Feeding an offline reading habit


Ever since I got an iPhone 4 with the retina display I have been hooked on keeping up with my favourite tech and security blogs on the move. Yes I’m one of those annoying zombies you see reading on their phone while walking, standing in line, on the train etc. It has enabled me to make better use of this time and keep entertained. However one of the major problems  is that I live in London and most of my reading is done on the one hour commute to and from work on the tube (underground subway). The tube has no Internet access so I have had to find some offline ways to feed my habit. These are some of the best ways I have found to read and share what I like:


Reeder – a lot of people say RSS is dead and most outside tech circles do not even know what it is. But for offline reading it is absolutely brilliant. This is the most used app on my iPhone, just sync it to a Google reader account, add your favourite RSS feeds and it is good to go. It has great sharing options (more on that later) and has recently added Readability get those articles which only give you a partial post via RSS (online capability unfortunately).  It also has a copy link button which is great for…

Instapaper – the second most used app on my phone .You can copy a link to a long article from Reader, switch to Instapaper and it will pop us with a notification to add that to your reading list. Instapaper is awesome and has also had an upgrade recently which adds more sharing options, a way to see what articles your friends have liked and editor curated feeds like Techmeme [edit: unfortunately RSS feeds to folders were removed in v3.0 apparently no one was using them, a very sad event for us offline readers]. I have heard that Readability is also good but with Instapaper I have had no need for anything else

Tweetymail – again bucking the trend that email is dead. Email is great because it allows caching of messages. With Reader and Instapaper you have the option to mail link, setup Tweetymail with your Twitter account and you can tweet your message and the link via email. These can simply queue up when you are offline and automatically send, much better than the drafts in the Twitter app which you have to remember to post. Tweetymail will also alert you on @mentions via email, so if the iPhone notification system annoys you it is a great alternative. You can also get your timeline with filters, and of course any links can be added to Instapaper for later reading.

Friendmail – a new addition from the makers of Tweetymail for Facebook. Gives you a twice daily Facebook news feed, allows you to post status updates, comments and even likes. All done via email offline and posted when you have an offline connection

Email PDF’s and IBooks – PDF’s and PDF links can be emailed to yourself and then opened in iBooks. Until Instapaper adds PDF support this is a good way, if a little cumbersome to read documents people annoyingly insist on publishing only via PDF

HNRecap – good site that sorts the best hacker news stories of the day with a handy button for adding to Instapaper.

Posturous and Tumblr apps – Both of these have a much better interface than the Blogger app unfortunately for now. Make it very easy to post pictures and blogs. Posturous in particular is great as it allows you to write a blog post via email without even needing the app.

Push email - a lot of what I talked about above needs push email that is automatically downloaded to your phone. Setup your email to use IMAP, instructions for Gmail here and then set on your iPhone: Settings > Mail, Calender, Contacts > Fetch New Data - Push and I use every 15 minutes. I have found IMAP a lot better than Exchange for accurate and timely sync.

[Edit] Yahoo pipes and WizardRSS - After the disappointment of Instapaper removing the full text RSS to folder, I found WizardRSS. This is service based on Yahoo pipes lets you get the full text of any RSS feed. I was very happy to find it worked well for Hacker news. You can do some amazing things with Yahoo pipes, for example an Engadget feed I built that is ranked by Postrank. Great set of slides showing you the power of Yahoo pipes and getting more out of RSS for your busy day and offline reading below.

I have created the following pipes which you are welcome to use, you can just add the links directly into Reader to get the RSS feed. The Postrank numbers work for me, feel free to clone the pipe and adjust the number:

  • Popular tech blogs - Techcrunch, Readswriteweb, Mashable, Techmeme etc with a Postrank above 8.0
  • Hacker news - full copy of Hackernews articles with Postrank above 8.0
  • Security bloggers network - filtered for articles with Postrank above 7.0
  • Daily news - with Postrank of above 10.0, because I feel like I live in a geek bubble
If you create any cool pipes, please leave the link in comments.


Would love to know any other tips, message me @rakkhis or leave a comment.

My curated lists:
Photo credit: Matthew Stuart Flikr

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