A sampler platter of things you'll learn to do
- Build a simple feed aggregator
- Add feeds to your buddy list
- Tune into rich media feeds with BitTorrent
- Monitor system logs and events with feeds
- Scrape feeds from old-fashioned Web sites
- Reroute mailing lists into your aggregator
- Distill popular links from blogs
- Republish feed headlines on your Web site
- Extend feeds using calendar events and microformats
Great Python Book
Apart from being a great book on working with RSS, this is a great Python book. The running theme in the book is extracting information and presenting it in RSS form. Since you have to get the information from somewhere the non-RSS code provides a wealth of documented examples that you can put use in your own projects. It's worth getting this book just for the code samples.
So if you are interested in getting started with Python or you are a competent Python hacker you will definitely learn something by reading the code and be able to add more tricks to your Python toolbox.
Getting Data off of a Web Site into Your System
Often times there's information somewhere on the web that you want to use in your own computing. Perhaps you want to look at news stories and display the headlines of what's happening today with a link to the site of the story. In the early days of the web, when you wanted to do something like that you had to do it manually or do some kind of hard coding to parse the information you wanted out of the HTML. Tedious, and if they ever change their web page you're re-doing your code.
This is the problem that RSS/Atom are intended to fix. These are standards that, when followed, present the information from a site in a standardized manner that makes it easy to parse.
First, what this book is NOT. This book does not tell you all the details about how to put RSS/Atom information up on a site. Instead, this book is on taking the information from an RSS/Atom 'page' and getting into a form you can use.
The book is broken down into three parts: Consuming Feeds, Producing Feeds, Remixing Feeds. In each part the author programs a few simple applications to show you what can be done. The programming is in Python, the operating system he uses is Linux.
The only complaint I could make about this book is that it would help the newbie to have another chapter at the beginning that talked about some common feeds and the nature of the tags they use to encapsulate their data.
Great for applying ideas and exploring possibilities...
Rather than just read RSS feeds, would you like to *do stuff* with RSS and Atom? I received a copy of a really good book that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of RSS formatting... Hacking RSS and Atom by Leslie M. Orchard.
Part 1 - Consuming Feeds: Getting Ready to Hack; Building a Simple Feed Aggregator; Routing Feeds to Your Email Inbox; Adding Feeds to Your Buddy List; Taking Your Feeds with You; Subscribing to Multimedia Content Feeds
Part 2 - Producing Feeds: Building a Simple Feed Producer; Taking the Edge Off Hosting Feeds; Scraping Web Sites to Produce Feeds; Monitoring Your Server with Feeds; Tracking Changes in Open Source Projects; Routing Your Email Inbox to Feeds; Web Services and Feeds
Part 3 - Remixing Feeds: Normalizing and Converting Feeds; Filtering and Sifting Feeds; Blending Feeds; Republishing Feeds; Extending Feeds
Part 4 - Implementing a Shared Feed Cache
This book starts with the assumption that you either already understand all the details of RSS/Atom formatting, or that you're willing to learn the details on your own as you go. This is *not* a reference book on RSS standards. Rather, Orchard answers the question "what can you *do* with RSS that's cool and useful?". Using a series of projects, he starts to get you thinking about how you might use RSS technology in ways you haven't considered. For instance, having your log files report things via RSS feed could give you immediate notice of unusual situations. Or perhaps having RSS feeds go to your IM client would allow you to react quickly to news and information. The possibilities are endless, and Orchard does a good job in getting you to think.
The caveat here is that he assumes a particular software language and platform for building these hacks. Python is the language used, so this book would be most helpful if you already knew the language (or were willing to figure it out on the fly). Likewise, he writes for the Unix platform primarily. You can use Unix emulators like Cygwin to run Unix-like command in Windows, or you can mentally adapt the concepts to whatever hack you want to build. At first I was thinking that single focus might be a liability for the book. But after thinking about it, I don't think it's that bad. It maintains the focus on the hack instead of on how every different platform needs to be coded, hence the book is more concise. Also, his goal is to get you to hack and experiment, not to teach you a technology via a tutorial. Since hacking is experimenting, you may end up hacking these ideas on a couple of different fronts...
Excellent idea and application book... If you're interested in going beyond simple feed readers and building stuff for yourself, this is a definite purchase you want to check out...
don't worry about the different versions of RSS and Atom
The book is very logically arranged into 3 parts. For using feeds, making feeds and mixing feeds. Most readers will probably deal with the first part and maybe the third part.
Using feeds is explained as being able to aggregate data from websites offering these using RSS or Atom methods. From which, you can see how to recast the output into HTML pages for your website. Or maybe send it to your mailbox. Actually and more realistically, to the mailboxes of those who visit your website and ask for this feed.
Orchard deliberately does not go much into the fine distinctions between the different and incompatible RSS standards. Or likewise with the various Atom formats. More technical books can discuss these points ad nauseum. But Orchard is aiming this text at a programmer who just wants to put together a news feed, and does not really care about lower level details.
Making a news feed is the second part of the book. Only a fraction of readers will head here. It's not easy to produce original content, after all.
The last part of the book is essentially an advanced continuation of the first part. You are shown how to embed higher level logic into processing the feeds. With an extensive example on using a Bayesian to try to identify news articles that might be of interest to your readership. Be aware that the Bayesian method is not perfect. Occasionally, you might get an incongruous article.
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