GRRSSing….

For any of you who may be subscribed to the RSS feed of my blog, especially via the RSSFWD service (see the button on the left), or who are being notified when this page changes by the ChangeDetection service (see the tiny little form on the left) please accept my apologies for the perhaps repetitive emails you’ve gotten in the past few days. I’ve been fine-tuning my RSS feed for this blog because of some hiccups I encountered.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to do a little technology blog on the techniques I’m using for an RSS feed for this blog. Here goes…

I wanted blog for my site but I didn’t want a whole server-based system. I settled on “Blog” by Fahim Farook (other than rolling your own, I don’t know what else exists specifically for blogging that’s client based freeware like Blog). I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking to get it to where it is now and I’m pretty happy with it.

But, if you have a blog, you have to have an RSS feed. After all, darling, they’re all the rage! Of course I wanted an RSS feed before I really knew what it was. It definitely is a “bandwagon” kind of thing. Personally, I want my information to come to me in email form, I don’t want to have to launch yet another app to find stuff. Then again, I’m not trying to keep up with some specific subject matter category either.

Anyway, in searching for a way to come up with an RSS feed, I found a few other things that were interesting:

  • RSSFWDhttp://www.rssfwd.com/ – This service allows you to receive RSS feeds by email. You tell them your email address and the web page (the viewable one) on which a feed exists (for instance this one!) and it will poll that page’s RSS feed regularly to see if it’s changed. When it changes, it sends you the changed parts of the feed as an email. Those who publish pages (like me) can put the little button on their page so that people can simply click the button and they will be taken to the RSSFWD page where they enter their email address and they’re done. They now will receive RSS feed changes from that feed. I’ve already used it to sign up for some other RSS feeds.
  • NewslettersByRSS.Comhttp://www.newslettersbyrss.com/ – This service let’s you send your newsletter to them (i.e. include them in your mailing list) and they will create and host an RSS feed for your newsletter. They do it via scraping the email and reformatting it with RSS tags. Then you give people the link for that RSS feed and voilĂ , they can do what they like with your RSS feed. So, if they prefer to receive news via RSS rather than by email, they can. You can combine it with RSSFWD to create a new way of letting people sign up to receive your news, etc.
  • ChangeDetection.Comhttp://www.changedetection.com/ – This service isn’t an RSS service but it is a way for people to be aware of content changes on your web site. For a blog, it’s a handy feature. Instead of the RSS feed in their mailbox or newsreader, perhaps someone simply wants a notification when something has changed on your blog (or any other page you want to do this on for that matter). You sign up with them and put the email collection field and submit button on your page and you’re done. Your users put in their email address and are now notified by email when that page changes.

Ok, so now I need an RSS feed. What do I do? Well, Blog works with templates so some people have successfully created RSS templates for Blog. I believe that the process is that they publish their blog and then publish their feed simply by switching the ftp site and/or template and re-publishing. You can check out the details on the Blog forum and search for RSS. Lots of stuff there.

That, however, seemed to not be quite as seamless as I was hoping for. I really was looking for a “set it and forget it” service/setup. While I didn’t want a major PHP blogging system, I didn’t mind a script here or there. I found 3 different RSS-feed-creating PHP scripts out there. There certainly may be more and there are several good RSS tools portals out there. You’ll find them fine with Google. Each of the 3 I found work on the principle of some markup of the page that needs to be converted into a feed and all three are designed with blogs in mind. You place these markup tags (either SPAN class=”specialtagnamehere” tags) or in the case of the one I chose, specially formatted comment tags. All three let you use the script on their site or install it on your own server to play nice with their bandwidth.

They are:

instantRSS written by Ben Wilson is, IMHO, the most flexible of the 3. I was using blogger rss and when I did some formatting on an entry where Blog put in a SPAN tag to do the formatting for the text, blogger rss broke. It couldn’t handle embedded SPANs in the blog text because of the way it used SPAN tags to demark the blog text for the RSS description field. Knowing that this might be a problem in the future, I started looking for another solution. rssgenr8 doesn’t give much flexibility in its tag set so your feed contains what it wants it to contain. So that wouldn’t work.

I stumbled on to instantRSS and it actually comes with COMMENTED CODE! Imagine that. Not being a PHP guy, that was nice. Also the tag set is very complete and you can send stuff to instantRSS via commented content so that you are not limited to simply tagging that which is visible on your HTML page…i.e. you can make it do what you want it to do. A real plus when you’re as an*l retentive as I am! ;c)

I even was having a glitch on running it on my server, and since Ben actually volunteers his help on the web I sent him an email. It was answered promptly and I’m running smoothly now. So, I can certainly recommend instantRSS.

So, I tagged up my Blog template and it all appears to be working!

When I finish up an idea I have for enhancing my comments system, I’ll write about that. Until next time!

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Posted in Computers.