Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Grazr + Bloglines

If you haven't discovered Grazr yet, you're missing out. Grazr let's you organize RSS, RDF, and Atom syndicated feeds, along with OPML outline files in a small scalable widget. It's alot like having a mini browser right on you own page but instead of surfing websites, you're surfing feeds.

This is a fantastic tool in an age where syndication is everywhere. With all these feeds floating around it becomes harder to organize them efficiently. It's bad enough for news junkies who could be tracking literally hundreds of feeds, but throw into the mix: podcasts and video casts- the numbers can get staggering.

Say you have a list of your top ten favorite news sources, or an even larger list of favorite podcasts that you like to listen to. You could get a feed aggregator to help you keep them all in one place, but most aggregators are programs you need to download, and configure. Grazr is both online and much simpler to use.

Perhaps one of the best uses I've found was to use Grazr in combination with Bloglines. I stumbled upon this little trick at Josh Bancroft's site. Josh Bancroft seems to be a power user who surfs hundreds of feeds. He has an account at Bloglines and used it to subscribe to many, many feeds. He then made his Bloglines subcriptions public. One of the things Bloglines lets you do is surf other users subscriptions. If you find a use who has similar interests, you like, you can export their list as an OPML file. This OPML file is where Josh's trick works. Since Grazr can read OPML outlines, he simply right-clicked and saved the link location, from his public page. When he set up his Grazr widget, he used this link, and presto. He put the widget on his site and he has a live view of his Bloglines subscriptions, right on his own Blog. Anytime he adds new subscriptions to his Bloglines account, his widget automatically gets updated. In my opinion, this is a truly powerfull way of using Grazr.

I was toying with this, since I have my own Bloglines subscription. I am also a fan of youtube, and I knew they offered feed subsriptions. I was curious to see how this would look in Grazr.

I found feed links by visiting youtube's RSS page(I clicked on their RSS icon at the bottom of their main page). I then searched for these feeds through Bloglines, and found them. I then found out that you
could subcribe to specific youtube search tags through Bloglines. So I subscribed to their main tags like: most viewed today, most viewed this week, newest videos, videos tagged 'Japan', etc.. After putting the widget here on the Trap, I took a look at the youtube feeds. I was pleasantly surprised to find I could actually watch the videos withing the Grazr widget.

Youtube videos must resize automatically according to the size of the browser, because the videos are quite small, but still viewable. I had to fiddle with the dimensions of my Grazr widget because even though the youtube videos resized themselves they still must've been on preset increments. I set my Grazr widget width to just under 200px, and the videos fit nicely. My next task was to check podcasts, and audio files.

I had already subscribed to some podcasts, through bloglines, and found that you can listen to them from within the Grazr widget.

Not all podcasts are the same. Some have direct links to the audio file(as shown in the picture on the left). Some others use various flash audio players. When trying to listen to LOSTCasts, I found I had to click the direct link which opens a new browser window. But the ones that have flash players show up within the widget, and you merely click the play button and it starts playing.

I did a search on Technorati for blog posts about Grazr, to hopefully find some other ways to use Grazr. Check out some of these innovative ways of adding to the power of Grazr.
If you spend some time searching you can find some neat and interesting ways to utilize Grazr, and discover many new feeds you never knew existed.

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