OPML Support for JISCPress and WriteToReply

What’s the easiest way to read a document published on JISCPress or WriteToReply? One answer is just to read the document on the parent site, but another way is to pull the content into another space using the RSS/Atom syndication feeds that WordPress makes available, and that the digress.it plugin opens up even further.

In what follows, I’ll use URLs for example docs published on both JISCPress:
e.g. http://linkeddata.jiscpress.org
e.g. http://writetoreply.org/publicsectortransparencyboard

The simplest subscription option is just to subscribe to the document as an RSS feed:


This will pull the whole document into your feedreader, with each section of the document (i.e. each “page” of the doc as published on JISCPress/WriteToReply) as it’s own “blog post”.

Note that this form of subscription displays the posts in reverse order – to view the sections that make up the document in the “proper” order, we use URLs of the form:


To view the comments from the document as a whole, we need a URL that looks like:


It is also possible to get a separate RSS feed out of the platform for each page, as well as a separate comment feed for each page. For example, single item RSS feeds, where each page has an RSS feed with one item in it – the content of that page:


And for comment feeds on a page basis:

If you were viewing any of these sorts of feed in a feed reader such as Google Reader, you would be able to favourite and share each separate page or each separate comment, for example.

For an example of the sort of thing this makes possible, see An Example Netvibes Dashboard for the Digital Britain Interim Report on WriteToReply.

We can also get feeds out on a page basis where each paragraph has a separate feed item to itself:


If you were viewing these sorts of feed in a feed reader such as Google Reader, you would be able to favourite and share each separate paragraph.

With so many separate feed URLs available, it can be a problem entering them separately into a dashboard such as Netvibes or a feed reader such as Google Reader, so I’ve created a couple of OPML generators:


They both take similar sorts of parameters, which are a little opaque at the moment as I try to work out sensible OPML element configurations.

The first parameter we need for the generator specifies the document:


Then we have the parameters b, c, s, and p… If you set these parameters in the URL (e.g. b=1, c=1&s=1), they act as follows:

$c = (isset($_GET[‘c’])) ? true : false;
// import feeds corresponding to comment feeds at the page level (i.e. each page will have its own comment feed or tab in the reader/dashboard)

$s = (isset($_GET[‘s’])) ? true : false;
// import feeds corresponding to single feed item per page feeds (i.e. each page will have its own feed or tab in the reader/dashboard; a single feed item will represent the whole of the page contents)

$p = (isset($_GET[‘p’])) ? true : false;
// import paragraph level feeds at the page level (i.e. each page will have its own feed or tab in the reader/dashboard and each paragraph will be a separate feed item)

if ((!($c))&&(!($p))) $s=true;
//default behaviour – if no comments and no para level feeds, use single item page level content feeds

$b = (isset($_GET[‘b’])) ? true : false;
// bundled – one folder – all the feeds will be imported into a single folder/page
// the default should be true, but it isn’t, so you’d be advised to normally set this parameter…

Using these various parameters, you can create a range of OPML files that can be used for the bulk import of feeds from a document published on WriteToReply or JISCPress. (Typically, you will need to donwload a copy of the OPML file to your desktop and then upload it to your dashboard/feed reader application. Download the document using File->Save Page As (and then choose the simplest format possible… e.g. Web Page, XML only).)

So for example:


These OPML feeds can be useful for:

– importing feeds into Netvibes in one go, and creating dashboards with either one tab per document, or separate tabs for each document;

– importing feeds into Google Reader, so that you can read, share and favourite parts of documents (even down to the paragraph level if you import paragraph level feeds).

[Note: I’m thinking that the generation of paragraph level feeds needs tweaking in digress.it so that the title shows the first 50 or so characters of the paragraph, rather than the page title?]

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “OPML Support for JISCPress and WriteToReply”

  1. Since Safari released their ‘Reader’ as a way of rendering articles (even those broken over several webpages) I’ve looked around and found similar extensions for my chosen browser (Chrome). Both Readability and Instapaper have proven useful.

    I prefer the latter because it adds some functionality but not too much. It will save pages for reading later and do things like set the weblinks to footnotes.

    I’ve tried (briefly) WritetoReply with Instapaper – looks good and manageable. Perhaps this is not the kind of thing you’re driving at – but thinking of multiple rendering routes like this (and what you’ve described above) seem to be something increasingly on the agenda for web design.

    1. Yes -multiple viewing options is very much one of the things that I want WTR to be able to support. Ideally, I’d like users to be able to take a copy of a doc and:

      – read it howsoever they want;
      – favourite or bookmark sections of relevance to them (and maybe show those signals back);
      – comment and bookmark sections of relevance to them (and maybe show those signals back).

      I’ve not come across Readability before – will check it out :-)

      Any other use cases of how content might be consumed, annotated and commented upon (either privately or publicly) most appreciated.

      Eg, one thing I’ve been wondering is: mioght a Scrapbook version of WTR docs help us imagine what sort of use cases a doc-app built around that approach might make possible?

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