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Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for the ‘RSS Aggregators’ Category

RSS Reader InoReader to Support Dynamic OPML Subscriptions

with 5 comments

“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)

 

OPML icon

OPML icon

RSS feeds for breakfast

 

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.

Creating dynamic OPML subscriptions

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:

The Memeorandum Leaderboard OPML just got updated.

 

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:

InoReader dashboard gadgets display inactive and invalid 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)

 

InoReader OPML subscriptions can be automatically or manually refreshed.

 

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:

InoReader offers an OPML file per folder

 

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.

 

A small proportion of Alltop’s OPML-enabled newsrack

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.

Sharing your OPML list on FeedShare.net

 

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.

OPML Reading Lists on the Web

 

 

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:

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.

 

Turning a web-based OPML into a search engine

 

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)

Feed reader developers — here’s an easy way to differentiate your service and have your users love you even more (August 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.

 

About InoReader

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.

On Twitter, you can follow @InoReader, there’s an InoReader Facebook page. Of course there’s also an InoReader Blog: (RSS | Atom). Both the blog and the Changelog (RSS) are updated at least weekly.

Written by CleverClogs

May 26th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

FeedBurner View of the Feed Market Report 2007

without comments

The FeedBurner View of the Feed Market report 2007 was released today, much to the delight of many industry analysts closely following the movements of RSS tool vendors. These analysts had been waiting for the report long enough: since the previous installment of the report, in November 2005, RSS marketing has become a much more serious business.

Feedburner_report_returned_stats

The illustrated report that FeedBurner made public today has a focus on web-based aggregators, which means that we can expect separate blog posts with FeedBurner’s take on the role of desktop readers, widgets and e-mail-based headline viewers. As a whole, FeedBurner is capable of differentiating over 3,000 different user agents.

Since its first Market Report for 2005 in the blog post Feed For Thought, FeedBurner’s various RSS services have gained tremendous popularity: according to information handed to me last week by Rick Klau, Vice-President of Publisher Services, FeedBurner currently handles these immense numbers:

  • 340,000 feed publishers, who publish
  • 600,000 feeds, resulting in
  • 300 million feed requests every day

As explained in the FeedBurner report, these absolute numbers of subscriptions per se are not an ideal instrument to assess an individual aggregator’s market share, firstly because each of these vendors uses specific methods to report feed data. See the various kinds of metric that each vendor delivers in the table. Another issue is that the action of subscribing to a feed alone doesn’t guarantee that the feed items actually get read. Last week, when FeedBurner was finally able to incorporate realistic subscriber numbers for Google Reader and Google Personalized Homepage, the default feed sets included by many aggregators were the main cause that a lot of FeedBurner publishers reported subscriber increases much higher than the average of 59%.

Introducing "Audience Engagement"

A more realistic view of the web-aggregator market is obtained by embracing what FeedBurner calls Audience Engagement—"people reading feeds and people clicking on feeds". It turns out that from all clicks measured coming from web-based aggregators, those from My Yahoo!, Google and Bloglines represent 95% of the traffic.

A few bloggers have taken an in-depth, demographic-breakdown perspective on their FeedBurner pie charts this week:

Read the conversations with each of these posts. One commenter named Franky writes: "… if Scoble links to you today you’ll see a huge shift in your feedburner
stats, because many Scoble subscribers will visit your blog from within
Google Reader, but only for today and the following days the number
will go down again."

Representatives from FeedBurner closely track mentions of their service and never seem to grow tired to explain their calculation methods. I’m sure there will be a very animated conversation on FeedBurner’s own blog too. Update: of course there is, particularly about the part i just quoted.

Here’s a live Grazr that lets you track the 100 most recent mentions of the FeedBurner Feed Market report:

Grazr Badge

Written by CleverClogs

February 22nd, 2007 at 5:04 pm

RSS-Enabled Marketing Search Engine : The Power 150

with 6 comments

"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

RSS Explorer Mash-up : FeedFlinger

with 3 comments

Quite a few bookmarks being labeled with the tag "RSS" on del.icio.us refer to stuff I’ve already seen before: sites that I bookmarked myself, RSS tools and services that everybody seems to know about already or—especially annoying lately—pages undeservedly tagged "RSS", aka downright spam.

This morning, however, something showed up that did grab my attention: a project by Kent Brewster in which he demonstrates how useful it is that some major RSS-enabled web services have opened up their architecture. For a day-time job Kent works at Yahoo! in Silicon Valley, but from what I read on his side-projects page, he enjoys spending a lot of his spare time programming as well.

Kent blogs at Brewster’s Field Guide to Web 2.666, where you can find the details on his most recent brainchild in his blog post FeedFlinger: a nothing-but-net RSS aggregator.

Let’s look at a screenshot, as usual. Click on it to open a full-size version of the image:

Feedflinger

So what does FeedFlinger let you do?
Quoting Kent’s blog post:

"FeedFlinger is a prototype nothing-but-net RSS explorer, mashing up Feedburner’s sweet tasty new JSON return for source material, two flavors of Yahoo! Search for search and term extraction, and del.icio.us for storing and sharing."

And in my words: the Find Me instant search box allows you to type in the name of a feed. In this implementation it’s the Yahoo! Search API that limits the search results to just FeedBurner feeds. Selected feeds get added to a list in the right-hand panel. I chose my own River of News feed and the FeedBurner blog Burning Door, for example. You can see that each feed in the collection is displayed with all its feed items.

Hover your mouse on any entry and a pop-up is shown with a summary of its contents. Then Yahoo!’s Term Extraction API comes into play, generating a list of terms ordered by frequency of occurrence. This keyword list is displayed in the top-left column, called Interesting Terms.

The final step is to bookmark your custom  collection of feeds, on del.icio.us of course.

A summary of FeedFlinger is listed on ProgrammableWeb in the category RSS mashups: FeedFlinger on ProgrammableWeb.

Final words: FeedFlinger is a work in progress, but definitely a fine one at that: Kent diligently documents the bugs he’s still working on, most importantly the lack of cross-browser compatibility. In real life I’m not to sure limiting feed search to just FeedBurner results is that useful, but that’s beside the point of Kent’s project: he clearly wants to demonstrate what’s currently possible.

Go have a look and leave a note here or on Kent Brewster’s blog entry to tell us what you think.

Here’s a Grazr about FeedFlinger, to finish off the icing on today’s cake:

Grazr badge

Written by CleverClogs

February 3rd, 2007 at 2:03 pm

Skype RSS Reader: the Luobotou/anothR.com RSS Robot

with 2 comments

Chinese programmers have made a Skype robot available that allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds through the familiar Skype chat interface. Their website Skype RSS Robot (updated 2006-10-19) is available in Chinese and in English. Using the bot is incredibly simple: add the anothR.com bot to your contact list (the original screenname Luobotou2.0 was deprecated 2006-10-18, mh) and send it the urls to the feeds to which you want to subscribe.

Skype_bot_luobotou_1

Auto-discovery still loudly buzzing in my head, I checked if Skype RSS Robot could also detect any of my feeds by just providing it the url to CleverClogs:

Luobotou_autodiscovery_1

I’ll post an update here to see if Skype RSS Robot indeed is able to notify me of the CleverClogs blog being updated with a blog post about ‘Skype RSS Robot’ (don’t you love those Escherian deadlocks). (Update 2006-10-19: the bot finally shows my feed items)

The Skype RSS Robot page also offers RSS publishers the option to generate a subscription chicklet, but I wasn’t able to get it to work with my FeedBurner feed. (Update 2006-10-18: the chicklet finally works for me: )

From the website design Skype RSS Robot seems very early stage ("BOLG" instead of "BLOG", and even that link leads nowhere), but the main functionality definitely is in place. (Update 2006-10-18: and another improvement here: there is now a Robot’s Blog, which even mentions that you can use the Skype bot to validate your feeds, Just dump them in the Skype chat window and if the bot reports that your subscription was successful, then the validation succeeded also)

UPDATE: 2006-10-17 Open-source evangelist Chris ‘Joe Factory’ Messina of Citizen Agency found my blog post and discovered which commands are supported by Skype RSS Robot. Most important feature that I had been wondering about is that you can schedule how often the robot delivers news items. Read Chris’ post on his blog "FactoryCity": Luobotou RSS Robot — feeds for Skype.

Written by CleverClogs

October 16th, 2006 at 12:11 am

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

RSS Explained in American Sign Language

with 12 comments

"Now isn’t this ironic: usually we’re being told to make an effort so that deaf people are not excluded from conversations between hearing people, but with Jon’s ASL video about RSS it’s the other way around: it’s clear Jon is extremely proficient in ASL and this time it would be nice if we, ‘the hearing’, could get subtitles…"

A couple of weeks ago Jon-Lenois Savage posted a two-minute explanation of RSS for deaf people in his blog post What’s RSS? on his video blog Jon’s Vlog.

Rss_asl_video

Jon is a deaf blogger from San Diego with a passion for surfing, who has posted about twenty videos on YouTube already (all Jon’s videos).

Now isn’t this ironic: usually we’re being told to make an effort so that deaf people are not excluded from conversations between hearing people, but with Jon’s ASL video about RSS it’s the other way around: it’s clear Jon is extremely proficient in ASL and I personally would so much like to know how he explains RSS to deaf people.

I found this video through a blog post by another deaf blogger called Jared Evans, who maintains a single-page aggregator about blogs for and by deaf bloggers, and who advises deaf people how to use RSS technology effectively.

Best_of_deaf_blogs

Check out more YouTube videos tagged with the keywords "RSS" and "feeds"

The same YouTube video search displayed using onelurv, a personalized RSS portal that I’m currently investigating:

Note that the contents of this widget will reflect any changes that I make the RSS subscriptions stored in my online onelurv account. As such it’s not really an RSS to Javascript tool—it merely shows which feeds I’ve subscribed to.

Written by CleverClogs

September 5th, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Bozpages : River-of-News Styled RSS Feeds

with one comment

"…BozPages are the quickest way to create River-of-News style views of RSS content from multiple feeds."

Alex Bosworth launched a visually attractive method to display one-page overviews of an unlimited number of merged RSS feeds. BozPages are the quickest way to create nicely looking, River-of-News style views of merged RSS content. There is no need to create a user account first—you can get started straight away by providing the URL to a single feed or to an OPML file right on the BozPage homepage.

River-of-News style display of Library and Search Engine feeds

These are the main features of BozPage:

Live, headlines-only view of the same feeds

Alex Bosworth previously caught a lot of buzz when he launched LiveMarks, a constantly refreshed del.icio.us zeitgeist website. LiveMarks shows the most popular del.icio.us bookmarks of this moment, with a live stream of what’s currently being added.

BozPages Live News Radar

Written by

December 12th, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Posted in RSS Aggregators