10 Essential Tips for Streamlining RSS Feeds (Part 3 of 3)

In part one of this series, I looked at setting up a feed reader for using RSS feeds and in part two I listed 50 must-have RSS feeds for travellers. In the final part, I’m going to look at how to get the most out of using feed readers and tips for using RSS in unorthodox ways.

RSS in the Clouds

After first getting into using RSS feeds and readers, I quickly began to realise that there were still many ways I could save time and keep everything more organised. For example, by making my browser default to handling RSS feeds in relation to my feed reader, it meant that every time I clicked a feed it automatically added it. Also, once I began using a feed reader as my homepage, I needed better ways of viewing static bookmarks or, better yet, creating RSS feeds for sites which don’t already have them. Below, I’ll talk through some of the ways in which you can make RSS work more naturally.

1. Defaulting Firefox to Send RSS to Your Feed Reader

First things first. Once your realise the benefits of replacing bookmarks with RSS, you’ll need a quicker way of adding them. Right clicking feed icons, copying and pasting the address, and then opening your feed reader to add them is far too arduous a task. Modern browsers like Firefox understand RSS, so let’s make them do the work for you.

How to Choose your Default RSS Application in Firefox:

Default Firefox RSS

If you use Internet Explorer, then you’ll be saddened to hear that it is still yet to catch up with the likes of Firefox. However, if you’re using Google Reader to organise your RSS feeds, then the latest version of Google Toolbar will let you join in the fun.

2. Finding Categorised Feeds

Some people make the mistake of just adding the first feed they come to on a site, without realising they can often get a breakdown of just the items they want. For example, most sites will have a main feed that encompasses everything they post. Sometimes though, you don’t want the whole feed and you only read a site for a particular section.

Filtering feeds

Let’s take this site as an example. On the homepage I could quite easily grab the main feed, but this would give you every single post made on the blog. What if you were only interesting in skiing? If you head to the feeds page, you’ll find a breakdown of RSS feeds for each category allowing you to subscribe solely to the content you want.

3. Following Blog Comments

Akin to grabbing category-only feeds, you can also get RSS for comments on blogs. If you want to follow a particularly interesting conversation on a post, or perhaps you’ve commented on something yourself and want to keep checking for updates, then a blog’s comments feed is just what you need.

Following blog comments

There are usually two kinds of comment feeds on a blog, the main one which captures all comments made across the site (above, 1) and then individual ones for comments only on specific posts (above, 2).

You can go a step further with blog comments by using co.mments to track them all. Each time you comment somewhere, you can click a button which you add to your browser and it gets stored and tracked all automatically. The best bit is that there’s an RSS feed containing all the posts you’re tracking, which you can pop into your feed reader for future viewing.

4. How to Filter an RSS feed

Occasionally you’ll find yourself with a feed that still contains items you don’t want to see or use. That’s where Feedrinse comes in handy. You can tell Feedrinse to look at a particular RSS feed and then based on filters you specify, it will create a brand new feed customised to your requests.

Feedrinse

As a really basic example, let’s say I want to block any posts from a travel feed that contain “UK”. Maybe you only want to get information that’s from places abroad as you’re sick of the UK’s summer rain. With Feedrinse you add the feed in question and use the drop-down boxes to set up a series of conditions that change the outcome of the feed. Then once you’ve saved it, you get a brand new feed which filters your conditions from then on. Hurray!

5. How to Combine Several RSS Feeds

If I have a lot of related feeds that are updated infrequently, I generally to bring them together into one RSS feed. This doesn’t just save you space in your feed reader but also gives a little extra bandwidth and saves your reader from having to continually check them all separately. RSSMix does just this. Simply enter a list of the feeds you want merging and it spits out a shiny new one with them all cumulated.

Merge feeds

This is a really great way to cram a load of data together and is a pretty powerful feature. I often use RSSMix to create feeds I can read on my mobile phone. With the extreme costs of using the Internet on most mobiles, using RSS can get pretty expensive, so by merging my most important feeds I can save a lot of time and money by reading just one singular feed with everything inside.

6. Customised RSS Feeds

It’s actually possible to go one step further with filtering and merging. What if you wanted to compare different feeds and then run the result of those alongside another? There are all kinds of possible customisations available with Yahoo Pipes.

Yahoo Pipes

You can take loads of feeds and filter, merge and mix them about to output something that’s much more interesting or useful to you. Maybe you want to compare lots of different travel deals from a range of sites, but filter them all to only show you offers under a certain price. The sky’s the limit with Yahoo Pipes.

In fact, beyond creating you’re own, it’s always great to search what other people have made. Have a browse for “New York” and you’ll come across this New York Times meets Flickr feed (above). It takes all New York Times articles and runs each one through a content analysis to pick out the most relevant keywords. Then it runs these keywords through photo-sharing site Flickr and spits out photos that match. Stuff like this is genuinely brilliant. I can’t get enough of it.

7. Get Feeds of Pages Without RSS

It’s really frustrating when you come across a great new site that would work perfectly with an RSS feed and it turns out there isn’t one. There isn’t a complete solution for certain pages, however Feedity and Dapper do an excellent job of creating feeds for sites without any.

Feedity

How do they work? Let’s take eBay as an example, eBay is terrible for RSS feeds. In fact the whole site is terrible, but that’s for another post. Say I’m going camping and need a new rucksack. I might want to keep tabs on all new rucksack related items. But where’s my RSS feed, eBay? It’s coldly absent, but fortunately I can enter the URL into Feedity and it creates one for me. Now each time there’s a new rucksack posted I get an update! The possibilities are almost limitless.

8. RSS to Email Converters

So we’ve learnt all the different ways to get, craft and join RSS feeds, so let’s move on to their visibility. You might not always be in a position to keep checking for updates to your feeds. If you’re spent for time, the last thing you want is to be wasting time checking your feed reader when there’s nothing coming in.

Sending RSS to Email

Sometimes I switch to sending certain feeds via email, if I’m wanting to be notified the moment there’s something new. Send Me RSS lets you send feed updates to your inbox. It’s really handy for when I’m at work and want to get updates on travel news without having to keep checking my feed reader.

9. Static Bookmarks Modules in Feed Readers

Whilst yes, you can now get RSS feeds for virtually any page, sometimes a page just isn’t suitable for having one. What if it’s not a page that updates, or it’s a business tool like Google AdSense, or something with security like online banking? If you’re intending to use a feed reader such as Netvibes as a central hub for all the sites you read, what’s the best way to view static bookmarks?

Bookmarks Module

There’s a great bookmark module which most feed readers will have and it’s perfect for throwing in sites that you’ll still access a lot but don’t need to (or can’t) be RSS feeds. You’re probably thinking, why bother using that when you can just add bookmarks in your browser? Well, if you keep your bookmarks within your feed reader, not only will you be keeping all your sites and feeds in one place, but you’ll also be able to access them from anywhere in the world.

That’s the beauty of a service like Netvibes, as long as you have access to the Internet you can view all your sites. So yes, you could keep bookmarking things in your browser, but next time you’re on that business trip with a flashy new laptop, you’ll be deeply regretting that you didn’t remember to transfer across your bookmarks from your computer.

10. Publishing your Set-up and Sharing Feeds

Finally, once you’ve spent all the time getting your feed reader set up just perfectly, you’ll want to start sharing all the great feeds you’ve found with your friends. A lot of feed readers these days come bundled with plenty of social networking aspects to make this a cinch. The important thing is to make sure all your friends are using the same feed reader as you are.

Netvibes social aspects

So, if you’re using Netvibes you may notice that you have a “personal universe”. This is kind of like a second Netvibes account that lets you publicly show any feeds. This is always interesting as you often find the best and most useful feeds from friends or just other users in general. It also gives you a chance to place feeds you want others to see or follow.

Beyond this, Netvibes also allows you to share your own feeds really easily by clicking the envelope on a feed module and selecting where you want to send it. Likewise, if you come across a great feed in one of your friend’s Netvibes pages, you can send it back to your own page just as easily.


Phew, that’s the final part done. Hopefully there’s been something useful for you in this series. In the future I’ll look at some of the best travel feed mash-ups with users have come with on Yahoo Pipes.