Chapter 3. Feeds Without Programming


Chapter 3. Feeds Without Programming

I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.

Thomas Jefferson

Now that you're set up with your own aggregator or reader application, and before we get into the horrible business of the standards themselves, it's a good idea to start creating your own personal feeds. Feeds are much more than just the latest news and articles from regular web sites. As you will see in Chapter 10, you can push all sorts of data through them. Chapter 10, however, contains a lot of code you will need to run yourself. In this chapter, we'll use other people's services to produce some interesting and useful feeds.


    3.1. From Email

    You can use a feed to display all your announcement-only mailing lists; you can also use it as a disposable email address when you register with web sites and the like. This frees your inbox and protects your real email address from being sold to spammers.

    There are two services that do this, and both are very reliable: MailBucket (http://www.mailbucket.org/) and Dodgeit (http://www.dodgeit.com/).

    Both operate in the same way. You send mail to xxx@mailbucket.org or xxx@dodgeit.com, where xxx is your own chosen identity. There's no sign up, so you need to check that your chosen identity isn't already taken. This highlights one issue: your mail isn't private, so don't use it for things you don't want others to see. (You could use an incredibly unguessable identity to make such risks very unlikely.)

    Once the mail starts to arrive into your inbox, it will look like Figure 3-1.

    Figure 3-1. The Dodgeit.com inbox on the Web


    You can then subscribe to the feed at either http://www.mailbucket.org/xxx.xml or http://www.dodgeit.com/run/rss?mailbox=xxx. You will then see something like Figure 3-2 in your reader application.

    Figure 3-2. The Dodgeit.com inbox inside NetNewsWire


    Personally speaking, I think these services are the cat's pajamas. There are many mailing lists that don't require the ability to reply, or to which you might not actually want to contribute, or whose traffic is so great, you might not want your email application to keep firing off new mail alerts. These services are perfect for that.

    Gmail, Google's beta email product, also produces a feed of your inbox, but because it's in beta, it's hard to say if the feed will still be there by the time you read this.


      3.2. From a Search Engine

      The current popular search engines have many great features, but they don't usually provide any form of feed for search results. Such a feed is extremely useful for people trying to keep track of specific search topics (for example, their name).

      3.2.1. Google

      I personally host a Google-to-RSS service, which you are free to use. It's at http://www.benhammersley.com/tools/google_to_rss.html. To use it, simply add your search request to the end of the URL http://www.benhammersley.com/tools/googlerss.cgi?q=. For example:

      http://www.benhammersley.com/tools/googlerss.cgi?q=ben%20hammersley

      Now, subscribe to that URL in your newsreader.

      Note that I'm running this service from my own Google API key, which has a limit of 1,000 queries a day. If you'd like to help out, you can get your own key from http://www.google.com/apis/ and use it with your own queries. Add it to the URL with a &k=123456789 attribute, like this:

      http://www.benhammersley.com/tools/googlerss.cgi?q=ben%20hammersley&k=123456789

      The source code for this service is discussed in Chapter 10.

      3.2.2. Google News

      Google News searches can also be turned into feeds via a service hosted by Julian Bond, found at http://www.voidstar.com/gnews2rss.php.

      That page has a form to help generate the feed's URL, or you can make it up yourself with this pattern:

      http://www.voidstar.com/gnews2rss.php?num=number_of_items&q=your_query

      Note that this Google News service is for personal aggregators only and not for redisplay on another web site. The source code for this service is in Chapter 10.

      3.2.3. Yahoo!

      Despite its tiresomely exclaiming name, Yahoo! goes one better than Google in that it provides feeds of its News Search results as standard. For example, go to http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=&p=Conkers for news of the greatest autumnal sport, and look for the standard orange XML logo. It's impossible for me to give you a shortcut URL structure, however, because Yahoo! employs redirects.

      The standard Yahoo! search does not provide results in feeds, and no one has, as yet, produced a service to do so. Now's your chance.

      One service that is being provided is the My Yahoo! to RSS facility run by Mikel Maron. The site (http://brainoff.com/myy2rss/) takes your My Yahoo! username and password and returns an RSS feed of any personalized Stock Quotes, Weather, Movie Listings, and Yahoo! Mail alerts you may have set up on your My Yahoo! page.

      As with the Yahoo! News Search service, the URL pattern is too obscure to print here, so you have to go through the service's main page.