The imminent demise of Google Reader has caused me to immediately move on. While many Reader users have migrated to other hosted sites like Feedly and Newsblur, I decided to install my own version of the open source Tiny Tiny RSS reader. This is in part because I don’t use mobile devices for reading RSS much, so I needed something that I could access via the Web without having to synchronize it. Also, I decided that my reliance on RSS for information meant I should host my own, to avoid being blown about by corporate whims.
The basics of Tiny Tiny RSS are that you create your account – you can have multiple accounts, so it would be great for a research team or a law firm that had a couple of RSS devotees – and import your RSS feeds. Tiny Tiny then starts to monitor those feeds and update based on your preferences. This is all automated in the background and you use a Web browser to access the RSS reader portion of the site.
Customize Your Environment
There are a couple of ways you can customize a Tiny Tiny RSS installation. The first is with plugins. These are included in the basic installation, but there are also additional third party plugins you can use. These create the additional functionality that Google Reader had, like sending an RSS item to Twitter, for example. Lawyers might be particularly interested in the plugin that enables sending directly to Evernote. Basics, like sending to e-mail or sharing a link with others, are built-in. I am running my site for my personal use, but it is easy to imagine a marketing or research team using Tiny Tiny and sharing posts to the rest of their company. Since it’s all part of Tiny Tiny, it’s not like just releasing information out using e-mail or social media.
You can also theme or skin the RSS reader. This requires a bit of cascading style sheet (CSS) knowledge or you can go to the Tiny Tiny RSS forums and find themes that others have created. The coming versions of the server will have a themes folder but you can customize the look by cut-and-paste if you find a theme you want to try. You can see my initial fooling around with this, adding some color (oranges, yellows, blues) to the interface. The widescreen view is similar to most other RSS readers, although you can toggle it so that the posts appear below your feed list.
Subscribing with Tiny Tiny RSS and Firefox
One of the things that was not obvious to me was how to subscribe to new RSS feeds. You can import your old feeds (OPML or XML format) without a problem. But when you click on a new feed, you are prompted to save it to your current RSS reader. On Firefox, it defaults to Live Bookmarks. I had been accustomed to having the RSS feed sent directly to Google Reader, which then imported it.
In the Tiny Tiny RSS preferences, you can select the Feeds tab and click on Firefox integration. If you click the button that says Click here to register this site as a feed reader, it will cause Firefox to include Tiny Tiny RSS in the drop down list of RSS feeds when you attempt to subscribe. You can also make it the default RSS reader if you prefer.
If you read your feeds from more than one computer, you need to set up Firefox again on each computer. This is not a configuration change that appears to be synchronized. Visit your Tiny Tiny RSS site, login and visit your preferences and click the button. Although you’re saving RSS feeds from more than one computer, they are all funneling into your one profile.
I started off this post talking about how I am not really interested in mobile. And I’m not. But Tiny Tiny RSS does now have two Android apps, one by the official Tiny Tiny developer and one by another fellow. I haven’t done a feature set comparison but grabbed the free version (natch) of one to see how it worked. Since Tiny Tiny RSS has an API, once you have enabled access to that (through your preferences), the app will grab the latest information from your profile.
There is really nothing that I had in the Google Reader environment that I am unable to do with Tiny Tiny. In fact, I feel as though I’ve gone back in time about 3 years to when Google Reader still retained a lot of the functionality that was stripped out in the Google+ roll out, which also crippled most of the really good Reader extensions in Google Chrome. The open source nature of Tiny Tiny means that I can create a theme and potentially contribute back to the community, and the developer has documented creating plugins as well, so there’s really no reason that any functionality that users want can’t be added. Who knows, perhaps even I can try a plugin!