// Internet Duct Tape

The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion

Connect with your readers

I’m a social web app junkie. Where most people use a few on a regular basis as a consumer and only a couple as a producer I am an active user on far too many sites. I’m not a beta junkie to the point where I try out every web service (especially not the ones spamming my blog contact email), but I do try out more than my fair share and manage to get involved before they reach the tipping point (like Friend Feed is reaching now).

The sheer amount of web apps out there leads to fragmentization of our online identities, but that isn’t a bad thing. The people who read my blog aren’t necessarily people I’m interested in talking to on Twitter, and none of us might share the same taste in music on Last.FM. For a while there I was talking about the Ruby programming language like crazy on this blog, but now I’m using a niche tumbleblog so that I can post more often on that specific technical subject without alienating my existing audience.

But it isn’t only our online identities that are fragmenting: it’s also the discussion around content. Once upon a time the way someone would comment on something you wrote would be to write a blog post of their own in response. Then blogs got a comment section and people could write what they had to say directly on the post. Now the discussion around a post has completely fragmented: people are saying stuff about your content on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Facebook… pretty much anywhere except for the post where you originally wrote it.

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Building an RSS Templating System

Hacking RSS with Yahoo Pipes

The blog posts might have been slow lately, but that’s only because there’s been an accumulation of interesting projects piling up on my hard drive. Here’s a few things that are in the pipe (which I’m talking about to stop my procrastination and force me to release them):

  • Sandbox Theme for Tumblr so that you can use Sandbox CSS themes on tumblr.com
  • Tumblr Theme Templates to make it easier to develop themes for tumblr.com without having to upload your theme to tumblr.com
  • Tumblr automatic backup + restore
  • WordPress.com automatic backup
  • Twitter There Will Be Followers – program to automatically follow back anyone who is following you on Twitter
  • PostMaster html2blog – automatically post formatted HTML to Tumblr, Blogger or WordPress
  • rss2html – powerful templating system for converting an RSS feed into HTML

It’s the last one I want to talk about. I’ve gotten tired of using Yahoo Pipes + Pipe Cleaner to build digest posts. It’s kind of a pain in the butt. So I want something that can take an rss feed, convert it to html so that I can use another program for automatically posting it to the blog. I’m not going the plugin route because of WordPress.com’s inability to support javascript or PHP plugins.

This is what I’ve come up with.

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Blog Tip: Creating a Blog Maintenance Start Page with Netvibes

Posted in RSS Syndication, Technology, Technorati, Twitter, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on September 25, 2007

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

In Blogger GTD, Leo mentioned that it was a good idea to have one inbox for all your blogging related notifications. I hate cluttering in my inbox, but I do agree that it makes sense to have a single point of reference rather to spend 5 minutes checking some information in one place and then spend 5 minutes checking information in another place. As Skelliewag says, those 5 minutes add up over the course of a day and by the end of it you’ve wasted an hour.

Directing everything to my inbox would never work for me, but it is possible to have a single start page for all your blog maintenance activities using Netvibes. If you aren’t familiar with Netvibes it is a combination of an RSS feed aggregator and a widget platform. It is analogous to iGoogle (but works better). In simple terms Netvibes lets you put lots of information in one place and look at information from several web pages on a single page.

blog maintenance netvibes start page

If you’ve never tried it out before then please visit http://netvibes.com — they let you play around with a default page even if you don’t have an account.

This is what I put on my blog maintenance start page. Replace internetducttape.com or engtech.wordpress.com with your blog URL.

Column 1: Comment Administration and Social Site Monitoring

blog maintenance netvibes comment monitoring

The first column is for things that I want to respond quickly to — comments and checking to see if my site is submitted to Digg or Reddit.

Box #1: Comments RSS feed: http://internetducttape.com/comments/feed

Or you could use my WordPress Comment Extractor / WordPress Trackback Extractor to get only the comments or only the trackbacks.

Box #2: Shortcuts to WordPress administration activities using the Netvibes Bookmarks widget.

Bookmarks: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Bookmarks

I add the following bookmarks:

Box #3: Social Site Submission Watchdog is a custom Yahoo Pipe I created.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Column 2: Blog Stats

blog maintenance netvibes check blog stats

It’s a bad idea to check your blog stats multiple times a day, but is it so bad if you’re also checking blog comments, emails and instant messages at the same time?

Box #1: This will only work for WordPress.com bloggers, which is too bad because it’s a great way to check stats at a glance.

WordPress.com Mobile Widget: http://gamespotting.net/wordpressnetvibes.html

Box #2: Technorati Rank from RSS. Another custom Yahoo Pipe. This one is a little more complicated to install because you’ll need your Technorati API key.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • find your Technorati API key and cut-and-paste it
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Box #3: Filtered Blog Reactions from Technorati. This is another custom Yahoo Pipe. It shows the blog URL as the title and links to the front page instead of directly to the post.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

You could use this RSS feed instead: http://feeds.technorati.com/search/internetducttape.com

Column 3: Direct Communication

netvibes blog maintenance communication twitter

I use the second tab as a way to keep a quick check on how I stay in contact with other bloggers — through Gmail and Twitter.

Box #1: Gmail: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Gmail

I use a dedicated Gmail account for blogging — I don’t receive any personal or work related email with that account.

Box #2: Twitter Replies RSS feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/replies.rss

This shows some of the power of Netvibes — you can view password protected RSS feeds.

Box #3: Twitter: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Twitter

Create Your Own Blog Maintenance Start Page

This gives you a few ideas of how I use the service, but the possibilities are endless.

For instance there is a Facebook widget: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Facebook

Not to mention several widgets that let you directly embed a web page. Using those generic modules you can embed Google Reader into Netvibes and other crazy stuff like that.

What are you going to put on your blog maintenance start page?

FeedBurner Tip: Create a private area for your RSS subscribers only

Posted in Building a Community, FeedBurner, RSS Syndication, Technology by engtech on July 16, 2007

Reader SurveyWhen it comes to blogging the most important people are the ones who take the time to read your RSS feed. They’re your long term readers who are in it for the long haul, much more so than the people who stop by your blog because they found it through a search engine or a social bookmarking site. They’re the ones who promote your articles, and the ones who’ll let you know when you’re falling off your blog game.

It’s important to build a rapport with them, and one of the ways to do that is by giving them special offers that aren’t available to regular readers of the website. This could be an electronic book, information on how to submit reader links, or beta invitations to other websites like Pownce and Joost.

But how do you send these links to your RSS readers without displaying them on your blog?

FeedBurner to the rescue

customer feedburner feedflarIf you aren’t using Google’s FeedBurner service for your blog then you should be. (It has built-in integration with Blogger, and the rumour mill says that it will be added to WordPress.com at some point.) FeedBurner has these things called FeedFlares that show up at the end of your RSS feed. They can do things like dynamically list the number of comments on that post, or how many times it has been dugg or saved to del.icio.us.

It’s really simple to build your own FeedFlare that links to anything you want. Dosh Dosh has a detailed guide explaining how to do it. I wrote a list a while back explaining why I think FeedBurner is so great.

How to create a Custom FeedBurner FeedFlare

  1. Login to FeedBurner
  2. Click on My Feeds
  3. Click on the feed you want to edit
  4. Click on the Optimize tab
  5. Click on FeedFlare from the sidebar
  6. Under “Personal FeedFlare” cut-and-paste your generic feedflare link and click add to FeedFlare
http://www.feedburner.com/fb/variableflareunits/GenericFeedFlare.jspx?

text=Some+text&link=http://www.somelink.com

I’ve created a Password-Protected Post on my blog for my RSS readers at http://internetducttape.com/easter-eggs/reader-appreciation/

So I would use the following custom FeedFlare:

http://www.feedburner.com/fb/variableflareunits/GenericFeedFlare.jspx?

text=Thank+you+for+reading+IDT+(click+and+enter+password+-----)

&link=http://internetducttape.com/easter-eggs/reader-appreciation/

That will give you something like this:

create a custom feedburner feedflare example

Thanks to Dosh Dosh for showing me how to do this. I had a previous hack in place where I had a del.icio.us account and I would use the FeedBurner splice with del.icio.us to share things with my RSS readers only. Using a FeedFlare is much more elegant.

Opting Out of Technorati – The Break-up

Posted in Humor, Technology, Technorati by engtech on May 24, 2007

Dear Technorati,

I’m writing to say goodbye. With time I hope I’ll have more good things to say than bad, but this hasn’t been the case of late. I know you have plenty of other suitors paying attention to you, and I doubt you’ll even miss me. But I thought I’d write you a note to explain my absence and what went wrong between us.

I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of Jason Kottke (from 2005) and stop calling you. It was fun watching my rank improve until I was in the top percentile of your favorite people, but I’ll never be one of the top one hundred you lavish your attention on… so why am I bothering? One of the key principles of time management is to put your attention and focus on what gets the maximum return on investment, but you haven’t been giving me anything more than a number and a lot of frustration.

goodbye technorati rank

Technorati, I fully appreciate the magnitude of what you’re doing with only a 45 person team behind you. I think focusing on search makes sense because you’ve already wasted too much time courting bloggers for links. Bloggers truly are such a limited part of the all the people who could be using you. We’re also fair weather friends who are the first to turn on you and complain when things go wrong.

But I’m leaving you Technorati, and I have the following grievances that you don’t seem to care about. I’m glad you’ve shed some pounds, and your dressing better, but looks aren’t everything. It’s the way you treat me that matters in the end.

Problems I’ve had with Technorati

  1. You lost the last month of my blog posts even though they were pinged and indexed before your new cosmetic changes. Because I only show the very latest blog post on my front page you’ll never find them again, even though the last 40 entries are all nicely showing up with full text in my RSS feed. Why don’t your spiders use my RSS feed? This is not the first time we’ve had this problem.
  2. You are inflexible when it comes to my blog URL. My latest posts must appear on https://engtech.wordpress.com, and your spiders will become confused if I ever change it to something like engtech.wordpress.com/blog. I can go from …com/blog to …com but not the other way around.
  3. My Technorati favorites page does not show the latest posts from ALL my 500 favorites – only a small subset of them. It is much better for me to track them with Google Reader or to use a Google Custom Search engine then to use Technorati favorites.
  4. The Technorati API should be a great way to grab information about blogs, but if you are under high traffic you will often fail to return any data at all instead of a standard error.
  5. You ask for entirely too many links back. I’m supposed to tag my posts with links back to you and add big “favorite my blog on Technorati” links on every page of my site in the hopes I can climb the top 100 favorites list, which no one really uses anyways.
  6. You do nothing to fix the long standing ping bug where anyone can ping a permalink post on a blog and have it show up as a new blog. I have to log a support ticket whenever I want to fix this.
  7. You cannot handle domain changes. It is very common for bloggers to start out on *.blogspot.com or *.wordpress.com and then eventually buy their own domain name. Every other search engine understands the 301 redirect just fine, why can’t you? This is by far your biggest limitation.

This isn’t to say you don’t have good people working for you. I’ve seen you help out friends and send them free t-shirts. I fully appreciate how difficult bloggers are to deal with, and how big of an achievement indexing that many blogs is. I appreciate all of the times you’ve gone out of your way to contact people who are having problems.

But there’s no denying that I’m having a very bad user experience with Technorati. Instead of being able to use you how I want, I’m pigeon-holed into trying to get you to display my blog properly and track the other blogs who are linking to it. All for what… a few meaningless numbers?

Technorati Rank got a lot of attention before it was replaced with Technorati Authority, but it can easily be deep-sixed. Google has bought FeedBurner and can combine the data from FeedBurner subscription counts and Google Reader. While you were busy determining authority by blog links, authority by RSS readership is going to come along and wipe you out with a metric that makes so much more sense.

So I’ve had enough of our relationship, Technorati. I know I haven’t exactly been kind to you in return (it would be polite to call me overly critical), so I think it is time for us to put this mutually destructive relationship to end. I’ve often complained that the biggest mistake a blog can make it not to own it’s own name. I’m moving on to internetducttape.com, and I know you’ll never find me. Even though I’m redirecting my little heart out, you don’t care to follow.

Sincerely,

Formerly known as Honeycakes


Over the top, but I couldn’t help it.

https://engtech.wordpress.com is now http://internetducttape.com, which means my Technorati Authority has dropped to 0. I’ve freed myself from my ball and chain and now I will focus on content and readers instead of traffic and links.

And of course, cool hacks, tricks and mash-ups of existing web services thanks to a little bit of internet duct tape.

Are Bloggers Being Gamed? – Fixing the Technorati Favorites Feature

Posted in Technology, Technorati by engtech on May 01, 2007

Darren and Amit both recently wrote some criticisms about how bloggers have been doing Technorati Favorites exchange memes and how it is changing the landscape of the Top 100 Favorites list. (Darren comes in with further clarification as I type this.) Dosh Dosh wrote an insightful response that I feel covers all the issues, but I’ll throw in my $0.02, if only because I have a pocket full of loose change.

If you don’t blog, you probably want to skip this post as it is a hardcore geek out.

Technorati has two top 100 lists, the Top 100 Most Favorited list and the Top 100 Most Linked list. The Most Linked list where your Technorati rank comes from. It is reputable and hard to get on. The Most Favorited list is mostly a joke, and has been for a long time. You need around 3,000 blog links in a six month period to reach the Top 100 Most Linked list but only 200 favorites from all time to reach the Top 100 Most Favorited list.

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Technorati Program – Automatically Favorite Anyone Who Favorites You

Posted in IDT Labs Software Development, Technology, Technorati by engtech on April 27, 2007

What Are Technorati Favorites?

Technorati is one of the two largest blog search engines. Technorati Favorites is a way to bookmark other blogs on the Technorati site. By favoriting a blog on Technorati it shows up on your favorites list and you can limit your blog searches to only search within your favorites. It’s a good way to track blogs you only casually follow.

technorati favorites - posts from favorites

What is Technorati Favorite Your Fans?

This is a program that connects to the Technorati.com service, finds everyone who has favorited your blog and automatically favorites them back.

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Technorati Favoritism – Trading Favours

Posted in Building a Community, Technology, Technorati by engtech on April 19, 2007

Technorati has long had a “favorite blog” feature where users can mark their favorite blogs and be able to browse recent entries from their favorites (like a poor man’s RSS). They also have a Technorati Top 100 Most Favorited Blogs which gets a lot less attention then the Technorati Rank. Six months ago it took only 60 favorites to become a Top 100 blog, now it is still a lowly 125 favorites. There are only seven blogs with over 700 favorites on all of Technorati. This is a feature that never became popular.

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Hack – Display Your Technorati Rank in a Sidebar RSS Widget (Dapper + Yahoo Pipes)

Posted in IDT Labs Software Development, Technology, Technorati, Yahoo Pipes by engtech on March 26, 2007

technorati rank imageWordPress.com bloggers can’t use nifty WordPress plugins or Javascript to doing something as simple as displaying their Technorati rank in their sidebar. Dapper.net and Yahoo Pipes both give the users the ability to create their own mashups of existing web services. Neither of them quite get it right — Dapper doesn’t give you enough output / programming options and Yahoo Pipes doesn’t give you an interface for scraping any page the way Dapper does. Which is my long-winded way of saying I got Dapper to create RSS feeds that contain nothing but your Technorati rank.

Of course, the interface to the Dapper RSS feed is less than stellar, which is where Yahoo Pipes comes in. Yahoo Pipes also lets me create several flavours depending on what people want.

See the full list of free software I have created.

You can get frequent updates about all of my new software, tools or blog themes by subscribing to IDT Labs by RSS or by email. Or you could just subscribe to my main blog, Internet Duct Tape.

Subscribe to feed

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I display my FeedBurner subscribers count because I don’t have a choice…

Posted in Building a Community, FeedBurner, RSS Syndication, Technology by engtech on March 16, 2007

Maki tagged me with his Feed Count meme exploring the reasons why bloggers display their FeedBurner feed count statistics (this is my last post in a row talking about RSS, I promise).

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to feed
Subscribe to //engtech

Why FeedBurner?

Maki left out this question, but I think it’s a valid one. I choose to use FeedBurner for my RSS feeds because of the following things it gives me (for free):

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In defense of 2000 bloggers

Posted in Asides, Technology, Technorati by engtech on February 06, 2007

A conversation has been brewing about the 2000 Bloggers project. It has been called a link farm and an attempt to game Technorati. I won’t speak for the intentions of the guy who created it, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea to see a montage of all the various faces of blogging.

That’s one of the things I really like about the WordPress.com user avatars, MyBlogLog and tools like this one that let me see the last 130 avatars of people who visited my blog. A few months ago someone put together the “Public Face of 9 Rules” montage in a response to a debate that was going on in the community. It looked really good.

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Does Technorati Matter? (Searching for Violent Acres)

Posted in Technology, Technorati by engtech on January 26, 2007

Technorati.com is probably the best known “blog search engine” (I’d hazard a guess that Google Blog Search is the most used).

Technorati assigns each blog a ranking based on the number of blogs that have linked to it in the past nine months. The ranking says how many blogs have more links than you. You need about 3,000 links to reach the “coveted” Top 100 list. This ranking number is used by news aggregators like TechMeme and for blog advertising networks like ReviewMe.

It’s a very useful site for keeping track of who is linking to you. Their about page says they’re “the recognized authority on what’s happening on the World Live Web, right now” and their Wikipedia entry lists them as an “Internet search company”. But how many people actually use it for search? (I think Technorati realizes this and is trying to branch out in other directionsalso see Matt.)

Violent Acres most popularThey publish a list of popular search terms on the front page of their site. Zeitgeists like this are an interesting way of tracking public interest. For the past few days “Violent Acres” has been at the number one position on the list, and my site has been in the top 5 search results. That has been panning out to around 10-25 hits a day coming from Technorati.

Wait. 10-25 hits for the most popular search term on their site? The search term that they say is more popular than YouTube, WordPress, MySpace, Paris Hilton or the iPhone?

WTF?

Does not compute. As long as I can remember the top 10 popular search terms on Technorati have always been MySpace, YouTube, WordPress, something political and one of those panty-less celebratants. It was cool to see Violent Acres appear on the list. I think she’s fast on the way to becoming one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. But it makes no sense that being the top result for the most popular search term on Technorati for over 24 hours would lead to so little referral traffic. Isn’t this the most popular term people are searching for?

  • I ran some tests to make sure my refer logs were picking up all the refers and it looks like the data I’m basing this observation on is correct.
  • At the very least this is the number of people who click on the “Top Searches” on the Technorati front page and then click on one of the first results.

So why does the most popular search on Technorati lead to such little traffic?

I don’t know how their algorithm works. I assume it’s the most often used search term. Here are a few potential scenarios why this could happen (ordered from most likely to least likely).

  • People are searching for Violent Acres’ blog NOT posts about her blog — so they don’t click on the results that aren’t from her site. (Most likely)
  • My titles suck and no one wants to click on them.
  • I’m completely overestimating how long I was showing up in the top results.
  • No one uses Technorati blog search.
  • Technorati Popular Search isn’t search terms — but instead buzz of trends in blogs.
  • Someone is spamming the search terms to get the number 1 position. (Least likely)

UPDATE: It looks like this happened because VA mentioned Technorati in this blog post. So one blogger can get to the most popular search result with mentioning Technorati off-hand like that? That still makes me wonder how many people are using it for searching blogs.

technorati violent acres

Link to most recent chart of mentions of Violent Acres

Does anyone use blog search tools?

I’m heavily involved in blog culture and even I don’t limit my searches to “blogs only” that often. I stick with Google search, like I would for any other web research. I love Technorati’s tools for finding out who is linking to my blog and articles. But that’s navel gazing and picking my bellybutton link — I don’t care what they say about others. I always thought there were people out there using Technorati search even if I wasn’t one of them. Now I’m starting to wonder…

Which search tools do you use? Have you ever used a blog specific search tool like Google Blogsearch, Technorati, or Icerocket?

Related Posts

External Links

Hey Bloggers, PayPerPost is Illegal

Posted in Technology, Web 2.0 Blogging by engtech on December 13, 2006

Matthew Ingram and Tony Hung go into it in more detail, but the FCC FTC has made a ruling on schemes (like PayPerPost) where bloggers get paid to review products without having to disclose the agreement. Quote: “such marketing could be deceptive if consumers were more likely to trust the product’s endorser “based on their assumed independence from the marketer.”

Raised concerns about a specific type of amplified word-of-mouth marketing, specifically the practice of marketers paying a consumer (the “sponsored consumer”) to distribute a message to other consumers without disclosing the nature of the sponsored consumer’s relationship with the marketer.

We are at the crossroad of determining what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour on the “social” Internet. There’s been a few snafus lately with major corporations and astroturfing (word-of-mouth marketing gone bad). Notably the Walmart story a few months ago, but in just the past few days there has been a fake Playstation 3 blog / viral marketing campaign was revealed.

If bloggers try to do paid reviews via a more ethical / legal service like reviewme.com, they may still be penalized by search engines (more recent) [1]. Search engines like Google use links heavily in their algorithm to determine the top results, and companies have been trying to use sites like PayPerPost and Reviewme.com to buy links and increase their position. Being in the top three results on Google for a search term can make or break a business.

I find the subject interesting because I have participated in word-of-mouth-marketing campaigns for Nokia, O’Reilly and Wiley (free products if I write about them — always disclosed.)

[1] Avoid the search engine penalty by using rel=”nofollow” on the links for paid reviews.

Reviewme.com Reviewed – A Look at the Algorithm from a Bloggers Point of View

Posted in Technology, Web 2.0 Blogging by engtech on November 10, 2006

There’s a new blog advertising network: reviewme.com

engtech-reviewme3.png

Their goal is to bring advertisers and bloggers together and make it easier for companies who are trying to start Word-of-Mouth marketing campaigns to find bloggers who are willing to shillwrite about them. (See TechCrunch’s take on it.)

They are avoiding most of the controversy that has surrounded other “cash-for-blogging” networks by requiring three things:

  • Bloggers have to disclose that it’s a paid review.
  • Advertisers have to pay even if it’s a negative review.
  • Bloggers retain editorial control and can choose to decline.
  • (more info at the FAQ)

They’re also offering a 50/50 split of the advertiser dollar between reviewme.com and the blogger doing the review. That should be enough to ensure that they’re very profitable, while still giving bloggers a nice slice of the pie.

This company will do well if it can convince the advertisers to part with their cash. There is already enough interest in the blogosphere.

They’re confident enough of it’s success and they’re seeding the network and putting up $25,000 for people to write reviews of reviewme.com.

Read more for a comparison of the different payout levels, what bloggers have to consider, what ReviewMe.com could do to improve their site, the best of what other people have to say on the subject and what this means for //engtech in the long run.

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Technorati Top 10,000

Posted in Technology, Technorati by engtech on October 20, 2006

(More boring blog rank crap that is of interest to no one but me)

Technorati is a blog search engine that also ranks blogs. Getting onto the Technorati Top 100 (or the Top 100 Favorited) is a pretty big accomplishment (if ironic because the only people who seem to know about it are other bloggers). Over a month ago I’d noticed that my Technorati rank had “stalled”. The number of inbound links had fizzled to a fixed amount even though I knew I was getting more links. I put in a support request ticket and waited for response. Nothing.

Around three weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything from them, so I put in another request ticket. Still nothing.

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Feedburner and Sage

Posted in Asides, FeedBurner, Technology by engtech on July 11, 2006

Colour my face red. I’d been wondering about how to subscribe to Feedburner feeds using Sage, the Firefox RSS Reader extension. With the plethora of subscription options I was wondering “How do I get an XML feed I can bookmark!?”.

It turns this Feedburner page is formatted XML that you can bookmark for Sage. Just ignore the “Subscribe Now!” options and add a live bookmark for the page directly.

Feedburner and Sage

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