What is a Reading list?
An OPML file can contain text, links, feeds, or a combination, a reading list is an OPML file that only contains feeds.
At the moment one of the things you can do with an OPML file that just contains feeds is import it into your RSS reader, and you will in one go be subscribed to lots of feeds (beats doing it manually).
NOTE: You can even get an OPML file for meta-search engines that return results in RSS for each engine, which are also grouped and delivered in an OPML file, so you can batch import the feed results of each engine in one go, instead of doing it manually one at a time…see this post.
So at the moment reading lists are static, if there are changes to an OPML file you have loaded, you will have to import it again, there are plans to make reading lists more dynamic.
- Can you be notified when a new feed is added to an OPML file you have already loaded into your RSS reader?
(Superfan for Bloglines notifies you when a feed is added to a particular OPML file, in this case a Bloglines account)
- If you re-load an OPML file can it write over the previous version?
(as you don’t want to manually delete each feed)
It seems you don’t have to ask these 2 questions as they are being circumvented by a more creative solution, this being that instead of importing an OPML file into your RSS reader, what you do is subscribe to the URL of the host OPML file, when feeds are deleted or added it will automatically reflect in your version of the OPML file, this is the type of synching feature that RSS readers like BlogBridge, and FeedDemon are implementing.
There are also other questions that are more about the details, such as what if I am already subscribed to a feed that is in an OPML file I just imported, I don’t want to have to read it twice, or what if I don’t want a feed deleted from an OPML file, and also more exciting stuff about attention data.
So to re-cap in the future a reading list will be an OPML file that contains only feeds and is dynamic.
Creating a reading list
As far as I know it started with Outliner tools, that allow you to make categorised lists of text, links, or feeds…by implementing an OPML file for each outline allowed these outlines to be shared and manipulated.
OPML file’s can exist outside the world of Outliners, it can represent any type of list, eg. your whole RSS reader account can have an OPML file, or just one folder within your RSS reader…all your feeds in your RSS reader are one long list, they can even be categorised into folders, so they are similar to a formal outline.
Bloglines does provide an OPML file for your whole account, but it doesn’t do this at the folder level, which is a pity because sometimes you want to share just parts of your account, so what you have to do is use an outlining tool, all this could be avoided if every folder in your RSS reader had an OPML file.
Feedmarker has done exactly this, so when it comes to reading lists, every folder that is used to manage feeds in the Feedmarker RSS reader also becomes a collection of reading lists by default…how handy is that.
Not only that, but Feedmarker doesn’t use folders to manage it’s feed list, like Rojo, it uses tags, so you can have the same feed in multiple lists…this is great, you may give someone your “top ten” tag/folder from your RSS reader (so you are giving them an OPML file reading list for that tag/folder) that contains a blog feed you know they will like, and you may give another friend your “web2.0″ folder which also contains this same favourite feed.
Discovery of reading lists
If every folder or tag that contains feeds had an OPML file, then searching for feeds by tag could be like searching for reading lists.
NOTE: I could imagine that some folders/tags may contain too many feeds for your liking, so if you want to prune a reading list, you could import it into an OPML editor, delete the feeds you don’t want, then import your refined OPML file into your RSS reader…or even better it would be good if the public version of an RSS reader had a check box, so you could select which feeds you like creating an OPML file on the fly (the Tell-a-friend option in Bloglines is kind of like this, but only the owner has control).
Anyway so how do we search for folders/tags that contain feeds, or how do we search for reading lists?
If all Bloglines folders had an OPML file you could view Public Bloglines accounts and choose the folder/OPML file/reading list you want to subscribe to, but this isn’t very good discovery.
Bloglines could leverage the data users have in their accounts and create a feed folksonomy, as the data is already there, this is something that Rojo has implemented.
The tags users manage their feeds in are aggregated into a feed folksonomy, allowing people to share and discover new feeds.
At the same time this could be a reading list folksonomy, as long as every tag that contains feeds has an OPML file, so you could subscribe to tag (reading lists) at the general level or user level …actually at the moment you can only see feeds tagged by you, your contacts, or all users.
This could really be augmented into a fully-fledged feed folksonomy, such as RSSor, this system is similar to del.icio.us, only the bookmarks have to be feeds.
Imagine if every general and user level tag had an OPML file, this would make for the ultimate sharing and discovery of “reading lists”.
So not only can you make OPML files using an OPML outliner, or using an RSS reader, but you could also make OPML files by using a feed folksonomy (with these last 2 methods you aren’t even aware you are making an OPML file, as all your are doing is tagging or filing feeds).
So what does Rojo need:
- OPML file for each tag (when you export the OPML file from Rojo, it doesn’t give you an option to select which tags you only want included in the OPML, or even which feeds you want included)
- A more robust feed folksonomy like RSSor
With Rojo you could:
- Subscribe, manage, share, and discover feeds and reading lists
- Manage, share and discover stories
- At the personal level (private), social group (contacts) level, user level, aggregated level (all users)
…this is a powerful information tool for current awareness and contacts.
Technorati Blog Finder could also act as a Reading list finder…every topic needs an OPML file and it would be done (and there is even some attention data included such as authority)…this to would be good if each hit in the results had a check box to create an OPML file on the fly.
OPML search is also a discovery engine for OPML files, if you choose the category box, you can search for OPML files that have been tagged (so to speak), if you also choose the RSS box you will only be searching OPML files that contain RSS feeds, so this will be like searching Reading lists by tag.