New Version of Fez Available!

My RSS reader, Fez, has hit a new version! Version 1.1 Troughton is now available, bringing with it speed and folders and HTTPS feed support, plus a slew of bug and visual fixes. If you’re an RSS user, give Fez a try! You can name your own price and decide your billing cycle. As little as $2/month or $20/year, you can use Fez like crazy and never miss out on your favorite sites. That’s cheaper than a cup of coffee per month!

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I’d like to introduce you to my RSS reader, Fez.

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Every morning, the first thing I do is grab a cup of coffee and sit down in front of my computer and read my RSS feeds. Google Reader, to me, was the modern day morning paper. It filled me in on what happened yesterday, last night, and early this morning. It had a current events section, a sports section, a technology section, and even a comics section.

But Google Reader always felt like it was missing something. Some polish, a couple of features, and consistency. I set out to make something like that early this year. And then, about a month later, Google announced it was shutting down Reader. The feeling was bittersweet for me as I was losing a tool I used every morning, but was also an opportunity to seize.

So, in about the same time frame that my larger competitors had, I built Fez by myself. You can see a list of features here.

One of my favorite features about Fez, though, is the Smart Tags. Smart Tags are like regular tags, but they happen automatically. You can create a smart tag to follow maybe a major event or tech conference. Using a keyword or more advanced Regular Expressions, you can automatically tag  articles with that criteria in the title, or summary, or both, grouping them all together in one spot.

Fez does cost money, but there’s a plan to fit nearly every budget. You can pay monthly, half-yearly, or yearly and you pick how much you pay in that billing cycle. You can change to spending more or less as often as you’d like. A few people have asked why Fez costs money while other readers are free. To me, an RSS reader is a tool one uses every day, usually many times per day. I feel I always want to pay for something I use that often and has made my life easier. It’s cheaper than a newspaper subscription, if you want it to be.

Fez also isn’t free, though, because servers and bandwidth aren’t free, but those aren’t as whimsical as my other reasons.

Every new Fez user gets their first month free. You credit card will not be charged until 30 days after you sign up, unless you cancel your account before then. And if you pay for 6 or 12 months in advance, you get an extra free month or two months, respectively.

So far, every little suggestion from users has been emailed or tweeted to me and I’ve implemented it or started to implement it. One user said he wanted the year to be displayed on the timestamps of old posts, so within 5 minutes, I made that change. It’s that service and dedication that you’re paying for, too.

Fez is my RSS reader that I use every day. I don’t have a custom build for myself. I’m on the same server as everyone else, so I’m striving to make Fez the best for everyone. If Fez sucks for you, Fez sucks for me too.

Fez has a robust feature set already, including marking entries read or unread, starring, tagging, Smart Tags, adding feeds, editing feeds, deleting feeds, sharing entries to social networks, sharing entries to other Fez users directly, and Google Reader import, which pulls in your feeds and your starred items.

And folders and different reading views are next on the list, with standard OPML import coming soon too, plus some other goodies I’ll share later. And, a special edition of Fez is being built that can be installed and run on any basic web server, so you can host Fez yourself. 

So, try Fez on. You’ve got nothing to lose.

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Alright! So, the death of Google Reader is imminent. I know there are a lot of new readers out right now by some big names, and they’re free right now. But here’s the deal: they’re run by big companies trying to cash in on a refreshed market and their readers are missing features.

Fez is built by one guy - me. I started building Fez before the Google Reader announcement because I wanted to make something better; something that reflected how we use the web today; something that fit with how I use RSS. And then I got lucky that Google was sunsetting Reader.

Fez is the standard RSS reader you’re used to, sure. Hell it can even mark items as read and unread. You can import your feeds and starred items from Google Reader (and soon any OPML file you’ve got). You can share items to other Fez users, or share them out into the world to virtually any social network using user-created Share Tools. Oh yeah, you can tag items, too.

Fez also features something kind of unique — Smart Tags. Smart Tags let you tag feed entries before the website even publishes them. Set up a Smart Tag for “apple” and all new entries coming into Fez that contain the word “apple” will appear there. You can even use complex RegEx, if you’re so inclined. You can have it match against just the title of the entry, or the entire article. 

Fez also has support for posts from public Facebook Pages to have them show up as a feed just like an RSS feed. Soon, Fez will support other social networks, too.

Initially, Fez will be available as a service for you to log into and use on any web browser, but very soon after launch, you’ll be able to purchase Fez as an installable web app you can load onto your own web server and host yourself. 

So, how much will Fez cost? That’s up to you. Fez’s pricing is on a sliding scale where you name the price. You can pay between $2-10 per month, $10-50 every 6 months, or $20-100 per year. It’s up to you on how valuable you find Fez, or how much you feel like supporting me. You can always change plans down the road, paying more or less. Note that paying for half a year up front  means you only pay for 5 months, and paying for a full year upfront means you only pay for 10 months.

Additionally, every new account gets a 30 day trial, so, if you sign up and Fez isn’t for you, you can cancel and not get charged if you do it in the first month.

No matter how much or how little you pay, you get the full Fez experience.

Google Reader is going away on Monday, and I know that means some of you may have moved on already. But, if you haven’t, make sure to grab your data from Google Takeout so you can import it into Fez, or whatever reader you choose.

Speaking of, Fez will also allow you to take your data with you if you ever leave. And a public API is forthcoming. It’ll operate in two modes: proprietary Fez Mode and legacy Google Reader mode so Fez will be compatible with apps you love. Once the API goes live, I’ll work with app developers to include Fez. 

Fez has been a labor of love — a love for RSS, a love for developing, and a love for making apps.

Follow along here, or on Twitter at @FezReader for updates. I’m working extra long to have Fez ready THIS WEEKEND.

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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve said anything about Fez and with Google Reader’s Deathday coming soon, I know some of you are anticipating it.

Well, I’ve been working on the social features of Fez as well as its API. Fez is using its own API, so it’s being built as the reader itself is being built. It will be a private API at launch, but once things settle down, I’ll be opening it up to the public.

Fez can now search for other users, let you send them a friend request, and approve friend requests. Of course, it’s just me and a test account, but I assure you I actually have friends.

Anyhow, in addition to being able to share entries out to Facebook, Twitter, etc., you’ll be able to send entries to your Fez friends directly inside Fez. You’ll have an Inbox list and be able to see things people have shared with you.

As far as core features go, Fez is damn near ready, but I have some buggy things to fix first.

Fez will launch as a hosted, subscription-based service first and then very shortly after, it’ll be available as an installable package to run on your own server (or locally on your computer using WAMP or whatever). I’ll throw some more details on that as things get closer.

I’ll also be announcing detailed pricing, etc. very soon. As I’ve mentioned before, it will be a pay-what-you-want model (with a minimum dollar amount) with monthly, 6-months, or yearly subscriptions and one flat price for the self-hosted version.

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Just a quick update on Fez.

I’ve been cleaning up some things and fixing some bugs with the core reading experience and feed fetching. I think we’re pretty solid on that front.

So, I added a new, fairly unique feature: SmartTags.

SmartTags are just like regular tags, but they’re far more powerful. They’re sort of like the Smart Playlists in iTunes. Basically, you add a SmartTag by giving it a name, and then supply some criteria for what entries should end up with that SmartTag.

I’ll give a real-world example.

Let’s say Apple has a keynote event happening tomorrow. You could create a SmartTag for any entry that has “apple” in the title or the summary. Then, as new entries come in, they’ll be analyzed and if they have “apple” in the title or the summary, they’ll be tagged and show up in the apple SmartTag folder.

Here’s what it looks like when adding a new SmartTag:

The Name is what you’ll see in the sidebar. That’s just something for you to identify the SmartTag. The Query is where things get interesting. You can enter in a simple word like “apple” by itself and everything will work really well. But, the Query can also be a Regular Expression. Using RegEx, you can create some very complex queries, like maybe tag any entry that contains “apple” but not “wwdc”.

In addition to powerful Queries, you can select whether the Query will be applied against the title of the entry, the summary of the entry, or both. This can be handy for simple words like “apple”. It might be better to search the title only so any food blog entries you follow don’t get erroneously tagged.

And the final option is a simple checkbox. Checking the “Remove Entries When Read” box will do just that: any entry that shows up in that SmartTag’s folder will be be un-SmartTagged once you read it. This is especially useful when following current events.

This is just one of the ways I’m trying to have Fez work the way you work and the way the web works. I hope I can share Fez with you guys soon! I’m trucking away and trying to get it done. Stay tuned!

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Welp, I’ve decided on a name, and I’m pretty happy with it. My web-based RSS reader will be called Fez.

I’m pretty pleased with logo, mostly.

Fez isn’t ready yet, but the progress is pretty great. It looks pretty, too. I’ve talked a lot about Fez in bits and pieces, but I figured I’d put it all together here.

Initially, Fez will be available for a subscription rate (on a sliding scale — you pick the amount you think is fair), with discounts for paying for 6 months or a year up front. This will support development and server costs.

Shortly there after (or maybe at the same time if I keep rocking), there will be a one-time purchase for a self-hosted version of Fez you can install on your own web server if you’d like more control over where your data is stored. Plus, this option will be cheaper since you only pay once.

There will be a light social layer on top of Fez, allowing users to share articles with each other within Fez. This will still work for self-hosted Fez users — you’ll be able to share with and get shares from subscription users as if you’re all on the same system. Accounts will be standard Zhephree accounts, so if you use neato! on iOS, Android, or webOS, you’ve already got an account.

Additionally, there will be ways to share articles via other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, or time-shifting apps like Pocket or Instapaper. Similar to how Google Reader offered an option to add your own sharing methods by using variables in a URL, you’ll be able to add your own share destinations, as well as use ones created by other users. So, let’s say you want to share to some new website and support for it doesn’t exist in Fez yet, you’ll be able to add support in by supplying the URL and filling in some variables, like URL and title for the article:

http://example.com/share?url={url}&title={title}

The actual method will be more elegant, but that gives you the idea.

In addition to subscribing to RSS and Atom feeds, you’ll also be able to subscribe to Facebook Pages. You’ll just add the URL to the Facebook Page like you would an RSS feed, and boom, it pulls in just like an RSS feed does, with no need to visit Facebook to see what your favorite local business or band is up to. There are plans to support other networks in the future, but Facebook will be available at launch.

And Fez will have all the typical features of an RSS reader — marking read/unread, starring to bookmark, tagging, etc. The idea is to make Fez a great RSS reader with some unobtrusive bells and whistles, as well as keeping it flexible for how you use the web.

Fez will be web-only, but will be mobile-friendly. After the core-Fez product is stable and working nicely, an API will be opened up for developers to build apps upon, but this will be quite some time later. The plan is for the API to be built into self-hosted versions of Fez also so you can use apps with your own domain.

So, here are some screenshots! Keep in mind, this is still in Alpha stages and isn’t even running on a staging server, let alone a production server. Stuff can and will likely change form what you see here.

This is the main feed view, in the “summary” view, one of four views for feeds.

This is the main feed view, in the “grid” view. This works really well for feeds that aren’t just text and frequently contain images.

This is the view menu. Each feed remembers the last view you selected for it, so if you want grid view for a specific feed all the time, it’ll remember this and always display it as a grid.

Tagging happens in-line via a pop-out text field so you don’t have to navigate away.

All of Fez will be navigable via the keyboard as well.

You will also be able to import your Google Reader subscriptions when you sign up for Fez, so you won’t have to worry about starting over from scratch.

I don’t have an ETA for Fez, but I have a goal to finish it before the July 1st death day of Google Reader.

So, that’s it for now, but more to come!

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I had to take a bit of a break from working on my RSS reader for a few days because holy hell have things been busy around here, but I’m back to it this week and have built some cool stuff.

I focused on the tagging system. It had to be done right, and it had to work and work fast. With some trickery of my rad database schema and some other fancy footwork, I’ve got a nice, fast, reliable tagging system. Here’s what it looks like when you go to tag an entry:

Type in your tags, hit enter, and boom. Entry is tagged. You can see all your tags in the sidebar on the left:

Nothing too fancy here, and nothing really innovative, but it’s working and looks good.

I also added a new feature that is pretty awesome and pretty exclusive to my reader and I haven’t felt like discussing it until now because I don’t want people to steal my idea, but hey, whatever!

So, I’ve gotten really good at working with APIs from social networks and normalizing their data, what with my foursquare work and my work on incredible! (webOS app that created a single stream of all your social network feeds). I figured I’d bring that expertise into this project and since fewer people are getting their news from RSS exclusively, I’d build this in.

As of right now, only Facebook is supported, but I plan to add more (possibly Twitter if I can work with their ToU for their API). Basically, when you go to add an RSS feed to the reader, you type/paste in the URL of a website or a feed. However, you’ll be able to paste in the URL of a Facebook Page and have that Page’s posts appear in your reader just like an RSS feed.

It looks and functions exactly like an RSS feed, but the content is from Facebook. I plan to only support Pages and not individuals’ profiles since that’s not the focus of this project, but I am working on allowing you to add individuals’ Facebook posts to your reader if that user has a public profile and allows subscribers, since those are usually public figures.

I’ve figured out a way to be able to add a Twitter feed and store data about the tweets without violating Twitter’s ToU, but I haven’t worked out how or if I need to obey the display guidelines for tweets (since this isn’t a client trying to replicate the core Twitter experience). So, don’t count on Twitter support out of the box.

Anyway, I’m trying to keep RSS relevant, but also recognize that people are using the web differently now to get news and information.

I hope to have some more good stuff to share next week. I have 2 names picked out for the app, and a logo designed for each. I originally said I wouldn’t ask for people’s input, but I might anyway. We’ll see!

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Another brief update on my upcoming RSS reader. First, as promised, here’s a preview of the Grid view for feeds:

(Click to embiggen) Each feed will remember the last view you had it in, so if you have a feed that’s all text, maybe the list view with summaries is best, but a feed with a mix of text and images would be better in a Grid view. You’ll also be able to set the default view for all feeds in your settings.

I made some enhancements to the XML parsing engine I’m using. The reader will now handle UTF-8 encoded feeds properly, and it can handle malformed XML feeds, so if the feed has missing tags or invalid XML characters or things not escaped properly, the feed should still load. I’ve also broadened its ability to parse XML feeds that have non-standard elements, like an RSS feed using the Atom feed <content> element instead of RSS’s <description> element. The idea is to have the reader be flexible so you won’t miss out on any content. 

I’ve also begun work on reading an individual entry, but I’ll wait to share that until it’s done.

Oh, also, last time I shared screenshots? Those were Photoshop mock-ups. This one up there is a real-live web page with actual data from my personal blog (and Daring Fireball and Marco.org). 

Major strides, but still more to go. I will have this done before Google Reader shuts down on July 1st, and my goal is to have it finished LONG before then.

I’m about to begin work on importing your Google Reader feeds and also your starred items from Google Reader, so hopefully when you start using my reader, you’ll be able to make it feel like home right away.

Additionally, I’m about to start work on “social feeds”. The web is different these days and you get content from more than just RSS feeds. My reader is aiming to help you with that. More on that later.

  • Question: How can I manage my devices for Neato? Because I want to remove a device from the list. - lifeinamillionmotions
  • Answer:

    log in at http://neatoit.com and you’ll be taken straight to the Devices page where you can remove or rename any device.

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I figured as a sign of good faith that, yes, I am actually building my RSS reader, (working under the working title of AlphaBeta) I’d share some early screenshots! Everyone loves screenshots!

Obviously, these are early and are subject to change. Not all buttons and features are visible in these shots yet, so if something obvious isn’t there (like, mark all as read) don’t worry — it’ll be there in the final product.

On to the eye candy!

(Click image to embiggen) This is the view of a single feed. There will be a massive “All Subscriptions” view, like in Reader, but this is just viewing an individual feed. Clicking the eye icon gives you a pop-up menu with 3 viewing options: Titles Only (looks like this, but no article summaries and is more compact), Summaries (the view you see), and Grid (which will hopefully be awesome as hell and not end up looking like Pinterest). The gear icon will be settings for this feed, like the name, the URL, a way to unsubscribe, etc. I’m toying with the idea of letting you set each feed to its own view style. Each feed is going to be different, so maybe a feed of the Astronomy Picture of the Day would be better suited in the grid format, as opposed to Titles Only. Actually, I like that. Let’s add that as a feature. I just invented it while typing this. It’s like you’re watching me think.

Now, that third item in the list is blue because the mouse is hovering over it. That’s how you know what entry you’ll be acting on when you click it. Clicking on an item changes the context of the whole page (no refresh) with the item in a sort of reading-friendly format (that’ll work nicely for image and video feeds, too). This is how that looks:

(Click image to embiggen) As you can see, you keep your sidebar, but the list becomes the entire entry in a clean and readable way. This is an RSS feed that shares full articles in the feed, btw. The reader will not scrape websites for the full article if the feed only provides article summaries.

On either side of the entry you have some left and right arrows. These will move to the previous and next items in the list, respectively. Yes, there will be keyboard navigation, too.

There’s still a ton more to do, but things are moving nicely. Favicons for the sites will also be visible throughout the site, so that plaintext list of feeds in the sidebar is only temporary.

There’s no logo visible because I haven’t decided on a name yet. I have two options and Rhea and I are the only ones that know them. I’ve made a logo for one of the names, and my plan is to make the logo for the second name and then I’ll decided between the two. I’m really happy the logo I created for the one I’ve done, so if the second one is as good, this’ll be tough. I probably won’t do a vote for the name because I have a feeling whatever one wins I’ll be like “But… maybe I like the other one better?” and nothing will get done.

Anyhoo, I’m bustin’ my hump trying to knock this out as quickly as possible while still maintaining awesomeness.

At any rate, I’m getting more and more excited by the day.