A Google Reader Replacement

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the social bands which have connected them with others, I find myself asking what I valued from Twitter in the first place. A constant stream of short, popular updates? No thanks. A Rolodex? Partially. A newspaper? Almost. I wanted to read my friends' blogs and newsletters, collected in a publication to be read at a time to my liking. Like a newspaper.

I wanted Google Reader back.

Google Reader, the beloved (and thus, consequently, sunset) product allowed you to subscribe to RSS feeds. RSS feeds connected me to the software testing community before I'd met any of them. I was learning by trial, error, and brute force at my first software testing role, and RSS feeds propelled me into learning from testers further along in their careers.

When Google Reader was retired, Twitter became the way I kept up with people in the industry. They'd tweet a link to their blog, which I have in enough open tabs to crash my browser. Pocket improved my workflow somewhat. I'd scroll Twitter, saves the links, and go to Pocket later when I need longer-form (and downloadable) posts for my subway ride.

I wish I'd found an RSS reader that worked the way I wanted: remembering where I left off, displaying the posts without destroying them. I remember trying Feedly and a few others before giving up in favor of my Twitter + Pocket workflow. This served me from ~2013 until (checks watch) two weeks ago, when Twitter was set ablaze by the egotiscial sociopath in charge. I still want to read my blogs, and when I saw this post, I honestly could not tell if it was a joke:

Post recommending you aggregate your RSS posts into an epub format

I suspected the epub format part, a file type compatible with my Kobo Clara ereader, was a rhetorical flourish. But would this solve my problem? Could I read the blogs without reading the tweets? Without a screen??

I'd already set up my Kobo Clara to integrate into a mainstay of my digital life, the tabs I save to read later in Pocket. After a recent unrelated ereader triumph, I started Duck Duck Go-ing if my ereader could subscribe to RSS feeds directly.

Escaping both Adobe and wired syncing gave me new-found freedom.

After a bit of searching, I hit upon a solution that would work: Qiip. (I'm assuming it's pronounced "keep" but do send me your alternate pronunciations.) Qiip lets you sync RSS feeds to Pocket. Sign in with your Pocket credentials, give Qiip the RSS feed URL, and poof: your favorite blog appears in your Pocket list. And for me, ultimately, on my ereader.

I do wish Qiip had separate login credentials. Every time I login to add another blog, it asks me if it can talk to Pocket again. Yes Qiip, it's fine, go do your thing.

But that's my only complaint, from me, a professional complainer. I love having the things I want to read appear in Pocket without having to scroll through Twitter. I love being able to read more of the internet on my ereader. I love skipping the self-marketing bonanza in favor of what people are trying to say.

A few days later, I discovered that Substack newsletters also have RSS feeds: add /feed to the end of the URL. I'm still unsubscribing from the Substack emails I receive, approximately 1/3 of my personal inbox. But I'm already delighted to have my Saturday morning, tea-in-the-garden reads separated from my email inbox.

How are you coping with the demise of the main online gathering place for software testers? Is Mastodon your go-to? Do you also dream of reading blogs like you'd read the newspaper? Can you convince my American friends to quit Instagram in favor of the federated Pixelfed?

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Photo by Zoe on Unsplash