Getting the News Delivered

While I’ve been using Blogstreet’s Info Aggregator to send RSS feeds to an IMAP email box I’ve looked into additional methods as well to see if I might find an even better way to do things.

To quickly sum up what you might have missed on Info Aggregator — The service is free and you get an IMAP email box which automatically gets the RSS feeds you select delivered. You can check this in your email client of choice including any mobile device or use the webmail interface which is also provided. My only real complaint is the delay in delivery.

The Blogstreet network carefully polls things based on popularity and that determines the delivery frequency of each item. Some sites deliver once a day, which makes this less useful, if you tend to read at your desk in addition to on the go. I’ve found that messages received are often things I’ve seen at my desktop, but that might really vary for you if you are on the go more than I’ve been recently.

The additional services I’ve found that seem to offer similar benefits are News inMotion, IzyNews and RSS2email. I’d be open to learning about additional methods for getting RSS into an email box if you know of them, but really the only other way I’ve found was through Newsgator Online Services which unfortunately only supports POP3 and requires a payment beyond the demo period. IMAP is essential in this process for me so I can clean up things I know I’ve seen while at the desk and leave others so when I return I can either blog them or simply make a note to myself. (POP3 is an all or nothing method.. there is no memory of what’s been read or even deleted in each location you might do your reading.)

News inMotion

I just started News inMotion and it’s nice way to have daily or twice daily emails sent from up to 5 sources. Right away this seems to only make sense for a supplemental flow based on the limits (more on the number of feeds than the level of delivery, though it would be nice to see more frequency as well.) Since I am heading towards complete information overload with the RSS feeds I have coming in through all my channesl, I thought I would keep to some more major news sources as (believe it or not) they are the ones I tend to skip in my daily collection. Here’s my current subscription list…

  • New York Times – Business
  • New York Times – Technology
  • Reuters – Top News
  • StartupSkills.com – Resources for technology entrepreneur
  • Washington Post – Technology News

I did throw in that StartupSkills since I had not heard of it and thought it might be interesting to read. The others are covering the bases for me given the amount of similar information I regularly track. News inMotion provides a good list to start from the usual suspects and allows you to easily add your own feed URI to the list as well.

IzyNews

IzyNews is a very interesting player in the space. First there was IzyMail which enables all your webmail accounts like Hotmail and Yahoo mail to get delivered in a mail client. IzyNews is a pretty cool yet complex way to deal with news feeds. You set up a separate account in your mail client and IzyNews automatically manages your subscriptions into folders so it’s pretty easy to see what’s going on. This is a very nice feature considering the work that many people would have to go through filtering messages appropriately from a variety of sources. Personally I like filtering mail by subject or source, Izy does this out of the gate, so I like it. I’d love to see more providers offer this server side filtering for mail as well as news since it’s such a time saver and since it (in theory) simplifies your view of information.

Here’s what the default set looks like in Thunderbird:

default set in IzyNews

After I uploaded my (593 feed) subscription OPML file from Bloglines things changed pretty drastically. A new Folder was added called Subscriptions and each item from my file was added below. The folder (or outline) structure I have on Bloglines was mostly preserved which is helpful, but man is this a serious list of stuff.

For whatever reason, it’s easier to deal with this load in Bloglines, probably because the sub-folders themselves actually contain content but in mail you have to go through each and every item. I chose not to share the image of this relative chaos as this blog was getting long enough.

If you are considering reading RSS in your mail client to keep it simple for you rather than relying on separate apps or your web browser, IzyNews is pretty nice, though I’d suggest a different manner of organization than I have curently and possibly subscribing to fewer sources. My taste does not like the manner in which feeds are summarized for each source… IzyNews creates a paper for each feed you read giving you a quick extract and a link to continue reading. I personally like the full thing whenever possible…

RSS2email

RSS2email is a server based method you control. You’ll need your own server or connected machine in order t o do the processing and sending to your inbox. It’s not that hard to configure, and seems to work quite well. Of the services I’ve tried it’s my favorite. Aaron Swartz is a great contributor to the information community and has written some great tools like co-authoring RSS 1.0 and enabling a linkable URI scheme for referencing the NYT.

Meanwhile back to RSS2email… Following the directions posted on Aaron’s site was easy to do and I was able to get things running on my server. After adding a few feeds, I checked to see what they looked like and was really quite happy. If you’ve seen Tidbits, the format is similar. Each link in an entry is tagged with a number and at the bottom of each article is a list of links. I chose to limit my view to text only, though you can get HTML messages as well, which I presume would include the images rather than link to them as the text based option does. You can also set a variety of options in the main file (rss2email.py) which lets you control how the from looks, the time of the post (when it was posted vs. when it was sent) and a variety of other details.

The only trick to the whole thing is finding a machine that supports what you need to do. Fortunately my host is running linux and python was installed, because that’s how it works. I am not a programmer or a developer, I just went through the steps and it works. I know enough to find my way through the file to tweak some settings, but that’s beacause I know how to read ;). I’ve scheduled a cron job on my host to run hourly which then pumps all the new information to the email address of my choosing.

I’d like to also add that in the course of testing I ran into a few hiccups and emailed things to Aaron who promptly replied and fixed things so it would not effect anyone else. Thanks again, Aaron. You can easily keep track of fixes and additions to the RSS2email service by (what else) subscribing to the feed.

Usage Notes and Taking it With You

How you deal with, and even the amount of information you choose to manage (or not) is very personal. There is no correct way, it’s much more a matter of what works for you. I like Info Aggregator, but have found RSS2email to be more relavant for my needs since it can deliver news more timely. IzyMail is an interesting way to do things, but in the end is just not for me. Based on the imposed limitations of News inMotion makes it much more of a side player since it can’t handle the level of flow I want.

One of the key factors in my world at the moment is being able to take all this information with me on my mobile device. They can all accommodate this in different ways. Again, based on how you use your tools… Since everything is being delivered to an IMAP account on Palm that leaves a few options (Chatter Email, Snappermail, Mailwave and AgendusMail) which I’ve covered previously. Snapper and Agendus must connect upfront and you’ll have to choose which folders (keep in mind how rough this will be with something like IzyNews and it’s folder overload) to keep in sync. With Chatter and Mailwave you can set up an additional account to receive news messages and sync it how you see fit either always connected or synced over time intervals.

My preference is to use Chatter Email and sync my News account every half hour. This is efficient for me and keeps things simple as well. Chatter only works with IMAP accounts that support the IDLE command in order to push messages out to you. IzyMail does not and most likely will not support this. I did not have a chance to test this on Mailwave (I mean how many mail clients can one man actively run!), but it may work well there. Your own mileage may vary…

5 comments for “Getting the News Delivered

  1. Pingback: IzyNews
  2. Pingback: IzyNews
  3. 8/28/2004 at 3:18 am

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the comprehensive review. As the author of IzyNews, please allow me a few remarks.

    ———-

    > After I uploaded my (593 feed) subscription OPML file from Bloglines things changed pretty drastically.

    Wow! New world record 😉 – at least for IzyNews

    I am naturally biased, but I would suggest to try the same thing with the other RSS-to-eMail players in the field and see how _that_ goes …

    Such an experiment would clearly -and pretty drastically- demonstrate one of the distinguishing features behind IzyNews:
    IzyNews cleans up the message feeds all by itself !

    Your Inbox is _never_ bombarded with constant updates from 600 sources. In IzyNews, expired news are automatically removed as needed and you do not need to delete anything.

    :-)) [Big smile as I try to imagine the Inbox mess after a looong weekend …]

    > A new Folder was added called Subscriptions and each item from my file was added below.
    > […] man is this a serious list of stuff.

    The new ‘Subscriptions’ folder and everything below is nothing but a mirror of your folder structure in the OPML file.
    Insofar: goal accomplished.

    > My taste does not like the manner in which feeds are summarized for each source.
    > […] I personally like the full thing whenever possible…

    I would believe this is a bit of a mis-perception. IzyNews does not cut anything from the original RSS source, and for most ‘news’-type feeds (Washington Post etal.), the ‘Summary View’ is complete and has the entire content from the source.

    For some other, mostly ‘blog’-type feeds, the ‘Detail View’ even adds the comments for this post (if available in the underlying RSS).

    Both views have their merits and not all feeds are the same. For some, the ‘Summary’ is easier to read, in other cases, you really want to click into the ‘Details’ and use those to forward or archive an individual message.

  4. 8/28/2004 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for reading…or tracking on Technorati 😉

    IzyNews is definitely cool, but as we discussed on the Treo Boards it does not support the IDLE command and such is not easily transferred to a mobile device through Chatter Email. I did not test with Mailwave and it might work great there, though the sheer number of folders that would be to be synced would be a brutal resource hog.

    The RSS2email testing I’ve been doing is certainly using a smaller list of subs only because I can’t find a way to import a mass list, so it’s one at a time and I selected a bunch of feeds from my main list.

    Bloglines’ Info Aggregator does push all your feeds into a single inbox, rather than handle the server filtering like Izymail, which in mobile usage is appreciated. Since all of these methods are purely supplemental for me, mobile is my priority. I already have a comfortable way to manage my subscriptions at the desktop level (Bloglines or NetNewsWire) but think for people would are looking to keep it all in a mail client the behind the scenes “magic” you provide in IzyMail makes a great choice.

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