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February 06, 2006

How I hacked my comments feed

Warning: It's about to get a little geeky in here, but there is some non-geeky stuff towards the bottom.

Because Blogger, my blog host, doesn't offer a comments feed, I decided to create my own. Here's how I did it:

1. I'm using a service called Mailbucket that creates an XML file from e-mail received by its server. So, all I had to do was configure my Blogger account to e-mail Mailbucket whenever someone leaves a comment. I did this in Settings >> Comments.
2. Then, I grabbed the URL of the XML file that Mailbucket creates, and routed it through Feedburner so I could track subscribers. (By the way, Mailbucket's homepage says you can pick up your feed at mailbucket.org/slurp.xml. It's actually www.mailbucket.org/slurp.xml. The www has to be in the URL. Took me a while to figure that out.)
3. Finally, I posted the Feedburner URL in the right nav bar on my blog, and you subscribed (hopefully).

It's an imperfect system, and I may make a few tweaks here and there. For instance, I'm thinking about routing the e-mail to Yahoo!Groups (which also offers an RSS feed), because Mailbucket doesn't seem to be wrapping lines in feed aggregators.

I've been thinking about the association opportunities for services like Mailbucket. The best I've been able to come up with is around the whole unconference idea. For instance, what if you said to your conference attendees:

Subscribe to our Onsite Conference Activities RSS feed using your Yahoo Alerts account, and direct the feeds to SMS your cell phone. Then, we'll arrange and let you know about spontaneous meet-ups throughout the conference for intimate speaker roundtables, lunch with the board chair, and other subscriber-only opportunities. We'll also send meeting room changes and other important updates to this feed. And, you can even arrange your own meet-ups by sending the details to onsiteconferenceactivities@mailbucket.org.

I also thought it would be cool to offer an easy way for members to add content to web pages by sending e-mail to a mailbucket.org address. I'll be blogging shortly about making Web 2.0 available to more people via e-mail.

By the way, because of the lack of a pre-installed comment feed for Blogger, I've taken a look at WordPress (which does have a built-in comment feed) on the recommendation of David Gammel. It looks pretty good, but I'm sticking with Blogger for the time being.

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1 comment:

Tom Dyson said...

Hi Ben, thanks for pointing out that MailBucket bug (where www is required in the feed URL). I've fixed that now.

If you have any other ideas about improving Mailbucket, please let me know.

Tom