It is true: subscribing to RSS feeds, blogs, video logs (vlogs), and podcasts are ways to stay current with the latest happenings in the world and your areas of interest. You have a structured system in place to manage your feeds, specifically scheduling, filing, and periodic reviews, but reviewing the RSS feeds and other resources are getting overwhelming for one reason or another.
So what’s a savvy professional to do? Streamline your review process by using your current RSS reader features, another application to focus and filter feeds, or combine content as a blend or mashup. There are many options available for your use and more are being published each week.
RSS feed aggregators
Believe it or not, you are already utilizing a feed aggregator if you are accessing your RSS feeds in a RSS reader. The aggregator provides a consolidated view of the subscribed content from across the web whether it is text, music, pictures, or video into a single browser display.
Upon closer inspection of the settings for your reader, you may find that you can combine feeds placed into a common folder or under a specific tag into a single output for use in their feed as well as can choose what items can be shown in your RSS readers, like title, author or others. This level of detail is not needed when you are just getting started with RSS feeds or not subscribed to a large number of feeds with high volume postings. However, these steps become essential to managing your feeds as they continue to grow in volume and expand in content.
Feed aggregators come in two flavors: web applications or local software.
The most commonly known web-based aggregators are reader applications on the web. Think “Google Reader” and “My Yahoo!”. These are meant for personal use and are hosted on remote servers. Because the application is available via the Web, it can be accessed anywhere by a user with an Internet connection.
RSS Mix and Chimp Feedr are also of the web application flavor and combine multiple feeds into a unique feed for use in your feed reader or as content on a webpage. This is good if you want to reduce the total number of feeds and number of folders you have listed in your RSS reader or if you are looking to provide useful content for a blog or newswire.
Another web application to note would be FeedKiller, a web application that allows you to combine RSS feeds into a single RSS feed and has the ability to select the number of stories to include from each feed. This allows users to adjust the number of articles displayed according to the frequency of publication.
These applications are installed on the local machine or device and designed to collect feed subscriptions from across the web and group them together for reference on the local device. Think Feed Demon and RSS Reader. These are meant for personal use but hosted locally. Unless you have remote access setup to your computer, you can only access this information on a specific device.
One item to note is that the user interface resembles that of popular web-based readers and a similar display. An added benefit of an installed application is the number of customizable features. Most of these applications can also display data in the form of news tickers, scroll bars, provide user alerts, be integrated with local applications, and can download updates at user specified intervals.
I have barely brushed the surface on the number of applications available on the web or for download. If you want to see what is out there and available for use in detail across multiple platforms, check out this great resource from Wikipedia:
RSS feed filters
Feed filters can be very useful if you subscribe to very big blog like Huffington Post or Mashable, which can cause your unread items to swing by the hundreds in two to three days. Filters allow you to focus on reading content on a specific topic or subject and save time by keeping you from searching in the depths of the feed.
Many feed readers allow you to tag each feed with one or more keywords which can be used to sort and filter the articles. To learn more about these features give your feed reader’s help guide a search for tags or labels and see what you come up with. If you reader is not very robust, you may need more assistance. There are web-based products that can filter in or filter out specific articles from identified feeds based on the parameters you specify to produce a final product for use in the RSS reader.
An easy to use product for RSS filtering online is Feed Sifter. Feed Sifter is an RSS filter that filters in by keyword. It pushes stories to the new feed that match the single keywords or group of keywords specified by the user. Another example of external feed filter is FeedRinse. FeedRinse is a little more complex. It offers filtering by keyword, tag, author, title, and more.
Benders and mash products combine multiple data sources and feeds from almost any format and produce a single integrated product for you to reference. Basically, this method takes data from multiple sources and provides a single reference, blended output or mashup.
The tool that you use will depend on what you want your final product to be and which application you are comfortable using. Here are a few options for you.
- KickRSS: A web application that allows you to combine RSS Feeds and atom xml into a single RSS feed or webpage at a site hosted URL.
- Yahoo Pipes (AKA Pipes): A composition tool to aggregate and mashup content. This one is really cool because you can sort your feeds, create geocode interactive map, power widgets and badges, and provide output in other formats.
- FeedMix: A set of tools to edit, blend, and mash RSS feeds. FeedMix has a WYSIWYG editor, HTML editor, image editor, XML editor, and FTP upload.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The ones listed here show a spectrum of technical knowledge needed to create a blend or mashup. KickRSS is on the easy side of the skills set while FeedMix is more complex.
As you decide which tool will meet your needs remember, there may be lots of bells and whistles but do you need all of that in your final product. Each level of complexity requires a different level of technical proficiency.
Don’t forget the RSS feed management basics
Even when using aggregators, filters, and blenders, the basic approaches to RSS feed management still apply. Search for specific terms or key words in feed readers to target relevant information if you still have a large number of feeds to review. Take time to review your RSS feed subscriptions and determine if they are still relevant and how you incorporate the feeds and information into your day or week.
If your reading habits as tracked by your reader review the data provided to give your reader a good weeding if needed. Above all, remember, if the feed no longer meets your needs or stops delivering relevant content, unsubscribe.