RSS is today’s standard for syndicating dynamic content on the web: for an introduction to RSS, jump over to our Experiments post on RSS, Feeds, and Syndication.
Mashups: Combining, filtering, and manipulating feeds
When you combine data or functionality from two or more website sources, the result is called a mashup. RSS feeds can be combined to create such mashups, and there are many tools that allow you to do this from a web browser. RSS manipulation isn’t limited to combining feeds, though; you can filter feeds by keywords, re-order feed items, and truncate long feeds. The tools below offer some of these, and other, capabilities, and they all operate in a similar way: the tool will fetch the feed(s) that you input, describe the ways in which the feed(s) can be manipulated, and offer a new syndication feed with the results. All of the tools below are free to use, though some require registration.
- FeedMingle can combine multiple feeds of differing formats and output them into RSS, ATOM, JSON, or as a widget.
- Feedweaver offers some simple filtering tools for feeds using keywords.
- Feed.informer creates “digests” of multiple feeds, and can output them into an HTML document, a .PDF file, or a Flash file.
- xFruits hosts “modules” to handle many different tasks: one can consolidate many RSS feeds into one, another turns a feed into a Web page, and another can create a mobile-friendly version of any blog from an RSS feed.
- Yahoo! Pipes features an easy-to-use graphical interface for manipulating feeds in a multitude of ways.
Yahoo! Pipes: Rewiring the Web
Without extensive experience with Web technologies, advanced manipulation of RSS is out of reach for most people. Yahoo! developed its Pipes service with that in mind: to enable anyone to mash up and remix feeds using a visual editor. Pipes allows you to:
- Combine multiple feeds into one, then filter, sort and translate them into other languages.
- Add geographical data to feed items, and add them to an interactive map.
- Build search pages with filters and options impossible with ordinary search engines.
- Create widgets for your blog, Web site, or homepage.
- Translate feeds into different formats.
Pipes in a Learning Environment
If you already use RSS feeds in your research or curriculum, Yahoo! Pipes is another tool you can use to optimize that flow of information. If you’re just starting out with RSS and Pipes, consider some of the following potential pedagogical uses.
Create a “State of Scholarship” Feed.
Pipes can be a great resource for research and scholarship. Instead of combing the web daily for scholarly input on a specific topic, create a Pipe that uses the “Google Base” module to search for you. Combine that module with a few RSS feeds of your choice, a static Web page, and then sort all those items by date, and you’ve created the beginnings of a useful research Pipe. Publish the Pipe on your course blog, subscribe to it by e-mail, or just refer to it when you need to. Take a look at this sample Pipe, which combines RSS feeds, Google search results, and a static Web site into a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning research mashup.
Keep Track of Calls-for-Papers in your Discipline
Build a Pipe that runs multiple searches, across the Web or just specific Web sites, to find calls-for-papers in a discipline of interest. Then, have Pipes send the results to your cellphone to alert you whenever a relevant CFP appears.
Create a Twitter Mashup to Follow a Research Community
Twitter is rich with data – it’s a global thought-stream for every topic conceivable, and you can use it to keep abreast of the latest interesting discoveries relevant to your research or class subject matter. Search Twitter for keywords in an area of interest, pull the RSS feeds from the Twitter search results page, and then mash up those feeds in Pipes.
Ask Students to Construct a Research Plan Mashup
Ask students to create their own Pipes mashup feed to uncover their thought processes in constructing a comprehensive research plan in a new media environment. Hold peer-review sessions for students to discuss their mashups, get feedback, and refine their plans.
Aggregate Blog Activity
Yahoo! Pipes can be used to combine feeds from multiple blogs. Take a look at the MAENGL pipe, which pulls post and comment feeds from the Georgetown English Department blog community and consolidates all activity into a single feed (see the video below for a better explanation). In the Communication, Culture, and Technology 505 class, professors Michael Coventry and Janine Turner ask students to post assignments to their individual ePortfolio blogs. By using Pipes, Coventry and Turner are able to aggregate all student activity onto the main course blog.