Web feeds are an established technology for capturing information streams on the internet (but not only on the internet; they work for intranets too, and one can even set up web feeds for file systems). Because web feeds are such an established technology for capturing information streams, we use them in our software. However, we often get questions as to how web feeds work or what one can do with them. One thing we get asked a lot is along the lines of “do I have to know the source in order to get a web feed? Or can I get a web feed for a certain topic, even if I do not know a good source?” The answer is that you can do both:
If you know the source and are interested in everything that comes from this source, you can use source feeds. For instance, if you are interested in all the information from a certain blog, paper, company or other source, you can add the feed(s) of this source to one of your mergeflow topic profiles. Of course, our blog has a feed too: Entries (RSS).
On the other hand, if you are interested in a certain topic but do not know a good source for this topic, you can use search feeds and add them to any mergeflow topic profile. Almost all major search engines offer search feeds; sometimes they are called “alert”. You can set up search feeds for any search query. If you do this, as soon as the search engine (rather, its crawler) finds new content pertaining to your query, the search feed delivers this information.
By the way, since search feeds deliver not only the information but also its source, using search feeds can be a good way of spotting good sources. Here is how this works:
- Start with one or more search feeds and occasionally check the “web sites”-view of your mergeflow topic profile. The “web sites”-view is an aggregated view of the information sources in your topic profile. This makes it easy to spot particularly relevant sources (e.g. those that deliver a lot of material that you find interesting).
- Then, if you like, you can go to these sources directly and add their source feed(s) to your mergeflow topic profile. The advantage of adding the source directly is that this way you get all the information from this source, not just the material pertaining to your search feed query (which might be too narrow).
Now, just try it out and add a few source or search feeds to your topic profiles, or create new topic profiles. Please let us know about your experience, and please let us know if you have any questions. Have fun!