The Need 2 Feed

Sometimes you come across a tool or utility that’s just too good not to tell everyone you know about it. Feed For Free is just such a tool. Feed For Free (or Freed43 as it’s called on its website) is a free online web page parser whose purpose in life is to turn a static page into an RSS feed. This is awesome! Think about it – there are a lot of easy ways to consume RSS feeds (on your desktop, tablet, phone, etc.) but what if the page you’d like to feed on doesn’t have RSS?

Using Feed43 you give it the URL of the page you want to consume. Then, using a simple parsing language, you tell it how to break up the page into variables. Depending on how the page is constructed these can be pretty simple structures. For example, the following is all that’s needed to parse out each of the case studies that are posted on Magenic’s website:

What you see here is that I’m telling Feed43 to look for specific tags within the page and to continue scanning “forward” {*} until other specific text is found. Where ever you see {%} I’m telling it to assign that text to a variable (they’re sequentially numbered). So, where you see src=”{%}” I’m telling it that what’s found between the quotes should be assigned to first variable. A little further along you’ll see the second variable picking up whatever is found between the opening and closing h3 tags.

Fortunately the task of creating these instructions is very interactive and you can quickly test that you’re getting what you expect. Once you’re done with the parsing you move onto the next phase which is formatting the RSS feed itself. This is so much better than some other page parsers out there because you get full control of the RSS output format! The output is formatted with HTML tags and you make reference to the variables you defined earlier as {%1}, {%2} and so on. Also, just like with the parsing you can quickly test that you’re getting the result you want.

Feed43 is in some ways like using Bitly; it’s free (there are some paid premium options), you can use it without even having a [free] account, or you can create a account to make some aspects of the tool work a little better. For example, if you have an account it’s easy for you to keep track of all the feeds you create AND you can you choose to password lock them so nobody else can edit them (if you don’t lock them, anyone could come along and redefine them).

Read up on the details at the Feed For Free website and give is a try. I’ve used it quite a bit, particularly when working with Microsoft’s new App Studio for Windows Phone which makes creating a native RSS reader app ridiculously easy…if you have an RSS feed.

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