Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Inoreader: Remix Your Own RSS Feed ... with social network content

A Twitter convo this morning with Josh Birdwell has prompted me to write up something about how I use Inoreader. I really should try to document more of the ways I use Inoreader because it is now my #1 essential tool both for teaching and for all my own projects. Thanks to Inoreader, I am now curating every day, keeping track of the huge flow of content that I read via my blog network (including student blogs) and also at Twitter and Google+. I'll write more about Inoreader as a curation tool in a separate post; my focus today is on using Inoreader to remix content for an outgoing combination RSS feed.

Remix RSS and More. The ability to remix RSS is very cool (remember YahooPipes?), but Inoreader takes that even farther because it also harvests non-RSS content from social network feeds at Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, rendering them as RSS. It's magic: you can recombine any of the content in Inoreader to send back out as an RSS stream, including social network content that is normally not available as RSS. Want an RSS feed of your Twitter? Facebook? Google+? Easy-peasy: you just subscribe to your feed with Inoreader, and then send it back out again as RSS.

Personal Combo Feed. What I do is actually to COMBINE all my different blog and social network feeds into a single outgoing RSS stream which you can see here on my homepage:

What you see there is an HTML clippings view of the RSS stream (Inoreader offers both RSS and a configurable HTML clippings option); the direct link to the RSS feed is there too. Not that I really expect anyone would want to subscribe to my RSS stream but, hey, they could do that. And if they did, here is what they would get:

Twitter: OnlineCrsLady
Twitter: OnlineMythIndia
my Google+ feed
plus the 11 blogs I actively maintain

I subscribe to these feeds in Inoreader (along with hundreds of other blogs, Twitter feeds, Google+ accounts, plus some Facebook accounts I follow), and I put my own personal feeds in a folder called "Laura Stream" (and a folder is really just a special kind of tag; you can put a feed in multiple folders). So, here is what my personal stream folder looks like in Inoreader:

If I used Facebook (I don't), then I could have my Facebook in there too. There's other online activity I could include as well (other blogs, Diigo, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube), but for various reasons I have left all that out, although of course I could change my mind about that at any time and add them in by add any of those subscriptions to this folder.

Export the RSS. So, how do I get from that folder of content to my combined RSS feed? I could just export that folder as an RSS feed (you can send out any folder as its own RSS feed), but I add an extra layer of control by using a rule that automatically tags new items in that folder with a tag, lkgrss.

Why add that extra layer of a specific tag? Because it means I can manually remove something from the feed if I want (by deleting the tag from any item) or I can manually add something to the feed (by adding that tag to any item). To be honest, I don't mess with this particular combination feed manually at all, but I got in the habit of using this tag-based approach because of how I use my class blog hubs, and so I used the same approach here too.

The rule system in Inoreader is incredibly powerful and easy to set up; adding a tag to new items in a folder is just one of gazillions of automatic functions you can perform. Based on the rule, for any new item in the folder, Inoreader automatically adds the tag I specify:

Then to export that tag back out as an RSS feed, I just go to that tag in Inoreader (you can browse by feed, folders, or tags), and configure that tag to export:

And that's how I make my personal RSS combination stream using Inoreader.

Personal Streams. As there is now a flurry of interest in personal APIs, I'm eager to see how this RSS-based approach compares to what people are doing with APIs. I see my web work as being basically ephemeral, and this personal RSS stream creates a dynamic but ephemeral presence (in what is almost real time). If anybody wants to see what I am doing online as I work, gives a good picture. It's not everything I do, but it sure is a lot of it!

In addition, I'm guessing my use of this stream would also give me a good basis for thinking about what it would mean to shift from this RSS-based feed to something more powerful like a personal API. But that would also be more complicated... and I'll confess the 3-minutes-you're-done simplicity of setting up a combination stream in Inoreader really appeals to me!

I'm not kidding about it taking 3 minutes.

1 minute: add feeds to folder
1 minute: create rule-based tag for folder
1 minute: export tag as RSS

And hey, if you only have 2 minutes instead of 3, you can skip the rule-based tag assignment. :-)

Yes, I love Inoreader. It takes in all the content and then lets me use/reuse, remix, and share... all thanks to the power of RSS. In the next post, I'll explain how it works as a search/curation tool.

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