Blended RSS Feeds
April 29, 2013
"RSS" is published online content shown a standardized web feed format. An RSS feed syndicates content in such a way that it is readable by "RSS readers," such as Google Reader (which will be discontinued in July, so get your Feedly now). Let's say you have a lot of RSS feeds for your department. For example, the Department of Mechanical Engineering wants to display all the latest articles, videos, etc. from various channels on their website. Displaying each separately could be a pain. Also, what if they'd like to filter out specific types of content from a specific feed? This is where blended RSS feeds come in. There are tools out there that allow you to combine several feeds into a single feed.
Here are two tools that may be useful:
With Yahoo Pipes, building "pipes" is a visual task, with drag and drop functionality. Start with a blank "canvas" on Yahoo Pipes and drag modules onto your canvas to build a pipe. You can enter a URL for any website and Yahoo Pipes will auto-discover any RSS, RDF or Atom Feed that is embedded on that website. It will fetch all items from that feed. You can then use the filter module to restrict what passes through the pipe. For example, you can block all items that use a certain keyword. Watch this video to see how it works.
Feedwelder is a tool that is close to launch (sign up on the site to be notified when it's live). With Feedwelder you can create a "mix" of several RSS feeds (most social media sites have feeds for your content), and get a bit of code to insert into the HTML of your site. You can control the look and feel of your "mix" with an easy drop-down menu of choices for which elements to include (author, title, date, source), and different styles to customize. The mix will pick up the styles from your website to match your site's look and feel. In addition to being customizable, the tool blends different feeds together. You could blend the feeds of five different blogs by authors from your department (faculty or student blogs, for example), sorted by date, and display those blog posts on your site into one feed (with the authors' permission). Or you could combine your video posts from Vimeo, YouTube and MIT's TechTV into one feed for display on your site. You can also save the results of a search as an RSS feed and embed that into your site for a continually updating list of new stories on a topic. Feedwelder's keyword filter can omit stories that aren't relevant from your feed. Here's an example. Feedwelder was co-founded by two MIT staff members and is currently in private beta. Read more about Feedwelder.