Also, check out the Toggle Sidebar bookmarklet by Chas J. Owens. We love how our apps page is growing and are looking forward to see the first Windows Phone application join the club.
And good news everyone: the Paypal button on our Donate page is back. Thank you all for your support and incredible patience. Again, a friendly reminder: if you are on a tight budget, don’t send us anything.
Maintenance alert: The Old Reader will be unavailable for some time this Saturday. We will be migrating to a different storage system that will allow us to have much, much more data on the same number of servers. This means that we will be able to increase the number of posts we store for each feed, and make the inactivity period longer, which has been voted the most wanted feature by you, our users.
We will start working at 18:00 UTC, and we expect this maintenance to take about 6-8 hours (data, data everywhere). We have chosen the time with the lowest traffic to affect as few of you as possible. Please enjoy this Saturday break; your RSS feeds will be waiting for you on Sunday morning.
Spoilers! If everything goes as planned, we will be deploying lots of fixes and some new features shortly. See you next week!
Last week we launched API that has been very well accepted. We’ve got lots of feedback, but more importantly there already are two wonderful apps supporting The Old Reader: gReader for Android and Feeddler for iOS. For those who are into open source and Linux, feel free to check out Liferea. And the good news is: there are several more to come (can’t wait to share them with you). We now have a separate page listing all apps, extensions and related stuff. This week we were busy adjusting our infrastructure, fixing some bugs, and tweaking API so that more mobile apps could join the gang.
The first post-Google-Reader week has almost finished. We had been both afraid and excited about it, but it turned out not that bad. Let’s check our favorite graph of registered users:
The first graph covers time period from March until May and should give you a picture of what The Old Reader was before, and how we had to grow to handle the first wave of soon to be Google Reader refugees. The second one is relatively recent, from May till July 5 where you can see things heating up, but still not nearly half as much as in March.
Today we had our first major outage that can be perfectly described by infamous Murphy’s law: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Because we use this amazingly cheap but somewhat unreliable hosting provider, we had some issues with our database servers. Unfortunately, it happened at 3 am (or at 5 am for another half of the team). Usually we are always oncall and keep an eye on The Old Reader for ~20 hours a day, but this fell precisely into our blind spot.
We have set up some additional notifications, so hopefully we will be alerted immediately if something like this happens again. Because sleeping is definitely overrated and reading RSS is not. Sorry about what happened today. We will do better.
Next, community management time! Some of your comments and suggestions can be answered in a collective way:
1. Charge for the damn thing! / What is your business model? We are currently community-funded. You can support us using Flattr or Bitcoins. Most likely, we will bring back the PayPal button next week.
As for the future business model: we decided to go with freemium, and we are sticking to that. It’s a task of two parts: first, there are legal and administrative issues. In terms of these, we are probably that anecdotal deaf, three legged, one-eyed, and half-paralyzed dog called Lucky, but it looks like everything is nearly done. Second part is actually coding premium features and integrating with payment processing. We are still to do that.
We aim the site to be completely usable for free users, and we want paid users to get an even better experience (later improved to super awesome experience). We are gradually getting there.
2. Next Item Bookmarklet Chas. J. Owens made one. Thank him. It requires some effort to setup, but the instructions are clear.
Good news everyone. It looks like we can finally show some result of what we have been doing for the last couple of months, namely our mobile API. We have been running it on our test server for a week, gathered some initial feedback from several awesome mobile developers, and we think it’s now ready to be tested by the general public.
What does it mean to you? It means that there is now technical possibility to use The Old Reader with your favorite RSS app.
You can already try The Old Reader in Feeddler – free version already supports it, and the Pro version should get updated any time soon. Kudos to Che-Bin Liu for being extremely helpful in testing the API and getting Feeddler integrated so fast.
The documentation for the API is available in a separate github repo. It’s not the best piece of docs we’ve ever seen, but it seems to cover the basic use cases. You are welcome to improve it, just send us a pull request with your adjustments. Please note that even though you can use API both via http and https, we highly encourage you to use https for security reasons.
And last, but not least, spread the word. Let the developer of your favorite RSS app know about The Old Reader API, and ask them to get integrated. We would really like to see more and more apps working with the site bringing native mobile experience to the users of all platforms.
Beautiful and unrelated picture from Trending page. By Michal Karcz
So, many users have been asking us about our plans and some ETAs for many features we have in our roadmap. As all of you probably know, The Old Reader is something that we do in our spare time, and obviously the amount of work we can do is heavily influenced by our day jobs, personal life, and air dates of our favorite TV shows. So while we usually are quite open about our plans, we prefer not to promise any release dates.
However, today is different. One of the most voted feature requests in our roadmap (and an important pre-requisite for the most popular request) – API – is nearly ready. We finished what we believe is the first beta of the API, and we have started getting some preliminary feedback from a small group of early testers. Our plan is to get it deployed to production next week. If you are a mobile app developer, and you’d like to participate in the early testing – please get in touch with us, and we will be happy to give you access to our testing playground.
What’s next? Well, given that Google Reader will cease to exist in less than 2 weeks, we have been seeing quite a lot of new users recently, so we need to spend some time on refactoring our data storage systems to be able to serve this increasing number of users with the limited resources we have. Why not just buy more servers, you’ll ask? Well, we’d love to, but the amount of donations we receive right now covers about half of our hosting cost, so we have to pay several hundreds of Euro every month to run the site. We almost finished all the legal formalities, so we hope to be able to get the Paypal donations button back pretty soon. It feels like making The Old Reader was easier than registering a company to accept payments to run it. This is ridiculous.
Yeah, and since we mentioned Google Reader, lots of new users is not the only indicator of day X getting closer and closer. It looks like during the past few weeks every other person with coding skills decided to make their own RSS reader. We love that — the more the merrier. But we are not amused with the some marketing techniques used. We have been getting reports that users who read our updates in twitter are getting mass followed by some of the new kids on the block. We’d like to apologize to all our users who became a victim of this spam. Sorry, guys, gals and cats, we don’t like it as much as you do.
Our first public beta was released on June 13 a year ago. It had an ugly icon and default Bootstrap theme, but it was ok. At least, our friends said so. Looking back, I can’t believe what we have actually achieved in a year, and I absolutely can’t believe the amount of things that need to be done. The scale of things is also kind of scary.
One of our users suggested that we update our blog more often, another one posted the picture below, so we decided to write more regular updates of what we are up to. And even though The Old Reader is our free time project, we usually spend time on it every day.
Google Reader is due to be closed in less than a month, and our team can feel things heating up: new web-based RSS readers seem to be launching every week; we got some new code contributors aboard; and we started getting more and more questions about API and mobile apps.
Well, API is being cooked, and it is getting there. It is about 70% done, and I can already have first The Old Reader in-app experience (basic and painful, but still!). We really hope we can completely finish it in July, and it remains our top priority. I already have a mailing list for developers (thank you for your input on REST vs Google Reader API) and everyone else who expressed their interest in this topic, so the moment it’s ready we’ll spread the news as much as we can.
Besides working in API, we’ve been quite busy with other stuff during last couple of months: improved our feed refresh intervals significantly, fixed a number of nasty bugs that duplicated user posts in some cases, improved monitoring, and answered what feels like several thousands of emails, forum messages, and tweets.
We have also recently enjoyed crossing another milestone in user count – 218 – and sorted some legal issues that seemed actually more difficult than all our technical challenges combined.
We also launched several new servers so that we could fit new users, and our hosting cost increased even more. So we will kindly remind you of that Flattr button (hopefully it won’t be there for too long).
Next planned post will be about our future plans, making The Old Reader sustainable, and probably some announcements.
(image from our Trending section which never fails to amuse)
We have been busy implementing and testing some of the features you requested, and we finally deployed them earlier today. Besides fixing a number of server- and client-side bugs, we’ve shipped:
— Extended keyboard shortcuts. Press ? to see the list of the shortcuts that are now available to you;
— Enhanced list view: we now show part of the post text after the title, and clicking on any part of it expands the post;
— Lazy loading of images and media content for list view: heavy content is now only loaded when you expand the post. This saves quite a lot of browser resources and bandwidth for mobile users;
— UI enhancements: full time is now displayed when you hover the human readable timestamps. Also, client side code should now show you an error message when it cannot talk to the server.
Getting so many things done in such a short period of time would not be possible without our brilliant contributors. We have been helped by our old friend Nick Bugaiov, Ben Gdovicak, and Brian Jou. Those are the awesome people who responded to our call for help a month ago, and invested their precious time to make The Old Reader better. Well done guys!
If you know your way around Ruby on Rails and have some time to spend on improving the site you hopefully use quite often — drop us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org), we still have some space in that dark basement we all sit at night coding.
Today we are celebrating first year anniversary of The Old Reader. A year ago I talked to Dmitry about photography and, while browsing Google Reader, once again recalled how good it had been before November 2011 and persuaded Dmitry to start building a new reader for us and our friends. This was the start of our project. Then we had to come up with the name, and do it fast. Then Dmitry started coding, Anton began configuring stuff on his and Dmitry’s own servers, and I started asking all kinds of questions in numerous emails to my friends all around the world (here is my Oscar speech about people who helped us with the first beta in June).
I was sure that we could make it but I never imagined that we’d go as far as we have gone. I never imagined that in a year we would grow up from 50 friends to over 200,000 people. I never imagined we’d be able to refresh about 4 million feeds every day. I never imagined that my “strategy” will apparently lead us to getting covered by all major tech media. And I certainly never imagined we would be getting this amount of warm words, feedback and support in donations that allows us to keep going.
But news can’t be always good. Recently Anton was asked to stop working on The Old Reader in his spare time because of a potential conflict of interest with his day job. This is a heartbreaking moment for Dmitry and me. Anton was the one who provided his own hardware when we started the project, then built our own infrastructure from scratch, managed, supported, and made it scaleable. He was always the “on call” engineer for The Old Reader, patching mongodb code at 6 AM or revamping our monitoring in the middle of night. He had a clear vision of his part of the job, and if you ever received a reply to your feedback that was probably too sharp and direct — that was most likely from him. We’d never go this far if not for his involvement in the project.
I am inclined to work on The Old Reader and bring it to a new level, starting with search for funding and making it a full-time job, even if it means putting away everything else, having even less spare time, and getting even more project-related emotional swings.
A year ago we only had an idea and some spare time, nothing else. Now we have a plan, a deadline, a vision, help from our new contributors (more on this in a separate blog post soon), and of course the invaluable support of our awesome users who donate to keep the project running. And that’s a start. Thank you everyone.
1. First and the most important: thank you everybody for your donations. We now have enough to secure our servers for the next two months or so. You can donate using Flattr or using bitcoins: 1JMYDeTaJHvfL6stbvwNdbY8zVqWfEnucU.
2. We’ve got an incredible amount of emails during last three weeks. There’ve been several days when all three of us were busy mostly dealing with user requests. If you believe that The Old Reader is missing something (and it surely is), please go to our Uservoice page, browse the issues (most likely, someone has already created your suggestion), and vote for the ones you like. Also you can see what’s already planned there. And please, check our Status page or subscribe to our Twitter account — we are updating these two on current issues.
We only have that much time during the day to spare on this project, and we would prefer to spend it making The Old Reader more reliable or implementing new features, not removing duplicate feature requests or explaining how to create a folder.
We are focused on making everything work for the vast number of users and feeds, for now this is our top priority.
3. We could really use some help on the Ruby on Rails front. If you have experience engineering medium-size websites, and you’d like to become a part of our small team, please, drop us a line to email@example.com. If you have any other suggestions about how you can help us, feel free to email us as well. Or just spread the word, that’d be much appreciated.
We can’t pay you a huge pile of money, but we still have something interesting to offer.
Our user base recently grew 15x (and counting), and this changed everything. In a week we have gone from a personal project ran by three friends to a personal project ran by three friends with about 150,000 users.
Thank you everyone for your kind words, support, critique and active participation!
We are doing everything to bring things back to normal again, and we need your support.
We pay lots of attention to user requests, so we could not ignore the one where you had been asking for a way to donate us money.
We have been looking for a good way to accept donations, and we found Flattr. It is a simple way to manage your micro donations. You can either donate us fixed amount of money, or press the “flattr” button, and then your monthly budget would be distributed it among us and other projects you donated to during a month.
If you feel like donating a significant sum or you find flattr inconvenient, drop us a note (firstname.lastname@example.org), we will figure something out.
If it’s a stretch, please don’t feel obligated to send us anything. We will use the money to expand our server infrastructure, which will help us to refresh feeds more often, process import queue more quickly, and even might even allow us to get more external resources to implement new features sooner.
Thank you everyone for your support. Every single contribution is an enormous help for us.
This morning I have mixed feelings: I am happy that we have the possibility to bring our beloved The Old Reader to a new level, and I am sad that Google Reader soon will be completely over. It was a large part of my daily internet life. We even started making The Old Reader because no one could stand my whining anymore.
News came unexpected (mind you, we are living in GMT, so it was literally the middle of the night), but we are doing out best. We tripled our user base (and still counting), and our servers are not amused so far. We will be deploying more capacity shortly, so things should get better by the end of the day. Please, be patient with us.
This is overwhelming. When we started this as something for us and our friends to use, we never expected so many of you to join us in our journey. Thank you very much for your kind words and support, we appreciate this.
Seeing Google Reader go, many of you are asking whether The Old Reader is going to stick around. Also, quite a lot of people would like to donate to keep our project running. We have been discussing this quite a lot recently, and we decided that paid accounts (the freemium model) are the way to go. We want to keep making a great product for our users, not cater it for advertisers’ needs.
We are going to be honest, we have not even started coding this yet. However, we would like to get this news out as soon as possible for everyone to know the way we will be going. Paid accounts will have some additional features, but the basic free accounts will still be 100% usable. We are not in this game to make money, but we want to give something special back to the people who are going to be supporting us.
We have our daily jobs, so we can’t promise that new features will be ready tomorrow or next week. We have no investors or fancy business plans, but we are open about everything we do, and we want to do it the right way.
We reworked the plans according to the news today. Creating an API for mobile clients is the number one priority in our roadmap. We would love to collaborate with any developers who were making Google Reader clients. Please, spread the word about this if you can.
For those of you who are posting feedback and creating new feature requests - please, double-check for existing items in Uservoice. We hate answering the same questions multiple times and removing duplicate requests.
Most asked questions are: - “When will OPML import be working again?” As soon as we launch more capacity to handle this. Hopefully, later today. - “Why are you asking for access to my Google contacts when I log in via Google account?” We don’t anymore. - “When will you make an iOS app? How about Android?” We will start with API as soon as we can and see how it goes. - “Why is there no way to login without Google or Facebook accounts?” We cover that one in our knowledge base, but we plan to implement own login code. The demand is high. - “How do I rename a feed?”. Just browse the Tour page, please? - “Shut up and take my money!”. Will work on that, stay tuned.
We have lots of things to do, and it will probably take us several days to reply to all emails and tickets. Also, Twitter keeps reminding us about daily tweet limits, so there might be delays as well.
Some other news: last week our developer (on the left) turned 21, and we have implemented PubSubHubbub support. Many of you asked us to make feed updates faster, and PubSubHubbub makes compatible feeds refresh almost instantly. Yay!
Thank you very much for your support. We will do our best during next three months to prepare for the day Google Reader will no longer be around.