Every feed in its right place


Writing about Christopher Wellons’ elfeed is the least I can do to describe how thankful I am for this gem, especially since it’s one of the Emacs packages I use the most.

Up until last month, Twitter was useful to keep in touch with the IT and the film criticism communities. However, for a while I had been finding myself in dire need of a vacation from social media. The amount of time lost in pointless time-line scrolling looking for the latest hip comment screamed to be spent otherwise.

I have always been a fan of RSS feeds, because having the news aggregated in one place spares me the time of wandering the Internet. Twitter fought against my feeds, giving the impression it was offering more up-to-date content along with the false promise of an interaction that in fact was rarely happening.

Before elfeed, I tried my luck with different feed readers. Since a carefully tmux-ed terminal window is always part of my daily workflow, I fell in love with Newsbeuter a couple of years ago.

However, as any Emacs fanatic would tell you, why leave the comfort of your favourite text editor for something as mundane as RSS feeds?

elfeed is more than a Newsbeuter replacement, though. Tags, filters and the power of Emacs beneath its lean interface make feeds management easier than ever. It’s also trivially extensible. Look at this simple trick to mark all the feeds read when I am feeling too lazy.

(defun mu-elfeed-mark-all-read ()
  "Mark all feeds as read."
  (interactive)
  (call-interactively 'mark-whole-buffer)
  (elfeed-search-untag-all-unread))

(bind-key "R" #'mu-elfeed-mark-all-read elfeed-search-mode-map)

elfeed sorts feeds by time, with the most recent on top. This had been a bit confusing at first, as I was used to having the feeds grouped by items with Newsbeuter. Nevertheless, after a while this approach felt more natural, maybe because it reminds me of the Twitter time-line.

RSS feeds are an essential tool in this age of perennial distractions. Having them readily available at my fingertips is invaluable.