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Google Reader replacements: broken feed handling

Several of the feeds I was subscribed to were moribund and/or broken. There are some significant differences in how the various readers handle them. Here are a couple of representative examples:

FatBits, John Siracusa’s old Ars Technica staff blog

The URL for this feed was This returns a 301 (Moved Permanently) redirecting to /staff/, which is not a feed. This is clearly breakage on Ars’s part.

  • The Old Reader scraped the redirected-to page and pulled a feed URL out of it,, but kept the old title, so the main Ars feed appears as “FatBits: John Siracusa’s Journal”.
  • Feedly just says “No unread articles”; I’m unaware of a way to view errors from it, or even the feed URL without pulling it out of the page URL.
  • Feed Wrangler also scraped the redirected-to page, but changed the title to “Ars Technica”.
  • NewsBlur somehow figured out that the correct URL should be and used that. It changed the title to “Ars Technica » John Siracusa” based on the feed, as well.

Clearly NewsBlur’s behavior is the best here; if you try to subscribe to a broken feed, it also provides a search interface with some great suggestions. Feed Wrangler is acceptable; The Old Reader less so, and Feedly not at all.

Canned Platypus, now Platypus Reloaded, Jeff Darcy’s blog

The URL for this feed was At various times this was a broken redirect to, which currently returns 404 Not Found.

  • The Old Reader followed the broken redirect, but does not show the 404 anywhere, even when I click “Refresh”. Articles are shown, presumably from when the URL worked.
  • Feedly probably followed a redirect at another time, so it has instead, which also returns a 404 — this information is not visible anywhere I can see, and there are no articles in the feed visible.
  • Feed Wrangler was able to discover a valid feed address,, and even displays a combination of the old and new feeds with appropriate site titles.
  • NewsBlur displays an ! icon that, when clicked on, pops up a resolution interface with useful options. Clicking “Fetch Feed From Website”, as recommended, causes the feed to correctly change to, though I repeatedly saw hangs when clicking “Retry Fetching and Parsing”.

Feed Wrangler did the right thing automatically; in addition, its combination of old and new feeds is exemplary. NewsBlur has a pretty good solution, though it requires manual intervention, exhibited some flakiness and necessitated the folder be expanded to see the ! icon. The Old Reader and Feedly’s ambivalence to errors was not appreciated.

4 comments on “Google Reader replacements: broken feed handling”

  1. 1 July 2013 | 11:16 AM

    That FatBits feed should redirect to my author feed at Ars now.

  2. 1 July 2013 | 12:15 PM

    Thanks, I guess I could have reported it as well as using it as an example :-)

  3. Mike Kormendy
    6 February 2014 | 11:49 AM

    I’ve been using TinyTinyRSS .. it’s my own google reader .. and I love it.

  4. 6 February 2014 | 12:59 PM

    Yeah, a bunch of my friends swear by tt-rss — but honestly the fewer servers I have to run myself, the better…

    Since I wrote this article series I’ve pretty much become a NewsBlur convert. There are a few minor bugs that don’t bother me too much (e.g., issues with rotation in the mobile app, and phantom unread articles in some cases), and I wish the Web site loaded a bit faster; but otherwise it works very well. While it’s available in a hosted version, it’s also open source (including the Web site, iOS and Android clients) and you can host it yourself if you want. I contributed to the iOS version a bit too.

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