Google Reader Tidbits #

Google Reader recently launched sharing, a feature that I had a hand in. I've used it to power my link blog, available in the sidebar (only on the front page). Although these sharing "clips" are easiest to use when pre-styled with one of our color schemes, you can choose the "None" option and then use your own CSS to make them blend in with the rest of your site, as I've done. And since it's all JSON underneath, you really use a public label any way you want on your site.

What may not be obvious about this sharing feature is that it can be used together to splice feeds. Furthermore, you can chain shared labels. For example, the "Stuff written (or recommended) by the Reader team" section in the Google Reader blog was put together like this (arrows indicate subscriptions/labels being applied):

Sharing flow

This way, everyone gets to control their own "me" label, without having to modify the team account when wanting to add/remove feeds.

While developing this sharing feature, it became clear that the ultimate origin of an item in a feed is very important (i.e. I may see it because I'm subscribed to your "web-dev" label, but really it's from QuirksBlog). We joked about the need for a "Molecule" format that would specify the aggregation of multiple Atom feeds. We even began coding a (namespaced) origin element that would contain the title, id, homepage URL, etc. of the originating site for this item. Then, while re-reading RFC 4287 for another reason, we came across the source element in Atom, which does exactly what we had set out to (re)implement. This tells you two things:

  1. The Atom people were pretty clever to have foreseen this use case.
  2. No matter how well your spec/documentation is written, people will still miss things (a.k.a. everyone is a bozo at some point).

Now that we produce feeds for others to consume, it's nice to use Atom to its fullest so that we can validate (there are some scary looking warnings that we'd like to fix, but as of now that feed is in fact valid Atom 1.0).


Talking about exporting information, I really must be missing this somewhere, but I thought Google Reader had the option to export all feeds to an OPML list. Yet, I can't this anywhere anymore.
Yes, it does. Click on "Edit Subscriptions" and from the "More Actions..." menu select "Export Subscriptions."
I like the sharing a lot (already using it), but I'm not too fond of the cropping of long titles.

I don't know if it's something you'd want to add a UI element for, but I wish that choosing "None" for the format would turn it off.
People ask why I say atom rocks and rss is meh. The reason atom rocks is because identity of posts and their origins is built into the spec, since that's what the guys writing the feed readers have the most trouble with.

A significant portion of the discussion on atom-discuss (the atom working group mailing list, I sat in but didn't participate) was made up of feed reader authors, so I expect atom to solve most of the issues when it comes to doing this sort of thing.

PS: Your server is 500ing me when I post without previewing first.
The atom:source element is a standardization of the ps:source element that PubSub has been inserting into it's RSS and Atom feeds since 2004. This element is essential in order to provide proper attribution of entries that are copied from one feed to another -- particularly in the case of "aggregate feed" generators such as search engines or other intermediaries. This and many other elements of Atom are the result of the hard lessons learned by reader developers and the developers of various feed intermediary services who were forced to grapple with the mess that is RSS. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who insist on continuing to support the out-dated, inadequate and poorly specified RSS V2.0 format. The reality is that most of the supporters of that legacy format have little practical experience in building readers or other intermediary services for syndication feeds.

I hope the atom:source element and the other advanced features of Atom serve you well.

bob wyman
I'm using the Reader sharing snippit with "None" as the styles, but I can't figure out what the HTML being produced under the covers is. Is there documentation somewhere on what the blank HTML looks like so I can figure out IDs and CLASSes to apply my styles to?
Is there a way to share only the starred items of a particular label? My starred items contains a whole hodge-podge of articles that wouldn't make sense as a list on my public blog (not to mention relatively private things like craigslist apartment listings I'm considering). So I don't want to share all of my starred items. Just, for example, my starred items labelled "work" on my work blog or my starred items labelled "humor" on my personal blog.

Your post seems to indicate that I could do this, but I couldn't figure out how to do that.
Hi Mihai,

Can you please tell me the steps needed to share an entire feed (as opposed to individual entries) using the JavaScript "clip" code? I have a feed made using that I'm trying to get Reader to share but it's only subscribing the label to the first entry.



Take the script tag src attribute and replace things like "user/14548369432350969777/label/linkblog" with "feed/".
That worked!

Thanks so much Mihai! :-)

Hi Mihai,

Can you please tell me how to get Google Reader to update it's cache when a post is deleted? As it is now, posts remain listed for a long time by Google Reader even if they've been deleted from the blog.



Reader doesn't delete posts from it's cache. Given how feeds work nowadays, it's hard to see if a post disappeared from a feed because it fell off the end or because it was intentionally deleted. Reader keeps historical posts so that it can act as an archive for that blog/feed.
Thanks Mihai. Did something recently change with Google Reader so that it no longer sorts by date by default? For the last few days, entries are showing all out of order.

Thanks again,

Thanks for the help styling the google reader. How would i make the links open in a new window?
>Now that we produce feeds for others to consume, it's nice to

>use Atom to its fullest so that we can validate (there are some scary looking warnings that we'd >like to fix, but as of now that feed is in fact valid Atom 1.0).

Your link gives a nicely formed XML file. However, when I try it with either of or I get the text "permission denied" - no 404 etc. I've just had another look at your post; I'll trot off to groups and see if I can find anything
hi me again - after a bit of poking around I found the Settings --> Tags --> change sharing pulldown.
The feed shows up nicely now, thanks
RSS 2.0 specifies a source element as well. I don't know how often it's used by authors, but it's there.
is there any way to have your shared links appear as a daily blog post, like delicious does? Thanks.
I want to share a tag with people who are not too technical. a list of links, like the atom feed that is sent from the settings > tags > email a link. I think the public page is meant for this, but it breaks (looks like it has a crease down it) and the items are different from the atom feed. First, why does the public page breaks, and second, why are the contents of these two features, which I assume pull from the same info, different? thanks.

I am not familiar with either of the issues you mention (the crease and different content on the page and its associated feed). Can you point me to a public page URL that shows these problems?
is there a way to change the sort order of a shared feed to use the date the posts were published (as opposed to the date they were labeled)??
HI - Is there anyway to have more than 1 sharing folder. I presently have two websites, one a personal, one a church site - and would like to shared different feeds on the two. Is that possible?

Thurland, you can tag your items (with any tag you like) and then make that tag public from the "Tags" section of the settings page. This way you can subdivide your shared items between multiple tags.
Thank you Mihai. took me a few minutes to try to grasp what you were saying (I'm 50 plus now!) but it worked well

Please find a way for Google Reader to allow for deleted posts and edited posts (i.e. get rid of them).

Dupes suck, but even worse, some posts need to die and go away and never be seen again.

I know you've posted that you can't really distinguish between old posts falling off the feed and being deleted, but what about allowing for deletes if no new posts are added, so if it falls off the front of the feed, it's gone.

I often need to repost a post because the formatting didn't work or a minor edit. I've also been known to publish gibberish just to see how a certain bit of code works. Well, my readers don't appreciate getting half done posts and garbage that was deleted 20 seconds after it was posted.

Until blogger has a REAL preview feature that will show you what the post will look like on your blog (instead of the quasi preview it has now)... I'd like it if my deleted posts (especially when they are deleted mere minutes after posting) never make it out on reader (or at least not stay there forever).

Reader should be just that, a reader, of current content, not an archive. If readers want an archive feature, make it an option they can turn on. Then they can't blame me when I fill their boxes with "this is a f*cking test post" that they were never supposed to see.


Today is the day after Google launched a new version of Google Reader. Am I correct that we can no longer tag items and then share the tagged feed URL publicly? The Google Help files still show that you can change the sharing to public and view the url - but all of that is missing from the actual settings page. Any thoughts? Please tell me I'm wrong!
@dp: Unfortunately public tags are gone too. The help center article was missed during the update, but it should be gone now.

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