I hate feed readers. Always have. Frankly, I just don’t have time to read every single post by every single blogger I like, not even close, so I only log into my feed reader once every day or two. Because I follow so many people, that means that every time I log in, my feed reader shows a billion unread posts. Some days, it looks so daunting to clear ‘em all out, that I just close my browser without reading anything.
I keep TweetDeck running all day though. I thought to myself recently, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could combine Twitter and feeds to make a column just for people’s new blog posts.
I mean, I know a lot of bloggers out there tweet their links, but they often get lost in the shuffle of conversation. And not everyone has their Twitter account tied to Twitterfeed (or a related service). And some people tweet links to multiple sites, both their own and others, or tweet links from the archives, etc.
It gets confusing. Yet, somehow I don’t think it will work to contact every blogger I like and saying, “Hey, will you create a separate Twitter account JUST for your feed so I can follow that account and put it into a group just for feeds?”
But, duh…I can do this myself. Kind of. With a little hacking (and I use that term loosely, because this involves no actual hacking, just ingenuity), you can turn Twitter into a Feed Reader!
STEP ONE: Create a new Twitter account. I’m using @allisonsreading, for example. If you don’t want people to see what you’re reading, set this account to private. If you make it public, I also recommend putting your real Twitter ID in the profile with a message that you won’t be replying/tweeting from this account – that it is purely links. DO NOT follow anyone from this account or you’ll be missing the entire point of setting up this account.
STEP TWO: Sign up for Twitterfeed, or sign in if you already have an account.
STEP THREE: Authenticate your new Twitter account with Twitterfeed.
STEP FOUR: Add a new feed by going to a site you like to read, clicking on the RSS button, and copy/pasting that URL into Twitterfeed. For most sites, the blog URL, followed by “/feed” works too if you can’t find a button.
STEP FIVE: Click on the advanced options link in Twitterfeed and add the site’s name or blogger’s name to the prefix box. This will make it easier to see who wrote the link that’s being posted. Personally, I also change the settings so it only tweets the title, not the title and description, but you can do whatever you want. You could also put the blogger’s Twitter ID in the prefix or suffix box so it pings the author, but that’s totally up to you.
STEP SIX: Repeat this for all the blogs you’d normally add to your feed reader of choice. Manually doing this takes a long time. Someone out there who is smarter than me should totally run with this idea and automate the service, as I bet it would make a lot of money if marketed correctly.
STEP SEVEN: Open TweetDeck or whatever you use and add your new Twitter account. Create a new column for “all followers.” Since you aren’t actually following anyone, it will only show your tweets. AND GUESS WHAT? Your tweets are ONLY the feeds you want to read!
Voilà! Your very own feed reader directly within Twitter. I’m currently in the “add all my feeds to Twitterfeed” stage. Seriously, someone should create a service to automate this process and thread it through feedburner (so as to not mess up bloggers’ feed counts).
If there are certain blogs that you love so much you HAVE to read every single post or you like categories, you could easily make more than one extra Twitter account and have multiple columns going on TweetDeck.
There are definitely some downsides to this kind of feed reader. Definitely the manual input is a drag. Beyond that, you’re also likely going to miss posts as they fly by if you add more than a handful of feeds. This is more for someone like me who just wants a non-intimidating way to look at what was recently posted by my favorite bloggers when I have a moment or two to read something.
Fun Possibility: You could add this account to your blog’s sidebar instead of a traditional blogroll! I hate blogrolls because they get outdated to quickly and tend to grow at an alarming rate. This way, you don’t have to keep track of broken links and you’re still promoting the sites that you like to read. It also takes up less real estate on your sidebar and is constantly changing, so people are more likely to quit. I would LOVE to be on someone’s “blogroll” this way instead of being on a traditional blogroll.
Also…income stream possibility? Create an account just for Sponsored Feeds and place the widget on your sidebar (clearly marked as “sponsored” of course). People would pay for their feed to show up on your sidebar this way. This is just a really just a random thought I had – I haven’t looked into it at all to see if this would break any sort of Twitter rules or be a no-no with Google. Look into it before you run with that idea.
Will someone please pay me to just sit around and think of ideas? In all honesty, I’m sure that some smart cookies out there are already doing this, but I haven’t seen anyone talking about it, so I wanted to pass on the idea!
Hope it helps some of you – RT this post if it does (feel free to cc: @allison_boyer – I’d love to know who is using this idea!).
Note: This post was originally published on the NMX blog in Dec 2010. Since then, I’ve seen a number of other people using this technique or a similar technique to make Twitter a feed reader!