Archive for May, 2014
“Dynamic OPML Subscriptions in feed reader InoReader
let you automatically synchronize your RSS subscriptions
with web-based reading lists.” (1 / 6)
Introduction – from reading list to OPML
This is a long read. If you first want to get the gist of it, scan the paragraph headings and the pull quotes real quick. I hope you return here to find the golden nuggets.
People maintain categorized lists of web sites for many reasons. Combined with an RSS reader those reading lists let you keep track of news headlines and blog posts very efficiently. You may have come across reading lists in the sidebar of weblogs, where they are usually referred to as blogrolls, or just links.
If you export your list of favorite websites in the OPML file format, you can then share your reading list with other people. They can import the list into their preferred feed reader. There are quite a few ways anyone can create such an OPML file. This article provides links to various resources related to OPML, how to create OPML files and how to share them.
“OPML has become the de facto standard
for the convenient exchange of reading lists.” (2 / 6)
Reading lists – useful but easily grow stale
OPML files are incredibly useful: by selecting several OPML files curated by topic experts you can quickly construct a personal news center around topics of interest. Regrettably the mechanism of importing a reading list has one major disadvantage: as soon as you add a reading list, it has in fact become a stale copy of the original. Future changes to the original reading list will not automatically be reflected in your copy of that list. To prevent this, OPML files should be automatically synchronized.
The InoReader dynamic OPML solution
This is where the new InoReader Dynamic Subscriptions feature comes in: it allows you to create dynamic subscriptions from any web-based reading list. When the original source of the reading list is updated, so does the InoReader version.
The first step is to import the reading list using the OPML file’s web address. After that, InoReader automatically keeps your copy of the reading list synchronized with its original source.
As you can also see from Synchronization option in this screenshot, InoReader can synchronize all changes to the OPML file (new additions and removals), or just new additions.
“InoReader synchronizes all changes to the OPML file” (3 / 6)
If a change in the remote OPML is detected, that event will trigger a notification event to indicate that one or more feeds have been added or removed:
In my experience adding a subscription is a very fast process. It mostly depends on whether InoReader has imported the feeds at some time in the past. On import, the feed reader checks whether the OPML file and individual feeds are valid. It also checks how active a feed is. Use dashboard gadgets to display lists of inactive feeds and of failing feeds:
All InoReader users (Basic, Plus and Pro levels) have access to the new dynamic OPML feature. Refresh frequencies depend on the user level, from once a day for the Basic level to once every hour for the for-pay levels. OPML subscriptions can also be manually refreshed.
“The new dynamic OPML feature is available to all InoReader users” (4 / 6)
Using InoReader to publish reading lists by topic
Like many other RSS platforms and feed readers on the market, InoReader lets you publish OPML files. What makes the InoReader approach different, is that it allows you to make web-based OPML files available for individual feed folders.
“InoReader offers URLs for RSS, for Web view and for OPML
at the folder level” (5 / 6)
You can then share the public URLs with others. This screenshot shows my Note-taking feed folder. It contains 39 feeds. Three public views are available:
- RSS – Note-taking folder RSS feed
- Web view – Note-taking folder HTML Clip
- OPML – Note-taking folder OPML URL
The significance of supporting dynamic OPML
Many people invest their time and energy into building and maintaining reading lists on topics they are most passionate about. It’s sad to see some of these efforts abandoned. However, once the reading lists are published and dynamically synchronized on the web, their authors can now be sure that other people always have access to the most up-to-date version of their reading lists. They will be more likely to keep their lists current, and all reading list users benefit.
Alltop offers OPML for hundreds of topics
You can find OPML files in various places on the web, sometimes deeply tucked away. A large collection of OPML files categorized by keyword is freely available on Alltop.com.
To get started with Alltop’s OPML files, first select the desired topic of interest from their website. There is a convenient full-page overview of all Alltop topics. For the purpose of this article, let’s choose Filmmaking.
The base URL for the keyword ‘filmmaking’ on Alltop is http://filmmaking.alltop.com/, and the accompanying OPML file is at http://filmmaking.alltop.com/opml. Using this URL as a template, you can easily construct OPML files built from tons of relevant news sources. Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki explained the feature in 2009: How to Change the World: How to Use Alltop to Add Content to Your Website, Blog, and Feed Reader.
Different flavors of OPML
If you use Google to find OPML files, note that you may also stumble across OPML files that cannot be used with an RSS feed reader because they contain outlines of plain text, not references to RSS feeds and their home pages.
“FeedShare deserves to become part of the
OPML- and feed-sharing ecosystem” (6 / 6)
OPML exchange site FeedShare.net
Early 2014 FeedShare http://feedshare.net was launched, a promising web service that is dedicated to the exchange of RSS feeds and OPML files. Anyone can submit their categorized reading lists to this website. Browse for topics at http://feedshare.net/tags.
See the screenshot below. This is how I submitted the OPML file for the RSS News Radar project to FeedShare.net. Sharing your reading list with the world can’t get much simpler than this. There’s no sign-up required, just two fields to fill in – a title and an OPML source. As soon as you’ve submitted your reading list, you’ll be given a unique URL that allows you to customize the reading list details and attach topic tags to it.
Shortly after FeedShare launched in January 2014, tech blogger Louis Gray wrote this review: Feedshare.net Debuts for OPML, RSS Feed Swapping.
The FeedShare project is open-source. Original developer Arne @Holzenburg kindly invites you to join the effort and take the project to the next level. To turn it into an ecosystem for developers and users, FeedShare needs an API. Within the context of this article it is also relevant to note that once you’ve uploaded your OPML reading list to FeedShare.net, that copy itself does not magically get updated.
Create your own OPML file
If you have an InoReader account, then you can start creating topic reading lists straight away. Most other RSS readers offer an easy method to export all of your feed subscriptions in a single list. Some will host the OPML file for you through a direct URL, others do generate the output but don’t do the hosting for you. They require that you copy and paste the OPML output and save it to a file on your local hard drive. In that case you need to upload the local OPML file to a web-based file server, for example to OneDrive, DropBox, or Google Drive, so that the file becomes accessible online.
Make sure you enable sharing on your OPML file. Next, while you yourself are logged off from your feed reader, double check that the OPML file is indeed accessible through its web address and test it with your InoReader account.
Tumblr OPML and LiveJournal OPML
Tumblr lets you create an OPML file of your own subscriptions. Log on to your Tumblr account and visit the page https://www.tumblr.com/following
LiveJournal offers the same feature but with a rather significant twist: LiveJournal lets anyone create an OPML file from anyone else’s Friends List. You don’t need to be logged on. Just substitute the username in this URL: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/opml.bml?user=exampleusername.
OPML reading lists on the web (spreadsheet table)
Update June 9, 2014: You can now your own web-based OPML reading list to the new, public resource OPML Reading Lists on the Web. Note that the spreadsheet has multiple tabs. It is intended as a collaborative initiative. Please feel free to share the link and to retweet the Twitter announcement.
— Marjolein Hoekstra (@CleverClogs) June 9, 2014
OPML tools and resources
Another way to create an OPML file is by starting with a simple list of websites that offer RSS feeds and using a web service to convert that list to an OPML file. Here are some OPML conversion tools and resources that make that process a lot easier:
- FeedShow OPML generator to create an OPML from any list of web URLs, both from simple links and from RSS feeds.
- Spreadsheet -> OPML Generator to create an OPML file from a two-column Google SpreadSheet (feed name, feed URL). Created by Pamela Fox @PamelaFox
- Generating an OPML RSS bundle from a page of links using Google Spreadsheets, by Martin Hawksey @MHawksey
- Feed detection from blog URL lists, by Tony Hirst @PsycheMedia
- OPML Validator, by Dave Winer @DaveWiner
Once you’ve created your OPML file, make sure that it’s accessible through a web URL.
Create a custom search engine from any OPML file
Now that you know where to find OPML files and how to create and share your own, why not grasp the opportunity and put them to good use? A fine use case for OPML files is to build a Google Custom Search Engine on the fly. Try this TechMeme Leaderboard Search Engine, based on the Techmeme Leaderboard.
If you observe the URL in your browser address bar, you can easily see how to substitute your own OPML file. Creating a custom search engine is just that simple. A powerful aspect of Google Custom Search Engines is that they show search results from the entire archive of a website – not just the recent history from its RSS feed. Google Custom Search Engines can be refined in many ways. To learn more about these options, visit and explore the Google Custom Search Engine website.
On the history of dynamic OPML
Dynamic reading list support isn’t newly invented by InoReader. Full credit for the concept goes to two pioneers in RSS, notably Dave Winer, and the deceased RSS reader Blogbridge.
Dave Winer – pioneer in RSS and inventor of OPML
Over the last decade or so, Dave Winer has continually been pushing the concept and potential of synchronized reading lists. Added info (thanks @DaveWiner): 12 Years ago, he implemented the feature in web publishing product Radio Userland.
His most recent outlining project Fargo supports subscribing to web-based OPML files by inclusion. Read how this feature works in the blogpost “Subscribe” to OPML Lists in Fargo (May 22nd, 2014), as explained by fervent Fargo user Jeffrey @Kishner.
See also these two relevant posts by Winer from 2013:
Care to Share Your OPML? (April 2013)
2005: BlogBridge announces dynamic reading list support
By the end of 2005, a full-fledged version of dynamic reading lists was implemented in BlogBridge. Cross-platform, open-source and an info-junkie’s wet dream, Blogbridge unfortunately succumbed to the heavy pull of Google Reader’s gravitation.
Although as a product it is no longer available, the BlogBridge blog archive is still reminiscent of what it means to develop a top-notch, user-focused news aggregator and what hurdles the developers needed to overcome. See this post from November 2005, in which BlogBridge founder Pito Salas announced the upcoming reading lists feature in Reading Lists: Major new capability, coming soon.
To the next level of InoReader’s Dynamic OPML Subscriptions feature
Here is my wish list:
1. Right now, InoReader offers OPML files for individual folders and for a user’s entire subscription list. A logical in-between product would be to offer OPML files for bundles – a custom combination of several folders.
2. While in the InoReader user interface, people should be able to add new OPML subscription lists hosted on FeedShare.net. Similarly, they themselves should be able to publish their reading lists to FeedShare.net and make them publicly available there.
3. InoReader should add a recommendation system for subscription lists. Once the system understands what topics a user is interested in, it could recommend suggested reading lists.
InoReader is a fast and powerful web-based RSS service that has become increasingly popular over the past year. It has become my preferred feed reader in early 2014.
For InoReader, the frequent operations of sorting, tagging, renaming and organizing feeds and folders are frictionless actions. Productivity features such as in-context search, Active Search feeds and feed notification rules all work smoothly and fast. The collection of InoReader dashboard gadgets is growing by the week. The service has a strong focus on social features such as feed-item tagging, favoriting and commenting and of course integrates with dozens of web services. You can even configure your own custom Send To apps, or become the publisher of a channel that broadcasts among your InoReader peers.
Unique about InoReader is also that it provides public HTML / RSS / OPML output at the folder level. Lastly, I’ve personally experienced that the InoReader support team truly excels at dealing with support questions and feature requests. I’m honored and very grateful that the InoReader development team embraced my suggestion to implement Dynamic OPML Subscriptions.