Using XML::RSSLite to read feeds

Back in late March, I posted an article on Using Cron with LWP::Simple and XML::RSS to retrieve news feeds. There I combined the module LWP::Simple with the modlue use XML::RSS. I suggested back in March it is a simple way to add content to your site.

Perl, being the non-orthogonal beast that it is, also provides yet another way to skin this cat, especially when loading content from various weblogs — specifically dealing with the wide-variety of standards out there with regards to feeds. For example, you’ll notice this site offers both an XML and an RDF feed. All things to all aggregators I suppose.

Well today, I offer a quickie example of how to use LWP::Simple in combination with XML::RSSLite to slice-n-dice a garden variety of syndication feeds. Part of my quest to aggregate my semi-definitive corner Christian blogosphere otherwise known as blogs4God.

BTW, for those of you who run PERL on your PC, just remember “perl -MCPAN -e shell“.

Yeah, okay, that last note was for my own benefit. As always, your mileage may vary.

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As I build an aggregator for managing blogs4God, I came across this niftly CPAN Contribution … XML::Simple.

XML::Simple is a Perl module that makes it really easy to read and write XML files. It is faster than XML::RSS and I think will help me quickly flip flop between the wide-variety of XML, RSS and/or RDF file formats I’m having to contend with.

We’ll see. That said, this page also gives some useful hints on how to install CPAN libraries on your own machine … provided you have the access and tools to do so.

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Inverting a Proposal: Weblogs for RSS

I’ve been reading with some amusement the religious debate over at Six Log with respect to Ben Trott’s A Proposal: RSS for Weblogs. Here it is straight from the source:

What we need is a profile of RSS specific to weblogs: “RSS for Weblogs”.

RSS 1.0 and 2.0 are designed for extensibility, and can be used to represent non-weblog data. Currently they’re really only being used for weblogs/news feeds, and Dave has said in the past that RSS is intended only as a news/syndication format. But the point of making RSS extensible is so that new features can easily be added, and new types of data can be represented.

Of course, no statement by someone of Ben’s stature goes unnoticed by David Winer … who via various comments on Ben’s post, appears to be in violent agreement with Ben. And why not, it is a good idea. The problem is, who else besides those participating in the thread cares?

Think about it, we can’t even get users to upgrade their free browsers. Nor can we get (church) web sites to give up deprecated HTML. Now we’re going to get everyone to sit up straight and play right with RSS?

But being the optimist, I do think there is a way to force this issue in a friendly way. Running blogs4God, I can tell you that much blogging is done by otherwise technophobes who use whatever templates and tags Blogger gives them. And as a result, I’ve been begging myself blue in the face to get these people to RSSify their page on ANY level. Heck, I’ll even take comment tags at this point.

But Ben Trott is in an interesting situation. With the incipient arrival of TypePad, why not turn the tables and render blogs in a strict RSS format, and then offer client apps to transform the data as each user pleases? Yeah, that’s a big step. So why not render everyone’s blog in a strict RSS format, and and provide them with some stock templates to render the pages for equally technophobic as an (X)HTML page for those still using browsers? Meanwhile, the rest of us will use aggregators that no longer have to try and REGEX their way through HTML hell just to figure out who said what.

Here is how I put it in a shorter, more concise comment back on Ben & Mena’s blog

Which is why I suggest rendering blogs as RSS by default, providing HTML as a secondary interface for those still nursing a browser dependency. It would be alot easier then to say “this is the RSS for blogging, and this is how you’re going to render it if you want to play.”

In other words, maybe with blogs becoming RSS, aggregators will become browsers. Either way, it would give individuals using services such as Blogger incentive to move over to TypePad.

Okay, enough inverted thinking. Time for bed.

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Fishy Architecture

I received an email last night from Daniel Stoddart over at Lollardy poses the question “Can church architecture get any tackier than this?

My email response to him was simply John 11:35.

Why? Because again, once again we unfortunately prove Franky Schaeffer correct when he wrote in his book Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts the Church has lost its influence on society by losing its influence on art, music and other forms of media.

While this book was penned back in 1981, one of those other forms is now the Internet. And the mediocrity can be seen in new church building after new church building takes the wide path of convenient contrivance to the narrow path of compelling culture. Not that we shouldn’t use modern art and architecture, but let’s put it to use to build a new era of cathedrals, statues and other art that are as equally edifying to God as they are accomodating to performance-based congregations. Institutions that are so gloriously beautfiul that non-believers are sucked into becoming seekers. It happens all the time in New York City with some of the 19th century cathederals throughout the city.

The same holds true for church web sites when I see gimmicky gold spinning crosses, Flash splash pages that are nothing more than spelling lessons, mundane mission statements and/or multi-color fonts surrounded by rainbow dividers. You can read more about my rants on how our abdication of the arts has lead to our abdication of influence on our society in an interview I gave Niphal a few months back.

Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got some Schubert/RAP/remix I’d like to listen to.

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Old Browsers

Yes, even I have a couple older browsers on my machine — for the simple reason some of my users still — well use them.

This morning I bring to your attention the semi-definitive Browser Archive from the good folks at Credits and kudos to Ants over at Niphal for the link.

As for managing multiple browsers, as always WebMaster World has some useful information — while A List Apart justifiably curses such necessity. Surprisingly, it is Microsoft that offers an article on how ‘listening’ to your users User Agent can make you a better developer. Which is contrasted with the WaSP page some developers redirect users with what I like to call bowswer browsers.

Finally, here is a semi-definitive list of MSIE competitors that includes short historic describes the various browsers we as developers have to contend with.

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Wanted — a copyable page that describes Salvation

I prayed to receive Christ in a high-school cafeteria. Why? because my Sunday school teachers never bothered to quote Romans 10:9-10. It was at that point, regardless of denomination, regardless of what a “good boy” I was, regardless of my parent’s faith, I realized that it was incumbent on me to make a mental, emotional and spiritual committment to the Lord of Lords!

So as I begin to finish-up the re-design for Redland, I want some content that clearly and simply explains how anyone from any walk of life can also experience the joy of committing their life to Christ. If you know of such a page, then drop me a line.

And while we’re talking about the redesign, I’m going to begin giving some of you sneak peeks at the new site. If you’re a code-monkey with a lot of cool browsers that are sure to break my design, or if you are a really good proof reader, drop me a line.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. – Romans 10:9-10
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Psycho over Flash Splash

As many of you know, I was a contributing author to Vincent Flanders’ book “Son of Web Pages That Suck.” So as some of you can guess, we exchange email on a pretty regular basis. After receiving several emails about my dislike for Flash inflicted splash pages in my post “Purpose Driven Advertisements, ” I sent an email off to Vincent because one of you had forwarded the notion that “Flash Splash” can “set the mood.” Here is Vincent’s response:

“Actually, you’re psycho — I mean psychic. Because of [my] Sunday’s Splash page blurb, I’ve had several inquiries about FlashSplash pages so I’m just putting up a little blurbette about appropriate FlashSplash pages …”

In the “little blurbette” Father Flanders makes a very relevant point regarding the “in the mood assertion” when he writes:

“Almost without exception there’s no need to get people “in the mood” by using a FlashSplash page. Why? The sheer fact that they are at your site means they’ve already made a commitment that they want to see your site’s content.”

And this is not to pick on or single-out Ocean State Baptist Church, but here is my thought on their Flash Splash page … and many other Flash Splashes I’ve seen just like it on several other church web sites … if you’re going to go to the trouble of using multimedia to convey “contemporary church” … then don’t torture me with a 60 second spelling lesson.

Instead, show me pictures of smiling faces underscored by music. Perhaps a video of a personal testimony or a snippet of the worshp service. And please, please, please make it optional. Because if I’m a goal-oriented seeker on your site because you’re contemporary, then I’m there because I found that term using a search engine … which do not index on Flash presentations, but on compelling text content.

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Purpose Driven Advertisements

The word from Jakob Nielsen this week is on “Making Web Advertisements Work (Alertbox May 2003).” In summary, he asserts:

Web users are highly goal-driven, and ads that interfere with their goals will be ignored. To succeed, ads must work with the medium, as well as with the user’s aims and mindset.

There are many reasons why advertisements don’t work well on the Web, but it is most unsettling when an ad actually portrays something relevant to users and still fails. Why would this occur? Well, to start, we must consider why text ads work so well on search engines.
Each user has a goal — perhaps it is to learn about digital cameras, perhaps to purchase a book. In either case, users’ attention is focused on whatever gets them to their goal; they ignore everything else. When users enter search queries, the targeted ads that the engine returns relate directly to what users are after. Hence, they look at and follow the ads. Indeed, such advertisements probably have an advantage over the plain search results because they show both that the advertiser is competent and has a direct interest in serving consumers.

Okay, so what does this mean for the webmaster of a church or charity web site? Well, hopefully you’re not running advertisements on your page … or are you? Check out the comment someone left last week regarding my June 20, 2002 review of Ocean State Baptist Church:

does somebody want to go into a little bit more depth about Ocean State Baptist and their website. I find the website extremely functional and it sounds to me like your just hateing on the church.

Once again, we run into someone who mistakes constructive criticism of the web design as a personal attack on the church. Of course I do no such thing in the article.

What I do suggest is that just as flashing banner ads are annoying and pop-up ads are the spawn of satan, so too are Flash-based “splash pages” that deny your purpose-driven visitors from reaching their goals. In the case of Ocean State Baptist Church, one is compelled to a “maybe its cool once” ballet of churchy-terms that have little relevance to an individual seeking the location, nor a search engine indexing the Church’s personality and purpose.

Remember, the Internet is not TV, it is not Film, it is a media entity all unto itself where content is king, and simple, [human] scannable, well-organized text content gives users what they want without having to wait for it.

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w.bloggar v3.01 released

This article is brought to you by the brand-spanking-new w.bloggar version 3.01. Okay, so I waited a week. Still, here are some of the new and/or improved features:

  • Support to add Media Information on posts using the WMP 9 Series Blogging Plug-In.
  • Better control on Preview formatting, now you can use a CSS file and disable the line-break conversion to <BR> tag.
  • The F12 key now is the shortcut to toggle Preview mode.
  • New Custom tags in addition to the existing ones can be accessed using Ctrl+F9 to Ctrl+F12 keys.
  • New Option to allow open the Web pages using your default browser
  • Support to the “Extended Entry” field on MovableType blogs thru the special tags <more_text></more_text>, is a good idea to add it as Custom Tag if you often use the “Extended Entry”.
  • Now the last blog used on an account is recorded and automatically selected the next time that a login is made on that account.
  • New supported tools: PostNuke and EraBlog.NET.

Why is tool so cool? Well for those of you using popular weblog or content management systems to drive your church web sites, w.bloggar provides a nice client-based interface for you and your church staff. Now the only thing you need to do is select and engineer one of the following blog or CMS tools to get the job done:

  • Blogger
  • Blogger Pro
  • MovableType
  • b2
  • BigBlogTool
  • Nucleus
  • Blogalia
  • BlogWorks XML
  • Drupal
  • Xoops
  • E-Xoops
  • Upsaid
  • TheBlog – BrTurbo
  • PostNuke
  • EraBlog.NET
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