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Archive for March, 2007

Hands-on Grazr Tutorial for Beginners, and Hot News: GrazrScript Talking Javascript

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“In a series of posts I discuss how to add Grazr feed browsing widgets to your website. This introductory post explains the most basic version of a Grazr application—one that displays a single feed or a list of feeds that you provide. Too simple? Scroll down for a summary of what I’ll cover in the next installment: how Grazrscript enables the option to create a feed based on a custom-keyword search among all of the feeds in your OPML. After that, check today’s hot news: Grazrscript talking Javascript as of today.”

Grazr widgets are popping up everwhere on the sidebars of people’s blogs, usually performing the task of a little browser displaying one or more feeds relating to the author’s interests. Creating such a Grazr is pretty straightforward: visit the Grazr Create a Widget page and provide the first box in the wizard with one of these types of URLs:

Assuming you clicked on the link in the third option, the Grazr configuration screen will look like this:

Grazr_does_feed_autodetection

Do you see box 1, where I put the URL for my website? Because the source code of my website contains links to RSS feeds and to OPML files, Grazr is capable of detecting those and displaying them in a list. You can easily substitute your own blog URL there or use the URL of a feed or of an OPML file.

Default themes and views
As you can see, I’ve applied sateen_black, one of the many cool themes that were introduced by Grazr recently. Of course you can pick your own theme from the list. Maybe you’ve also noticed that all my Grazr widgets are based on the 3-pane view and that I prefer to display the address bar, revealing the URL of the feed or OPML I am showing. Although these choices are all directly available from the Grazr wizard interface, they are not the default settings. If you like my new settings too, then please feel free to adopt them by dragging this URL to your bookmarks toolbar: default Grazr widget configuration settings.

Grabbing the Grazr code
Embedding the Grazr on your web page is now just a matter of grabbing the piece of HTML that the Grazr wizard generates, displayed in the box with the green background, and inserting that piece of code into your blog.

Grazr_embedding

CleverClogs Grazr template
If this all seems a piece of cake to you, then feel free to have a preview of what’s up in my next post: download the template that I have been using myself to create more advanced RSS applications, such as the Power 150 Kitchensink for Todd And, the Yahoo! Pipes News Radar for MasterNewMedia.org and the Grazr News Radar for Grazr.com. The template is a plain text file, located here: CleverClogs Grazr Template. If you study this file closely, you’ll see that you could create your own application by substituting several parameters inside the file. A few weeks ago James Corbett told me he successfully created his Irish Twittersphere Search Engine based on my template.

Grazr_template

Summary of the next tutorial
A few weeks ago GrazrScript was pretty much a mystery to me. It took me a whole week to build Todd’s Power 150 Grazr application. Using this fairly new template, I can now create a full-fledged Grazr application in about one hour, including the option to offer feeds based on custom keyword searches across all feeds in an OPML.

In the next tutorial I’ll tell you for which third-party RSS services you need to sign up, which parameters you could change and give you some insider’s tips to get you started fast.

Hot off the presses: GrazrScript talking Javascript
As I just talked about this post to Mike Kowalchik, head developer with Grazr.com, he told me the stunning news that most likely today Grazr.com is going to release a new version of GrazrScript that allows the use of procedural code. Here’s the link to the official announcement: GrazrScript v1.2 Beta.

Because almost the entire JavaScript command language becomes available to Grazr application developers, this means very advanced RSS applications can be built with the new version. To name a few new capabilities, GrazrScript will now let you use variables, string manipulations, regular expressions, functions, loops, conditions and error handling. Read the GrazrScript tutorial chapter on Procedural Programming, then give the sweet ‘Hello World’ sample script a try.

Needless to say I’m very excited to be able to squeeze this bit of news in, just before my own post goes live. Obviously I’ll need some time to figure it all out myself—not a programmer anymore—but I’ll definitely devote one of the posts in this new Grazr Tutorial series to it. I’m also sure several of my diehard programming friends will take the new Grazr to its extremes in the mean time. Here’s Tom Morris’ description of the GrazrScript potential: New Grazr Launch (March 19th, 2007).

Congrats, guys.

And you, my readers, will you please let me know if indeed this first part of this post is correctly called a tutorial for beginners?

Some coverage in the blogosphere on GrazrScript:

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Written by CleverClogs

March 19th, 2007 at 8:38 pm

OnePipe : the Single-Button Generic Feed Filtering Bookmarklet

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“As far as I know OnePipe is the first solution to offer generic, on-the-fly feed filtering based on URL parameterization.”

OnePipe is a browser bookmarklet I created to filter any feed by topic. It’s simple to use: install the bookmarklet, navigate to any website whose feed you’d like to filter and click the OnePipe button. You’ll be prompted to enter any topic or word after which OnePipe will generate a custom feed that only contains those items that match your keywords. The exciting part about OnePipe is that it can be used over and over again.

Welcome, Lifehacker visitors. I’m very proud and grateful for Wendy Boswell’s announcement that OnePipe is now Download of the Day.

Before I explain the technical details let me illustrate OnePipe with a snapshot:

Onepipe_headline_animator_1

A typical use case: let’s assume I am visiting the FeedBurner blog Burning Questions. For the moment I’m really only interested in blog posts about their Headline Animator service. In fact, I would like to generate a feed based on just that custom keyword “Headline Animator“. With the OnePipe bookmarklet in place, I can just click the OnePipe button on my browser bookmarks toolbar, type in my topic. Next, a hyperlink pointing to the custom feed appears in a tiny rectangular pop-up in the top-left corner of the page. For convenience’s sake the hyperlinks that OnePipe produces automatically open the filtered feeds in a Grazr window.

Why the name OnePipe?
After processing the desired keyword, OnePipe calls upon the URL parameterization capabilities of Yahoo! Pipes to generate the feed. Look closely at the full URL processed by Grazr: there are really only a couple of parameters:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=dCunRCfP2xGZfglMOUVYtA&_render=rss&query=Headline Animator&feedurl=http://feeds.feedburner.com/BurnThisRSS2
  1. a URL pointing to the Pipe I created (direct link: OnePipe : The CleverClogs Generic Feed Filter)
  2. the “_render=rss” suffix to force the output to RSS
  3. a query parameter
  4. the URL of the feed that is being filtered.

What this means is that you could substitute any feed, alter the query and parse those with one and the same Pipe—hence the name OnePipe. If you’re curious what OnePipe does behind the scenes, then please feel free to take a peek, then clone and tweak it. Here’s the link that takes you directly to the source of OnePipe : The CleverClogs Generic Feed Filter.

Installing OnePipe
Drag this hyperlink OnePipe to your bookmarks toolbar. This will cause a button named OnePipe to become available on your toolbar. Open its properties if you want to see the underlying Javascript code. The current version is from 2007-03-13, 3:49 PM – GMT +1.

Grabbing your feed
OnePipe feeds are just feeds as any other. With the bookmarklet I offer an easy way to view feeds created with OnePipe. Of course you can use any other tool too: to subscribe to your newly created feed in
your feed reader, grab the entire URL off the Grazr address bar. Select the URL,
copy it to the clipboard and paste it into the dialog box that your feed
reader provides for new subscriptions. Let me know if you have any issues with this.

Where to take your feed
Apart from subscribing to a OnePipe feed in your feed reader, you could also consider the following possibilites. Start out by creating a filtered channel of highly relevant posts about a certain topic, about a person, or about an event.

  • Receive a system tray alert or a sticky desktop message when a new feed item matches your filter, or display your channel as a running ticker on your system. To enable this, subscribe to your OnePipe feed in Touchstone.
  • Have all Twitter posts from your “With Friends” page that mention @yourname, forwarded as SMS messages to your cell phone using Rasasa or ZapTXT. Just sign in to your account with any of these services, fill in the URL of your OnePipe feed and set your preferences.
  • Receive the items in your OnePipe feed as instant-messaging notifications through your preferred IM system: for Skype there’s Anothr and, since fairly recent times, ZapTXT. For the other main IM systems, consider Rasasa (all systems) and Feed Crier (AIM and Jabber).
  • Forward the items in your OnePipe feed to your email inbox, for example using FeedBlitz, R|Mail or Zookoda.
  • Use your OnePipe feed as a building block to create a topic radar. To merge your OnePipe feed with other feeds, consider using newsmastering services such as mySyndicaat, Feed Digest and Feed Blendr.
  • There are literally hundreds of RSS Tool Vendors—yes I track them myself. Excellent resources where RSS tools are discussed in depth are John Tropea’s Library clips, who’s not just thorough and smart, but always points to other relevant tools in the same category, and 3Spot’s incredibly comprehensive RSS Tools page.

Feed Auto-Discovery
As you may have noticed, OnePipe is capable of detecting all of the feeds offered on any web page you visit. You may know that the mechanism of recognizing feeds is usually referred to as feed auto-discovery. Most blog publishing services offer this capability automatically and you should be able to use the bookmarklet with most blogs and sites offering RSS feeds. The bookmarklet component of OnePipe is mostly an adaptation of the OPML Auto-Discovery bookmarklet that I published a couple of months ago.

The concept behind OnePipe
For me the exciting part about OnePipe is not so much the bookmarklet itself, but the generic feed filtering mechanism that I built for it using Yahoo! Pipes. Feed manipulation is an essential part of newsmastering, the techniques used to build feeds matching a particular topic, person or event. As far as I know OnePipe is the first solution to offer on-the-fly feed filtering based on URL parameterization. With other feed filtering services the source feed and sometimes the search query get obfuscated, hindering direct finetuning of the settings.

Room for improvement
These are some ideas I have to make OnePipe better:

  • offer tag, category, author and title search capabilities (already in progress in Pipes)
  • integrate with John Forsythe’s Feed Preview add-on for Firefox
  • general debugging and fine-tuning

I’m very curious for your feedback on OnePipe. Moreover, if you’ve been able to successfully use OnePipe for a particular purpose, then please share your experience. David Tebbutt provided me with lots of useful input in this project. Thanks!

First Reactions:
Mike Kowalchik understands this is a proof of concept and there maybe some wrinkles to iron out. Indeed, Mike. It seems Pipes only searches through excerpts of feed items, and not the full feed.

Mike Gotta calls OnePipe innovative on his blog and suggests you give it a try. Thanks Mike!

James Corbett (through IM) points out that OnePipe could be especially useful to filter the noise from one’s Twitter Friends’ stream. He requested a Yahoo! Pipe that lets you create a feed that lists items that do not match certain keywords. Ok, James, here’s the AllButPipe bookmarklet, and the link to the Pipe that fuels it: AllButPipe : The CleverClogs “Exclude This” Feed Filter

Danish podcaster Karin Høgh (through IM) asks for instructions to add the bookmarklet to IE7. Yikes. Sometimes I forget I’m not in a Firefox-only world. What’s worse: the bookmarklet isn’t going to work in IE7 because its underlying Javascript code is tiny bit too long: 2880 characters instead of the allowed 250—more or less. Thanks Karin!

Phil Hollows of FeedBlitz (through IM) helpfully suggests to turn OnePipe into a server-hosted script. The advantage is that that might make it accessible for IE7 users, and it would give me version control. On the other hand, this is definitely beyond my scripting capabilities and the TypePad server would be accessed each time the script is called. I think I’ll leave that until I’ve had proper training in Javascript coding.

Chris Saad of Touchstone compares OnePipe to FeedBlendr and sees some similarities with his own product.

Seems I’ve got another fan down under! Better Communications blogger Lee Hopkins gives a fine example of how he might use OnePipe to track “Second Life” posts from Neville Hobson‘s blog. Lee is making a serious study of Second Life for his PhD, so I can fully imagine how OnePipe comes in handy there.

On his blog Knowledge Jolt with Jack, Jack Vinson calls OnePipe a “Cool Tool”.

I’m happy to see my German colleague and friend Siegfried Hirsch, who maintains a blog entirely focusing on RSS technology in German, also covered OnePipe. His story is here: OnePipe – Filtern von RSS-Feeds auf Knopfdruck

Quite a few people are visiting CleverClogs at the moment because of the mentions that Steve Rubel, Lars Trieloff and James Governor made of OnePipe on their blogs. Thanks so much.

The story has been on TechMeme for a while now.

If you’d like to digg this post, then feel free to click this button:

And as usual, a Grazr to let you track mentions of OnePipe:

Grazr Badge

Written by CleverClogs

March 13th, 2007 at 4:07 pm