August 05, 2004

RSS and aggregations

I arrived into work five minutes early today, and it's amazing how much more productive I'm being this morning, just for having arrived for work in a calm mood. I think I'll try and do this more.

I've been doing a fair bit of work in my spare time overhauling my personal blog , switching over to Movable Type and updating my old design , which was looking pretty dated.

One of the best things that's come out of the upgrade is that my blog now has an RSS feed, which publishes my entries on the web server in a computer-readable format in addition to HTML.

Much like tabbed browsing, it's slightly difficult to explain exactly why using RSS feeds make using the web so much easier, but I can certainly say it saves me a lot of time periodically checking the blogs and news sites I read regularly. In fact, I don't have to keep checking to see if the sites I read have been updated, because my RSS reader program checks for itself and tells me.

I've also been speding a lot of time reading a few blog 'planets' such as Planet GNOME which take RSS feeds from a number of related blogs, aggregate these together and serve them up on a website. A lot of companies working in the open source world such as Novell have set up 'planets' where the disparate blogs of their employees are aggregated together, and they certainly make for interesting reading.

So this leaves me with a few questions about blogbuilder. Firstly, does blogbuilder do RSS feeds? This may be ground that's been covered before somewhere, but are there plans to support it if not? I'd certainly like to be able to add some of the blogs on here that I read to my RSS reader, so I don't have to keep checking back on them.

Secondly, I'd be interested to know how the current aggregation system on blogbuilder works? The more extensive groups-based system that's being developed certainly sounds pretty good, but I wonder if it will be possible to aggegate non-blogbuilder blogs into these groups, via RSS feeds or similar? The beauty of the planet software that seems to be being used to create most of the aggregations I've been reading is that it allows virtually any blog to be added to a planet.

Planet is a flexible feed aggregator. It downloads news feeds published by web sites and aggregates their content together into a single combined feed, latest news first. It uses Mark Pilgrim's Universal Feed Parser to read from RDF, RSS and Atom feeds; and Tomas Styblo's templating engine to output static files in any format you can dream up.

I'd love it if blogbuilder could do this kind of aggregation too, as it would allow existing blogs (whether these are MT, Blogger or blogbuilder based) to be incorporated into the various aggregatations being planned for course, year group etc. I'm no longer a student at Warwick, but a number of my friends who are have blogs which I'm sure it would be interesting to add to a blogbuilder aggregation for their course/society/year.

Just my 2p's worth, anyway :-)


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Hi Will,

    There are kind of two different forms of aggregation in blogbuilder. The first is the one that you mention that will group together blogs automatically for everyone to see based on courses/modules/departments/halls/etc. Then there is the personal aggregator which will allow you to individually subscribe to a blog via RSS. Every blogbuilder blog does publish an RSS1 and RSS2 feed and can be used by any aggregator of your choice.

    The way I imagine this work is that you browse the blogs in the directory to discover interesting groups and new things, but then when you find something interesting, you subscribe to it in your personal aggregator so that you can find it easily again. But of course you could also add BBC news and some web comics into your personal aggregator, but they would not be able to go into the system blog directory.

    05 Aug 2004, 11:47

  2. Naturally, as soon as I was about to ask what the RSS links were, I stumbled across the big orange buttons on the LHS of my blog page… Oops!

    Incidentally, is there an RSS feed available for blogbuilder as a whole? I guess an RSS equivalent of the recent entries page?

    And everyone gets the ability to use blog builder as a personal aggregator too? That sounds like a really neat function, especially given the nightmare I had trying to find a half decent RSS reader program.

    05 Aug 2004, 13:22


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