Some Newsblur fangirling

11 February 2014, 17:19

I joined Newsblur in November 2011, which was just after the sharing functionality in Google Reader was removed. I jumped on board with a paid account and all, even though sharing items was not yet available in Newsblur. At least “social” was in the works, unlike Google Reader, where a slow dismantling was just beginning.

In July 2012 Newblur’s “blurblogs” arrived, and I was content because now I had a page of shared items. It’s not perfect (not a fan of the infinite scroll, for one…), but it’s there, it has RSS, there’s a bookmarklet, it has comments, tick. So if you use Newsblur you can subscribe to that by clicking “view on Newsblur” under my username, or subscribe to the RSS feed in some other reader by following this URL (or probably just point the page at your reader, maybe it has autodetect magic).

here is my one-liner for making your Newsblur shared items page 200% more awesome:
body {background-image:url('http://thepatternlibrary.com/img/ap.jpg');}

This goes under “Custom CSS for your Blurblog”:

Here Newsblur gives you an idea of the kind of things I like to share:

That screenshot is actually from the intelligence trainer. They have been part of Newsblur from the very start, but I only started using them relatively recently. I was a bit suspicious about how “intelligent” they were going to be. I generally prefer to see everything listed and choose myself what I care about, rather than have software selectively show me things it thinks I want to see. Happily Newsblur takes a simpler approach that works fantastically well, giving you a great deal of control while not overstepping its bounds. Facebook and Twitter could take note.

The training is per feed, and is a simple thumbs-up/neutral/thumbs-down on phrases in titles, tags, and the whole feed. Items then end up being green, neutral (grey/yellow) or red (hidden by default). You can view just green or green + neutral.

Training is useful if you like almost everything in a blog, there’s just one or two topics you don’t care about:

It also works wonderfully well for large sites/busy feeds, where you don’t care about 99% of the content but there is 1% you do care about. Now it would be nice if such sites had custom feeds (eg per tag), but I have almost never seen this on large sites. Even tech news sites. Here is how to fix that:

  1. Thumbs-down for the whole feed
  2. Thumbs-up for the topic you care about

Voila:

(That’s from We Work Remotely… I can’t help noting it’s not as good as Stack Overflow Careers, which has feeds per search)

The one above is from xoJane. They don’t use tags/categories in a granular enough fashion to be useful for this purpose. (One of their categories is “Issues”…uh, ok.) But they do use post titles consistently enough to serve as pseudo-categories. So when I am going through my feed, if I see a type of post (like, open thread) that I never want to see again, I right-click on the title, select all/part of it, click thumbs-down, done.

One thing this means is that you probably don’t ever want to do thumbs-up for a whole site, because if you then thumbs-down a particular tag or title, those items will come out neutral (and depending on your settings, you will still read them) rather than red (never see).

Also, in a somewhat voyeuristic fashion, you can see what kind of training other Newsblur users have done on the same feeds! It’s called “Site statistics” (it’s also available in the API):


A couple of other users agree with me, that open threads are boring. :)

Finally, the Newsblur Android app is excellent. You can do training on it (on tags only, not titles). You can switch from feed view to “text view” to get around annoying partial-content feeds without leaving the app. I almost-maybe-even like using it more than the desktop (browser) app, and there is no other desktop-first app that I feel that way about.

There is not many pieces of software that excite me enough for me to actively evangelise them. For reals, you should try Newsblur.

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