OPML sharing needs to be easier

Steve Rubel is right:

Like RSS and tagging, over the next several years OPML is going to become a core underlying technology for marketers in the conversation economy. […] I see it becoming a big social network for feeds. As it adds features and becomes more accessible to non-geeks, the community will grow, the network effect will kick in and so its value will increase.

Today, though, OPML is definitely a tech tool that requires some perseverance in understanding how to use it beyond just importing and exporting your RSS feeds list in and out of your RSS reader.

Like many others, I’ve signed up to Share Your OPML and included the feeds in the ‘Priority 1’ channel in my RSS reader. About 30 feeds of the 1,200 or so I subscribe to, the ones I will always pay attention to on a daily basis.

But getting the OPML file into Share Your OPML proved to need quite a lot of that perseverance I mentioned.

First, I exported the group of feeds (the channel) from FeedDemon. That created an OPML file. Yet when I tried to upload it to Share Your OPML, I got an error that the file contained no feeds. I looked and it did – all the feeds were there.

So I then opened that OPML file in Dave Winer’s OPML Editor, did a ‘save as…’  and then looked at that file. It had one thing the original didn’t – the <opml version="1.1"> container as the very first line. Uploading that new file to Share Your OPML worked without error.

Maybe a small niggle given the fact that OPML creating/editing is rather a geeky thing. And the OPML Editor is still a bit of a flaky application in my experience (it upgraded itself to version 0.68 which crashes whenever I exit it).

But if using OPML files as a means of sharing is to take off more broadly, it all must be a lot easier.

If you’d like to get hold of the 30 RSS feeds from my ‘Primary 1’ feed list, they are shared at Share Your OPML. Or, you can download the OPML file here.

[UPDATE 10 May @ 00:28] The situation with FeedDemon exporting OPML files incorrectly isn’t as simple as it might appear. As you’ll see in the comments to this post, I posted about this in the NewsGator FeedDemon support forum. Some investigation by NewsGator’s Jack Brewster indicates that the problem isn’t with FeedDemon.

I found this extremely puzzling. A bit of further experimenting by me indicates that the problem may be with OPML Editor which, when I open an OPML file exported from FeedDemon and save it as a new file, appears to change the code in the file.

I’ve posted to the opml-support mail list about this. Another update to this post likely in due course, I expect.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Easton Ellsworth

    Neville, we’re in the same boat I think – NewsGator issues and Share Your OPML (SYO). I can’t get my Ngator Online to let me download my OPML or even just export it over to SYO. Very annoying. I wish it were as simple as Bloglines makes it. Not enough to make me switch back to Bloglines, but still a hassle. What I might have to do is go the Scoble route of starting from scratch – although that’s also annoying since I have about 390 feeds I’m subscribed to at the moment (down from like a bazillion a few months ago).

    Still, the idea behind SYO is great, I think. I hope it succeeds and I look forward to snooping on all sorts of people through their OPML lists!

  2. neville

    Easton, I left a post in the NewsGator support forum re the FD issue I outlined. As FD and NewsGator Online are part of the same family, I wonder if there’s a connection there re OPML export not working properly.

    I agree, the SYO idea really is a good one. For instance, I just found someone I know where we both subscribe to a feed that has few other subscribers at the moment. An opportunity to get in touch with her. So definitely a social aspect to this!

  3. Dennis Howlett

    No problems with NetNewsWire on Mac – worked a treat – first time around which for me was a major thing as it gives me a way to understand OPML’s value.

  4. Easton Ellsworth

    Thanks Neville for doing that. Newsgator’s online help does say you can export your OPML, but the only thing I can get it to do is disply my OPML in a browser – and even then it seems to erase itself from view so it appears there is nothing there. I’m sure this will get resolved soon, especially now that SYO is here :)!

  5. BusinessBlogWire

    Help! NewsGator Won’t Let Me Share My OPML…

    So I really want to add my 300-plus feeds (factoring out some of the ego fluff) to the attention-grabber du jour that is Share Your OPML (SYO) – but I can’t export my OPML from NewsGator Online!  Neville Hobson agrees……

  6. Corante Web Hub

    Share Your OPML – Killer Attention App for Geeks Only…

    Dave Winer’s has just launched Share Your OPML (SYO). It’s a way to upload and share your OPML file. You can also see who is subscribing to certain feeds or discover who has reading habits like yours via “Subscriptions Like Mine”. Alex Barnett and …

  7. neville

    No replies yet to my post in the help forum, Easton. I just saw an announcement there by Nick Bradbury that a update to FeedDemon 2.0 has just been released. Nothing to do with OPML, I don’t think.

    Your experience and mine do indicate that all this needs to be far easier. I’m not criticizing FD specifically, but getting your feeds into OPML has to be a simple matter (like Dennis’ experience) if services like SYO are to have broad appeal.

  8. neville

    It was closer to 1,600 until recently, Sherilynne. Of course, I don’t ever read anywhere near 1,200 feeds. Impossible.

    I tend to subscribe to things that look interesting so I’ve accumulated lots of RSS feeds. My reading list, every day, is what I call my ‘Primary 1’ list that currently has 30 feeds. Some of those go in and out, so to speak. The core feeds in that list comprise 14, the ones I will read every day no matter what.

    With all the other feeds, I scan some of them from time to time. But I really ought to do a bit of housekeeping. I could probably dispense with 1,000 of those feeds and not feel I’m missing something.

    Which is of course why FD still contains 1,200 feeds – I don’t want to think that I might miss something :)

    How do you manage your feeds?

  9. Easton Ellsworth

    I think I might have to download and install FD just to get this done … not that I don’t like the desktop version, but I just prefer the Web edition. Thanks for following up on this Neville.

    I used to have a Neville-sized fedreading list (thanks to my having imported all of Steve Rubel’s, Robert Scoble’s and Amy Gahran’s feeds) and it took me a LONG time to pare that huge list down (getting rid of Scoble’s local news, Amy’s ego feeds etc. hehe). Now I’m a slim 400 feeds or so. It ain’t the number, it’s how useful it is to you.

  10. neville

    Easton, if you do install FD, you’ll get the best of both worlds as it will sync with your NewsGator Online account, thus maintaining mirror feeds on your PC and on the web. Worthwhile.

    And I agree with you – it’s not about the numbers, it’s about usefulness. Mind you, I’m sure I have just too many as I never even look at some, so they’re in there consuming bandwidth every time FD syncs all feeds. I suppose I ought to do something about it really…

  11. Jack Brewster

    I work in NewsGator technical support.

    First thing – about the FD OPML export, as I mentioned in my forum post:

    I just tried this in (.22 is now available) and the very first line in the OPML is:
    <opml version=”1.1″>

    (Meaning is exporting correctly.)

    I forwarded the OPML that you sent to us to Nick Bradbury to look at and it looks like it’s not an FD-generated OPML. This is based on two things:
    – FD has always included the top-level OPML node which, as you reported, was missing from your file.
    – Your OPML includes ‘encoding=”ISO-8859-1″‘ which has never been in a FeedDemon export.

    We’re pretty sure that OPML came from somewhere else.

    As for getting your OPML from NewsGator Online, there are a couple ways to do this. The first is a straight export as file download and is covered in this knowledge base article.

    The second method exposes your OPML from a URL for any program or website that supports importing OPML from a URL.

  12. neville

    Thanks Jack.

    What I sent you is exactly the file that FD exported. You say you’re sure it came from somewhere else. Where else? That’s the only OPML export I did yesterday, from FD.

    As I mentioned in my forum post, it is the original file I imported into OPML Editor which I then made a copy of with ‘save as…’ What I sent you was that original file. Did something happen to it in OPML Editor? No idea. Did the file get corrupted somehow on my PC? Unlikely, but really no idea.

    If you can’t explain it, neither can I.

  13. Lisa Williams

    Neville, did you try just exporting the OPML file out of FeedDemon into a folder somewhere on your system and then just uploading it directly to Share Your OPML from there? That’s what I did and it worked.

    If you’re putting it in the OPML editor just so you can pare things down, you can always ask FeedDemon to just export a specific channel group rather than the whole list of your subscriptions.

    Best of luck!

  14. neville

    I did exactly that, Lisa, but SYO gave me tha error that the file contained no feeds. That’s when I thought of loading it into the OPML Editor to see if that program recognized the file as valid OPML and where I could create a copy as valid OPML.

    Whatever the problem was it’s not really resolved. I posted about it to the opml-support mail list, but no response.

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