So you have a favourite blogger whose style and substance you absolutely adore. You lap up everything he or she writes. Except when a cricket match is on. You can’t stand cricket. And unfortunately your favourite blogger is a cricket addict. When a tournament or a match is on, your blogger’s RSS feed is clogged with cricket posts, tweets and updates.
What to do?
But before that a bit about RSS and Atom feeds. The idea of using RSS feeds is to help you know when a website or a blog has been updated without you having to physically visit the website. Whenever your favourite columnist publishes a new piece or there is a new Mint Lounge book review, the RSS feed will do the checking and updating for you. As long as you keep track of your feeds, you don’t have to keep track of the websites.
And why should you bother with this one degree of separation? Because it’s much easier to keep track of dozens of RSS feeds than having to visit dozens of websites every morning. Couple that convenience with a good RSS feed reader, and you can plough through a remarkable quantity of news and updates in a very short time.
Ideal implementation of this technology could be as follows: First you create an account on Google and load up the Google Reader page. Google Reader is an excellent, free feed reader that kills much of the pain of tracking sites.
Now you take a list of all the websites you track daily and feed them into the Reader interface. One great function of the Google Reader service is its ability to automatically detect feeds on websites, or create ones for sites that don’t have any. When you are done, you can further refine things by grouping feeds into categories: News, Sports, Economics, Burgers and Katrina Kaif.
Now each morning you can just open Google Reader and you have all your news and leisure updates in one place (you can usually read these updates in full without leaving Google Reader).
Most seasoned Web users are already well versed with the idea of aggregating RSS feeds through feed readers. But what if you want to customize your RSS feeds further? What if you want all the news headlines from a particular news website, but without the Shashi Tharoor-Lalit Modi public linen laundering? Or what if you want to combine all updates on Katrina Kaif from a dozen websites into one feed? You know, for maximum efficiency in your news consumption.
Save time: Opt for tailor-made updates.
With a few Web services this cherry-picking of feeds is both possible and accessible. Feed Rinse is an excellent basic service that requires no PhD in computer science. Choose all the feeds you like and add them into one channel. And then tell Feed Rinse what terms you want filtered out. Filters can be applied on authors, keywords, tags and so on. Then you can pull this shiny new filtered feed into a reader.
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Voila! You have both combined and filtered using just one service. Feed Rinse does have its shortfalls, and sometimes not all information in a feed is retained during the rinsing process. But for basic users it’s a blast.
If you’d like to have even more flexibility, then try using Yahoo Pipes. Pipes is a superb online service that lets you do wonders with feeds, Web searches and all kinds of online data. But no need to get carried away here (though you must go through some of the excellent samples of how Pipes creates combinations, or mashups, of data.)
Using the elaborate, and slightly confusing, Pipes interface, you can do all kinds of things to feeds: Combine, filter, sort, extract. And like Feed Rinse, you can then pull the final output as a feed for your reader.
But what if you have a website that refuses to have any RSS feeds (after all RSS feeds must be provided by websites themselves)? Well then, all is not lost. You can create your own feeds from these sites. Services such sa Feedity and FeedYes allow you to type in website addresses, and then manually create feeds for them. Dirty, but quick.
And, finally, do remember that Google Reader and most good feed readers process video and audio files as well. So podcasts feeds work too.
So now why not start your morning with a good helping of tailor-made news and updates? Think of it as your personal news wire service.
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