BlogBridge: Reviewing a new breed of RSS newsreader

Blogbridge: Brief Review

Always in search for a better way to handle my gigantic reading list of RSS feeds, here’s what I recently found which interested me (and probably you too!). Enter BlogBridge, a brand new RSS newsreaders which I think is quite unique. This hybrid app/service feels in-between Bloglines and a full blown RSS newsreader application.

Blogbridge differs from other RSS newsreaders in that it’s a Java app which runs on any platform (Mac, Windows, Linux) straight from a simple web download. Furthermore, after signing up for an account, your feed reading habits are synchronized with your other computers running Blogbridge as well. While this is something Bloglines already handles, BlogBridge is more responsive and offers more views which is essential when dealing with heavy amounts of information. In the web 2.0 space, I’d call this a hybrid between an application and a web service (meaning web 1.5?)

Little nuances include:
1. Neat little frequency chart visually shows how many posts were made for each weekday.

2. The Guides feature is passe, but the blogstarz feature related to it makes sense, since it “recommends” blogs feed which weigh into your preferences (you rate guides with up to 5 stars).

3. Multiple views let’s you adjust how much information you wish to display at one time. Note that under the most summarized view (by title only), clicking on the arrow on the left reveals an excerpt of the post, while clicking on the title bring you to the web page itself in your web browser.

As you can also see, there’s a circle which I marked as “Argh!” That my friends is bad interface design to me, since I have a lot of channels and denying me of a scroll bar but instead a one-by-one guide scroller is way too painful for me. Seriously, I wonder how many feeds an average internet user subscribes to. I’ve hundreds which makes Google Reader and a lot of other services behave inadequately for me.

Major complaint to RSS newsreader developers:
BlogBridge is a fantastically well written Java app, but like most other RSS newsreaders, BlogBridge also doesn’t allow you to quickly glance an entire group/channel/guide full of categorized feeds on one click? On the Mac, NetNewsWire and NewsFire do this right off the bat. On the PC, the only one I found (and am currently using) is GreatNews RSS Reader, which has this feature. Why isn’t this a standard feature?

  • http://www.blogbridge.com Pito Salas

    Hi Kevin, thanks for the comments. While I like the positive ones, the negative ones are always much more useful! If you follow BlogBridge at all you will see that we are moving pretty fast and are quite responsive to feedback. I wanted to ask you two things:

    – we specifically didn’t have a scrollbar because we felt that most users would have 5 or 8 guides and so would almost never need to scroll – so the scroll bar would be mostly inactive and so just eat space. Note that there is a scroll bar to navigate through the long list of Feeds.

    – More importantly, I would like to understand your “major complaint” – if you have the time could you explain it in more detail (please send me a direct email if you like.) Is it a ‘river of news’ model that you are talking about?

    Thanks and please stick with us we are rapidly working on making it better and better!

    p.s. if you are a Mac cult leader how come you ran BlogBridge on a pc ? :-)

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    How sharp of you Pito! The only reason why I am on a PC is because I am on a sexy Sony Vaio. I’ll be going back to my trusty Mac once I’m done with this illicit affair. :P

    I’ll email you this, but I’ll explain this major feature which I think is missing from most RSS newsreaders for the benefit of our blog readers.

    Indeed, the “River of News” is a good analogy of what I mean. There are several reasons to why this is important:

    1. Less clicks to get the big picture (less stress dealing with more feeds)
    2. Democratized information (A-list or average joe blogger appear on same page)
    3. Semiotically speaking, why group feeds when we can group content (which users care more about)?

    If you try NetNewsWire, NewsFire, and GreatNews RSS Reader (in order of best to acceptable implementation), you’ll see how they mash-up feeds that are grouped. This simply means that clicking on my “Apple” group (which contains 25 Apple-related blog feeds), I can view the different news feeds in one scrollable preview pane. NetNewsWire and NewsFire do a fantastic job going a step further by allow users to arrange this grouped feeds to be arrange by most recent (time), feed source (alphabetically), etc.

    I’d go one step further as a information designer to arrange also by a user’s keywords, so articles with the most keywords in them appear top most.

    I hope I explained it well. Once again, thanks for being responsive and above all, great work with BlogBridge. Hope it flies! :)

  • http://naddie.com Nadine

    I’ve never really understood how to use RSS…

    =/

    *muse*

  • http://blog.sivasothi.com Otterman

    Hey Kevin, I tried out BlogBridge briefly in June, when I was investigating blogging tools. In the end, I stuck with NetNewsWire Lite – I use several folders to gather feeds for daily or weekly visits, and I’m a medium, not heavyweight reader.

    Also, it requires a significant improvement or provision of a basic need to make a shift, as re-learning (usually shortcuts) takes time. Probably why Safari is my default instead of Firefox. Prefer the tab and bookmark shortcuts.

    I did introduce BlogBridge to new users, since it is cross-platform, and useful in blogging workshops. PC users don’t feel alienated and it helps to evangelise cross-platform functionality.

    But while geeks love it, it does intimidates newbies. For the lattter, I am now contemplating using Safari/Firefox feeds as a catalyst for their first contact with RSS.

    I did not find a solution for my blogging needs the last time, but will revisit the issue months later. Its fascinating to see what new developments may come to the rescue!

  • http://theory.isthereason.com Kevin

    Nadine: The thing about RSS is… you shouldn’t care about it. If you want to read a lot of blogs but are lazy, then you have the option to use it through an RSS newsreader. Basically a way to “read a lot without traveling much”. :P

    Otterman: I agree with you… NetNewsWire is still the best RSS newsreader I’ve ever used. I started with NewsFire when I had a few feeds, but as my reading list grew, I needed a more hardcore reader and that’s where NetNewsWire fits the bill. If you’re recommending new bloggers to RSS, seriously have them use Bloglines.com . This way, they can the highest accessibility to their feeds (Mac/PC), with a simpler interface for reading. Once their appetite increases, then have them transition to desktop based ones. Just my two-cents. :)