CleverClogs

Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for the ‘Blog Search Engines’ Category

RSS-Enabled Marketing Search Engine : The Power 150

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"Keep reading, or if you can’t hold your horses, head straight for the meat of my latest achievement: an RSS-enabled Marketing Search Engine created using GrazrScript, a relatively new language to create web-based RSS applications …"

Next time I meet someone new on the web I should write down the whence, the where, the why and the how of the connection taking place. I do recall clearly that I took the initiative to connect to marketing and PR specialist Todd And about a week ago, but I’ve completely forgotten how I found out about his website in the first place. His attractive banner logo definitely must have prolonged my attention span:

Toddand_blogbanner

Let’s forget (!) about my deteriorating memory, because what’s about to follow will hopefully blow your socks off.

Keep reading, or if you can’t hold your horses, head straight for the meat of my latest achievement: an RSS-enabled Marketing Search Engine created using GrazrScript, a language to create web-based RSS applications that was launched a few months ago by the Grazr development team. If you want to explore it yourself, I suggest you start with the GrazrScript Tutorial.

Background Story

I immediately noticed Todd has a rather remarkable and attractive blog layout that he self-hosts using WordPress: two sidebars on the left-hand side, the left-most one containing an intriguing link to what turns out to be an impressive, ranked list of 150+ US marketing blogs. Here’s a quick live peek of Todd’s Power 150 – Top Marketing Blogs page using Bitty Browser. You’ll immediately understand why it caught my eye: it has RSS written all over it.



There was just one thing blatantly missing from Todd’s Power 150 page: OPML awareness. "Wouldn’t it be cool if your list were browsable, discoverable and even … searchable?", I asked him on Skype. Todd quickly understood where I was heading. Our ideas matched perfectly and over the course of less than a week, with our time zones not exactly catalyzing effective communication, I helped Todd to display an advanced Grazr widget on a page we now nickname as the "Kitchen Sink". The sections in the remainder of my blog post discuss the functionality of this RSS application and some details on how we built it.

Power150_interface

Search Engine Functionality

Todd’s Power 150 RSS-enabled marketing search engine lets you do the following:

  • Search all listed marketing blogs by keyword
  • Generate a custom keyword-feed from your search that you can add to your own RSS aggregator
  • Browse all marketing blogs as a combined, River of News feed
  • Browse all marketing blogs from an alphabetically ordered list
  • Grab the URLs to the feeds and OPML files offered in the widget to import or subscribe to in your own feed reader
  • Send feedback by e-mail

Details about the RSS Tools Used

Dynamic OPML file

I started out with the OPML file from the feed list that Todd maintains on web-based feed reader NewsGator Online. This OPML file is web-based, public and dynamic, meaning that when Todd adds, changes or removes a feed in NewsGator Online, his OPML file will reflect this update immediately. RSS specialists refer to such an OPML file as a "Reading List". The other components in the Power 150 search engine fully rely on the availability of this OPML. You can browse Todd’s OPML by clicking on "Full List of Marketing Blogs" in the Power 150 Grazr panel.

Combining into a ‘River of News’ feed

The next step was to create a River of News feed from this OPML file using a feed digesting service. I prefer mySyndicaat, an advanced newsmastering tool that I’ve found indispensable in multi-tier projects involving the merging of RSS feeds, OPML files and Reading Lists.

FeedBurner for Cleanliness and Transparancy

On my cue Todd created a FeedBurner version of the mySyndicaat output feed. This is the feed that we used for "The Power 150 – River of News" feed link in the Power 150 Grazr panel. Most of my RSS applications involve the use of FeedBurner: most people know it creates clean URLs that are easy to remember, that it renders a browser-friendly page when displayed as HTML and that it offers pretty neat feed analytics features. There’s another less talked about reason why I personally use FeedBurner a lot: if for some reason any RSS tool used in the previous steps of a project like this is no longer available, all I have to do is adjust the source feed of the FeedBurner feed and my application runs fine again.

ReFilter Feed Filtering through Parameterized URLs

ReFilter is not such a widely known RSS service. In this case I use it because it lets you filter feeds by providing keywords within the parameters of the original feed URL. Such URL parameterization is essential for vertical search engines like this marketing search engine, because we wanted to offer Todd’s readers the option to subscribe to a custom-keyword RSS feed using their own RSS aggregator. I only used a portion of ReFilter’s functionality: ReFilter’s also offers an advanced syntax for sophisticated feed filtering: you can filter by field, use boolean commands and combine several searches into one URL. ReFilter is open-source, is based on the MagPie RSS parser for PHP and was developed by Sam Deelie.

Refilter_interface

GrazrScript, Creating RSS Applications

I had played with Grazr widgets plentiful in the past, but never taken the plunge to fully explore its scripting language until this week. GrazrScript is a language that is still fully in development and I very much appreciate where the Grazr people are heading with this. As I wrote earlier, the best way to get started with this is how I did it too:

  1. download the GrazrScript examples
  2. study the GrazrScript tutorial
  3. modify the sample applications using a text editor
  4. upload one of these applications back to your own server (!)
  5. try it out by entering the URL of your Grazr application on the Grazr.com configuration page

Credits

I’d like to point out—magna cum gratia—that head developer Mike Kowalchik from Grazr was of enormous help to get this project off the ground in such a short amount of time. No matter how we moved our goal posts, Mike offered great input. Mike created a branded Power 150 theme with a status bar logo and custom hyperlink icons that perfectly match Todd’s strong brand.

I’ve also had quite a few fruitful chat sessions this week with Giovanni Guardalben CEO of mySyndicaat, my preferred feed digesting service. Gianni was kind enough to tweak his servers so that I could configure the combined feed with all the bells and whistles we required for this project.

new CleverClogs logo

Lastly I’d like to mention how rewarding the collaboration on this project was with Todd. I look forward to working with him more and extending our friendship. And, Todd…: thank you so much for the wonderful new logo for CleverClogs. I truly like your design a lot.

Update: Marshall Kirkpatrick left a really nice comment and created a digg for it, so feel free to go visit:

Power150_on_digg

By the time you read this, no doubt the counter is at 314 😉

And you, readers? Would you care to tell me what you think of this ambitious project? If so, please feel free to leave a comment.

Written by CleverClogs

February 5th, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Choosing the Ultimate Blog Search Engine

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After the news broke of the proposed new standard for attention profiling APML, I checked which blog search engine was the fastest to update its indexes. Aside from the heart-breaking observation that no blog search engine really seems to bother to check CleverClogs more often than once a day or so, I could also easily tell that Google Blog Search was going to outperform the other blog search engines by far.

As I wrote in my previous post, APML Standard for Attention Profiles, APML.ORG was launched today. An enormous buzz ensued: first there was the pre-launch scoop by Stowe Boyd yesterday morning, then Techmeme, Tailrank and Megite put it on their homepage, RSS insiders Vincent van Twillert (A Feed Is Born)and James Corbett (EirePreneur) added their two cents to the conversation and then even one of the AttentionTrust bloggers picked up the story. I told Touchstone CEO Chris Saad I was going to blog about it myself (being his merciless red pencil and relentless bug in the fur) and that I would quickly put up a realtime APML topic radar using Grazr so that my readers could see who else was blogging about it. Topic radars are built from RSS feeds based on custom keywords. This time the search was pretty simple: the keywords APML and attention should suffice.

Google_blog_search

I checked which blog search engine was the fastest to update its
indexes. Aside from the heart-breaking observation that no blog search engine really
seems to bother to check CleverClogs more often than once a day or so (I deserve all the blame),
I soon could also easily tell that Google Blog Search was going to
outperform the other blog search engines by far.

For the search APML Attention these were the results at 4:44 PM GMT+1:

  • Google Blog Search: 20 relevant search results (most recent one from 1 hour before the search ran)
  • Technorati: 14 relevant search results with any authority (most recent one from 4 hours before the search ran)
  • IceRocket: 3 relevant search results (most recent one from 01:09 AM, today; had to change query to APML only because the additional word Attention caused the query to render zero results)
  • Blogdigger: 3 relevant search results (most recent results from last night)
  • Windows Live Feed Search: 4 relevant search results, the most recent one being Stowe Boyd’s from yesterday morning.

Today I wrote a post on my other blog RSS Tool Vendors outlining 16 features of my ideal blog search engine: Blueprint of the Ideal Blog Search Engine, and, thinking it could be taken for granted, I didn’t even include the most obvious one: timely index updates.

Written by CleverClogs

October 2nd, 2006 at 5:50 pm