Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

RSS on the go

Reading this comment by Dave gave me an idea for a cool feature that I’d like to see some desktop RSS aggregators like FeedDemon to adopt: remote access.
Desktop aggregators are great as they have a nice interface and can work independent of a web browser. But unlike web-based services like Bloglines, they’re not easy to use on the move – if you’re not using your machine then it can be difficult to keep track of what you’ve read. You could find an aggregator that fits on a USB keychain but if you’re in an internet cafe that won’t let you plug those in then you’re stuck.
Remote access, to some extent, solves this. It builds on a feature implemented in P2P clients like eMule and Shareaza, which allows you to administer the client via a web interface in addition to using the desktop interface. This works by the client including a small web server and opening a port on your computer which you can then access from other machines (providing your computer is switched on and has an active internet connection). So, say I have Shareaza running on this computer with remote access enabled – I can then go into university, find a computer, type in my laptop’s IP address and port number for Shareaza’s remote access feature into a web browser, and then login. Once there, I’d be able to see how my transfers were progressing and even do searches and start new transfers through my laptop. And when I got home, those transfers may well have finished. That’s all currently possible.
Now, imagine FeedDemon had this feature. I could go into university, find a computer, type in my laptop’s IP address and port number for FeedDemon’s remote access feature in a web browser, and then login. Once there, I could read the all the feeds I was subscribed to, update channels and add new feeds. And when I got home, the feeds I had read would show up as being read.
I don’t believe any aggregators support that yet but it would be an excellent feature to add, since it would combine the convinience of a desktop aggregator with the ability to read feeds anywhere that a web-based aggregator has.
I’ll Lazyweb this post, just so that it can attract attention.

10 Comments

  1. I suppose you could write a script yourself which acts as an RSS aggreator, runs on your webspace (with cache facilities – so it only updates each feed when you want it to be) and then produces an “uber-RSS feed” and/or a web page as necessary. Full web based configuration and since you don’t need a direct RSS aggreator to view it, you can read the headlines of all your major feeds from any web browser on any platform (even mobile phones).
    Hmmm – that’s a programming project for you Neil ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. [More in response to the previous comment]
    There are web-based things like http://www.planetplanet.org/ which runs http://planet.mozilla.org/ and http://feedhouse.mozillazine.org/ which I must admit I’m now switching too, rather than using FeedDemon.

  3. Richy, isn’t that just Bloglines?

  4. No need to dream of an aggregator like that Richy. I’ve been using feed on feeds for ages! It’s great. I get access to my RSS feeds in Work/College/Home

  5. Yep I’ve been thinking about this problem I had with Feeddemon and not being able to carry it around. I do use Shareaza and the web access feature is indespensible ! Perhaps Nick will see this post and implement the features !

  6. Richy, Dave M, Dave… I think what Neil is wanting is the ability to use the *same* feeds both in the aggregator and online without having to update it twice.
    Am I right?

  7. Why use an aggregator then if you want it synchronised across multiple computers? I must agree that bloglines is absolutely perfect for me, I can keep my read feeds synchronised across the four computers I regularly use. What does FeedDemon offer that Bloglines doesn’t?

  8. Ciaran’s right. 99% of the time the desktop aggregator is fine, but if I’m without this machine and want to catch up with my feeds, it’s a little difficult.
    Email is another example – at home, I’d use a POP3 account to save my mail, but if I was on the move and needed to check my email I’d like a Webmail interface to view it.

  9. I’ve been thinking a bit about this.
    I think what would be best is not to have remote access, as that opens up all sorts of security issues. Instead, build into the aggregators a function to keep your list in the aggregator and your list in something like Bloglines in sync.
    In other words, the services would still be separate – you could use either one without worrying about the other – but you could easily keep your lists in sync from the aggregator. So if you add a URL in Bloglines, next time you sync up it’ll add it in your aggregator, and vice versa.
    How’s this?

  10. …or of course, the alternative could be to have the aggregator just be a front-end to the web-based service, which would also solve the problem.