Category Archives: RSS

Has Google dumped RSS alerts or not?

Google closed down its RSS Reader on July 1st and shortly afterwards stories that it had also discontinued RSS alerts started to circulate. The first one I saw was by Google Operating System (Google Alerts Drops RSS Feeds quickly followed by Search Engine Land (Google Alerts Drops RSS Delivery Option Both reported that when they went to manage their RSS alerts Google told them that they would have to convert all of their feeds to email alerts. From this it was assumed that Google had decided to abandon RSS altogether, which confused me because I was still receiving RSS feeds for alerts I had set up in News and Blogs. It transpires that Google no longer offers alerts for web searches. That is no great loss to me as I have always found the web alerts to be unreliable. News and blog search alerts are a different matter, though, as I usually have about 70-80 running at any one time. I could set up a separate email account for the alerts but I find it so much easier to organise and view them in an RSS reader.

Two weeks later and my feeds continue to come through. I can still set up new alerts for Blog searches by running the search and then clicking on the RSS link at the bottom of the page.


The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that they have not yet removed the link inviting you to subscribe to the feed in Google Reader!

The procedure for a News RSS alert is more long winded and you need a Google account to set it up. First sign in to your account and go to Google News. In the upper right hand area of the screen there is a cog wheel. Click on the wheel and a set of personalization options should appear underneath it.


In addition to the standard categories that you can add or remove there is a box into which you can type in your own “topic”. Click on the + button to add it to the list and save the personalization. Your search topic should now appear in a list on the left hand side of the screen.


Click on your topic and at the bottom of the results page you should see an RSS icon which takes you to the feed for that search.

So the good news is that Google blog and news alerts are still available as RSS feeds. The bad news is that they are complicated to set up in news, and the links and text on the blog search results page have not been updated to reflect the discontinuation of Google Reader. This strongly suggests that RSS is very low on Google’s list of priorities so it really could be axed across the board.

If Google does decide to “retire” RSS and you want to carry on receiving RSS rather than email alerts there are several alternatives. So far, the best of the free services for me is the Netvibes Dashboards (, which uses a number of tools including Google. Even if I ignore the Google results, Netvibes generally comes up a comprehensive and relevant set of alerts on my topic. Overall, I would rather not have the hassle of setting up my alerts afresh but Google has a habit of finishing off services with little or no warning. Now is the time to start looking for replacements.

Google Reader – what next?

Google has announced that as of July 1st 2013 Google Reader will be no more (A second spring of cleaning It comes as no surprise since I doubt Google receives very little revenue from it. On the other hand there must be a wealth of information on users’ reading habits and network connections, but obviously not enough. Google cites declining use as the reason.

To be honest I have never got on with Google Reader. I spend a lot of my time travelling on trains with dodgy wifi and erratic mobile broadband connections, so I download as much as possible to my desktop when I do have a connection. My favourite RSS reader at the moment is RSSOwl ( I probably don’t use all of its features to the full but it does everything I need.

It is a desktop client with no web option or apps as far as I can see so will not suit many people. My second choice would probably be FeedReader ( Originally only available as a desktop client it is now online. Number three on my list is Netvibes ( This wouldn’t really be suitable for me as it is a web based service but it does offer some very neat alternative display options and has been used by many organisations to provide ‘start pages’ for their users.

I am not going to list or review all of the possible Google Reader alternatives. There are plenty of other articles that are doing that. 12 Google Reader Alternatives  ( is one, although the list is now down to 11 as FeedDemon, which is dependent on Google Reader, has now announced it will close as well (The End of FeedDemon, If you are interested in exploring more alternatives a list is being compiled at There were 33 when I last looked.

To move your RSS feeds you now have to use the Google Takeout service ( There is no longer an option within Google Reader itself to export an OPML file. Takeout is going to be a problem for some people as it creates a zip file, which some organisations automatically block.

The demise of Google Reader is not a problem for me as I have never used it on a regular basis. What does worry me is that Feedburner ( might be next for the chop. There has been virtually no development of the service for a couple of years and in July 2012 Adsense for feeds was discontinued, an indication Google does not view it as a revenue stream. I am now actively looking for Feedburner alternatives.

Google Reader tracks web page changes

So you are an RSS addict but your favourite news page does not have an RSS feed. There are plenty of tools that will monitor a web page and notify you of changes by email or RSS (see my list Monitoring Web Page Changes at but now Google Reader also has an option that will allow you to monitor changes to most web pages. All you need to do is log  in to Google and open Google Reader, click on Add a subscription, and then enter the URL of the page you want to monitor. That’s it.

I am testing it out on 3 web pages and comparing the results with Page2RSS and the desktop program Website Watcher. My comparison has only been running for 12 hours but already there are differences between Google Reader and Page2RSS. Google Reader is picking up more changes than Page2RSS, which is not surprising because Page2RSS checks a page just once a day and Google checks pages more frequently. But what I did not expect was that Google would miss a major change that Page2RSS picked up. Had I bothered to look at the web page when Google Reader had told me it had changed I would have spotted the new text that it had missed but the temptation is to just view the reported change in Google Reader. Website Watcher, though, has come up trumps every time and picked up all changes to the pages, probably because I told it to check the pages in question every 10 minutes.

The initial stages of my trial suggest that Google Reader is a good way to track changes to web pages as long as you only need to know if a web page has changed in some way and as long as you go to the live web page to view the changes. It seems that if a web page changes frequently throughout the day it will not pick up and report every single change. Google Reader checks pages at pre-determined time intervals but I expected it report on all of the changes since it’s last report. It doesn’t and that puzzles me.

If you really need to know about web page changes as soon as possible then a desktop tool such as Website Watcher is the bees knees. You can choose how often it checks the pages and you can also tell it look for specific keywords  – useful if you are waiting for a product launch announcement for example.  Website Watcher can also easily monitor whole directories of pages. It is not free – prices start at 29.95 euros  (see for details) – but it gives you far more options and control than Google Reader.

ticTOCs Journal Tables of Contents Service

I had been doing so well at cutting back on my RSS feeds, but then I bumped into Roddy Macleod at Online Information. He reminded me about the ticTOCs service and then today I spotted their posting about the service in spineless?.

ticTOCs is a new scholarly journal tables of contents (TOCs) service  and Heriot-Watt is one of the fourteen partners who have developed it. You can use ticTOCs to search for the most recent table of contents of over 11,000 scholarly journals, from over 400 publishers and also view them on the ticTOCs site.

You can view the latest TOC (table of contents) of the journal, link through to the full text (where subscriptions allow), and save selected journals to MyTOCs so that you can return to the site and view future TOCs. Alternatively, you can save your selection as an OPML file and import the list into your favourite RSS reader. And that has been my undoing 🙂 . I have already added about 30 journals to my feeds but I suspect that I shall delete some of those once I have had a chance to evaluate their relevance to my areas if interest. But I have at least two more subject areas to investigate. RSS feed overload is imminent!


Google Reader now has search ..

.. but not here 🙁

According to the Google Reader Blog the new search box is located directly above the reading panel to the right of the Google Reader logo. A pity I can’t see it here in Firefox. According to the blog it lets you search your subscribed feeds. If you want to do a blog search outside of your feeds then get thee hence to Google Blogsearch.

A quick check in Opera, my second browser of choice, revealed nothing. A totally blank page! I did, however, manage to spot the elusive search box in IE 7 and it seems to do what it claims.

RSS, Blogs and Wikis – Woking Library

I am doing a repeat of my Basingstoke RSS, Blogs and Wikis presentation at Woking Library on Tuesday, 20th February. It is being organised by the Surrey Library & Information Group and kicks off at 6 pm. All those who work or have worked in Library and Information services in Surrey and the surrounding areas are welcome.

If you are interested in attending please contact Hilary Ely, Surrey County Council Libraries & Culture, East Area Office, Omnibus, Lesbourne Road, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7JA by Wednesday 14th February 2007, e-mail: Tel: 01737 737687 Fax: 01737 737649.

As an aside, I am delighted to see that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight sub-branch of CILIP’s South East Branch, and who invited me to give the talk at Basingstoke library, now have a blog at The Blog – Another Tool in Your Arsenal

This is a very useful article by Janet Peros, legal reference librarian and co-chair of the Law Library Association of Greater New York’s education committee. It outlines the use of blogs and RSS feeds in several US legal firms, and how they have been used to replace newsletters for keeping partners and clients up to date. In some instances the mini case-studies mention the software and services used to publish the blogs and generate feeds. The motivation and reasoning behind the decisions to switch from conventional alerting services that are discussed in this article are relevant to any type of organisation in any country. The article is a good source of ammunition for those of us in the process of persuading colleagues and managers that blogs and RSS are a good idea!

Google RSS Reader Revamped

Thank Heavens! Google has totally redesigned its RSS feed reader. The old interface was a disaster: hideous, confusing and non-intuitive. I suspect that many users who were new to RSS feeds have given up on the technology forever as a result.

Having got that whinge out of the way how does the new reader compare with what is already out there? For starters, the default display will now be familiar to existing RSS junkies like me. The left hand side of the screen lists your feeds, and in folders if you have decided to organise them in that way. The individual items are displayed in the central area of the screen, and there is a tips and tricks box on the right hand side of the “Home” page.

Google Reader now allows you to view just new items, all items in a single list, all items by folder or items by individual feed. For me, a variety of viewing options is essential. I need to view individual, priority feeds as soon as I fire up my reader in the morning but I am then quite happy to scan through all the UK news feeds, for example, as one long “folder” list. The only serious gripe I have with the display of the items and feeds is that Google Reader does not include the feeds own icons. It may seem a minor point but it is a quick way of identifying the feed source when scanning through a combined list of all your new items. One point to watch is that the default in Expanded View is to mark items read as you scroll through them. This is a feature that I find extremely irritating but is easily put right by going to Settings, Preferences.

There are two ‘views’ for items: Expanded View gives you the title, source and as much of the article that the publisher has decided to include in the item. The List View gives you the title, the first few words of the article and the date in just one line. To view the original or source document just click on the title or the double chevron next to the title.

For each item you can Star, Share, Email, Mark as read and Edit tags. When I tried these out only the Email and Mark as read options worked: the others gave an “error has occurred message”. But it is early days with the new interface so hopefully these glitches will be addressed soon. The email option defaulted to my Googlemail account so there could be a problem if you want to send headlines or stories to colleagues and clients using your corporate email account. Other web based readers such as Newsgator use your default email reader. Also, you cannot send more than one headline or item per email – a failing with many web based RSS readers. Another notable omission is that you cannot keyword search your feeds or set up alerts, again a non-feature of most web based readers.

You can easily import and export your existing list of feeds and adding a subscription is straightforward. Google Reader, though, does not support user authentication so if you have Factiva feeds, for example, it is back to your PC based reader or

Overall, I am impressed. Until now I have been telling RSS newbies who want to just dip a toe in the RSS stream to avoid Google’s reader like the plague. It is still not perfect, and I shall continue to use Omea on my laptop, but I have now added Google Reader to my list of recommended web based readers.

Before the revamp..