Use Tiny Tiny RSS to Track & Read Your Favorite Blogs
In a few weeks, on July 1st 2013, Google will shut down Google Reader, leaving many people scrambling for a new way to aggregate their RSS (really simple syndication) feeds and keep track of their favorite blogs and news sources.
While some regard RSS as outdated due to the popularity of twitter and other social media (maybe those same people who think the website is obsolete), I use RSS daily to keep track of the news and my favorite blogs. I'm probably one of those "power users" that Google decided were too much of a minority to serve (see this excellent Wired article on why they are shutting Reader down). Who are the other power users? Well Reader was extremely popular amongst journalists, bloggers, and others in the media industry. With twitter, it is so easy for a news development or story to pass you by unless you are constantly plugged in. With an RSS reader every unread article is collected in one place. This means that if your organization maintains a blog, even without Reader it is still going to pay to feature RSS syndication as those in the news media will only switch toward alternative aggregators. Think of RSS as a PR email that actually gets read- assuming people subscribe.
There are myriad options to replace Reader. The most well known include Feedly, The Old Reader, FeedBin, NewsBlur, or whatever Digg is cooking up. After testing a few of these options, my personal favorite is the open source Tiny Tiny RSS, known by its abbreviation TT-RSS. I like TT-RSS for many reasons. Chief among them is that it's open source. The code is going nowhere: it's never getting shut down and you can follow your feeds without worry. While there may be other open source options, TT-RSS is by far the most popular and thus has the most documentation, making it easy to set-up and troubleshoot. Multiple users can use the same installation under different profiles, letting you set it up for friends and/or family. Furthermore, it's fully customizable: TT-RSS can be re-skinned any way you want using CSS, making it stylistically dynamic to suit your individual taste, the season, or even another once-popular RSS aggregator (ahem, Google Reader, ahem). Finally, because it isn't owned by Google, you can rest assured that your blog reading habits aren't being fed into PRISM (or can you?).
The install is easy, provided you already have access to your own webhost. PHP 5.3 or newer is required so make sure your webhost has that - some hosts may require you to update your settings from an earlier version. From there, the steps are easy (I'm going to gloss over them here and provide links afterward to several sources for more detailed and advanced installation instructions):
- Download the TT-RSS files (scroll down to the 'Download' section)
- Create a new MySQL or PostgreSQL database on your webhost.
Import the TT-RSS schema file to your database. This is found in the 'Schema' folder in the TT-RSS files you just downloaded - there is one for MySQL and one for PostgreSQL and they are clearly named.
- Change config.php (found in the TT-RSS files you just downloaded, you will have to change the ending from .php-dist to just .php) to reflect the credentials for your new database. You'll have to change DB_TYPE (mysql or postgresql), DB_HOST (URL of where you plan on hosting the files), DB_USER (the username you chose when setting up the database), DB_NAME (the name of the database you just set up), and DB_PASS (your databases password). The config.php file is well documented with notes so it should be a breeze.
- Upload the TT-RSS files to your server. I chose to put them in mydomain.com/tt-rss
- Log in to your installation!
If you are porting over feeds from Google Reader, you can import your xml file (which you can download from Google Reader's preferences) to Preferences -> Feeds ->OPML
Importing Google Reader XML
If you want to change how TT-RSS looks, edit CSS directly in Preferences -> Preferences -> Customize Style Sheet
Editing CSS in TT-RSS
For more in-depth instructions on TT-RSS installation, there are some great guides out there. I like this one from Lifehacker, but there is also this one from TechRepublic and a more advanced one here. Look to the Tiny Tiny RSS forums for further troubleshooting, and for some tasty CSS themes.