Tagged: rss

Recommendations: Remember the Milk & SimplePie

Two great, free resources I want to recommend this week are Remember the Milk, an online things-to-do list which you can share with other people,

…and SimplePie, a brilliant RSS and Atom feed parser written in PHP. I used this to write the RSS Basic module for SWCMS and also to pull in and parse the Japan Blog Big RSS Feed on JapanSoc.

Set Up A JapanBlogger Blogroll in WordPress

JapanBlogger is the perfect complement to JapanSoc. While the latter promotes individual articles and pages from the Japan-related web, JapanBlogger serves to promote entire sites. This is done by a blogger submitting his or her site, and watching people vote for it and leave feedback.

Harnessing the power of JapanBlogger

Since JapanBlogger sorts its database of blogs according to popularity (i.e. the number of votes each site receives), I thought it would be great to provide an rss feed which bloggers could import and use as a blogroll on their own sites.

This serves two purposes. First, it gives the blogger an instant, ready-made blogroll with the best Japan-related sites. Second, by clicking on each link in the blogroll, the visitor passes through JapanBlogger where he or she can vote the site in question up or down and leave a comment. That extra step is what encourages activity and keeps the blogroll fair.

JapanBlogger Feed One – the “best of the month” feed

Site owner, Billy West, had been thinking along the same lines and had already set up what I shall call JapanBlogger Feed One.

JapanBlogger Feed One can be found at http://japanblogger.net/feed/ and is a list of the highest ranked sites, followed by the most ranked sites. This list is maintained manually and updated each month, usually accompanied by an annoucenment to congratulate the “best blogs of the month”.

JapanBlogger Feed Two – the “current highest rated” feed

Unlike Feed One, this second feed is dynamic, meaning it updates automatically and multiple times a day, giving you the most up-to-date list of top ranked sites from JapanBlogger. You can find this feed at http://japanblogger.net/highest_rated.xml.

Both feeds can be subscribed to just like any feed, and can be read with most popular feed readers. However, this tutorial is about how to set up these rss feeds (or any feed for that matter) in a self-hosted WordPress installation, i.e. WordPress.org.

Note: If you have a Typepad, Movable Type, Blogger, Blogspot, WordPress.com, or any other site and are able to import these feeds, please share your knowledge!

Step One: Getting a JapanBlogger Feed

If you are running a browser without RSS support (such as IE6), please copy and paste the links above. Otherwise, you can get to the feeds from the RSS icon at the top of the browser when looking at JapanBlogger, as shown.

Step Two: Getting the url

Clicking on one of those choices brings up the feed in your broswer. From there, copy the url.

Step 3: Putting the feed into WordPress

From your WordPress Dashboard, navigate to “Design”->”Widgets”. If your version of WordPress is old, or your theme doesn’t support widgets, you’ll need to find an rss plugin instead.

Add an RSS widget to your sidebar and paste the url you copied into the first field, as shown in the picture below. Leave the other settings untouched (or change items from 10 to 20 as I did). Click “Change” then “Save Changes”.

Now visit your site and see your new blogroll!

Note: This doesn’t actually affect your current blogroll. This is just an addition to your existing sidebar.

These screenshots show the feed in action on this blog, LongCountdown.com…

… and also on the JapanSoc Community Blog:


If the feed shows in the sidebar, but the the links don’t go anywhere, try clicking one of the links (it worked for both me and Billy) or pressing CTRL + F5 to “hard refresh” the page.

If you are using the dynamic, “highest rated” feed but don’t see any changes to the rankings, click here. Congratulations, you’ve updated the feed! Just visiting any page on the JapanBlogger navigation bar forces the feed to update itself. Now refresh your page and you should see the latest changes.

JapanSoc Tutorial – Making Friends Part 2

In the first part of this tutorial, I went through the steps you need to add friends and send messages in JapanSoc. In this part, I’m going to explain how you can track your friends’ activity.

Step 1: Understanding the profile page

From your friends list in your profile page, you can access any of your friends’ own profile pages. Since I’m so active on JapanSoc, I’ve used my own profile for this tutorial.

The profile page has seven tabs, as follows:

  1. Personal Info – your main page with your intro and user stats.
  2. Submitted – all the posts you’ve submitted to JapanSoc.
  3. Top Stories – posts you submitted that made the front page.
  4. Upcoming – all your other posts.
  5. Commented – these are the posts you have commented on.
  6. Soc’d – these are the posts you have voted for.
  7. Favorites – posts you have saved/favorited/bookmarked.

Step 2: Subscribing to a friend’s submissions

With the exception of the Personal Info page, all these pages have a unique RSS feed icon in the top left corner, as shown:

Friend\'s RSS Feed

That means you can subscribe to a friend’s activity, which comes in very handy if you’ve cheekily teamed up with someone to soc each other’s posts! If this is the case, I would recommend subscribing only to your friend’s “submitted” RSS feed, as that includes all your friend’s posts.

You could also subscribe to the “Favorites” feed, explained in step 4.

Step 3: Subscribing to multiple RSS feeds

If you’re a hardcore JapanSoc’er and have more than one friend (which I hope you do!), you might consider using a free service such as RSS Mix to combine all your friends “submitted” feeds together into one single RSS feed.

Step 4: Understanding “Favorites”

On social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, your “favorites” would be considered the posts you have dugg or stumbled. JapanSoc, on the other hand, has both “Soc’d” and “Favorites” pages. So what’s the difference?

Soc’d posts are the ones you’ve considered good enough to vote for. I tend to soc an awful lot of posts (582 as I write this!), but that doesn’t mean that I think they are all brilliant articles which are worth printing, framing and hanging on the wall.

Favorites, in the JapanSoc sense, are the best of the best, the ones you actual want to save so you can find them again in the future. These are the posts you want to tell all your friends about.

Step 5: Adding Favorites

Below the post you want to add to your Favorites is a link, “Add to Favorites”.

Add to Favorites

When you click that link, you’ll be notified of success and given the option of going directly to your Favorites.

Successfully added to Favorites

Posts that you have “favorited”, can be removed by clicking the “Remove” link. (Don’t worry Billy, I didn’t click it!).

Favorites and Remove

You’ll also notice that there is an RSS icon on the Favorites page, too, so you can subscribe to your friends’ favorite posts.

A New Addition to JapanSoc

Recently FavoritedAt the bottom of the JapanSoc sidebar, I’ve added a new box showing posts that users have recently added to their favorites. It’s worth keeping an eye on this box as you might find some great articles you had previously missed.

Of course, it also provides another opportunity for some self-promotion. If you add your own stories to your Favorites, they are going to appear in this box for all to see.


Now you know how to create a list of favorite posts in JapanSoc, and share your recommendations with friends using the RSS feeds in your profile pages.

JapanSoc Web Widget

Two JapanSoc RSS widgetsI really wanted to make some kind of gizmo to display the JapanSoc RSS feed anywhere online, and was thrilled to find a website that made this process extremely easy. So easy in fact, even Michael McKinlay has done it! Thanks to WidgetBox.com, anyone with an RSS feed can make a “Blidget” in just a few minutes, and that’s what I did for JapanSoc.

What does it do and where does it go?

As you can see, there are two flavors. The orange one shows the main Top Stories feed, while the blue one is for Upcoming Stories on JapanSoc. You can embed these widgets pretty much anywhere, e.g. iGoogle, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, and Blogger. You can even customize their appearance somewhat before you embed them.

Embed the JapanSoc widgets in all these places!

Search for more Japan widgets on WidgetBox

A quick search for Japan in the WidgetBox gallery shows some very interesting results. You can embed everything from Japan-based jobs to J-Pop, and even a widget from Jamaipanese! Very cool.

Get your JapanSoc web widgets here, and don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more JapanSoc updates.

My 80 iGoogle Japan Feeds

My iGoogle page of Japan feedsSince I started JapanSoc, I’ve been adding Japan-related blogs to my iGoogle page, and you can see in the screenshot that there are a whopping 80 of these blogs that I’m currently subscribed to.

Subscribing… Blogs… Feeds… What does it all mean?

Some of you are probably already confused. What is iGoogle? How do you subscribe to a blog? What does “subscribing” to a blog actually mean? Basically, when you subscribe to a blog, any new articles the author writes automatically come to you. You don’t have to visit the actual site to see if there’s anything new to read. iGoogle, and also Google Reader are free and easy-to-use services that let you see all the incoming news that you’ve subscribed to.

If this is all new to you, please watch the video RSS in Plain English over on YouTube. It’s less than four minutes long, but could save you hours of time if you still visit websites the old fashioned way.

Choose the news!

RSS feeds have revolutionized how I use the internet and get the news. First, I can choose topics that really interest me, and then I can check the content of each article without having to visit the actual site. In addition to this huge collection of Japan blogs, I have an equally long list of technology and internet marketing blogs that I also subscribe to.

This is important because it means the news I get is the news I want, not like on TV where you have to sit through stories of corruption and murder, or newspapers that only tell you what the editor thinks you want to know. 

Subscribe to multimedia!

You don’t have to limit yourself to the written word. Various websites offer video, music, photos, or radio, and while some of these work differently to RSS feeds, that doesn’t mean you can’t subscribe to multimedia you enjoy. Yes, I’m telling you to turn that TV off, and start watching something you want to watch, not something the TV networks assume you like.

How to find the things you like

The easiest way to find online material that matches your interests is to follow recommendations from the websites you currently visit. For example, on this site, I have a list of other Japan blogs in the sidebar.

Another option is to use Google News, Blog Search, or Video and look for the RSS icon or link. Then add the feed to your feed reader.

If this is something you feel like trying, I’m happy to offer more advice in the comments if you have any questions. In the meantime, let me welcome you to the information age!