Feed Splicing, Shell Scripts, and the Internet


Being an Assortment of Vaguely Related Thoughts

The handful of you who subscribe to the feed will notice that yesterday I started taking advantage of FeedBurner’s feed splicing capability. I set up an account with del.icio.us, dragged a couple of bookmarks into Firefox’s nav bar, and checked a box in my feedburner preferences…total time investment about two minutes.

The result is that now when I hit something interesting on the Web I just click my “post to del.icio.us” link, type in my notes about the page and that link is automagically added to my Web-based del.icio.us bookmarks; even better, though, is that FeedBurner then grabs that content every night and splices it into the seamonkeyrodeo RSS feed that you know and love. A cool idea, easy to set up and use, and exactly the sort of thing that companies like FeedBurner should be coming up with — my RSS feed just became more useful because I use FeedBurner.

Now on to the tangents…

I particularly like this because it fits in well with the way that I do things. One of the dumb little reasons that I stay with linux boxes on the desktop at home and work is that I can keep a command line shell open all the time. Whether I’m at home or at work, I can just type “note” into that shell and my machine dumps whatever else I type into a file, adds a date/time stamp, and (once I’ve finished the note) shoots that file over to another server where it is added to all the other notes that I’ve made over the last few years — all accessible to me via a Web page.

If you’re reading this on the Web, you may have noticed the “Notes” section in the sidebar…same idea: I note down random thoughts and a script just converts them to a .js file that gets pulled into this blog.

This is all the sort of stuff that reminds me of why I think the Internet is cool…I can easily fling information around, slice and dice it, and present it or not to the outside world. There are ongoing discussions in various places about how weak Web browsers are as content creation tools; I suppose that’s because many people are concerned about the technological barrier to content creation on the Web being too high…in some ideal worlds, I believe, all content is on the Web and everybody both creates and consumes with a Web browser. Probably not a Microsoft Web browser.

What’s particularly great about stuff like FeedBurner’s feed splicing is that it’s addressing this issue of content creation in a very different way; by taking advantage of the basic interconnectedness of the Web, using that interconnectedness to make it easy to combine information that already exists somewhere, things like the FeedBurner/del.icio.us combination get past the idea that everyone must be able to easily create HTML documents in order to “contribute” to the Web. I’m not against Wikis, nor the slick little blogger interface that I’m using to make this post, but I am really glad to see people looking at…well, “networked content,” perhaps…in a different way.