How to track anything and everything in your lifestream

Usually, most lifestream services out there only allow you to track specific places and usually these places are only the most popular like facebook, flickr, etc. Furthermore they only give you limited control on the look.

This is mainly the reason why I went for my own hosted lifestream. It allows me to track anything I can get a feed for as well as modify it as much as I want to look the way I want it.

However there is always the problem of how to track things that do not provide a feed of some sort. Sure, you might be able to use co.mments to track you blog comments but what if you want to log the comments you left on a forum, in a bug tracker or in a private location? How about when you need to track something completely different than that, like an email of yours to a mailing list or a new torrent you’ve uploaded?

The answer is: Simple. Bookmarking.

All you need to do is utilize an online bookmarking service like or getboo to tag your actions and then use the tag feeds to import them into your lifestream. Not only then can you get a feed for the various actions of yours, but if you utilize extra tags, you can categorize it further afterwards, provided your lifestream services can play with categories.

For example, I am currently bookmarking all the comments I leave on the internet and tag them as “mycomments“. If you check these bookmarks you will also see that they are further tagged as “blogcomments”, “comment_start” etc. Once a comment is tagged, Getboo provides it as a tag feed which I import into my google reader lifestream (for archiving purposes). Finally, my lifestream takes that and depending on the original tag feed the item comes from, it formats it appropriately in the list. Thus you will see all the comments use the same icon & colour while the FSD actions another. However they are both in the same service (getboo) and in the same feed (Google reader lifestream).

Not only that, but if you look deeper you will see that even items from the same source have further differences. Under the FSD class you can see items marked as “Voted Up”, “Buried” or “Commented on”. They are all however coming from the same original getboo tag feed and this is where the tags/categories of a bookmarking service come especially handy. Using the amazing capabilities of SimplePie and some newfound php knowledge I’ve cooked up a method to query the categories of each lifestream item and further format them based on what I find.

At this point, (with only free software tools mind you: getboo, wordpress, simplepie and simplelife) I have a lifestream that is much more inclusive than, I believe, any other option out there, and the capabilities I have are truly endless.

Currently, I am planning to getting logs for mailing lists, bug fixings, wiki edits and whatever else I do on the intertubes. Once everything is ready, I just need to wrap everything up and give it to you as an enhanced WordPress plugin 😉

PS: I suggest getboo throughout this article because is already used by many other lifestreams out there already. If you start bookmarking your actions there, you’ll get them double unless you unregister totally it from your service. That will mean however that your normal bookmarks won’t be tracked anymore. By using an alternative, you avoid that fate and get the best of both worlds.

Oh, and did I mention that if you really have to, you can also host your own getboo? 😉

So what are you waiting for. Start tagging 😉

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 🙁