Snarf down this white label RSS aggregator

Ever want your own RSS reader with your own feeds? Why would you want to do that? Well, to control what your readers see. And also to get a reader out there that has your own brand on it. I think I’ll load this on my dad’s computer so he can see my feeds.

Anyway, the reader is Snarfer.

Here’s one they created for me
(this is an EXE/application that you load if you have Windows).

I can see a lot of uses for this. It’s a nice, competent, RSS aggregator — three pane style. It won’t make me give up Google Reader, but for doing a custom thing this is pretty interesting.

Digging an elite news source

Dave Winer has a great post about the next step in Digg clones.

This is something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about too.

What makes a great selection of links? Does it take a million people? Or only a handful.

I’ve been comparing my link blog to TechMeme and Digg and others enough to know that my links are pretty darn interesting. But there are times when I fall down on the job. When Milan is smiling at me, for instance. Or when I have chores. Or, when I have to speak, like I’m doing this morning at San Francisco State University, or with a bunch of journalists and famous VC’s on Wednesday night at a PRSA shindig in Silicon Valley.

One app in Facebook, FeedHeads, taught me that a small number of people can really pick some killer things. But one problem: that app is often down for me and I find I don’t trust it and it’s not fast like TechMeme is, so I usually default back to TechMeme.

The top shared item view in FeedHeads, though, is really much faster than Digg or TechMeme to get cool stuff up on it. Something about it is really intriguing.

Steve Gillmor has talked with me a lot about this, too. He’s noticed that if he chooses the news reading behaviors of only a handful of people that he can get much better results than if he has a larger group.

Why is that?

I think it’s because we like our news focused. So if we find a news junkie who thinks like us we’ll find that person to have high utility. If you put him in a group of other people his utility will go down and the noise we’ll have to slog through to find a good set of articles that interest us will go up.

That sure explains Digg and its problems to me. I used to love Digg. Now it’s just a stream of noise that largely duplicates what’s coming through my feed reader.

Google Reader tells me that over the past 30 days I’ve read 39,712 items and shared 1,045 items. The thing is that’s probably only about half of the good items cause I can’t read around the clock and have other things to do than just read feeds.

So, lets say I hooked up with five other people who picked the same kinds of items. We could hit nearly 100% of the feeds that I read (and we could add some other feeds). Five people could beat TechMeme. Why? TechMeme is slow. I often put stuff on my link blog before TechMeme gets it. If we had a team reading feeds around the clock we’d regularly beat TechMeme or Google News or Digg or Reddit or TailRank.

And we’d have less noise. At least if you liked the things the five of us pick. If you don’t, then Digg will look better to you.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I’m looking forward to seeing what Dave Winer does in this space. There certainly is a lot of great stuff that doesn’t get proper attention on sites like TechMeme, Digg, etc. If this effort helps great stuff get more people to read it, I’m all for it.

Question: what do you think about Digg or TechMeme or Google News or other news aggregation sites? What are you hoping to see?

Amazon does yet another thing Microsoft wanted to do (my April Fools turns out to be true)

Newsweek has the scoop. I’m held by NDA until tomorrow.

But, I know that the Sony Reader was an object of Bill Gates’ attention. He wanted to do one of his own. It’s maddening to me that Microsoft hasn’t been able to turn its Tablet PC team into a team that can build a world-class device like this.

All I’ll say until tomorrow is you gotta try this device. It’s not perfect, but for long-form reading it is a wonderful device. I am going to buy one of my own. It’d really be great to have on our trip to Europe for the plane ride next month cause my Mac’s batteries only last two hours each (I have two of them) and the flight is 10 hours.

Oh, and you should go back and read my April Fool’s joke on April 1 of this year. In that joke I predicted a device that almost matches Amazon’s new reader almost word-for-word.

The comments there are HILLARIOUS to read in comparison to today’s news. Here’s some of the funnier ones:

JR writes: “This is so implausible that you should have waited a few hours to post it. That way you could at least claim it as an April Fool’s joke.”

Adrian writes: “Took me a while though, maybe halfway down the post. You should have stopped at “Much easier than going to Borders and picking up a physical copy.” Um, it IS easier to use than going down to Borders and picking up a physical copy.

Mike writes: “Nice story, Robert, but no one takes a product to Half Moon Bay to use it in sunlight.” Um, this device is the first screen I’ve used (Sony Reader uses a similar screen) that works BETTER in sunlight than in low light. And it’s sunny out in Half Moon Bay right now. It’s not ALWAYS foggy here!

Evan writes: “Man, you clearly have no idea how to tell a proper lie.” Well, that’s true cause now it’s a lot closer to reality than a made-up story.

Tom writes: “Not being an Apple fan I did not catch the little clues. But I was about to become one. If Apple is smart they’ll make this product. After all, you’ve created the demand at no cost to them.” My April Fools joke was actually a prediction that Apple would do this. Turned out that Amazon did it first and did a kick-ass job on it.

Dave writes: “I was right with you up until the “tiny balls” part.” Um, you do realize that that’s EXACTLY how the Sony and Amazon Reader’s screen works, right?

Michael writes: “Critique: I prefer a post of this genre to to hew closer to the line of plausability. This one piled the doo doo higher and higher till it collapsed of its own weight.” Heheh, well, now Michael, what do you think? Nearly everything in my April Fools’ joke came true, albeit from Amazon.

polyGeek writes: “Since Amazon almost always screws up and releases product information prematurely I’m sure they will have a purchase page for this April Fools iReader by noon today. :-)” Amazon actually was amazingly able to keep Apple-like secrecy on this project. Yeah, some pictures leaked, but not much else. There’s still some details to come tomorrow too.

Lena writes: “Chris Carfi just told me it was an April Fool’s joke. But, seriously, I want this product. I’m bummed.” Now you can have it!

Anyway, talk to you tomorrow.

Why Russian technologists aren't cool

Yuri Ammosov, who lives in Moscow, Russia, and works in the Russian Ministry of Economics demonstrates why Russians aren’t cool.

1. He isn’t using an iPhone.
2. He isn’t using Facebook.
3. He’s reading blogs.
4. He’s running Russian RSS-reading software.
5. He reads Engadget, B5 Media, and TechCrunch.
6. He’s running Windows Mobile.

So yesterday. So uncool.

Just kidding.

Seriously, I spent a while with Yuri today and you should watch out for him and his band of Russian entrepreneurs. They are doing very cool things and I was jealous of the feed reader and the new interface he showed me on his Windows Mobile smart phone.

Now do you understand why Google announced Open Social and Android? I sure do.

There’s a lot of Russians who are going to buy cell phones and join a social network in the next 18 months. What will THEY be running? Will they think YOU are uncool for what YOU are running?

Longer interview coming soon on

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Newsgator moves RSS feeds into corporate life

I spent a lot of time recently catching up on NewsGator. If you’re interested in the RSS world and what’s going on you should check out these two videos. In them they explain how Newsgator is making moves into the Enterprise. You can see how the approach here differs from Bloglines, who was on my show yesterday.

There are two videos.

1. A demo of the new Enterprise-focused synchronization system. Five minutes.
2. A discussion of NewsGator’s moves into the Enterprise. 21 minutes.

I included the demo on this post here, but in the interview you’ll hear RSS reading trends inside corporations. NewsGator’s stance here is unique and hearing from them about how companies are using RSS is interesting. Jeremiah Owyang, social media analyst at Forrester should check this out. We talk at length about what NewsGator’s new integration with Microsoft’s Sharepoint means and how it can be used.

NewsGator includes a variety of feed readers including FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, and the various NewsGator clients. They’ve really built a system that goes way beyond what any other feed reading system does.

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Bloglines shows me the latest in RSS feed readers

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Eric Engleman, general manager of Bloglines shows me the latest
in what Bloglines is doing for RSS Feed Readers. Geeks might not care, but this is a good video to pass to people who haven’t yet gotten on the RSS bandwagon. I mention that the BBC does the best job of explaining feeds to its readers.

I use Google Reader, but still have my Bloglines account and if you’re going to read feeds in a folder-by-folder approach Bloglines is better than Google Reader in managing your feeds. Anyway, it’s good to see that Bloglines is still there coming out with new stuff for people who read feeds.

Oh, and over on ScobleShow is a bunch of videos from last week’s CTIA show. Tons of mobile gadgets and services.

How many people use RSS anyway?

One of the slams I saw yesterday after we started posting Google Reader’s feed numbers is that “nobody reads RSS.”

Today, Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch, gave us some more numbers so we can extrapolate out just how many people actually are using RSS.

First, let’s start with the BBC. That’s the #1 most subscribed to feed on Google Reader that I can find.

Google Reader is reporting that 1,387,559 are subscribed to the News Front Page and another 824784 are subscribed to the UK Edition.

Let’s just call that two million people. Yeah, I know that many people are probably subscribed to both feeds, but let’s just go with it to make the math simple.

Now let’s make an assumption. Let’s say that half of all Google Readers are subscribed to the BBC. That means about four million people are using Google Reader.

Using the data from TechCrunch we see that Google counts for about 38% of all people using a feed reader. Let’s just round that to 40%. That means about 10 million people use RSS. Or probably less if my assumptions above prove to be too liberal.

So, why so small? And why does the world care about the behaviors of only 10 million people (out of six billion).

A few reasons.

First, getting 10 million users isn’t too shabby.

Second, I never expected RSS to get as popular as Paris Hilton.

Third, what’s the real power of RSS? The news influencers use it. So, if you want to reach the Paris Hilton crowd you’ve probably gotta go through someone who uses an RSS aggregator. Most of the journalists and almost all of the bloggers I know use RSS.

But, anyway, is 10 million a good or bad number? Why?

UPDATE: Alex Barrera says he asked FeedBurner reported to him that they have 65.6 million subscribers.