Archive for the ‘RSS Tools’ Category
What is Inoreader?
Inoreader is a web-based content reader created by Innologica, a software development company from Bulgaria. Inoreader has been available since 2013. Feature-wise, Inoreader goes far beyond the basic functionality of typical RSS readers. What makes Inoreader stand out is the steady pace at which the development team has been adding powerful features, such as:
- Folder export – export your feeds, tags, likes, stars, Active Searches and Saved Web Pages as RSS feed and HTML Clip. An example of an Inoreader HTML Clip is at the bottom of this blog post. It will show a dynamically updated list of blog posts covering the announcement of IFTTT’s new Inoreader channel, based on the web pages that I tag in my Inoreader account.
- Every feed folder and Bundle can be exported as OPML
- Follow social accounts and search queries from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and VKontakte
- Blazing-fast subscription management with batch mode
- Advanced search – search within the scope of a feed, of a folder, among all of your own subscriptions or even among all subscriptions from all Inoreader users
- Active Search – be notified by RSS or by notification when a stored search query renders a new result
- Feed Bundles – create and share a group of feeds that others users can subscribe to
- OPML reading list subscriptions – subscribe to a remotely hosted OPML file. When a new feed appears on the remote OPML file, that same feed will be added to your account.
- Save web pages – store and tag any individual web page through browser extensions, bookmarklets and mobile sharing sheets
- Mail2Tag – each Inoreader tag has its own incoming email address, to which you can send any article or document
- Cross-platform reader, with native client apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone
- Multi-lingual – Inoreader is available in more than 20 languages
- Very active and responsive Inoreader user community
- Outstanding customer support
What can you do with the new Inoreader Channel on IFTTT?
Triggers fire when something happens in an IFTTT channel. Examples of Inoreader Triggers could be the event of articles being starred for reading later (manual), or the event that a new Active Search result has become available (automatic). IFTTT Actions are the consequence of such events. Examples of Inoreader Actions could be to subscribe to an RSS feed, or to save and tag an article.
Of course Inoreader’s capabilities really start to shine if you combine an Inoreader Trigger or Action with any of the 180+ available IFTTT Channels.
To get an idea of the possibilities, have a look at the 40+ ready-made Recipes created by the Inoreader team (click on the image to enlarge it):
The following 12 Triggers are available on the Inoreader Channel in IFTTT. Click on the hyperlink for each Trigger for an overview of related IFTTT Recipes and to see the list of Recipe Ingredients that you can choose from.
- New subscription – you have subscribed to a new RSS or social feed
- Subscription added to folder – you have added an RSS or social feed to a specific feed folder
- New starred article – you have marked an article for reading later
- New liked article – you have given your thumbs up to an article
- New broadcast article – you have pushed an article onto your Inoreader channel
- New tagged article – you have tagged an article. You may specify which specific tag is required for this event trigger to fire
- New article in folder – one of the feeds in a folder has published a new feed item. You may specify which specific folder produces the article for this event trigger to fire
- New saved web page – you have saved a web page, similar to bookmarking
- New bundle created by you – you have published a new feed bundle
- New bundle created by someone – someone else has published a new feed bundle
- New Active Search result – Inoreader monitors important search queries for you
- New post in our blog – a new blog post appears on the Inoreader blog
A detailed overview of all Inoreader Triggers is available in the Triggers section of the Inoreader Channel page.
The following 5 Actions are available on the Inoreader Channel in IFTTT. Click on the hyperlink for each Action for an overview of related IFTTT Recipes and to see the list of Recipe Ingredients that you can choose from.
- Subscribe to feed – you may specify which folder the feed should be added to
- Save any web page – you may specify with which tag the saved web page should be stored
- Mark all articles as read – this is a global action across all of your subscription
- Mark folder as read – mark all articles from all feeds in one specified feed folder as read
- Mark subscription as read – applies to an individual subscription
A detailed overview of all Inoreader Actions is available in the Actions section of the Inoreader Channel page.
Every Inoreader Trigger and Action comes with its own set of Ingredients. Some Triggers and Actions have many Ingredients to choose from, some only a few. To see the list of Recipe Ingredients that you can choose from, go to the overview of Inoreader Triggers and Actions and click on the name of a Trigger or an Action. Some common Inoreader Ingredients are Subscription URL, Subscription RSS URL, Article Title, Tag Name and Folder Name.
As an example, these are the Recipe Ingredients for the Trigger “New starred article“:
Why is the new Inoreader Channel on IFTTT so significant?
There are a few other feed readers that have a Channel of their own on IFTTT, notably the Feedly Channel and the NewsBlur Channel. There’s also a generic Feed Channel from IFTTT itself that solely functions as a Trigger – it offers no Actions. The Feed Channel Triggers let you create a Recipe based on a new feed item appearing in an RSS feed that you specify. Note that this Feed Channel does not allow you to create or add to an RSS feed.
Compared to these other IFTTT Channels, the Inoreader Channel stands out because of the broad variety and power of the available event triggers and actions.
As you can see from the sample recipes, Inoreader integrates with many popular services and platforms. The ones I personally like the most are the integrations with the IFTTT Channels from Buffer, Email Digest, Microsoft OneNote, Google Drive Spreadsheet, YouTube Watch Later and IFTTT’s relatively new Do Button for iOS.
Is there still anything to be desired in the Inoreader IFTTT channel?
The Inoreader IFTTT Channel is already very balanced. If anything, I’d suggest that every Trigger relating to articles, web pages, feeds or Bundles would allow optional filtering by custom keyword. A useful additional Inoreader Action could be to trigger a Push Notification in the Inoreader mobile apps, if that’s possible.
Inoreader Notebook – freely accessible OneNote notebook with tips, tricks and resources about Inoreader, compiled by yours truly.
“Dynamic OPML Subscriptions in feed reader InoReader
let you automatically synchronize your RSS subscriptions
with web-based reading lists.” (1 / 6)
Introduction – from reading list to OPML
This is a long read. If you first want to get the gist of it, scan the paragraph headings and the pull quotes real quick. I hope you return here to find the golden nuggets.
People maintain categorized lists of web sites for many reasons. Combined with an RSS reader those reading lists let you keep track of news headlines and blog posts very efficiently. You may have come across reading lists in the sidebar of weblogs, where they are usually referred to as blogrolls, or just links.
If you export your list of favorite websites in the OPML file format, you can then share your reading list with other people. They can import the list into their preferred feed reader. There are quite a few ways anyone can create such an OPML file. This article provides links to various resources related to OPML, how to create OPML files and how to share them.
“OPML has become the de facto standard
for the convenient exchange of reading lists.” (2 / 6)
Reading lists – useful but easily grow stale
OPML files are incredibly useful: by selecting several OPML files curated by topic experts you can quickly construct a personal news center around topics of interest. Regrettably the mechanism of importing a reading list has one major disadvantage: as soon as you add a reading list, it has in fact become a stale copy of the original. Future changes to the original reading list will not automatically be reflected in your copy of that list. To prevent this, OPML files should be automatically synchronized.
The InoReader dynamic OPML solution
This is where the new InoReader Dynamic Subscriptions feature comes in: it allows you to create dynamic subscriptions from any web-based reading list. When the original source of the reading list is updated, so does the InoReader version.
The first step is to import the reading list using the OPML file’s web address. After that, InoReader automatically keeps your copy of the reading list synchronized with its original source.
As you can also see from Synchronization option in this screenshot, InoReader can synchronize all changes to the OPML file (new additions and removals), or just new additions.
“InoReader synchronizes all changes to the OPML file” (3 / 6)
If a change in the remote OPML is detected, that event will trigger a notification event to indicate that one or more feeds have been added or removed:
In my experience adding a subscription is a very fast process. It mostly depends on whether InoReader has imported the feeds at some time in the past. On import, the feed reader checks whether the OPML file and individual feeds are valid. It also checks how active a feed is. Use dashboard gadgets to display lists of inactive feeds and of failing feeds:
All InoReader users (Basic, Plus and Pro levels) have access to the new dynamic OPML feature. Refresh frequencies depend on the user level, from once a day for the Basic level to once every hour for the for-pay levels. OPML subscriptions can also be manually refreshed.
“The new dynamic OPML feature is available to all InoReader users” (4 / 6)
Using InoReader to publish reading lists by topic
Like many other RSS platforms and feed readers on the market, InoReader lets you publish OPML files. What makes the InoReader approach different, is that it allows you to make web-based OPML files available for individual feed folders.
“InoReader offers URLs for RSS, for Web view and for OPML
at the folder level” (5 / 6)
You can then share the public URLs with others. This screenshot shows my Note-taking feed folder. It contains 39 feeds. Three public views are available:
- RSS – Note-taking folder RSS feed
- Web view – Note-taking folder HTML Clip
- OPML – Note-taking folder OPML URL
The significance of supporting dynamic OPML
Many people invest their time and energy into building and maintaining reading lists on topics they are most passionate about. It’s sad to see some of these efforts abandoned. However, once the reading lists are published and dynamically synchronized on the web, their authors can now be sure that other people always have access to the most up-to-date version of their reading lists. They will be more likely to keep their lists current, and all reading list users benefit.
Alltop offers OPML for hundreds of topics
You can find OPML files in various places on the web, sometimes deeply tucked away. A large collection of OPML files categorized by keyword is freely available on Alltop.com.
To get started with Alltop’s OPML files, first select the desired topic of interest from their website. There is a convenient full-page overview of all Alltop topics. For the purpose of this article, let’s choose Filmmaking.
The base URL for the keyword ‘filmmaking’ on Alltop is http://filmmaking.alltop.com/, and the accompanying OPML file is at http://filmmaking.alltop.com/opml. Using this URL as a template, you can easily construct OPML files built from tons of relevant news sources. Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki explained the feature in 2009: How to Change the World: How to Use Alltop to Add Content to Your Website, Blog, and Feed Reader.
Different flavors of OPML
If you use Google to find OPML files, note that you may also stumble across OPML files that cannot be used with an RSS feed reader because they contain outlines of plain text, not references to RSS feeds and their home pages.
“FeedShare deserves to become part of the
OPML- and feed-sharing ecosystem” (6 / 6)
OPML exchange site FeedShare.net
Early 2014 FeedShare http://feedshare.net was launched, a promising web service that is dedicated to the exchange of RSS feeds and OPML files. Anyone can submit their categorized reading lists to this website. Browse for topics at http://feedshare.net/tags.
See the screenshot below. This is how I submitted the OPML file for the RSS News Radar project to FeedShare.net. Sharing your reading list with the world can’t get much simpler than this. There’s no sign-up required, just two fields to fill in – a title and an OPML source. As soon as you’ve submitted your reading list, you’ll be given a unique URL that allows you to customize the reading list details and attach topic tags to it.
Shortly after FeedShare launched in January 2014, tech blogger Louis Gray wrote this review: Feedshare.net Debuts for OPML, RSS Feed Swapping.
The FeedShare project is open-source. Original developer Arne @Holzenburg kindly invites you to join the effort and take the project to the next level. To turn it into an ecosystem for developers and users, FeedShare needs an API. Within the context of this article it is also relevant to note that once you’ve uploaded your OPML reading list to FeedShare.net, that copy itself does not magically get updated.
Create your own OPML file
If you have an InoReader account, then you can start creating topic reading lists straight away. Most other RSS readers offer an easy method to export all of your feed subscriptions in a single list. Some will host the OPML file for you through a direct URL, others do generate the output but don’t do the hosting for you. They require that you copy and paste the OPML output and save it to a file on your local hard drive. In that case you need to upload the local OPML file to a web-based file server, for example to OneDrive, DropBox, or Google Drive, so that the file becomes accessible online.
Make sure you enable sharing on your OPML file. Next, while you yourself are logged off from your feed reader, double check that the OPML file is indeed accessible through its web address and test it with your InoReader account.
Tumblr OPML and LiveJournal OPML
Tumblr lets you create an OPML file of your own subscriptions. Log on to your Tumblr account and visit the page https://www.tumblr.com/following
LiveJournal offers the same feature but with a rather significant twist: LiveJournal lets anyone create an OPML file from anyone else’s Friends List. You don’t need to be logged on. Just substitute the username in this URL: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/opml.bml?user=exampleusername.
OPML reading lists on the web (spreadsheet table)
Update June 9, 2014: You can now your own web-based OPML reading list to the new, public resource OPML Reading Lists on the Web. Note that the spreadsheet has multiple tabs. It is intended as a collaborative initiative. Please feel free to share the link and to retweet the Twitter announcement.
— Marjolein Hoekstra (@CleverClogs) June 9, 2014
OPML tools and resources
Another way to create an OPML file is by starting with a simple list of websites that offer RSS feeds and using a web service to convert that list to an OPML file. Here are some OPML conversion tools and resources that make that process a lot easier:
- FeedShow OPML generator to create an OPML from any list of web URLs, both from simple links and from RSS feeds.
- Spreadsheet -> OPML Generator to create an OPML file from a two-column Google SpreadSheet (feed name, feed URL). Created by Pamela Fox @PamelaFox
- Generating an OPML RSS bundle from a page of links using Google Spreadsheets, by Martin Hawksey @MHawksey
- Feed detection from blog URL lists, by Tony Hirst @PsycheMedia
- OPML Validator, by Dave Winer @DaveWiner
Once you’ve created your OPML file, make sure that it’s accessible through a web URL.
Create a custom search engine from any OPML file
Now that you know where to find OPML files and how to create and share your own, why not grasp the opportunity and put them to good use? A fine use case for OPML files is to build a Google Custom Search Engine on the fly. Try this TechMeme Leaderboard Search Engine, based on the Techmeme Leaderboard.
If you observe the URL in your browser address bar, you can easily see how to substitute your own OPML file. Creating a custom search engine is just that simple. A powerful aspect of Google Custom Search Engines is that they show search results from the entire archive of a website – not just the recent history from its RSS feed. Google Custom Search Engines can be refined in many ways. To learn more about these options, visit and explore the Google Custom Search Engine website.
On the history of dynamic OPML
Dynamic reading list support isn’t newly invented by InoReader. Full credit for the concept goes to two pioneers in RSS, notably Dave Winer, and the deceased RSS reader Blogbridge.
Dave Winer – pioneer in RSS and inventor of OPML
Over the last decade or so, Dave Winer has continually been pushing the concept and potential of synchronized reading lists. Added info (thanks @DaveWiner): 12 Years ago, he implemented the feature in web publishing product Radio Userland.
His most recent outlining project Fargo supports subscribing to web-based OPML files by inclusion. Read how this feature works in the blogpost “Subscribe” to OPML Lists in Fargo (May 22nd, 2014), as explained by fervent Fargo user Jeffrey @Kishner.
See also these two relevant posts by Winer from 2013:
Care to Share Your OPML? (April 2013)
2005: BlogBridge announces dynamic reading list support
By the end of 2005, a full-fledged version of dynamic reading lists was implemented in BlogBridge. Cross-platform, open-source and an info-junkie’s wet dream, Blogbridge unfortunately succumbed to the heavy pull of Google Reader’s gravitation.
Although as a product it is no longer available, the BlogBridge blog archive is still reminiscent of what it means to develop a top-notch, user-focused news aggregator and what hurdles the developers needed to overcome. See this post from November 2005, in which BlogBridge founder Pito Salas announced the upcoming reading lists feature in Reading Lists: Major new capability, coming soon.
To the next level of InoReader’s Dynamic OPML Subscriptions feature
Here is my wish list:
1. Right now, InoReader offers OPML files for individual folders and for a user’s entire subscription list. A logical in-between product would be to offer OPML files for bundles – a custom combination of several folders.
2. While in the InoReader user interface, people should be able to add new OPML subscription lists hosted on FeedShare.net. Similarly, they themselves should be able to publish their reading lists to FeedShare.net and make them publicly available there.
3. InoReader should add a recommendation system for subscription lists. Once the system understands what topics a user is interested in, it could recommend suggested reading lists.
InoReader is a fast and powerful web-based RSS service that has become increasingly popular over the past year. It has become my preferred feed reader in early 2014.
For InoReader, the frequent operations of sorting, tagging, renaming and organizing feeds and folders are frictionless actions. Productivity features such as in-context search, Active Search feeds and feed notification rules all work smoothly and fast. The collection of InoReader dashboard gadgets is growing by the week. The service has a strong focus on social features such as feed-item tagging, favoriting and commenting and of course integrates with dozens of web services. You can even configure your own custom Send To apps, or become the publisher of a channel that broadcasts among your InoReader peers.
Unique about InoReader is also that it provides public HTML / RSS / OPML output at the folder level. Lastly, I’ve personally experienced that the InoReader support team truly excels at dealing with support questions and feature requests. I’m honored and very grateful that the InoReader development team embraced my suggestion to implement Dynamic OPML Subscriptions.
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:
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:
- 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.
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 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:
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:
- Read the overview page of the Particls inTouch Partner program
- Sign up for the service at the inTouch Admin Console
- Create your custom installer package
- Get the code for your badge
- 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.
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:
- an RSS feed, try it now: CleverClogs Incoming Links, on Grazr
- an OPML file with several feeds, try it: Marjolein’s Writings, the OPML, on Grazr
- a website with feed auto-discovery enabled, try: all feeds provided by CleverClogs, on Grazr
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 MasterNewMedia.org and the Grazr News Radar for Grazr.com. 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.
As I just talked about this post to Mike Kowalchik, head developer with Grazr.com, he told me the stunning news that most likely today Grazr.com 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.
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).
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:
“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:
- a URL pointing to the Pipe I created (direct link: OnePipe : The CleverClogs Generic Feed Filter)
- the “_render=rss” suffix to force the output to RSS
- a query parameter
- 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.
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.
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!
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
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
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:
"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:
Chris Saad, CEO of the young Australian start-up Faraday Media that produces Touchstone, published a rather cryptic screenshot today of the new interface for the Touchstone version that apparently is going to go be available in private beta anytime soon. His blog post is titled I love the new Touchstone Beta + FlickrBabes.com.
A few weeks ago I described Touchstone’s functionality and the potential I see for it in a comment on Dave Winer’s blog:
"I’d vote for the talented guys behind Touchstone … basically scans your browsing history, your bookmarks, e-mail, documents and other stuff that characterizes your personal attention stream.
You then select the sources that are likely to produce information that might be of interest to you. It makes sense to use web feeds for this of course, or people could develop their own input adapter.
I appreciate this method of managing information overload because the Touchstone engine will only display bits of incoming information if they match your attention profile above the granular thresholds that you determine. The more important that information is to you, the more persistent and disruptive its presentation.
With lots of bloggers talking about handling information overload and attention management, I believe Touchstone provides a viable solution for a real pain.
Ties: the CEO’s a Skype buddy of mine and he once paid me dinner."
I’ve fought quite a few Touchstone alpha releases myself over the past few months and exposed several of my closest blogging friends to its bugs, so it’s not that I don’t know what Touchstone is about. What these Australians didn’t tell me so far though is that their new product apparently is capable of sending Flickr feeds to my Windows system tray—look at the enlarged version of the Touchstone screenshot that Chris put in his blog post:
Will the new Touchstone be able to offer streams of rich media to my desktop?
If Chris publishes a screenshot like this, it most likely means he and his development team, led by Ashley Angell, are very close to announcing the private beta. I’ve already Twittered in his direction about it this morning. He’s awfully quiet on Skype, so now all we can do is wait. If you haven’t signed up yet, then rush to the sidebar of the Touchstone website and fill in your e-mail address.
Update: Someone submitted this blog post to Digg (visit to vote) just now. It’s such fun to see my TypePad stats page being swarmed by Digg visitors:
Leon Ho, the Brisbane-based editor of A-list productivity blog LifeHack.org, sparked my inspiration today with a post on his personal blog, titled 0 to 12,000 RSS Subscribers. As his post title reveals, Leon shares several tips that might help you reach a larger readership on your blog within a relatively short amount of time.
First I bookmarked Leon’s post on del.icio.us (direct link to all bookmarks for Leon’s post), then I turned on coComment tracking so that I could follow the conversation. Still, I had some ideas of my own that would fit in nicely with Leon’s and I thought I’d submit a comment myself to add my own 2 cents to the story.
Unfortunately, Leon’s blog comment form seems to lack any basic kind of formatting so I decided I might as well devote an entire blog post to my take on increasing your subscriber base, although I realized all too well my subscriber count is at a mere 1% of his.
Summarizing Leon’s tips: use full feeds, give the RSS icon a prominent
position, provide consistent, high-quality content, offer email
subscriptions and make it easy for people to share your posts with their friends.
I’d like to a couple more tips to the mix that seemed to make a huge difference for me:
- Use large, attractive feed icons, preferably the ones that by now have become the defacto standard. They are freely available for download from FeedIcons. Host the icons yourself.
- Obvious to some: offer a browser-friendly version of your feed with FeedBurner and display the number of subscribers by embedding a FeedBurner FeedCount chicklet into your page, if you dare.
- Let people browse your feeds live from your pages by embedding a piece of code in the sidebar of your site. Really it’s not that difficult. Pick any of the many excellent tools so diligently demonstrated by David Rothman on his current and comprehensive, hands-on review page here: RSS to Web Page: Tool Output Examples.
- Make your feeds auto-discoverable and double-check that they are auto-discoverable indeed. Most blog hosting services take care of this already. If not: make sure the header of your pages contains code like this:
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
title="Blog Posts Feed"
- Stick to a certain average posting frequency. To be totally honest I personally need to apply this principle to my own working discipline. When people first add your feed to their aggregator, the feed is likely to be included in a group called Probation or something similar. While your feed is there it has the attention from your subscriber. Your goal is to convince that reader to move your feed to a more permanent group, preferably the one named High Priority. So it’s ok if you don’t blog every day, as only a few people would be able to keep up anyway—just don’t drop the frequency to below once every two weeks. People lose interest or even get annoyed and bounce you off their list.
- Validate your feeds. Paste your feed URLs at feed a validator, such as FeedValidator. Fix errors.
- Consider offering email subscriptions through R|Mail. I’ve noticed a 20% increase since I signed up with Randy Morin’s service. Recipients are apparently very satisifed with how the posts are delivered. R|Mail is free.
- Subscribe to your own feed, both as a feed and by email, so that you know what your subscribers are receiving. Open the email version through web mail: sometimes the plain-text version looks awful. Switch to a different RSS-to-email service if this happens.