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Newsbeuter, Mutt and Google

I just discovered Newsbeuter supports synchronization with Google Reader. Not only your read/unread feed items, but you can also share and star items in Newsbeuter as you can in the Google Reader interface. This blog post is documenting how. Further, by using Buzz, you can also comment on your shared items, and others. I'll cover that as well.

First, I like the command line. I like minimalist function and design. It's always pulled me in. So, this solution is a command line solution. With that said, the command line doesn't work well for viewing images, does it? This can be problematic for RSS feeds. I understand this. However, since using Newsbeuter for the time I have, I've found that I read a lot of blogs that are 100% images, and when push comes to shove, it's adding a lot of noise to my RSS signal. As a result, I've removed a great deal of those feeds, and haven't missed them. Again, going back to minimalism, I read fewer feeds now, and the signal is much, much higher. However, the link to the RSS feed is in the post itself, so you can follow the link from Newsbeuter to the browser of your choice if you wish. This will be the minority of the time for myself.

Second, this solution is not only using Newsbeuter, but also Mutt. Really, any mail client will work, but I like Mutt, so I'll be using it in the solution here. Further, we'll be tying Reader and Buzz together to make a few things work. But, everyone hates Buzz, right? Well, I don't. I love the tight integration it has with Gmail and with Reader. Yeah, the design is lacking, that's for sure. And some of the keystrokes are completely bass-ackwards compared to reader, and can cause problems with Gmail. However, because of the integration, and the reply-by-mail feature, which we'll take advantage of here, you'll find you won't miss your Google Reader much (unless you absolutely have to view images in your feeds).

With that said, let's begin. First, you need to install Newsbeuter 2.2 or greater and an mail client (Mutt, as already mentioned, will be used here). After installing Newsbeuter, you need to configure it to sync with your Google Reader account. Here's what I set in my ~/.newsbeuter/config:

# setup google reader sync support
urls-source "googlereader"
googlereader-login ""
googlereader-password "my-password"
googlereader-flag-share "S"
googlereader-flag-star "s"

Make sure you read the documentation about the Google Reader support. Now, fire up Newsbeuter. After authenticating, you will notice that it has populated your feeds, and you can start pulling down the updates to unread items. Here's a screenshot of my Newsbeuter "home":

You now have access to your starred items, your shared items, popular items and people that you follow (what others are sharing), but not the comments. That's okay, we'll cover how to get access to that in a second. However, if you have access to your starred items and shared items, how do you share or star an item in Newsbeuter? This is done through flags. Newsbeuter has a flagging system that allows a custom categorization of feeds by the user. The flag must be a letter, ether uppercase or lowercase, A-Z and a-z. You set the flag by pressing "Ctrl-e", then entering the flag you wish to set. Now, you'll notice that in my config, I have two options that are for flags: "googlereader-flag-share" and "googlereader-flag-star". If I press "S" for my flag, then it will share the item. If I press "s" for my flag, then it will star the item. Test it, then log into the Google Reader interface to see it work.

Now, when I would share items, they usually were shared with a comment to encourage discussion with those who are following me (or anyone who can read the shared item). However, in Newsbeuter, there is no way to comment on a flagged item directly. Further, when you read items that your friends share, and they have comments with them, how do you add your own commentary? Well, I have a solution, but it doesn't involve Newsbeuter. Rather, it requires that you use Buzz and an email client.

With Buzz, you can add your Google Reader shared items as a connected page. This means that whenever you share an item on Reader, it will show up as a new item in Buzz. Further, Buzz will send you an email of all the items you've posted to your wall, as well as your items that have been commented on. When you receive the email, the body of the message might be something like this (text copied and pasted from Mutt):

Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 13:59:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Aaron Toponce <>
To: Aaron Toponce <>
Subject: Buzz from Aaron Toponce

[-- Autoview using /usr/bin/elinks -force-html -dump ''/tmp/mutt.html'' --]
   [1]Aaron Toponce – Google Reader   Aug 31, 2010
   [2]Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims - [3]Aaron
   Toponce's Friends' Facebook Links
   [4]Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims
   Source: [5]
   SALINA, KS—Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his
   deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more
   than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world.
       I seem to recall that in earlier times it was only the court jester
   who could get away with speaking unwelcome truth to power. Perhaps that is
   why comedy often forces us to see things about ourselves we don't want to
   Reply to this email to add a comment to this post.
   Link to this post:


   Visible links

Notice the "From" address. It's a long unique string that gives you access to comment on the post directly. As mentioned in the email, all you have to do is reply to the email, adding your commentary, and it will be posted as a comment on the shared item. You're actually commenting on a Buzz post, not a Reader post, however, because you tied Reader and Buzz together, they become one and the same. Also, Buzz is smart enough to strip signatures and attachments from the reply, so your email signature and S/MIME PGP attachment will also be stripped. Just make sure you trim your email appropriately, so you're not adding anything irrelevant to your comment (trim everything out of your reply).

Go back to Reader, pull up the shared item, and notice your comment on the post. Of course, you can comment on others shared items by sharing it first (the "S" flag for me), then replying to the mail sent from Buzz. When Buzz gives the ability to be notified of everything that your friends are posting, then you shouldn't have to share it also. However, I usually reshare what others have shared, so this isn't a show-stopper for me, even if it is less than perfect.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Newsbeuter's tagging feature. In Google Reader, I have separated my feeds into folders. However, when I sync with Reader, it seems all my feeds are in one massive "river of news". I don't like this, and wish the folders were preserved. Well, with Newsbeuter, it is through tags. When in the main window, press "t" and it will take you to your "tags", or folders as Reader would call it. At which point, you can read only what specific topic you're interested in. However, I do know that Google Reader supports tagging beyond their folders. I don't know of a way to apply Reader tags inside Newsbeuter.

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