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Preview: James E. Lee's Blog / Feeds & Outlining

James E. Lee's Blog / Feeds & Outlining





Updated: 2007-08-16T23:00:50Z

 



Keep an eye on Grazr — If you use feeds, you'll want this widget

2007-08-16T23:00:50Z

Grazr is a really cool feed widget you should check out If you've discovered the benefits of using feeds, you should take a look at Grazr. It's an embeddable, web-based feed browser widget that augments your primary feed reader... Grazr is a really cool feed widget you should check out If you've discovered the benefits of using feeds, you should take a look at Grazr. It's an embeddable, web-based feed browser widget that augments your primary feed reader & lets you put feeds anywhere on the web. Grazr isn't a replacement for a full-fledged feed reader — it's an addition to your toolkit: a blazing fast feed widget that makes sharing and interacting with feed content easy. It's multimedia capable, so you can look at pictures, listen to audio, and watch video in the feed, all without having to subscribe. You can put a Grazr widget on several popular personalized start pages, a blog post/sidebar, a regular web page, even your Windows desktop. Grazr.com recently achieved two important milestones Funding - Grazr just completed a Series A financing round of $1.5M. They've already developed an impressive tool, but clearly that's just the beginning. Outline & feed hosting - Now you can host your web outlines (OPML) & feeds in your own account at grazr.com. This is a great service for people who want to use and share web outlines and feeds, but don't have a web server on which to host them. I have my own web server, but just as hosting & sharing my links at del.icio.us is far better than I could do it myself, I expect Grazr.com to add significant value when you use their service to host feeds and outlines. These are two very positive events for the company, and I'm excited to see what they'll do next. You can help influence that by participating in the forums. The team really listens to and values input from people who use Grazr, so if you have ideas, share them! Grazr makes feeds fun and easy Grazr was originally built to let people "graze" feed content without having to subscribe. It makes feeds fun and easy, and lets people use them without having to understand how they work, install software, or sign up for anything. It will help feeds break out of subscription jail, and that should promote more innovation in how feeds are used. I expect to see a lot more from the Grazr team, and I think we'll all be beneficiaries of their successes. Congrats, and keep up the good work! Example Grazrs Explore interesting Flickr photos, watch the most recent YouTube featured videos, and listen to CNN updated news updates. (If you're reading this in a feed reader, click on an image below to launch the corresponding Grazr.) Update: 2007.01.15 - There have been some intermittent problems displaying my blog's feedmap in Grazr. I'm working with the Grazr team to try to figure out what's going on, and plan to contact Yahoo! Webhosting support as well. Sorry for the inconvenience! Since the problem is intermittent, it's possible you might be able to see the feedmap in the Grazr panel on my blog's sidebar; it's also listed there, and sometimes that loads even though this example doesn't. Update: 2007.03.31 - Yahoo's tech support has been quite unhelpful in resolving the problem I mention above, so I'm hosting my feedmap at Grazr.com's new hosting service, which wasn't available when I created this post. Ultimately, that's where I want to store my outines. Unfortunately, this allows the outline to display quickly, but doesn't solve the problem of actually displaying the feed content within Grazr, since there's something blocking a couple of grazr.com's servers from accessing my Yahoo-hosted site. I'm really disappointed that I wasn't able to get better support from Yahoo. I haven't given up, but they seem to have decided to ignore my most recent response in our correspondence. Audience Anyone who publishes more than one feed should consider publishing a feedmap. Why? A feedmap organizes feeds in one place using a standard format, and lets people preview feed cont[...]



Terms like OPML & XOXO are too technical and specific — let's call them "live outlines"

2007-08-16T23:01:20Z

What? I propose we use the term "live outline" to refer to dynamic content — such as OPML files that contain lists of feeds — that people create using XML outline formats. I've seen some discussion about what to... What? I propose we use the term "live outline" to refer to dynamic content — such as OPML files that contain lists of feeds — that people create using XML outline formats. I've seen some discussion about what to call the information organized using these formats, but there doesn't seem to be a convention for referring to them in general. This leads to difficulties sharing ideas related to the formats, and explaining them to people who aren't familiar with them. I really like Dave Winer's idea of a reading list, but that's just one kind of live outline; these formats can be used to create live outlines that can serve various purposes (for example, the one on my blog's sidebar or a travel outline). "Live outline" is friendlier and easier to talk about (and say!) than "OPML", "XOXO", etc. It's a good general term everyone can use and understand without too much difficulty. It's fine to use "outline" and "outlining" in context; "live" can be omitted when people know what's being discussed. Audience This proposal is intended for people creating content and applications using structured outlines based on XML formats, such as OPML, XOXO, and OML. Why? To encourage widespread adoption and use of these formats and reltated technologies, we need simple, non-technical terms that convey meaning well. People are much more open to learning something new if it has a name they can relate to, understand, and pronounce. Live outlines will have a significant and growing role in how people consume, organize, and share feeds: OPML is already a de facto standard for export/import of feed subscription lists. Hopefully, Dave Winer's idea of feed readers allowing people to subscribe to reading lists (and other live outlines) will become a reality soon. This is a really good idea! Tools like Grazr make it easy for anyone to browse, navigate, and share live outlines. If we want people to get comfortable using structured outline formats, we need to talk about them in terms that won't alienate or put people off. Try telling someone about the cool OPML file you're building, and watch how quickly their eyes glaze over. Changing the language we use can make all the difference, and we already have a familiar example of this: Consider the idea that live outline is to OPML document as web page is to HTML document. People can relate to the idea of writing a web page, and it's easy to talk about web pages; a major reason is the lack of hard-to-pronounce technical acronyms. People are already familiar with the concept of an outline. They don't have to learn an entirely new concept to understand a live outline, just a new use for something they already know. People can easily understand that live = dynamic (e.g., feeds). Again, though, "live" sounds better and is easier to say than "dynamic". I know that OPML, etc. are not just for feeds, but I think organizing and managing feeds will be the highest-profile common use for the formats, at least for a while. Firefox has already begun to popularlize the term and concept of "live bookmarks". We can take advantage of that and extend the idea to live outlines. Non-technical people who use these outlines aren't going to (and shouldn't) care much about the details of the format in which they're written.. They'll need to recognize names for compatibility, but only until services and applications interoperate well (how many feed readers support RSS and not ATOM, or require a specific version of either?) Recognition can be important for a while when a technology is new, but how many people that use the web care about the language in which web pages are written? In most cases, they don't want to know. I'm not arguing that we should stop using format-specific terms in technical discussio[...]



Benefits of using feeds

2006-12-28T18:07:00Z

For both subscribers and publishers, feeds are a useful addition to the tools we use to distribute, consume, and manage information. Benefits of subscribing to feeds Key steps toward addressing the problem of information overload include classifying & prioritizing... For both subscribers and publishers, feeds are a useful addition to the tools we use to distribute, consume, and manage information. Benefits of subscribing to feeds Key steps toward addressing the problem of information overload include classifying & prioritizing the information you receive, and reducing the amount of work required to get the information you want. Feeds and a feed reader can help you redirect some information away from your email inbox and automate the retrieval of information you may currently be getting manually. You can stop checking websites for updated content — the content comes to you. Once you subscribe to a website's feed, you never have to go back and check for updated information. Think about how many sites you visit on a regular basis &mdash news, sports, weather, stocks, blogs, etc. A feed reader automatically checks sites you choose on a regular basis, and lets you know if there's anything new. You can truly "set it and forget it". Dave Winer, widely credited as the "father of RSS", described feeds as automated web surfing: "...when people ask what RSS is, I say it's automated web surfing. We took something lots of people do, visiting sites looking for new stuff, and automated it. It's a very predictable thing, that's what computers do -- automate repetitive things." Free up your email inbox for correspondence. As an information tool, email has long been overloaded as a catch-all for information people want to send and receive. A lot of the email we get isn't correspondence, and often doesn't deserve a high priority. The problem is, we don't have enough control over what we get via email — it just arrives and competes for our attention. One part of the solution is to direct information away from your email inbox and into your feed reader, a tool that's purpose-built for managing information you want to see but don't need to necessarily respond to via email. Put "read-only" information in its place. Feeds are well suited to one-way and "read-only" communication, and a good feed reader can help you manage a wide range of information you might be getting now via email or by visiting individual web sites. You can use feeds to: keep current with the latest news monitor stock prices get weather updates check the traffic report track a package share links to websites monitor topics of interest (using a "search feed"; a feed of search engine results) read blogs keep up with busy discussion groups Consider how much less cluttered your email inbox might be if you redirected some of the information above to a feed reader. It's worth noting that the tagline for Google Reader is "Your inbox for the web." Email is great for two-way communication, but for information you just want to read, a feed is often a better choice. You can unsubscribe with confidence. You own and manage your list of feed subscriptions, not the publishers. Unlike with email lists, when you want to unsubscribe from a feed, it's your choice and it happens immediately — you don't have to ask, wait for confirmation, or wonder if it's really going to happen. The content has a consistent look & feel. Given the variety of website designs, getting to the actual content you want on each website can take a while. With a good feed reader, the content is all displayed using a consistent interface. Feeds are typically more content-centric than design-centric. Some feeds contain ads, but they're often displayed inconspicuously compared to looking at the same content on the publisher's website. Benefits of publishing feeds Publishing feeds lets you maintain and update you[...]



Use feeds to stay current with discussion groups without cluttering your email inbox

2007-03-06T16:29:34Z

What? You can reduce noise and clutter in your email inbox by subscribing to feeds of discussion groups and forums. Keep your email subscription so you can participate, but filter the group's email list messages away from your inbox....

What?

(image)

You can reduce noise and clutter in your email inbox by subscribing to feeds of discussion groups and forums. Keep your email subscription so you can participate, but filter the group's email list messages away from your inbox.

  • Check to see if your discussion group publishes a feed. If you're on an email list for a discussion group or forum, but don't usually participate in the discussion, see if you can subscribe to a feed of the discussion. For example, you can subscribe to feeds for both Google Groups and Yahoos Groups. (Regrettably, feeds from Yahoo Groups seem to be just summaries of each post.)
  • Subscribe to the feed, but don't remove yourself from the email list. Instead, setup a filter in your email to bypass your inbox, and send the list messages to a folder. This gets them out of your way, but allows you to access them if you want to respond to a message.

Why?

Use your feed reader for "read-only" monitoring, and reserve your email inbox for correspondence.

Redirecting the discussion to your feed reader reduces the clutter and interruptions competing for attention in your email inbox. This reduces the burden on email — a tool we all know is overloaded — and makes it easier to use for correspondence; two-way communication.




Put multiple Google Reader gadgets on your Personalized Homepage

2006-12-07T20:07:24Z

What? You can see several of your Google Reader subscriptions at once by putting multiple Google Reader gadgets on your Personalized Homepage. Each gadget can display a different folder or tag in your Reader subscription list. If you use... What? You can see several of your Google Reader subscriptions at once by putting multiple Google Reader gadgets on your Personalized Homepage. Each gadget can display a different folder or tag in your Reader subscription list. If you use Google Reader (it's worth serious consideration!) and you're not using the Reader gadget on your Personalized Homepage, you're really missing out. This miniature interface to the full version of Google Reader is extremely useful, with pop-up "bubbles" for quick reading, the ability to switch between your folders & tags (but sadly not individual subscriptions) and smooth scrolling, all without taking you away from your homepage. You can multiply the benefits of using the gadget by putting more than one on a single homepage tab. Why? Look at a single page for a "birds-eye view" of your Google Reader feeds. Scan the latest headlines or read entire articles right from your homepage. You don't need to go to Reader to see your feeds. You can get a quick update on several feeds at a glance, right from your homepage. If you want to read more than a headline, just click on it, and a "bubble" will pop-up and display the entire article. It's lightning fast, and you don't leave the homepage. Syncs with full version of Google Reader. All the Reader gadgets stay in sync with your full version of Reader, so if you read or star something in a Reader gadget, it'll be that way in the full version, and vice versa. The basic feed gadget doesn't do this, since it has nothing to do with Reader. This is a key feature, and it's worth highlighting: I can use the full version of Reader, Reader gadgets, or Reader Mobile to read feeds from almost anywhere, and state is always maintained. That means there's no downside to any of the methods, and it makes reading feeds easy and efficient. Manage just one set of subscriptions. You've long been able to put multiple basic feed gadgets on your homepage, but if you do that and use Reader as your primary feed reader, you've got two sets of subscriptions to deal with. The Reader gadget uses the subscriptions you're already managing in Reader. How? Add a Google Reader gadget, press the Back button, add another, repeat. It's that simple. Tip: Create a separate tab. If you plan to put multiple Reader gadgets on your homepage, you may want to start by making a separate homepage tab for them. Once you've done that, make sure you've got that tab selected, since gadgets get added to the current tab. To add multiple Google Reader gadgets to your Google Personalized Homepage, follow these steps: Find it. Find the Google Reader gadget in the Homepage Content Directory. (You can either click on the link here, or go to your homepage, click on "Add stuff", and search for "reader"). Add it. Click the "Add it now" button. This will take you back to the Homepage Content Directory, and you'll see a "Back to homepage" link at the top left of the page. Do not click that link yet. If you are not redirected to the Homepage Content Directory, you'll probably see the "Add it now" button disappear, and in its place, a check mark next to "Added". If you see that, you should be able to reload the page, and skip the next step. Go back. Use your web browser's Back button to go back to the previous page. Add it again. Click the "Add it now" button again. Repeat. Repeat the two steps above until you've added as many Reader gadgets as you want. End. After you've added your last one, click on the "Back to homepage" link. Tips & Tricks Each Reader gadget is an individual. You may find that you want different behavior for different feeds, depending on [...]



Grazr Tip: Add a "Supersize This Panel" link for comfortable reading

2007-08-16T23:02:05Z

What? If you're using a small Grazr panel, add a link to display a larger version of the same panel.  This makes it easy to quickly "supersize" the panel so it's comfortable for longer periods of reading.If you're using Grazr in... What? If you're using a small Grazr panel, add a link to display a larger version of the same panel.  This makes it easy to quickly "supersize" the panel so it's comfortable for longer periods of reading.If you're using Grazr in a blog sidebar or as part of a page that has other content you want to keep visible (e.g. Google or Live.com start page), you're probably using a condensed Grazr panel to fit within space requirements.  It's easy to add a link in your outline to supersize the panel. Update: New version of Grazr makes this unnecessaryShortly after I posted this article, Mike released a new version of Grazr that effectively removes the need for this technique.  You can still use it if you want to make things really easy for the reader, but the new version allows the reader to change the font and panel sizes using a built-in configurator.  You can detach a panel from the page you're looking at and resize it just like a normal web browser window. Why?A larger panel makes reading within Grazr more comfortable. A small panel is great for quick access to status feeds, bookmarks, headlines, and for exploring & grazing feeds.  One of Grazr's strengths is its ability to display information in a compact space.  The tradeoff is that it's not so great if you end up reading for a longer  period in that compact space.A larger panelReduces the need to leave Grazr (e.g. to read a long article in a feed).Gives the reader the benefit of Grazr's speed of navigation without the size constraint of a blog sidebar panel.Makes it quick & easy to switch from a brief glance to extended reading.I have an OPML "start file" -- a collection of OPML files I've customized for my regular use -- that I access from my Google home page using Grazr.  I use this as my primary feed grazing interface, but it's too small for anything beyond a quick check of headlines.For example, I include my Bloglines subscriptions in my start file (1), so I can peek in on my feeds without changing their read/unread state.  Typically, when I found something that I wanted to actually read, I'd either have to switch to Bloglines or use Grazr as a service to open my OPML file in a larger panel.  Both of these are cumbersome and time-consuming, and I wanted to make the process more convenient; that's when it occurred to me to add a "Supersize This Panel" link to the panel itself.You can try this out using the Grazr panel in the sidebar of my blog. How?Go to "Get Grazr for Your Page", enter the URL of your OPML file, customize the settings for your supersized panel, then copy the URL and add it to your panel.Here's an example of the OPML code to create a Supersize This Panel link:Note: Grazr uses URL encoding for many special characters, but the ampersand is HTML encoded (&).Disclaimer: I'm learning OPML, and am by no means an authority or expert, so please excuse any  errors, syntactic or otherwise. TricksMake the font larger in the supersized panel.  After all, this is about comfort!Put the "Supersize This Panel" link at the top.  This way, it:is immediately, easily accessibleseems like a browser control; that's effectively how it's functioning, and people will look for it at the top once they think of if that wayConsider putting a supersize link at the bottom too, if it's a long list in a small panel.Also add the supersize link [...]



Embed an OPML browser in your Google home page using Bitty Browser

2006-07-03T23:01:51Z

What?You can embed an OPML browser like Grazr or Optimal in your Google Personalized home page using Bitty, an embeddable mini web browser.  Grazr and Optimal are OPML browsers designed to be embedded in blog sidebars & web pages.  Usually,... What?You can embed an OPML browser like Grazr or Optimal in your Google Personalized home page using Bitty, an embeddable mini web browser.  Grazr and Optimal are OPML browsers designed to be embedded in blog sidebars & web pages.  Usually, embedding one of these in a page requires that you have the ability to edit the page's source or template.  This isn't an option with your Google Personalized home page, but you can circumvent the problem by adding Bitty -- an embeddable web browser  -- as a content  module to your Google page, and use that as a "wrapper" to display your Grazr or Optimal browser.Bitty can display OPML too, and may be a good choice depending on your needs.  Grazr and Optimal are a bit more purpose-built for the task of displaying and navigating OPML, whereas Bitty is a good general-purpose embeddable web browser that can also display OPML.Update: 2006.04.25 - I tested this with my Windows Live home page, and it works, but doesn't seem to pass through the parameters I included in the URL for Grazr (e.g. size, run solo). Update: 2006.07.03 - Grazr blog: Tom Morris (who just joined the Grazr team) has hacked Grazr into a Google home-pages widget so you don't need to use Bitty Browser as a wrapper for Grazr.  Why?Embedding an OPML browser in your Google Personalized home page extends the capability of the page by enabling you to browse & graze content without having to navigate away from the page.This is a good way to aggregate multiple instances of Grazr and/or Optimal that you use on a regular basis, or to ensure you always have an OPML browser handy any time you're looking at your Google home page.  I won't enumerate the potential uses for this capability here, (but free free to share your ideas in the comments) but consider the basic idea that you can setup a collection of several easily-navigable, miniature content sites, all of which are accessible from a single place.  Despite the bad rap they often get, I think there's a lot of potential value in personalized home pages, especially with the addition of customizable modules, and new tools & capabilities like these embeddable web and OPML browsers.  More on this another time...Update: 2006.04.24 - Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes the idea of using Bitty in the Google home page!  Steve Rubel is using it to make his personal mobile wiki always available. How? The general idea Add a Bitty Browser module to your Google home page, and within Bitty, load an instance of Grazr or Optimal that points at the content you want to display.  First, consider how you'll use it There are two approaches to using embedded OPML browsers on your Google page.  Each has its merits, and they are not mutually exclusive; in fact, you may want to use a combination of the two.  It's important to think about which approach you want to use before you begin, so you can configure the OPML browser in the appropriate mode:Approach 1: Create multiple instances, each to display specific content Description: Display more than one OPML browser, each with its own purpose or topic.OPML browser mode: When you point the OPML browser at the content you want it to display, select "Run Solo" (Grazr) or "Standalone" (Optimal) to get a clean page with just the browser and no controls.Approach 2: Create a general-purpose instanceDescription: Use a single OPML browser to load different content at different times.OPML browser mode: Do not click the checkbox next to "Run Solo" or "Standalone", and you'll be[...]



del.icio.us Tip: Subscribe to your "links for you" feed and use the "for:" tag to send links to other users

2006-04-05T16:16:30Z

 What?The "for:" tag enables del.icio.us users to send links to one another.  Subscribing to your "links for you" feed from your del.icio.us account ensures that you automatically see links people send to you this way. When someone sends you a link...  What?The "for:" tag enables del.icio.us users to send links to one another.  Subscribing to your "links for you" feed from your del.icio.us account ensures that you automatically see links people send to you this way. When someone sends you a link using the "for:" tag, it shows up on your "links for you" page in your del.icio.us account.  (The page used to be called "for", but was recently changed to more clearly communicate its function.)  Why? The "for:" tag is a great way to send links.  If you aren't monitoring your "links for you", you could be missing things people are sending to you.I don't know how commonly people use the "for:" tag -- and its inherent privacy prevents us from looking at others' accounts to find out -- but I suspect it's underused.  Even if this isn't popular now, it may become reasonable to expect people to check their link inbox nearly as often as their email inbox.  This could evolve into the equivalent of an email inbox.  Note that while "links for you" is effectively an inbox, it's distinct from the del.icio.us concept of the "inbox".I make this speculation conscious of the fact that this way of sharing is limited to del.icio.us users.  Remember, all Yahoo! users will likely soon be able to use del.icio.us with their Yahoo! account, just like any other Yahoo! service.  That plus the non-Yahoo! del.icio.us userbase is a substantial network for sharing!People will increasingly recognize these and other benefits of sharing links this way:It's the right system for managing links - Email can be a good way to share links with specific individuals, but if your recipient is a del.icio.us user too, using the "for:" tag gives you both the benefits of the service you're already using; one designed to manage links.You can see what tags the sender associated with the links, so they're in contextIt's easy to copy them to your own account.It produces a feed, which is arguably a more appropriate and efficient (in most cases) way to share links than email.Targeted sharing reduces information overload - The "for:" tag enables you to create individualized feeds for sending links to specific people.People are likely to pay more attention to links you tag explicitly for them.Subscribing to the feed of just those links might be more appealing than subscribing to your entire shared links feed, since it would likely be lower volume.Adequate privacy - Most everything about the "for:" tag is invisible to anyone but you and the recipient.Others can't see the fact that you tagged something "for:username".  NOTE: Doing this does not make the link private; only the fact that you tagged it "for:" someone is hidden.The feed is "private" but not authenticated.  It's just got a long string attached to it, presumably to make it unique and somewhat obfuscated.I had no problem subscribing to mine with Bloglines.I think the degree of security it provides is totally reasonable, and people should know better than to expect serious privacy in feeds and social bookmarking services at this point anyway. How? It takes very little effort to monitor your "links for you": As with just about every del.icio.us page, a feed of the links is available.Copy the feed address into your favorite feed reader, and you're done!Speaking of "how", it's a good idea to think about how you use the ability to send links to o[...]



Use Grazr to "skin" OPML files and feeds

2007-08-16T23:02:10Z

What?Grazr is a good front-end for OPML files ("live outlines") and feeds.  When you publish or share an OPML file, offer a way to see what it contains by using Grazr as a service to "skin" the content. The typical... What?Grazr is a good front-end for OPML files ("live outlines") and feeds.  When you publish or share an OPML file, offer a way to see what it contains by using Grazr as a service to "skin" the content. The typical way I've seen people using Grazr is to embed it into a blog sidebar, but it can also be used as a service, to skin any OPML file or feed you want to publish or share.  This means you don't have to embed it to get a lot of value from using it!I'm going to focus on outlines (OPML files) here, but as Adam Green points out, Grazr works directly on RSS too, making it a great way to share feeds as well.  The majority of feeds people publish and share are generated from blogs, so people already see them in human-readable form.  OPML files don't have an equivalent; they're typically published "raw", with no formatting.Why?This is a great way to share outlines and feeds so they're immediately useful to the reader.  Grazr makes it easy to quickly preview the content without having to commit to subscription.  People are starting to publish OPML files, which is great, but:Many (most?) people aren't familiar enough with this technology to see the benefit of it.Most of the OPML files I've seen recently don't include a useful way to see what they contain.Sure, the reader can click and see them as rendered by a web browser, but this is about as valuable to most people as looking at HTML -- fine for those who are learning or know it, but not very useful otherwise.Seeing OPML rendered in a human-readable form makes it much more useful. John Palfrey recently wrote about his a-ha moment in "Getting OPML", and provided the example of toptensources.com, which publishes OPML content.  Check out how their Science News section looks as a raw OPML file, vs. the same OPML content, skinned by Grazr: How?One of the nice things about Grazr is that the developer made it easy to use as a service — something that differentiates it from some of the other current OPML browsers —  by providing a simple way to plug in the address of a feed or live outline (OPML file) and see it in a Grazr "panel":Method 1: Copy, Paste, PublishCopy the URL of an outline or feed.Go to the "Create a Grazr" page (hint: click the bottom of any Grazr), paste in the URL, and click the "Display this URL" button.  (You can configure your Grazr's font, viewing mode, etc. at this point.)To publish a link to the Grazr-skinned version of the outline or feed, Find the "Save your Grazr to a Web Page" section, and click the "Type of Web page" drop-down list.Select "Generic Web Page".Find the "Grazr URL" section, click the URL to select it, then copy and paste it.Method 2: Create a link by hand URL syntax: http://grazr.com/gzpanel.html?file=http://address-of-your-feed-or-OPML-file Using either method, you can customize the size of the panel. Now What? Publish the Grazr-skinned link alongside the raw OPML file - When you publish an OPML file on your blog or website, add a link next to it that says something like "Graze It!", with a link to the Grazr-skinned version alongside the raw OPML.  Don't remove the link to the raw OPML; that's still useful as a separate link.Here's a "Graze It!" button - I made a button that I plan to use for publishing my outlines.  Note that this button is not Grazr-specific.  Rather, it's specific to the concept of grazing.  For grazing, I happen to like Grazr mo[...]



How and Why to Mix Feeds - My "Elevator Pitch"

2007-02-10T10:18:38Z

A feedmix is a "metafeed" made by combining individual feeds into one:Feedmixes are to feeds as feed readers are to blogs (and other syndicated content).  By collapsing and reducing the number of information flows we manage, feedmixes can dramatically improve... A feedmix is a "metafeed" made by combining individual feeds into one:Feedmixes are to feeds as feed readers are to blogs (and other syndicated content).  By collapsing and reducing the number of information flows we manage, feedmixes can dramatically improve the efficiency with which we consume and distribute information. You don't need to read related feeds one at a time any more than you needed to visit individual sites and blogs.   You probably read more than one feed in areas like Finance, Music, Productivity, Business, Friends, etc.   Wouldn't it be convenient to read all your friends' blogs in a single feed?  Do video clips from Google Video or YouTube really need separate feeds?  Why not read about the latest toys from Engadget and Gizmodo in a "Gadgets" feed?  A good feed mixing service will include the source of each item in the feed, so you don't lose that information by mixing. Feedmixing makes it easy to corral "loosely coupled" content, focus it, and redistribute it as an attention stream.   People tag content on blogs, news sites, social bookmarking sites, wikis, search engines, video & photography blogs, etc.  Using common tags makes it possible find all that related content, even though it exists in totally different systems.  This is considered "loosely coupled" content, and it can be used by an individual, or a loosely coupled community.  Feedmixing is a tool for bringing together and redistributing content you choose from several different sites.(I originally wrote this "elevator pitch" as an update to my article about feedmixes.) Some of my feedmixesNot all feeds are ideal for mixing, and there are good reasons you might not want to mix some feeds, even if they're related.  Here are some general examples of feedmixes I've made for myself, with explanations of why I think they're good candidates for mixing: From Friends - A single feed of my friends' various content feeds becomes valuable as more friends start producing more and more feeds:Photos on Flickr - Flickr conveniently mixes all my contacts' photos into a single feed, so in this case I'm actually adding a "pre-mixed" feed to my feedmix.  The fact that all my friends don't use Flickr isn't a problem, since I can add any feed-enabled photosharing site to my mix.BlogsMusic playlistsLinks tagged for me in del.icio.us I may use this mix to blend a broader "People I Know" mix.  As more people start using feeds, we'll need tools to filter and manage all this content, which will grow in volume as feeds catch on as a way to share information.  It may take a while, but the usage explosion that happened with email and static web content will soon happen with feeds and tagging.References to Me - Blog search engines like Technorati and Google Blog Search offer feeds of blog search results.  These "search feeds" scan for links to my blog, telling me when and where people link to my blog.  There's no reason I need to have more than one feed for these alerts, though it makes sense to use more than one engine in this relatively new area of blog search.Finance - Bankrate publishes several related feeds I want, but I don't need to read them separately, and I can add financial feeds from other sites too: Mortgage newsMarket trendsSavings and investing adviceGeneral financial news, analysis, & reports Accounts & Services - I like to at least gla[...]



Feedmixes - multiple feeds combined into one

2007-02-10T10:12:26Z

Problem Feed overload!Feed readers are an efficient way to read content from several sources, but now many of us are feeling inundated with feeds, and often don't have time to read even those we really want to prioritize. Solution Feedmixes: customizable... Problem Feed overload!Feed readers are an efficient way to read content from several sources, but now many of us are feeling inundated with feeds, and often don't have time to read even those we really want to prioritize. Solution Feedmixes: customizable "metafeeds" made by combining multiple feeds into one  Why mix feeds?  My "Elevator Pitch"(I'm excerpting this section and using it in another article about some cool feedmixes I made and how to make them.  If that's how you got here, you can skip the bullet points below.)Feedmixes are to feeds as feed readers are to blogs (and other syndicated content).  By collapsing and reducing the number of information flows we manage, feedmixes can dramatically improve the efficiency with which we consume and distribute information.You don't need to read related feeds one at a time any more than you needed to visit individual sites and blogs.   You probably read more than one feed in areas like Finance, Music, Productivity, Business, Friends, etc.   Wouldn't it be convenient to read all your friends' blogs in a single feed?  Do video clips from Google or YouTube really need separate feeds?  Why not read about the latest toys from Engadget and Gizmodo in a "Gadgets" feed?  A good feed mixing service will include the source of each item in the feed, so you don't lose that information by mixing.Feedmixing makes it easy to corral "loosely coupled" content, focus it, and redistribute it as an attention stream.   People tag content on blogs, news sites, social bookmarking sites, wikis, search engines, video & photography blogs, etc..  Using common tags makes it possible find all that related content, even though it exists in totally different systems.  This is considered "loosely coupled" content, and can be used by an individual, or a loosely coupled community .  Feedmixing is a tool for bringing together and redistributing content you choose from several different sites.More Detail A feed reader eliminates the need to manually retrieve and read several sources of information because it aggregates the information in a single place.  In a similar way, a feedix combines  multiple feeds into one, so you can reduce the number of different feeds you subscribe to.  You could create a "Must Read" summary feedmix that consists of some of the content from each of the feeds you consider most important.When I first heard about feed readers, I didn't think I needed one.  Only after I started using one -- and entered all the different sites I regularly read -- did I see how inefficient it was to visit each individually.  When I first heard the concept of feedmixes expressed, (see credit below) I didn't think I needed them either.  Now, having tried for a while to read my 80+ feeds regularly, I see significant potential value in feedmixes as a way to address feed overload and help manage the flow of information. Mixing feedsSome close approximations of what I envision already exist, but I think the real value in metafeeds will be in customization, and I haven't yet seen any service that provides that.  (Update: 2007.02 - Yahoo! Pipes looks like the service I've been wishing for, and then some!) Here’s how I want to build and customize feedmixes:Choose individual source feeds – I know there have been some recent services that create tag feeds (which are a [...]



Tracking packages - A perfect job for a feed reader

2006-12-20T22:25:39Z

What? Tracking packages demonstrates a benefit of using a feed reader Feed readers, also called "RSS readers" and "news aggregators", are designed to collect (aggregate) information feeds from the sources you specify, and alert you when there's something new.... What? Tracking packages demonstrates a benefit of using a feed reader Feed readers, also called "RSS readers" and "news aggregators", are designed to collect (aggregate) information feeds from the sources you specify, and alert you when there's something new. Consider which is easier; visiting each web site you regularly read, or going to one place that keeps an updated list of the new information on those sites? Bloglines is my current feed reader, and package tracking is a recent addition to the service. There are many feed readers to choose from, but I'm not sure they can all track packages (I'm sure this will be a standard cabability in the future, or even better, package delivery services will all start publishing tracking feeds.) Why? Feed readers are perfect for "disposable" information that's only valueable for a while Tracking packages is one of many reasons to use Bloglines. The service is perfect for managing this kind of information, since it does the work of checking for updates, and the information isn't valuable after the package is delivered. You can also use a feed reader for keeping up to date on other disposible information, like current traffic conditions in your area and new messages in your groups and mailing lists. Let computers alert you of status changes & new information Why spend effort on a task that's perfectly suited to computers? I recently ordered something online, and just got a "your order has shipped" email message that includes the tracking #. Rather than having to constantly check on the status, I just plugged the tracking # into Bloglines, which will alert me when there's new information about the package. Feed readers are not just for blogging! Many people think Bloglines and other feed readers are just tools for people who are "into blogging". They are indeed a great way to keep up with constantly-changing information, such as blogs, but they're useful for much more than that. We'll soon start to see more benefits of feed readers, because RSS — and "web feeds" in general — are versitile and powerful technologies/ideas. We're just starting to see innovations in how feeds can be used (for example, to keep up to date on the status of a package). Feeds are used for syndicating much of the news information on the Internet right now. News agencies & web sites have known about the advantages of syndication for a long time — think AP. But they're using syndication so their servers can exchange news information; Feed readers allow people to start realizing the benefits of syndication for all kinds of content. For example, all this incoming information generated by syndication soon leads to a need for more efficient ways to manage it, which leads to the use of feed readers to bringing it all together in one place. To see if a web site you read provides a feed, look for the words like "Site Feed", "Atom", "RSS", or "XML" often in small orange buttons, like this: . Update: A new movement has has been started to standardize on a universal feed icon that looks like this: Hopefully, this gives you a sense of why you'd want to use a feed reader. Most (like Bloglines) are free, and it's easy to get started! [...]



Feed subscriptions are portable, so it's easy to try different feed readers

2007-01-04T20:35:29Z

What? It's a snap to try out different feed readers with your real list of subscriptions, and doing so enables you to get a true sense of how they compare. I recently found out about Rojo, a new web-based...

What?

It's a snap to try out different feed readers with your real list of subscriptions, and doing so enables you to get a true sense of how they compare.

(image) (image)

I recently found out about Rojo, a new web-based feed reader, similar to Bloglines, which I currently use. I'm very happy with Bloglines, but Rojo has some features that caught my eye (e.g. tags) and I want to check it out.

Why?

It's hard to give a new service or application a fair shake if you don't use it as you do your "real" one.

I wouldn't really be able to see how it is to use Rojo without "living" in it as my primary feed reader for a while. The problem is, I've been deterred from doing so by the prospect of having to add and organize my feeds all over again. I've been using Bloglines for a while, and have a pretty long list of feeds that I've spent a lot of time organizing.

How?

Export your subscription list from one feed reader, and import it into another.

Then I remembered some reference to exporting feed subscriptions to an OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) file. OPML is — among other things — a de facto standard language for import and export of feed subscription lists. Recalling that made me realize that checking out other feed readers should be relatively easy, since it seems blog-related service providers understand the fact that holding our data hostage is not the way to win users.

So, to test out this process, I

The whole process took less than 2 minutes. I'm sure this is just as possible to do with most combinations of feed readers, web-based or not, these two just happen to be the ones I'm checking out at the moment.




A good introduction to how to read blogs

2006-08-03T04:33:11Z

I'm in the process of evangelizing blogs & feeds to my friends and family, and just saw Michael Hyatt's post, How to Read Blogs on his blog, Working Smart (one of the first productivity-related blogs I found). The article Michael...

I'm in the process of evangelizing blogs & feeds to my friends and family, and just saw Michael Hyatt's post, How to Read Blogs on his blog, Working Smart (one of the first productivity-related blogs I found).

The article Michael references provides a good introduction to reading blogs. Although I could link directly to the article, Michael already wrote a nice introduction, and should get the credit for the reference. Plus, his blog is worth a look, so I've linked to his intro rather than the actual article.

Feed readers -- the tool of choice for reading blogs -- are important technology and will dramatically improve our ability to manage information more efficiently. As the referenced article's author says, it's tough to convince people of why they should read blogs. I think, though, that we can at least help them do so efficiently, and the benefit of feed readers is that they are useful for any syndicated content (e.g. AP news), not just blog content per se. So, even people who aren't "into blogging" can get value from feed readers.




What started it all for me; Bloglines

2006-08-03T05:17:44Z

I was getting tired of trying to figure out a good way to keep track of the cool stuff I've been finding online (more and more in blogs these days), so I did a little research and found Bloglines, which... I was getting tired of trying to figure out a good way to keep track of the cool stuff I've been finding online (more and more in blogs these days), so I did a little research and found Bloglines, which showed me the value of using a feed reader, something I didn't realize I needed until I tried it. One of the main reasons I started using Bloglines is because of their "Clip Blog" and "Clippings" features, which allow you to save blog entries you read via Bloglines to either your own Clip Blog (which you can make public to share with others) or your private "Clippings" folder. Update: 2005.06.10 Goodbye Clip Blog, hello Furl - I've completely abandoned my Bloglines clip blog in favor of Furl, a service that does a lot more than Bloglines' clip blog, and is a much better tool for keeping track of anything (not just blog entries you read in Bloglines) you find on the web. Update: 2006.02.02Switched from Furl to del.icio.us for most things. There may be others and/or better feed readers out there, but none has yet jumped out at me.  I think Bloglines could/should be stronger in the blogging department, (I have yet to figure out, for example, if I can have another Bloglines blog aside from my Clip Blog, but I've just begun learning about all this) but I'm not sure that's their focus.  They seem to be one of a small number of web-based aggregators who see the value in providing some blogging service (specifically Clip Blogging) together with aggregation. Now you can keep track of the stuff I find online at your discretion, and without me having to constantly send you email.  It's one of the great things about the "publish and subscribe" paradigm! Update: 2005.05.08 I inserted this section months later, after having written it as part of an article about using Bloglines to track packages.  I think it belongs here, because I didn't really cover the other uses for Bloglines before, as I'd just begun to understand all this. Feed readers are not just for blogging! Many people think Bloglines and other feed readers are just tools for people who are "into blogging". They are indeed a great way to keep up with constantly-changing information, such as blogs, but they're useful for much more than that. We'll soon start to see more benefits of feed readers, because RSS -- and "web feeds" in general -- are very versitile and powerful technologies/ideas. We're just starting to see innovations in how feeds can be used (for example, to keep up to date on the status of a package). Feed technology is used for syndicating much of the news information on the Internet right now. News agencies & web sites have known about the advantages of syndication for a long time - think AP. But they're using syndication so their servers can exchange news information; Feed readers allow people to start realizing the benefits of syndication for all kinds of content. For example, all this incoming information generated by syndication soon leads to a need for more efficient ways to manage it, which leads to the use of feed readers to bringing it all together in one place. To see if a web site you read provides a feed, look for the words like "Site Feed", "Atom", "RSS", or "XML" often in small orange buttons, like this: . Update: A new movement has has been started to standardize on a universal feed icon that looks like this: Hopeful[...]