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Making the Tiny switch from Google Reader

2013 May 10
by matthew

With Google Reader officially marked as “Dead Man Walking” as of July 1, 2013, I immediately started looking for an alternative RSS reader. Google Reader was probably my number two destination on the web after Google search.

I’ve played with RSS Owl and Vienna on the Mac and although they are fantastic tools in their own right I need a portable tool. I read on my laptop, my phone, my tablet, and who knows what devices coming down the line. I can’t  have my data locked in a single device. So the solution had to be mobile. Although I love my Gmail account I was never comfortable using it until they started offering IMAP and I could get my mail out of their system. I was never happy with handing over all of my data to a service that I ultimately have no control over but until recently I never found a self hosted solution I was happy with.

I checked out Feedly and although it is available in the Chrome store that’s not the same thing as being on the web. I tried the iOS app as well and although it was beautiful it wasn’t utilitarian enough. I’m not looking just for a sexy interface to be entertained – I use my reader as an educational and research tool.


I’m a strong believer in the power of the web. After hearing how sites like could deliver fantastic mobile experiences I started looking for a web based alternative, preferably one I could host myself.

I tried selfoss again and initially it was my strong favorite since it worked out of the box on both my desktop and mobile devices. In the end however I went with Tiny Tiny RSS. Both seamlessly imported my OPML from Google Takeout but selfoss seemed to just dump my carefully arranged tags and folders across the UI however it wanted, and I couldn’t easily resize the navigational pane on the desktop.

However the true deal-breaker was selfoss’s inability to actually update my feeds. I have almost 14.5K articles in my RSS reader (I told you I was a serious RSS user) and the selfoss updater was apparently never designed to handle feeds of that magnitude and it just feel over and died with out of memory errors every time it was run. I increased the memory limit for PHP (well over 128 MB for a simple update script?!?) and in fact I briefly flirted with the idea of setting up a VPS for my reader but decided against it.

I’m glad I didn’t because Tiny on the other hand mowed through the updates like a champ.  With a little more digging I found a mobile version that works just swimmingly on my iPhone and iPad. In fact there are native apps for AndroidiOS, and BlackBerry. You just need to enable access in your account preferences :

    • In Tiny Tiny RSS go into Actions -> Preferences
    • Configuration -> Enable external API

Tiny has multi-user support which meant only one copy of the software to install and only one database to maintain for my wife and I. Configuring a cron job for Tiny was straightforward as well, though in case your host runs multiple versions of PHP make sure you’re using the right one (PHP 5.3+ at the time of this writing).

A few more tips.

Since I’m using Chrome I wanted a custom app icon to replace the one for Google RTiny tinyeader. I ended up using the one from the tt-rss users group.

I use my RSS reader to follow folks on Twitter.

Quick example:

Why would I do this when I have features like Twitter lists? It’s probably not the way Twitter would prefer me to use their service, but I don’t always want to have to follow someone just to get their public tweets. I also don’t want yet another way to manage my information feeds. Same thing for YouTube:

I also use Google Alerts which allow results in RSS.

With the RSS Subscription Extension of the Google, by the Google, for the Google (Chrome) you can automatically detect any RSS feeds on a site and add them directly to your Tiny installation.

  1. Get the RSS Subscription Extension.
  2. On the Extensions page, choose the RSS Subscription Extension‘s Options link.
  3. Click Add…
  4. Enter whatever you like for the description, and the following URL:
    2. where is the where you installed TIny. You need enable the external API in preferences for this to work.

One more – I don’t use it but Google News supports RSS as well.

The best part of all this is I have complete control over the entire software stack (PHP/MySQL application running on a standard LAMP stack) based on open standards and all of my data belongs to me. So far I haven’t missed Google Reader at all and I don’t anticipate doing so in the future.

I think Tiny and I are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

If you use Tiny please share your tips in the comments.

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