The long awaited follow-up to my RSS Feed Basics post from a year ago, I present to you some ways to get more out of RSS feeds from around the world. RSS is typically thought of as a simple feature that almost every website should have (and it’s really frustrating when they don’t) that allows you to “subscribe” to that site and receive notices when the site updates. Heck, the simplicity is right in its name, Really Simple Syndication, but what if I told you you could do a whole lot more with those RSS feeds to make them really useful and exactly how you like them. In this article, I’m going to show you tools that allow you to:
- Apply spam filters to RSS Feeds
- Combine multiple RSS feeds into one
- Convert feeds to different formats like webpages, e-mails, mobile sites, PDFs or others
- Share your feed subscriptions
- Browse and find the most popular items around the web
- Manage your RSS feed and track the number of subscribers
- Use powerful operators on feeds to tailor it to exactly how you want it, easily
Intrigued? Well, let’s begin.
RSS Subscription button for Chrome is a Google Chrome extension that will search a page when it loads and put a functional button at the end of the address bar that allows you to easily subscribe to the feed. Some sites don’t provide a link to their RSS feed and instead rely on the browser button. If you are using Chrome without this extension, however, you won’t see those missing links. This small extension by Google adds the much requested feature that is natively found in Firefox.
FeedRinse.com is a spam filter for your RSS feeds that allows you to filter up to 500 feeds. This might come in handy if there’s a website that covers two topics and you’re only interested in one of them; you could use Feed Rinse to filter out the topic you’re not interested in. We can also use a real life example from a feed I recently unsubscribed from: Failblog. Failblog shows pictures and videos of different FAILs that are usually humorous in some way or another. I unsubscribed because I was seeing a lot of the images and videos around the Internet before they (were captioned with the word ‘fail’ and) showed up on Failblog. It was a bunch of re-runs and there were also weekly annoyances of the LOLMart shirt advertisement and ‘Friday Rewinds’ (Yay! Intentional re-runs…):
Using Feed Rinse, we should be able to eliminate the last two annoyances at least. Create an account with FeedRinse and then we’ll add our feeds. You can find the URL to the feeds from the RSS subscription link on the websites you want to subscribe to.
Once the feed is imported, click the ‘Set up rules’ button.
With two simple rules, we can be rid of the Friday Rewinds and LOLMart ads in the feed. I created two rules that say if ‘Rewind’ or ‘LOLMart’ is in the title, then block the post. You can also filter on only allowing the post if it has certain criteria and blocking all others. You can match all criteria or at least one to make a set of rules. You can match an entry with any of the post, title, tag, author, or body elements of an RSS feed. You can also filter a feed based on whether it contains, does not contain, starts with, or ends with…
Hit the ‘Save changes’ button when you’re done adding rules and then grab the RSS feed for your cleaned-up by clicking on the orange RSS button left of the feed title. You should now have a tailored feed that only has the items you want in it. You can add more feeds and then grab the list of feeds in an OPML files to import into your feed reader.
xFruits is an RSS aggregator and converter. It can change feeds into web pages, emails, mobile announcements, PDFs or even their own VocalFruits (RSS -> voice in .mp3 format). It can also go the other way and convert emails into an RSS feed. You can then make your xFruits (conversions or aggregates through xFruits) shared or private. (xFruits has apparently closed its doors since I wrote this summary.)
Yahoo Pipes is a powerful means to manipulate data from the Web to exactly how you want it. You can take multiple feeds or data from other web services’ APIs and filter it so it is only what you care about and then output the data in a number of formats, including as an RSS feed.
For an example, you could take a local realtor’s data and apply filters to it so you can be notified whenever there is a house that meets your budget and other criteria like being near a park.
Some featured pipes on Yahoo! Pipes includes the US population by state (pulling data from the US Census and showing it on a map), creating an RSS stock ticker, or building an eBay Price Watch.
FeedBurner was acquired by Google in 2007, so it has been around for a long time. It’s most commonly thought of as a tool for publishers. You run a website and you want to tweak the RSS feed, so you send your feed through FeedBurner and advertise the new feed that they give you. I grazed over using FeedBurner as a publisher in the RSS basics post. Just because you are a subscriber and not the publisher, doesn’t mean FeedBurner doesn’t have anything to offer you. Depending on your uses, you might prefer to get new posts in your e-mail but your favorite sites don’t offer it. Just grab their RSS feeds and stick it through FeedBurner to allow your own email subscription. You can also republish feeds the same way as HTML or to Twitter.
Torrents can make use of RSS feeds for a more automated approach. If you are watching a series and it is offered with an RSS feed, you can add that to your torrent client so that it automatically grabs and starts downloading the next few episodes. uTorrent is one such torrent client that plays nicely with RSS feeds.
Google Reader Play gives you a full screen experience that allows you to flip through the top stories from around the web. You can set it up as a slideshow so content just keeps moving on and you can consume a wide variety of content very quickly.
OPML import/export in Google Reader allows you to easily create a single file for sharing your RSS feeds with anyone. Whether friends ask how you are always so on top of the news or you need to train the new guy how to monitor the web for your mentions on the social web, transferring RSS feeds through OPML is a pretty painless way to do it. You’ll find the option under the Import/Export tab of your Reader Settings page.
FeedDemon‘s filters in the desktop application allow you to remove content based on keywords that you don’t want to see. You could remove posts based on keywords being in the title, description, category or author fields. The customization means you will waste less time and the content that does interest you will come right to the surface.
With the Google+ redesign sweeping all Google products, Google Reader was hit hard by some redesigns. It caused a bit of angst amongst Google Reader fans who found the new design more distracting and less conducive to reading a large amount of content quickly. As a response, one developer promised he would introduce competition to the market for web-based RSS readers. The promised product is HiveMined. Unfortunately, it seems to have been stuck at 81% for quite some time. This will be another product to keep an eye on as time goes on.