A Holy Shit Moment – RSS + NNTP

Rands often talks about his HOLY SHIT LIST on his blog, and I’ve been meaning to do one lately. But today, I had one, and I just need to share.

As of late, I’ve noticed my blogroll has been spiralling out of control. This leads to frequent pruning and then forgetting about sites I probably should be reading more often (, for instance).

So I started thinking about my options. I had tried NetNewsWire Lite, and while it was working for a bit, there were enough interface quirks that when it thrashed my subscription list, I threw my hands up and shouted “FUCK IT”. I tried tinkering with the mt-rssfeed plugin, but that wasn’t doing what I wanted it to either; no distinction between what I have read and what I hadn’t, plus messy crontab configuration.

Somehow, I remembered in the back of my mind a conversation I had with Jeff Vinocur about 2-3 months ago where he was looking for something to do RSS aggregation without the hassle of using another app. Jeff redefines “usenet junkie”, so he ended up finding a piece of software called nntprss. As I understood it at the time, nntprss took rss feeds and propagated it to a news server or something, so I was frightened off.

In fact, it’s even more simple than that. nntprss takes a list of RSS feeds (given to it through a web front end which it also provides), parses them at intervals you set, and expresses them as newsgroups on its own NNTP server.
Today, I downloaded it, and this is what ensued:

Hmm, nice platform-indifferent install. It’s Java, though…hrm.
*type type type*
Hmm, easy enough to get running.
*click type click*
Nice web interface…let me add a few feeds and fire up MT-Newswatcher.
*click click click click click type type type*

It was like an epiphany. The light shone down from the Heavens, and I realized at long last how easy it was going to be to handle 80+ RSS feeds at once. I realized how nice it will be to categorize my feeds into a hierarchy. To pull it all in at a glance and see what I have to read using an interface I’ve been used to since 1995. All this using a protocol that’s been around for at least 20 years, where there are tons of robust tools to use on top of it.

It’s not perfect yet; I really want to see the ability to have one rss feed post to multiple groups, thus allowing me to aggregate groups of friends into one newsgroup. But this is version 0.3. It’s not even close to done, and right now it’s pretty damn good. And even though this thing is cranking away and checking RSS feeds nearly every second, it’s using at 0.8% of my CPU when it’s active. For comparison, the Palm Desktop software, which I don’t use with any regularity, eats up twice that.

Holy shit indeed.

(Anyone who wants to try it, I’ve been happily letting people onto the news server to see what it’s like; grab a news client and drop me an email or a comment and I’ll send you my IP.)