My friend Justin Kistner has started a blog carnival of sorts that he’s calling Advanced Operators, all about working with new tools online. He’s had smart people contribute posts on all kinds of topics on their blogs and I thought I’d participate in this round.
The topic this week is “my favorite tools.” Justin has posted a good long list on his site (as well as the snazzy picture here that he designed himself!); I decided to focus on three tools in particular that I’m particularly jazzed about right now.
Did you know that you can get the contents of your Gmail inbox or just items with a particular filter or tag delivered via RSS?
Just add a URL like this to your feed reader: https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/label where the word label is replaced with your label in GMail. This will only work for RSS readers that support authenticated, or password protected, feeds. The Newsgator readers do, I think Bloglines might, Netvibes does but Google Reader does not. Crazy.
Why would you want to do this? There’s two circomstances in which I have lately. First, in consulting for clients who want to set up RSS feeds for their industry, there are often many sites that offer email lists but not feeds. I’ve found it useful to create a dedicated GMail account, give them the username and password, filter by sender to a particular tag and grab that tag’s RSS feed. Kapow – you’ve got an email list delivered by RSS. That way you can filter it, keep it out of your email inbox and do all kinds of fun RSS things with it.
The other circomstance in which I’ve done this is to create a special section of my startpage to remind me of certain emails. All the emails that come into my GMail account through the adress firstname.lastname@example.org right now are being displayed in my Netvibes page – to remind me not to lose them and to draw them to particular attention even if I’m not looking at my Gmail tab closely.
Speaking of feed creation, if you’ve got a webpage you want a feed from FeedYes is a great way to scrape one. I’ve used FeedFire and Dapper before, I’ve thought about using XFruits or Yahoo! Pipes but FeedYes is a nice mix of flexibility and ease of use.
What FeedYes does is ask you to provide a webpage’s URL, then it lists all the links on that page. You click on the first one on the list that’s useful and on the last one. FeedYes thus identifies which fields on the page you want to monitor for changes and have delivered by RSS. It’s great.
I haven’t written about FeedDigest here for awhile. I think I pay more for FeedDigest every year than for any other service I subscribe to (except web hosting). I do so happily – but you can get cheap or free accounts there too. I love this service. You can use it to combine multiple feeds into one, to filter for duplicates or keywords and to display the contents of a feed on a web page.
Check out the Shared Items section of my sidebar here – that’s displayed by FeedDigest. Those are items I’ve tagged “toshare” in Del.icio.us, with the RSS feed for that tag run through FeedDigest and displayed via a simple PHP snippet here on my page.
I hope you’ve found this post interesting. Stay tuned, as soon as I can find the time and get permission I’m going to post up a case study of a recent client I used all three of these tools (and more) for in our work together. It’s a really sweet case study – I’ve just got to put pen to paper and write it up!