I Have Fever

As a longtime admirer and user of Mint, and someone never-quite-satisfied with the state of my RSS toolset, I was excited to find that Mint author Shaun Inman has a new project, a web-based feedreader called Fever.

Fever is an interesting kind of software: it’s not a desktop application, and it’s not a web-based service. Instead it’s a PHP application you install on your own server and thus to use it you need something capable of running PHP and MySQL. And while that “something” can be as simple as your own Mac or PC, and while the installation into that something has been made about as dead simple as such a process can be, it’s still not a process for those who find “drag the program’s icon into you Applications folder” about all the technical knowledge they want to possess. It was easy for me; I wouldn’t necessarily suggest my father take on the task.

Here’s the Fever elevator pitch:

Your current feed reader is full of unread items. You’re hesitant to subscribe to any more feeds because you can’t keep up with your existing subs. Maybe you’ve even abandoned feeds altogether. Fever takes the temperature of your slice of the web and shows you what’s hot.

That’s a pretty good description of where I was at: 128 feeds in NetNewsWire, a mixture of locals and must-reads and generic cruft, and a general lack of enthusiasm for the whole task combined with a vague feeling that if I dropped out of the flow entirely I might miss Something Important.

Fever aims to cure that malaise by sectioning your feed landscape into two big piles: the Kindling, must-read feeds like your son’s blog or news from Ward 3, and Sparks, the “inessential” feeds that serve only to pop interesting links into Fever’s automated automagical “Hot” list of items in your feed-pool that have received attention from multiple sources.

It took me about 30 minutes to get up and running with Fever: setting up a MySQL database, installing and running a pre-flight check script that makes sure your setup is Fever-capable (a pre-customer-service masterstroke), purchasing a license ($US30), exporting my feeds from NetNewsWire and importing into Fever. I then spent some time paring down my feed list, getting rid of old feeds that never get updated, and feeds that concerns interests I no longer have.

And here is the punchline: Fever actually did for me what it said it was going to. At first I couldn’t believe it: this morning there were only 5 unread items in my “Kindling” to read when I would usually be faced with 40 or 50 unread items in NetNewsWire. I thought something was broken, and fired up NetNewsWire to see what Fever was missing. It turns out that it wasn’t missing: there really were only 5 must-read items waiting for me to read; everything else was just a lot of “cool iPhone 3GS hacks”-like posts that I was simply in the habit of scanning right over. Now, if enough authors of my “Sparks” feeds think I really oughta know about the cool iPhone 3GS hacks, then that news will show up in “Hot.” Otherwise, I never have to be bothered with it.

Suffice to say that, at least so far, I am happy with my new Fever, and it’s become my newsreader of choice.