RSS Again

I think the Internet is still mourning the closure of Google Reader. Google likes to shut things down, but Google Reader was well loved and well used. It didn't and still doesn't make sense.

I often wonder how much that one decision impacted digital life. It took a huge number of eyeballs away from blogs and pushed people towards social media. Now we all spend far too much time exposed to the algorithmic nightmare fuel that continues to mess with our minds and society.

RSS didn't die, it just went underground, and we can get it back to the good old days with a few open source tools. I have been tinkering with this setup on and off for a few years and it has been working really well. For a small time investment you get the benefit of fresh, interesting content that you choose to follow. No timelines, no ads, no tracking.

Miniflux

At the centre of it all sits Miniflux. Miniflux describes itself as a minimalist and opinionated feed reader, but I think it is much more than that. It acts as an RSS server. It is also easy to install on low cost hardware like the Raspberry Pi. In fact, with Docker, it can be installed anywhere with a minimum amount of effort.

I host Miniflux locally on my network alongside 14 other Docker containers. You can see my docker-compose.yaml in my home automation repo. Hosting it locally has one draw back — you need to be at home to access your feeds. My solution is to use a VPN to connect home to my local network if I want to check for updates on the road. You might fight it easier to host Miniflux on a cheap VPS instead or you can support development of the project and use the hosted version for $15 a year.

Clients

If you have had a look the Miniflux website, you may have seen the UI and closed the tab. It's not the nicest looking or most intuitive piece of software. Don't feel disheartened though. There are many clients that talk and sync to your central Miniflux server. Here are some of my favourites:

  • ConstaFlux — A tidy little reader for Android that uses material design
  • Reeder — For Mac/iOS. It's clean, well featured and supports custom gestures
  • NewsFlash — For Linux. Built in Rust and works wonderfully with Gnome

Follow everything

You can use RSS to keep up with all sorts of content, not just written text. I am testing moving my YouTube subscriptions to RSS to avoid Google's junk algorithms. Miniflux can support Podcasts too. I have also seen services that allow you convert Twitter timelines and Instagram feeds into RSS. Here are a few that have worked well for me:

  • RSS.yt — A YouTube feed generator
  • Nitter — An open source Twitter front end that also generates RSS

With all that in place, all that is left to do is make a nice drink, find somewhere comfortable and rediscover some interesting, investigative, forward thinking and quirky content to follow (oh, and me 😉).