Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Review posted to RealSimpleSyndication.com

Feeds make it easier to learn about what you don't know. While there is a lot of talk about the echo chamber of blogs, I find that the RSS feeds of blogs, major media and other sites keep me informed of topics and from a prespective that broadens my world. Even before RSS feeds I was a big fan of mylinks.com for this reason.

For more than a year I've been learning about this world of feeds and about the blogsphere. I've been promoting RSS to friends and co-workers, so they ask me how to get started. For these people I send them a link to web aggregators like Bloglines or FastBuzz.

These web based services allow users to start without having to install software on their machines. Installing software is too hard, especially in the corporate, locked down Windows world, so a web service is perfect. Getting started on either of these services is easy, but most people prefer the usability of Bloglines. These services are still not as easy as mylinks.com, but still a place to start and a good place to maintain an account.

For more advanced users and for myself, I use FeedDemon. While it is not free, it is worth the shareware fee. I enjoy a well designed piece of software and Nick Bradbury has an elegant design with FeedDemon, so I highly recommend trying the trial version.

FeedDemon is a desktop aggregator that installs on your windows computer. With hundreds of preloaded feeds, it is easy to get started and learn about what you don't know. Like all good desktop aggregators, it intergrates with a web browser, so I'm creating this review while browsing in FeedDemon. Using the built in browser to surf, it makes it very easy to subscribe to new feeds and to seamlessly switch between the RSS and web world. Like all good software, I keep finding new features and uses for getting the most out of my feeds. I've tried over twenty other programs (like browser toolbars) and FeedDemon remains my recommendation. While I use FeedDemon everyday, it has not yet reached Tivo status but with each revision it is getting there.

Having praised two aggregators, I still don't believe we have seen the best. To start, I am extremely concerned about a growing number of desktop RSS programs requiring feed owners to pay for increasing bandwidth. Desktop aggregators allow you to work offline, speed and flexibility. Web aggregators allow you to go on vacation and not miss any feeds. In addition, you can access them from home, work, laptop or your sister's computer. So both have their strengths and weaknesses. I think the best will be a desktop program that pulls in feeds from a web service, allows panel and mixed displays, works as smart as my Tivo and is as easy to get started with as mylinks.com.

Regardless of how you start, feeds will change your use of the internet.

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