Tuesday, July 12, 2005

RSS -- Part Three

In RSS -- Part One and RSS -- Part Two, I talked about Really Simple Syndication, and How to Subscribe to Blogs using Bloglines.

In Part Three, I had planned to show how easy it was to subscribe to a blog delivered directly into your email inbox. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake -- simple and quick. I'd write it up and then move on to something else. That was back on July 7, 2005. It's now July 12th.

The tagline that best describes computers is...
Nothing is as easy as it ought to be!
Ain't that the truth?

My search for a zero-cost, quick, simple RSS email subscriber began with a trip over to Google where I looked up Newsgator and You Subscribe. Unfortunately, the deeper down the knowledge paths I journeyed, the more confused I became. I never seemed to stumble upon a no cost answer for solving my simple request. Suddenly, I was being reminded of what a rookie blogger I still am. The terminology itself is so bewildering.

I got this perfectly reasonable request from someone who loves reading the ITscout Blog. But, as she explains, unless something shows up in her email inbox, she's just never going to remember to read it. At the moment, she can't be bothered to go off to Bloglines to see if there's been any updates to the ITscout Blog. She just wants to receive -- via email -- any new postings published to the ITscout Blog.

My investigation began. I was in search of a simple, quick, and most importantly, zero-cost solution. The ITscout Blog is provided at no charge by Blogger, a Google-owned company. I've grown accustomed to Blogger's price. It's what I charge for ITscout -- plus I promise a double-your-money-back guarantee -- such a deal!

Let me reiterate the requirement as precisely as possible:
Someone subscribes to a blog. Whenever a new posting is published, that person automatically receives, via email, a linkable copy of the posting.
Like I said, a very legitimate request.

I finally found Feednation which offers almost exactly what I was looking for. Only thing is, it's early beta software. If the thought of early beta sends a shiver down your spine, that's normal. Your only question is, should you read any further? That's something only you can decide. The answer depends on the strength of your natural tendancy to avert risk versus your willingness to try something new in a fragile environment.

Feednation is free. Registration requires a username and password, followed by a simple validation process. The username is your email address.
Note: email address is also what ITscout registration uses for its username
Being an early beta, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I experienced difficulty logging in. Don't forget your password. There's no facilities yet for managing beta tester accounts. Like I said, early beta... But the tool offers exactly what I'm looking for...

Let me walk you through the process of registering with Feednation.
  1. click on the link: http://www.feednation.com/

  2. scroll down to the bottom right-hand corner of the web page, and click on the link labeled New Account

  3. Enter your email address as your username in the top line.

  4. Re-enter your email address as your username in the second line.

  5. In the third line, enter a password that you can remember (because at the moment, you can't change it).

  6. Re-enter the password in the fourth line.

  7. In the fifth line, enter that portion of your username that precedes the '@' (at sign) in your email address.

  8. The final step on this page is to press the "Sign Up" button.
    Upon successful completion, you will receive the following message:
    Registration Successful
    Thank you for registering with Feednation. You will shortly receive a confirmation email.

  9. The email you receive will look like the following

    ---- Original Message: ----
    From: info@feednation.com
    To: < your email address here >
    Subject: Welcome to Feednation
    Date: < timestamp here >

    Thanks for signing up to Feednation.
    Click here to activate your account:
    < hyperlink here >

    Best Wishes
    Feednation team

  10. After clicking on the activation link, you'll view the following:
    Registration Confirmation

  11. After seeing the above message, you need to again LOG IN by clicking on the text LOG IN at the top right corner of the page

  12. Enter your email address for your username and the password you haven't forgotten

  13. Notice the text box at the top left corner of the web page -- just below the feednation logo -- the text box labeled
    'Add New Feed'

    Enter the following exactly as it appears below:
    Note: The above link corresponds in value to the link that appears in the left sidebar of the ITscout Blog under the LINKS heading labeled

    Site Feed

  14. Click the checkmark next to the textbox. That will add the link to New Feeds

  15. Click on Feeds at the top of the page just to the right of the feednation logo. That's where you'll find ITscout Blog under Feed Name and New Feeds under Group.

    From there you can manage the feed, or delete the feed.

Good luck to anyone who decides to follow the above simple 15-step plan. Let me know how it works out.

If anyone knows of an easier or better way of subscribing to a blog via email notification, please let me know by posting a COMMENT that explains how...


Anonymous Ivan Pope said...

Hi ITScout,
Well, thanks for the review. We are, as you say, early Beta, and we do take all feedback seriously. We are working to simplify all procedures. But I do think you over egg the complexity of using Feednation. I would separate the signup procedure from the addition and management of Feeds. Surely every new application requires a bit of work to understand the processes - but generally once the hurdle of process is over, things proceed fairly smoothly.
So, assuming that you can remember your chosen password (well, you _can_ remember a chosen password, can't you - that's what we do every day), you log in to Feednation.
You have four methods of adding new Feeds to your account. The manual process of entering a Feed address is probably the most complicated. But even with this process, we have all learned to use 'cut and paste', so we don't have to remember and type long Feed addresses.
That said, dragging the Feednation Bookmarklet to the browser bar will give you a very simple way of adding Feeds from around the internet. Once the Bookmarklet is added, each time you see an XML or RSS button, you just click the Feednation Bookmarklet and it does the rest.
You can also use the Search section to find new Feeds, Groups and items. When you find something you like, you can Preview it and then Subscribe to it with one-click.
We also offer the opportunity to import Groups of Feeds that others have made for themselves. We have a system of public Groups, which is a quick way of looking at what others have collected and adding them to your account.
I do accept that all this could do with some more documentation and interface simplification, but it is all there and in the Help file to read about.
I believe that it is fairly simple to collect Feeds in Feednation. And then, we do offer a brilliant set of management tools for handling the email delivery of those Feeds.
Please keep an eye on Feednation (or better still, subscribe to our Feed) and I'm sure you'll see us change a lot in the next couple of months.
Thanks, Ivan (Feednation)

3:16 AM  
Anonymous Jack Krupansky said...

Email notification is indeed a very reasonable request, but let's face the truth: blogging and web feeds (misleadingly referred to as RSS) are simply not yet ready for prime time.

When will they be ready for prime-time, commercial, user-friendly use... ummmm... maybe not until Microsoft fully implements the features that you want to see.

Until then, we have to grit our teeth and bear the fact that the cobble-it-together Unix mentality will be dominant.

-- Jack Krupansky

5:50 PM  

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