How to offer simple RSS badges for your users

The key breakthrough that made it possible for YouTube to ride on MySpace’s heavy traffic coattails into its current state as a mass media service is the concept of widgets, often called badges in related contexts. Although offering widgets or badges may seem like a far off idea for most web site owners to internalize yet, there are a few tools that can make this a snap to offer your users if you’re ready for it.

(I’ll assume here that you already know what widgets and badges are. If you don’t, I’ve been tagging articles addressing the topic of widgets that may be helpful.)

In the case of YouTube, they allowed users to post the YouTube video player to any web page with a simple copy and paste operation. Since most web site owners are dealing mostly with text, the equvilent would likely be a feed of RSS content that people could display on a web page. It would clearly be best to allow your users to display a feed of the things they are contributing to your web site, but if you don’t have user-contributed data to give back to your users it’s still worth trying to offer this functionality using your own content to see what happens.

Here’s a really cool tool I recently found that made it possible for me to offer badges to users on the FlipBait web site. It’s an open source service called Feed2JS, and it appears to be developed by Alan Levine. It requires another open source service called MagpieRSS to operate, but MagpieRSS takes maybe 10 minutes at most to download and install.

After you download and install these scripts you can point to a feed you want to display nicely and get the code back that you can include on any web site to show that feed.

In other words, you now have a badge platform to offer your uses.

I tried this out on the FlipBait web site, and it worked out of the gate. In fact, you can now see on my blog sidebar here the posts I’ve submitted to FlipBait. Each user on the site has access to his badge via his profile page. Now everyone can take their contributions with them wherever their “Internet startup news” identity gets expressed.

It couldn’t have been much easier to setup either. I’m hoping, actually, that the Pligg team incorporates something like this into the source code.

There are also some nice formatting capabilites in Feed2JS that would make people happy, I’m sure. But that adds some complexity I’ll address at a later date. The important thing is to push out a feature like this, watch for uptake, and then evolve it.

I’d be interested to know if other people have tried any other similar solutions or used tools from some of the recent startups in this space and what their experiences have been. Please comment or blog about it if you’ve found another way to accomplish this without having to write the code yourself.

One thought on “How to offer simple RSS badges for your users”

  1. Matt,

    We’re developing a CMS/CRM in ruby on rails and we have the RSS publishing functionality you’re talking about in our CMS.

    The project is still a ways from commercialization, but we are using the feeds on pages like to feed from youtube

    There is an explanation of how to implement it in the features outline
    This is from the features sheet:

    RSS Feed Importer:

    This allows you to import feeds from multiple sources and tag them. You can then publish those feeds on your site as a quick way to create dynamic content. Setting up the feeds is as easy as plugging in the feed URL and selecting what you’d like to TAG it.

    You can add multiple RSS feeds to your feed reader and tag them with multiple tags. So for example, if you enter 6 feeds from various sources, you can tag them all “industry_news” and then display the industry news on a page on your site. The 6 feeds will be merged into one new news feed that can be displayed either in order, or even randomly (which adds big points to your SEO value). This is a powerful way to integrate with other sites as well, feeding things like project changes, favorites, expense reports or forum posts to a side bar or page on your site.

    Please read the “XLsuite Render Feed Syntax” post in our Documentations forum for more info:

    You can sign up a free trial account by pointing your browser to (or whatever subdomain you want to claim)

    I’d love to hear your feedback on what we have so far.


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