Launching Feedvolley

Feedvolley is a new project I collaborated on with Kyle Bragger. It began when Kyle and I found we each had the same idea at the same time and so we set out to build it – Kyle, who is one of the brightest coders I’ve met and among the rare total developers that master the whole range from visual design to server side, is responsible for everything that looks good in Feedvolley, as well as for the name itself.

Feedvolley basically takes in an RSS feed and displays it in user defined HTML template. You can start with a default theme and can later use another pre-set theme or customize your own HTML/CSS/JavaScript. You can set the path portion of your URL (ie feedvolley.com/) and have people view it a regular web page. People who like it can then click “Create a page like this” and start off their own pages, modifying the look or content to their needs.

Consuming an RSS feed and putting out HTML may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but I think it can have some interesting uses. One is to complement feed tools like Yahoo!’s Pipes that let you mix together and modify different feeds. For example, you could use Yahoo! Pipes to combine several job site feeds, filter only those which contain a certain keyword and present the resulting feed as an HTML page. Or you could take the output of a any feed aggregator and display it River of News style, perhaps with some JavaScript effects etc., or you might use a scraping tool like Dapper to extract certain parts of a page’s contents into an RSS feed, and display it with your own look.

Another use is to skin existing websites. You can take content from any website with an RSS feed and use Feedvolley to present it with a different HTML skin. For example, here’s the NY Times’ homepage in a different layout. There’s a nice subversive potential here, and having complete control over your HTML/JS/CSS allows for a lot of creativity. My own front-end coding skills somewhat lacking, I still managed to do a mildly interesting project like NYMinute using META Refresh tag and Flickr’s ‘photos tagged nyc’ feed.

Hopefully, users will put Feedvolley to other, unforeseen uses. I already found an unexpected one in the site itself, to display the Recent Pages feed. When I demoed it to a friend, he instantly set up a digest page of updates to his company’s Wiki site. You can get something up very quickly with just a URL and your email address, and later on you can customize it to do anything that can be done with HTML and JavaScript.

Feedvolley continues on themes from projects like Notifyr and Prixfeed. First, RSS as the web API – I think RSS goes a long way towards a common API for websites. It is read only and lacks some features, but most sites only need a read-only API, detailed information can added via domain-specific tags or microformats and, most importantly, it’s already in wide use. I think there’s a lot more to do with the RSS content already being out there in addition to the current Feed Reader uses.

Second, the idea of content modifiers (or participators, user/developers etc). Everything Feedvolley does can be accomplished with some code, but removing the setup and maintainence overhead and the need to write code opens this kind of application to a much bigger potential crowd (this is like Notifyr‘s URLs that allow web literate – but not necessarily technical – users to construct a link lets people subscribe to their Flickr page). UI elements like minimal setup dialog, no registration requirement and support for copying existing pages are there to make Feedvolley something that you can play around with, tweaking it and getting instant feedback.

Really, you can :) Just follow this: Feedvolley

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5 thoughts on “Launching Feedvolley

  1. Checked it out, the default layout seems a little noisy for my taste, but the concept is sound and I like the variety of layouts (very nice). As a general tool, I can see lots of reasons for wanting to turn feeds back into pages, especially after they’ve been processed or filtered in some way.

    Although Y! Pipes is what most people think of for rivers of news, we also allow relatively easy creation of “River of News” like rss flows (with filters). We get some flack for our current UI but that’s something we’re working on cleaning up. Using Grazr though you can create collections of feeds (or upload OPML files) and blend them together.

    Thought I’d try putting a Grazr stream through your service, the results are pretty nice. The “Museum” theme looks nice to me but it is clipping the content in some odd ways at times. I may play with the custom html at some point.

    http://feedvolley.com/re6k05pf6

    Reply
  2. Thanks, that’s great feedback! Grazr indeed seems like an excellent fit for Feedvolley.

    BTW, note that you can customize your URL’s path – so you can turn that URL into something like “feedvolley.com/grazr”. The older URL will still work, for people who bookmarked it etc.

    Reply
  3. Thanks! All credits for the look go to Kyle :)

    Added support for RSS enclosures now. For now they show as part of the {Body} tag, or you can display only the enclosure itself with the new {Enclosure} tag.

    Here’s an example page with the URL in your comment: http://feedvolley.com/video_gallery – let me know how this works for you :)

    Reply

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