Yahoo Pipes Retires… | OUseful.Info, the blog…


I’m also not surprised Yahoo Pipes is closing down.

Out of all my uses for Yahoo Pipes I think the key ones I have to work out how to move over somewhere else are the feeds that go into my library jobs, Surrey Mix, Hot Poppi apps and also the combined feed of the library blogs.

Most of this information is centred around combining RSS feeds, filtering them and generating an RSS output.

I might be able to do this with one of the IFTTT alternatives I posted about a while ago, or maybe I’ll actually just end up doing some programming myself to resolve it.

I’ve seen a couple of suggestions for a replacement for Yahoo Pipes, but it looks like they involve some programming themselves and fiddly setups. If that’s the case I’d rather stick to the programming tools I already know and resolve it that way.

WordPress snapshot cards created in Processing


I’ve been getting to grips with Processing lately. Apart from creating a couple of small games and a handful of generative images I’ve also been experimenting with data feeds. One of the ideas I had was to create a visual card for WordPress blogs based on the content in them. I wanted the cards to give a snapshot of the blog at that specific time, and also reflect the content of the data feed visually.

twist2-000001The background of the card is generated by the program and contains either stripes or circles and the colour and size of the stripes/circles depends upon the size of the blog post title.

It also displays the title of the blog and the url, which it takes from whatever WordPress RSS you put in there.

Automated keyword tagging has been an interest of mine for some time (as some of my Yahoo pipe experiments have shown) and in this program I pull out all of the words in the description field of the feed and then rank the most mentioned words. I also filtered out unwanted words with a stopword list. It’s interesting to see the words that crop up the most, although as a second stage I’m considering stemming words, because for example both “library” and “libraries” appears in the top 10 words in my blog and I would reduce this problem of closely related words appearing.

When you run the program each top keyword is displayed separately for a few seconds (starting with the most popular) and then it moves onto the next one.

So, here are a couple of examples from this blog and also the Voices for the Library site.

twist-000001  voices-000001 voices3-000001The aim is really just to give a simple idea of what people might find on the blog – a simple taster of it, with a bit of creativity thrown in.

I’d like to develop the idea further – include more detail and possibly have quotes and images from the blogs, as well as using more data from the feed to generate the background. I’m also thinking that if I focused on just library and information service based blogs it might be a good idea to create a dictionary of terms to compare against, as well as having the top 10 words.

Anyway, I like the way they’ve turned out so far.

Full text RSS feed sharing with FeedsAPI


I’ve been taking a look at a service called FeedsAPI recently, after one of the team got in touch with me. It focuses on pulling through full text of articles, blog posts and news items in RSS feeds instead of just the stub of article text you often see in your feed reader. This is something I’ve used Pocket for in the past. You can also set up feeds for static web pages, so that you’re alerted when content has been updated on the web page, which is similar to Web2RSS.

Once you’ve subscribed to an RSS feed you can either get any newly published items sent to you as an email alert or you can add the feed generated in FeedsAPI to your feed reader. Obviously the benefit of having full text articles being pulled through and sent to you is in the time you save in not having to click through to another web page from your feed reader and also that it makes the articles easier to read without being distracted by content elsewhere on the original page eg. adverts; links to other irrelevant articles; etc. When you subscribe you can also decide if any links in the text remain as they are, are removed, or appear as footnotes to the item (I like the footnotes option).

On top of this it has some handy subscription features – you can add other users to subscribe to your feeds and add further feeds, and you can decide who gets to see what on a feed by feed basis. So, for example if I was a librarian responsible for maintaining current awareness in an organisation and I was pulling in feeds with a range of topics, I could share certain feeds with some subscribers based on their interests. So, from the single dashboard you could control all the subscriptions you need and ensure they are shared with the right people. I’d probably need a ‘Professional’ account for this. There is a charge for the service, but you can try it for free for 14 days. For the Professional account you also get access to the API, meaning that if you want to manipulate the data generated from your RSS in FeedsAPI you can.

I can see how this could be useful for people or organisations who would tick all/some of these boxes:

  • Would prefer to get their RSS articles as full text, rather than having to click out to the full article
  • Would prefer to read their article in as clean a style as possible ie without ads etc
  • Want to manage their RSS feeds and page alerts in a single place
  • Want to either get the feed as email or read in their RSS reader
  • Want to be able to manage subscriptions in a single place for an organisation

As I say, you can get a 14 day free trial, if you like the sound of FeedsAPI and want to find out more. It’s worth taking a look at.

(Originally posted on Discover Organize Share 27/07/2014)

Replacing Google Reader With Ifttt and Pocket


A couple of days ago Google announced they were getting rid of Google Reader, which was a bit of a blow for me, as I use it as a main source of news for sharing to a broad range of social network accounts and sites semi-automatically. I used it in conjunction with ifttt, so that if I added a specific tag to an item in a Google Reader feed it would trigger an action to automatically post it to 1 of a number of accounts I use regularly.

Google Reader was flexible and because I could connect it to ifttt in this way it meant I didn’t have to log in and out of various personal and group Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Buffer and bookmarking accounts sharing links and news – I could do it all in one place. I could also do it via any device I had connected to the internet – PC, smartphone, tablet. Google Reader was also useful in the fact that you could organise RSS feeds into folders or tags and didn’t just have a huge jumble of unrelated links filling up the page. The whole set up was such a time-saver.

So, when I heard about the planned retirement of Reader my heart sank for a few reasons (1) Another popular service was being ditched by a high profile company without any thought for their users – I’d have happily paid to use Google Reader if I’d been given the option.  (2) How was I going to continue sharing this information if I had to do it all manually? (3) This ifttt setup was a key part of a presentation I was supposed to be giving at a conference about a week after Google Reader was due to close down – I could end up with very little to talk about at it!

So, I knew I had to try to find another solution. I’d looked at other RSS and news services some time ago to see if there were any decent alternatives to Google Reader. My main concern back then was that news articles were quite slow at being pulled through into the feed. Ideally if had an RSS output feed I’d use that for all my news – it’s got a wider coverage and is more up-to-date than Google News. Anyway, there wasn’t anything that worked in the way I needed it to that would provide all the functionality and flexibility in one place. Looking at lists of recommendations for Google Reader that have also appeared over the last couple of days nothing still met my specific needs in one package, although I’ve discovered some handy services I didn’t know existed.

However, after a bit of tinkering with ifttt I have managed to come up with a solution that works in a similar way to my Google Reader and ifttt set up, but instead I use a service called Pocket. This is a service for bookmarking items and articles to be read later.

Firstly I had to set up ifttt recipes to pull in all the RSS news feeds I follow into Pocket . Each separate RSS feed required a new RSS to Pocket ifttt recipe to be set up, so if I have 20 feeds I’ll have to set up 20 recipes. Alternatively, I could use something like Yahoo Pipes to pull all RSS feeds into a single one and set up a single RSS to Pocket recipe. I’m reluctant to do this though, as Pipes can be temperamental.

As you can tag items/articles in Pocket in a similar way to Google Reader it means you can organise the RSS items into related articles when they’re saved to Pocket.

Once you’ve pulled the items into Pocket with the tags, you can also add tags manually to specific items that will trigger the items to be posted to a variety of sites and services, as I had done previously with Reader. eg Add the tag “linkedin” to an item to send the article to LinkedIn. Here’s an example recipe for this.

As with Google Reader you can also mark items as read or delete them so they aren’t clogging up your feed on Pocket.

I’ve set up a number of RSS feeds going into Pocket, but as this is the most time consuming part of the process I haven’t added all of my old feeds yet. I have tested a few of the triggers and they’re working fine.

So, fingers crossed for this new setup and farewell to Google Reader – it was a great service for my needs and it’s a shame Google are binning it.

It’s Raining – Twitter Says Get To The Library


One of the inputs of “If This Then That” (ifttt) is a weather feed. It allows you to create an action based on the current weather or tomorrow’s weather. I was wondering how this could be tied in with libraries, to see if it’s of any use. I suppose if it’s not upbeat weather people might rather be inside than outside. This is simplistic I know, but I only thought of it an hour ago. 🙂 So maybe ifttt could be used to promote library services based on the weather! That might be suggesting reading a book borrowed from the library, attending an event in a library on a cold day, etc.

Rainy Walk

Rainy Walk (c) moionet/ Flickr

So, as an experiment, I set up a few ifttt tasks that would automatically send out a tweet from my personal account suggesting using library services based on the weather. For example:

Chilly tomorrow! 8C. Not staying in, but don’t fancy staying out all day. Anything on in the library?

Clear tomorrow! 🙂 Think I’ll spend the afternoon in the park with a relaxing book.

Snow tomorrow! :-O I’m stocking up with tea, chocolate, a good book & staying in.

Oh no! Rain tomorrow. Get a decent book from your library tonight & stay indoors tomorrow.

I’ve set these up already and the triggers work, so it’s looking promising already. I just need to come up with a few more creative and sensible reasons for using the library that ties in with the weather. Or maybe you can? All ideas welcome. Thanks.

Using ifttt For Productivity And More


I’m busy exploring a useful way of feeding information from one application to another at the moment. It’s called “If This Then That” (ifttt) , is based on a simple idea and is really straightforward to use.

You set up a trigger from one web application (eg A Google News search for “libraries”), so that it triggers an action in another web application any time this happens (eg Creates a blog post from any newspaper articles it finds and links to the full news article). Each trigger/action you set up is called a task.

Put into “If This Then That” terminology the above would be…

IF A Google News search finds any news articles containing the word “libraries”

THEN create a blog post in Posterous using details of that news article.”

Visually this would be set up like this.

ifttt - Task Shot 1

ifttt - Task shot 2

1.) Shows the full “task” indicating that the “If” part is pulling in an RSS feed and the “Then” part is creating the blog post.

2.) A plain English description of the task. If you add a hashtag keyword to a description you can also search on this. eg. #LibraryNews #Productivity

3.) Shows how I set up the “If” task – I just pasted in an RSS feed.

4.) Shows how I created the “Then” action. The text in {{ }} brackets indicates that these are fields in the RSS feed containing data. I can tell ifttt which part of the blog post this data should be put into eg Title, Description, Tags.

The screen shot below shows how it appears in the blog post.

{{Entry Title}} = “Uncertainty over library funding – Croydon Advertiser.

{{EntryPublished}} = October 04, 2011 at 08:44AM.

{{EntryContent}} = Title again and summary of article.

{{EntryURL}} = Link to full article on the Croydon Advertiser website.

ifttt - Task shot 3

In some cases you can indicate which piece of information triggers the response and you can indicate which information is passed to the response eg. If you were pulling through Twitter information and posting it to Evernote, you could say that you only want to see the Twitter user name & tweet, but you don’t need to see the date the tweet was sent.

There are a number of resources you can use as a trigger and/or a response to that trigger: RSS feeds; Twitter; Tumblr; Youtube; Evernote; Google calendar; Posterous; Tumblr; Clock; Weather monitor; Flickr and others too.

I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks now and I’m finding it really useful for when I’m:

(1) Performing the same/similar tasks in a variety of locations

(2) Performing the same tasks in the same place on a regular basis

(3) Wanting to re-use information in different places, without the need to do it manually.

Once created, the tasks can be edited and deleted. They can also be turned on/off depending if you want them to run all the time or only when you decide to run them.

So how have I been using it?

  • Keeping a record of what I need to do, by:
    • Feeding information from emails containing the words “To Do” or “Blog This” in the subject heading into a specific folder in Evernote.
    • Feeding bookmarks in with the tag “readlater” into the same folder in Evernote. I use this tag for large reports/articles I can’t whizz through in 30 minutes.
  • Keeping a record of what I’ve done, by:
    • Feeding bookmarks in with the tag “finishedreading” into Google calendar. These tend to be the same bookmarks as above, once I’ve read them.
    • Feeding details of blog posts I’ve written from any of my blogs into the same Google calendar.

I’m doing this (1) as a way of pulling together reminders of the things I’m supposed to be doing and (2) sometimes I feel as if I’ve not done much, so I want somewhere I can go to that will give me a positive boost and show me that I have actually achieved things.

I’m also using it for:

  • Collating library news quickly, by setting up searches on a number of sites and feeding the search results into the same blog. The purpose of this is to avoid having to do the same search over and over again in the same places, generally so I can find and Tweet news articles/blog posts for Voices For The Library more easily.
  • Feeding “likes” on various resources eg Youtube; to a blog post on my Tumblr blog. I use this blog as a place to post upbeat and creative things I like.

I know some services, such as WordPress, allow you to feed information directly to other services without using ifttt, but the good thing about ifttt, is that you can do this all in one place for a wide range of popular services, using the same method.

I’ve found it really useful so far, but as it’s still in its infancy I’ve also been thinking about how ifttt could be developed too. Here are some ideas about how I think it could be developed to help me achieve more productivity:

(1) Being able to make a copy of a task. I’m setting up a series of tasks that are only slightly different, but I have to create each one from scratch. It would be great if I could copy a task and then edit the parts that need changing.

(2) Being able to create an RSS output  for the “That” part of a task?

(3) Being able to create an Evernote input for the “This” part of a task?

(4) It would be great if I could take one input specified in “This” and feed it/branch off to multiple outputs via “That”, rather than having to set up a number of separate tasks.

(5) The ability to combine a chain of ifttt tasks in future, so that a single input can trigger a series of actions and can possibly branch off as mentioned in (4) above.

(6) A channel input/output to Google docs, specifically spreadsheets. I’m thinking that a data feed in/out of a spreadsheet would be really useful.

Even if they aren’t able to implement any of the above ideas I know ifttt is going to prove useful for me just as it is, expanding on the ideas I’ve already put into practice. It really is a useful tool and so simple to use too.