John Hawthorn

Back on RSS

I’m using RSS again. I’d wanted to use it again for a while, but in the near decade since Google Reader’s sunset, had difficulty making the habit stick.

(I’m using RSS colloquially to refer to any of RSS, ATOM, JSONFeed, or web scraping.)

Part of my problem was probably due to each previous attempt stubbournly making my own minimal reader (I’ve made several I don’t use 😓), instead of starting with featureful existing tools.

I know others have had a renewed interest as well, so here’s what’s finally made it click for me.


I’m self-hosting a FreshRSS server using their docker container. This gives me a central server to synchronize between various devices.

I don’t love its UI, but it’s passable, and I will mostly be using other apps for reading.

One thing I like about FreshRSS is that it provides a decent ability to scrape sites which either don’t provide an RSS feed (which feels more common in modern years) or which have a truncated feed.

For sites without RSS you can point it at a page and provide an XPath expression to find links to articles on the page, and relative XPaths to find the details of each item. This takes some work to setup, but for some feeds I really wanted to exist but weren’t provided, it’s worth it.

For feeds which don’t have the page content in the feed, FreshRSS has the ability to scrape the page for each article and extract content via CSS selector (I have no idea why one kind of scraping uses XPath and the other CSS).

It also has some controls to automatically mark articles as read, including based on filters.


FreshRSS supports a number of apps/clients via a “Google Reader” API and a newer “Fever” API.

Gray Gilmore recommended I try NetNewsWire for Mac and iOS. I can only speak to the mac version, which is great! One feature this has is “reader” mode, which does a “reader mode” style transform on the original page instead of using the content from the feed. If I was only using NetNewsWire, I’d probably forego the CSS selector scraping in FreshRSS in favour of this on most feeds.

On Android I still haven’t settled on which app I prefer. So far FeedMe is in the lead, but I’m also testing Readrops and Fluent Reader Lite.


Most important was getting a solid list of feeds to guarantee there was enough content for me to check at least once a day.

I was worried there wouldn’t be enough feeds out there, but I’ve found plenty, and finding more every day.

My strategy has been to add as many sources as possible. I’ll remove them or adjust settings if there’s a problem. Some ideas of where to start: is where I started. It generates an importable list of feeds based on twitter follows (this is what fedifinder was based on from the same author). Due to its automated nature, mine needed some cleanup.

Personal blogs are probably what I missed most from the google reader days. OPML found me a bunch of blogs I didn’t know existed, and some recent posts I’d missed from social media. A win for RSS immediately!

Company engineering blogs also have some good content.

News websites mostly have feeds. Some allow subscribing by author, others don’t, but I used XPath for a few authors I really wanted to read.

Newsletters are pretty popular at the moment. Most have RSS (/feed on any substack), if they don’t there’s kill-the-newsletter exists to convert them (though I haven’t tried it yet).

Patreon subscriptions each have private RSS feeds.

YouTube pages each have RSS feeds (though it’s more complicated to find the feed URL than it used to be).

Mastodon accounts are all RSS feeds, for example: Similarly twitter accounts can be followed using nitter as a proxy. I’m going to use both of these sparingly (due to server load), but I’m finding this useful to follow organizations using those platforms to publish updates they aren’t putting anywhere else. I really wish something similar existed for instagram. users each have a feed.

cohost now has RSS feeds for each account. Get your eggbug updates via RSS.

GitHub has various feeds. You can follow users, or a repo’s releases, or commits. Could be a good way to get project updates. (disclaimer: I work at GitHub)

Hacker News has RSS feeds I think, but I found more success using You can also follow reddits (I followed /r/ruby) by appending .rss. I’m hoping this will be a good way to find more blogs and feeds to follow, while avoiding actually visiting those sites.

In addition to this I’m going to keep an eye out while browsing, to try to spot things which should have been in my feed.

Anything sources or tips I missed? @ me or send me an email.