FeedBlendr – Feed Remix Service

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…

FeedBlendr features

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:

You can also get an instant OPML file of the input feeds. This OPML can then be reused
by FeedBlendr for more remixing. For developers, there is a piece of JavaScript
that can be inserted into any document and then restyled using CSS.

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.

Beyond blending

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.

Conclusion

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.

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