"Why is my RSS reader still stupid?"
- Me, March 2021
Does your feed reader still only show you the feeds you put in? (Where are the smart suggestions?!)
Does your feed reader make no distinction between that insightful blog which posts one awesome post per week, and the news feed with 100 (mostly useless) posts per day?
Why have many services gotten smarter, but are feed readers still so… basic?
My experience with other services has shown me that there is a better way to deal with a large stream of news.
You don't throw it all together under an "Unread" header and call it a day. (It makes the noisy news drown out the blog posts!)
You prioritize the things which you are most likely to want to read now.
Afraid you'll miss out on quality posts on new blogs? You need smart suggestions that introduce you to new ones.
You want to group multiple headlines covering the same topic, to get different perspectives (or simply to dismiss them all).
Would you like to occasionally re-read a classic iconic article, or be reminded of an article which was on your own mind for days when you read it a few years ago?
If you're nodding along to this, then you and I share a frustration.
Separate long-form blog posts from high-volume news feeds
Reading a long-form blog post requires a similar mindset as reading a book: you are focused on understanding the point the author is trying to make so you can learn something.
By contrast, skimming news feeds is more like panning for gold: if you're lucky there are a few interesting things hidden in the stream.
So… why don't we design a separate interface for each type of post?
Keep a more traditional news reading experience for long-form blog posts, but change the way we deal with high-volume news.
Processing news is about skimming headlines. Often the headline is all you need. Sometimes you want to read the article. Usually you don't care.
A feed reader needs an interface where you can see a number of headlines, select the few you want to read, and then discard the rest with one click. This way you are not confronted with the 1000+ unread "posts" in your news folder, but only see the ones you want to make time for.
Smart grouping of semi-related headlines could help identify which headlines are more important than others, as might some biases based on headlines you've decided to keep in the past. If you make the choices, why not use that to improve your experience?
Just keep scrolling for more
Reddit and Facebook have trained me that I can always keep scrolling for more content. Regardless of your opinions about the companies, the concept is nice. In stark contrast, my feed reader actually runs out of interesting new things to show me.
I'd like my feed reader to have infinite scrolling and intelligently give me more interesting things to read.
Make it easy to subscribe to blogs linked to from the ones you already follow. Maybe mix in a post or two as a suggestion so you can try before you subscribe.
Timing is everything
Early in the day I sit down with a cup of coffee and want to catch up on what happened in the world. This is not the best time to show me that 10-page blog post about some obscure design trick, simply because it's the newest article in my feed. I'd like to start with some lighter reading and then, once I'm caught up, the longer posts are more than welcome.
A feed reader should understand what types of content there are, and try to show them when appropriate.
Some posts don't "click" with you when they appear in your feed. It is not always the poor post's fault! Maybe the timing is off; if you've been writing code all day, that post about writing a better proposal simply does not suit your state of mind.
It's nice to be able to dismiss a post with a reminder to have it re-appear later.
Introducing: Infinity Feed
I found myself wishing for a better solution for all of this. So I started building it. The result is Infinity Feed. It's already replaced my old feed reader for me. I hope you'll find it equally useful.
Infinity Feed is named after its core feature: an infinite feed of blog posts. Keep scrolling and more will automatically load for you. The key is in how it uses intelligent rules to show you the unread blog posts it thinks you'll want to read.
When you start your day, you'll see new short to medium length posts you can read while drinking your coffee. Then you might see some news headlines to sort through. Once you've finished your coffee, it's time to diversify the things to read. Maybe it's time for a longer post? Perhaps there's a post on a blog you don't yet follow that's getting so much attention that it's suggested to you to read. You might like it so much that you subscribe to the blog with one click. After you've read most newer content, you'll start seeing some suggestions from the archives of blogs you follow to check out some old, but not outdated, posts.
A key feature is the separation of news from blog posts, because news requires special handling. This prevents news from drowning out regular posts. In fact, Infinity Feed tries to correlate lower posting frequency with a higher priority to show it to you.
Quality of life improvements over regular feed readers include one-click subscription to blogs which are mentioned in the articles you read. This helps you explore new sources of information and save you time. Win-win!
Smart suggestions to discover new blogs
Smart suggestions are a catch-all term for showing you articles you did not ask for, but which you will appreciate. Sources can include: posts on blogs that have recently been linked to in your feed, posts enjoyed by folks with similar preferences as you, and posts popular on other media such as Reddit, Twitter and Hacker News. Infinity Feed tries to do all of this without turning into a full web spider.
You can leave notes for your future self on each article you read. This can help you clarify your thoughts, form the basis for your own blog post or a thank you to the author. If the article comes back in the future as a suggested classic, these notes will be a nice reminder of what you thought in the past.
A back catalog worth reading
Have you ever subscribed to a blog after reading a really good timeless post from years ago? Were you slightly disappointed that their new posts were not like that? The problem with subscribing to the feed now is that you usually only get to see the last ten posts, instead of the timeless classics you subscribed for. Infinity Feed attempts to crawl a feed's website and find all those old posts as well. The popular ones will occasionally appear as suggested reads.
What about monetization?
I don't like how a lot of products are offered for "free", but then make you pay by selling your data and privacy to advertisers. That's why I simply charge money and don't need to get into the messy business of selling your privacy.
There's a 30 day free trial, with no credit card required.
This is a self-funded project, so there is no investor pressure, no need for hockeystick growth curves and no need for an exit by selling the service. My goal is to make the service self-sustainable, so I can scale down my consulting hours and spend more time on it. Once there are enough paying customers to be self-sustainable, I'd like to responsibly expand the team and treat them well.
Why is this a web-based service?
Servers are always on and available. They fetch feeds while your computer and phone are asleep. This helps us catch all news, especially on high frequency feeds. Infinity Feed can crunches data once, and perform a lot of analysis in the background, so suggestions are ready for you when you start reading.
You benefit from the wisdom of the crowds. Anonymous metrics gathered across all customers helps power our suggestions.
Should I worry about my privacy?
Nope! This product is not offered for "free", so you're not paying with your data. The GDPR even prevents Infinity Feed from gathering, abusing or reselling your data against your wishes. Because you are a paying customer, we have no need to sell your data. Your data is yours. We simply track anonymous metrics (such as the number of subscribers to a blog, and how many people like an article) to determine what's popular and thus what might be useful for you to read. No data ever leaves our servers for questionable reasons.
What's it worth?
As a consultant, my clients pay me for my knowledge and expertise. Reading blogs is an important way for me stay on top of my game. They help me discover new tools, learn new techniques, and warn me about problems I can run into. This saves me time and thus increases the value I deliver for the hours I do work.
When Infinity Feed helps me to find new and interesting things to read, it helps me to maintain the value I provide. It could even help me deliver more per hour, so I can start charging more. Even charging €5 more per hour would result in over €800 extra revenue per month. That's close to €10k per year!
If you are also a professional who relies on knowledge to do their job, the same applies to you. Knowing more will make your time more valuable, so you can charge more.
Shut up and take my money!
Infinity Feed plans start at only €100 per year (or €10 per month), and come with a 30 day free trial. By the time your trial is over, Infinity Feed should have earned you its subscription fee. If not, please let me know!
So, what are you waiting for? Ask me for a beta invite!
Wes "Narnach" Oldenbeuving
Creator of Infinity Feed