FeedDemon 188.8.131.52 was released a few days ago, and the speed improvements are quite good over what wasn’t a slow product to begin with. But there’s a beta feature hidden in plain sight that isn’t on any of the release notes.
A couple of months ago, Nick posted about how he started coding a feature without doing any design. The feature he was working on is currently called “popular topics” but if you’ve ever visited techmeme you’ll be very familiar with what FeedDemon comes up with. Or at least you’ll think you are.
It turns out that having a meme tracker for the feeds you subscribe to can produce some interesting results. The big issue is that some feeds either rewrite URLs to include a redirect through their server, or strip all HTML and just give you a snippet of the article. This makes it basically impossible to determine if two items link to the same article.
I have a few feeds that suffer from this, so FD doesn’t pick up any match there. I’ve also found some minor bugs, but this is a beta feature so I can understand that some things still need to be ironed out (the date filter is a bit weird, and the initial meme check only covers the last 48hrs which can be confusing).
My biggest problem though is that after suffering from information overload, I scrapped most of my high traffic feeds as well as some slower ones that I wasn’t reading. As a result, the first time I opened popular topics the only match it found was a technorati search that had picked up some posts from another feed I subscribe to!
This obviously isn’t a very good sample to work with, so I headed over to techmeme (this is what it looked like at the time) and picked some sites at random to subscribe to. The result was much better, and listed only the items from techmeme that were in the blogs I had subscribed to. Here’s a screenshot:
From this view, you can see a few things.
- Google is big news at the moment.
- I have too many unread items (although the “high traffic” section is just because I added a ton of feeds to test this feature).
- The style Nick has chosen to present the information – it appeals to me, and all links (except the picture in the middle) point to FD’s cache of the feed rather than the article (making navigation instantaneous).
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I’ll use the feature much. I have this annoying habit of trying to read everything that comes through my feed reader, which means I could easily get lost for hours in the collection of feeds I just added. I can see the use for people who subscribe to a ton of feeds though (Scoble comes to mind) and with a few improvements I could be tempted to keep a folder full of feeds that I never read except via Popular Topics.
My opinion? Right now this is a very cool feature, albeit held back by the inability of some site owners to realise the value of full-text RSS feeds.