When Google announced that it would be closing Google Reader on July 1, I began to see how much I depend on this web app and how none of the alternatives really address my needs. I’ve since then come to the conclusion that no hosted solution satisfies my needs for a web and mobile feed reader.
It was then that I turned to look at self-hosted solutions, namely solutions that you can put on a web server and run on your own. In exploring what was available, I discovered selfoss. I’m very pleased about this open source product, which is run by Tobias Zeising. It isn’t perfect, but I believe it is useable for my purposes.
The app is licensed under GPLv3 (if that means anything to you–basically, it means you have a great deal of freedom to do what you want with it, including modifying it). It is written in PHP and can use Postgres, MySQL, or sqlite for the database. I decided to use sqlite since that is the optional was the quickest to setup for a test run. In the future, if I run into issues, I can always switch over to a more heavy duty database.
The app is really easy to setup if you know the basics of running a web server. It has an OPML import, which was what I needed to get all my Google Reader feeds into it. I made a few minor config tweaks (added the update script to my crontab, changed it so it ‘marks read’ automatically, setup authentication, etc.).
The one key thing in starting to read through items on selfoss, is to realize that there are a few important keyboard shortcuts. “Space” takes you to the next item, and that’s very import for the way I quickly read through feeds (shift-space takes you backwards, for instance). For my purposes, the only keyboard shortcut I will need to remember is “Space”.
selfoss has a nice mobile version on the web interface that, while certainly not anywhere close to great, is fairly useable (unlike The Old Reader and others). The Twitter sharing option is pretty good (seems to work better than Google Reader twitter share). Sharing via e-mail is also quite straightforward.
At this point I only have two outstanding annoyances:
- There isn’t any easy way to mark your entire list of items (across all feeds) as read. I like do that once in a while when I get behind. Maybe I’m missing something, but so far the only way I could do that was to go into the sqlite database.
- On the mobile version, when you click into an item, there isn’t good navigation to the next item (nothing like ‘space’ on the traditional web version of the interface) . You can’t swipe over to the next items (which makes sense, since this is a mobile web site, not a full out mobile app), but there are also no navigation buttons to go to the next item. Very annoying!
I hope improving navigation through items remains a huge priority in future development of this product!
I suspect that only #2 will bother me long term. I hope that #2 will either be fixed in future version, or I may have to fix it myself. But that requires touching PHP. Yuck. We shall see.
In any case, it seems I am now ready for Google Reader to go goodbye! I would almost start offering to host instances of selfoss for friends, but at this point I’m not sure I want a ton of extra traffic on my server, especially since most people have a lot of feeds. My wife can have an account if she wants, though