Blog Pile

The Power of Grouping RSS Feeds

I’ve been using my CDB Bloglines site mainly to run a master copy of my regular RSS feeds (keep my home and work computers in synch). But playing with grouping of feeds, I’ve found some new tricks to play with.

I had just been dumping all feeds into one Bloglines folder, organized alphabetically. I run them on the sidebar of the main entry to CogDogBlog— yes, “blogrolls” are like, so, 2002, but I have used it myself numerous times to share the URL of a blog I read. And when I visit new blogs, I very much like to scan who they read and it has helped me to uncover new blogs. It was the low tech Friend of a Friend approach.

Anyhow, Bloglines provides a JavaScript cut and paste that puts my current RSS list on the blog page. I had noticed James does something similar, but his generated feed has labeled groups, which is what I found Bloglines does for you know for the different folders you create on the BL site. So I made a few general feed categories.

But the fun stuff came when trying to use this with my desktop RSS reader…

I use NetNewsWire (Lite, I am cheap) on my Macs– NNW has the ability to create groups of feeds with a drop down tab to hide/show them. The reason why I never used them was that when you export your feeds to an OPML file, the groups are ignored.

Worse, when you take an OPML file such as the one Bloglines generate, and import it into NNW, it completely chokes and generates nothing, as NNW seems unable to interpret the nested <outline> tags used to create a more than one level OPML outline.

So I end up manually editing the OPML to get it into a format that NetNewsWire can read. Ughh. It is minor, but there seems to be little reason why this beautiful software cannot add this capability.

But okay, once I have some feeds grouped in NetNewsWire, this is where the cool stuff happens. If you click on the group name form the left pane (rather than a single feed), it combines all the feeds into one uber list:

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combined feed view of “Ed Tech” RSS feeds

rather than poke through all my feeds, I can grab interesting titles, because the newest are listed at the top, and the blog source on the right column.

But wait, there is more!

If I click the Ed Tech Headlines heading, the feeds are now sorted alphabetically, and you can see where feeds about the same topic are clumped together (often numerous bloggers write about the same topic):

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sorting a group of feeds by title

Another click on the same heading reverses the alpha-listing. And from this group view, you can also click the Source heading on the right to have all the feeds in that group listed by the blog source.

Well, I thought this was neat, maybe it is just the geek in me, but I love little unexpected discoveries.

It’s not quite the same as some of the services/tools out there that offer the promise of aggregating collections of feeds, and re-syndicating them by theme or topic- pretty much what Stephen Downes has provided in EDU_RSS. The ability to deconstruct RSS and forge it into something new is kind of, well, cosmic.

If this kind of stuff has any value, please support me monthly on Patreon or a one time PayPal kibble toss
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


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