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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Thursday, August 17, 2006

maximizing your effectiveness with XML

Matt Lockshin is a good friend and member of the CA-11 blog SayNotoPombo. Over the last year, Matt and I have discussed how to maximize the power of local blogs, often over a beer or two.

Matt's a big fan of XML...or the use of RSS feeds. He's written an essay for a workship on blogging he did called: "Fun with XML: 10 things you can do with XML to make your political life easier." It's a must read. And, since I've wanted to run a series of essays about blogging here on k/o...courtesy of Matt, I'm launching that effort by sharing the whole thing here with you.


1) If you consistently read a blog, then put it’s XML feed into your feed reader. It’s much more efficient to read blogs through a feed reader because you can, at a glance, know whether there are any new posts, what their titles are, and when they were posted. Thus, you won’t go to the site when there’s nothing new for you to read. Alternatively, when there is new content on the site, you’ll be able to know very quickly.

2) Persistent searches: Most search engines offer an XML feed once you have submitted a search. If you plug that XML feed into your feed reader, you can get notified whenever the search engine crawls a new page that matches the criteria of your search. Be sure to check out the various advanced or specialized features of the search engines. For example, you can take an XML feed to do a persistent search of Google News ((http://news.google.com) or Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com) for a given set of keywords.

3) Is there a newspaper that doesn’t offer an XML feed? You can still get the stories delivered to your feed reader by using the Advanced Search functionality of Google News, Yahoo News, or Topix.net (http://www.topix.net). With any of them, you can restrict a search to a particular source (e.g. the Lodi News-Sentinel) and take an XML feed of a search restricted to that one source. You can either include keywords you want to search for or you can leave that part blank if you want all of the articles from that source. Just be sure (with Google and Yahoo) to sort the results by date before you copy the XML feed into your feed reader.

4) See who’s linking to your site. Are they adding to the conversation? Are they talking trash? Regardless, it helps to know that they’re talking about you. To find out, do a persistent search through Google (or Google Blogsearch) by typing in "Link:http://yourURLhere" or through Technorati using the Website URL Search function (you’ll have to create a free Technorati account and add something to your Watch List to get the XML feed using Technorati). You can do this either for a particular entry, your blog itself, or your entire site.

5) Let people get your blog via e-mail. Feedburner has the functionality built in. There is also a free service (that does not look as good) called R-mail (http://www.r-mail.org). A lot of people aren’t comfortable with XML, and won’t navigate to your site regularly. Giving them the option of receiving your posts by e-mail will increase your readership without forcing your readers to learn a new technology (i.e. XML) that might be a little out of their comfort zone.

6) Some blogs have XML feeds for their comment sections. You can stay abreast of an active comment thread through the feed.

7) Take an XML feed for users (you’ll see when they post new diaries) or tags on Daily Kos, the granddaddy of American political blogs.

8) Take an RSS feed for del.icio.us tags. http://del.icio.us (I know it looks screwy) is one of the premiere social bookmarking (look it up in wikipedia) programs. By taking a RSS feed of the del.icio.us tags, you can see what other people think is important for certain topics. One of the benefits of looking at del.icio.us tags is that a human being has entered them, so they might lead you to something that is conceptually relevant that wouldn’t appear using a standard keyword search. For example, a Google result for the term "Bill Clinton" wouldn’t find a blog post in which the author only referred to Clinton as "Slick Willy." But a del.icio.us user might read the post and tag it "Clinton."

9) Use XML feeds from Google Groups and Yahoo Groups to get the messages you need without clogging your inbox. (This feature is only available for Yahoo Groups which are set to make messages available to non-members. This might also be the case with Google Groups)

10) Import/export your list of XML subscriptions. A lot of feed readers will allow you to import or export a list of XML subscriptions via something called an OPML file. Don’t get turned off by the tech jargon. If you hire a new person to cover the blogs, it’ll help if you can just copy your list of feeds to their program and/or computer. Trust me, you won’t want to manually copy and paste the URLs of all of your feeds. And it’s helpful to save your feeds as an OPML file in case something happens to your feed reader.

-© 2006 Matt Lockshin


  • bloglines.com works really well too! it's free and easy.

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 1:15 PM  

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