Beautiful Reading

Readefine Blog

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Thank you for the warm emails

There are times when I’ve sat late night desperately trying to squash a bug that in the grand scheme of things have little or no impact to anyone. Every time I pay the app-engine bill (about 103.2 rupees every week), I feel like I should be utilizing app-engine’s capabilities more to justify such cost. 

Then I get an email from someone thanking me for working on Readefine.

And it all seems worth it.

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Things I found that improved speed

  • On startup, be lazy. Let the window maximize, then start laying out stuff.
  • Change XML parser from XMLDocument to XML. 40% faster.
  • Change all Google Reader API calls to use JSON. Lesser data downloaded, faster parsing (now that AIR has native JSON support).
  • Mark compatibility for AIR 3.1. This makes text smoother. Really, try it.

2.5 has too many moving parts for me to test in isolation. I will shortly release an alpha version publicly.

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Working on Readefine 2.5

I’ll admit, I’ve been reorganizing code too much rather than working on features. The problem is, Readefine has to be easily maintainable even more so due to its origin as a prototype.

However, I’ve made considerable progress. Readefine 2.5 has facebook support, faster RSS parsing (roughly 1.5x faster), support for media tags (so guardian feeds now have thumbnails) and lastly true RSS support.

What do I mean by RSS support? Well, Readefine started as a pure HTML/text viewer, evolved to support single RSS feeds and then finally supported Google Reader. Google Reader support is the one has received the most love because that is what I needed at the point I was working on it.

But now when I need to actually use an RSS reader (for internal feeds that cannot be consumed by Google Reader), I’m not really happy with the choices out there. Which is why Readefine is now moving in this direction.

RSS mode will now support:

1. Show all feeds on the top/left bars (like Google Reader).

2. Allow you to add/remove feeds.

3. Sync all feeds together.

4. “All Articles” and Starred view. 

That is the vision. Currently, I only have the fourth item remaining.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? It is sorting of getting lonely here, any voice will be appreciated.

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Media Tags in RSS

Ah, I can’t believe I overlooked this. Guardian puts image thumbnails in a media tag; Readefine now parses it correctly. Feeds look so much better with at least one image per article.

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Coming Soon: Facebook, Traditional RSS Support

The next Readefine update will support Facebook status updates (and the new timeline stuff if timeline launches by then). Lot of love is being directed towards the non-google Reader guys, because honestly, pure RSS feeds workflow needs attention.

I’ve been going through the blog posts of Nick Bradbury, who blogs a lot about his experiences creating FeedDemon, a popular RSS reader. It was interesting to know that he created HomeSite. I loved that. Reading his blog makes me feel less alone about my sole developer venture with Readefine, reminds me that there are others who do this.

I’m not sure if Readefine has a community of users yet. I know the numbers look amazing - 42000 downloads. Lots of people use it, yes. But do they really care about it? I’m not sure (though I’d be glad to be proved wrong).

Regardless, I personally use Readefine a lot and I will improve it whenever I find the time for it. If you like it, let me know. :)

Filed under community developer

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A Traditional RSS Client versus Google Reader

Looking at the alternatives in CNET’s Newsreaders & RSS Readers category, I see a lot of traditional RSS readers. By traditional, I mean that they allow users to add RSS feeds and check for new articles. The downside to this is that if you don’t check often enough, you end up missing articles because most feeds have a fixed size.

Aggregators like Google Reader and Bloglines work around this by moving the checking to the server side which is guaranteed to run periodically without fail.

Despite this, traditional RSS readers seem to be really popular (at least according to CNET statistics). This is surprising and I’m wondering whether Readefine should have proper support for this capability (have feeds appear in non Google Reader mode as well). 

What do you think, should Readefine behave more like a traditional RSS reader? Or should it focus on improving Google Reader and facebook/twitter integration?

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Readefine 2.42 to 2.43 - Some bugs squashed

This is a bug-fix only release. The bugs fixed:

  • 2.43: Fixed iframe embed sizing issue.
  • Unread count shown in feed doesn’t match number of articles.
  • Space key breaks “Previous page” button in Magazine layout.
  • IFrames now appear inline so that more youtube embeds work.
  • Space key when no articles present clears the no article message.

There is one behaviour change:

If you use Space, “Next Article” or “Previous Article” when viewing the full article in Magazine layout, you jump back to viewing multiple article at the edges. This is to stay consistent with the “page” displayed in Magazine layout.

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Readefine 2.4 - Share with note, Following Feed

Version 2.4 adds support for two popular requests - the “Share with note” functionality and the “Following” feed.

The “Following” feed will appear when any person you follow in Google Reader shares and article or note. This will be aggregation of posts from your friends, rather than articles from a single person.

A minor tweak to article title when only one person is sharing an article:

The list from which the user shared is displayed.

Finally, a “Sync” button has been introduced:

The sync button fetches the latest subscription list, unread count and articles from Google Reader. Use this when you suspect you are not seeing “new” articles.

Finally, a bug fix: Feed Actions -> Refresh or the “Refresh” button had issues in updating magazine layout. That has been corrected.