A couple of weeks ago, Yahoo! launched Pipes, a GUI that makes remixing and mashing up RSS feeds fun and easy to do. Since Pipes uses RSS data for input and output right now, the applications for social news are limited by the RSS features of the sites. The more RSS features they have, the more you can do with them in Pipes. That being said, there are a number of ways you can use Pipes to streamline your social news RSS subscriptions.
Every Move You Make
All of the major social news sites feature RSS feeds to track the contributions of individual users. It is therefore easy to set up Pipes that retrieve their contributions by entering a user’s name. Digg is the only site that doesn’t provide a single feed for all of a user’s contributions, but thanks to Pipes, we can combine the 6 feeds that they do provide for all users. Below are links to Pipes that allow you to retrieve all of the contributions of a user on social news sites:
Admittedly, all of the above except Digg retrieve a single RSS feed and manipulate it in no way. But since you can use Pipes you have created within other Pipes, having ones that retrieve users’ contributions by user name makes it easy to create the next Pipe. This one combines all of the above to let you create a “master feed” for all of your social news activities:
Digg also lacks a comprehensive feed for all of your friends’ contributions. Thankfully, we can combine the 3 separate feeds they do provide into one with the following pipe. Just enter your user name and away you go:
Many social news site have tagging features that allow you to find content by topic and then subscribe to the RSS feeds. These are great features, but there are many instances when you need to subscribe to multiple tags to cover all of the bases of a topic.
For instance, I like to track all of the hockey-related news that gets submitted to Netscape. To do this I subscribe to the “hockey”, “nhl”, “ohl”, “maple leafs” and “toronto maple leafs” tags. The result is that my reader has 4 more subscriptions than I think are necessary and there are often duplicate RSS items across subscriptions where people have used more than 1 those tags on a single submission.
Thankfully, we can clean up all of this redundancy with Pipes. The Pipes below allow you to subscribe to multiple tags with a single feed and clean out all the duplicate items:
- del.icio.us: 2 tags, 3 tags, 4 tags, 5 tags
- Netscape: 2 tags, 3 tags, 4 tags, 5 tags
- Newsvine: 2 tags, 3 tags, 4 tags, 5 tags
River of Comments
Netscape is unique among social news sites in that it provides RSS feeds for the comment threads on the site. This in turn gives us the opportunity to track conversations in different ways using Pipes.
The following Pipe allows you to track all of the comments in threads that a Netscape user has participated in. You can use it to be notified when new comments are added to any conversation you’ve participated in:
It is common for users to feel compelled to be a good host to conversations that are taking place within stories they have submitted. As such, wouldn’t it be useful to be notified by RSS when someone comments in one of your submissions? This Pipe allows you to do just that:
Netscape is very conversational by nature, with comment threads on front page stories frequently exceeding 500 comments. You’ll often see the same people commenting on the same topics. Those people would find it handy to be able to track comments by topic (i.e. tag). That’s where this Pipe comes in. You can use it to be notified when a comment has been made on a submission with a specific tag:
As social news sites continue on their path to world domination through sheer volume of users, connecting people with the content they’re looking for will be increasingly difficult. These Pipes compensate for RSS features which many of us have wished for one time or another. In the future I believe Pipes can be integral in fighting information overload in social news.
Derek van Vliet is a Toronto, Ontario native who has been programming for most of his life. In the last year he has been active in social news. He is currently a top 10-ranked user on Digg where he goes by the name BloodJunkie. He is also a professional social bookmarker (aka Navigator) on Netscape, where he goes by the name Neophile. Check his blog at http://neothoughts.com.