RSS to iPhone / iPod touch

DoYouFeed, a site that takes an RSS feed and formats it for pretty viewing on an iPhone or iPod touch. Once you give it an RSS feed to process, it returns an iPhone- iPod touch-friendly web page with the headlines and brief descriptions from the feed. Clicking on an article link pulls up the full text of the item but without the blog’s trappings — very handy if you’re using your gadget on a slow data network (as opposed to wireless).

While the reader itself works as advertised, I have two criticisms. The first is that the iPhone’s version of Safari already knows how to read RSS feeds — it does so by routing them through a service that Apple provides.

The second, and more serious one, is that DoYouFeed puts advertisements at the bottom of the full text article, thereby making money from the blogger’s words without returning any of it to the author. In the case of the DoYouFeed version of RSS4Lib’s feed, this is in direct violation of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 license I placed in the RSS feed. This license only allows, as it says, non-commercial use of the feed. DoYouFeed should parse the RSS feed and either not display non-commercial-use only feeds or not display advertisements on them.

Update (4:00 PM 11/20/08) — fixed URL to DoYouFeed; left off a pesky “www.”

RSS Mixer

RSS Mixer, a recently released as an “alpha”, lets you create an account, input one or more RSS feeds, and gives you a combined output. Once you’ve set up an account (using OpenID or a one-off account at the site), entering feeds to mix is straightforward. The user interface is available in eight languages (there’s a language link in the site’s footer). Choices include German, English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese.
Mixed feeds can be tagged and shared — there are built-in widgets for mobile versions, creating web widgets, emailing a mixed feed to a friend, and exporting a mix as an OPML file, in addition to the version viewable on the RSS Mixer site — for example, an ego search for RSS4Lib.
One thing I noticed is that sorting in mixes is odd. In the above two-feed mix (comprised of RSS4Lib’s RSS feed and a Technorati search feed for “rss4lib”), an RSS4Lib entry is sometimes followed by one or more posts discovered by Technorati about that particular entry. Other times, the Technorati post comes first. In all cases, though, the RSS4Lib entry was posted before anyone could comment on it — sorting should be consistent, whatever the algorithm is.
By further mashing up RSS Mixer’s output, it is possible to create a keyword search across multiple specific feeds. FeedSifter (reviewed here in July 2008) lets you searching a feed for one or more keywords. As a test of this, I used RSS Mixer to create a combined feed out of about 55 RSS- and library-related feeds. I then used FeedSifter to limit that to anything in that mixed feed that mentions metadata.
It would not surprise me if searching were on the drawing board for a future version of RSS Mixer, but there’s no indication of this functionality now.

Thanks to Suzanne for the tip about RSS Mixer.

New Google Wannabe: Cuil

A new search engine created by ex-Googlers went public today: Cuil, pronounced, the site tells us, “cool;” it’s the Gaelic for “knowledge.” (And “hazel,” which seems less relevant.) The site seems to be suffering a bit from newcomer’s paralysis — the info page is currently not loading and some searches are timing out. Cuil claims to have indexed 120 billion pages, more than Google (which knows about over a trillion, but only indexes a small portion — though just how small, or large, Google’s not saying).
At first blush, I like Cuil’s layout. It presents results in two or three columns (you decide). Many results come with a small thumbnail image. In some cases, though, the image was of questionable relationship to the search; images were not present on the page you link to in a few cases. How images are applied is a mystery to me.

Cuil search results

A search for “"University of Michigan Library"” (a phrase, including the quotes) finds it. It also presents “categories” of results on the right, with nicely bundled results.

Cuil categories for search

However, its currency is a bit poor, at least for low-traffic sites like RSS4Lib. A search at Cuil for RSS4Lib pulls up the main page as the first result, but the text shown dates from October 2007, quite a few posts ago).
There’s no apparent way to save a search alert (by email or RSS), which is unfortunate, as that seems to me to be just part of doing business. The interface, though, is quite clean and (at least for now) free of advertising. I’ll be curious to see how this new search tool develops.
For those of you who enjoying poring through your servers log files, Cuil is powered by the “twiceler” crawler you may noticed going through your site.

TinyPaste Offers Short URLs for Long Quotes

TinyPaste is a tool that does for blocks of text what TinyURL does for URLs: Give you a nice, short, URL to pass along, rather than the full-length one for the page. (A TinyURL example: is much shorter than the full URL for the page you get to.)
So TinyPaste lets you copy a block of text, paste it into a form at, and get a similarly short URL in return. See — which is the entire text of this blog post. There is also a Firefox extension that makes TinyPaste available from the right-click menu, so any text you see in your browser can be highlighted and turned into a TinyPaste URL.
TinyPaste is handy for getting long blocks of text into services like Twitter or a Facebook status (by putting in the TinyPaste URL rather than the full text), but it comes with several drawbacks. All formatting (other than line breaks) disappears completely. So do links. And most disturbing, to me, is the utter lack of indication of where the original came from. In the web page version it is, of course, possible to manually insert the URL or other attribution into the text before creating the TinyURL. For the Firefox plugin, though, this can — and I think should — be automatic.

[Via Lifehacker.]

Feedbooks: RSS to PDF for Offline Reading

Feedbooks is a site that turns an RSS feed — your own or your favorite daily read — into a PDF file for offline reading. A sample of Feedbooks’ PDF options for RSS4Lib’s feed can be found here: rss2pdf. It includes PDF files formatted for A4 paper, the Cybook & Sony Reader, iLiad, and “Custom PDF,” which is in this case standard-sized U.S. paper.
The tool works quickly, generating a PDF on the fly. First, set up an account at Feedbooks. Then, create a “News” item and enter the RSS feed you wish to subscribe to. The system defaults to A4 paper size; there is not a default 8.5″ x 11″ size. (You can set the Custom PDF page size to this selecting the “custom settings” link and entering the page size in millimeters: 216 by 279 millimeters.) The resulting PDF file can then be downloaded; a link is provided for bookmarking.

Other customizations are font (from a handful of common fonts), font size, and line height. The font choice only applies to the item content, not to the item title. Feeds are displayed one per page, which leaves a lot of white space (a solution I prefer to that used by FeedJournal, which I reviewed in December 2007). The PDF download has a table of contents with page numbers, though the page numbers themselves are not displayed on subsequent pages. I also noticed that some posts in the Feedbooks PDF version lost their paragraphs and were presented as one long block of text. The site seems to reproduce all the items in the RSS feed; the RSS4Lib RSS feed has 15 items, all of which are in the Feedbooks feed.

[Via The Distant Librarian.]

FeedHub Review

I’ve been testing out FeedHub, a tool that organizes and filters your RSS feeds based on topics (“memes,” in FeedHub’s parlance) you express interest in. So far, I’ve found that it helps put things I want to read nearer the top of the list, although it doesn’t do as good a job as my own system of reading certain feeds first.
To get started with FeedHub, you need to set up an account and import an OPML file from your favorite aggregator. The signup procedure was a bit confusing; it wasn’t obvious to me that uploading an OPML file was a required part of the process. Once I figured that out, though, setting up an account was a breeze.
I exported an OPML file from Bloglines (over 120 feeds) and FeedHub started digesting it. The process took several hours; I was warned that it would be time consuming, and it was. When I came back to FeedHub the next day, it had finished its processing and offered me a new RSS feed to which I needed to subscribe to see my filtered feeds. So I added this new feed into Bloglines to monitor it.
Within the FeedHub feed, each post is reproduced along with an indication of relevance, the memes FeedHub has assigned to the post, and a thumbs up/thumbs down rating icon. Sample (for a recent post in OCLC’s WorldCat blog, “Rating and review features updated, more cover art added‘):

FeedHub RSS Entry

Once you click the appropriate rating thumb, a new window appears in which FeedHub displays its updated relevancy for that article and a series of memes that it has found for that particular post. You can then provide an importance for each meme in your overall reading interests. For example:

FeedHub Meme Rating

This post has been assigned two memes by FeedHub, “tools” and “virtual reality”. (The underlying software, mSpoke, is responsible for assigning memes to topics.) Next to each meme is a series of graphics, reflecting five options for rating that meme: “No opinion,” “No thanks,” “Sometimes,” “Usually,” and “Yes, please.” I’ve previously given the “tools” meme a “usually” rating but haven’t previously expressed an opinion about the Virtual reality meme.
FeedHub can display all the memes it’s gathered to describe my reading interests. Here are the memes I’ve rated as “Yes, please” and “Usually:”

FeedHub Meme Rating

You can drag and drop individual memes from category to category, making it simple to update FeedHub’s settings. You can also add other memes via search interface or add memes that are based on source (i.e., “in popular feeds”, “in TechCrunch”, etc.) or that reflect social web sources — “on the del, hotlist”, “popular on Digg”, etc.).
So what’s the net effect of FeedHub on my blog reading? It’s been mixed in the week I’ve been testing it. I think I would have been happier had I given it a more homogeneous set of RSS feeds rather than everything — library-related, technology-related, blogs of friends that I follow, news, etc. I think it has a hard time initially figuring out what I actually want to read because the sources are so disparate. I have since pruned my FeedHub subscription list to be just library- and technology-related feeds, which seems to have improved its fidelity. (Or it could be that I’ve simply voted on more items, giving it a better sense of what I actually like.)
FeedHub also notes which blog posts I click through to read at the source site. Since most blog posts are published in their entirety in the RSS feed, I’m not sure how useful this is; I rarely go to the blog’s site to read a post.
Overall, I’m intrigued by the tool and plan to keep using it. However, I’m not yet ready to ditch my entire feed collection as individual posts in favor of FeedHub’s filtered approach.


FeedJournal is a service that turns RSS feed into printable PDF documents formatted like newspapers. At present, there is a free version that converts a single RSS feed into a newspaper-like PDF file. There will soon be paid versions that will allow subscribers to create PDFs out of multiple feeds. The tool is still under active development.
I asked for a reviewers’ account of FeedJournal; Jonas Martinsson was kind enough to provide one to me. FeedJournal organizes feed items into newspaper-like pages. For a sample of how the RSS4Lib site looks (for the period from October 22-December 10, 2007), see RSS4Lib in PDF (433 KB). I also tested the multiple-feed version with four weblogs (PDF, 189KB). This RSSpaper contains four items from each webblog’s feed: RSS4Lib,, Library Stuff, and Information Wants to Be Free.

The newspaper format — multiple columns with articles spreading across one or more — is easy to read and highly portable. A printed PDF is even more portable than Google Reader’s “offline” version; no laptop required. I can see this being a great tool for libraries to make easily-printed handouts of RSS feeds for subject guides, current alerts from databases, and so on. It also seems this might be a good way for librarians to show busy administrators all the good stuff that’s out in the blog world.

My only quibble with FeedJournal is the organizational scheme it imposes on the feeds. It’s a bit idiosyncratic, apparently based on fitting the blog posts into the fewest pages, not by relative freshness of the items or estimated importance. For example, because I liveblogged the ASIS&T Annual Meeting, I had an uncharacteristically large number of longer posts. The result is that the first page of the RSS4Lib PDF comprises one conference session and one short item I wrote several weeks later. Page 2 is the 3rd conference post. Page 3 contains the start of the 2nd conference post (which is continued on page 9). The 4-blog version has similar oddities; each page has posts from throughout the last several weeks.

Of course, FeedJournal is a pre-release product so some oddities are to be expected. I hope, though, that a future version, if not the release, will combine freshness with some estimate of importance (using Technorati, for example, to boost the most linked-to items to the front page). Having an easy-to-print and easy-to-read document is a definite plus.