Aiding the Atheist Blogroll

Like any good atheist, I’ve been trying to keep myself in the loop by monitoring the Atheosphere. Unfortunately, due to the sheer quantity of such content (At the moment, the Atheist Blogroll is at more than 700 individual active blogs) it has always been a bit overwhelming.

I’ve tried using Planet Atheism, but I quickly realised that it is tracking only a limited amount of blogs (certainly not as many as the blogroll).

I then registered to the all the Atheist blogs through the OPML for a while but that was just overwhelming, not to mention time consuming (to update the folder each time a new blog was added). I then tried simply registering to the Google Reader tag that Larro is maintaining and that was a bit easier but I still had the problem that the quantity of the posts was overwhelming. With more than 1000 posts a month it is simply impossible to find the good ones. I even tried using other services like Reddit Atheism, and Atheism Spot but these have generally very low output and generaly partisan-y.

The Bashboard of AideRSS
The Bashboard of AideRSS

In the end I just decided to see how I could fix this and fortunately, I happened upon AideRSS. After a bit of struggling and some firefox restarts (simply because of the amount of ram all the scripting ended up consuming) I managed to get it organised and ready for the godless.

How does this help? Well instead of simply seeing each and every post people are making, many of which will be not be very relevant to your interests, you can choose to limit the items you see to only the ones that have been more “popular” or succesful.

‘Ah’, I hear you say, ‘Won’t that just mean that the popular bloggers out there like will hog all the spotlight, even more than they do now? Small blogs can rarely get 5 comments on a post where, Pharyngula would be hard pressed to get less than 20.’

Have no fear. This is where the beauty of this particular system is. The posts you see when you filter by popularity, are not the most popular posts compared to other blogs but compared to other posts in the same blog. Thus while I may, on average, get 1-2 comments per post, a post that gets 10 will be considered good and one that gets, say, 30 will be well on its way to “best”. Also, since it takes into consideration diggs, bookmarks, linkbacks etc, you may get “popular” even without any comments at all.

This way, even though my post got 10 posts while Pharyngula’s got 100, we are both simply “good” since, compared to ther of our own respective posts, these are simple “higher than average”.

This does not mean of course that you should stop using Reddit, Digg, Stumbleupon etc. On the contrary, you should keep using them because the popularity of each post is using (Well, not at the moment, but very soon I’m being told) ratings on these services as well. The only difference is that this popularity does not stay in the respective service but it helps people who use AideRSS to see the more interesting posts.

So how can you get in into that action? There’s a few ways.

  1. You can grab either the Atheist Blogroll Good posts of the Best posts OPML files that I’ve created and import them into your feed reader of choice. The Good posts will give you more content as the bar is lower.
  2. You can simply subscribe to my own Top Stories that I’ve set up on my account. I will try to keep this updated with new additions to the Atheist Blogroll.
  3. If you’re using Google Reader, just grab the plugin and you’re done 😉
  4. If you’re using NewsGator, just set your Sort Order the AideRSS Postrank.
  5. You can create an account with AideRSS, grab the original Atheist Blogroll OPML [3. Will become outdated on the next blogroll update though] and the use the import function there. Once the feeds are insterted in your account (it won’t take long as they’ve already been analyzed with my import) you can change the filter settings to what you want and grab you own customised feed. You’ll have to update your blogroll manualy with this method however. However now you can select some on low filter and others on high.

So you’ve got quite a few capabilities to work with this already. If you are getting as overwhelmed with news and posts as I am, hopefully this will help you cut down on the clutter. Plus, if you join AideRSS you can get the stats for your own site and see with one look which of your posts are the more popular. You can see the Division by Zer0 here for example.

Hope y’all find this as useful as I did 😉

Using a Google Reader as a lifestream archive

After I set up my lifestream to track a host of custom actions (like comments on other blogs, or votes on FSD) I discovered that many of the feeds I was using were having a item limit (from 10 to 20). That meant that if I made, say, 11 or more comments in various other blogs, the older ones would dissapear from the list, even if the date was still in the limit I’ve set. Only the newer 10 would always be shown and it would seem as If I made no comments below that date.

It was not a bigg issue but I really wanted it to work right so as to get a more accurate overall idea of where I am spending my time (graphs and so).

I remembered then, that Google Reader seems to always have the option to go back into older posts in the feed, up to the time that you made the subscription through it. This meant that it archives everything in that feed and stores it in its own server (Damn that Google storage is endless). Also, Google Reader has the option to put various subscriptions under a specific folder/tag, allowing you to read all the subscriptions together.

It also allows you to make that tag public. A Public tag allows anyone to see the feeds that you share through it but also gives you a feed to subscribe in turn. This feed, unlike the original ones, can provide feeds data as far back as the time you made the Google Reader subscription (and even further if someone else had subscribed to it before you, I believe). All I needed to to is append ?n=# at the end of my google reader feed where # is the number of items I want to see each time the feed is polled. (I selected 100)

So there I had it. An easy way to make an arvhive of my tracked activities without setting up my own database.

The only problem now was to make the lifestream plugin recognise from which feed in turn each item comes and then assign it the correct class. This was a more challenging question as my previous method to compare the original feed with the current item’s could not work. I discovered that I could filter by the items target link but since I wanted to use the same service to track different activites, it would always filter them the same way. In case you’re wondering, I use Getboo to bookmark pages that I commented on as well as FSD articles I’ve voted up, down or commented (Since, unfortunately, FSD does not provide such feeds by itself until now). The number of things I track through Getboo will only increase as I find more actions that don’t provide feeds.

Thus I needed some way to the original feed through my Google Reader lifestream feed.

Well, how very fortunate of me that Google Reader publishes an Atom feed and not only that but it includes the source of the original feed for your convenience. 😀

A little trial & error with the (truly excellent) SimplePie APIs, and I’d managed to find and write the code that I needed to use.

if ($feedurl == $greader_lifestream_feed) {
if ($source = $item->get_source()) {$source_url = $source->get_permalink();}
if (stripos($source_url, 'twitter') !== false) {
$class = 'twitter';
$tf_counter = $tf_counter+1;
$current_title = 'Status Update (Twitter)';
if (stripos($source_url, 'mycomments') !== false) {
$class = 'comments';
$extra_text = 'Commented on: ';
$getboo_comment_feed_counter = $getboo_comment_feed_counter+1;
$current_title = 'Comments Elsewhere';
if (stripos($source_url, 'fsd') !== false) {
$class = 'fsd';
$extra_text = 'Voted up: ';
$fsd_counter = $fsd_counter+1;
$current_title = 'Votes up on Free Software Daily Article';

And yes. I’m proud of my little code snippet. 😀

So now, if I have any feed with a sufficiently low item limit, all I need to do is subscribe to it through Google Reader and add the appropriate if statement in my plugin code and presto! Instant archiving. There is only a (very) slight problem in the sense that the lifestream update is delayed by the time it takes for google reader to refresh the original feed and then update the public tag.

All I need to do now is figure out a way to separate items in the google reader feed through the category tags that getboo provides. That would be sweet as it would cut down on line number but unfortunately the get_category() simplepie function does not seem to work as intended for me 🙁

To aggregate!

Google Reader screenieΤο παρακάτω κείμενο παρολίγο να ήταν σχόλιο στο ιστολόγιο του Ale3andro αλλά μιας και γινόταν αρκετά μεγάλο, είπα να το βγάλω σαν trackback

Ο Αλέξανδρος λοιπόν έγραψε αυτό το κείμενο περι των aggregators και πως ο online aggregator google reader του φάνηκε πιο χρήσιμος. Μετά απο τα θετικά σχόλια που βρήκε περι αυτό έκανε ορισμένα αρνητικά, το οποία είπα να σχολιάσω:

Το βασικό αρνητικό των aggregators είναι ότι σε απομακρύνουν από τα αγαπημένα σου sites/blogs.

Δεν καταλαβαίνω πως σε ένας aggregator σε απομακρύνει. Μέσω του G-Reader μπορώ να διαβάσω πολύ περισσότερα απο τα αγαπημένα μου ιστολόγια χωρίς κόπο και με λιγότερο χρόνο. Επίσης αποφεύγω έξτα φόρτωμα απο αχρείαστες εικόνες και διαφημίσεις που (ειδικά το δευτερο) που 95% του χρόνου δεν κοιτάω καν.

Επισκεπτόμενος ένα site βλέπεις πολλά περισσότερα απ’ ότι διαβάζοντας απλά ενα post στον aggregator. Το design, blogroll, άλλα άρθρα,

Όσον αφορά το να βλέπεις τον σχεδιασμό του blog κλπ, όπως και να έχει, αυτο θα σε ενδιαφέρει μόνο 2-3 φορές πρίν αρχίσεις να το αγνοείς. Στην δικιά μου περιπτωση, σχεδόν πάντα θα τύχει να δω το design όταν θα γράψεις κάτι το οποίο θα με κάνει να θέλω να σχολιάσω. Εαν θέλω να εξερευνήσω το ιστολόγιο, αυτό θα το κάνω μόνο μια φορά, και όχι κάθε φορά.

σχόλια (τα comment feeds είναι υπερβολή),

Τα comment feeds δεν είναι καθόλου υπερβολή. Πες οτι πήγες σε ένα blog στο οποίο έχεις γράψει ένα σχόλιο και περιμένεις απάντηση. Έχεις 2 επιλογές. 1. Κάνεις bookmark το post και το επισκεπτεσαί σχετικά συχνά για να δεις εαν απάντησε κανείς ή 2. Παίρνεις το feed του και το αποθηκέυεις σε ένα φάκελο (πχ comments) που τον κρατάς κλειστό ώστε να μην παίρνει χώρο. Όταν κάποιος απαντήσει, απλά βλέπεις οτι ήρθε καινούργιο μήνυμα και απαντάς. Υπάρχει και η επιλογή 3. όπου το blog έχει επιλογή να σε ειδοποιεί με email για καινούργια comments αλλά κατά την ταπεινή μου γνώμη, ένα feed είναι καλύτερο.

Αρνητικό είναι επίσης και το ότι με το που τον ανοίγεις σου εμφανίζει ένα αριθμό καινούργιων posts και κατά κάποιο τρόπο σε αναγκάζει να τα δεις όλα, σαν να είναι υποχρέωση.

Μπορείς να τροποποιήσεις το bookmark που ανοίγεις στον reader (ή τις ρυθμίσεις του reader) ώστε να σε φέρνει στο “All Items” αντί για το “Home” οπότε απλά βλέπεις τι καινούργιο έχει γραφτεί.

Να αναφέρω και μερικά ακόμα θετικά σημεία:

  • Shared Items: Αυτά είναι τα posts που μαρκάρεις κατάλληλα απο το reader με τα οποία οι “φίλοι” σου μπορούν να δουν τι βρήκες ενδιαφέρον στο δίκτυο ακόμα και εαν δεν παρακολοθούν το συγκεκριμένο site. Μπορείς να μαρκάρεις οτιδήποτε λαμβάνεις ώς feed σαν share, ακόμα και σχόλια, όπως πρόσφατα έκανε ένας “φίλος” μου στον reader. To feed απο τα shared απο την άλλη μπορείς να το κοτσάρεις σε διάφορα σημεία, όπως για παράδειγμα έχω κάνει εγώ στο facebook και στο navigation στο πάνω μέρος της σελίδας μου.
  • Στατιστικα:Είναι ένα χαριτωμένο feature μέσω του οποίου μπορείς να δεις τι διαβάζεις περισσότερο (και πόσο) και ποιοί είναι οι πιο γρήγοροι bloggers (Πχ ο πλανήτης ΕΛ/ΛΑΚ βγάζει περίπου 3.5 κείμενα την ημέρα)
  • Για να μην μιλήσω για την ευκολία με την οποία μπορείς να βρείς κάτι που διάβασες στο παρελθόν. Μιάς και μιλάμε για google, η πιθανότητες εύρεσης είναι αρκετά δυνατες. Αυτή είναι μια δυνατότητα που έχω χρησιμοποιήσει παραπάνω απο μία φορές όταν ήθελα να βρώ “εκείνο το ωραίο κείμενο περι ταδε που είχα διαβάσει κάποτε”. Εαν χρησιμποιείς και tags δε, ακόμα καλύτερα.
  • Δυνατότητα να παρακολουθείς ένα μεγάλο αριθμό ιστολογίων χωρίς να πλυμηρίζεις. Πχ, αυτή τη στιγμή έχω ένα φάκελο με όλα τα rss feeds του Atheist Blogroll που αυτή τη στιγμή έχουν ξεπεράσει τα 500. Αυτό μου δίνει την δυνατότητα να διαβάσω πολύ περισσότερες φωνές και με μεγάλη διαφοροποίηση απόψεων.