Creating a Feed Reading Matrix

Creating a Feed Reading Matrix

How you view your feeds depends on what you want them to do for you. I have used so many feed readers that did not agree with me. The first one I stuck with for a little while was Rojo, because at the time it was the only one that would sort feed items by date. Other feed readers would sort specific feeds by date, but I wanted the newest post out of all the feeds to float to the top and then on to the next newest item. I have about 600 feeds I subscribe to and no time to click each feed to find out if there were new posts.

But Rojo was slow grabbing new posts, so I went to Google Reader because I could do the same thing and put a gadget on my Google homepage. Recently though, I realized that if there wasn't a reminder to check new feeds, I wouldn't do it. I would open my Google homepage in a tab and not go back to the tab. So I had to come up with something else and it involved bolting a lot of different things together.

  1. I have a feed ticker addon for Firefox that scrolls the posts in all of the feeds in a toolbar for anything that catches my eye. I use this most often and gives me the ability to read and comment on posts across a wide variety of blogs.
  2. I consolidated all of my feeds (Livemarks in Firefox) into one folder that I put on my bookmarks toolbar so I can go to specific blogs when I want to.
  3. I created a Google Custom Search Engine of all the feeds I subscribe to and added the search engine to my Google toolbar. This way when I am writing a post about a specific subject, I can search and add more trackbacks to the post.

Setting this up should take you less than a half an hour. Here are the steps:

  1. Create an OPML file of all the feeds you subscribe to. Most feed readers have the ability of exporting all your feed links as an OPML file. Look for Export, usually under the file menu. If you don't know what this is or only subscribe to a few feeds don't worry about it. You can do it manually. I just didn't want to. Not with 600 feeds.
  2. Download two Firefox extensions: OPML support and RSS Ticker
  3. Import your OPML file into Firefox with Organize Bookmarks under the Bookmarks menu. Your ticker is set up.
  4. Go to ShareYourOPML, create an account and upload your OPML file. This is for the next step.
  5. Create a Google Custom Search Engine. Google has good intructions so I will skip those. In the sites menu of your new search engine, click the Add Site Button and choose "Dynamically extract links from this page and add them to my search engine". This option is new and makes this tutorial possible. Enter the url of your OPML page from ShareYourOPML in the textbox.
  6.  This step assumes you have the Google toolbar. Go to the hompage of your Google Custom Search Engine and right click in the search box. Choose "Generate Custom Search". This will allow you to add the option for searching this site to the dropdown box next to the query box in the Google Toolbar. Now when you want to search the blogs you subscribe to, enter a term and choose your Google Custom Search Engine from the menu.
  7. Done.

By the way, if any of you want to search the blogs I subcribe to, I created a homepage for my search engine at SEO Blog Search.

Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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