As most of you already know Google Reader, Google’s RSS aggregation service that made it easy to follow blogs and other sites you’re really interested in, is shutting down on Monday. When that happens you’ll need to find another way to collect new posts for easy reading. Fortunately for those of you who create websites there is an excellent replacement that not only lets you collect posts like Google reader but also makes that data yours. In other words, you won’t have to scramble for a replacement when the next service goes down.
His software, Fever, is one of the easiest to use RSS aggregators I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s fast, configurable, accessible and it makes it easier to subscribe to new feeds than Google Reader ever did. While it isn’t as full-featured as Google Reader in terms of built-in sharing services it fills its intended role as a collection of your favorite sites quite well and can easily be used with browser services such as Buffer or others to make a very flexible read and share service.
So what makes Fever so good if it can’t share your articles? Fever, unlike every other service I looked at, is self hosted meaning you install it on your web host like you do WordPress or any other website application. In fact, if you already have a WordPress site hosted somewhere you can probably just create a folder named “fever” and upload the files to it. Its requirements are almost identical to those of WordPress so unless you’re on a WordPress only host, getting it up and running is a breeze.
Once it is running the interface is admittedly rather plain but it is effective. All the normal keyboard shortcuts are available and getting around, saving items, and generally making use of all the information is a lot easier than it was on Google Reader. If you’re like me and get overwhelmed easily with too much content (I have close to 300 feeds I subscribe to as of today) Fever makes finding what is important extra easy with its temperature based rating system. Basically, it looks across your feeds and assigns them a number (in Fahrenheit or Celsius based on how important they are to you as the user. While not full-proof I’ve found this approach highly effective on days when I just don’t have time to go through everything and want to focus on what matters most. Nothing else I’ve seen has this. With every other service you either have to comb though all of your data manually or the service picks everything for you which may or may not be accurate. Fever’s hybrid approach is an excellent compromise that gives you the best of both worlds in a package that is actually useable.
Finally, and most important for me after I feel as if I was burned by Google Reader’s shutdown, because you host fever yourself all the data in it is yours. There is no service to shut down, there’s no company to leak your data and there’s no way you can’t get that data easily out of the application later should you so desire. Where individual posts and articles might not be important down the line the feeds they come from can be of immense importance and Fever can guarantee your access to these feeds better than anyone else on the market.
Of course, like everything else Fever isn’t perfect. First, as I mentioned before, you have to install it yourself. This is an easy process but if you don’t know how to install WordPress you’re probably going to have a problem with Fever too. As part of this, Fever does use up server resources (it can take a bit of power to comb through hundreds of Feeds on a regular interval). If you’re hosting account is already stretched to capacity you won’t want to add the extra burden of your RSS aggregator running on top of it so be careful if your host is already slow or has been warning you about too much use.
Beyond the technical limitations there is also the price, $30, which although it is a one-time fee is still more than Feedly and other services. In addition, that $30 only gets you one user. If you need a second user you’ll need to pay another $30 and install a second copy of the software somewhere. Last but not least, if you want to read your news on something other than the website it is possible but clients aren’t nearly as plentiful as those for Google Reader were. I actually found Fever through the Reeder App for iPhone but Reeder isn’t available on any other platforms yet. For Mac I’ve settles on ReadKit (one of only two apps currently in the App Store for Fever) and on iPad I’m using Ashes which while usable is limited in functionality making it almost impossible to directly share items from the iPad or to store them in another server such as Evernote.
In the end the choice off RSS software is a personal one and depends almost entirely on the preferences of the person actually reading the feeds. That said, if your needs include ownership of your own data and a no-frills app that will reliable keep you up to date on all the sites important to you than Fever really is your best bet. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.