Archive for the ‘RSS Aggregators’ Category
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.
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:
- Google Reader | FeedBurner Stats Show Significant Market Share – Google Reader Now #1? by Andy Beard, 2007-02-17
- Google: World’s #1 Feed Reader by Jeremy Wright on Ensight, 2007-02-17
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:
"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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- download the GrazrScript examples
- study the GrazrScript tutorial
- modify the sample applications using a text editor
- upload one of these applications back to your own server (!)
- try it out by entering the URL of your Grazr application on the Grazr.com configuration page
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let’s look at a screenshot, as usual. Click on it to open a full-size version of the image:
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.
Here’s a Grazr about FeedFlinger, to finish off the icing on today’s cake:
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.
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:
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.
"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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be brave enough to close your feed reader every so often and do stuff that might help you to relax.
- 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.
"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…"
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.
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:
"…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:
- Display feeds merged in a formatted, River-of-News style page
- Display feed headlines only, with descriptions popping up in tooltips on mouse-over
- Combine feeds manually or import an OPML file
- Remove feeds from a page
- Share a BozPage through its url, for example http://sandbox.sourcelabs.com/bozpage/?gjs
- Bookmark any BozPage on del.icio.us
- Create an instant ego feed—a.k.a vanity search—from Google Blog Search, del.icio.us and Technorati. Example: CleverClogs
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.