Cursory Evaluation of RSS Writer Editors

Given the dearth of applications to create and write RSS feeds, users must be happy with the feeds being created by their CMS and blogging tools. I find this odd.

For several projects, I wanted to create specific feeds to serve specific reader subpopulations, so I sought out several syndication feed authoring tools and tried them. These applications have reasonably polished UI's, so some of the deficiencies are puzzling.

Not only are the applications somewhat thin on features, the underlying standards seem to have undergone a dumbing-down since RSS 1.0 and RDF that is the opposite direction from the drift of tag-happy social bookmarking sites like Magnolia and Delicious.

Disclaimer: This is not a thorough review and I could easily have missed some functions.

Review of Syndication Feed Writer/Editors
  • Only one of the applications could spider/crawl a site and create an initial feed
  • Most could not write Atom, RDF or RSS1.0, though some could read it
  • None seem to be unaware of the related Google sitemap XML format
  • Most odd of all, several of the packages did not allow for rearranging of the news items within the feed! (Suggestion: Spend more time on use cases before coding).
  • Some did not handle UTF-8 format
  • Not all handled the Yahoo media extensions (see http://search.yahoo.com/mrss. “MediaRSS”. Also see the Java plugin for ROME: http://wiki.java.net/bin/view/Javawsxml/MediaRSS).
  • Not all seemed ready for iPod standards
  • Several integrated ftp. Nice to have, but not worth it! Developers should have spent more time on other functions. Ftp is easy once the feed has been made.
  • GUID tags, when not URLs, tend to leave out permalink = "false"
  • Inconsistent handling of "article archives"
  • Feed author which is supposed to be an email address is permitted to be a name (what's really needed is dc:creator, part of the Dublin Core and implemented only by Tristana Writer AFAIK)
FWIW, here are my unedited notes of what I found from downloading and testing several commercial and freeware applications.

  • EMSI Alnera FeedWorkshop: (1) no crawler; (2) does not write Atom (3) No integrated Help (I couldn't figure out how to add a new article to an existing feed; it's a toolbar button in one of the somewhat unconventionally designed list panes) (4) Exports to CSV, HTML, text (5) supports XML style sheet (6) Article reordering is supported (7) Minor issues with the English translation (8) Handles enclosures (9) Permalink = false problem 34.00
  • Feed for All (1) does not read or write Atom or RSS1. (2) Doesn’t open UTF-8 feeds and translate them. (3) Does not issue “Are you sure?” for item deletion. (4) exports to JS, HTML, txt and CSV. (5) Reordering is OK. (6) No spidering. (6) MySQL import option. Delphi. 40.00
  • Tristana (1) Does not allow for rearranging of topics. (2) Handles Yahoo media extensions for attachments. (3) Has spidering. (4) Writes Atom 1.0 (5) Feed Submission (Pinging) Service pings (directly?) leading 22 feed directories and listing services (6) Seems to lose article author between saves, or has some rule it's obeying I haven't figured out (7) provides permalink = false properly (8) seems to show the bottom of the article list at the top of its editing list (8) Even if you manually rearrange the XML, RSS Writer will rearrange it in its own order, which is based on the article's timestamp. Ergo, change the timestamps to reflect the desired article listing.
  • ROME This is a roll-your-own toolkit, much more ambitious than the commercial applications. It is not a standalone usable application, nor was intended as such.
  • RSS Feed Creator (1) Rearrange? Yes. (2) FTP built in .NET application. (3) Doesn’t edit everything in the header, only Title, Desc, Link and Publication Date – but there is a built in XML editor (4) Same issue with items
  • Feed Editor by Extralabs (1) Does not appear to read/write RSS1.0 or Atom1.0. (2) Can rearrange news items. (3) Integrated ftp. (4) Has iTunes extensions (5) Can start feed from importing by certain HTML, CSV or XML formats (6) Handling of feed editor credit doesn't comply with feedvalidator.org (7) Built in XML editor 40.00
  • Broadcast Builder (www.lionhardt.ca) – (1) Download URL was wrong. Vendor supplied a different one by email. (2) There is no reorder. (3) Appears to store everything as “*.rds”. (4) Does not crawl a site. Import is from RSS or OPML. (5) The feed validator behaves differently from the usual validator (see above) - complains about “markers” – what are those? (6) Exports to Access 2000 (is this of value?). (7) There is an integrated blog tool, but what does it do? There appears to be an interface to external blogs, but the logins fail without issuing any error messages. (8) There’s an internal link to forums, but this results in a 404 (URL goes to .com instead of .ca). (9) Does not write ATOM or RSS1 (10) imports dc:creator and other fields maintained by other editors (11) but doesn't maintain dc:creator or other fields
  • FeedSpring by Usable Labs. Open source product (GNU GPL). (1) supports RSS 2.0 (2) Allows reordering of items. (3) Encounters some difficulties reading other RSS feeds, but these can be overcome (4) No support for Atom or RSS1 (5) For non-URL GUIDs, doesn't generate the "=FALSE" XML required at feedvalidator.org (6) Author field is not populated, which some editors may require for RDF or other compatibility (7) Handles item enclosures (8) Drops the permalink = false clause even if it is already present in the feed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This RSS feed editor is very useful tool