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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Following Twitter accounts via RSS

I haven’t missed Twitter that much since deleting my account. The first week or two I missed Moments – but once that subsided I realized that Moments are generally a waste of time. Realtime reporting of most newsworthy events result in ill-informed, unsubstantiated tweets. I’m at a point now where I’d much prefer to get the real story after-the-fact rather than realtime.

There are instances where realtime reporting can be incredibly useful, such as when there is a fire, a traffic accident, or a natural disaster happening. Those tweets can save lives. But, in general, I’m perfectly OK with reading up on the news once or twice daily to see what really happened.

I do miss certain Twitter accounts. Especially those that do not have a blog or web site counterpart that I can follow along through another medium. And since Twitter is still web and developer hostile (meaning their API is far too limited and they don’t support open web distribution technologies like RSS) I’ve missed out on a lot of great content from those Twitter accounts.

So today I went searching around for some RSS feed generators that would use what little access to Twitter they have (presumably the limited API or HTML scraping or both) to create an RSS feed from accounts or hashtags or lists. And there are a number of services out there, some of which you have to pay for, others that toss in some ads, or others that are severely limited.

Then I found Publicate. I’m using Publicate’s Twitter RSS Feed Generator to create a few feeds based on some Twitter accounts I miss the most. You simply type in the URL you want to create a feed from, give them your email address*, and they provide a feed URL. So far it seems to be working. I’ve created a new collection in Feedly to store these feeds. Hopefully I’ll get the tweets I wanted to see most and I won’t have to deal with the drivel and hate I’ve seen on Twitter over the last 18 months. Or even Twitter itself!

* I certainly don’t mind my email address being a form of payment to a company. So I gave it to them. But, if you’re a bit of a hacker it is quite easy to dismiss the overlay, read the page’s source, and grab the feed URL without giving Publicate your email address. I want this tool to stick around so if my email address helps them to keep it up-and-running so be it.

David Mead: “Why is Feedly so hard to use?”

David Mead writes about Feedly:

There seems no way to see all your feeds in one place, and mange them accordingly. Everything has to be a “collection”. Those only show a few on the screen at any one time. So you have to keep expanding and collapsing boxes to make simple changes. It got to the point where I deleted everything (after an OPML export) and started fresh, but that hasn’t been much easier.

Feedly has gotten worse (for me), not better, since I began paying for it a few years ago. I believe the root cause of Feedly getting worse (again, for me) is due to their pushing out the typical RSS nomenclature I prefer for one that is easier to market to the world at large. Ditching subscriptions for follows and hiding RSS feeds behind “collections”, etc. These words are likely easier to understand for people that have never heard of RSS and, in turn, gives Feedly a larger market to grown into. But, that has made Feedly worse for those of us that perfectly well understand what RSS is and like it just the way it is.

For instance, try to find a feed’s URL so that you can edit it in Feedly’s interface. You’ll go mad.

I’m very happy to support a product I use daily and so I continue to pay for it until I find something else. I also report problems to their team over Twitter every time I encounter them (which has been several times). Some of them they’ve addressed, others they’ve said are not an issue.

A good example of something that Feedly chooses to do but that which I’d rather it not is their use of Open Graph tags to pull in an image preview for a link. For feeds like Daring FireballAdactio, or Waxy Links this is maddening. Because they both use DF style links (or, Linklog) they point to external web sites and Feedly loads those preview images. And you cannot turn this off. I’ve reported it more than 4 times but Feedly seems to think this behavior is what they want for their users and so I doubt I’ll see this changed. That is, of course, their prerogative but it is enough to force me to begin looking elsewhere.

If anyone knows of a good cross-platform alternative I’d be happy to start shopping. Perhaps David would too.