Tag Archives: attention

Identi.ca Reply Sniffer

It looks like a few of us are starting to play with Identi.ca. It’s just like Twitter, but without the community and without any real tools to support it 🙂

Anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to track @replies. I’ve put together a quick Yahoo pipe that will catch at least some of your replies. This is highly experimental (pre-alpha stage maybe). Welcome to the Identi.ca Reply Sniffer Pipe.

I’ll try to make some improvements to it over the next couple of days, but in the meantime, feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments on this post.


  1. Go to the Identi.ca Reply Sniffer Pipe
  2. Enter your username and click “run pipe”
  3. Grab the RSS feed output

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Yahoo Pipes lately (some would say slightly obsessed with using them) to hack up RSS feeds and tweak them to be more useful for me and others. Justin told me it would be a good idea to pull them all together in one page to make it easier for people to find them, so I created the Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page. You can find it conveniently located in the Fast Wonder Blog menu bar, and I’ll try to keep it up to date with new Yahoo Pipes.

Tips for RSS Feeds, Yahoo Pipes, Attention, and Netvibes

Lately, I have been obsessed with RSS feeds. More accurately, I have been obsessed with all of the cool things I can do with Yahoo Pipes, AideRSS and other tools that make my consumption of RSS feeds even more efficient. There are so many great blogs, people, sites, and more that I want to read, but you can only effectively pay attention to so many things without sacrificing things like sleep in order to keep up. I designed a Top Blog Posts pipe to help me find the posts that were getting the most attention from others using AideRSS as a filter. This is a great start, but having a way to prioritize information in your feed reader can also make a huge difference. This is where Netvibes comes into the picture.

I’ve been using Netvibes since mid-2006 (I found the first reference to Netvibes on my blog back on August 11, 2006), so I hadn’t really thought much about how I read my feeds until recently. Justin was in the process of putting together some intelligence dashboards for the execs at Jive to keep up with industry news, and after he decided to use Netvibes for the dashboard, I found myself sitting down and showing him all of the cool tweaks to make it more efficient to use. He encouraged me to blog about it, so here I am! 🙂

Part of the power of Netvibes is that it is easy to use for people who are less tech savvy, yet so versatile that it can be used by real feed power users. This makes it perfect for the type of intelligence dashboards Justin has been doing. Now I’ll get on with the real purpose of this post.

Tips for using Netvibes:

  • Tabs. Start by thinking about how you want to organize your attention. This will drive how you configure your Netvibes tabs. I organize my tabs based on content areas of interest: Tech/Web 2.0, Open Source, Community, General News, and Jive. I also have a personal tab where I keep vanity feeds, personal (non-tech) friend blogs, weather widgets, etc. This really helps focus your attention on specific topics at different times of the day.
  • Adding Feeds. You can manually add feeds using the “Add Content” button. You can import your feeds into Netvibes using various methods including OPML files. You can also share tabs with friends; for example, here are a few of my tabs: community, Tech / Web 2.0, and Open Source.
  • Configuring Feeds. You don’t need to live with the default number of items showing for a feed; this can be configured for each feed by clicking the edit button. For blogs that don’t update very often, I bump them down to 3-4 items, while some of my pipes feeds filtered through AideRSS show 15 items. Using the edit button, you can also change the title, show more details (description of each post), and configure links to open in Netvibes preview or directly on the site.
  • Columns. Use columns to further organize data within each tab by clicking the down arrow on your selected tab to set the number of columns. You can configure each tab to have 1-4 columns of data, and I have found that 3-4 columns is perfect for me.
  • Organization. This gets a little tricky depending on how you view Netvibes. Assuming you rarely use Netvibes from your smart phone (I’ll talk more about this later), you might want to put the important stuff at the top of each column or organize information into various columns based on subtopics or some other scheme. You can easily drag and drop feeds all over the page to move them between columns and even between tabs. If you have a lot of feeds, it will be easier to move them around if you collapse all of the feeds by clicking the tiny black up arrow next to the settings link in the top right corner of the page (don’t worry, you can expand all the same way when you are done).
  • Mobile organization. At a recent geek get together over the holidays, Marshall Kirkpatrick was showing me the improvements they’ve made to m.netvibes.com, the mobile interface for Netvibes. I am finding it to be a great way to catch up on feed reading during the bus ride to / from work. However, after starting to use the mobile interface, I found that I needed to do a complete overhaul of the way that I use columns. The mobile interface goes through each column in sequence by completing all of column 1 from top to bottom before starting at the top of column 2 and traversing it from top to bottom. Based on this, I reorganized my feeds into sections based on importance. For example, in my tech / web 2.0 tab, I start column 1 with my Top Blog Posts pipe that filters top posts through AideRSS followed by some of the important industry feeds with frequent content (ReadWriteWeb, GigaOM, etc.), since these are usually the first things I want to read. Column 2 has blogs from industry thought leaders like Confused of Calcutta and Doc Searls, and Column 3 has blogs from tech friends, etc. As long as you keep the things that are important enough to want to read first in column 1, you should be in good shape using the mobile interface.
  • Widgets. There are thousands of really useful widgets that offer more that just feed data. These are built into Netvibes and can be found by clicking the Add Content link. You can find widgets for weather, email, IM, Digg, Flickr, Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, videos, and many more. There are also widget containers that you can use to drop a bit of code into to easily create your own custom widgets for your page.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Netvibes. It has some really interesting features that make it easier for me to manage large quantities of information while focusing my attention on the most important bits of data.

What did I miss? Feel free to leave some of your tips for using Netvibes in the comments!

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Find Top Blog Posts Using Yahoo Pipes with AideRSS

I’ve been really excited about the potential of Yahoo Pipes recently, and as a result I’ve spent quite a bit of time playing with Yahoo Pipes over the past couple of weeks. I recently put together a pipe that I am finding really useful, and I thought a few others might find it interesting, too.

The problem:

When reading my rss feeds, I tend to skip blog posts with titles that do not immediately catch my eye as something interesting. As a result, I sometimes miss important news or ideas that everyone else is talking about.

The solution:

I decided to put together a pipe that takes some of my favorite blogs as inputs and sends the posts through AideRSS to find the ones with the most comments, discussion, bookmarks, etc.


  • I put together a csv file with some of my favorite blogs formatted without the leading http:// to make them easier to process through AideRSS (alternatively, you could also bring in the complete URL and use pipes, to reformat the strings, but I was striving for simple). I then pulled this into the pipe as input using the Fetch CSV module.
  • I then used the Loop module with an embedded URL Builder module to append the appropriate string (blog url from the csv file) to an AideRSS URL (filtering on only the “great” posts). The output from this module produces a bunch of URLs each looking something like this:
  • I ran this output through another Loop module with an embedded Fetch Feed module to fetch each individual blog post from each URL built in the previous step.
  • In order to filter out any duplicates, I then ran it through a Unique Filter module based on item link. You would only need this step if one or more of your original sources in the csv file aggregates feeds from other sources.
  • I also wanted to limit my results to blog posts from the past 5 days, so I used the Filter Module along with the Date Builder module to restrict the dates.
  • The result of the above steps gives you the basic information, but I decided that I also wanted to reformat the titles to add the AideRSS rating and post date directly into the title, so that I could easily see which ones were the most important. I used yet another Loop module with an embedded String Builder module to add additional data to the title. I then stored the output back into the item title, which results in titles like this:
    Rank 10.0 1-19 This is the blog post title
  • My final step was to sort the items using the Sort module to put the highest rated posts (using AideRSS rating) at the top with a secondary sort by date that puts the newest posts at the top when you have several posts with the same rating.

Viola! I have a pipe that finds the most important blog posts for me. Keep in mind that this will never help you find breaking news, since it usually takes a day or so for many posts to accumulate enough comments / links / etc. to have a high AideRSS rating, but it does keep you from missing really important news and ideas.

You can view the source of the Top Blog Posts pipe or get the RSS feed. You can also clone the pipe when viewing the source if you want to use it as a starting point for something else you want to do.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

The Power (and Pain) of Yahoo Pipes for RSS Aggregation

I read about Yahoo! Pipes when it first came out, but never really gave it much thought until a couple of recent discussions with Justin and Paul opened my eyes to the power of Pipes. Part of the beauty and power of Pipes is that it is much easier than it sounds or looks at first glance, especially to get some simple aggregated rss feeds up and running quickly; although, the some really tricky stuff can require more work and some specific expertise.

Simple RSS Aggregation

An easy, but powerful, way to get started with Pipes is by aggregating a few feeds. A couple of weeks ago, I needed an easy way to aggregate all of the recent discussions across more than a dozen sub-communities from the Jivespace Developer Community Clearspace instance into a single feed that could be displayed in the sidebar of the Jivespace home page. I used a very simple Pipe for this task.

How? I added over a dozen feeds to the Fetch Feed module, sent the output through a Sort module to sort by date, and then set this to the pipe output. Simple and easy. Now it was time for something a little more powerful …

Feed Aggregation with Filtering, Looping, and String Building

I also did a more complex pipe with a few additional functions. This slightly more complex pipe is called the Dawn Foster UberFeed, which pulls in content that I publish across the web: Fast Wonder Blog, Fast Wonder Podcast, Flickr, Magnolia, and Jive blogs / podcasts.

Part of it was easy. The Fast Wonder feeds and Flickr feed contain only content that I write, so all of those feeds are in a simple Fetch Feed module.

Pulling my content from the Jive feeds required the addition of a simple filter after the Fetch Feed module. I included a Filter module to only permit items where item.author contains the string “dawn”. This filters out the Jive posts from other co-workers and only pulls in the posts that I authored.

I also wanted to add my Ma.gnolia links to the feed, but this got a little more complicated. It would be easy to simply add the Ma.gnolia feed to my list of feeds in the Fetch Feed module; however, it made my links look like they were authored by me. To avoid taking credit for the work of others, I decided that I wanted to add the string “Magnolia Link: ” to the beginning of every link to make it clear that these are my links, not my posts. I used the Loop module with an embedded String Builder module. This loops through every item in the Ma.gnolia feed and builds a new string by concatenating “Magnolia: ” with item.title. The result of this operation is assigned back into item.title.

Bigger image.

I took all of these various outputs after the filters and sting modifications and integrated them together using the Union module. The output of this union is then sent through the Sort module, which orders all of the content from newest to oldest by item.pubDate.

You can view the source of the pipe or subscribe to my UberFeed if you want to see exactly how this works.

The Pain of Yahoo Pipes

This brings me to the pain of pipes. It is still in beta and is still a bit buggy. For the most part, it seems to work, but I am finding little annoying things that just don’t quite work consistently. For example, we have a pipe we are using at Jive that works fine for me in Netvibes; however, for other people using other feed readers, some items are duplicated many times. I also recommend saving frequently. It has a tendency to crash Firefox occasionally. Despite the bugs and quirks, Pipes is a really powerful tool for RSS junkies like me.

Recommended Reading:

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Information Overload, Attention, and RSS

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a fascinating piece on ReadWriteWeb today about Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond. Those of you who follow Marshall on Twitter know that he frequently socializes ideas for posts like this one on Twitter as he writes the article getting real-time feedback on ideas. This one was a particularly interesting discussion to watch as it unfolded. I only wish I hadn’t been quite so slammed today so that I could have paid more attention to it.

I saw what I think is a common theme across a few of the items in Marshall’s list of common objections. Information overload. People increasingly have difficulties managing the stream of information vying for our attention every second of the day. If we participate in social media and the increasing numbers of new online tools, how can we possibly pay attention to all of it? Here are a few items from Marshall’s list of objections that seem to fall into this category:

1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what’s discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don’t have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can’t tell where to invest my time so I don’t use any of it at all.

Quoted from ReadWriteWeb

This is where RSS and other tools that help us manage where we do and do not focus our attention come into play. I agree with some of these objections to a point. Yes, there is information overload; yes, it takes time and energy; yes, some of it is shallow and meaningless; and yes, it can be hard to figure out where to invest your time. However, and this is a big however, it can be easier than many think.

Tools like RSS can really help you prioritize where you focus your attention. I use Netvibes as my RSS reader with topics organized by tab and information organized by how important / credible it is. I have separate tabs for Web 2.0/social media, open source, community, Jive, and a few misc. tabs. Each one has the stuff that I want to pay the most attention to at the top with lower priority feeds near the bottom. It really helps me stay organized and focused on those things that are important to me.

Yahoo Pipes takes this one step further. You can aggregate information from multiple feeds and filter it by keywords and other items to create very specific targeted feeds. I’ve just started playing with Yahoo Pipes, so I hope to have a more detailed analysis on it in a couple of weeks after I’ve had time to explore more of what it can do.

The point is that we all have difficulty managing information overload and our attention stream; however, we can’t let this stop us from exploring new technologies and new ideas. The solution is not to avoid these new tools. Our focus should be on finding ways to better manage this stream of information in a way that increases, not decreases, our productivity.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts: