I think the next tools we will see are OPML Readers or Attention Readers, I believe the first example of this is the KOZOPMLBROWZER…hopefully we will be able to make our own at Kosso’s OPML Manager, and even host then on our blog sidebars.
See here for some background to this post, OPML and RSS Reader in one…also some related posts:
OPML Workstation: that’s for sure!
Bitty Browser: the sidebar RSS Reader or even OPML Reader.
How is an OPML Reader different than an OPML Reader?
Your subscriptions in an RSS Reader like Bloglines are available for import/export as an OPML URL (batch load feeds).
To read your subscriptions you click on a feed on the left pane and the contents appears in the right pane…you are aware of unread content as the feed will be “bold” and alerts can also be done via the notifier in the systems tray…you get the idea, so many more clipping and managing features.
The limit is that your subscriptions (your OPML URL) can only contain feeds, it won’t accept HTML links or text…well it’s not designed for that even thought it could happen (try import an OPML that is not made up of feeds, and you will see).
Some RSS Readers like BlogBridge go beyond this and allow you to subscribe to the URL of an OPML. This is like viewing someone elses subscriptions remotely in your own RSS Reader…you haven’t subscribed to all the feeds in that OPML URL, you are only subscribed to the OPML URL, this is called a Reading List.
If whoever owns that OPML URL adds/deletes a feed this will reflect in your RSS Reader, ie. a dynamic OPML (you can choose to accept/reject changes as a manual option).
So in a way BlogBridge is also an OPML Reader, but it is just limited to OPML URL’s that contain feeds.
The only example I have seen so far is the KOZOPMLBROWZER, and also extensions such as OPod, and Bitty Browser.
The difference here is that the subscription pane (OPML) is not only made up of feeds, it can also be made up of text, links and other OPML URL’s (OPML inclusion).
A type of OPML inclusion could be like a Reading List of Reading Lists, where each Reading List is an OPML URL within the mother Reading List (the mother OPML URL).
NOTE: For a Reading List, each of the items in these OPML URL’s are feeds
OPML Inclusion is simply pointing to another OPML from within yours, this OPML inclusion could be made up of feeds, text, links, and also OPML inclusions of its own.
So, with an OPML Reader we are not just confined to reading just feed content.
The other great thing is that the subscription pane is an outline of your OPML URL, you can create one of these at OPML Workstation.
Unlike Bloglines where your subscription pane is proprietary or fixed (and of course, as mentioned above contains only feeds), making your own subscription outline allows you to even add non-subscription stuff like favourites links, or even text notes…so you can kind of publish stuff amongst your subscriptions eg. the first item in your subscription pane could be instructions on how to use the thing.
I love the idea that OPML allows you to merge the Publish/Subscribe model, kind of bluring the lines.
Other things you can include in your subscription pane (OPML URL outline) besides text and links are also feeds, or even other OPML URL’s.
The beauty of it is when you update your raw OPML URL outline, your subscription pane in your OPML Reader will be updated magically, this also goes for other OPML’s included in your subscription pane, if others update this OPML, then it will be reflected in your subscription.
Reading OPML Inclusions
When reading an OPML at places like OPML Surfer, OPML Browser, OPML Workstation (create your own), if you click on an OPML inclusion (ie. an OPML within this OPML, usually designated by a red arrow), it launches to a new page, but at KOZOPMLBROWSER you view the contents by expanding another node within the outline tree.
How are we aware of new content?
At the moment unlike an RSS Reader, even though OPML URL’s are dynamic an OPML Reader does not tell you visually (eg. bold) what has recently been updated, this is left to the world of RSS.
If your OPML URL contains text, and you add text to your outline daily, the changes will dynamically appear in your OPML URL subscription pane, but they won’t be “bold” alerting you that changes have ocurred…this is the difference between OPML and RSS, OPML can be dynamic and even read feeds, but it is not a notification tool, so to speak, it is rather an outline or dynamic directory.
The KOZOPMLBROWSER can actually read feeds, instead of viewing content in the adjacent pane, it launches a little box with the latest contents, but it could probably use the pane method, I can’t see why not.
The other thing is that this is a very light wieght RSS Reader, it won’t make you aware that a feed has new content, and it lacks management features
…I think this is something that it needs to do so it can achieve what an RSS Reader does.
Also instead of launching a little box to read feed content, I wonder if it could expand as another node within the outline just like it does with OPML inclusions.
In the end all your web page would be is a subscription panel (outline tree), do all your browsing and reading by expanding this tree (don’t have to have a second pane or launch to another page).
[ADDED 28/02/06: OPML Browser is now called Optimal…it reads RSS feed content, and also opens OPML inclusions within the same page as an outline]