Stand alone newsreaders such as [FeedDemon](http://www.feeddemon.com/feeddemon/index.asp) and [NetNewsWire](http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/) are starting to include [Bloglines](http://www.bloglines.com) syncing (aka Bloglines Web Services). The much smaller [News Gator](http://www.newsgator.com) is doing something similar with their own API. [On paper,](http://www.bloglines.com/services/) it’s great. You can keep your subscription list on a central server and then read your subscriptions wherever you happen to be using the software that you want. One list to manage, catch up anywhere.
The reality is that the syncing API in BWS is flawed to the point that it’s barely usable, and that’s a shame because the software trying to use it is outstanding and is doing the best it can with what it has to work with.
Imagine that you love the food at a particular restaurant, let’s call it “Restaurant A” and when you go there they customize the menu just to your liking. You never eat the same thing twice because the restaurant keeps track of what you’ve previously selected and makes new suggestions based on your preferences. You make a point of going to that restaurant because they know you so well. Now they advertise that you can pick any restaurant you want based on the decor and service, but the food will be from Restaurant A and all your customized selections are there waiting for you. Sounds amazing! I get to sit at my favorite booth and look out the window and enjoy friendly, fast service but what I’m eating is actually served from Restaurant A and they remember all of my preferences.
Awesome! But here’s the catch…when you sit down at that pretty new local restaurant you are automatically served *everything* you haven’t already eaten from the menu as you last left it at Restaurant A. You don’t have the option to look at the menu and only eat what you want at that particular moment, leaving the rest of the choices for another time and another place. So when you travel and sit down at another pretty restaurant and order off the Restaurant A menu you’re told, “Sorry, you’ve already ordered everything off the old menu, do you want to see the new stuff?” It doesn’t matter that you didn’t actually *taste* anything and you know the leftovers are sitting there waiting for you when you return to that local restaurant, whenever that will be. So what’s the point of ordering off the central menu?
I guess it’s nice that I don’t have to keep track of hundreds of subscriptions. But that alone is not worth dumping hundreds of unread articles into my iBook if I’m sitting with a few minutes to spare in a Starbucks with my Axim PocketPC and I can’t catch up on blogs because all the unread ones are sitting on another computer. The technology is there in Bloglines. When I access the Bloglines site from my PC I see a list of all the unread articles. When I go to my Mac or Axim, I get the same list of unread articles minus whatever articles I got to read on the PC.
Note to new Bloglines owners [Ask Jeeves](http://www.ask.com/): The Bloglines API will only have real-world value if the articles/feeds are not marked read until the stand alone aggregator reports that the articles have actually been read. Now they are marked read when they are *fetched* and that’s just wrong and is a limitation of the API that must be fixed. Yes, I know it’s more of a demand on the Bloglines server but anything less and this is just not a selling point. Until then, it’s just “Watson, come here” potential that you play with once or twice and then forget about until it’s truly useful.