Nick Harris

NetNewsWire – Time to Breakup

with 3 comments

When I started at NewsGator there was one client side RSS feed reader in house called NewsGator “Outlook Edition”. My job was to take over development of it as the company moved to a backend sync system that kept everything you read in sync. It was 2005 and I was just learning about blogs and this new medium of RSS. Reading blog posts in NewsGator “Outlook Edition” or on the NewsGator “Web Edition” and having their read states sync was cutting edge to me. Writing the very first app to sync with the new backend platform was an incredible challenge.

My second week at NewsGator I went to lunch with Greg Reinacker, Lane Mohler and Nick Bradbury. Nick, of course, had written FeedDemon which I had never heard of at the time. I had spent a year at my old job using TopStyle so I did know his name. It was the first time I met someone who single handily wrote software I used. It was cool, though I didn’t make much of it. We all just wrote software.

Further down my timeline at NewsGator, we had a guest in the office. My co-worker Gordon Weakliem recognized him as Brent Simmons, the creator of NetNewsWire. I knew that NewsGator was actively pushing the new sync platform to current RSS reader developers. I’m not sure if it was before or after that day when Gordon and I were in Redmond, WA with Gordon trying to pitch Dare Obasanjo (RSS Bandit creator) on it, but I was there and knew the pitch.

I believe it was about 1 month for NickB to join, then 5-6 months after I had started that Brent actually came onboard. I was part of the new team of RSS client devs – Nick, Nick and Brent. Affectionately called “The Nicks” for sometime since no one at NewsGator had a Mac nor really cared about Mac development.

I was completely concentrated on RSS for Outlook, but NickB, Brent and myself often tossed ideas off of each other for improving user experience. It was around this time that I wrote a series of blog posts about user experience and how I had improved NewsGator Inbox (its new name by then) based on all the wonderful discussions NickB, Brent and I had and code I had actually shipped. Unfortunately that was on a company blog that has since been retired.

As NewsGator pivoted to a more Enterprise focus it was decided to shutdown the RSS sync system. The backend of polling RSS feeds and delivering data was still going well, but the market for RSS client apps was coming to a close. With the release of native support for RSS in Outlook it was decided to shutter NewsGator Inbox while transitioning NetNewsWire and FeedDemon to a Google Reader backend. In addition, I was moved to the NewsGator platform team. It made sense. I was already informally in charge of the the API at that point so formally making the switch was a natural transition.

Around this time I had also taken it apon myself to learn how to write apps for iOS. I believe Pocket Euchre (my first iOS app) had been out for a bit and was doing rather well. With the release of the iPad coming up fast, I was invited by Brent to help with NetNewsWire iPad. It was an amazing experience. I worked on all the cool animations and UX that Brad Ellis designed while Brent worked on stability. It launched on day one. A very proud achievement of mine that I never talk about.

This also marked the time when I moved from Windows to Mac fulltime. NewsGator recognized my iOS skills and put me to work building the first mobile apps for Social Sites. Later on I was invited to be part of Sepia Labs using both my platform skills and iOS skills to build Glassboard.

All that time I continued to use NetNewsWire. Even with the demise of Google Reader, and its purchase by Black Pixel, I’m still using NetNewsWire as my desktop reader. But that time has unfortunately come to an end.

I need read state sync and a multiple device experience. I want to be able to click links to blog posts I see on twitter and have them marked read in my RSS app. Really I want to spend less time dealing with read state – something I was spoiled with at NewsGator.

Its not easy. Its an incredibly difficult problem to solve. But it is solvable. The problem is if the solution is profitable. I love Black Pixel and have many dear friends that work there, but its not their bread and butter. A problem like this needs focus and daily attention.

As Brent stated recently, blogs are incredibly important and will outlive any social network. I completely agree.

So I’m looking for suggestions.

Where can I spend some time/money either literally helping someone write code or just supporting efforts that do this well? I wish I had the solution, but after 7+ years working on the problem I came up short.

Written by Nick Harris

September 2, 2014 at 3:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Have you seen ReadKit?

    I’ve been using it for several months with FeedBin as the RSS server. Feedbin supports a whole bunch of different clients, but I’m really happy with the Readkit desktop experience. It’s pretty customizable and fast enough for me.


    September 2, 2014 at 4:23 pm

  2. I just made the transition to ReadKit too, using Dropbox for sync.

    I was seeing behavior on NWW I wasn’t seeing with any other app, on 10.8, 10.9 as well as 10.10 – every so often the app window while visible was completely unclickable; other times it would suddenly stop responding to keyboard commands. This weekend I had had enough of force-quitting it to get it to function, and moved to ReadKit, very happy so far even though I’m still getting used to the UI.


    September 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

  3. Does Readkit have an Applescript or other API?

    Joe Hildebrand

    September 13, 2014 at 1:35 am

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