Mixing Feeds: A Brief Comparison

Many sites now offer their visitors a variety of RSS feeds which can be used to track specific aspects of their website. The most common among these would probably be something like categories based feeds. It was only a matter of time before combinations of feeds started to be offered as well. That is, people seem to want to mix and combine their favorite feeds into one crazy URL that they can use to follow all their favorite topics in a seamless, integrated and linear manner.

All i wanted to do was take 2 feeds, mix them into one, and offer it to my visitors. To do this i sifted through tons of bookmarks related to rss that i had made over the last year, until i came up with 3 web based services that did just that. These are: RSS Mix, Feedshake, and FeedBurner. There are many other services out there, but most of the other ones i went to lost me on the first page and so i won’t be telling you how easy they were to use, etc. However, if anyone knows of a service that improves upon those discussed here, by all means, post a comment about it.

i’m going to start with RSS Mix, because it was the first service i actually tried after visiting about 5 other sites with similar features. The main reason is decided to use this one and not the others is because: it doesn’t require any signup, and so the is No Username, Password or Email (NUPE) dilemma. Always a smart choice if you want people to try your service but you may not be as established as some of the larger competitors in you market. This way the user gets to try the service immediately, and if they like it, they can sign up later to get some more of the added features. NUPE web services get the least resistance. i will almost always try them out the first time i land on their site.

image of RSS Mix homepage

RSS Mix was real easy to use, just copy/paste 2 or more feed URLs into the textarea and hit ” Create! “. You are then taken to a new page where your new mixed feed URL is waiting. I can’t see how this could have been any simpler and i have to say, this was exactly what i had in mind when i set out to find a suitable service. But wait, after having pasted the new mixed feed into a reader (netvibes in this case) , i noticed a few unexpected details. The first thing i noticed was that my feed no longer held it’s original title. That is, my new mixed feed now has the title: ” RSSMix.com Mix ID 117xxx “. Quite a mouthful.. and while i guess this would be fine for personal use, i’m not sure too many site owners would want their site’s feed title replaced by a free RSS service’s branding. I don’t think they have a member’s version of the service, so i’m not sure if you can actually remove this branding from your feeds before handing them out to your visitors.

So we move on to the second choice..
FeedShake was the next service i tried. At first, it looked very promising. i got to the homepage and saw what seemed to be a familiar interface. Enter your feed URLs (separated by a space) into the textbox, fill in the feed’s title, link, and description (all optional), and click ” Create my feed “. That’s it, or so i thought.

image of FeedShake homepage

As it turns out, i was not done. i was instead just beginning. the next step in this process was the dreaded signup page. So only after you’ve spent your time pasting feeds, giving it a title, link, and description, do you find out that you need to be a members to actually use this service. One click away, but you still can’t burn your feed. i’m not sure if this was an intentional technique or not, or whether it worked on me but i definitely was not going to lose this feed mix that i worked so hard at preparing. So i caved and signed up for an account. Everything went smoothly and i was pleased to find that the feed i had created earlier (the reason i signed up in the first place) was still sitting there waiting for me. At this point, it was time to see how this new feed mix looked on my netvibes page. i loaded the feed onto my page and was thrilled to see that (as i had initially suspected) the title remained intact (unlike RSSMix) and said whatever i wanted it to say (no 3rd party branding). What’s more, the link points to wherever i wanted it to point and the description was also customizable (although these apparently don’t get used on netvibes and is not specific to any given feed URL). It will even load up your little icon file next to the title if you have one defined for your site.

And last but definitely not least there is the ever popular FeedBurner. Many times i’ve come to their homepage, read all the things that can be done with this service, felt intimidated or overwhelmed and left it for another time. Always feeling like i need to put away a large amount of time to deal with this whole new world of possibilities. With FeedBurner comes not just feeds, but podcasting, videocasting, an Ad Network, stats, pings, email subscriptions, FeedFlare, and more. there’s even an API to play around with but now i’m definitely getting ahead of myself. it’s a lot to take on when all you thought you wanted to do was mix two feeds into one. i always spend way too long reading through the entire FeedBurner site before i decide i’ve already wasted too much time and move on. maybe it’s because their services sound so interesting to me. this time i decided to sign up and take a look inside once and for all.

image of FeedBurner homepage

After wrestling with the dreaded NUPE dilemma for about another half hour, i finally convinced myself that it wouldn’t be so bad. Just give them the info and if their service is just too much, you don’t ever have to use it again. no big deal, right? Once i enter my info and hit ” Next “, i was taken to My Feeds page and told: “You have no feeds set up in FeedBurner. Go ahead, burn yours now! It’ll be a hoot.”

Everything looked cool and slick but i quickly began to feel like something was missing. It wanted me to enter my feed, a single feed. i looked frantically across the entire back-end to find a link that would lead me to the feed mixing section, but my search was in vain. there was no mixing feeds. what’s worse, is that you can’t even really look around until you enter in your first feed URL and hit ” Burn “. The closest thing i could find was a feature called ” Link Splicer “, which (all be it very cool in and of itself), was only capable of mixing in specific feeds like del.icio.us and Furl. i’m not sure if i missed anything, but this was definitely not what i had expected. On the upside, everything looks so cool and interesting in my FeedBurner account, that i can’t wait to use it for my feeds once i do get them all properly mixed.

but in general my vote goes to:

1. FeedShake (for actually meeting my expectations regarding this specific task – mix 2 feeds)
2. RSS Mix (for ease of use, not that feedshake is hard, but avoids a NUPE dilemma)
3. FeedBurner (disqualified, not really in the same class and probably shouldn’t even be in this comparison)

Comments 2

  1. Mike wrote:

    You could also use Pageflakes for reading your feeds with Feedburner. Just thought I mention it.

    Regards
    Mike

    Posted 07 May 2006 at 12:56 pm
  2. admin wrote:

    hi Mike,

    thanks for the comment.
    i passed by your site today, and i must say, i was very impressed.
    i have been a user of netvibes for some time now but was blown away to find 70+ flakes (modules) that could be easily plugged into the online desktop / webos.
    i will certainly have to spend some more time there tomorrow afternoon, can’t wait..

    Posted 07 May 2006 at 11:20 pm

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