How and Why to Mix Feeds - My "Elevator Pitch"
A feedmix is a "metafeed" made by combining individual feeds into one:
- Feedmixes are to feeds as feed readers are to blogs (and other syndicated content). By collapsing and reducing the number of information flows we manage, feedmixes can dramatically improve the efficiency with which we consume and distribute information.
- You don't need to read related feeds one at a time any more than you needed to visit individual sites and blogs. You probably read more than one feed in areas like Finance, Music, Productivity, Business, Friends, etc. Wouldn't it be convenient to read all your friends' blogs in a single feed? Do video clips from Google Video or YouTube really need separate feeds? Why not read about the latest toys from Engadget and Gizmodo in a "Gadgets" feed? A good feed mixing service will include the source of each item in the feed, so you don't lose that information by mixing.
- Feedmixing makes it easy to corral "loosely coupled" content, focus it, and redistribute it as an attention stream. People tag content on blogs, news sites, social bookmarking sites, wikis, search engines, video & photography blogs, etc. Using common tags makes it possible find all that related content, even though it exists in totally different systems. This is considered "loosely coupled" content, and it can be used by an individual, or a loosely coupled community. Feedmixing is a tool for bringing together and redistributing content you choose from several different sites.
Some of my feedmixes
Not all feeds are ideal for mixing, and there are good reasons you might not want to mix some feeds, even if they're related. Here are some general examples of feedmixes I've made for myself, with explanations of why I think they're good candidates for mixing:
- From Friends - A single feed of my friends' various content feeds becomes valuable as more friends start producing more and more feeds:
- Photos on Flickr - Flickr conveniently mixes all my contacts' photos into a single feed, so in this case I'm actually adding a "pre-mixed" feed to my feedmix. The fact that all my friends don't use Flickr isn't a problem, since I can add any feed-enabled photosharing site to my mix.
- Music playlists
- Links tagged for me in del.icio.us
I may use this mix to blend a broader "People I Know" mix. As more people start using feeds, we'll need tools to filter and manage all this content, which will grow in volume as feeds catch on as a way to share information. It may take a while, but the usage explosion that happened with email and static web content will soon happen with feeds and tagging.
- References to Me - Blog search engines like Technorati and Google Blog Search offer feeds of blog search results. These "search feeds" scan for links to my blog, telling me when and where people link to my blog. There's no reason I need to have more than one feed for these alerts, though it makes sense to use more than one engine in this relatively new area of blog search.
- Finance - Bankrate publishes several related feeds I want, but I don't need to read them separately, and I can add financial feeds from other sites too:
- Mortgage news
- Market trends
- Savings and investing advice
- General financial news, analysis, & reports
- Accounts & Services - I like to at least glance at what's going on with the companies that provide the services and software I use. Individually, these blogs were just taking up screen real estate in my feed reader:
How to make and use a feedmix - 3 quick & easy steps
- Mix - Choose a feedmixing service, (some don't even require you to sign up) then copy the addresses of the feeds you want to mix from your feed reader: Select a feed, right-click on its address & select "Copy link location...", and paste it into the mix form.
- I like Feedblendr so far. The site has a cool tip; to add to a "blend" of feeds, just put in the address an existing blend, and add the new addess(es).
- Update: 2007.02 - For really advanced (but easy to use) feedmixing, try the new Yahoo! Pipes.
- Easy to feed address - many feed mixing services just give you a non-descriptive serial number.
- Feed address stays the same - even if you update your mix and it's address changes, or you change feedmixing services.
- Several free tools for managing your feed - statistics, "browser-friendliness", routing feeds to email, etc.
- Insert useful content - You can include a "Post to del.icio.us" link in each feed item, so they're easy to bookmark & share.
- And more - Take a look at this guide to How and Why To Use FeedBurner; it convinced me!
- It might be interesting to keep an eye on a few individual feeds for a while after including them in a mix, to see what delay (if any) FeedBurner introduces. I recommend against using feeds for time-sensitive information -- that's not the point of feeds -- so this is just for academic curiosity.