In the past, I've been on the fence regarding switching to Fever, the self-hosted Google Reader alternative. The biggest drawback I saw was the fact that I mainly interfaced with Google Reader through Reeder on both the iOS and OS X platforms.
When Reeder 3.0 launched for the iPhone, the developer, Silvio Rizzi, included Fever support. I figured that now was a better time than ever to try it out. Just to point out, I never had any issues with Google Reader. I have been a long time supporter of Google Reader — but I just wanted try out something different just for the sake of it.
So I coughed up the $30 to purchase Fever from developer, Shaun Inman. I loaded it onto my web server and proceeded to link it to Fever.
However it crashed — repeatedly.
Apparently there was a bug that affected some Fever users.
Shortly after, Ben Brooks posted a link to a Fever client for the iPhone — Sunstroke by Gone East LLC. After purchasing the app, I successfully linked my Fever install with Sunstroke and attempted to use it as a full-time replacement of Reeder + Google Reader.
While the interface for Sunstroke is plain, it is definitely clean. I belong to the camp that believes that heavily customized/stylized interfaces are extremely hard to nail without looking cheap. With that, I'm glad Sunstroke developer, Anthony Drendel, chose the clean "default" iOS look for his RSS reader. At best, I would compare it to a simpler version of Reeder, in which the headlines and the snippets are stylized similarly along with the same side-scrolling animation upon selecting items.
With the latest update that just hit the App Store, Anthony had removed the Georgia font that was the originally the default. I had the pleasure to converse with Anthony after originally linking to his app a couple months ago, and that was one of the UI elements that I wished to be changed. Whether I had an impact on his decision or not is unknown — I'm just glad he went with a cleaner sans-serif typeface.
The "front page" of the app remains true to the Fever experience. There is a section for:
- Hot Links
- Your Feeds
Two Reeder updates later, the issues that the app had with Fever installed were finally addressed. Having used Sunstroke for a while, I went to check out how the Fever experienced performed on Reeder — it was no contest.
In my opinion, the best and most prominent feature of Fever is the Hot Links section. For the unfamiliar, Fever gathers up all the mentions of links within your feeds. As the link gets mentioned more, the hotter the "temperature" of the link gets.
For example, on International Terpstra Day, I tweeted an image of the temperature for Gabe's post on Macdrifter.
Screenshot from old version which shows Georgia typeface
While it is a trivial piece of information, I absolutely love it. However in Reeder's Fever implementation, they omit the temperature. While I assume it will probably be added in a future Reeder update, Sunstroke nails it now.
Another added feature, which I learned from Anthony, was that if you press and hold one of the Hot Links, a "tray" drops down in which it shows you the individual articles that linked to that post. You can then swipe from side to side to see all of the other links which a dot-indicator represents the number of items.
One of the most important feature as both a reader and a blogger is getting data out of the RSS reader. Sunstroke has quite a selection of sharing services:
- Copy Link
A previous incarnation of me would've been disappointed to see that Evernote isn't included. Of course you could always email the link and provide your @notebook and #tag snippets into the subject line, but those who export posts to Evernote will miss the ease.
Personally, the main ones that I use are Instapaper and Pinboard — so I'm a happy camper.
You can also swipe at any post to perform actions as configured by your settings. These actions include:
- Toggle Read
- Toggle Saved
- Send to Instapaper
- Send to Pocket
- Send to Readabiity
- Send to Pinboard
While both the amount of services to share with and the actions for swiping may not be as robust as Reeder's, they are very capable and would probably please most people out there (myself included).
While I may not have done rigorous testing with my Fever installation and settings, I think it's pretty safe to say that there are 2 areas that will affect your performance.
How you set up Fever
One of the philosophies of Fever is to add high-posting websites to the Sparks section. Again for those who may not be aware, the Sparks section is where you add sites like Ars Technica, Engadget, Techcrunch, etc. A lot of RSS junkies may not want to see all the posts that these sites may publish, but the benefit of adding them to your Sparks section is that they contribute to the Hot Links while not appearing in your regular feeds. If a story is hot, you can count on one, if not all, of these sites to link to it. Increased links = increased temperature.
So going back — if you add a lot of these high-posting sites to your Sparks section, Fever still checks them. Doing so will slow down your fetch times as your server will still have to process these posts.
The benefit of Google Reader is that you are using Google's servers and that is an obvious downfall to Fever. Google has many servers all over the world so the performance that you will get out of Google Reader will almost always be faster than your Fever setup. With that, no matter if you hook up Reeder or Sunstroke to Fever, it will almost certainly be slower than Google Reader.
With all that being said, it's hard to gauge Sunstroke's performance against anything else. To me, it seems fine. It doesn't seem any slower or faster than Reeder when hooked up to Fever, in my opinion2.
However, some of the animations do feel more sluggish compared to Reeder 3.0 (especially in comparison to Reeder 2.x). I personally don't think it's a deal breaker, but your mileage may vary.
To sum it all up, I believe Sunstroke is, by far, the best Fever client that is currently out for any platform. However, that does lead me to my last point.
Sunstroke will not replace Reeder for me. Don't get me wrong — it has nothing to do with the app, but actually the lack of Sunstroke-quality apps out there.
If Anthony and his crew released an iPad or a Mac app, I would be all over it in a heart beat. In fact, I'll call them out right now.
Release an iPad app and a Mac app, and I will personally buy them individually. Hell, I'd even buy some to give away on this site3.
The thing is, I do not like the Fever web-app experience — at all. I know it's like comparing David to Goliath, but I've been spoiled by Goliath for many years. The Google Reader web-app is far more responsive, and sadly, better to look at. On top of that, I rarely even look at the web app since I'm using Reeder for the desktop and for mobile.
If there were more Sunstroke-quality apps out there that would prevent me from having to log in to my Fever install, I would most likely consider dropping Google Reader.
If you're unlike me and have assigned Fever to handle your RSS fetching full-time, then I think you should really check out Sunstroke.