pwnage

Patreon, Ripped

Ok, we now scrape Patreon blogs. That’s all.

Except that I also want to use this post to drop this link to FiveFilters’ Feed Creator, which lets you ‘program’ (in a sense) RSS feeds from pages like Patreon’s pages.

Okay. Now that’s all.

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release

Fraidycat 1.1.5 — By Gentle Persuasion

Thankyouthankyou @Ikemitsu1, @kseistrup, @runxel and @JasonSwindle. These folks found the bugs that went into this minor update. Let’s look at what’s new.

  • Posts that get deleted from feeds now get deleted from Fraidycat. A pretty dumb and obvious one. Sorry about that!
  • If post titles go beyond 60 characters, Fraidycat now attempts to shorten the title elegantly in the collapsed post view.
  • Fixes to TikTok, Twitch and YouTube playlists. All experienced breakage - and I had already pushed out updates to these previous releases.
  • Improve XML detection. Some RSS feeds are served as text/html, which can confuse things.
  • Fix broken ‘Z’ date formats. (See issue #131.)
  • Added new Hacker News feeds. (Covered in the last post.)
  • Color visited links. (Only applies to the browser extension.)
  • Replace Unicode entities with SVG images. (See issue #90.)

And that’s all. Thank you for the encouragement you all post here and there - to blogs and in tweets. And thank you for being patient - as I’ve had quite a delay between this release and the last.

Your extensions can be updated through your browser. Or see the home page for the downloads.

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pwnage

Hacker News, Twitch and YouTube Repairs

While there are some major improvements on the horizon for Fraidycat, now is primarily a time of patient study and observation - how is Fraidycat doing as a tool for long-term use? This involves patching up problem feeds as decay occurs.

Since Fraidycat experienced a very encouraging Show HN two months ago, I realize that many of you hail from there - and those feeds have had some issues (or are absent in some cases.) Therefore, I am now using hnrss.org to paper over the basic feeds for the time being.

Here are some of the feeds you can now subscribe to:

  • http://news.ycombinator.com: A feed for the front page. (Translates to https://hnrss.org/frontpage.)
  • http://news.ycombinator.com/best: A feed for only the top items (> 300 votes). (Translates to https://hnrss.org/newest?points=300.)
  • http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=USERNAME: A feed for a user’s comments and submissions.
  • Feeds for Ask HN, Show HN and Newest.

You can also tailor your own feed by following the instructions. You can make feeds for specific users or search tersm. And there is this immensely useful URL for seeing links to recent replies to any of your comments:

https://hnrss.org/replies?id=USERNAME

It may seem a bit strange that Fraidycat is relying on these other feeds - rather than relying on HN directly - because these feeds could go away. But I think that using these feeds encourages the creator of them to keep them alive.[1]


Twitch also recently stopped allowing unauthenticated access to their API. (Details here.) This change requires Fraidycat to identify itself now and to periodically “log in”. These follows are working again and we will see how the next few months go.


YouTube playlists similarly broke - the YouTube API also will not allow us to log in directly. We are back to scraping the data. For now, dates for each video are not included - this will be fixed in a coming update.

NOTE: All of these changes are available without an update to Fraidycat! I’ve simply updated the central scraping rules. This is one of the great benefits of Fraidycat - it can route around broken follows without needing much work. For more on this strategy, see the video “Fraidycat as Stuxnet”.


  1. These useful tiny projects are called tultywits. “Talk of and use the little things you want to survive.” With the death of so much of the RSS support system, it’s important for us to encourage further redevelopment in this sphere. HNRSS.org is a very carefully crafted and finely tuned RSS offering - there should be much more like this. ↩︎

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release

Fraidycat 1.1.4 — Just a Few Face Licks

Due to reports of broken public Facebook pages and a few tweet probs, here is a freshly bathed 'Cat for ya. Thank you to Google’s Chrome Web Store team for the quick turnarounds!

  • Fix for missing titles on feed items. (Discovered by @Clint_Billton on a copyright strike at twitter.com/Seinfeld2000.)
  • Fix a regression in Facebook feed fetching.
  • I took away the systray icon on Linux. Too many window managers don’t support them. (Should probably make this an optional setting.)

I also want to thank the Chrome web extension team. Two weeks ago, the Chrome Web Store sent out an e-mail that approvals would be delayed as a result of the pandemic. And, well, normally approvals were already taking 3-7 days to complete.

However, Fraidycat 1.1.3 was out in two days on Chrome! So I have to blow some kisses there. Very much appreciated Chrome folks.

Your extensions can be updated through your browser. Or see the home page for the downloads.

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release

Fraidycat 1.1.3 — Fat Cat Inbound

You ready for TikTok and those Strict Tracking fixes? Many thanks for your patience and for the dozens of you who chimed in with bugs and requests on Github. I have a massive update for you today!

Ok, TikTok support is here. This required a ton of work - Fraidycat can now scrape rendered websites. Previously Fraidycat could only download pages and scrape the raw code - now it can simulate a visit to the page.

However, you might see your TikTok follow show up with NO POSTS.

Example of a TikTok fail.

💥 Both Instagram and TikTok are having intermittent issues. I don’t know if this is due to a spike in Internet traffic or not. My advice is to put the follow into Fraidycat and it will work itself out some time over the next hour.


I was attempting to get Fraidycat ready for the Bandcamp fundraiser a few weeks ago. Well, here it is now. Bandcamp artists and YouTube playlists are ALSO now supported.

A few Bandcamp releases I’ve been enjoying this season:

The YouTube playlist feature lets you follow a playlist, so that you can be notified when videos are added to it.


Here’s a rundown of all the changes:

  • TikTok, Bandcamp and YouTube playlist support.
  • Strict Tracking issues in Firefox resolved thanks to @quad.
  • Left-hand side expand/collapse arrow.
  • Fix RSS dates from non-locale timezones.
  • Retweets can be hidden using the ‘Hide Reposts’ option in the filtering menu.
  • Improved graphs: if there are only three posts in the last two months, a gray six month graph will be shown. No graph if there is no activity in the last six months.
  • New follow bookmarklet.
  • RSS feeds without URLs are no longer broken.
  • RSS feeds with only enclosure URLs (such as the https://feeds.megaphone.fm/replyall podcast feed) now work.
  • RSS feeds served with an HTML mime type are fixed (such as the http://melonds.kuribo64.net/rss.php feed).
  • Bug in sorting was causing feeds to skip updates and to sort incorrectly.
  • Light mode toggle.
  • Bug in variable replacement was causing ‘$350,000’ in titles to show as ‘,000’. Possible security fix.
  • No more ‘50Y’ timestamps. If a feed has no posts, the update date is hidden now.
  • Switched to the ‘Inria Sans’ font. I like Signika better - but I’m having issues with jittery font layout and bad kerning on the Windows electron app.

The URL for the new follow bookmarklet is:

javascript:location.href='https://fraidycat/s#!/add?url='+
  encodeURIComponent(location.href)+'&title='+
  encodeURIComponent(document.title)

I’ll go more into how to use this in a future post. For now, get your downloads at fraidyc.at. (Firefox extensions can be updated immediately, Chrome will likely take until the end of the week.)

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community

Compliments from Ton Zijlstra

While I wrap up Fraidycat 1.1.3 — which solves the conflict with Firefox’s ‘Strict’ Tracking — here are some kind words from someone who inspired the organizational aspects of Fraidycat, Ton Zijlstra.

A neat addition is also that it shows sparkline graphs next to the name of a blog, so there’s a visual cue as to the frequency of posting. This is something I’d like to see in other readers too. It’s a functionality that might be extended with an alert of changes in the normal posting rhythm. E.g. someone falling silent, or suddenly blogging up a storm, or covering a live event could perhaps stand out with a visual cue (such as changing the color of the sparkline graph). The sparkline is the only cue concerning the number of postings, there’s no indication of how many ‘unreads’ there are because Fraidycat doesn’t know that (as it doesn’t fetch content). This is a good way of preventing any type of FOMO cropping up.

I should also mention that the graphs are getting a subtle tweak in this next minor release. In Fraidycat, the graph is pink (or electric blue in dark mode) if it is showing two months of history and gray if it is showing six months of history.

But, if the site has been inactive for six months, there is no graph.

Example of sparklines in Fraidycat.

Up until now, it would show the pink graph if the blog had recent updates and the gray graph if the blog was stale. However, I’ve changed this.


In 1.1.3, the pink graph will show only if there are more than three posts in the last three months. Otherwise, the gray graph will show. This obviously makes sense, because we want to show the data at a scale where there is enough to see.

The wonderful side-effect of this, though, is that this makes it even simpler to discover inactive writers who have become active again. Previously, the gray graph only ever appeared at the end of the list. However, now when you see a brand-new post with a gray graph, it’s a visual indicator that a very infrequent writer has been sighted again. (I’ll leave it up to you to optimize which colors you mentally want to filter for.)

Here is an example of two sleepier blogs that posted today:

Example of inactive writers posting suddenly.


Key with Fraidycat is that it aims to break the ‘never ending timeline’ type of reading content that the silos so favour to keep you scrolling, and that most feed readers also basically do. Fraidycat presents all the feeds you follow (and it is able to work with a variety of sources, not just regular RSS feeds from blogs) in the same way: the name of the feed, and one line of titles of recent postings.

The pleasant effect of this is that it shows the latest postings of all your subscriptions, not just the latest postings. This means that regular posters, oversharing posters and more silent voices get allocated much the same space, and no single voice can dominate your feed reader.

I am thankful for Ton’s words, because his writings on (I kid you not!) ‘social distance’ were foundational - they really helped me feel confidence in Fraidycat’s sorting method. I am very sorry to Ton that his term got hijaaked!! I continue to use it with his original meaning.

(I’m also very glad for his OPML dump. I used it like crazy during testing.)

You can read some of my favorite takes from Ton’s work (who has been blogging for decades now) on my ‘Infostrats’. Another brilliant word he coined!!

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pwnage

Are.na Support

Thomas Tkatchenko has tracked down RSS feeds for Are.na and I’ve pushed out new rules to allow subscription using the user and channel URLs. (Also, a fix for Instagram, thanks to a report from makeworld.)

Simply restart your browser (or desktop app) and you’ll pick up the new rules. (Or wait an hour, the rules are automatically pulled in for those who UNDERSTANDABLY don’t want to read this stupid blog.)

If you’ve never used Are.na, there are the explore and examples pages to get you started. Other Fraidycat users can be found here. (A good technique on Are.na is to use that search box at the top of the page to search for other sites you like - this should bring up lists that will lead you to other sites with close coordinates.)

So, yeah - it’s that easy. Any other sites Fraidycat is missing?

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community

Cosplaying the Internet

While I’ve been trying to work through a few rejections of the last version from the Chrome Web Store, a number of hot discussions have sprung up around the Cat.

My favorite recent essay that touches on Fraidycat is “The master tapes” by Robin Sloan:

[Fraidycat] presents a lovely, anarchic opportunity: follow all the people you like, no matter what platform they’re using, without having accounts on those platforms. Basically, it’s an “RSS… or whatever” reader.

This comment - and the one at the end - that Fraidycat cosplays a different Internet. Yeah - wow. I guess that’s what is happening here. Can we just do this? Give the Internet the aesthetic we want?

In a way, I hope there is a lot more beyond Fraidycat. That there are more out there who want to take their own crack at piping raw Internet through their own designs. What if Fraidycat is the beginning? And there are other frontiers beyond the news feed, beyond friending, beyond my puny concepts?

I also just noticed that Robin’s blog throbs at the seams. Shyeah.


Yesterday, this little cat got a nice showcase on Hacker News. I really appreciated some of these incredibly effusive comments.

From skoodge:

I had read through the page and figured that it’s probably not for me, but then decided to watch the video based on this comment and it is absolutely amazing! It is not just incredibly well-produced, but at the same time whimsical and a poignant commentary on the current social network landscape.

Some people might be put off by the video’s style and it’s definitely not in the vein of the typical startup product launch, but exactly that makes it the most memorable product launch video in a long time for me, since it’s not afraid to show some personality.

Well, for one, Fraidycat isn’t a startup. It’s just my personal thing. A personal video goes with a personal thing. (And yeah - let’s no forget, major credit to @AngleseaTwo for being a sensational collaborator on this! He did the cats and most of the vid. Also just a true friend in every sense.)

Nevertheless, I love this comment! It’s great to connect in this way, where we share personal feelings for the Web like this. I get being cynical about the Web. I get doubting technology in general. But it’s here now - can we do better with it?


From code_duck:

I like this idea. I’m very tired of trying to sift through publishers (individuals too) sorted by some opaque, perennially ineffective algorithm.

Twitter, for instance - I follow hundreds of people, but my notifications are literally 100% Rick Wilson. I have absolutely no idea how they made this decision, but it’s way off the mark.

On Instagram, there’s an account that’s my favorite. I’ve liked every photo they post. They haven’t shown up in my feed for months. Checked their account and they’ve been posting new content daily for 3 weeks. Meanwhile my fees shows me pics of some guy I don’t care about at all walking his dog in vacation.

This is so reassuring - to see that others feel this loss of control. I don’t know to what extent you regain this control with Fraidycat - but this should be part of our effort. To give everyone adequate tools.

To me, this is the value of Fraidycat’s importances. It’s the simplest way to control the signal.

One of the next questions is: what other (useful) sliders are there? Sure, I can add all kinds of sliders - but are there other controls that could help us tune the personal algorithm better?

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release

Fraidycat 1.1.2 — Open Your Eyes

A major bug, reported by Jason McIntosh, was causing Fraidycat to clam up. Blank screen. Yipes.

(Oh, also: this update is now going out on @fffraidycat, if that helps.)

Try to keep in mind with this string of releases that I am trying to cover a good amount of operating systems here and support for a dozen social networks. The point right now is to get this thing stable for you, so that the core logic is close to bug-free.

So I was very glad to get Jason’s help on this one - his large corpus of follows has been a great thing for me to dump into Fraidycat. Thank you, jmac!


Here’s what’s new:

  • Further fixes to prevent broken follows from giving you a blank page. (#79)
  • A bug with external URLs was causing posts to go missing on link blogs like Waxy or Pinboard feeds. (#74)
  • Added tab scroll arrows to allow more than a single screen full of tags.
  • Fix OPML import from Inoreader. (#75)
  • Fix for problems with duplicates appearing. (#73) This is an ongoing issue - because Fraidycat’s fetcher has to stay synced with its HTML dashboard.
  • Slashes now can be used in tags. (#77)

Tomorrow marks four months since the inital crummy prototype came out as an extension. Keep in mind that this is just the beginning. Thanks to all of you who are following along, offering encouragement and help. It’s a bit overwhelming to have some attention right now and I hope I can live up to the promise.

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release

Fraidycat 1.1.1 — Told You So

Of course an emergency update has to be rushed out, in a pathetic attempt to save face.

I feel gratitude in the depths of my very bosom today - and also in the folds of three of my knuckles - today for the good work of my beloved friends Eli Mellen, Joe Jenett and Emma Humphries. They reported some serious issues with the Firefox extension. The new version is out already - and I was able to catch the Chrome extension prior to publication.

The symptoms are thusly:

  • A blank page at https://fraidyc.at/s/ - which is the new URL to your follows page.
  • Broken links for certain importances (Frequent, Occasional, etc.) which left Joe futilely clicking a dead page.
  • Duplicate entries for certain follows. I am not confident that this is fully fixed, so please reopen this if you happen to spot it again!

No updates to the desktop app.

(The sounds of sincere bowing, groveling and skittering across the floor can be heard for the final hour of this post’s duration…)

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