A Decade of RSS Via Email


I recently rediscovered my old post Using Email as an RSS Reader. This decade-old post was a time capsule, and I was shocked how little my news workflow has changed. Upon reflection almost every component of the workflow has been modified, but the functional difference is incredibly minor. I have changed the implementation but not the process. The biggest process change was splitting my “Videos” folder into “Videos” and “Videos — Background” 😱. Ten years later, I still read the majority of my news via email. I’m very pleased with my setup and am not seeking any improvements.

What I Still Love about Email as a Feed Reader

  1. My email is already synchronized across all of my devices, no need to set up an additional app.
  2. Very configurable clients with control over notifications, synchronization and display.
  3. Easy management of my “archive”, including search and backups.
  4. Powerful filters.
  5. No lock-in. I can switch clients, mailserver, RSS-to-Email service or any other component without disrupting the overall workflow.

What Has Changed

My life has changed dramatically in the meantime. I graduated from university in Ottawa, moved to Ireland, then back to Toronto. In that time I’ve had 5 different jobs with unique fun and challenges. However, I still get my news in the same way.

YouTube Notifications Shutdown

One major change is moving to different services for sending me news. In 2020 YouTube turned off upload notifications so I switched to their feeds. (I was thinking of doing this beforehand anyways as they started sending digest updates which I found quite annoying).

Blogtrottr to FeedMail

Then in 2021 I launched my own RSS-to-email service and obviously switched to that. I had no major complaints with Blogtrottr, and would still recommend their service, but there were a few improvements that I wanted. One big difference with FeedMail is support for multiple email addresses. I did create multiple Blogtrottr accounts to work around this, but only my primary account was covered by a paid subscription (without ads). It was also tedious to move feeds between different accounts. In the original post I talked about using a +news address to redirect messages into a specific folder. But due to lack of multi-address support I needed to use email filters to sort videos into a different folder. With FeedMail I can quickly pick between +news, +videos and +videos-bg addresses. I can effectively pick the target folder as I subscribe, rather than then needing to setup filters afterwards. This made it easier to use more folders, hence the addition of “Videos — Background”.

GMail to Self-hosted

I also switched from Google Mail after Google announced the end of the Google Apps for your Domain Free Edition and am now hosting my own email (inbound) and I switched from the GMail app to K-9 Mail. I do still use Thunderbird on the desktop. However I do most of my reading on mobile, so my client-side software is almost completely changed.

What Would I Change?

As I said I’m very happy with the setup I have. But if I had to pick one thing, I would like better offline support. Most content is very readable offline as I have configured K-9 Mail to download my news folders for offline use. However remote content (like images) is not fetched until you open the message, and even then it isn’t aggressively cached. Ideally pre-downloading remote content would be an email-client option so that it works for all messages including my feeds, tickets and other newsletters. I have also been considering adding an option to FeedMail to download remote content and attach it to the message. It would get the job done, but I’m not sure if it is the best experience, it would quickly spend email storage space which is typically expensive, but could be good for privacy.

That’s All

So everything has changed, but very little has changed. I wonder what my workflow will be in another decade. Most likely nearly identical, but who knows? Everything could be different.