Who are you reading?

Fimoculous recently posted a Best Blogs of 2006 that You (Maybe) Aren’t Reading list. Based on some of the blogs I’m already reading (Pruned, We Make Money Not Art, Data Mining, Pulse Laser) which are on the list, I think the ones I haven’t will be worth checking out.

Browsing the list made me wish it was easier to share OPML files. Maybe it’s just me being an info geek, but I’d like to see the feed lists of the folks I read, instead of their probably abbreviated blogrolls. Yes, I know about Share Your OPML, but it is too clunky, and while I liked Grazr better, I still didn’t have much luck in getting it to do what I wanted. When is the next generation of feed reading and sharing tools going to get here?

If you read feeds, I’m curious — do you share your OPML? Would you, if it was easy? What is the last blog you subscribed to? Leave suggestions and URLs in the comments. (Please note: too many URLs will trip my spam filter and put your comment in moderation — I’ll approve it as soon as I see it, assuming you aren’t just plugging your splog.)

I’ll even go first. Yes, I share my OPML, even though keeping it updated is a bit of a pain. The newest feed in my reader is Life on a Shirt, by Jana Eggers. She used to be my boss, and now has a new gig as CEO of a cool t-shirt company. Jana is asking some great questions, so go check it out.

5 thoughts on “Who are you reading?

  1. What were you trying to get Grazr to do that didn’t work for you? I’d love to help if I can!

    I think we share your vision about community based metadata (not just reading lists but that’s a big part) and we’re working hard towards building next generation tools for this kind of thing. I’d love to hear other perspectives and ideas you might have on these topics and on these kinds of tools.

  2. Hi Jenny,

    Have you taken a look at the Reading Lists feature of BlogBridge? It allows you to publish groups of feeds as dynamic OPML files, hosted on the BlogBridge servers. If you update your feed list, the changes are replicated to the server on the next synchronization, allowing the subscribers to your OPML file to immediately see the latest additions to your feed roll.

    I use BlogBridge Reading Lists to publish two main projects:
    RSSonate – a collection of 40 feeds from bloggers who publish about RSS technology
    RSS Tool Vendor News – a collection of almost 200 feeds from vendors of RSS tools. This is where you’ll find the team blogs and development news feeds from the Google Reader team, from FeedDemon, from NewsGator and all of the other players.
    (Links: RSSonate is available as a Grazr widget from the sidebar of my main blog CleverClogs – http://www.cleverclogs.org;
    RSS Tool Vendor News is available as a Grazr widget from the sidebar of my secondary blog: http://www.dutchisms.typepad.com/rss_tool_vendors)

    Lastly, you could consider making your OPML file public by linking to from the section of your HTML source. People who are actively looking for OPML files can discover it using OPML discovery tools such as the OPML bookmarklet or the OPML Reader extension by Sergio Longoni.

    I hope this helps.


    Marjolein Hoekstra

  3. Mike, thanks for the comment and offer to help. You prompted me to dig deeper into what wasn’t working.

    The main thing was I had problems getting my opml file to load into grazr and work: it didn’t turn into folders or feeds, just a list of titles. I had used this file for importing into a feedreader, so I assumed the file was ok.

    But it wasn’t, which I discovered when I tried to create Grazrs by pointing to older OMPL files I had on my server. These worked, meaning they didn’t just create a list of titles, but browseable feeds. But the titles of feeds were URLs, so there were a lot of “feeds.feedburner.com” items. Not very helpful or inviting for folks wanting to browse.

    Comparing the feed that didn’t work with the one that did, I saw that the working file including an encoding and was version 1.0 not 1.1, but figured this was probably not the issue. Then I looked more closely a the items in the files:

    outline text="feeds.feedburner.com" type="rss" xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/mashable"/

    Explains the annoying URL thing, as the file was telling it “feeds.feedburner.com” and not the real title. The OPML file that only generated a list of titles looked like this:

    outline text="Mashable!" xmlUrl="http://feeds.feedburner.com/mashable" htmlUrl="http://mashable.com"/

    I can see why the title would come up right, but I guessed the reason it didn’t work in Grazr is the missing type=”rss” and not the inclusion of the htmlUrl at the end. I decided to fix this via the miracle of ‘search and replace all’ in my text editor and give it another go… Success! I am happy it didn’t seem to care some were really atom or rdf.

    I think the slider feature in Grazr is pretty slick, so I embedded one on a page — only now, it is a fairly long and not alphabetized list of feeds. I really should go back and organize it.

    I can see that the problems I had were really with the way my various feed readers were creating OPML files, and not the way Grazr was handling them — though it would be nice if there was the option to run your file through a validator there on the site if you had a problem, or if there was a link to an example OMPL file so you could compare what you were using with one that was working well.

    What do I really want? Well, for a start I’d like to be able to easily tag my feeds, and sort them for display based on those tags (including a “not public” option to filter out the behind the firewall stuff). I’d like to poke around and see who else is using the same tags or subscribing to the same feeds, the way I can see who else is using tags and bookmarking the same items on del.icio.us. Even better, I’d love to be able to compare OPML files — feed in my file, and quickly see how many of the same feeds I’m subscribed to that other folks are, and get suggestions for feeds or items in feeds based on that. Maybe even include something like LibraryThing’s UnSuggester, to save me even more time. Of course, the holy grail is I have a tool that is so easy to use and convenient, people I know who might need help getting their feedreaders set up can and will use it, because they will never, ever look under the hood at the angle bracketed crap to figure out why it isn’t working.

  4. Marjolein, thank you for the tips.

    I was using BlogBridge and I liked it, but not keeping my read/unread states in sync between two laptops was driving me nuts. I do really miss the ability to export OPML by subsets of feeds, though. I wish the best tool for me to read feeds with was also the best at sharing my feeds. Until that happens, I’m going for the best consumption over best publication.

    I hadn’t used the OPML Reader before so I installed it, but didn’t realize I needed to make my site “OPML auto-discoverable” for it to work — the link hanging out in the sidebar wasn’t enough. Now I’ve done that, and having it pop open in Grazr is pretty cool.

    Still, I wish it was easier — no fussing with templates, no hand-editing of feedreader generated OPML files — because I think the process will get in the way of more people adopting the core idea: sharing ideas they care about.

  5. Hi Jenny,

    Variant and non standard OPML is definitely a problem. We’ve worked pretty hard to make Grazr liberal in what it will accept in terms of invalid files but some still won’t render properly.

    OPML is one of those formats, that while I think it’s really cool, still isn’t widespread enough for people to have enough experience to properly interpret/implement. There are lots of slight variations that are a nightmare to work with, like feed readers that exclude “type” attributes, use “title” instead of “text”, or mangle the OPML in all sorts of other creative ways.

    One of things we’re working on is a validator to help people with OPML, but also a “scrubber” that can suggest fixes and make the edits for you. We’ve had to wade through a lot of “bad” files so we have some experience with bad opml patterns. The idea of an exemplar OPML file is a good one, I’ll see about putting together an annotated file to help people troubleshoot.

    We really want to make using OPML as easy as possible, with the eventual goal of making it completely transparent to the end user. I would love to get to the point where power users can play in the “angle brackets land” if they want but that most users would never see them, know about them, or even hear the term “OPML”.

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