Monday, November 11, 2002

Low Tech Feed

My weblogging acquaintance Pascale Soleil sent me a note recently asking if I had an RSS feed for my weblog. She probably thought to ask as I've begun linking to NetNewsWire Lite in the sidebar. Since I recently upgraded my iBook to Mac OS X, I've been able to use this news aggregation tool and I've actually changed my weblog browsing habits, using it whenever a decent feed is available. Only a few sites that I read regularly don't have an RSS feed at all, and a couple have RSS feeds that are inadequate (listing article titles, but not providing any description is a sin of this sort). I think I'll be adding back a link to Follow Me Here, as his RSS feed is of this weak sort.

Alas, my answer to Pascale had to be "no." I use Greymatter as my weblogging tool, and it doesn't include RSS generation out of the box. Noah Grey has retired from developing this tool, and deserves the break. So further development is left to third parties. There are two RSS solutions that I've found for Greymatter, and both of them commit the sin I've described above, so I won't use them.

In the intervening period, I tried to set up a minimal installation of Movable Type, another weblogging tool, to evaluate it. It is said to have built-in RSS support. Whether it commits the sin described above I'd have to find out during evaluation. However, installation didn't go smoothly, since there were conflicts with Perl libraries at my ISP. I could ask him to update his Perl installation, and he might even do it, as he's a nice guy. But I've already asked a favor of him regarding authenticated SMTP, so I want to wait awhile before begging another one.

So that leaves roll-your-own. This weekend I began tinkering, reading the tutorial on RSS 0.92 linked above, running hacky perl scripts on my iBook.When the output of my tests validated, I was ready to go public. I'm currently running this script manually when I post an article or two. Eventually, I'll try to wedge it into the Greymatter cgi's so that it happens automatically. What it does is just scrape the front page for articles and stream them out in appropriate RSS format. I simplified my scraping by adding some comment tags to the front page template.

I reserve the right to retract this functionality at any time, but for now, the link to my 'feed' is in the left sidebar. Enjoy!

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