Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for the ‘Custom Keyword Alerts by RSS’ Category

Podcasting Professionals : Advanced News Radar using Grazr

with 4 comments

Ever since I started developing Grazr RSS applications, I’ve been wondering if it were possible to integrate other services intothe Grazr widget. Today I’m presenting you with my most advanced project to date: Podcasting Professionals. This news radar demonstrates that Grazr RSS applications can be enhanced with the functionality of other, quite useful services. For this particular Grazr I
picked ZapTXT, Particls and BlogRovR. In this post I’ll discuss the
value they each add to this particular news radar.

A full-page version of the Podcasting Professionals news radar is hosted on the PODHANDLE servers. To give you an idea here’s the reduced-size version:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by CleverClogs

September 23rd, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Share your daily stream of feeds and keywords: creating a Particls inTouch badge

with 4 comments

Particls is entering public beta today. If you haven’t come across the name before: the product first started under the name Touchstone about a year ago, and then last April when it went private beta to a larger audience of testers, a much desired and appropriate name change was carried out.

Read on if any of these catchwords appeal to you:

  • lifestreams
  • information overload
  • personal relevance
  • attention profile
  • keyword monitoring
  • importance-correlated disruption


I’d like to point out two remarks in today’s announcement on the Particls Blog that I definitely consider highlights: firstly it is now confirmed that a Particls version for OS X is in the pipeline. Secondly, bloggers and web site owners can share their Particls setup with a custom sidebar badge, such as this one:

Particls for OS X coming
The upcoming OS X version of Particls now officially being mentioned in a communique issued by Faraday Media is a real milestone. Ever since I got acquainted with the two creative minds behind Particls, Chris Saad and Ashley Angell, in February 2006—and also when I briefly met with Chris in person in San Francisco last December—the sensitive topic of Mac lovers feeling heavily neglected was frequently brought up.
"Ping me as soon as they make an OS X version available!", has probably been the most often heard reply from the tech journalists on my contact list when I would approach them with a brief but substantial update about Particls.

Ok, that said, what I haven’t managed to get hold of from the developers yet is an estimate release date for the OS X version, but I trust they’ll attract sufficient additional funding soon to make the first prototype available within a year from now. Until then Particls runs fine under Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Getting the download
Particls is now freely available for download from the Particls Download page. I suggest you get acquainted fast, because I’ll be shifting to fourth gear shortly.

CleverClogs focus
I figured that a couple of other tech news sites would likely do a perfect job offering an introduction to the core functionality of Particls (see Track Your Favorite Topics … on Digital Inspiration from a few days ago, glance through my Particls news radar for a live-updated list of reviews, or refer to the Particls FAQ), so I decided in this post I might as well focus primarily on the publisher aspects of the product. Please follow me to the Particls inTouch introductory page while I describe the technical, practical aspects of this new Particls partner program.

Particls inTouch installer packages
Particls inTouch lets you share your own customized version of the full Particls installer package on your website. There are two flavors of inTouch, a basic one that generates an installer from a single feed or from a set of feeds (OPML),  and an advanced one targeted at publishers obviously offering more granular control. I’ll describe both here.

inTouch Basic
inTouch Basic is the most simple way to offer your readers a Particls installer package: just type the web address of the website you’d like to track and copy the code from the box on your screen.


inTouch Basic also lets you enter the URL of a single RSS feed or from a set of RSS feeds, a so-called remotely hosted OPML file. Most online RSS aggregators allow you to create an OPML file and they’ll host it for you. The advantage of this is that any changes you make to your list of subscriptions is immediately reflected in the OPML file. Remotely hosted OPML files are often referred to as Reading Lists. If you are looking for high-quality OPML files around a certain topic, then browse the BlogBridge Topic Experts Guides. This library of OPML files offers tons of feeds on topics such as marketing, politics, online education and science & technology.

Here’s my inTouch Basic badge that simply tracks CleverClogs posts using Particls:

Particls InTouch

inTouch Partner
inTouch Partner offers publishers full control: after signing up for an account, they can choose which feeds to include with the package, which keywords to look out for, which ones to avoid, and they have the option to change the look and feel of all of the Particls screen elements, such as the logo and text color on the ticker and on the pop-ups. A personalized set-up file is generated and then hosted on the Particls servers so that your readers can download and install it. The inTouch user account allows Particls Partners to modify their settings later on.
My CleverClogs installer package, should you want to try it, is located at

and the underlying web address points to

Creating a Particls inTouch Installer Package
To have Particls host an installer package on its server, a user account needs to be created through the Partnership Sign-up form.

After signing up, a rather straightforward edit form opens that lets you enter the details to create the package:


Just for the fun of it, I added a CleverClogs logo to my ticker bar by changing the following options in the Settings and Skins. I then followed the instructions to upload the Particls skin file to their server:


This is what my Particls ticker looks like now:


Creating your own branded version of Particls
I had no difficulties creating my own Particls badge. In fact, you could use any badge image as long as you make it point to the web address at which Particls stores the installer package.
In short, these are the steps once more:

  1. Read the overview page of the Particls inTouch Partner program
  2. Sign up for the service at the inTouch Admin Console
  3. Create your custom installer package
  4. Get the code for your badge
  5. Insert the badge code into your blog

Ideas to improve Particls
It’s obvious I like Particls as it is very much already. Still, there are a couple of things I’d like the developers to pay attention to (!):

  • Commit to releasing the OS X version and communicate about it
  • Allow the Particls client to regularly poll a remote OPML and adjust the feed list accordingly
  • Make it easier to quickly find back items that just scrolled off the screen
  • Increase the font size of the ticker items
  • Display the source of individual feed items in the alerts if not identical to the feed source (especially important for "River of News" feeds)
  • Allow changing the URLs of feeds in the "Manage my feeds" panel

Particls News Radar
I’ve collected a couple of feeds related to Particls. Please feel free to use the comments section to suggest another feed.

Written by CleverClogs

May 28th, 2007 at 9:00 pm

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

without comments

“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:


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.


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 and the Grazr News Radar for 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.


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, he told me the stunning news that most likely today 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:

Grazr Badge

Written by CleverClogs

March 19th, 2007 at 8:38 pm

OnePipe : the Single-Button Generic Feed Filtering Bookmarklet

with 11 comments

“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:


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: Animator&feedurl=
  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

The CNET Ultimate RSS Make-Over

with 7 comments

"Please, CNET, look at these screenshots, read my comments on each of
them, and then tell me if you agree your website is in desperate need of a
make-over with respect to RSS support."

I don’t often use CleverClogs to rant about things or to complain about broken websites, but as I currently lack a proper connection to anyone responsible for the underwhelming implementation of RSS functionality at CNET, I’m publishing some complaints here in a hopeful attempt that someone with enough influence will consider my feedback as constructive criticism and will have the suggested improvements carried out.

What I’m offering here is like a blueprint, a checklist to see if you really are offering your visitors everything you could be offering with regard to RSS technology. I hope others will benefit from this also.


Things to fix on the CNET RSS feeds landing page:

  • Use the common feed icon instead of the old-age XML one—not just on this page, but throughout the CNET domain. This icon is available for download in all kinds of formats and sizes from
  • Get rid of the abundance of ugly feed reader chicklets. A repetitive page such as this one hurts on the eyes, distracts from the actual list of feeds and makes me want to close the page straight away. Instead, rely on the browser-friendly feed subscription landing pages offered by FeedBurner, or use the attractive Subscribe button offered by iFeedReaders:


    Once people indicate that they want to subscribe by clicking on a button, you can offer them the list of supported feed readers. iFeedReaders offers you a whole bunch of chicklets, including your own NewsBurst, and it allows your visitors to subscribe by email through RMail and FeedBlitz.

  • Increase the number of items in each feed to at least 30.
  • Offer full-length rich-media feeds instead of just the first sentence of every post.
  • Provide an OPML for each section, or even better: let your readers select to which feeds they want to subscribe, and create a custom OPML for them on the fly. Use the standard OPML icon available from
  • Make any OPML that you provide auto-discoverable by using the <link rel> tag in the header of your HTML source.
  • Run your feeds through a feed validator. I’m saying this because a number of errors show up when validating your feeds. I also notice heaps of empty lines when investigating their source.
  • Provide links to the HTML versions of each of your columns: "Business Tech" on the feeds page would logically be hyperlinked to the Business Tech column.
  • Fix the discrepancy between the number of blogs mentioned in the sidebar of each blog (I count 37) and the number of blog feeds listed on the RSS feeds landing page (I count 28). I trust this is caused by the (recent?) additon of several new blogs.
  • Don’t make me guess what each of your blogs has to offer. Put a Grazr widget in your sidebar that allows me to browse live other blogs/feeds/columns that might be of interest. You could even offer your readers keyword and keyphrase search among all of your feeds and let them generate custom-keyword feeds from their searches. For an example, see the one designed for the Power 150 by Todd And.


CNET’s prompt to subscribe to a specific keyword by email looks promising at first glance, but it’s a real disappointment once you click through.

Here are some suggestions for CNET Alerts:

  • Allow readers to select from which CNET sources they want to receive alerts: from specific columns, from any favorite authors, from selected blogs.
  • Don’t just offer e-mail alerts—provide the whole range of output options: e-mail, My News, RSS, IM, web widgets, SMS. There are plenty of RSS tool vendors who can assist in setting up gateways to enable these channels. With the risk of leaving out others, I suggest you consider at least the services ZapTXT, Feed Crier and MuseStorm.
  • Offer the option to subscribe to a single news post with its comments. You can use RSS for this, or so-called microformats.
  • Fix the bug that allowed me to create the following appalling screenshot (note the spelling error)


Someone at CNET has been sleeping over the past few years. A whole truckload full of RSS and search techniques has become available in the recent years and in my opinion CNET is not offering enough of these to its readers.

Please use the comments section to share your ideas.

Update: I just realized I can use Bitty Browser to show you the live number of Diggs that this story has received:

Written by CleverClogs

February 12th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

KMWorld Offers Personalized Feeds

with one comment

I just discovered that KMWorld offers personalized feeds. Basically this means that you can subscribe to any keyword from the KMWorld website and be notified in your RSS reader when someone uses that word in an article. I always cheer silently when website publishers implement feeds based on custom keywords. I think it’s the ultimate courtesy to your site visitors.


First I wanted to be sure KMWorld was delivering on the expectations that it was putting up: in the following screenshot you can see how I’m using the KMWorld custom feed service to track mentions of the word ’KMWorld’ [!]:

I haven’t discovered yet if it is also possible to generate feeds for compound search terms such as "web event" or "RSS technology". The attempts I made so far failed. I’ll update this post if I discover a way to do this after all.
It happened before that I cheered too soon about a discovery like this (just a few draft posts that probably will never see the light), for example because everybody else except me knew about something way before I would. It made sense to me to double-check I wasn’t discovering some old news, so I quickly looked up whether these three main resources for this type of information had been mentioning the KMWorld service before I found out about it: TagJag!, Kebberfegg and Library clips.

I first checked out the full list of sources covered by TagJag!, Chris Pirillo’s keyword-to-OPML service. The TagJag! service is very easy to use: just enter any keyword that you would like to track and the OPML file is generated for you.


TagJag! OPML URLs look like this:, that is, if you want to create a list of feeds from blog searches for the keyword ’aggregators’. OPML files generated in this way can automatically be viewed using your preferred OPML browser now that OPML auto-discovery has been enabled on all TagJag! search results pages—just install the OPML auto-discovery extension for Firefox for this. The OPML URL is persistent and dynamic, which means that you can subscribe to be notified of updates to the feed list.

I must say I really like the visual make-over Pirillo’s developers have been putting in place over the last few months. Still, it seems the KMWorld Personalized Feed service isn’t listed among the 178 engines that TagJag! can query. I notified Chris, of course. He once told me that any search engine that accepts a url parameter of this kind qualifies to be included in the TagJag! list of search engines. Send your own TagJag! submissions to


Assuming knowledge management workers most likely have some affinity with online research, I also checked if ResearchBuzz blogger and Google guru pur sang Tara Calishain had included the KMWorld offering in her list of engines queried through her Kebberfegg tool.


Kebberfegg is a keyword-based RSS feed generator similar to TagJag!, but with a different angle and a different scope. Kebberfegg does generate an OPML file, but it doesn’t host it for you. You’ll have to grab it off the screen and save it to a file, which makes it static. Tara encourages submissions too: send them to tools – at –

The last site I checked was John Tropea’s blog Library clips: I used a simple Google Blog search query to search "KMWorld" on Library clips, but there weren’t search results at all. John’s blog is encyclopedic with regard to RSS, OPML and advanced search technologies, so if he hasn’t covered it, then indeed, this must be a new service by KMWorld.

Written by CleverClogs

November 4th, 2006 at 7:41 pm

9 RSS Reader Housekeeping Secrets

with 5 comments

"I made the decision not to worry so much about the number of my subscriptions, knowing that BlogBridge easily handles large amounts of subscriptions, but more about the quality of the feeds that I keep. In fact, I’m noticing that I am more or less in the process of building my own mini-directory of blog feeds and that I use my RSS aggregator as an advanced feed bookmarking tool".

In the blog post The Problogger’s Dilemma: Trimming Down My Feed Subscriptions J. Angelo Racoma mentions that his Firefox browser becomes rather unresponsive when his RSS reader’s feed count (he uses Bloglines) reaches a certain critical number of subscriptions. Right: adding feeds is one thing, determining which ones can go is another. I know the feeling all to well…

A few months ago I made the decision not to worry so much about the number of my subscriptions, knowing that BlogBridge easily handles large amounts of subscriptions, but more about the quality of the feeds that I keep.
In fact, I’m noticing that I am more or less in the process of building my
own mini-directory of blog feeds and that I use my RSS aggregator as an advanced
feed bookmarking tool. My passion for collecting feeds on specific topics (mostly technology-related) is now motivating me to create expert guides that others can subscribe to if they want to. Read more about this in my post In the Lion’s Cave: BlogBridge Expert for RSS. Now, back to the Racoma dilemma:

Racoma continues his post by asking for suggestions how to become more efficient at eliminating feeds. I initially started my reply as comment to his post, when I realized this was something that would fit well in a post of my own. So, here’s my list of RSS reader housekeeping secrets for you to drop or adopt:

  1. Categorize feeds by topic or project. If you lose interest in that topic, that branch is easily pruned. If necessary, assign multiple categories to feeds. Find experts for each group of feeds so that you know whose writings are mostly considered authoritative.
  2. Use techniques like feed filtering, feed digesting and smart feeds to obtain chronologically ordered lists (river of news) of highly relevant items. These techniques reduce the number of feeds that you have and they improve the quality of the ones that you do decide to subscribe to.
  3. Create a separate category ‘Evaluate’ where you keep candidate feeds. After a few weeks you’ll notice how quickly your interests have shifted. You’ll find that it’s a delightful relief to swiftly erase feeds you thought were indispensable a couple of weeks before.
  4. Tag, rate and annotate your feeds so that you know why you added them in the first place. Edit your feed titles to make them meaningful, for example add the name of the blogger to the feed title.
  5. Sort your feeds by rating within each category. This will allow you to focus on the feeds you rate highest when you’re on a time budget and it makes the actual chore of pruning feeds a snap.
  6. Use different update notification mechanisms depending on the feed’s rank: IM, ticker tape or system tray pop-up notification for urgent messages, email for intermediately urgent messages, and your feed reader for the remaining items. This way you’ll know for sure you won’t miss the most important items.
  7. In your mindset redefine the meaning of ‘unread’ vs ‘read’ items: the read ones can usually be skipped on the next round of feed reading, so turn these off. Be real: the ‘unread’ items don’t hurt you. Feed reading is fun and informative. Don’t spoil it by forcing yourself to race against the clock.
  8. Be brave enough to close your feed reader every so often and do stuff that might help you to relax.
  9. Keep a copy of your feeds by exporting them to OPML. You can save the file to your hard drive, then delete them from your reader. There’s also a possibility other people consider you an authority on that particular topic. Offer your subscriptions through an OPML browser on your blog. This encourages you to finetune your list of feeds because you know others are keeping an eye on the quality of your work.

Please feel free to ask specific questions about my own RSS best practice working procedures. I could then describe some of the tools that I use in more detail. Now, there are many, many RSS tools on the market today that could help you with individual aspects of nurturing your RSS reading sanity. 3Spots, an extremely productive blogger and social-networking specialist with a passion for RSS, made a much better effort than I could ever have accomplished in the blog post Feed and RSS Tools in 5 Steps. This list is not only incredibly useful and elaborate, it is also continually updated and hence of course highly recommended. 3Spots’ posts are well complemented by John Tropea’s scrutinous work on Library Clips. I keep going back to his pages to find thorough reviews of RSS tools, OPML services, feed search engines and whatever interesting tool he can get his hands on. Both 3Spots and JohnT practice what they preach: their blog designs reflect the tools they currently are investigating. Go find their many daily discoveries on the various bookmarking sites.

Talking about blog design and cutting-edge widgets: have you noticed the cool Google Ajax Search box in my sidebar? I installed it a few days ago after carefully studying the blog post How to Get Google AJAX Search For Your Site by CJ Millisock. Thanks for inspiring me, Chester! If this keeps functioning well, I think I may keep it in favor over the SurfWax LookAhead one that I installed last month.

I’m also looking at possibilities to implement a live spell checker based on Ajax for my comments section: so far I found two that are free to use: SpellingCow, created by Craig Nuttall as proof of concept of his COWS AJAX cross-domain scripting solution (based on earlier hard work by Emil Eklund), and Orangoo Speller by Amir Salihefendic.

Written by CleverClogs

September 10th, 2006 at 12:07 am