Scripting News for 2/20/2007

The Economist has a podcast feed. 

PrioritiesNH tracks political events in NH. 

Doc Searls doesn’t believe in “social media.” 

Reading lists in 2007? 

In late 2005 I was promoting the idea of OPML reading lists.

We added support for them to the NewsRiver aggregator, built into the OPML Editor (which is the latest rev of the UserLand reader, which traces its roots back to My.UserLand in 1999).

Mike Arrington wrote an excellent and simple TechCrunch piece about reading lists.

I’m wondering if other RSS developers have done work with reading lists. If so, I’d like to help users, publishers and authors find out about what they’re doing.

If you have information, or questions, please post a comment here.

Twitter trail 

Yesterday, I was reading a blog post where a guy was talking about how Brent Simmons is a great developer, and pointed to his Twitter log for an example of how he keeps his community of users in his loop.

It immediately made me think of how the team at UserLand worked on Radio 8 at the end of 2001. We had a great outlining tool for keeping each other informed about what we were doing, even though we all worked in different places and many in different time zones, and what made me think of it of course was that Brent was on the team, and how well he used this tool.

Then it occurred to me that Twitter and the outlining tool would probably be nice when used together, which led me to wonder if Twitter had an API, which it turns out it does.

20 responses to this post.

  1. Dave,

    Have a look at
    a) the online service Grazr at (an OPML grazer) and
    b) the JAVA based Desktop reader for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux called BlogBridge at, supporting reading/subscribing to and publishing of Reading Lists

    Ik like both very much.

    And finally I would like yo point you at Ton And’s ‘Top 150’ (
    that was made by Tod and Marjolein Hoekstra ( There is a River of News included too! 🙂


  2. Re: OPML lists and ‘trees’ – etc expect some along these lines soon

    The system developed behind enables just that, it’s just that naturally with we are only interested in feeds with audio or video enclosures.

    So, is a ‘client’ of this larger system which will be able to support all types of ‘types’ – all supporting OPML inclusion.

    I don’t think you should call them ‘lists’ – I think ‘trees’ is more descriptive. ‘Reading trees’. People can either ‘climb’ up then to find the ‘fruit’ (content) they want, or they could wait for the most popular to drop into their lap. Also through looking through ‘leaves’ (tags) they can be sure of following the right branches, as they ‘climb’ up the tree, deep and deeper into the directory/tree. (‘directree’? 😉 )

    OPML is the tree
    FEEDS are the vines
    TAGS are the leaves
    ITEMS/ENCLOSURES are the fruit.

    The coolest thing about OPML inclusion, is you could think of it like climbing up a tree, going along a branch, and then ‘zap’, you’re in another tree. Like magic. Painless. Rewarding. 😉


    Semantics. Taxonomy. Folksonomy.

    Now that’s what I call a ‘social media network’ 😉


  3. I hope to be able to let some users in to try out the system in the next 4 weeks.

    Then people could create something like : , which is my ‘listening tree’/ podcast folders/ ‘tree of sound’

    One reason why I think there are more OPML ‘lists’ than ‘trees’ out there is that there are too few tools out there to effectively manage an OPML file. Your apps have been the best to date (once we got the rss attributes sorted)

    I mean managing OPML folders/nodes effectively, over import/export of ‘flat’ lists. So many systems eith dont ‘do’ folders or destroy them on import/export.

    Also, I think we really need to evangelise the concept of ‘OPML subscription’ .
    OPML files are so often used as static files to import/export bunches of feeds. It is indeed great for backup in that sense. But I believe that ‘OPML Subscription CONNECTS’ all these trees/branches out there. When one branch changes on one tree – if there is an ‘inclusion’ (think of it like a shortcut/symbolic link to a folder) then the other will be able to reflect that if one was to climb that branch.

    The trees are ALIVE! So subscribe to them! Watch them grow 😉 Feed them, prune them and ‘graft’ ‘cuttings’ to their branches.

    Clearly for this to work, we also need well defined standards to make sure the data out there is well-formed – or we’re screwed 😉 but let’s not make the same mistake the web browsers did, by just displaying html if it was broken or not.

    I feel like doing another podcast 😉


  4. Posted by cowhand on February 20, 2007 at 8:00 am

    We needed a way to wrangle all of the agriculture news organizations at land grant universities. Here’s an OPML file reading list of some key news outlets with RSS feeds that has come in handy:

    But more importantly, if we have an outbreak of some foreign animal disease or major agriculture catastrophe here in Texas, this is an OPML file listing all Texas counties by district with media outlets (not completely finished yet):

    Some would say why do this? You already have HTML (in fact, they already have said this at a conference recently where I did an OPML demo.) What they don’t see is that OPML allows one to view information in one single window with the expand, collapse, RSS news-reading function. No more looking for bookmarks, opening multiple browser windows, tabs, hopping from site to site. It’s all there, completely organized. Best of all, you can build on other poeple’s work and make a product even better!!!

    Isn’t that what the Web is supposed to be about!


  5. Grazr is indeed GREAT! We really like those guys too. We provide links to view any folder on in a Grazr pane.

    Who knows, one day we could think about providing a full Grazr pane into our main site. Mike Kowalchik has done a great job there, under Adam Green’s guidance. (With help from Tom Morris) 😉

    I’m looking forward to being able to ‘program’ what the Grazr panes ‘do’ when you hit a feed, via some API etc.

    One great thing about ‘OPML plus RSS to the POWER of USERS’ is that in many ways, it *is* the API 🙂


  6. Hi Dave

    the UK National Library foir Health has been offering OPML reading lists for a while now. For example, this page – – has a link to the OPML file for medicines information RSS feeds.


  7. Dave,

    Technorati supports OPML reading lists, so you can import and export your vfavorites. For example, here’s mine:

    I also did a quick hack that takes your favorites and creates a simple news river for them. It’s pretty alpha, but you can try it out here:

    Here’s my favorites tagged ‘personal’ put into that news river:



  8. Did you see the Flash movie of Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen linked from the NH priorities page? Well done.


  9. Heh, “socal media”. Was that an intentional typo, Dave? If so, very funny.

    The Tinfinger OPML reading list links to all of the sites it monitors, following its category tree.


  10. Heh. Sorry Paul it was a typo.


  11. We’re currently experimenting with a reading list plugin for our Windows RSS reader, Snarfer. The plugin lets you subscribe to an OPML url which will appear as a special folder in the feed list. The folder automatically updates itself as feeds are added and removed from the OPML source.

    This version is still in beta at the moment, but we’re hoping to have a release fairly soon.

    What would be really useful, is if you could provide some links to good sources of reading lists. I’ve seen a couple mentioned in these comments, but isn’t there somewhere users can go to find more of these things? Basically something like, but for OPML rather than RSS.


  12. Last winter I was involved with a project creating an app called Feedzo ( that was sort of a cross between Grazr, ShareYourOPML, and Amazon’s lists.

    You could create, tag, and share reading lists of RSS feeds, export them into a widget, and download them as OPML. It was a pretty slick app (if I do say so myself), and nearly finished in June 2006 when we abruptly, and inexplicably, decided to stop working on it. Perhaps I should pick the project back up again. 😉

    The closest thing out there to what we were doing is probably Feed Collectors:


  13. @James: Here is an impressive collection of Reading lists:
    It is the BlogBridge list of Topic Guides


  14. Re: The Economist

    There’s a small team working in London on innovative approaches for The Economist. I met up with them last week. Their team blog is

    From their about page: “Project Red Stripe is an initiative to empower a small team to develop and bring to market an innovative web-based idea by July 2007.”

    You’ll see that they are open to ideas, I’m sure Scripting News people could give ’em a few 😉


  15. @Fred: I’d be concerned about recommending the BlogBridge reading lists, because in all the examples I’ve seen they seem to be redirecting the feeds through their own servers. Take a look at the Top 10 OPML for example. Every feed in that reading list is hosted at

    Obviously they’re providing those lists so they have the right to implement them however they choose. However I find what they’re doing extremely disconcerting. I wouldn’t want a third party tracking the feeds I read. And what if their servers go down? Suddenly you can’t read those feeds anymore.

    I don’t mean to be too critical of them, because I’m sure they’re providing a great service for their own users. However I was hoping to find something more open than that.


  16. @James: Agree! You’ve got a point there.


  17. Just a clarification – BlogBridge doesn’t host the feeds on our servers. You’re first paragraph got it correctly, we are just redirecting, ONE TIME, the feed so we can show people things like top 10 and top 100 subscribed through us.


  18. Pito : I think this is something we have spoken about. While I see that you’re doing providing OPML collections of RSS feeds, I agree that it’s a bit disconcerting that you are not pointing to the original RSS feed.

    We had this discussion at

    What I did was add a new attribute, which is meaningful to our system, yet will not break anyone else’s OPML readers – originally I had thought to provide a redirect.

    One way you could also rectify this, is to provide the stats of those redirects to the publisher of the feeds. And this too, is something we a planning to ask podcast rss feed producers in the near future if this would he useful for them. This would require a ‘claim feed’ process though.


  19. Kosso: Yes we did discuss it, I remember. And before we implemented ours we also considered the pros and cons and thought we were on the right side of the law as it were… But, we will take another look at our architecture to see how we can solve this problem to make sure everyone is comfortable.


  20. @Pito: All the feeds I tested in your reading lists were using 302 (i.e. non-permanent) redirects. That means aggregators wouldn’t update the URLs and would thus be redirecting through your servers *every* time they refresh. That may not have been your intention, but that’s the way it seems to be working at the moment.

    Even with permanent redirects I don’t really like the idea because it makes it more difficult for aggregators to do duplicate detection. I can’t tell when syncing with your reading lists if I’ve already subscribed to a particular feed without connecting first. The end result is that users end up with multiple subscriptions to the same feed.


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