Aggregation the G way.
I’ve been using the magic of RSS (and Atom) to keep up with Planet Debian, blogs of my friends, tech news and posts to an anime fan forum for the past several months, however one little problem bothered me – the forum has a lot of posts (sometimes more then 5 per minute) and an RSS feed of only last five items. That means that I had to have my RSS aggregator (Liferea) open at all times, so that I do not miss any posts. However keeping my laptop on and online at all times is quite bothersome, so I started looking for solutions.
I tried Google Reader however I didn’t like it much – I like to see more of my feed. There is too much screen space wasted for all the wrong reasons, one can only see 5 items at the time (which is quite a hassle if you have 500+ of them), a lot of info I would like to see is not there (which blog did this come from???), some strange html conversions, …
Now I have found my solution. It is a combination of rss2email and GMail. I have a computer that I always keep on and online (it could be a server, but in my case it is a simple workstation). I installed rss2email there, added all my feeds to the database there (hint: export feedlist from Liferea and do a bit of grep/sed magic), moded config so that all mails come from a single address, all have a custom identifiable header and all are HTML mails without any transformations. After that I configured cron to launch “r2e run” every half an hour and “r2e run 22″ every minute (where ’22′ is the id of the feed of that anime forum). At Gmail side I simply filtered all mails from rss2email into a separate label and archived them (so that they do not clutter my inbox).
Now when I want to reed my feeds, I go to the last message of the RSS label in my Gmail, open it, read it, star it if I need to look at it later and then press “k” to get to the newer message. After I am done reading I usually go and remove RSS label from read messages, so that they do not appear in this labels “folder” and are only saved in Archive. If I start running out of space, I will simply search and delete old RSS items then.
Most of the screen space now is devoted to the message, I can see all the fields I want to see (source, author, topic, content, pictures, URLs) and I can manage messages by hundreds. Also being able to search both your mail and your rss feeds at the same time is neat.
Yesterday I did a little improvement to this scheme. The forum that I read has the title of every message made of “author: topic”, so every message is a separate conversation in Gmail. I decided to try to use the conversation feature of Gmail and did a little modification to rss2email so that if the message is from this forum, then everything up to the first semicolon is cut from the title and inserted as a part of the name of the sender. In the end the subject of every message contains only the topic of the corresponding thread in the forum and thus all messages from one thread are neatly grouped together as a single conversation. At the same time every messages From: looks like “$forum_name $author <firstname.lastname@example.org>” so that I can still see who wrote what in the forum.