Fever's main screen

I've Found My Replacement for Google Reader

Following Google’s announcement that Reader will be shuttered on July 1st, I - like most of the Internet’s voracious content-consumption/power user/geek population - went searching for a replacement. I argued right away that the new-found void left in the RSS reader space would be best filled by a new open source project to create an awesome reader that could be either self-hosted, or used as a hosted service. Given that such a product did not yet exist, I continued my search for an immediate replacement. Across all the different articles I read, one product kept popping up: Fever.

Fever's main menu, showing the different feed categories.
Fever’s main menu, showing the different feed categories.

Fever is a self-hosted PHP application that handles RSS in a unique way. Its goal is not to get you to read every single article from every single feed you’ve subscribed to, but rather to surface the most important stories across all your feeds. It accomplishes this allowing you to assign different roles to your subscribed feeds. The metaphor of the interface is based around fire and temperature - more popular stories and topics are considered hotter, and your various feeds are different types of fuel for the fire.

By default, a feed is considered Kindling - this is the traditional read-every-article area of the application, intended for sites from which you want to see all the posts. I use this for some personal and project blogs. A feed can also be set as a Spark. Sparks are feeds you don’t want to read thoroughly but that Fever uses as signals, which it uses in conjunction with Kindling to determine what are the most important topics being discussed across all your feeds. The more places a topic is discussed, the higher the “temperature” of that topic.

Reading an individual article from one of my Kindling feeds.
Reading an individual article from one of my Kindling feeds.

All this data is used to create the story listings on the “Hot” page. This is the main page of the application, where stories are ranked and displayed based on their temperature. Topics are grouped, with a headline or key phrase displayed in large letters at the top of the box, and all the stories from your feeds that cover that story listed below it. The headline links to a page that all of the signal stories link to, allowing you to quickly get straight to the source. If you’d also/rather read coverage from a particular site to which you’ve subscribed, you can click the link to their story.

Fever's "Hot" page, showing stories ranked by their "temperature" and grouping all the articles from my feeds discussing the topic.
Fever’s “Hot” page, showing stories ranked by their “temperature” and grouping all the articles from my feeds discussing the topic.

The result is a faster, more efficient way to find the big stories without seeing the same story multiple times the way you would with a traditional RSS reader. Another difference between Fever and other readers: as the number of subscribed feeds increases, the user experience improves.

I’ll admit that when I first started using Fever last week, I wasn’t thrilled. I’ve been using Google Reader for so long that I felt I was missing interesting stuff, and was a bit confused by the interface. After a few days of adding feeds and using it, I’m totally hooked. I’ve logged back into my Google Reader account once or twice since switching, and I’m already overwhelmed. Fever is a much better way to do RSS. It’s like having the interface of Google News, but the sources are entirely curated by me.

The user interface could use a little tweaking. All the links, icons & menus are a bit too small, and the phrase or headline Fever selects for each box doesn’t always make sense. These are minor issues though, and once you get the hang of it you’ll barely notice them.

Fever is not free, unfortunately. It’s developed and maintained by Shaun Inman, and he has to make a living just like everyone else. At $30 it’s a little pricey, but for content junkies it’s well worth it. I still would like to see an open source project pop up to fill the Google Reader void, but I’m rethinking what I’d like it to do after using Fever. The story ranking and surfacing is a must-have. If you’re as big a Google Reader user as I was, I highly recommend checking out Fever.

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