Google has announced that as of July 1st 2013 Google Reader will be no more (A second spring of cleaning http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/a-second-spring-of-cleaning.html). 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 (http://www.rssowl.org/). 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 (http://www.feedreader.com/). Originally only available as a desktop client it is now online. Number three on my list is Netvibes (http://www.netvibes.com/). 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.
To move your RSS feeds you now have to use the Google Takeout service (http://www.dataliberation.org/google/reader). 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 (http://feedburner.google.com/) 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.
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 http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/monitor.htm) 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 http://www.aignes.com/shop.htm for details) – but it gives you far more options and control than Google Reader.
If you are a serious news junkie like myself, you may find Martin Belam’s recent series of articles on the UK’s regional press of interest. The articles cover topics such as the provision of RSS (not all newspapers offer them!), links to social bookmarking sites, and the site search options offered by the newspapers. This is all very useful information for anyone who needs to assess the quality and functionality of local press sites in terms of current content, archives and alerting services.
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!
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