Flipboard and Pulse vs. local RSS = Free online services vs. indipendence -and privacy-


The first time I noticed Pulse on my friends’ Iphone I was astonished. It as what I was looking for since my first Nokia phone: the possibility of read a personalized selection of my favorite news directly on my mobile.

Moreover, Pulse was able to load images so I had the possibility to directly access graphs or pictures. I was amazed and I spent a lot of time to select the right RSS to feed it.

I was sure that Pulse was the best app for different reasons. The main was its Android version that allowed me to not worry about the next mobile I would have chosen in (the very near) future. The second was its flexibility! I was able to choose feeds from its huge library or directly add my favorite RSS if the specific feed was not available. When Pulse started its website Pulse.me I was sure that I would have been one of its best fans for the life.

The same feeling I had with Flipboard. It was easy to use too. Flipboard had a more attractive look and it was able to suggest many interesting news as soon as I selected the favorite categories in its menu. For my feelings Flipboard was a bit too invasive because I was not able to actively define the precise sort of news it was suggesting me but it was still useful for my purposes.

The first doubt about Pulse emerged when it was acquired by Linkedin… Why I would have to connect my news selection with other Linkedin users? On one hand the selection could represent an extra element to describe, in a more complete way, my professional profile but, on the other hand, my RSS feed selection was also a personal added value that (for my opinion) gave me a plus towards my potential competitors.

Information are money. And RSS news feeds can sometimes represent the main part of the concept of information. When I decide to share my RSS selection I automatically decide to wipe out this difference between me and other “competitors”. And perhaps I am deleting part of my personal better skills.

For this reason I decided to not link Pulse to Linkedin and I loose the trust I had for it.

At the end I decided that I would have preferred to test a simple RSS reader on my notebook. In few words I opted for less mobility to more independence (and privacy).

And the nightmare began….

In fact I was not able to download the RSS feeds I had in Pulse and in Flipboard. Because it is simply not possible. If you decide to use Pulse or Flipboard you are welcome but that is one way path. You are not allowed to easily leave them. If you want, you can always cancel your account but all the RSS you saved on your account cannot be downloaded. If you really want to opt-out you have to manually copy them to your local RSS reader.

I let you image how much time I wasted copying and pasting a five year long RSS feeds history to Akregator but it was the only way that I caused myself for not reading the TOS when I registered to Pulse and Flipboard.

I just want to focus your attention to one point. Beware to similar online free services. They are useful till you decide to use them but, when you change your idea, they can become a real, real problem.

I was a silly user. In fact, accepting the TOS, I gave them the legal authorization to monitor and use my RSS selection as they preferred without any warrant about the possibility of withdrawing in a easily way. I am not a genius nor an Internet evangelist so I really don’t think that my personal RSS feed selection could have a big commercial value for anyone. But when I think that my 2 cents RSS selection could be summed to a virtual infinite number of other 2 cents feed selections I feel myself silly.

The advice I’d like to give you is about TOS. Read them and, before accepting TOS, be sure that the agreement you are signing is enough convenient for you.

Decide if the authorizations you are giving them can compensate what they are offering to you for free. And…. be sure you can easily and freely save and/or re-use the data you have been sharing with them for so many years.

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