Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

The Personal RSS Reader And Aggregator For Everyone: Cross-Platform, Open-Source, Free

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BlogBridge is a new kind of client-based RSS reader and aggregator, which works on PCs, Macs and Linux boxes, is open-source and integrates a number of great, innovative features.

Targeted at non-technical users, BlogBridge is a Java-based desktop-based application that allows anyone to subscribe, aggregate, rate and discover new blogs and RSS feeds without requiring any technical know-how.


With the features it offers now, BlogBridge is the first usable personal news radar builder that is available to the large public. Outside of one or two exceptions, previous and other RSS aggregating existing technologies, which I have listed in detail inside my RSS Newsmaster's Toolkit, are either less capable or require a high level of technical know-how to be really useful.

Unfortunately, BlogBridge is still very young and while having grown physiologically rather fast, it is just about starting to define its true character and personality. It is in fact in the correct interpretation of what individuals will want to be doing next with RSS readers/aggregators that the longevity and success of this promising tool will be determined.

As RSS optimizes our need to selectively pull information from where we want, the number of relevant sources is becoming so large at such phenomenal speed that unless we learn how to scale, filter and aggregate better all of this news, we may only be left with piles and piles of feed data for which we have not enough time to dig through.

So, not only I downloaded and test BlogBridge to get a good idea of what it really had to offer, but I also got Pito Salas and Francois Goisseaux to meet online for a good conversation about this new tool of theirs.

Among the interesting new features offered by BlogBridge here are the most interesting ones:

1) Guides
BlogBridge users can create custom collection of feeds on a certain topic by assembling them into a Guide.

2) SmartFeeds
SmartFeeds are custom feeds collections that can be defined by utilizing specific Technorati "tags", Guides and Articles output and other variables.

3) Ratings
BlogBridge uses a recommendation system based on starz that users can award to anyone feed. Default ratings are also based on popularity values collected from Technorati and other online blog clearinghouses.

4) Synchronization across computers
By leveraging a centralized server BlogBridge users can synchronize their feeds accounts from any computer out there, meaning that their collection of feeds and selections can be easily accessed even when they are not sitting in front of their own computers.

5) Feed Discovery
BlogBridge integrates a nifty little tool, that while using simple logic and readily available information, does a useful job of finding and suggesting possible feeds that I may not know about. The tool works only on-demand, and can make suggestions based on one feed, or on a specific Guide collection.

The interface of BlogBridge has still a long way to go to become truly friendly for non-technical users, but we are certainly on a good track.

BlogBridge has the look and feel of many other desktop-based RSS tools, while I think it badly needs to turn upside down some of traditional staple of how an easy-to-use interface should look like.

As a good metaphor for what I mean, see what GoToMeeting has done to its screen sharing technology interface to make it easy for non-geeks to start adopting web conferencing tools.

As a matter of fact, here again, like in the web conferencing and online collaboration arenas, in the near future market success will be awarded in great part to those who anticipate user needs by focusing much more on user interface design, usability and ease of access and adoption.

On the weak side also many little things, but please do remember that this is is an open source software still in its early stages of public development (1.0) and that many bugs and imperfections are being corrected at this time.

Launching the program after having installed it, may prove to be for now one of the most baffling situations you may have to run into when trying to start a program. In my case, as I wasn't able to locate any desktop icon, or item selection inside my Start -> Programs menu, I even went back to the Control Panel -> setting -> Add/Remove Applications to check whether I had dreamed of installing BlogBridge, since now I couldn't find it anymore. But there it was; sitting in the list of installed software BlogBridge 1.0 said it was indeed sitting on my PC hard disk.

Confused, and unwilling to understand more I headed back to BlogBridge main site with the intention of re-downloading and re-installing the software. But lo and behold.... after navigating through multiple pages with very ambiguous directions and hard to notice links I finally found a page, from where you actually launch BlogBridge! Yes. You just click a link on that page and, if previously installed, BlogBridge fires up immediately.

Well, that is not very enjoyable the very first time around, but given my open report, you should be able to avoid these frustrations while Pito and his team are already working hard to fix this issue altogether.

For those of you interested in making their feeds available within BlogBridge here is what to do: to be included within the BlogBridge database of RSS feeds you need to do nothing more than downloading BlogBridge and once installed it, to add your selected feeds to it. Just like you would do on MyYahoo, to enter your RSS feeds into the Yahoo database.

Business model? Sustainability?

I audio-interviewed yesterday the good guys at BlogBridge, namely Francois and Pito (who was the in one of his recent past lives Chief technology Officer of eRooms), and learned much from asking direct questions to them.

As of now BlogBridge seems to have no clear-cut business model though several ideas are already under development.

These include the use of ads, which, unless used in a very smart and effective fashion I would strongly discourage. In particular I think that inserting ads inside feeds as it has been done so far, it is not the way to go.

I have personally suggested to provide a basic free version with all of the features now available, while charging a fair fee for a premium version providing for example effective RSS output of Guides and SmartFeeds (as of now BlogBridge reads in RSS but it does NOT output any RSS feed).

Also the ability to have more powerful filters and splicing abilities within the SmartFeeds facility could be well worth a modest subscription fee.

My second key suggestion was to do something nobody else so far in this industry has had the courage to do: provide a RSS reader/aggregator that users can brand, customize and redistribute to others, making it the first truly personal media aggregator, as I have myself attempted to define it.

This is another area where BlogBridge could create sustainability for itself in multiple and very smart ways:

a) Charge a fee for experts, publishers and marketers who want to create a custom, personalized version that contains only the feeds they want (it is up to them to leave this version open for adding other feeds or not by the end users).

b) Plan for the integration of possible sponsorships or partner ads that the redistributors of these personal media aggregators may like to add.

c) Allow publishers who will buy this customizable version to optionally activate AdSense/Kanoodle/other contextual text ad strips within certain sections of the tool (not possibly within the feeds).

d) Design the technology so that other technologies could be integrated in the future to favor the creation of instant-vertical communities that could aggregate virtually around such a tool. In some of these cases a completely open approach where all of the community participants could "contribute" to the growth of the aggregator by having the ability to add new feeds to existing collections, craft additional smartfeeds / news radars, participate in discussion forums or accessing an integrated chat area within the tool could all be very powerful means to aggregate a vertical community.

e) Build-in further redistribution and customization capabilities.

In essence: by giving them tools which they can customize extensively, making them their "own", you make your users your best and most active developers and marketing agents.

That is the road.

Listen to my audio interview with Pito Salas and Francois Goisseaux by just clicking the play button here below. (36 mins)

or download the audio interview directly as an .MP3 file to listen to it on other devices.

What do you think?

To find out more about BlogBridge go to:

Please, do support this open-source project by downloading BlogBridge and providing good feedback to their developers. Giving their vision, passion and dedication to make it work, I am quite sure it will be worth the time you devote to it.

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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, July 6 2005, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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