently adding features that didn’t help with the one thing I was using it for, reading RSS feeds. Instead they were just cluttering the interface with more stars and smiley faces that were used for all the “social” features. The fact is I really don’t think of reading feeds as being all that social. And, if I wanted to share an item I’d rather copy the link and send it to a friend in an email or paste it into Twitter. I don’t know anyone else who uses Google Reader and therefore the social features of Google Reader are completely useless clutter.

In Comes Fever

I have been using Mint, another one of Shaun Inman’s products, for a couple of months before I found references to Fever on his website and on his Twitter account. But at that time I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. It wasn’t until it actually launched that I learned how it would solve all of the problems I had with Google Reader, by completely replacing it.

Fever can work just like any other feed reader, you collect feeds and read unread items one by one (which is often times how I use it). But, when you want something a little more condensed it has its “Hot” section. The Hot section is populated by items in your subscriptions that point to common URLs. To get at the top of your Hot list a URL has to be linked to more than any other.

So what you end up with is a list of all of the most interesting stories/web pages for a given time period. This way if you don’t have time to read all of the items in your RSS feeds and just want to know what everyone is talking about you can do so incredibly quickly. There is a perception among many of the people who buy Fever that the best way to use Fever is to subscribe to a lot of feeds and just read the Hot section, but I disagree. The problem with doing this is that you end up missing some of the gems relating to topics that don’t tend to link out as often as the technology space does (in other words it is less of an echo chamber).

Fever does encourage you to subscribe to a lot of feeds by separating them into two categories, “Kindling” and “Sparks.” Your Kindling are the main feeds that contain items you general don’t want to miss, while Sparks are really only there to add more heat to URLs in the Hot section.

I’ve found that the best way to use Fever is to subscribe to a small number of key feeds that I always want to read and then going into the Hot section for everything else.

Reading With Fever

Fever makes it really easy to read your RSS feeds. There are a myriad of keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process. The Google Reader-made standard J and K keys are there for next and previous so users of Google Reader will feel right at home. There are also shortcuts for refreshing your feeds, saving the current item, open current item or link, etc., essentially all the shortcuts you’ll need to navigate whole the app.

Installing Fever

The only downside I can find in Fever is that it is a self hosted application. It lives in the cloud, but it is your cloud. Much like WordPress, you upload some files to a server, set up a database with your hosting company, and go through a set up process in your browser. There are a couple more steps in the process, but you get the idea.

Inman has kept the installation process drop dead simple, even going so far as to having the Fever installation files double as a testing system to make sure your hosting company will be compatible with the app, this way you won’t pay the $30 only to learn that it won’t work with your current host.

Oh, and it upgrades itself. So, as long as nothing gets messed up, you should never have to touch the Fever files on your server again.

The Clincher

What really put me over the top with Fever is it’s iPhone interface. The main reason I had stuck with Google Reader for so long is that no one else had a simple and hassle-free interface for the iPhone. The design is just gorgeous and it does exactly what it needs to, including open fullscreen when saved to your iPhone’s home screen. Scrolling to the bottom of a list of items causes Fever to automatically load the next 20 items, so page reloading necessary.

And there is no need to “mark these items as read,” Fever does it for you because it does the intelligent thing of assuming that once an item has been viewed (even in list view) it was read. And, if you accidentally mark some items as read that you didn’t want to, you can “unread most recently read” in the settings.

Conclusion

If you’ve become fed up with the way that Google Reader is progressing and need something with a focus on actually reading RSS feeds, Fever is the right place to go.

The application does cost $30, a little bit of knowledge about setting up a domain name, and hosting is needed but honestly if you read RSS feeds enough to be willing to purchase an RSS reader, you probably already have all of those things ready.

Update 7/25/09: Shaun Inman has been consistently updating Fever with bug fixes and minor new features, the latest changelog can be found here.

Update 7/25/09: A very welcomed change, in 1.06 groups that have no unread items are hidden when “show read items” is disabled. This helps keep the interface clean, it is especially useful when you have a lot of groups (like I do).