RSS/Atom is a great companion in the smol web. It's relatively standard, easy to write, easy to consume, and provide users with choice on how to view their feeds.
I think an RSS service using an SSH app could be useful.
# market research
Here are some other RSS readers in the market: https://hey.lists.sh/rss-readers
- Keypair authentication
- Ability to upload feeds
- Ability to upload opml file
- We would manage fetching feeds and keeping them up-to-date
- We could send an email digest (if they provide their email)
- Provide a web view for the feeds
# what can we offer over the other readers?
We would try to provide a great reading experience from the terminal. No need to install an RSS reader like newsboat. No need to sync a config file across multiple apps. Just go to your rss read homepage and start reading. Furthermore, many of the readers do not provide an rss-to-email feature and most rss-to-email services do not provide readers so there's an interesting opportunity here to capture both audiences.
The other nice thing about an RSS reader app is that it ties into our other services that leverage RSS as well. It's hard to let users know of new features when they aren't notified about them.
By providing a service that emails users of our services, it would hopefully improve our communication with our users.
Because the web version doesn't require authentication, anyone could navigate to any user's feed collection and read its content. This would also provide mobile support for users since they can just navigate to our website. The only issue is we might have to deal with content security policy and ensuring we could render the html content consistently. It definitely opens us open to a bunch of edge cases. Creating a proxy service might be necessary in that case.
# how it works
A user would
- a file containing a lists of rss feeds
echo "<feed>" | ssh reads.sh
It doesn't matter how many opml or feed files the user uploads, we would dedupe
them when figuring out how to fetch their feeds. Because an RSS feed can contain
a bunch of metadata about a feed, we should capture as much of that as possible
posts table. The downside is we use
posts for a lot of our
services (e.g. lists, prose, and pastes) so we want to be careful not to
overload this table. Having said that, I think an rss feed fits into the post
paradigm. We just need to add a
data jsonb column to
1ALTER TABLE posts ADD COLUMN data jsonb;
We want to be smart about how we fetch feeds because it could be resource intensive if the service gets big enough.
What would trigger us fetching feeds?:
- Maybe we just use a cron?
- Prior to sending out daily email digest
- When the user requests to view the feed on our web site
Fetching feeds can be a little tricky since some feeds do not provide the html inside their atom entry. Instead they provide a link for users to click on to navigate to their site. This kind of defeats the purpose of using RSS so we could just render the link and force users to open their browser. Or we fetch the link provided in the atom entry and store the html in our database. This would probably provide a better user experience but it opens us open to a slew of edge cases and weird behavior.
# email digest
I also think that if we do send out a daily digest, we add a button in the email that they need to click within 30 days or else we disable sending them an email. They click the button in the email -> we delay shutdown for 30 days.
# tracking feed entries
We would probably create a separate table for the feed results in order to optimize storing an retrieval.
1CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS feed_entry ( 2 id uuid NOT NILL DEFAULT uuid_generate_v4(), 3 post_id uuid NOT NULL, 4 read boolean NOT NULL DEFAULT false, 5 author character varying(250), 6 category character varying(250), 7 published timestamp without time zone NOT NULL DEFAULT NOW(), 8 rights character varying(2000), 9 source character varying(2000), 10 content text, 11 contributor character varying(250), 12 atom_id character varying(250), 13 link character varying(2000), 14 summary text, 15 title character varying(250), 16 created_at timestamp without time zone NOT NULL DEFAULT NOW(), 17 updated_at timestamp without time zone NOT NULL DEFAULT NOW(), 18 CONSTRAINT entry_unique_atom_id UNIQUE (atom_id, post_id), 19 CONSTRAINT feed_entry_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id), 20 CONSTRAINT fk_entry_posts 21 FOREIGN KEY(post_id) 22 REFERENCES posts(id) 23 ON DELETE CASCADE 24 ON UPDATE CASCADE 25);
# queue system
We will probably also want a queuing system. I figured we could just build one that fits our purposes inside our database.
1CREATE TYPE JOB_STATUS AS ENUM ('in_progress', 'success', 'fail'); 2CREATE TYPE JOB_TYPE AS ENUM ('fetch_feed'); 3 4CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS app_queue( 5 id uuid NOT NILL DEFAULT uuid_generate_v4(), 6 post_id uuid NOT NULL, 7 status JOB_STATUS, 8 type JOB_TYPE, 9 input jsonb # params needed to execute job 10 output jsonb # result of job 11 created_at timestamp without time zone NOT NULL DEFAULT NOW(), 12 CONSTRAINT queue_pkey PRIMARY KEY (id), 13 CONSTRAINT fk_queue_posts 14 FOREIGN KEY(post_id) 15 REFERENCES posts(id) 16 ON DELETE CASCADE 17 ON UPDATE CASCADE 18);
I haven't figured out a great way for users to add metadata to their feeds. For
example, if they want to add tags to a feed so they could view a collection of
feeds in one list. We could do it within the CMS but I feel like it would be
better if there were a file format that could do that for us. the
seems like a good candidate.
I like the idea of storing the results in the database, but I could also see an argument for using something more ephemeral like redis.
- RSS readers have been done before
- Syncing feeds can be costly in terms of compute resources
- Following atom entry links to the webpage puts us in the scraping category which opens us up to stability issues (e.g. some sites deny scrapers)
- Web view might run into content security policy issues