Update: Glynn Bird’s BirdReader

In April the NodeFly Buzz profiled Glynn Bird and his BirdReader app, an alternative to Google’s RSS reader. We loved hearing about the homegrown solution, and thought we would check in with Glynn to see what was new in the world of BirdReader and his Node.js projects.  

While we hoped to get the latest from Glynn, we were delighted to get a thorough update of BirdReader, its features and testing.

We hereby hand over the rest of this post to Glynn to update us. Take it away, Glynn… 

You’ll remember I started my project the weekend after Google announced they were to kill Google Reader and I needed an RSS reader for my own use. I built it quickly and open-sourced it on GitHub and publicised it with 1 Tweet (to my meagre 100 follows). I was surprised that anybody event noticed! But there were enough people searching around for a Google Reader replacement at that time to produce a modicum of interest.


After its initial launch I added more features:

  • An API. Although BirdReader is designed to be web-based solution with a responsive HTML interface, it was also conceivable that someone might want to build their own UI.
  • Icons for feeds. As feeds are added I look for a “favicon” for the host site. The icons are presented next to each article and give the brain an easy way to sort the information.
  • Expand all. When looking at 100 summary articles, sometimes you want to just scan the titles and expand the articles that interest you, sometimes you just want to “expand all” and read everything.
  • Browse mode. As I use BirdReader every day I found that I would like to operate it in a mode where I saw one article at a time (expanded) and then flip to the next one with my thumb. This became the default view and the list view relegated to the “/unread” path.
  • Authentication. The ability to protect a BirdRead installation on public address
  • Purging. Some want to keep their articles forever, others want to only keep, say, a month’s worth. BirdReader can optionally purge older unread articles 

Bug Fixes

What surprised me more was that I got GitHub issues raised. They ranged from bug fixes to feature requests, but I found that constructive feedback has a positive effect on a project.  

Testing and Tidy-Up

I did some benchmark tests to see whether I should host my BirdReader installation on my Macbook, on a Raspberry PI or a free Amazon EC2 server. Results are here

I decided to run JSLint over the code and tidied it as much as I could.

Eat Your Own Dog Food

I use BirdReader everyday from my smart phone and from my desktop. I can report that my installation has never crashed, fetching 60+ feeds every 5 minutes or so. That’s not to say others have made it crash - please raise issues if you have a problem.

Thanks for the updates, Glynn. And for all of you who are curious, check out BirdReader at  https://github.com/glynnbird/birdreader for this great alternative to Google Reader.