For a very long time I was using RSS feed readers that were self-contained and stand-alone. On the Mac, I had used NetNewsWire until they were bought out and it was going to turn into a cloud-based service. For some reason, I never got on board with the whole cloud thing initially — whether it was distrust, suspicion, or plain old stubbornness, I really don’t know.
The other day, my normal desktop RSS feed reader decided to cause me more grief than not, so I started looking for another client. At the same time, I decided to give Google Reader a try (I had looked at it briefly when it had initially come out but didn’t do anything with it, satisfied as I was with my desktop client). I liked what I saw and, more importantly, now see the value of a cloud-based service like Google Reader, that can be used and integrated with other applications on other operating systems.
For one, having my old news reader on my primary workstation tied it to that workstation. If I wasn’t in front of it, I wasn’t reading items of interest (arguably, this is a good thing as it prevented me from being distracted when away from the computer). The downside is that I have a phone that is more than capable of filling idle time, and a perfect use of that time is to catch up on articles of interest from various sites. Or if I’m on my laptop. With Google Reader, even if I’m at my in-laws place and bored, I can hop on their computer and read something interesting.
On Linux, you can use the Liferea RSS reader to sync with Google Reader. On Fedora, this is a simple yum install command away; most other distributions that ship GNOME will provide Liferea as well. If you prefer KDE, Akregator will also sync with Google Reader.
In Liferea, it comes pre-populated with some feeds like Slashdot, Planet GNOME, and others. Feel free to right click the “Example Feeds” and delete the folder. Once the folders or feeds that you are not interested in are gone, select the Subscriptions menu bar item and select New Source. Scroll down the list of source types that come up and select Google Reader. In the next screen enter your Google Reader credentials. When you have done this, a new folder called Google Reader will appear in the sidebar and it will begin syncing with the Google Reader service to get your list of subscriptions, read articles, and new articles.
If you make use of starred articles in Google Reader, the same are available in Liferea in the Important folder. As you’re reading mail, if you want to star the articles of interest for follow-up later, use Liferea’s flag function, which not only adds them to the Important folder, but immediately applies the star to the article so that in any other Google Reader-syncing client it shows up as a starred item.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you from using Google Reader’s web interface directly to read your RSS feeds. Like GMail, however, I prefer using a nice application to interface with these things — I’m not a big fan of web-based clients (although I do appreciate their accessibility in a pinch).
I suspect it was pure stubbornness that prevented me from doing this a long time ago. The ability to manage a single, synchronized in real-time, source for news across Linux, OS X, and my iPhone has a serious amount of appeal and convenience, and I am kicking myself that I didn’t jump on this before.