01581: Goodbye Google Reader, Hello NewsBlur!

Over a month ago, Google announced that it was killing off Google Reader, its RSS feed reader and aggregate effective July 1. There was an initial exodus to various alternative services like Feedly, Flipboard and The Old Reader and naturally a lot of them struggled with the massive influx of new users. Thus since I knew I had a few months, I didn't rush into finding an alternative service.

Fast-forward to earlier today. I loaded my Google Reader as normal to start going through the day's updates but Reader was going weird on me. It was only loading 2 or 3 stories at a time and then I'd have to refresh the entire page for another handful of stories. Whatever the problem was, I knew that Google Reader was definitely in its death throes and things were only going to get worse as July got closer and closer. Google Wave had similar hiccups towards the end of its life.

Coincidentally another good review cropped up for NewsBlur, one of the services that had blipped on my geek radar after the Google announcement. NewsBlur was interesting since it captured a lot of the old functions of the pre-Google+ (and even pre-Google Buzz) version of Reader. Surprisingly, it's only run by one guy - but he's a guy who is pretty passionate about his product given the transparency of his updates as posted on the NewsBlur Twitter page. I've been following the account ever since the initial announcement and I've been consistently impressed with his continued efforts to scale the capacity of his little app and prepare for even more users in the future.

NewsBlur is not a free solution at this point. Initially it was free for users with about 64 feeds if I remember right, but Samuel Clay, the man behind NewsBlur, had to shut that down temporarily given the site couldn't handle the load. The free user level still hasn't returned, which is probably a prudent decision for Samuel. It will take sometime before he has sufficient resources to handle even more users - and you can expect even more folks to migrate closer to the July 1 deadline. I respect his prudence in this regard.

And I'm a pretty heavy feed reader user, so it's not like I was going to trim down my number of feeds to the free level. I joined NewsBlur with over a hundred feeds associated with my Google Reader account. Thus going for the paid app was a no-brainer - and $24 a year really isn't that much in the long run. My landline telephone costs a lot more than that.

The transition was a little bumpy - it took me a few attempts before my feeds were successfully detected and automatically important from Google (although I could have tried the export / import method). Then I had to reorganize my feeds since NewsBlur has a "folder mentality" as opposed to a tag-centric one, so I had to re-sort my stuff with a single tag in mind. But once I had that setup and I had learned the keyboard shortcuts and the additional bells and whistles of the site, things started running like a dream.

I'll post a full review of the service and its mobile app on the Geeky Guide soon since I want to really put this thing through its paces. However I will say this much - NewsBlur's best feature involves its Intelligence Trainer option that allows you to refine further which content form your feeds gets displayed or highlighted. Before you'd have to resort to a service like Yahoo! Pipes in order to trim down your RSS feed results but now you can set parameters directly in NewsBlur. At first it felt weird, but once I had taken the time to "train" all my site feeds, the end result was a streamlined content consumption experience. Absolutely brilliant.

So yes, this is why you die-hard Google Reader users should switch to NewsBlur. Besides, every dollar invested in the app means more features, greater speed and stability and of course food for Samuel's dog, Shiloh. And that's a good thing.
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