FeedBlendr is a web service that lets you remix your feeds. It has just launched the public beta of its second version. At first glance FeedBlendr does not appear to have a lot of bells and whistles, but it is an interesting and intelligent service that lets you easily remix many kinds of RSS feeds. And after closer examination, we can see that developer Beau Lebens has put a lot of love into the site - and actually there are bells and whistles after all. Let's take a look...
The basic idea behind the service is really simple - it's a pipe that takes one or more RSS feeds (or OMPL file) and outputs a single feed. For example, if you are into gadgets, you might combine Engadget, Gizmodo and CrunchGear like this:
The service allows you to combine RSS feeds with Atom feeds and it also produces the output in both formats. Here is the resulting gadget blogs feed in RSS 2.0 format. The items (posts) are merged together and ordered by date. This is the basic function that you would expect, but FeedBlendr also innovates with a set of additional convenience features.
Firstly there is a set of buttons that lets you subscribe to your output feeds via your favorite news reader. But the next feature is really convenient. You get two URLs that let you view the feed either in the browser (WYSIWYG format), or on your mobile device. Here is the browser version of our gadgets feed:
FeedBlendr for developers
There is much more that you can do with FeedBlendr, if you are a developer. This version of FeedBlendr offers four handy features. First is the simple ability to blend feeds using REST. To create a blend, you simply query http://FeedBlendr.com and pass the title, list of URLs or OPML file. This feature is conceptually similar to digg this! or post to del.icio.us.
The next feature lets developers link to the blend from any web site. There is a snippet of code that needs to be added to the site to accomplish this. You can also customize the look of the blend. However if you need more fine-grained control over the blend, you can use the JSON API.
Finally, you can also create and fetch blends using the FeedBlendr API. This is mostly handy for backend/server side software.
Ideas for blends
It is natural to ask just what sort of things can be done with FeedBlendr. Despite its simplicity, it can be used to create a range of interesting remixes. For example, you can remix a feed of new movie and dvd releases from different sources, producing a single movie feed. You can also use FeedBlendr to mix different media. Here is a feed that combines items tagged 'universe' from del.icio.us and flickr.
The website contains a whole page of tips on how to use the service. Here are some that looked fun to me:
- Make your own radio or tv station, by mixing together your favorite podcasts or videos.
- Blend events from multiple Google calendars;
- Combine feeds from 43places.com, 43things.com, 43people.com and AllConsuming.net to get an 'all-about-you' feed.
Finally, for those of you who love ego surfing, use Google Blogsearch to get news for each variant of your name - e.g. alex iskold or alexiskold - and then blend them all together for one healthy ego massage.
FeedBlendr is a well thought out service, but surely what we are seeing today is just the beginning. Other feed operations make sense. For example filtering feeds, by only letting through items that have certain keywords. Back in November, Richard profiled several such RSS services - including FeedRinse and BlastFeed. Another thing to do with feeds is sorting. Items can be ranked using a pluggable criteria - in the simple case, keywords; in a more complex case, a user's tastes.
There is a general set of operations that make sense to perform on feeds. Certainly blending, filtering and sorting operations are part of that set. It also makes sense to have a version of the blend that throws out duplicate entries, based on a supplied item identify. Please add other useful operations in the comments.
Once we think about remixing of feeds, we notice the similarity with Yahoo! Pipes and other remixing services. Yahoo! Pipes also helps you create new feeds, using the operations that we discussed. However, it is a generic tool and does not have many of the little handy things that FeedBlendr does. These differences aside, both FeedBlendr and Yahoo! pipes contribute to the growing trend of letting users remix the web.
And the remixing trend, in turn, is part of the increasing segmentation and personalization of content. To let users pick, choose and combine existing information across different web sites, blogs, podcasts, pictures and video -- is powerful, because it helps people focus their attention on what is important to them. So widgets, pipes and blenders likely signal the onset of the Attention Economy.
Give FeedBlendr a try - and share with us the mixes that you make.