Sololib had a discussion about people’s experience with aggregators and finding feeds. As I drafted my response, I realized I say these things a lot, so I thought I’d blog a version of what I wrote. My words will be familiar to those of you who have
suffered sat through any of my introduction to blogs and feeds presentations.
I know some of you will cringe when I mention Wikipedia, but one of the things it’s great for is articles about technology and lists to links for software on the Web. It has a decent entry about news aggregators and a list of links to aggregators. An aggregator (news aggregator, feed reader, etc., etc.,) is software that collects and displays XML feeds and similar and related formats. They come in many flavors: desktop, Web based, integrated into a Web site, part of a Web browser, stand alone software, etc., etc.
My primary aggregators have been the aggregators built into the blog platforms Manila and Frassle. Both recently stopped functioning as they used to, so I am currently looking for new aggregator software myself. A few days ago, I started playing with Pluck, which integrates into the Firefox browser and offers more than just the ability to read RSS and Atom feeds. I’ve also played with My Feedster and NetNewsWire Lite. (I highly recommend getting software that can handle many different kinds of feeds and files, not just RSS: Atom; enclosures; podcasts; images; video; etc., etc.) I think I’m going to look for a desktop aggregator instead of something that’s Web-based or relies heavily on an active Internet connection. Some newer versions of Web browsers offer aggregator modules. I have a feeling we’ll see more of that.
For those of you saying “Huh?,” Gerry McKiernan of Iowa State University has a fabulous bibliography about RSS and a list of what libraries are doing with feeds. I write about feeds and sometimes aggregators on this weblog.
Journalism professor Bob Stepno reviewed PC aggregators for PC World’s July 2004 issue. There’s also a review of Mac aggregators from about the same time. Some of what they report might be completely different now, but the articles might still be worth a look. There are probably more recent reviews available.
As for where to go to find feeds, I usually look for feed information on a specific site I’d like to subscribe to. Feedster and Technorati are two search engines specializing in feeds. It’s also possible to search for feeds in Google by typing ‘feed,’ ‘RSS,’ ‘Atom,’ or a similar word into the search string. Sometimes someone has already created a feed for a site that doesn’t offer its own; searching like that is one way to find it.
One site many people don’t know about that provides a cool way to find feeds is Share Your OPML. By joining the site (which is free and does not contribute to unsolicited e-mail), you can browse what feeds other people who participate in the site subscribe to, upload your own OPML file (that’s the file in your aggregator containing the data about your subscriptions) and get recommendations about feeds you might find useful.
I also ask colleagues and friends what they subscribe to and follow links from other people’s weblogs and Web sites.
Information overload? I’m really good at that when it comes to these topics.
Addendum 8/26: Peter Caputa of pc4media points here.