RSS for Teams with Tiny Tiny RSS

Google Reader’s imminent departure is a great opportunity.  It is like cutting down a large overgrowth of kudzu that may enable other interesting options to grow and flourish.  One that interests me is the open source Tiny Tiny RSS server.  If you have more than one person in your organization who follows RSS feeds or who might want to, this could be an excellent way to centrally offer this service.

Tiny Tiny RSS runs on the same LAMP / WAMP technology that runs WordPress.  It requires the same technology skills.  This means it’s a bit more advanced than a desktop application you download and install but it by no means requires heavy duty programming chops.  I was able to download and get Tiny Tiny running in about 30 minutes on Ubuntu.

[Update:  here's a related post on customizing & using Tiny Tiny RSS]

Installation on Ubuntu

There are other guides, although a bit dated, for other systems.  To install on Ubuntu, assuming you already have Apache 2, MySQL, and PHP 5 installed:

1.  Download the basic files and extract them into the folder from which they’ll run.  I placed mine in a subfolder of my WordPress installation, so that I could re-use my current domain name and just treat it as part of my overall site;

2.  Use the MySQL steps outlined in the WordPress 5-minute installation to create the database.  These instructions granted fewer privileges, so you may want to try that but I granted ALL.

3.  Then, following that set of instructions, insert the necessary SQL information into the new database:  mysql -u ttrssuser -D ttrssdb -p < schema/ttrss_schema_mysql.sql  Obviously change the username and database to the ones you created. Look for the schema folder within the folder where you extracted Tiny Tiny.

4. Read the README.md file, copy the config.php-dist file to config.php, and complete the necessary information about your database username, password, database name, and server.  You can also turn on the “simple” updating method. There is an automatic update function using a daemon, but the simple will work for a small site.  Update:  here’s another installation checklist for Ubuntu but it also has the simplest explanation I’ve seen for activating the daemon.

5.  I didn’t see this mentioned in any of the tutorials but you also need to secure the files themselves.  In the folder where you extracted the files from step 1, make sure you set the ownership and rights.  I again copied WordPress, so my Tiny Tiny installation uses the www-data user.  The files and directories should be as secure as you can make them:  chmod files 644 and directories 755.

At this point you’re ready to go.  I went to http://mydomain/tiny-folder-name and saw the login screen.   I logged in (username:  admin, password:  password) and changed the password and created a new user.

Add Your Users

This is one of the nice things about Tiny Tiny.  You can have more than one person using the server, with their own account and their own news feeds.  You can import your old Google Reader subscriptions.xml file under the OPML setting and there are a lot of other customization you can apply.

Tiny Tiny RSS server, user list of unread feeds

Tiny Tiny RSS server, user list of unread feeds

There is a lot of functionality under the hood.  You can customize the CSS to make it look the way you like across your entire installation, set up e-mail digests of information, control how many posts are stored and more.  Features I like:

  • Easy to read all unread messages and mark all read;
  • Sharing tools built into each message, so I can activate plugins and send to Google+ or send as an e-mail to someone else;
  • Tiny Tiny will apply Google Reader tags when you import but you can also apply your own to categorize feeds;
  • Clicking on the title of a document will open the original post in your Web browser;
  • Like Omea, you can add annotations to a post, so that you can add additional context to it;
  • There is a public sharing function, so that a Tiny Tiny installation within an organization could be used by a research team to share posts with lawyers and others who otherwise wouldn’t be monitoring the RSS

It’s an incredibly light application.  Tiny Tiny RSS is entirely Web-based, so it will work in any Web browser on tablets or computers.  I have not tried it on a phone – it should work but I’m not sure the experience would be very enjoyable.

A single message displayed in a preview window below the unread messages in Tiny Tiny RSS

A single message displayed in a preview window below the unread messages in Tiny Tiny RSS

Google’s cancellation of Reader and the general state of confusion that the RSS reader world is in makes a tool like Tiny TIny more compelling.  It allows you to ensure availability of this powerful research tool and it can be easily made available to multiple lawyers or researchers in your law firm.  It’s open source as well, so your IT staff can customize it specifically for your firm as well as understand exactly what’s going on under the hood.  Tiny Tiny is not like the social, image-heavy RSS readers that are proliferating, particularly in the mobile app market.  Instead, it can be a heavy duty replacement for Google Reader.

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