Thursday, November 6, 2014

Feedly vs Inoreader, my thoughts (part 2)


Note: This is Part 2 in my humble series, as I agonize over whether to commit to Feedly or Inoreader as my RSS reader of choice. See Part 1Part 3Part 4, and Part 5 if you're interested. 

Revisiting Feedly vs. Inoreader


It's been a few months since my last post on this topic, so I thought I'd revisit these two fine products. I think I'll just cut to the chase this time:

While I like that Feedly has upped its search features for free users, Inoreader continues to innovate also, doing things I've really wanted to see in a feed reader. For me, two things have stuck out since last time: difficulty parsing smaller feeds, and Twitter integration.

Issue 1 : Smaller feeds : The case of r/Lubuntu


I'm a big fan of Reddit, but a bigger fan of RSS. So it's not surprising that I subscribe to multiple Reddit RSS feeds. I peruse them in my feed reader, and if I care to see (or make) a comment, I click-through to the Reddit thread itself. Normally, this works great on both Feedly and Inoreader. No problems.

But, for smaller subreddits, it becomes an issue. Here's an example. I'm a huge fan of Lubuntu, so naturally I subscribe to the r/Lubuntu RSS feed. Here's what it looks like:
Raw feed data for r/Lubuntu, in Firefox
I'm showing you this because, have a look at this raw feed data for r/Lubuntu (as displayed here in Firefox). Notice the most recent entries, the latest being 11/06/2014 10:12 AM. That's just a few hours ago.

Now, let's compare how r/Lubuntu looks in both Feedly and Inoreader. I took all these screen-shots just minutes ago:

r/Lubuntu on Feedly
Here you can see that, even after a few page refreshes, Feedly's articles for this feed are wildly out of date, the last being 162 days old. At some point, it seems Feedly just stopped polling this feed. That's a problem, as it means I missed over a hundred days of posts.

Notice also that I'm not the only RSS subscriber for this feed: 5 others are presumably having the same issue. OK, so we're not a huge contingent by any means, but I think one of the joys of RSS is not having to worry that we're missing articles. We know that each and every post will show up in our reading list. If items start going missing, and we have to visit the site itself just for updates, then it defeats the point of RSS.

Now let's see what it looks like in Inoreader:

r/Lubuntu on Inoreader
Here you can see that even the most recent post, along with each and every other recent post, is accounted for. Compare these posts to the raw feed data, and you'll see everything at it should be. Inoreader blows Feedly out of the water in this example. For reliability, I have to give it to them.

Note that Inoreader has alerted me to something wrong with this feed. Unfortunately, I can't share with you what that is. I refreshed the page, and the error disappeared. Checking the "Feed Info" (a nice option, missing in Feedly) no longer indicates any error. I've spent a few minutes unsubscribing/resubscribing, trying to recreate the error, but no luck. Note also that, in clicking the manual feed "refresh" icon, Inoreader polls Reddit immediately (and this info is reflected in the feed info section). Feedly, meanwhile, appears to have removed their feed refresh icon from the gear menu.

So, it's possible that Feedly is suffering from whatever issue it was that Inoreader had faced. Yet it's hard to argue with the results: Inoreader's got the items there, Feedly doesn't.

If you read Part 1 of this series, you'd know that this unreliability with smaller feeds was an issue for me several months ago. I have to admit, I have noticed better performance with Feedly since then on many of the problematic feeds. This was just one example of an area where Inoreader wins overall. The real trouble, to me, is that I can't be sure which of my Feedly feeds aren't updating or aren't working, short of manually opening each and every feed in Feedly, then opening the raw feed, and comparing dates. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Issue 2 : Twitter Integration


I don't think I need any screen-shots for this (though you can see my Twitter feed just visible there in the shot above), and it's quite self-explanatory, so I'll be as brief as possible. I absolutely love that Inoreader has integrated Twitter into the normal feed stream. Feedly had that side-bar Twitter integration, which felt, to me, very cluttered and distracting. I shut it off ages ago and never bothered to turn it back on.

Before Twitter changed their API, I had subscribed to most Twitter accounts via RSS. When the API changed and public RSS feeds were removed, I felt a hole in my consumption habit. One of the beauties of RSS is that it brings everything together, in a simple, uniform style. I think Inoreader hit the mark very well with their integration, treating my Twitter Home Timeline as a feed.

I think the only way it could be improved is if each person I follow's tweets were arranged into their own "feed" and my Home Timeline (or even better, my Twitter Lists) were treated as a feed group or "Folder".

Final thoughts 


Honestly, I still haven't chosen a single reader, and keep floating between the two. I'm very happy that Feedly has added mobile tagging (and I can view my tagged articles on mobile, which to me personally is more important than the act of tagging). But Inoreader's steady stream of adding new features, with G+ support recently added, has had me hooked for the last few days.

Both are great services with great products. This post isn't meant to disparage anyone. If anything, I hope it draws attention to a few issues I think are important in the world of RSS feed readers. And anyway, I'm just one guy with a shitty little blog. What do I know?

Thanks for reading, and for more of my comparisons, see this series Part 1Part 3Part 4, and Part 5 if you're interested. 

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