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More Aggregator Madness

I’m finding the aggregator space more interesting nowadays than the weblog software space. Years ago a lot of people wrote their own weblog software, and people would come up with ideas, and others would implement the ideas in their home-brewed weblog software. There wasn’t really the commercial end of it that there is now. It was a feature-race, but with a friendly face attached to it. Hmmm, maybe it’s just me…

Anyway, the aggregator landscape seems to be changing on a weekly, if not daily, schedule. I’ve been using aggregators since 2000 or earlier. Not counting the Netscape and UserLand offerings (or my own aggregator named poorly enough “channels”) I’ve toyed with AmphetaDesk, NetNewsWire, Bloglines, a few others I’ve forgot the names of, and more recently Feed on Feeds.

As mentioned previously, I’ve been hacking at Feed on Feeds a bit, molding it to what I want for an aggregator. I’ve been taking ideas from the aggregators I’ve used in the past, and some ideas from other places (like AmphetaOutlines) and my own crazy ideas.

I’ve already made a bunch of UI and functional changes to Feed on Feeds, so that it’s not quite Feed on Feeds anymore, and really needs a new name.

I’ve added clickcounts, so it’ll keep track of how often I follow links to the original site. Of course some of the feeds are full entries, and some are just abstracts, still, this might show how often I follow a link to a site.

I’m working on creating a per-feed update schedule, since some feeds I want updated once an hour (favorite weblogs) and some I don’t care if they get updated once per day (like search results for keywords, top new stories, etc.) I could even allow some to update every X minutes (5, 10, whatever) if it’s coming from my own systems and frequent polling is an OK thing.

I’m interested in using the data from Technorati, Feedster, blo.gs, and del.icio.us in interesting ways. I might try to use Phil’s PHP blo.gs blogroll to see how I could tie blo.gs’s site update polling data into things. I’m more than happy to find other people’s code to glue together, as this has also become a PHP learning project for me.

I think what I’ve gotten out of this so far is that aggregators still have a long way to go, and that’s not to say they aren’t very good yet, that’s just to say that I see incredible possibilities in this space. Good Luck, aggregators of data!

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Feed on Feeds Unread List

One more Feed on Feeds hack before I’m outta here…

Below is what you would normally see. Well, ok what I would normally see when using Feed on Feeds:

Feed on Feeds subscribed feeds list

My last modification was to make the feeds with unread items bold, and put how many unread items after the name. (This is how Bloglines does it.) Notice the addition of a link titled ‘show unread’ at the top.)

The new way, after clicking on that ‘show unread’ link:

Feed on Feeds subscribed unread feeds list

Clicking on the ‘show unread’ link reloads the list with just the feeds with unread items, hiding those that are already read. This might be handy for people who are subscribed to a zillion feeds.

What I’m really liking about Feed on Feeds is the hackability, even though I’m no PHP expert. (Imaging if I did know PHP!) Bloglines is still very nice, and I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t get that hacking itch, but for those of us who always need to tweak things along the way, Feed on Feeds is great.

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FEED ON FEEDS ala Bloglines

Ok, I warned you I was going to hack at FEED ON FEEDS a bit, and I did, just a little bit…

My main goal was to make it function a little bit more like Bloglines, and so far we’ve got this. (Click for full size versions.)

Bloglines feed list

(Example of Bloglines list of subscribed feeds)

Hacked FEED ON FEEDS feed list

(Example of hacked FEED ON FEEDS list of subscribed feeds)

So they’re starting to look similar, but I’ve also got some of the functionality replicated as well. For instance, in my hacked FEED ON FEEDS just loading a feed’s items marks that feed as ‘read’ – there is no manual marking needed, no checkboxes to check, or links to click. I like it this way and became accustomed to it in Bloglines, so I had to have it here.

I don’t know how much farther I’ll take things, but I might hack at little bits of it here and there if I get motivated, or you know, actually get involved in the development, though the fear of commitment to yet another project makes me not want to get into things too deep…

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Super-Happy-Terrific FEED ON FEEDS?

Mr. Genehack suggested I look at FEED ON FEEDS as a "Super-Happy-Terrific Aggregator", and while I have used it before, it’s gone through a number of updates since then. Perhaps enough for me to hack at it a bit and see if it’ll do what I want.

Phil suggests using Mark’s Universal Feed Parser, which is what I too would want to see happen, as I’ve mentioned before… Even if it’s an optional thing, where you could choose to use the Universal Feed Parser or FEED ON FEEDS mechanism, it would be cool.

As for the UI of FEED ON FEEDS, the framed version is nice, but I’d like to see it look a little cleaner, perhaps similar to Bloglines. In fact, I’d like to see some of the functionality mirror what Bloglines does, where just viewing a feed marks it as read, without having to explicitly click things. It looks like the tables in MySQL could use a few more columns. Items are marked with a timestamp that appears to denote when it was downloaded, not the actual time of the entry. RSS 2.0 has pubDate, and Atom 0.3 has issued, modified and (possibly) created, on a per-item level, can’t these be used instead?

Since FEED ON FEEDS is open-source, and released under the GPL I could certainly hack some of these changes into it. The only thing stopping me is my lack of time, and my lack of PHP skills… In other words, I’ll start hacking on it very soon…