Google Chrome Out of Beta sans RSS

Google Chrome for Mac came out of beta today (see “Google Chrome for Mac: Ready, beta, now stable!“) with many new features, but not with built-in RSS support. Even my first-generation iPhone can do better than that (granted, with a redirect through an Apple server to parse the XML of the feed into something intelligible). An RSS feed still displays as a jumble of text:

Click for large image of Google Chrome's RSS Display

Not that I spend a lot of time reading RSS feeds in my browser, but if I click on one (intentionally or otherwise), I really ought not get gibberish. If Google intends Chrome to be a serious competitor in a marketplace of choice for Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari, it really ought not leave users in the lurch. This is very un-Google-like behavior.
This is just the most recent in my series of rants about Google Chrome and RSS here, here, and here.

RSS Replay: Read a Blog Archive at your Leisure

Found a new-to-you blog that you want to read, but you don’t want to get sucked into it for the next few hours? RSS Replay looks like the tool for you. Give it an RSS feed and how often you want it to give you a new post, and it will do the rest. You can specify a new item from the backfile every day, every few days, or other intervals. You can also set a PageRank filter so you only see posts that have PageRanks above a specific threshold (all, good, great, or best).
This brings “slow reading” to a much different level!

RSS Replay screen shot

FreeMyFeed: A Really (Poor) Clever Idea

Have you even wanted to subscribe to an RSS feed in Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Bloglines or Google Reader (or anywhere else, for that matter), but discover that the feed is inconveniently served from behind a login-protected server? We all have, I think. Well, now a free web service allows you to do just that. As convenient as it is, this is a spectacularly poor idea.
FreeMyFeed handily takes care of those pesky login problems. You give it your feed URL, your login, and your password. It then gives you an alternate URL at FreeMyFeed that contains your login information in an encoded way. FreeMyFeed then acts as a proxy, grabbing the feed without storing your login credentials on its own server, and passing it along to your reader:

FreeMyFeed account set up screen

So I created a COMPLETELY FAKE login for this blog’s feed. The login does not exist, does not work, and is (of course) not a real login to anything: username rss4lib and password temp1234. The FreeMyFeed link that encodes this is:
Well, it is encrypted, but there’s usually a good reason that a feed is behind a login. This takes those feeds and puts them out in the public, where any search engine find them, index them, and expose your organization’s secure information. End runs around reasonable security are poor choices. I would recommend that, if your organization has RSS behind a login, that you work with your technical group to block FreeMyFeed from accessing your site.
To their credit, there is a fairly explicit disclaimer of the risks on the FreeMyFeed front page, that includes a warning to be careful and not to share your personalized URL with anyone (other than the feed readers, of course). So if you must use this tool, use it only on your own browser, not on an aggregator to minimize the sharing of an all-access URL to your feed. Don’t be tempted.

RSS to Twitter Tools

Twitter makes it easy for you to post updates to your followers, or the world at large. It’s well suited for quick updates, but less for “bloggy” content. How do you get your blog into Twitter without any particular effort? There are a variety of tools to help you do this. Here’s a quick overview of some of these tools. Use one I don’t mention? Let me know in the comments — I’ll update the post as needed.

All of these tools post on your behalf, which means that they use your Twitter account login and password behind the scenes. You provide the tool with your Twitter account login and password. You may wish to set up a separate Twitter account just for your blog if you’re concerned about sharing your Twitter login with a 3rd party.


FeedNest. This tool asks you for a bit more information about your feed than do others, so that users can search FeedNest and find your blog’s content. It asks you to describe your blog’s content and give the name of the site.

RSS Twitter

RSS Twitter. A simple interface — your Twitter account and your blog’s RSS feed.


TwitterFeed. I’ve used this tool for this blog in the past. It offers some statistics tracking for how your posts are read (by redirecting the links from Twitter tweets through its own server).

Twitter Tools

Twitter Tools (WordPress plugin). If you publish your blog with WordPress, there’s a plugin that will automatically send a tweet to Twitter when you publish your blog post.

Missing your Favorite?

Leave a comment and let me know which tool you use.

Google Chrome Beta for Mac and RSS

Another version of Google Chrome (version 4.0), on a new platform (now for Mac OS 10.5 and up) and the same old news about RSS: support isn’t there in the browser. Both RSS 2.0 and Atom feeds display inline in the browser as a huge jumble of text. (Get Chrome for Mac.)

Screen Shot
(Click image for full size version)

I’ve railed about the lack of RSS support for either rational inline display or for live bookmarks since the earliest versions of Chrome here and here.
Otherwise, a quick test of the new Chrome beta for Mac shows that it’s fast and efficient, as I’ve come to expect from Chrome’s Windows betas. I’m not sure I’ll trade over from either Safari or Firefox, even when Chrome does get RSS support, but Chrome is coming along.

Google Chrome 3.0: No RSS. Does It Matter?

Google today released a new version of Google Chrome for Windows. (The Mac version is coming later this year, Google promises.) Like its predecessors, this one also fails to support RSS natively in the browser — which means that, when you follow a link to an RSS feed, you get unreadable text on the screen, unlike in Firefox, IE, and Safari.

So What?

But does it matter? Has RSS jumped the shark? Or has it become so much a part of the Internet’s plumbing that we don’t actually use it, directly and intentionally, anymore?
As strong an advocate of RSS as I’ve been, I’m increasingly thinking that RSS, as a tool for the end user, is on the decline if not on the outs. As a tool for publishers to make their content available to other publishers and services it’s on the rise — but Jane Netizen doesn’t care, or need to care, what happens behind the scenes to get information from place to place.
Twitter, Facebook, and friend-enabled tools across the network are increasingly determining what each of us reads. What you or I stumble on (and then tweet, post, recommend, Digg, etc.) becomes what our friends looks at, and our friends’ friends, and their friends if it’s a really good (or funny) item.
I know I’ve fallen weeks behind in my feed reading; I cherry pick items from the flow in Twitter and Facebook, but rarely go on a full-fledged harvest for myself. I suppose it’s not all bad, but I ponder the effect of group think on my discovery of the new. I read what my friends read and recommend — and rarely, compared to a year or two ago, discover things in a self-directed (or self-misdirected) way.

Related Entries

Twitter and Librarians in the Classroom

An article in last month’s U.S. News and World Report (“Twitter Goes to College“) talked about how some college faculty and students were using Twitter in their classes send tweets during lectures — students could ask questions, post “huh?”, etc., — as a way of getting instant feedback on the class in process. Such “backchannel” behavior is common at library and technology conferences, but appears to be rising in academic settings.
This could provide another ‘in’ to the academic process for librarians — being able to monitor a lecture in process and jump in with tweets of resources that might help the students understand the context of what is being discussed. A single librarian monitoring several classes at once could provide ‘on the spot’ reference services without needing to be in the classroom or interrupting the flow of the lecture.
Are any librarians or libraries providing, or considering offering, such a service to faculty and students?

JavaScript RSS Box Viewer

I stumbled across yet another RSS embedding tool, the prosaically named JavaScript RSS Box Viewer. (See the “related posts” section below for my descriptions of several other similar tools.) RSS Box Viewer gives you a great deal of control over the output of your feeds (you can set the number of items to show, the width of the box, compact/expanded view, colors for the frame around the box, etc., etc.). Here, in fact, is a simple sample of the RSS4Lib feed that shows the most recent 3 headlines:

A few minor quibbles… The color palettes are “web safe”, which means you can’t match exactly the color scheme on the site. The web page where you configure your box doesn’t handle wide formats for the box very well — so if you want to preview your RSS feed wider than about 200 pixels, the preview overlaps the form you fill out (at least, for the Mac versions of Safari and Firefox). And the form requires you to enter an RSS feed’s URL, not the URL of the site — there’s no autodiscovery.

But in terms of ease of use, this seems as powerful as the hosted version of Feed2JS and as flexible as Google’s similar tool.

See Also

Feedmil Finds Feeds

A new feed-finding search engine, Feedmil, has made an appearance. Feedmil is a feed-only search engine with some clever interface features to help you narrow down your search.
Feedmil’s Google-inspired front page asks, “what are you into?” and provides a sliding control so that you can adjust the results from “surprising” to “well known” — at either end. Want only well known feeds? Move the left end of the slider to the right. As soon as you let go of the slider, your search starts — keeping you from adjusting both ends. I found it a bit surprising that the search started as soon as I moved a slider.

Feedmil front page

Feedmil gives you many ways to limit or refocus your search once it’s presented the initial results. Here are the results of a search for “rss library” (I was hoping to pull up my own blog, which did, though not in the first place that I crave…):

Feedmil front page

There are several filtering options running across the top: Feed type (starts at ‘all feeds’, but also lets you narrow searches down to blog feeds, microblog feeds, podcasts, public media feeds, and social media feeds); sort options (Feedmil rank, quality, and relevance), and language.
On the right, there’s a “topic significance” section that lets you select how much weight each of the topics (as determined by Feedmil) should have. Playing with these sliders reorders the search results; as with the front page, as soon as you let go of a slider, the display changes. If you want to restrict results to only one extreme or the other, simply move the slider all the way over.
Disturbingly, the results are displayed differently even if you don’t move the slider at all. For example, here’s the above search before and after clicking (but not moving) the “library catalog” slider:

Feedmil front page

I need to spend some more time using this tool, but I’m favorably impressed with my first look (aside from the odd interface issues noted above).

Journal Tables of Contents in the Catalog

I’ve written several times about TicTOCs (most recently in TicTOCs: It’s About Time). TicTOCs is a JISC-funded free service that collects RSS feeds for journal table of contents. If you go to the TicTOCs site you can search for journals (by title, ISSN, etc.), and find the RSS feed for that journal’s table of contents. They also offer a downloadable list of all the journals in their index, providing title, URL of the RSS feed, and ISSN. This should allow easy importing into a library catalog, federated search tool, or link resolver.
At least one library has implemented this feature. Peter van Boheemen, in his blogWebQuery @ Wageningen UR, describes how he added TicTOCs journal feeds to his catalog. A journal with a table of contents listed in TicTOCs has a link on the right side of the display to “Show recent articles” (this example is Die Naturwissenschaften from the Wageningen UR catalog):

Clicking on that link displays the table of contents for the most recent issue of the journal in the lower part of the screen. Each article is linked to the full text (in this particular example, directly to SpringerLink, but it could just as easily go through a library’s proxy server or link resolver to find a copy licensed for that library):

Is your library using TicTOCs like this? Share your site in the comments.