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Keepin' up on what's happening in the CF world - Part 3: Leveraging the RSS Feeds

Note: This blog post is from 2006. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
In my two previous entries, I've been discussing how someone interested in keeping up with the news of the CF world can leverage the two popular Adobe-community blog aggregators. The last focused on browsing them, and this will focus on using their available RSS feeds.

Even if you don't know anything more about RSS than how to spell it, follow along. I'll share something that can help you leverage it from Email, to get your daily (or even hourly) dose of CF news delivered to your inbox. Finally, in the next and final part, I'll point out a couple ways to save you even that bother, with folks who have so kindly gathered up the latest news of the week.

The previous two entries were on the aggregators and browsing them.

While going to the sites to browse the latest news is one way to keep up, it's certainly not the most efficient. New entries are constantly being added, and all you need to do is go away for a few hours and there are several new entries. And what if you're gone for days?

Getting the RSS Feeds Instead

A still better solution to that problem is to get the posts delivered to you as they are discovered (added by the bloggers whose blogs are being aggregated). This is possible by using what's called the RSS feed (Really Simple Syndication). You don't need to understand much about them to take advantage of them. Indeed, I won't get into any detail here as others have covered the topic well.

Just know that it's an XML stream of data that's updates whenever a new entry is made, and some program can be set on your computer to watch that stream and take note of any such updates. RSS feeds are offered on both many blogs, and in fact it's the RSS feeds that these aggregators watch. Well, the aggregators themselves also offer RSS feeds of all the data they aggregate.

Recall in the first entry of this series, I shared with you the two URLs that you could use to keep en eye on the CFML-related entries that the aggregators detected.

Well, the corresponding URLs for the RSS feeds watching those entries at the two aggregators are, respectively: http://www.fullasagoog.com/xml/ColdFusionMX.xml

http://weblogs.macromedia.com/mxna/xml/rss.cfm?query=byCategory&languages=1&categoryId=1 If you're familiar with what to do with those URLs, take them and run with them. Otherwise, I'll explain in a moment how you can take advantage of them, even to get notified by email of the changes detected in the feeds.

Before that, though, let me point out that the MXNA feed URL can be generated for different characteristics, including particular languages (I've given the English one above) and even to watch the feed for a particular string. Visit the MXNA site to generate your own desired RSS feed URL.

Further, note that MXNA also offers a mechanism called "smart categories", which tries to be even more discerning about what gets delivered as related to a given category. The CFML feed for that would be: http://weblogs.macromedia.com/mxna/xml/rss.cfm?query=bySmartCategory&languages=1&smartCategoryId=1&smartCategoryKey=D0382F3A-9D2B-69E8-C7BC317066FA1CC2

I know how to spell RSS, but that's about it. I prefer Email

As helpful as an RSS feed is for those familiar with using RSS readers (or using email programs that know how to process them such as Firebird and Outlook 2007), what about those who don't use any of those yet? You can still get your constant drip of CFML goodness without having to visit the page every day or hour, and without having an RSS reader or email program that knows how to process such feeds.

On another blog of mine, I wrote about a couple of free services (Squeet, Feedblitz) that allow you to give them an RSS feed and they'll email you when new entries are posted to the feed. You can even control whether it's immediate or only a daily digest. Nifty. Learn more about that at my tipicalcharlie.com site (for generic, non-CF tips):

http://www.tipicalcharlie.com/blog_email_notification_by_squeet.htm ((Update: tipicalcharlie domain is no more, but page recovered using Archive.org.))

(Update: Sadly, squeet (a tool to send RSS feeds by email) is no more. But there are other alternatives, that I track in a category of my CF411 site: http://www.cf411.com/rss_email.)

And finally, for those who just can't keep up with a constant or even daily flow of the latest and greatest news, in my next entry I'll point out a couple of great resources that instead give you the news on a weekly basis.

Keepin' up on what's happening in the CF world - Part 2: Browsing the Aggregators Regularly

Note: This blog post is from 2006. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
In my previous entry, I started a multi-part series on keeping up with what's happening in the CF world. In this entry, I want to introduce a couple topics related to keeping an eye on those two aggregators I mentioned, FullAsAGoog and MXNA, by way of browsing them.

Of course, there are still better ways, including leveraging their RSS feeds, which I'll cover in the next entry. But for those who still prefer good ol' web pages, here are a couple tips that may help. These tips aren't unique to watching the aggregators, of course, and for some they may be old school. But I see plenty of folks who don't leverage them so it seemed worth mentioning.

We all know that having the URLs to the aggregator's CF category listings (as mentioned before) we can easily bookmark the pages to go visit whenever we want. But since these are pages that you may well want to visit frequently than most, you can take advantage of a couple of browser features to make them even more readily accessible.

Keeping an Eye on the Aggregators--by Quick Links

First, did you realize that both IE and Firefox have a unique toolbar-based list of favorites/bookmarks that you can see all the time? Many never bother to change them or pay attention. Here's how to use them in each browser.

In IE, when adding a favorite, you just want to put it in the special "Links" folder. Using the Favorites>Add to Favorites menu option, use the "create in" option to point to the "Links" folder. Then it will appear in the top IE toolbar area. Other things in there by default are "Windows Marketplace" and "Windows Media". You can remove them if you want, to make more room. If you don't see these links at all, make sure you've enabled View>Toolbars>Links. And if you can't see the entry/entries you just added, you may need to move the new entry around in the Links folder. Use Favorites>Organize Favorites, expanding the Links folder and moving the newly added entry up in the list of links.

In Firefox, there is a similar set of "toolbar bookmarks" that appear at the top of the screen. To add something to it, use Bookmarks>Bookmark This Page (or hit Ctrl-D) and then choose "create in" and point to "Bookmarks Toolbar". Other default items in there include "Customize Links" and "Free Hotmail". Again, if you don't see it at all, make sure that View>Toolbars>Bookmarks Toolbar is enabled. And as with IE, you may want to move the entries around in that list (or even delete some you'll never use), using Bookmarks>Manage Bookmarks and expanding the "Bookmarks Toolbar" folder to arrange things.

Keeping an Eye on the Aggregators--Making One of Them Your HomePage

One other trick to consider is that you think you just ALWAYS want to see one of the aggregator pages by default, you may know that you can set one of them up to be the "home page" for your browser. Then it appears each time you open the browser.

In IE, you do that with Tools>Internet Options>General>HomePage>Address and enter the desired URL.

In Firefox it's Tools>Options>General>Home Page>Location.

Honestly, I don't do it in either browser. For one thing, I want the browser to open as fast as possible and so just choose "use blank page" in both.

But better still, I keep my eye on the submissions using another approach, one that I'm sure many readers here know about and wonder why I'm not promoting. I will, in the next entry on leveraging the RSS feeds. If you don't know what that's about, I'll help you, even if you don't know what an RSS Reader is and don't want to install one! :-) That's coming up next.

Keepin' up on what's happening in the CF world - Part 1: Aggregating all those blogs!

Note: This blog post is from 2006. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
I was offering some info on a discussion list and decided I'd share it more broadly and expand upon it. If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest in the CFML community, you may know that there are dozens of blogs, but who has time to read them all?

In this multi-part entry, I want to share some tips to make it easier to keep up on what's happening, from simplifying your reading all those blog posts, to keeping up on them as they change, to (better yet) obtaining summaries of the week's news put together by others to save you the bother.

In this first part, I'll introduce you to the two great CFML blog aggregators.

The Community Blog Aggregators: FullasAGoog and MXNA

So how do you find all the great CFML-oriented blogs out there? Am I going to list them for you? I don't need to. There are two primary "aggregators" of all blogs related to the greater Adobe (and previously MM) space, FullAsAGoog and the Adobe MXNA. These have for long been all you needed to keep an eye on to stay on top of what people are discussing in the blogosphere.

And any blogger who wants to reach the CF community has (or should) submit their site (their site's RSS feed) to the two aggregators. Then, whenever a blogger adds a new entry, it's automatically picked up (sometimes taking minutes or hours) by the aggregators, so people can just keep an eye on one of them to see what's news.

The 'goog existed first, but naturally Adobe's has attracted its own audience. Both have a submission/acceptance process (and indeed MXNA is more than just Adobe bloggers), but most bloggers are on both (which also means some duplication if you watch both). BTW, you can read the history of the 'goog's silly sounding name via a link on the left at the site. :-)

Limiting The Aggregators to Just CFML-oriented Content

Since both aggregators cover the full spectrum of blogs related to Adobe/MM products, you will probably want to limit them to just show you the CF-related ones (or whichever topic/s you are interested in). Though many seem to miss it, each aggregator offers a way to do that in its interface. In the 'goog, it's done via the "choose your poison" drop down at the top of the page--perhaps you never thought to look at that. :-) In MXNA, you choose the desired category link on the right toolbar.

If you just want the URLs for the CF feeds, they would be:

http://www.fullasagoog.com/index.cfm?blogcat=ColdFusionMX

http://weblogs.macromedia.com/mxna/index.cfm?query=byCategory&categoryId=1&categoryName=ColdFusion

The URLS offered just above are to see the web-based (HTML) interface for reading each aggregator. You could certainly just set them as a bookmark to visit whenever you have a free moment, and I have a couple of tips on that, but then there is yet another approach which you may not know about: using RSS feeds--even via email. More on that in the next entry.

(I've decided to chop this up rather than make one big long entry, since some will be more interested in some aspects than others. I don't want anyone to miss out if they were to stop reading at some point in a long post. Following posts will cover making quick browser links to the aggregators, using RSS feeds, and getting weekly summaries already "baked" for you.)

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