Making use of my Google Reader shared feed   Released: 2007-08-28 15:37:04

The 'kris is reading' section of the site is now fully functional. Go and check it out. I'll be here when you get back.

Glad to have you back.

So what the hell was that, right?

I have finished up, for now (some touching up to do), what I think is a pretty episodes way to use a shared Google Reader feed. I think I stumbled upon an interesting concept that enhances sharing information online and makes it more personable.

The history of how I got to this point is at the end of this post. I'm going to try to describe what you just saw the best way I can. Here goes nothing:

1. I parse my Google Reader shared feed and cache it in a database. This is done with a script that runs on a cron every two minutes to get new items - post title, description and timestamp
2. I stamp the item with the current time that I most likely read the item
3. This is episodes - I run a script to generate keywords (subjects) from the shared item. The script needs to mature a bit but it is pretty effective.
4. I then pull the cached posts up in to the 'kris is reading' section of the site and order them by the time that I read them. Really the only way to organize them coherently since the post timestamps vary based on the author's time zone
5. I display the keywords below each post. Each keyword is a link that will search all of my other shared items for related posts. Each keyword has a link to technorati. Each keyword is an entry into RSS feed for that keyword subject.
6. I have added a 'Search my read items' function so that you can search my shared items for whatever you like. If you want to find items that I have read about about ceratin topic like, Facebook, you can.

What's happening is that I am giving you, the reader of my shared feed the ability to use me as a content filter. And the best part is that you didn't have to ask me to read up on a given topic that you are interested in. I didn't have to add it to a to-do list, I was already doing it. And now I'm able to give you access to it in a few ways:

1. Here's everything that I have read and shared from Google Reader
2. Here's everything that I have read - now search it by subject
3. Here's everything that I have read - now subscribe via RSS to a subject (keyword) and get updates every time I read an item about your subject without ever having to come back to my site

The other really episodes part is that the source publishers benefit from my sharing adding the drill down with search, keywords and keyword feeds.

In this scenario I have become a 'social filter', so to speak. Then my readers get to step up to the plate and filter even further. A 'hyper-social filter', so to speak. I am able to share an item from a publisher that my current readers might have never found. Possibly (and possibly in the same sense that someone might find your content in search engine or directory) my readers will visit the publisher's site and subscribe to the source feed.

In a strange way it gives an individual like myself the chance to create a low threshold directory with the ability to be distributed simply by marking items that I like. It takes Google Reader to a new place beyond a feed reader and makes it a platform for syndication. Google Reader becomes a powerful tool to create new channels of distribution for content that usually meets its end on a subscribers computer. Now it has legs.

How can I see other people using this? Tons of ways.

1. The same way that I am using it to create a history of my own reading with the ability to share right down to the topic level.
2. By individuals respected as gate keepers like librarians. Example - whether the source feeds were running on their library content or the internet they could mark items from those feeds and then give the feed based on a topic to a patron, i.e. happy computer savvy student who doesn't need to come back and ask for help again.
3. Could be used to share information behind a firewall from corporate blogs. Great way to fatten up a corporate knowledge base by picking and choosing from your qualified authors.
4. You could create micro-repositories based on topics
5. A million other ways that I haven't thought of yet. Not even quite sure I could come up with a million.

How I got here:

A few months ago, before Rick split to California, the full Naperville nerd posse was together one last time. I was busting out a story about how I was parsing out my Google Reader shared feed and displaying it for site visitors on my 'kris is reading' page. I was way stoked about it. But like many times in the past, it came to light that Rick and beaten me to this with the 'links' section of his blog. He was taking his shared feed, burning it and displaying it on its own page and in his blog navigation. Brilliant!

My consolation, instead of being first (important in nerd circles), was that I had learned how to do this with my own code . . . a valuable prize I am finding out.

So about a month ago I changed up the code to cache my shared feed items. Which was good for two reasons:

1. I could display more than the 25 items in the feed
2. I would have a historical record of what I was reading in my own blog.

And, again, I was not first again. Damn it! This step was inspired by the Tumblr link blog of Josh Bancroft. Seeing the posts cached and the ability to navigate them 20 or so items at a time was brilliant. I could see a ton of stuff that Josh was reading but also see what was motivating him enough to write posts from.

Should I know better than to try be first in doing something? Yes, but my nerd side does get the best of me sometimes.

I doubt that I am first in working over a shared feed this way but it was fun to build and I am sure it will be useful in making something else. Hell, maybe it will inspire someone else to do something episodes.

Google Reader shared feed kris is reading Josh Bancroft link blogs

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