Advanced RSS Techniques - or Everything you wanted to know about RSS but were afraid to ask...

Marjolein Hoekstra's notes from her Jan 6th, 2009 presentation, "Advanced RSS Techniques" to Stanford's Graduate Digital Journalism class taught by Howard Rheingold.


(Preliminary note: over the next few days I'll be fixing up the hyperlinks so that they become fully clickable)


Please feel free to edit this wiki page constructively. Let's see how this might grow into a page others could benefit from as well.


If you like, follow me on Twitter as @CleverClogs: To send me an e-mail, please use marjolein [at]




Defining and refining your topic


- Start by focusing on your topic.

a keyword, concept, event, person, headline, industry, company name

- Brainstorm about the topic

find related names, ideas, concepts, keywords. What other words are likely occur on the same sites that your main topic is mentioned on?

Use your human network to get clues on how to extend your queries.



Find sources and resources


web sites, communities, forums, feeds, experts

Use Google search, Google Blog Search, Bloglines, Delicious, Magnolia, Diigo, Digg, Twitter (!) and Twitter resources,

Study advanced search syntax techniques for each of the search engines that you use. Know how to narrow down and broaden your search to improve its relevance.



Enhance your browsing experience


Find your way around Firefox and its versatile plug-in architecture, with

- add-ons (

- scripts ( - requires the Greasemonkey add-on; most specifically of interest is the RSS Panel X script at and

- search plug-ins (; browse thousands of available search plug-ins through Captain Caveman's Web Search Pro at



Feed auto-discovery (Firefox browser); look for the orange feed icon



Go multi-media

Find videos (, slideshow presentations (



Feed scraping


Find feeds, request them if they don't exist, and otherwise generate them yourself through scraping tools like

- Feedity

- Page2RSS

- Ponyfish

- Dapper



Storing your research results (newly added 2009-01-07, mh)


To store individual links and turn those into a feed, consider using RSS-enabled social bookmarking tools, such as Delicious, Magnolia or Diigo. Just about any imaginable page on these services has a specific RSS feed.

If you'd like to store snippets (text and multi-media) from the links that you found and make those available in a feed, then sign up with ClipMarks. It has a very active community of people who also comment on the content that you store.

A fairly new service is Agglom, a service that turns any of your browser tabs into a collection of links. This collection can then be shared as an RSS feed or even as a web-based slideshow.



Picking a suitable feed reader


Understand the consequences (advantages, limitations) of using a desktop vs a web-based feed reader. Talk to your peers about what feed reader they prefer. If you don't have any preference yet, you may want to start out with Google Reader ( I have no personal recommendation for Mac OS users. For PC users FeedDemon  is the most preferred RSS reader. It's free.

Infojunkies head straight to BlogBridge, which offers an open-source, cross-platform RSS reader based on Java. It is capable of synchronizing with the web, so that you always have the lastest version of your feed lists wherever you go.

Another option is to use a personal portal page for your feeds, such as

- iGoogle

- Netvibes

- My Yahoo!

- Pageflakes



Publishing lists of feeds


Just about any RSS reader is capable of exporting the feeds that you subscribe to into a text-based format called OPML (Outline Processing Mark-up Language). Any OPML can then be manipulated, published, imported, you name it. If you have access to a web server where you can upload your OPML file, then you'll always have the most recent version of your file available to the people who follow the feeds you subscribe to. Have a look at what Grazr allows you to do in this respect:


All of my public feed lists—I usually refer to them as reading lists—are published through yet another service for hosting lists of feeds, called BlogBridge Library. More info on this service here:

You can visit my account page here:



Consuming RSS feeds


RSS can be delivered to a dedicated RSS news reader, but can also be embedded on websites, consumed as e-mail messages (think of the old fashioned e-mail newsletter), through SMS, IM, Twitter, Skype etc

Useful services to redirect RSS feeds are ZapTXT ( and Inezha (

RSS can be consumed on just about any web-connected device, such as mobile phones, TVs (Samsung with InfoLink RSS feeds from USA Today), PDAs, iPods, wifi-enabled digital photo frames, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, Chumby, Nabaztag


A cool way to consume RSS feeds that I've grown to like is through an RSS ticker called Snackr ( This particular application is built on Adobe AIR's platform.



Feed Manipulation


There are literally hundreds of RSS-related services and applications available. In the spirit of creating news radars, of course I also created one about RSS tool vendors:

Once you get the hang of RSS, try to get acquainted with feed manipulation tools such as

- feed proxies ( )

- feed filtering (; ;

- feed splicing ( )

- feed manipulation ( )



Full-blown news radars I made:


Todd And's Marketing Power 150

Podcasting Professionals


WordPress blogs and feeds

Firefox News


The front end to most of my news radars is a feed browsing service called Grazr ( ). The feeds are merged (=spliced) into a so-called River of News using MySyndicaat ( Note that when the list of feeds is updated, the River of News feed is updated as well.  I use BlogBridge and FeedDemon as my preferred RSS news readers.