RSS and OPML for Feed Subscriptions

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When RSS first hit the web, no one really knew about it. It started to become a little more popular as more people started to post content. All these blog platforms started to publish these syndicated feeds. I give full credit to Dave Winer. If it weren’t for Dave, RSS and Blogging wouldn’t even exist in my mind.

I got a question from a reader who asked if there’s any way to import and export RSS subscriptions back and forth between RSS readers. The answer to that is yes, there is a simple way. If you use a Web browser, you have probably seen the RSS icon.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts. An RSS document contains either a summary of content from an associated web site or the full text. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that can be piped into special programs or filtered displays.

RSS content can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader” or an “aggregator”. The user subscribes to a feed by entering the feed’s link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds.

All of the newer Operating Systems come with built-in Feed Readers. Safari is the only Web browser that hasn’t picked up on the universal RSS icon yet. An RSS feed is designed to be used with a news aggregator. It checks to see which of your Feed subscriptions have updates, and then delivers them to you. But how do you synchronize all of your RSS feeds? I have plenty, let me tell you.

Leave it to Dave… he came up with something called OPML. In your news aggregator there’s going to be a way for you to export your subscriptions. When you export your subscriptions, it should save it as an OPML file. That file should be able to be imported into any other news aggregator. You can easily move your subscriptions back and forth as often as you want, from and to any news aggregator of your choosing.


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What is OPML? – OPML – Outline Processor Markup Language – has been floating around for a few years now, but what is it and how do you edit those files?

Essentially OPML is a type of XML document which was designed to help you organize data in an outline fashion, rather than maintaining all of the data in one big messy chunk, making it easier to transfer information back and forth betweens ervices.

Editing and OPML file is pretty simple. Since it’s an XML format, you can simply use your favorite text editor.

Of course, any XML editor will work, since OPML is an XML format.

Dave Winer has an OPML editor:

The OPML Editor follows in the tradition of simple text-based tools masquerading as a rich development platform. Or is it the other way around? It’s always been this way. The most powerful applications are also the most powerful development platforms. The various text editors on Unix. Quark XPress on the Macintosh. Notepad on Windows. Inside every text editor is the potential of platform, and every platform must have a simple text editor.

Buzz is an open-source,c ross platform, OPML editor that you may want to try in place of Dave Winer’s editor.

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TagJag in Firefox

From Rickie Dickie, a passionate OPMLer – pointing out that grazr makes TagJag OPML much more usable on-demand:

Here’s a TagJag / grazr mashup smart bookmarklet for Firefox (right-click and add this link to your Bookmarks). Written as a smartlet – but JUST in case you don’t know what that is, you name the bookmark keyword to something like “tags” and then in the address bar type “tags gnomedex” to browse TagJag’s OPML for that keyword in grazr. I posted HTML embedding script; check out grazr’s site for particulars.

The equiv favelet (bookmarklet) for either IE or Firefox would be something like this:

[js]javascript:d=document;wgS=window.getSelection;dgS=d.getSelection();dS=d.Selection;q=(encodeURIComponent(‘%s’)==’%2525s’?”:’%s’)+(wgS?wgS():dgS?dgS():dS?dS.createRange().text:”);if (!q)q=prompt(‘Enter tag’,”);open(‘,sans-serif&fontsize=8pt&file=http%3A//’ + q + ‘/opml’);void(‘rickdog’)[/js]

This favelet is written to work like this:

  • If nothing is selected and there is no smartlet argument on the address line, you’re prompted for a keyword
  • If text is selected and there is no smartlet argument, the selected text is the keyword
  • If no text is selected but there is a smartlet argument, the argument is the keyword
  • If both text is selected and there’s a smartlet argument, they are combined to make a single keyword (smartlet + selected text)

I must also note the new Maxthon TagJag sidebar plugin – which is still getting tweaked. Oh, and Rickie Dickie also grazjag’ed a YubNub!


OPML is great – and for feed organization, it’s equally awesome. Just about every news aggregator supports importing and exporting OPML, but there hasn’t yet emerged an OPML icon design that is equally as appealing as the “standard” feed icon set forth by Firefox and subsequently adopted by the industry. In working with information architects on TagJag, we decided to dedicate some cycles to designing an OPML icon for use on the site:


Before you ask, I did float this past Dave (who didn’t like it much, but suggested I ask others what they thought of it). We’re certainly open to suggestions, but as it stands – this is the design we’re gonna use for linking to OPML files. It’s pretty much like the “standard” feed icon, but it’s… different. Check out

Tagging Your Posts for Gnomedex

I’ve had a few people ask me what to tag their posts as for Gnomedex. I say (and have always said) just tag things “Gnomedex” and leave it at that. If you wanna get fancy, you can also do Gnomedex6, Gnomedex06, Gnomedex2006, or SirNotAppearingInThisFilm. For maximum flash efficiency, stick with “Gnomedex” and call it a day. The only other tag we’d like to recommend is “GnomedexDiscussion” – for the times when you’d like to make a comment on something that’s being said at the conference – specifically when we run out of time for a discussion on-site. If you want to watch what’s happening with any of the keywords, you can import any of the following into your news aggregator from TagJag:

TagJag outputs OPML and RSS without you ever needing to visit the site! Plus, it combines tag search directories (fresh, like Flickr, Technorati, or de.l.ici.ou.s) with traditional search directories (static, like Yahoo!, Ask, or MSN).