Why Tumblr is the best RSS reader

I use Google Reader like most RSS subscribers. But you know what? Tumblr’s better. (Added: I know Tumblr’s not a true RSS reader. Stick with me.) Here are five reasons:

No “unread” counts
I hate watching the number of unread items pile up until it hits “1000+.” Dave Winer thinks that’s the wrong way, too. It bugs me so much, I asked Aardvark for suggestions for a Google Reader-like without the unread count and got the reply “get over it.” Guess what Tumblr doesn’t have? I can start at the most recent and go until I start seeing stuff I’ve already seen or until I’m bored.

Everything gets mixed together
In both Google Reader and Tumblr, I subscribe to a huge range of things: politics, media, technology, funny, interesting, people I know. In Google Reader, even though I don’t have to, I segregate different stuff into different folders. But on Tumblr, that’s not even a possibility. So I’ll get some hilarious 4Chan joke right after photos of pelicans covered in BP’s oil. Believe me, way better than slogging through a bunch of tech blogs.

Commenting is just like blogging
When I pursue my feeds in Google Reader and something pisses me off so much that I am forced to spew Internet-troll rage inspires me to respond, that comment is often buried in Google Reader. But on Tumblr, if I have something to say, I can hit the “reblog” button, write as much or as little as I’d like and publish it to a blog. My blog.

Subscribing isn’t a commitment
Even though it’s not, subscribing to a feed in Google Reader feels like a commitment; suddenly I’ve just added 10 more unread items and a new feed to to categorize and prioritize. But when I land on a Tumblr blog, I almost always subscribe. It’s not going to add a bunch of new unread items to my reader, I don’t have to figure out where it fits in my folder scheme. If the blog becomes bothersome, I can unsubscribe easily.

Everything’s a full feed
I never, ever have to leave Tumblr’s dashboard to read the rest of something, which streamlines my reading a lot.

I’d miss some of Google Reader’s functionality (e-mailing and saving items in Pinboard, for instance), but if I could move all my non-Tumblr feed to my Tumblr dashboard, I think I would.

7 thoughts on “Why Tumblr is the best RSS reader

  1. Good post, Nick. I’ve only been on google reader for a couple months and haven’t been totally satisfied (before that I was just using bookmarks. Ugh).

    I agree the daunting “unread” number can be annoying. However, on at least one of my folders (“Iowa politics”) there are occasionally need-to-know items. As in, if I don’t read them, I’m not doing my job. That’s where being required to at least skim all the headlines is helpful.

    Unless I don’t understand what you said correctly, I’m calling BS on your second criticism. Why not just use gReader’s “All items” view?

    But your third criticism is key. Even though there is sharing and commenting, gReader just doesn’t “feel” social. That funcion on Tumblr is definitely attractive.

  2. I do use “view all” a lot, especially on my phone; it’s set as my default view. But just having my folders is a temptation.

    But sometimes a lack of options is a feature.

    For example, I could just ignore my unread items count, too. If I marked every thing as read every time I go into Google Reader and had it display all items, regardless of their status as read or unread, I could defeat the unread count, right?

  3. True. I definitely agree that fewer features is sometimes a feature in itself (the real feature being a cleaner look and easier usability). Those just aren’t things that bother me too much, I guess.

  4. Those reasons are very subjective, I don’t think many GR users will find them relevant, similarly as I’m surprised by your “reasons” for better

    I tried many RSS readers in the past: feeddemon is best for desktop and GR can’t be bitten by any service that I’m aware: for desktop it’s perfect through Prism, and the mobile version just answers why google is what it is today – it even reformats all “non mobile friendly” pages automagically

  5. Of course it’s subjective. It’s my reasons on my blog. And I continue to use Google Reader because I haven’t found a better reader that’s available on my desktop and my phone and anywhere else I might want to read it.

    In Google Reader, I tend to read my feeds in the “all items” view, which negates point number 2, and point number 3 might be iffy. But the unread counts drive me nuts and cause me to dump high-flow feeds that I otherwise enjoy.

  6. How do you use Tumblr as an RSS reader? I see how to follow other Tumblr blogs, but how do you follow other things?

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