Tiny tiny RSS experience a week later?

I have had quite a bit of feedback from my post about moving away from Feedly to a self hosted solution called Tiny Tiny RSS.

Some interesting questions have emerged from people and to be fair it certainly deserves a follow up.

I made my instance of TT-RSS available on the public netw, because I didn’t see the point of installing my VPN software on my eink reader. I also installed the official TT-RSS app which is a 7 day trail before you buy the full version for 4 pounds. I haven’t bought the full version yet because the app doesn’t seem to work well when offline? It would be great if the app understood if the device was offline and automaticilly disabled the update feeds option. It currently doesn’t seem to do this well… I much prefer Greader for this, but ttrss app isn’t far behind.

Simon commented he paid for Feedly because of the IFTTT options, but it seems weird to pay for this  because you can easily turn most of TT-RSS into a another feed and IFTTT has a RSS option which you can use to trigger most things. This reminds me of my work along while back about pipelines.

Because of this, I have been thinking about feeding Greader with the RSS from my TTRSS install. The only real disadvantage is nothing would be synced to the server? This is also something I’ve been thinking about with a linux desktop reader like thunderbird because I can’t seem to install a TTRSS reader which works.

I tried a few but each has had problems.

Feed the Moneky looked very promising but when I finally get the appimage loaded, it shows nothing? Feedreader looked great and after finally getting flatpak working, I’m faced with the error that I need to install the api-feedreader plugin in my TTRSS server. How I do this when I’m using docker is a question I have no answer for, except it seems I need to use another docker container?

So generally its going well but hitting a few points which need straighing out. It would be so useful to compile supported applications into a wiki page.

Oh I found this useful when understanding about appimages, snap, flatpak, etc.

Host your own RSS aggregator?

hosting Tiny Tiny RSS

It started with me getting fed up with Feedly trying to up-sell me to their premium subscription. I mean I get it but $5/month to host a simple RSS aggregator? This seems quite a hefty price (even with all the extras it provides, which I never really use).

So I first looked for alternatives to Feedly and found quite a lot. The main thing for me was having a Sync API, so I’m not reading the same stuff across my different devices. My thought was with a standard API, it wouldn’t matter what client or platform I use (although I’m using Linux and Android mainly). Standard I thought… boy was I dreaming.

After a lot of looking and reading I said screw this, I’m self hosting my own copy of tiny tiny rss, which seems very popular with people like myself trying to do the same thing. It seemed quite straight forward and I decided it was time to give rkt or docker a try as there was a docker image for it.

In a evening I had it setup, running and working with my exported feedly OPML file, while watching a film and cooking. Its currently only available to my network but I’ll likely make it externally available (without my VPN) once I got it setup with a SSL cert and 2 factor auth. I did notice my fav RSS reader on Android did support ttrss then somewhere along the line they pulled support for it. So I’ll try out the android app created by the author of ttrss, but the comments are… well.. interesting?

Being a geek has always been cool

Reading my RSS again and Den of Geeks hit me with the post titled When did geekdom become ‘cool’?

You can’t walk down a busy street without seeing a T-shirt with the word ‘Geek’ on it, it seems. So: is this a good thing or bad?
It can’t just be me that does a double take walking down the high street now. After all, more and more people seem to be wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘Geek’ or ‘Nerd’ on them, as if geekdom has accidentally come into fashion. Lots of people who – at face value – would never be seen dead with such clothing on just a few years ago are now embracing it as a fashion choice. I’d be lying if I said I’ve got used to it.

The whole thing then goes on to slam people who jump on the bandwagon of geek culture. I get it but it seems too simplistic…

I’ve learned that being interested in quality films, shows, comics and books has far more advantages than not. Not since my younger days have I looked at something hurling out the word geek in a derogatory manner and wished I could change places with them. I think my life improved once I worked that out. That notwithstanding, it’s an interesting cultural change that’s taking place. Because not only is geekdom less frowned on, apparently, I’m informed by far more fashionable people than me, it’s ‘cool’ to be a geek or a nerd now. Who’d have ever thought that ten years ago?

I understand the instant feeling of bitter distaste of those people gatecrashing our party. I mean its our party and all those other people use to take the mick out of us, so screw them right?

The problem is with this all, is its too simple!

Through out the whole post, theres references to the most typical of geeky and nerdy stuff. Board games, Comics, role playing, etc. These are but a scratch on the surface of what a geek is. I’m sure I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again.

Geek is anyone with a passion boarding into obsession.

There are geeky designers, geeky writers, geeky motorbikers, magicians who are geeky, geeky chef’s, geeky fashion models, people who do up cars who are geeks, knitting and crafty geeks, etc, etc… You don’t think DJs are one of the most geeky people you know? Or heck how geeky are professional photographers!

The post is so badly leading towards the technical realm, it hurts to even read more. We should be encouraging people to look a little deeper within themselves and find what really makes them tick, not pointing the finger back on them and laughing. We’re better than that (I hope).

Luckily theres a bit of what I suggest in the final paragraph…

as a result of cultural shifts going on, I can but hope three things.

One, more people get to enjoy said films, comics, games and shows.
Two, it opens a door for people to enjoy stuff they’ve never thought about trying – and that, in turn, they’re welcomed for doing so (as opposed to being criticised for not being ‘true geeks’, as I’ve seen over the past weeks).
And finally, that those who choose to bully and criticise those for liking something ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ just think twice about it. If that last wish comes true especially , then Next can sell all the ‘Geek’ T-shirts it likes as far as I’m concerned

Fashion and brands pick up on whats in the zeitgiest, but thats not a good enough reason to get our own back, take the higher road!

The streaming consciousness

How Lifestreaming Is Shaping Web Culture

I can’t believe Stowe Boyd doesn’t get a single mention in this article about streams

So although the web has changed out of all recognition in two decades, our underlying metaphor for it probably hasn’t changed that much. And this has the downside that we’re effectively blind to what is actually happening, which is that we are moving from a world of sites and visits to one that is increasingly dominated by streams. The guy who articulates this best is a Yale computer scientist named David Gelernter.

The title of his latest essay on the subject – “The End of the Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It” – conveys the basic idea. “The space-based web we currently have will gradually be replaced by a time-based worldstream,” he writes. “This lifestream — a heterogeneous, content-searchable, real-time messaging stream — arrived in the form of blog posts and RSS feeds, Twitter and other chatstreams and Facebook walls and timelines. Its structure represented a shift beyond the ‘flatland known as the desktop’ (where our interfaces ignored the temporal dimension) towards streams, which flow and can therefore serve as a representation of time.

Shame because he’s been thinking about this stuff a whole lot longer than most

Ars Technica provides a Storytlr tutorial

Well I say a tutorial but actually its more like a review of the process of setting up Storytlr. I was hoping Ryan Paul (Mr Gwibber himself) would have provided some hints to why my Storytlr isn’t working as it should do. And to be fair he’s leading me to believe that PHP5 Tidy isn’t installed on my Godaddy account plus there might be something wrong with my Cron job. What however he doesn’t do is explain in full what he did to fix the problems. So he says,

The first problem that I encountered is that the RSS import code requires PHP5-Tidy, which isn’t available on Dreamhost. It was pretty easy to remove that dependency by changing a few lines of code. The code for the individual services is stored in protected/application/plugins. Each plugin has model and view scripts that are used to download and display content. To remove the dependency on Tidy, I just had to make some trivial changes to the plugins/rss/models/RssModel.php script.

While they might be trivial to you, but I’m scratching my head looking at the PHP, thinking humm, I could really screw things up here, I wish I was looking at Velocity templates instead.

Someone else wrote up there experience of installing storytlr here which is actually pretty useful.

Hopefully I’ll get the whole thing sorted soon.

Converting posts from Blojsom/WordPress to Moveabletype

I had to write this because for weeks now I’ve been trying to convert blog entries between different blogging services.

The first one was converting Blojsom to WordPress, but this wasn’t too bad because both work around the RSS 2.0 format. Getting the comments, tags, metadata out and into the rss 2.0 feed was a real pain and I’m convinced I dropped a load of trackbacks and pingbacks in the process. This is another reason why I started using Disqus for all my comments.

The harder task was moving blog entries from WordPress to MoveableType. Yes I expect most of you are wondering why I would move from a far superior system to something which most people left in the dirt ages ago. Well unfortunately we still use MT on the bbc.co.uk/blogs platform and that means as backstage moves to the official blog platform, some mug had to find a way to down convert to MT 4.1 which only imports/exports in this crazy text only format.

So after lots of looking around, I finally found a XSL which I modified to do the job from a stripped down WordPress WXR file (RSS2.0 with lots of WP namespaces stuff). Its important that you strip down the WXR file as it might not be valid XML, so no XSL transform is going to work. I also took a bit of time to write a XSL to remove most of the namespaces elements or convert them into a more valid RSS 2.0 element. You can do the same with lots of finds and replaces, so I won’t post the simple XSL.

Hopefully this will save others a lot of time in the future, if your faced with the same problem.

Titbits from the last few weeks

So there is a few things which I've twittered but not blogged recently. Rather that use up tons of entries with one liners (tom), I prefer to roll them into one large entry.

Linked-in

I caved in the other day when Plaxo added support for Linked-in. I had been thinking about it for years but choose not to be involved because I simply didn't see the point. The one which almost tipped me over the top was Linked-in support in Particls (touchstone). I wanted to see what extra information it might add to the APML file but didn't have an account to try it with. But now I do. I would just add, Chris and the team you should add linked-in support as a input adapter not bolt it on to the Feed adapter. This code might be useful too, because I and others might be able to hack together other input adapters for Flickr, Delicious, etc. I still want to play a lot more with my FOAF profile because I think thats so much more powerful. So anyway, you can link to me using my bbc email address or search for my name.

Particls

Recently something has gone wrong with Particls (touchstone) it happened when it tried to swap my account from Touchstone to Particls directory. I need to sort it out as my APML file is too neutral now and I'm not getting those good sharp posts coming through like before.  The RSS screensaver (sent to lifehacker btw) is also doing lots of repeating, so I suspect the Pebble output isn't work correctly. I got a feeling I might end up doing a complete post with screenshots because its changed so much since I last looked at it.

Trusted Places and Dopplr

I've been using reusing Trustedplaces recently when I go away to a different cities. Now I have trusted places in New York, San Francisco and of course London. I have also started using Dopplr which tracks your trips and shows your friends trips. Its really cool but I wish it would keep your old trips so you can compare in the future and maybe hang things off of it like flickr pictures, trusted places reviews, etc. I look forward to when Trustedplaces and Dopplr get APIs or tons of feeds.

Dopplr my map

Xtech: Pipelines

I'm wrote the paper for Xtech recently and I'm in the process of writing the presentation. I'm still playing with my flow * setup but the presentation is the most important thing. I'm hoping to get the Eurostar to Paris but it looks like I'll be getting a plane because the BBC don't have a eurostar account. I'm in Paris for a week but the last part will be with friends from Minneapolis.

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RSS as the vaseline that’s greasing the wheels of Web 2.0

Jeremy Keith writes about how everything he uses outputs RSS of some kind which can easily be mashed up. Yes this is pretty straight forward and I hope commonly known now but what prompted me to blog was this bit.

At the recent Take Back The Web event here in Brighton, Rob Purdie talked about RSS being the vaseline that’s greasing the wheels of Web 2.0. He makes a good point.

Over the course of any particular day, I could be updating five or six RSS feeds, depending on how much I’m blogging, how many links I’m posting, or how much music I’m listening to. I’d like to take those individual feeds and mush ‘em all up together.

I think were finally at the stage where its accepted that RSS and ATOM can be like RESTful API's. I remember having a email exchange with Jeff Barr about this and he disagreed. Well I'm sorry but it looks I was right.

What Jeremy also talks about is why I love XSL so much. As long as its valid XML and web accessable I can do something with it. I've been asked to be involved in a special project for Christmas to do with XSL, so look out for that soon.

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RSS in 2007 finally something for casual users?

RSS badge on a shoe

Richard MacManus over at the Read Write web, suggests that 2007 will be the the big year for RSS. Although I agree, I think 2006 was also a big year for machine use of RSS. 2007 looks to be a big one for casual users or consumers. The main reason seems to centre around every single browser supporting RSS in some way once IE7 is launched. Outlook 2007 also supports RSS so this pretty much covers all of Microsoft's bases. Pretty much now, if its not got RSS, its either a old site or the site can't be taken seriously. Pretty much everything has RSS including yahoo mail and google reader./p>

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Language support in RSS readers slowly getting better?

Real right to left support in greatnews

real right to left support in greatnews rss reader. At long last the rss readers are starting to do right to left languages correctly now.

How can I tell? The position of the unread items. Yes its kind of weird, you would think things would be directly mirrored. But nope, see the issue is that the farsi text is unicode encoded right to left, while the numbers and brackets are left to right. When you put the two together like that on the same line then read it left to right. Things get a little messy.

Oh the feed in question… www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/persian/atom.xml. Which I modified from the standard Moveable type template.

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Consistency between browsers? No this simply cant be true

Rss icon

The Microsoft RSS Team has a blog post about the consistency between IE7 and Firefox, at least when it comes to Feeds. The Firefox RSS icon will be used on IE7 when it finally launches next year. Mind blowing would you not agree? Oh and lets not forget the Website indentification stuff too.

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Go vote on the RSS poll of only 3 short questions

I found this poll on KBcafe yesterday. Its only formed of 3 questions.

  • Which RSS client(s) do you use?
  • How many RSS feeds do you read regularly?
  • How often do you read news in an RSS reader?

At the moment the results seem to a little bias, so it really needs a little more circulation around blog space. There is also another one at the RSS weblog.

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Full over excerpted feeds

From Dave Slusher the evil genius and his post titled excerpted RSS feeds

  • When I read postings in my RSS reader, it takes effectively no time to move from item to item because they have all already been downloaded before I look at them.
  • When I open the webpage of an item from that feed it takes time, usually from 1 to 10 seconds per item.
  • When I sit down to read my feeds, I typically have between 40 and 200 individual items in there. At an average load time of 3 seconds per item , that would add from 2 to 10 minutes to my reading time just in waiting for pages to load if everyone did this.
  • Most excerpted feeds are really excerpted. Here’s a real world example of something that came down a feed, the information I was given to decide whether I want to pursue reading this or not:
  • While Wharton claims he may now have been “assimilated” into the culture of Action Greensboro, I seriously doubt it. While I, too, attended last night’s follow-up meetin

  • If you knew how often I looked at the first 18 words of your post and decided that although I care enough to subscribe to your RSS feed I don’t care enough to chase this post down, it would probably hurt your feelings. Sorry kids, you have to make tough calls in this life.
  • I’m actually becoming a full-text hardass again, and by the end of the week will be purging out all the excerpted feeds from my newsreader. If you don’t care enough to make it easy on me trying to follow lots of information, I don’t care enough to read your stuff. That’s harsh, but quid pro quo often is.

My first thoughts are right on Dave, I'm with you but I cant quite bring myself to be that Harsh. For example, Microsoft watch from Mary Jo Foley. I cant unsubscribe because its really timey content. I mean compare it to the unofficial microsoft weblog's content. Enough said… In the mainstream RSS space you just have to expect headline descriptions, very few dare do full text, and so it would be difficult to just remove them all. Some others feeds worth mentioning include infosync which is not the full text but damm putting medium resoultion pictures in with the description is a great idea. I would say its one of the most beautiful feeds you can get if your a gadget geek. Saying all that, they could take the route of Inhabitat, which has beautiful pictures and full text.

So generally, I agree with Dave, but I wont be so harsh. Its all about the content.

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Does presentation matter in a world of RSS?

So Ben Metcalfe asks the question Does presentation matter anymore? This is exactly what me, Miles, Harry and Dave talked about one night over dinner. Honestly I think it does but as Ben identifies its moved around the chain now. If we take it that RSS has a huge audience and that its not changed a lot from its current form (aka no JS, CSS, Ajax, etc in RSS or ATOM) for a moment. The presentation shifts to feed promotion and the news reader style. For example Great News which I'm using for my desktop aggregator supports CSS and I can actually define a style sheet per feed if I want to. This was useful today when Google news was delivering me all the WorldService and ArabicTV stories, as I could use the brief stylesheet to show a lot of entries on one screen. While I use the readability stylesheet for reading Ben's blog and most of RSS content.

But it goes deeper than that, design isnt just about presentation. A designer should have a hand in the structured elements of the RSS feed, the useability of how its pushed and pulled around the internet and the accessability of the feed and its content. Its what I prefer to call the whole process the Flow of the content. Its part of what I do and I feel its part of the emerging role for new media designers. I mean is it too much to ask for a designer to build a client side XSL page for a RSS feed?

Just stepping away from the world of huge RSS audiences now. There something which smart designers understand well. The media, there designing for. web media isnt print media. Sounds obvious, but were talking about the vision for how the site should look and work being thrown out the window. I'm not talking about just browser quirks, screen resoultions and font size differents. I'm talking about the range of toolbars, extensions and the like which deconstruct the website beyond the control of the tightest web designer. Then if you go down the Greasemonkey path, you have something where you can actually share your deconstructions. Smart designers understand and embrace this and actually push for CSS driven sites to make this even easier. There are a few even testing the waters with Client side XSL transformations for all content with CSS for style.

I've included a screenshot of how I currently see BBC news story pages and how its meant to look. I custom built this simple script because it makes loading up bbc news stories from my RSS reader quicker and is easier to read for myself. Others would disagree, but then I would suggest you write your own greasemonkey script.

So back to the question, yes presentation does matter and the role of a designer is very important but like everything, roles shift with the times and media. Branding is another issue which I wont go into right now either…

I found this great little post about WIndows Longhorn/Vista's redline designs. Ryan suggests Redlines are a throw back to another generation of design, and I have to agree. Dactylx asks this question in the comments
I'm down with that idea, but then how do you as a designer communicate how the design should be rendered to a developer? What can we use to replace the redlines? and Ryan replies with a slightly optimistic but good answer.

Here is the first step. Do not separate the teams. There should be no technical team and design team working separately (on different floors or on different continents). They should sit right next to each other and *understand* the problem just as great as the designers. Design is manifested in code, so if the coders don't understand, then the product is inevitable to fail.

I'm once again in total agreement, in my experience the best projects are always when everyone is involved in the problem. Not passed around like a rugby ball on a winters day.

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