Friday, January 18, 2008

Sharing Google Reader Subscriptions (OPML Files)

Paul, Jake and Rich, all have their Google Reader subscription lists published on their blog profiles in Oracle AppsLab's About Page:

I like their openness. It gives a me some insight into what they like to read. I have picked up many of their subscriptions and added to my own Reader list. This is similar to the idea of a blogroll, except that in this case you share all of your subscriptions, instead of only your favorite ones.

In many ways, this is also similar to the social bookmarking concept like However, there is no single server managing your shared feeds and no social networking concepts around it. You need to host your own OPML files. (If you notice above, the shared files are OPML files, even though they have the XML extension). Perhaps an opportunity for someone to build on this. It would certainly add more value to the concept of sharing, which is a corner stone of Web 2.0.

OPML - Not Very Readable

OPML is an XML format for outlines, i.e. a hierarchical, ordered list of arbitrary elements. Google Reader uses this format if you want to export or import your subscription lists. Even though the OPML format helps in easy import/export of your subscriptions, it is not best suited for browsing through the reading list. Unless you are an XML reading geek, the OPML file would not make much sense to you.

OPML Readers

So I looked around to see if there are any we utilities out there to help me read OPML files in a better way. Well, there are a few options:
  1. XSL Style Sheet: If you don't mind a little code copying.
  2. OPML to HTML Web Utility: Hosted for you in a separate server.
  3. OPML Widget: It's the coolest one.

1. OPML XSL Style Sheet:

I found a good XSL from Chris Finke's blog via a google search. By the magic of XSL transformations, here is the difference:
The actual XSL file can be downloaded from the given link:

If you want to use this XSL, all you need to do is to add one line in your OPML file:

< ? xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ? >
< ? xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="opml.xsl" ? >
< version="1.0">

So that was the XSL way of doing things. Lets move on to the next option.

2. OPML to HTML Web Utility:

Thankfully, there exists a somewhat easier way to publish OPML as a more readable HTML. You do not have to write even that single line of code as in the previous method. We can simply use an OPML Browser web utility for the conversion. I pointed Paul, Jake and Rich OPML files to this OPML Browser, and here we get a better set of a much more readable lists:
Nice and easy. However, you still need to host you own OPML files. At least no coding is required for this one.

3. OPML Widgets:

Last option is the sort of coolest one. Well, 2007 was supposed to have been a year of widgets, according to Newsweek. Since there was no apparent widget frenzy in '07, I guess this one is still 'sort of cool' in my book. In all fairness, I'll give one more year to Newsweek. Hopefully, widgets would soon catch our imaginations as Newsweek had predicted over an year ago.

Anyways, coming back to the topic in hand, I found an RSS/OPML Reader Widget from SpringWidgets. The look and feel of the widget is very nice. It is easily customizable and is very easy to embed too. Here I have embedded the Google Reader subscription lists for Paul, Jake, Rich and myself.





As you can see from the 4 widgets above, clearly Rich reads the most.

So those were the 3 methods I could find to easily share your OPML files. If you know better ways, please do share.

Bonus: Direct Link To Google Reader OPML Files

As a bonus, I'll let you on this tip. Typically, to get the OPML file from Google Reader, you would go to Import/Export page and then export the list to your disk. Well, there is a better way to access your OPML files with a direct link.

Recently, Google rolled out their Blogroll tool (Nov '07). To make it work, they had to provide direct access to OPML file as well. Although this is not yet published by Google, one of the developers from Google Reader team Mihai Parparita, responded to Andy Beard'sa blog post and provide this neat tip.
  1. Click on 'Your shared items' link in Google Reader. You may have to share at least one item first before this link shows up.
  2. On the 'Your shared items' page, notice a big URL for your shared page. e.g.

  3. This URL has a large number, which is your unique ID. Copy this number.
  4. Construct the following URL. Replace the ID with your own.

This URL is a direct link to your OPML file. The only issue is that the HTTP header spits it out as an attachment. But I can live with it. So go ahead, publish your Google Reader lists using one of the methods above. Share the love, Web 2.0 ishtyle :)


Jake said...

This is wicked cool stuff. Thanks!

David Haimes said...

This is excellent - nice job.

Are you finished building those Fusion Fin Apps yet ? ;)

Puneet Thapliyal said...

@jake: Thanks for posting this on AppsLab blog.

@david: Thanks! The path to Fusion Fin Apps is long and winding ;)