Browser Add-ons, Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, RSS, RSS Ticker

Major RSS Ticker Update Coming: What You Need to Know

RSS Ticker has been an alternative to Web-based feed readers since 2006, displaying feed updates directly in users’ browsers. It hasn’t seen significant change in a while, but some of the internal Firefox code used by RSS Ticker has changed enough that in order for it to remain functional in Firefox 22, its entire architecture would have to change. That’s a lot of work.

RSS Ticker

I didn’t want to abandon RSS Ticker’s users (especially with the shutdown of Google Reader imminent, already leaving one less feed reading option), but I also couldn’t dedicate the time to completely rewrite the add-on and keep all of its features. So here’s what I’ve done:

RSS Ticker has been completely rewritten. This has given me the opportunity to use the knowledge I’ve gained in the last seven years of programming to improve the overall design of the ticker and to restructure the code to play nicely with the new Firefox APIs.

What hasn’t changed? RSS Ticker will still scroll your feeds in your browser. You can still choose to put it at the top or bottom of your Firefox window. You can still exclude specific feeds. You can mark as read, mark feeds as read, open in tabs, open all in tabs, etc. You can temporarily disable the ticker. You can change the ticker speed, smoothness, and direction. You can hide the ticker automatically when it’s empty.

What has changed? In order to continue supporting RSS Ticker, I’ve had to drop a number of features. Here are some things you can no longer do with RSS Ticker:

  • Manually refresh the feeds.
  • Specify how often the feeds should refresh.
  • Randomize the order of the ticker items
  • Limit the number of items per feed
  • Display items that have already been read
  • Show unread items in bold
  • Manually limit the width of ticker items
  • Customize the context menu

I know some of you liked and used these features. I’m sorry I had to remove them, but it was the choice between removing them or abandoning the add-on altogether.

A few features haven’t been removed, but they have been changed (a.k.a. “improved”):

1. All of the remaining options (six of them, down from a total of 37) are displayed inline in RSS Ticker’s section of the Add-ons Manager.

RSS Ticker Options

2. If you want to temporarily disable the ticker, just uncheck it in the View > Toolbars menu.

Disable RSS Ticker

3. To remove a feed from the ticker (but not from your bookmarks), right-click on it in the Bookmarks Manager and uncheck “Show in RSS Ticker.”

Show a feed in RSS Ticker

This new version will be available in a couple of weeks after some more testing, but if you’d like to test it early, leave your e-mail address in a comment or ping me at chris@efinke.com and I’ll send you a copy.

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Feed Sidebar, RSS

Feed Sidebar 2.0pre

If anyone who has been using Feed Sidebar is interested in testing out the next version, you can install this nightly build of Feed Sidebar 2.0pre. Besides massive improvements in performance and compatibility for various feed types, it sports a nifty new search bar that you can use to filter your feeds:

Screenshot of Feed Sidebar

Filter your feeds with the search bar.

(Clicking the magnifying glass hides the search bar.)

Please send any bug reports to chris@efinke.com or leave them as comments on this post.

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Gawker, RSS

Gawker: Please fix your feeds

The Gawker Media blogs (Consumerist, Gizmodo, etc.) do something with their RSS feeds that is incredibly annoying: they include a “category” of sorts before the title of the post:

Gawker RSS Feeds

This does two things:

1. It obscures the actual title of the post. Many feed readers are loaded in the sidebar, which has a limited width. You should be making the best use of this space.

2. It makes it harder to scan the items to find something of interest. I can’t scan the first few words of each title, since each title actually begins at a different point for each item, depending on the length of the category name. I’ve found that I rarely read items from the Gizmodo feed just because it’s difficult to parse the titles for interesting news, but I read Engadget much more frequently for the opposite reason.

As far as I am concerned, these prologues add no value. Gawker: please either use the <category> tag in RSS for this information or provide a feed that doesn’t have it at all.

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Feed Statistics, Plugins, RSS, WordPress

Feed Statistics 1.2: Monitor your most popular feeds

I’ve updated the Feed Statistics plugin for WordPress to version 1.2; this update adds a “Top Feeds” page where you can see what the most popular feeds for your website are (e.g., main feed, category feeds, different feed formats). It shows a list of all of the feed URLs that your subscibers are requesting, and how many people are requesting each feed.

Top Feeds List

(Note: if you’re already running the plugin, this page will take some time to fully populate.)

This release also includes a fix proposed in the comments section by Nathan Pralle to better detect all of the different ways that feeds are accessed. Thanks Nathan!

To install this plugin:

  • If you installed an earlier version, download the zip file of the latest version here, and overwrite feed-statistics.php in your blog’s wp-content/plugins/ directory.
  • If you’re downloading it for the first time, just copy it to that directory and activate it from the Plugin administration menu.
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PHP, Programming, RSS

Easy-peasy podcasting

Want an easy way to generate a podcast or RSS feed? At Eliot’s request, I wrote a PHP script that generates an RSS feed based on the contents of its parent directory, so whenever you add files to that directory (or its subdirectories), the feed is updated with links to those files. It also supports enclosures, so if you add an audio or video file to the directory, that file will be available to podcast clients. If you modify a file in the directory, the feed updates the link so that subscribers will see that it has changed. It’s a no-fuss way to syndicate content without having to tie it into a CMS like WordPress or TypePad.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Save this file as EasyFeed.php (or dir.php or feed.php, it doesn’t really matter).
  2. Copy it to a directory on your webserver.
  3. Subscribe to the feed with any RSS or podcasting client.

That’s all there is to it. For example, here’s the feed of all of the files I’ve ever uploaded for use in my blog. If you subscribe to that feed with iTunes, you’ll see that I’ve uploaded two audio files: programming.mp3 and calacanis.mp3. iTunes will automatically download them, as well as any other audio/video files I upload. No fuss, no muss.

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