NetNewsWire now stops slaying your computer (and it's free, too)

One of my biggest frustrations with NetNewsWire was that it scaled horribly. When starting the application, it would take several minutes to load -- not to refresh the feeds, but just to load all the feeds. My poor MacBook Pro would whirr away from all the work it took, and if on battery would drain it within 10 minutes.

Simply put, it was the laptop killer. I used it only very sparingly, and only when I needed to cull through a zillion posts for my BlogHer Contributing Editor gig.

 More news, less junk. Faster But on January 9th, NewsGator Technologies updated the application with a major refactoring. Just check out the change notes:

Fixed a bug that prevented automatic sleep for some people.


It’s possible that people who leave NetNewsWire running for hours without interacting with it in some way are having memory use go up and up, since no events are processed and thus autorelease pools are not drained.

See Mike Ash on the subject:

I’m following Mike’s advice and posting an NSApplicationDefined event at strategic times, which should drain the pools. We’ll see.

This was a big one for me, bringing my entire computer to a crawl. It was like the 'Book had a virus.

New storage system

A big problem with 3.0 was that each news item was stored as a separate file—and this caused way too much disk access for some people. It was slow. So we took the previous storage system (from NetNewsWire 2.x) and updated it some. News items storage is much, much faster than it was in 3.0.

NetNewsWire now stores the news items for a feed together. One file per feed. This was how NetNewsWire 1 and 2 stored data — so we’re going back.

We’re not going all the way back, though — there have been some changes. It’s not exactly the same.

The first time you run NetNewsWire, it will have to convert old storage to new storage. This may take a few minutes, depending on how much data you have. The next time you run NetNewsWire the startup time should be more normal. (On my machines it’s about a second, but it will be different for different people.)


The changelog is very long indeed. Kudos to NewsGator for truly stepping up! Already I am seeing a huge performance improvement. For one thing, I've written this entire post on battery power, with nearly two hours of time left -- something that was completely impossible before.

And now it's free! (I paid for my license some months ago, but I can't regret paying a company that ends up doing a good deed.)

You can download the now-free NetNewsWire here. This is now truly the #1 RSS reader for OSX, in my book.

RSS best practices

Beth Kanter points to Skelliewag's post with a hype-filled title: "How To Get 1,050 Subscribers in 3 Months":

1. Work out who your target audience is and write your content exclusively for them.

2. Pack your articles with as much value as possible. If time is a problem, post less.

3. Source out your target audience by getting or making links and writing for social media.

I'd also add a 4th point or perhaps add something to point 2.  Find a unique view on your topic.  I learned about this from a personal branding session at BlogHer I attended this summer.

I'd add a fifth point: Offer full-post feeds. A lot of people get worked up with the idea that if they withhold their post content from their feeds, those feeds can drive traffic to their site. But I don't think it works that way.

If you don't offer up your whole post, then you are making the feed less relevant to the reader. I am much less likely to visit a site if everything in the feed consists of a headline and little teaser. Sorry, but a tease is not a happy user experience!

Give me content. Get me interested. Hook me on your ideas. Feed me your thoughts!

And if you're interested, I'll happily do the same.

P.S. - And if you're really interested in making your site linkable by bloggers, forget Feedburner and other services like that. I often write blog posts from my feed reader, and it really is annoying when my links end up pointing to a feed URI. Yes, it leads to the same post, but the Google juice doesn't follow. Wouldn't you rather have more people linking to your domain instead of Feedburner?

Can we talk about RSS abuse?

I have a little complaint about, well, maybe it's not "abuse" in literal fact, but it certainly does not fall into "best practices" when it comes to publishing RSS feeds: post-dating posts so that they stay at the top of people's feed readers.

It seems to happen quite often. As I write this, this post by Richard Morse on Huffington Post has been sitting there for two days -- published on Friday, dated on Monday. Now I'm quite sure that Richard Morse may have just thought he was finding a way to publish his Monday blog post on Friday -- I can't say HuffPo is an "abuser" in post-dating posts -- but this is just one little incident of a posting behavior or tactic I've noticed a lot over the past weeks as I've worked to populate Shrook on a new computer. Personally I find it rather annoying.

People use the same tactic on less robust website platforms that don't have any other way to make a post "sticky." The net result is that the post also sits at the top of everyone's chronologically-sorted feed readers.

I've seen even more abusive behavior -- and this time I really do consider it to be abusive -- from websites that insist on re-publishing the same old content over and over. Everything. Oh hey! Did you manage to see our post about foobar? It's been up since 2004 but we've given it a new date so you're sure to notice it! Aren't we nice!

Ironically, I've seen this the most on "design"-related sites and Apple-related sites. I'm sorry, but designers and Macangelists really oughta know better, don't you think? One Mac tips kind of site would refresh its publication dates on all of its content, every day, so that the same 40 or 50 posts were barging their way up to the top of my RSS reader. They immediately were dropped from my reader. Who has the time to deal with such rudeness?

RSS is a really great tool for keeping up with scores of websites, as I do, but it's not an appropriate method for pushy website owners to, in effect, spam me with the same ol' same ol' rewrapped in a new publication date just to get at the front of the line. (Is there any "appropriate" method for that? Hmmmm ... naw!)


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