Newsblur the Best Replacement for Google Reader (actually, even better)

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  • Updated 6 years ago
I've signed up for and tried all the usual suspects bandied about for replacing Google Reader. Newsblur emerges as by far the best, and better designed in a lot of ways both large and small. (In particular, Newsblur is vastly superior to Feedly, which is often mentioned.)

The only bump in moving from Google Reader is the problem of having to manually sort out feed properties (folder locations and names); for an account with several hundred feeds, that takes some time. But once moved, Newsblur is worth the trouble. (There are remaining problems with Newsblur, but they can easily be seen to be fixable with more hardware and network resources and more development time. The philosophy and design are fine.)

Thanks.
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Robert Gaskins

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Posted 6 years ago

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Björn Malmgren

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I have also done some extensive research concerning a Google Reader replacement, including NewsBlur, Netvibes, The Old Reader, and Feedly. All of these have certain advantages and disadvantages, but I also settled for NewsBlur. Some of its functions, such as the Intelligence Trainer and the various options for Site Settings, are very useful. I wish though that these settings would be reflected in the Android app, which they are obviously not at the present time. You mention that you had to manually sort the feeds. I am completely new to NewsBlur, and I have not yet found out how to sort feeds by hand. I have tried to move the feeds around in the feed list, but that doesn't seem to work. How did you do that? I solved the issue by numbering the categories, (1) News, (2) Blogs, (3) Sport etc, and then the feeds within the various categories accordingly, but that is rather tedious. Any suggestion here?

Bjorn Malmgren
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Robert Gaskins

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"Rather tedious," yes indeed; welcome to the "secrets of the great tedium masters". (Actually, I think the secret is that there is no way to manually sort feeds, and that I did it in exactly the same tedious way that you have already worked out, so I have nothing at all to tell you; but just in case ...)

I'm a newbie myself, but the only tool I could discover for deterministically ordering folders and feeds is alphabetization (set under "preferences/general/site sidebar order"). So, as is common in many other programs, one just has to "arrange" for alphabetic order to be correct. Adding lexicographic prefixes such as (1), (2), (3) or !!!, !!, ! is the time-honored trick, going back 50 years, so that alphabetic sorting produces the desired ordering.

In the site sidebar list, right click on a feed gives you a context menu including "Rename this site", so that's how you make the names what you want. Then, within a folder, they will be alphabetic.

In the same context menu, there is also "Move to folder", which lets you reassign a feed from its one-and-only-one folder location to a different location. If you really want a feed to appear in more than one folder (very convenient on Google Reader), then you need to create a duplicate feed in each folder.

Both the renaming and the moving sometimes appear not to work--it's not clear whether the bug is that transactions are really lost, or that sometimes transactions take unrealistically long times to complete. Whichever, it's necessary to refresh the webpage in the browser after every few changes, and if the changes just made are not visible to make them again. This adds greatly to the tedium.

As you say, all this work has to be done in the web app, and after it's done and looks good there, the Android client won't show the same changes. The only way I found to work around this was to uninstall and reinstall the Android client, which brings everything up to date. It's very quick and nothing is lost, so I consider this a practical, if inelegant, temporary work-around.

I agree that Newsblur, in its design, dominates all the Google Reader alternatives you list and others besides. Even so, it is clearly not getting its proper share of refugees from GR. I think one reason is the difficulty of the transition. In Feedly, just as an example, owing to a very different set of design decisions a refugee hands in a Google account and appears to get an absolutely perfect import immediately--every feed in place, every name the same, every feed in one or multiple folders, and even two-way syncing with Google Reader for running in parallel while deciding whether to make the change. (The danger of the design decisions making that possible is not visible.) Even feeds which have "died" in GR have their corpses imported, with no mention that they were not working any more--a good decision, no red flags during import, plenty of time to fix the feeds later. After the import the experience of using Feedly is very poor, but you appear to be fully imported and ready to go immediately.

By contrast, in Newsblur I first had to repeat the import half a dozen times in order to get all my feeds (about 400), then had to manually rename most of them refreshing after every few changes, then had to manually move each to a different folder (nearly every feed was in the wrong folder because of the one-and-only-one design) refreshing after every few moves, then reinstall the Android client on each of several Android phones and tablets, repeating the reinstalls after every lingering error I'd made was noticed. The whole process took about 12 clock hours.

The problem is that the users most likely to appreciate Newsblur's superiority are those who have a lot of feeds, who care about how they are presented, who can take advantage of the alternative presentation modes--and yet these users are the ones who meet a very stiff wall to climb in order to really see how Newsblur will work for them, and very likely won't have the time to deal with it.

As a business decision, there's only a month left before GR shuts down and the refugee rush is over; soon enough the only transition experience will be opening Google Takeout archives. At that point it will be a long competition of quality and performance, and Newsblur should do well.
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Björn Malmgren

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Thanks for a very comprehensive answer to my question, I appreciate hearing your general opinion about NewsBlur also. I don't have as many feeds as you have, "just" a little over one hundred, and I have found that my simple way of sorting, (1), (2), (3) for the categories, and the same for the feeds withing each category, works fine and is transferred correctly to the Android tablet that I am using even without having to resort to logging out/logging in, or uninstalling/reinstalling the app. The sorting doesn't seem to work on the desktop for some reason though, but that doesn't matter much to me, since I read the news on the Android device most of the time. It would certainly be an asset to NewsBlur if the feeds could be moved around freely on the desktop as in several of the other NewsBlur alternatives.
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Peter Foldi

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I also found NewsBlur the best GR successor out there after some research.
One comment about the "Feedly does a better job with GR move": Feedly indeed does a much better job, but that's because they don't transfer anything: Feedly is basically just a front-end to the GR services! Actually they should work hard to make it different :) And it will be a big question how they will perform when GR shuts down and they have to use their own back-end that they don't do yet.
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Samuel Clay, Official Rep

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Robert, I'm not sure when you imported your feeds, but as of the re-design, NewsBlur now emails you when your import is completed (since it can sometimes take up to 60 seconds when you have nearly a thousand sites).
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Samuel Clay, Official Rep

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And Peter, you're absolutely right. They will have to figure out a smooth transition, which is becoming harder to pull off as the clock ticks closer to July 1st.