Thu 4/12 Feed a Fever

This weekend I filed my taxes and said goodbye to an old friend. As of March 3rd, 2012 NetNewsWire Lite is no longer available in the Mac App Store, and no longer installed on my computer. The full version of NetNewsWire has recently been updated for Lion with full screen support, and improved Google Reader syncing. I suggest you to give it a try. As for myself I have been using Shaun Inman’s Feverº for the last five months. Slowly but surely I have migrated my RSS workflow from NetNewsWire, a desktop application I have been using for the better part of a decade, to Feverº, a web application I can access from any internet connected computer. The change has been significant.

Install

Fever is not your ordinary web application. You have to install it on a hosted server you control. The system requirements are pretty standard1, but you don’t need command line access to get started. If you have ever installed a web based CMS like Joomla!, or WordPress you can install Feverº. Setup is straight forward. Start by creating an account on http://feedafever.com, and downloading the Feverº compatibility suite. FTP the Fever directory up to your server, and change the permissions on the directory to full read and write access (777). Visit http://yourdomain.com/fever/boot.php in your web browser, and enter your MySQL database connection details as prompted. If your server meets the requirements you will be given a compatibility confirmation code to enter at http://feedafever.com. This code tells Shaun that your server is Feverº compatible, you know what you are doing, and you are ready to purchase. After your payment is processed you will receive an activation code you can use to complete the Feverº installation on your server. Some potential customers might complain the $30 price tag is too high, the purchase process is too difficult, or that Feverº needs a trial period/refund policy. Feverº is a speciality product, and if those are some of your concerns Feverº might not be the right RSS reader for you. It would have been nice to try Fever before you buy, but a self-hosted demo version would contain all of Feverº’s un-obfuscated PHP code and Shaun would lose his shirt. If you are still interested in Feverº after reading this review get a second opinion by reading what my friends Shawn Blanc, and Pat Dryburgh have to say.

Setup

Feverº is not your ordinary feed reader.

Your current feed reader is full of unread items. You’re hesitant to subscribe to any more feeds because you can’t keep up with your existing subs. Maybe you’ve even abandoned feeds altogether.

Fever takes the temperature of your slice of the web and shows you what’s hot.

Unlike traditional aggregators, Feverº works better the more feeds you follow. It does this by making you classify your Feeds into two supergroups, Kindling and Sparks.

Kindling is where you keep your must-reads, certain industry publications, friend’s blogs, project management updates, and family photo feeds.

The majority of the feeds I imported from NetNewsWire Lite using an OPML subscription list became the basis for my Kindling. These are the feeds I read daily, and never miss an article. Feverº preserves the groups I created in your old newsreader and lets me create new groups with specific views tailored to each group.

Sparks is where you keep your occasionals, the more superfluous hit or miss feeds. Sparks serve to compound and amplify the items in your Kindling that are likely to interest you.

The remaining high-volume feeds from NetNewsWire became the basis of my Sparks. As a NetNewsWire user I could never subscribe to sites like Engadget, The Verge, The Next Web, or Macworld because I would quickly become overwhelmed with reading material. Feverº looks at common links in my Sparks and sends Hot Topics boiling to the top. It doesn’t matter how many Sparks I subscribe to, Feverº knows what’s hot.

Use

I use Feverº to follow the news in two different ways. First I read all of my Kindling just like I would on a conventional newsreader. I control how my feeds are ordered, how content is displayed, and the appearance of unread counts in all of my groups. Feverº includes keyboard shortcuts and mouse free navigation. I can choose to Mark as Read, Save, Blacklist, or send to Instapaper, Email, Delicious, or Twitter all with a few simple keystrokes. The Feverº interface makes it easy to hide superfluous feeds, and previously read content so nothing gets in the way of what I want to read.

The second way I follow the news using Feverº is by using the Hot View.

Feverº scans your feeds and identifies links of interest. Temperatures based on the optimum human body temperature of 98.6º Fahrenheit are assigned to links determined by the amount of relinking and discussion they generate. All the items that point to, or talk about the hot links are aggregated so you don’t miss out on the range of opinions and reactions.

The more feeds I follow the more informed Feverº is about the stories that interest me, the more influential the story the higher the temperature. The Hot View is a great way to look over the most influential stories of the past day, week, or month, especially if I was away from a computer during that time.<

After giving up on Google it has been a challenge to maintain a consistent newsreader environment across multiple platforms without the aid of Google Reader Sync. Although it is possible to sync NetNewsWire across multiple Macs using Dropbox, this leaves mobile RSS reading out of the loop. Web based news readers often lack the consistency and OS integration of their desktop based competitors, but Feverº does a good job of including the most valuable desktop features like OPML import/export, automatic updates, keyboard shortcuts, mouse free navigation, and integration with popular web based services. For mobile users there is a specially designed web view tailored for the iPhone and iPod Touch.2 For Mac OS X desktop users looking to break free from their browsers, Feverº integrates with the single-site browser factory Fluid.3 Feverº might not have all the features or polish of NetNewsWire, but unlike Google Reader it is a platform I control, with a public API developers can use to extend its potential. If you are the kind of person who wants to control your newsreader experience, or who needs a helping hand sorting through your feeds, Feverº might be the right RSS reader for you.


  1. Fever requires a Unix-like server (no Windows/IIS) running Apache, PHP 4.2.3+ (preferably compiled with mbstring and GD with PNG support) and MySQL 3.23+. 

  2. Feverº can overcome iOS’s multitasking limitations with a carefully crafted cron job that refreshes feeds in the background so you don’t have to wait. curl -L -s http://yourdomain.com/fever/?refresh 

  3. The total number of unread items is updated in the Dock in real-time.