Getting RSS Feeds For Twitter Users

Want an RSS feed for a particular Twitter user? This used to be linked off the profile page(s) but since disappeared. It’s still available if you know where it is:

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name={username}

Replace {username} with a username (example).

You could also put a bunch of users into a list and query that using:

http://api.twitter.com/1/lists/statuses.atom?slug={listName}&owner_screen_name={username}&include_entities=true

Replace {username} with the list owners username and {listName} with the list name (example). Strangely that’s only available in atom format.

I still find RSS handy for those accounts I don’t want in my stream but want to keep an eye on, as well as those I want to programmatically access or manipulate.

Federal Support For RSS

An interesting little note going around the web today is the push for RSS/Atom feeds by the new administration. For example in the Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 [PDF] it specifically dictates that feeds are “required”:

For each of the near term reporting requirements (major communications, formula block grant
allocations, weekly reports) agencies are required to provide a feed (preferred: Atom 1.0,
acceptable: RSS) of the information so that content can be delivered via subscription. Note that
the required information can be supplied in the feed or the feed can point to a file at the agency
using the convention noted below. If an agency is immediately unable to publish feeds, the
agency should post each near term information flow (major communications, formula block
grant allocations, weekly reports) to a URL directory convention suggested below:
www.agency.gov/recovery/year/month/date/reporttype.
It is expected that the information files
will be posted at the following URLs:

  • Major Communications: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/02/16/comms
  • Formula Block Grant Allocation: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/02/16/fbga
  • Weekly Report: www.HUD.gov/recovery/2009/03/01/weekly

I predicted a few months ago there would be slow growth of feeds in the future. This is just another example of what will be fueling that growth. While I won’t debate RSS vs. Atom here, it’s still interesting to see. It seems whitehouse.gov also prefers Atom using it throughout it’s feeds.

Interestingly a year ago when I profiled all the candidate websites only Hilary Clinton (D), Tom Tancredo (R) and Ron Paul (R) preferred Atom. Everyone else used RSS. I couldn’t even find a feed on Barack Obama’s site.

I wonder if the federal government will ever have a syndication standard, either RSS or Atom. I’m guessing that decision comes down to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) who I don’t think has any standard for syndication. They themselves use RSS. So does NASA among other government agencies with websites. Considering Atom has come closer to IETF standardization it might have an edge over RSS.

Technology Growing In Public Consciousness

Google Zeitgeist 2008 is out. As always it’s a fun to read because it’s a recap of 2008. It’s also gives some pretty good insight into 2009, in particular for tech since people tend to turn to Google to explain technology for them. I noticed some very interesting things:

What is…

  1. what is love
  2. what is life
  3. what is java
  4. what is sap
  5. what is rss
  6. what is scientology
  7. what is autism
  8. what is lupus
  9. what is 3g
  10. what is art

What Is RSS

Number 5 “what is rss” is really what’s interesting. There’s long been speculation if RSS will ever move beyond a more technical audience. It powers many things on the internet, and is possibly the most popular use of XML (I’ve got no data on that), but it’s never had tremendous adoption by mainstream users who still Google for websites and read news off the homepages.

Steve Rubel thinks it’s peaked at 11% citing Forrester research back in October. Personally I think it’s still got a way to go. It will grow, but slowly. The following reasons are why I think this will turn out to be true:

  • RSS and “feed” are terms that are just now entering mainstream public consciousness. People tend to see things a while before they care about them when it comes to technology. They prefer not to waste time on fads. What we see above is evidence of a transitional step in this process.
  • Modern browsers finally offer a smoother process to help users take advantage of RSS. For most of it’s life browsers simply showed raw XML on the screen, this was unusable for 99.5% of the population. Showing XML looked foreign and overwhelming. The newer interfaces, while they can still be improved upon, are much easier for users.
  • RSS readers are at their infancy. I’m an advocate of Google Reader since very early on. That said, I think there’s a lot that can be improved upon. I think they can become a bit more usable for mainstream users, in particular when it comes to bucketing into folders and sifting/sorting. It’s management of data rather than just displaying that needs work.
  • Greater need to manage time. Lack of time and information overload have long been growing problems for people. RSS actually helps here (unless your Steve Rubel and addicted) by reducing the amount of time you need to access and digest information. I keep tabs on a few hundred sites with minimal effort throughout the day, it’s essentially a constantly evolving newspaper for me. People need to reduce the time they spend monitoring things they care about. RSS is the leading candidate to help them in this task.

Because of the need, and the fact that RSS is a pretty good solution, despite the lack of good interfaces to intproduce it to users, I suspect there will still be growth as people overcome the barriers and take advantage of it. The only way that won’t happen is if there’s a more disruptive technology. Even if that doesn’t pan out, RSS will be with us for many years due to it’s pervasive use across the net.

What is 3G

I presume this is highly related to the iPhone 3G release. The term “iPhone” appears in the Zeitgeist for several countries but not the US. I suspect that’s because it’s new to those countries. What’s new to the US is the iPhone 3G, and that’s what people wanted more information on.

What is Java, What is SAP

Enterprise IT departments love the Google. Enough said.

Other thoughts

I was a little disappointed to not see “who is rick astley“. As well as “i can has cheezburger?”

Tracking Packages With RSS

What will it take for USPS, FedEx, DHL, and the USPS to offer RSS feeds to track packages. It seems like such a natural idea. Yet none have implemented the feature themselves. It appears the USPS is trying to modernize their image, but still no RSS tracking of packages.

There are several third party sites out there that do this, but to me that’s just asking for trouble since:

  1. What are they doing with my info? Is this really secure to use a stranger as a middle man?
  2. Screen scraping can be unreliable and break. I like reliability.

It’s not that complicated to build, it’s essentially a different template on an existing system. I’d bet they even have it since many large retailers show tracking info within their order status pages. They just don’t make it available to consumers.

Am I really the only one who wants this?

A Look At Simple Update Protocol (SUP)

The increasingly popular FriendFeed is proposing a new protocol known as Simple Update Protocol (SUP). The problem FriendFeed is encountering is noting new. They monitor a RSS feeds over a variety of services for each user. This can really add up. To keep things timely they poll them frequently. Generally speaking this is a very wasteful process since the majority of those feeds likely didn’t change. That’s wasted resources. SUP in a nutshell is a changelog for feeds so that a service like FriendFeed can check only the ones that changed. This allows for quicker updates with less polling. Here’s my analysis of the proposal.

Continue reading

RSS Feed Count

I decided to count how many RSS feeds I subscribe to. Scoble better watch out.

RSS Feed Count

To be fair, I monitor a fair number just to see that they update, or to search. I don’t actually “read” them, or even look at them regularly. Others I quickly skim. Then the last group I actually look at pretty closely.

China Blocks RSS

China’s Great Firewall has now started blocking RSS, a long known loophole to get information blocked all other ways. An entire syndication standard is now blocked. According to the Ars Technica:

PSB appears to have extended this block to all incoming URLs that begin with “feeds,” “rss,” and “blog,” thus rendering the RSS feeds from many sites—including ones that aren’t blocked in China, such as Ars Technica—useless.

I wonder if a good workaround would be to just use yourdomain.com/d0e862d00be15796f/ or some other randomness. It would be a better way around filtering of just the url. Then the government would need to start sniffing content-type. The problem they would encounter there is that it’s far from standardized when it comes to feeds on the web. As a result they would have to either live with a high error rate. Unless of course the would resort to content sniffing, which has a ton of overhead when your talking about an entire countries internet bandwidth. That would be extremely expensive and either: slow down the internet in China, make it much more expensive, or just shut things down. My guess is a slowdown.

You can also just switch to atom until they catch on and block that too. The article mentions several other tricks including RSS aggregators, ssh tunnels, etc.

[Hat Tip: Slashdot]

Google Reader Update

Google ReaderI don’t see any reference on their blog, but it looks like the Google Reader team did an update to allow more than “100+” to appear. In my opinion this was the worst UI mistake in the product. This little change means quite a bit. Other than that, I can’t see any other changes. Polish is always a good thing.

Update [9/6/2007 @ 5:15 AM EST]: Search was added too. I caught them in the middle of a big update.

Google Interstitial RSS Page

Dear Google,

Every time I want to add a feed to Google Reader using Firefox, I am sent to a page that prompts me to decide if I want to use my Google Homepage or Google Reader. I have over 200 feeds in my reader, and hence have been asked over 200 times about this critical decision. It’s annoying and just a pain in the butt. It would be great if you can just remember my preference and get out of my face. Should I reconsider this option, I will promptly visit the account page and update my preference so that I am prompted repeatedly.

Regards,
Robert Accettura

P.S: I’m still waiting for a Google Phone, so I can compare it to the iPhone.