August 21, 2002
The quest for the ideal news aggregator (part 7) - Review & Recommendation: Aggie

This is getting somewhere... After trying all kinds of news aggregators - web-based and windows-applications, I've found one I really - REALLY - like... It requires a 20+ Meg download (of the Microsoft .NET framework, if you don't have it already), but Aggie is worth the wait! (The Aggie application itself is less than 100kb! :-)

Very nice features:

  • Skinning: The "pixel" skin is beautiful!
  • optional: display only new headers or display all downloaded feed-headers
  • uses HTTP 1.1 functionality to determine whether a feed has changed since last download (reducing download time)
  • very nice progress indicator (and multithreaded feed downloads(!))
  • funky options: Aggie can display feeds in the browser and enable you to see the first line of every syndicated entry in full and the remainder of the entry in a condensend font. This lets you fit more news on a single page. Click on an entry to uncompress the font and read the full item. Click it again and it toggles back to compressed mode.
  • uses "polite" HTTP Referer-headers when loading logs (in my case, when I fetch news, the referrer looks like this: http://bitworking.org/AggieReferrers.html?userWeblog=http://www.jacobsen.no/anders/blog/)
Room for improvement (nobody's perfect)
  • sometimes a little bit slow (from hitting "Go" to retrieve new headers, it sometimes appears that the Aggie-windows is "hanging" whilt in fact it isn't. This may be a limitation of the .NET framework (of which Aggie is a native application))
  • if some features from FeedReader could be picked up (like minimizing to the system tray + some kind of auto refresh mechanism w/notifications?) this would be the best tool I've tested so far!!
In fact, Aggie is the best tool I've seen so far. My search has come to an end for now (but of course I'm still open for input & will review aggregators the people point my attention to :-)

Other known Aggie users/reviews:

  • Rc3.org -- "In any case, I have nothing but unreserved praise for Aggie."
  • David Gammel -- "I have started storing my subscription list (generated by Aggie at home) on my site and then point Aggie on my work box at the list. That solved my need for a portable subscription list."
  • Mark Pilgrim

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Comments

Thanks! Glad you liked Aggie. Your first request is
already listed as a known enhancement request for
Aggie:
http://sourceforge.net/tracker/?atid=477949&group_id=55702&func=browse

As for your second enhancement I have some
reservations about adding an auto-refresh
to Aggie. I look at my own referrer logs and
see many Radio subscribers hitting my RSS file
once an hour all through the night, which is
quite a waste of bandwidth. If you do want
Aggie to work on a scheduled basis you can use
AggieCmd.exe which is a command line version
of Aggie that just pulls all the news and
generates a new Aggie.html. AggieCmd.exe is
suitable for running as a scheduled task, under
AT.EXE on an NT machine, for example.

Another enchancement coming up for RC5 is
an option to pump new items out to an SMTP
server so you can get new items in your email.

Glad your happy with the program and if you have
any questions/problems please let me know
or alternatively you can log them directly
at sourceforge:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/aggie/

Posted by: Joe on August 21, 2002 09:59 PM

Thanks for your comment, Joe, and thanks for a great product!

I do feel I have to add some frustrations after having tried to add some more feeds to Aggie: their newsfeeds might be slightly misformed (who am I to validate?), but all the other feed-readers were able to open boingboing and scripting news (but Aggie wasn't...).

I hope that accepting somewhat malformed feeds is something you'll consider for future developments...

(for your reference; the feeds I tried & failed:
http://www.scripting.com/rss.xml
http://www.boingboing.net/rss.xml )

Posted by: andersja on August 21, 2002 10:08 PM

RE: Some feeds not working with Aggie:

Aggie RC4 uses the .NET XML parser to parse RSS feeds, and so it does not accept feeds that are not strictly well-formed XML.

Aggie RC5 will use a two-step approach: First we try to see if the feed is well-formed, and if not, we use an alternate parser that is less strict in what it accepts.

I am using this combination now to read about 100 feeds, from many different production systems (Radio, MT, etc) and until now it works fine.

Posted by: Ziv Caspi on August 21, 2002 10:36 PM

Thanks for the update, Ziv! Look forward to it!

I also read your rant on liberal vs "conservative" parsers and I'm writing my thoughts in a separate post. Stay tuned ;-)

Posted by: andersja on August 21, 2002 10:50 PM

Aggie is excellent. What would make it really superlative is integration with Internet Explorer. If I could have, say, an Aggie toolbar so I could just hit a single button in my browser and get the latest updates in a page then I would be much more likely to use it as part of my everyday web use.

Having to fire off a separate program still tends to mean for me that I'm less likely to make use of it.

Posted by: Stephen on August 23, 2002 12:14 PM

Interesting stuff!
I have been playing around with auto-aggregation of UK blogs on a page on my site:
http://nicomorgan.com/feeds/
lists a selection of my blogroll, a choice made more because of the neatness of their RDF feeds than because of their content - it's only a beta version.

Posted by: nico on August 23, 2002 01:47 PM

Hi -

I'm the creator of the "pixel" skin that you're using in Aggie. Glad you like it! If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I'm always happy to entertain them, and usually implement them!

Posted by: Eric on August 23, 2002 08:29 PM

Nokian Tyres

Posted by: Nokian Tyres on September 2, 2005 03:52 PM
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