RSS Aggregation: Adding a list of comments from other blogs

Warning

Google is discontinuing reader. I have changed the main blog aggregations to use yahoo pipes, and will do so for other feeds later. I may give updated instructions on this blog, though in the mean time it should be easy to use a feed combiner of your choice instead of google reader. 

I give no warranty that yahoo pipes will continue to be available, I could end up having to change again in the future!

Image showing composite in sidebar

A composite feed rom several blogs

I have recently added a composite feed from a number of other blogs into the sidebar of my Hindu blog. I also created a page showing a summary of these items. To demonstrate how this was done I have decided to add (maybe temporarily) a feed of tips from a number of blogs on WordPress on my Tech blog.

First, I will describe the concept. Like a lot of websites, WordPress blogs provide an RSS feed, which contains information about the latest posts. These can be put into the WordPress sidebar using the RSS Widget. However to show the latest of several blogs in a single widget you need an RSS aggregator. There are several RSS aggregators, but I wanted one that would be around for a long time (how wrong I was!). After some research I discovered that Google Reader can aggregate RSS feeds. 

Multiple Feeds aggregated into one

To create an aggregate feed in Google reader, subscribe first if you don’t use any google services. Next subscribe to the feeds you want to aggregate. Some browsers require a plugin to do this, but for most you go to the blog and click the RSS symbol, and this will give you the option of subscribing with google reader. These will show in your subscriptions.

To create an aggregate we use the fairly well hidden option “create bundle”. To do this select “brows for stuff” then “create bundle”.

Create a Bundle

Give the bundle a name, a description, and drag the feeds into the bundle:

The created bundle

When you save the bundle you will see a list of bundles, including the new one. Click on the “add a link” link, as shown below:

Add a link to your website

This will open a page similar to the one below. The aggregated feed is available by right-clicking the “atom feed” link and selecting “save link as”. Alternatively simply click the link and copy the link address from your browser’s URL bar.

Get the aggregated feed address

Now go to your WordPress dashboard and select Appearance->Widgets. Drag an RSS widget to your sidebar (or any other widget area), paste the Atom URL in and optionally add a title:

Add the RSS Widget to WordPress

You can see the resulting feed in the sidebar, but just in case I remove it, here is an image:

The RSS feed showing in the sidebar

The single page view for the feed was created using Google Sites. I am not going to give full instructions with diagrams unless someone asks, but the basic steps are:

  • Create a Site
  • Edit the page
  • Insert Widget, then “More Widgets”
  • Search for RSS
  • Insert the Google RSS widget
  • Add the RSS url, set the size to 500px high
  • Save

The resulting page can be seen here (I did a bit more tidying for the one on my Hindu site). If you want to link to the page in the WordPress sidebar, use a text widget. I did this on my Hindu site directly under the feed widget.

Ganesh images for ratings

The original image

I decided to change the default “star” ratings on my blog to use images of Ganesh. I started with an image from the “open clip art library”, which is free to reuse.

The WordPress.com ratings help page describes how the ratings need a composite of either three or six images; six allowing different images for the “cursor over” when you select a rating. The largest size of image is 24*24 pixels, meaning that the composite is 48*72 pixels. Rather than work at this size I trimmed the original image to a square, which was 654 pixels per side. I then created a 1308*1962 pixel image, as shown below. I pasted and coloured six images.

Producing the "large" image in Gimp

I used the open source Gimp Image Editor, though any editor could be used. I decided to have different colours for the posts, comments, and pages – once the first image was made changing it with bucket-fill was easy. These images are available in the public domain here

    

To use these images I scaled each one in the Gimp to the required 48*72 images. The resulting images are here:

     

The above images are free for any one to use for any purpose, and can be configured directly in the WordPress dashboard as described in the WordPress help on adding custom ratings images . Note that there is currently a bug in the WordPress dashboard. Adding your first custom image works fine but if you change it then it will preview OK, but when you submit changes the dashboard and the blog still show the old image. However after a few hours the blog custom image will change.

Embedding documents

I had a document to embed in an article on my blog. WordPress.com gives (at least) two ways of doing this. Embeding as a google document or from Scribd. I tried them both, and the results are here:

Google Document Embed

Scribd Embed

As you can see the embedded Scribd document looks better and has user-friendly controls. I will use Scribd for all embedded documents

New theme and underlying URL

I thought that now I have a Hindu name I should move my blog, which was originally registered as http://chrisqq.wordpress.com/. WordPress made this change very easy, and since most people will access the blog through the URL http://western-hindu.org/ they won’t notice any difference. You can see the underlying URL by clicking on an image.

At the same time I have changed the theme to Ocean Mist. I haven’t decided whether to keep this or to go back to the Mistylook theme, as used on the old site. Both look pretty good but I haven’t decided which I like best.

Edit:

I found the Mistylook theme attractive but a little crowded and difficult to read. WordPress have now released a new default theme, Twenty Ten, which I have now switched to. I like the “footer widget area”, which allows me to put some widgets that are probably useful to some people, but not important enough to put in the right menu. If you scroll to the bottom you will see various ratings and RSS feeds.

Edit 2

Since this WordPress have brought out a new theme, Coraline. I have now switched to using this.