Aggregating and Filtering Web Sources

Trying to keep up with information on a topic via web sources is time consuming. While RSS feeds make it easier to find just the new information, there is still a lot of wasted time when feeds contain additional topics that don’t interest you. The solution is to filter feeds so that only the topic of interest is included. Some blogs allow you to filter the content by providing separate RSS feeds for each category of posts. Here’s how to get a feed of just the cartography category from this blog.

  1. Select the category you want from the dropdown list in the right sidebar.
    RSSfilter1 RSSfilter2
  2. Select the category feed from the RSS selector icon (Firefox on left, Internet Explorer on right).
    RSSfilter3F RSSfilter3IE
    RSSfilter4F RSSfilter4IE
  3. Finally, subscribe to the selected feed with your favorite feed reader, I use Google Reader. To follow other categories from the blog simply repeat these steps.

This works well for RSS sources that have category, tag or label specific RSS options, but many sites don’t have this feature. For sites without the feature you can use the filtering power of Yahoo! Pipes. Take a look at this Pipes filtered feed I created for a Blogger hosted Blog. Yahoo! Pipes provides an RSS feed of the output (as well as many other formats) that you can subscribe to in a feed reader.

Filtering feeds saves me time, but my feed reader still has too many items in the subscription list. Organizing my subscriptions by creating folders for topics in Google Reader helps reduce visual clutter and allows me to ignore less important topics when I’m busy. A more effective way of dealing with the long list is to aggregate multiple feeds with a Yahoo! Pipe. For example I have a single subscription to a pipe that combines 15 different sources about the people of, and places in, the Blackstone River Valley.

The Blackstone River Valley pipe aggregates these feeds:

If you know of other sources that belong in this pipe please leave a comment or send me an email. You may also like this aggregation of Blackstone Valley photos from five Flickr feeds.

One final note about Yahoo! Pipes, they don’t always seem to run completely when Goggle Reader first queries them (I think it’s a timeout issue). So I make it a habit to click on the pipes subscriptions occasionally even when there are no new items indicated. This sometimes finds updates to the pipe feed that were missed during previous polling by Google Reader.

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