May 15, 2020

More about Export: OPML

In addition to HTML export and RSS export, I want to mention OPML export, which is a file format that can be used to export groups of feeds, specifically so that you can move a collection of feeds from one RSS reader to another. In other words, you can share your folders with other people, including people who use Inoreader as their feed reader, or for them to use at another feed reader like Feedly.

OPML is one of those export options you see when you click on a Folder, and then View Folder Information:

When you click on OPML, you will see the XML file that provides all the information about the feeds in your folder. For example, this is the file for the Summer2020 Blog Fest folder I've created this summer:

Static OPML. Notice a big difference here from the RSS option: this is a list of the feeds in that folder at this time. If I add new feeds to the folder later, people who have subscribed to the feeds using this file in the past will not automatically be subscribed to the feeds I've newly added. So, for example, I can take this URL, go to Feedly, and subscribe to those feeds. Feedly opens the OPML file and then gives me the option to click-click-click to subscribe to those feeds individually.

To be honest, because it is static, and because the Feedly interface for the import is so poor (at least, I am not.a Feedly fan), if a student is subscribing with Feedly, the RSS export is way better.

But for people who are using Inoreader........ there is an amazing option: dynamic OPML subscriptions.

Dynamic OPML. This is an ingenious feature at Inoreader that (so far as I know?) is not available at other feed readers: dynamic OPML. With Inoreader, you can subscribe to an OPML file address, and then Inoreader will ping that file, just like it pings RSS sources, updating that OPML file to reflect new subscriptions. For more about how that works, see the details from Inoreader here: OPML Subscriptions.

This type of dynamic OPML subscription is available for people using the free Inoreader service, so if your students are using Inoreader, you offer them the option of subscribing to the dynamic OPML file for your class folder if you want. That would mean that, instead of just seeing all the class content as a single feed, they would see all the individual blog feeds in the folder.

So, to subscribe to the OPML file, you would go to Preferences - Import - OPML Subscription.

Presto: like magic, your students see the same folder and feeds that you do, which allows them not only to browse the network as a single content stream, but also as the individual blog feeds of students in the class.

Plus, as you add new students to the class, the feed updates automatically! For free accounts, those updates to OPML subscriptions happen just once every 24 hours, but that's fine!

I don't know about you, but whenever I load up an OPML subscription like that in Inoreader I just kind of gasp: it's one of those magic moments where I think about the seriously smart people who build these data standards and applications. It is just SO COOL.

Okay, now that we've covered those three types of Inoreader export, I will move on next time to talk about Inoreader Bundles, which is a way to browse and share collections of feeds within the Inoreader system. (And, unlike export, Bundles are part of the free Inoreader application.)