Ain't no one fucks with tiny hippo

Goodbye Google Reader

Ain't no one fucks with tiny hippo
Credit: Poorly Drawn Lines
You know, I get it. RSS is not a popular tool for people who like the ‘river’ flow of data. If you like everything to flow into your stream and back out, like Tumblr or Twitter or Facebook, then the loss of Google Reader is meaningless to them. “Why do I want another inbox?” they argue. That’s all fine and dandy for you, but we have to accept that different people process data differently. Some people like to watch news come in live, like reading a CNN ticker, and if they miss it that’s okay. Others of us like to say ‘These are the things I like, save a note when they happen and I’ll read them when I can.’ They’re two different workflows, and they appeal to different people.

Me? I’ve been using Tiny Tiny RSS for just under a year now, and I’ve actually figured out how to do everything I want, with key-commands. Since I use multiple devices for my news consumption (two laptops, an iPad, etc etc) having this web-based was a real killer. And while I could use a cloud device, I’ve never found one that worked across Windows and Macintosh, and wasn’t blocked by The Bank. That’s less of an issue now, but having it all on my own server beings me back to my oldest bugaboo ever: Owning my data.

If there’s anything you get from the whole Google Reader fiasco, it should be this: Google gave, and Google has taken away. Everyone who is mad that Google “Broke their trust.” just hasn’t been paying attention to the last year or two at Google. Google Apps for Email anyone? It’s not free anymore. But let’s not belabor the I-told-you-so part and get to the meat of the post.

Tiny Tiny RSS

So installing this is really easy for anyone who’s installed any PHP/SQL app before, I’m not going to get into that, you can read the Install Notes yourself. What I will point out are the plugins I find most useful, and the quirks to keep in mind.

First of all, ttrss is more like MediaWiki than WordPress. This means the upgrade is mostly manual for some of us, and you activate plugins by editing the config.php file. However. There is also a plugin interface in settings, so the define’d plugins are basically like Network Activated, which is great if you have multiple users. The other plugins are in the preferences.

Plugins work like this:

define('PLUGINS', 'auth_internal, digest, updater');

And I am fond of the following:

  • auth_internal – Authenticates against internal tt-rss database
  • digest – Digest mode for tt-rss (tablet friendly UI) Turn this on if you use your iPad
  • updater – Updates tt-rss installation to latest version.

Interestingly, I cannot run the web-updater from my server, and it’s certainly to do with my PHP settings. That said, the manual upgrade is like WP: upload files, refresh DB, drink beer. I don’t mind it at all. There are the other available plugins under Preferences -> Plugins, and they make a lot of sense just by looking at them. Obviously they’re easy to see based on what you’d want to use. There’s no Twitter Plugin since Twitter’s new API made it a hassle to tweet and I don’t blame them on this front.(Tangental: Speaking of asinine moves, Twitter’s new API may require us to use it to embed tweets. The answer to the direct question was predictably vague.)

But if you’re here today, you probably want a more Google Reader type experience. I would enable ‘Combined Feed Display’ under preferences and disable ‘Automatically expand articles in combined mode’. This will bring the ability to expand posts. It doesn’t collapse them quite right or at all via mouse, HOWEVER everything you want can be done via key commands.

  • s – Mark an article as starred.
  • n (or down-arrow) – go to the next article
  • p (or up-arrow) – go to the next article
  • u – toggle read/unread

That’s pretty much all I needed, and once I read them, they were blindingly obvious. You can see them when you’re

You can style CSS to fiddle with the layout, but so far I’ve not figured out how to make it display the title of the feed.

greader feeds


Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 11.54.09 AM

On the other hand, I know the favicons of most of these sites so with a little CSS jiggering I was able to make it look a little better for myself. Here’s my CSS:

div.postReply div.postContent, body#ttrssMain, body#ttrssPrefs, body#ttrssLogin, body,blockquote,#content-insert blockquote, #headlines-frame blockquote, .dijitContentPane blockquote  { font-size:14px;}
div.postReply div.postHeader { font-weight:bold;font-size:14px;}
.hlScorePic {display:none;}
img.tinyFeedIcon {float:left;}
.Unread span.titleWrap  { font-weight:bold; }

From there on out, you can play with design as you like it. It’s clean, it’s simple, and best of all, it’s Open Source so if you like most of it, you can fork the rest!


14 responses to “Goodbye Google Reader”

  1. “Google gave, Google has taken away”

    That line explains it perfectly.

    1. It’s so sad, isn’t it? They’re getting really good at “Don’t be evil, but be greedy.”

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  3. Google is a business, first and foremost, so these things don’t shock me. However, as I likely mentioned on twitter, I’m a Thunderbird user myself. I manage 2 out of 3 email accounts in there, might as well utilize the RSS features. If Thunderbird goes away for the most part in the future, I’ll have to keep Tiny Tiny RSS in mind, for sure.

    1. Yes, but when a company starts making a pattern of taking free and removing it, or going to paid only, it’s disturbing.

      I’d be less annoyed if they said it was a money thing. “We can’t afford to have free personal domains for email anymore.” But that’s not how they explain it. And yes, that bugs me.

    2. I’m not disturbed that Google’s turning it off (more annoyed at the inconvenience) but it really highlights that you shouldn’t depend on a third party for what you want.

      I tried Feedly for a day but it’s dependent on a Chrome or Firefox extension (neither can be used where I work) and the sudden influx of former Google Reader users has made the free service unreliable for me yesterday.

      Setting up Tiny Tiny RSS was so trivial. The keybindings took me all of 30 seconds to get used to and with the cronjob running the updates are good.

      I’m sold and will make a vhost for it. 😉

  4. I played with Tiny-squared a bit yesterday and I have a couple of quick questions: ❓
    1. I couldn’t isolate an RSS feed for filtered feeds. I could for Search, Tags and all published feeds. Any idea about this?
    2. There were several choices for updating the feeds. What do you use?
    3. Also curious if you know how much CPU and RAM power you give to Tiny. Is it on an isolated VM or located along with other web apps like WordPress? Or maybe just on your own computer? 🙄

    Cheers Mike 😎

    1. Well I use it on this server, under the same account I run a Multisite on (it’s on same as this site) so I can access it anywhere any time. I studied the CPU and RAM early on, found it very minimal, and stopped paying attention. FWIW, that’s what I do with most things. I study it at first, and then if its okay after the first month, I forget about it until things blow up. I’m terrible about this stuff. Though truthfully its that I know I can’t tell by tests if something will work, I need to real-world bake it.

      I update via cron, because my server setup made the daemon a little off. Every 15 minutes, it runs the shell command, works fine.

      Filters work fine for me. Made a filter for, gave it the action to tag entries as wpcom, worked as expected. I’d post in the ttrss forums with what you’re trying to do and how, and see if they have an answer.

    2. Thanks. I will give the tires a kick over the weekend.
      The crons are no problem and I saw the tags have a feed. I will try the forum to see if there is a way to link to a filter.
      I also downloaded three other open source RSS servers, but I haven’t tried them yet.

  5. […] Tiny RSS. tt-rss also comes recommended by someone I respect (Mika Epstein, in this case). And it’s community-developed, which I like. It doesn’t look as pretty […]

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  7. Thanks for the digest tip. The option was grayed out in the settings page, even under my administrator account. Adding it manually to the config.php fixed it — and made TTRSS damn near perfect for me.

  8. John P. Bloch Avatar
    John P. Bloch

    I just got ttrss up and running today. It was a fairly painless process.

    Just in case anybody else is wondering, there is a way to collapse items: the keyboard shortcut is
    a q