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Peruse, a feed reader for finding something good to read

If you are 1. a hacker and 2. have nearly given up on reading news RSS because all feed readers suck, then Peruse may be for you. Read on.

The problem

Most feed readers (such as the most popular, Google Reader) have some problems:

  • They look and act like inboxes. Showing unread counts makes you feel like reading news is a task to be accomplished, rather than a relaxing passtime to be done as little or as much as you like.
  • They don't automatically learn what you like and dislike. Amazon and Netflix are smart enough to tailor your experience based on what you've enjoyed in the past, why not your feed reader?
  • Feeds with high volume tend to drown out feeds with low volume. Daring Fireball or Megan McArdle, good as they are, end up drowning out Paul Graham essays due to the relative frequency of posts. If I've got fifty unread articles from Daring Fireball and one unread article from Paul Graham, I don't want to have a miniscule 1/51 chance of reading the latter.
  • They are not accessible on multiple devices. Desktop feed readers don't help you when you're on the go (the main time I want to read feeds); mobile readers can't be accessed on your main system.
  • Google Reader, a web app, can be accessed from both desktop and mobile. But it's gotten so javascript heavy that it loads slowly when cell receiption is weak, and clutters the screen with widgets.

The solution

Peruse is my solution. Is it yours? See if you agree with my approach:

  • Peruse doesn't have any direct way to view the number of unread articles or feeds.
  • You train Peruse over time by rating posts thumbs up, meh, or thumbs down. Highly rated feeds will show posts more often. Low-rated feeds will show posts less and less, until some point they stop appearing altogether.
  • Peruse first picks a feed to show an article from, then an article from that feed's unread list. Number of unread posts in the feed matters not at all as long as there is at least one unread post in each.
  • Peruse has an extremely simple, streamlined web interface. It's fast to load and does not use any ajax. C'mon, it's the digital equivalent of a newspaper. It doesn't need to be complicated.
  • Peruse is a Sinatra app which you can run locally (if you like) or deploy to someplace on the Internet to access from anywhere (recommended). It doesn't have multi-user capability; this is intended for one user, a hacker who considers running a Ruby web app a completely ordinary thing to do.

Try it out

git clone git://
cd peruse
bundle install
rake db:migrate
 bundle exec stalk jobs.rb &
 bundle exec clockwork clock.rb
bundle exec thin start

Browse to: http://localhost:3000/ You can now add some feeds manually, or import an OPML file. Instructions are in the app for importing from Google Reader.


Rating options are presented at the bottom of each article:

Thumbs up - Select if you found the article enjoyable, enriching, or thought-provoking. It means "more like this in the future."

Meh - Select if you found the article boring or otherwise lacking in new information or intellectual stimulation. It means "this is filler, in the future I only want to read something like this if there's nothing better to be had."

Thumbs down - Select if you found the article completely lacking in anything of interest or otherwise meriting your attention. It manes "don't bother me with things like this in the future."

No opinion - Select if you don't feel like stating an opinion, you just want to mark it read and get something else to read. Won't affect articles you are given in the future.