Friday, June 16, 2017

Feed Readers for Organizing Webcomics, Resources

Want to keep all your comics, blogs, Youtube channels, and more in one handy place?  Want to just open ONE APP on your computer or phone and be able to get caught up on everything that happened in the week?

Well, my friend, you should check out FEED READERS.

Feed readers are a great way to stay up to date on your favorite comics, and to follow blogs, resources, and inspiration that you enjoy!  Many readers come with a mobile version, so if you prefer to do your reading while on the go, feed readers can help keep updates at your finger tips.  Feed readers beat bookmarking, since you can access your favorite reads from any computer or device that allows you to log in an updated stream.

Almost all updates for Ink Drop Cafe, listed in one place for easy catch up.

Years ago, I wrote about using Google Reader to organize your blogs and comics into a handy, easy to read list.  Unfortunately, Google Reader has been abandoned (RIP), but feed readers are seeing a resurgence amongst webcomic fans, especially as sites such as Tapastic are coming under fire for recent TOS changes.

Most feed reader services offer similar features, and all should allow you to:
  • Add most webcomics to your feed reader for easy updates, and easy binge reading
  • Add blogs to your feed reader so you can stay up to date with comic news, tutorials, resources, and job opportunities
  • Add Youtube channels to your feed reader- don't rely on Youtube's faulty notification system to let you know when your favorite creators have updated
Things you probably can't add to your RSS feed (without jumping through hoops):
  • Twitter accounts or Lists
  • Instagram accounts
What if you want to follow a site that doesn't have an RSS feed? There are RSS feed creators which work decently.

Webcomic artists looking to shift your audience away from Tapastic: Please feel free to share this post with your audience, especially if you'd like to facilitate mobile browsing of your comic.

Today we're going to demonstrate two of the many feed readers available, Feedly and Newsblur.  Both have mobile apps that allow you to read on the go, as well as browser based apps which allow you to read at any computer. 

This post was sponsored by Ink Drop Cafe, the creator's collective.  Check us out, sample our fantastic selection of webcomics and our wonderful affiliate resources.  To keep up to date, I've linked the OPML file that contains most member and affiliate projects at the bottom of this post.


Feedly

Feedly.com

Interface for new Feedly Account:


Adding new seeds:

You can just type the URL in, and Feedly will search for an RSS feed.


Creating a Collection:

To help keep your comics and blogs organized. 

Possible organization styles:
By genre
By Collective
By use
By artist


Adding feeds to a collection:


Adding blogs:


Adding Youtube channels:


Adding comics:




Exporting your OPML file (the aggregate file of all your feeds) to share with friends or on another feed reader service.





Pros:
  • Super easy to use
  • Can use a Feedly account, your Google account, or your FB account
  • Can follow blogs, comics, websites, Youtube channels
  • Only need to search the URL, don't even need the RSS link

Cons:
  • Has become extremely limited now that they have paid options like Pro and Team
  • A bit convoluted

NewsBlur

Newsblur is a fantastically simple feed reader built and maintained by developer/designer Samuel Clay. I have a paid account, because I want to support development, but the free tier is only restricting by updating feeds every 2 hours or so. Otherwise sites are polled depending on the average rate of their updates.

The majority of my internet usage is through RSS feeds—so finding a functional, available RSS reader was tantamount after Google Reader was deprecated. I personally prefer Newsblur, but people have different needs. Newsblur may not be the best reader for image or audio-based updates for instance.


The split view is default. It allows you to scroll through a list of updates, of either all your feeds, a folder of feeds, or an individual feed without having to see the entire update. You can choose to display all feeds or only entries you haven't read. The sidebar lists the number of unread updates per site and the entire application can be navigated via keyboard shortcuts. The layout is intuitive, simple, responsive, and customizable.


Adding a feed is as simple as right clicking on a folder, selecting add site, then either typing the name or pasting the RSS/Atom feed url.


Newsblur also has a training option which allows you to treat your RSS feeds a bit like a social network. If you're subscribed to more feeds than you have time to read, spending time to train on a good update will help Newsblur show you more like it. I don't personally use this feature since the majority of my reading is from a dozen or so sites.





Speaking of social network features, Newsblur has commenting and personal-blog features. My first reaction to this was that I didn't want yet another social network; but as I read some comments, and maybe it's just the sites I follow, I found the community was like-minded, interesting, and courteous. It's convenient to comment directly in the RSS reader rather than going to the site, signing in, and completing a CAPTCHA to comment there. The audience is different between the two strangely enough.

All-in-all, I think Samuel Clay, through his design decisions and possibly marketing, has built a community worth interacting with. I encourage anyone using the service to read comments and to comment themselves.


A simple list-based alternate view to split.
 
Original content alternate view to split, depending on the complexity of the site, this doesn't always work right, but may provide a better experience if RSS feeds are restricted to just titles or truncated content.

A text-based view for sites which have ads overflowing their RSS feeds. You probably won't need this.
 
A tile-based view similar to Pinterest. Great for image-based content.
By far, the app I use on my phone the most is my RSS Reader. I got a smartphone eight years ago so I could have an RSS reader on-the-go (though GPS and tethering were reasons enough). The app is free and works well on even older Android devices; I assume it works even better on iOS since Clay is more of an Apple guy.

I didn't feel like screen shotting my phone, so this is courteous of the Google Play store.
Finally, and certainly unique to Newsblur, Clay hand-crafts wooden bluetooth remotes which are compatible with Apple products and Newsblur as well as many other applications. I personally wanted to get one of these beautiful remotes, but lack of support for Windows or Linux would make it virtually useless for me other than as an ornament.

Image courteous of Samuel Clay, the remote runs around $70 and works with a variety of applications.
Pros:
  • Simple interface.
  • Allows multiple views of content saved per site.
  • Free tier of site and app is ad-free.
  • Can import/export OPML files to migrate between services.
  • Good social features.
  • Hosted in multiple locations through Amazon Web Services, so it has phenomenal up-time.
  • Creator responsive to bugs and technology advances.
  • Nifty remote for simple navigation.

Cons:
  • Have to pay for premium tier for near-real time RSS feeds such as shopping websites. (is this really a con?)
  • If connection is lost, sidebar can sometimes desync; and if there are no updates, but the sidebar believes there are, it will scan through the entire RSS history forever and consume a ridiculous amount of clock cycles. I believe I've submitted a bug report for this, but I can't recall and likely won't happen if you don't leave Newsblur open 24/7.

Errata

Here's the RSS link for this blog:
Here's the RSS link for 7" Kara:

Here's the in progress Ink Drop Cafe OPML file (a list of RSS links, packaged so you can easily load it into your reader), including our wonderful affiliated blogs!

RSS 2.0 and Atom for the purposes of a general user are the same thing.

In addition to web comics, RSS feeds are great for tracking time sensitive things:
  • Shopping sale info: eBay search results, Craigslist search results, and Slickdeals.
  • Local events: Eventbrite, Facebook groups, Songkick, Meetup, local venues, and government-sponsored events.
  • Job sites: Monster, indeed, Craigslist, Dice, and Freelancer.