Another Goodie: Latest Recommended Links

I’ve just added another useful bit of content to the right-hand column of this weblog. From any page in this site, look to the right and scroll down. There’s now a section called Latest Recommended Links. This section displays the five most recent items I’ve added to my recommended reading page on del.icio.us.

How did I do it?…

Via a quick Google search I found a nifty free web-based tool called RSS-to-Javascript. Being only a semi-geek, I know nothing about Javascript. However, if you wish to display the content of a feed on your site or blog, Javascript is apparently necessary. (I’m not exactly sure why.)

…Incidentally, this means that is you have deactivated Javascript in your web browser, you won’t be able to view my latest recommended links. Sorry.

Anyway, the RSS-to-Javascript tool is just a simple web-based form that I filled out with information about the feed I wished to display (the main feed from my del.icio.us page). It also offers various display options (colors, layouts, fonts, etc.). I just filled out the form and clicked “preview” to check the results.

When I was satisfied with the results, I clicked “generate Javascript.” This produced a chunk of code which I copied and pasted into my WordPress template.

Due to the way my site’s stylesheet is interacting with that code, the end result is not quite what I saw in the tool’s preview mode. However, it’s close enough. I’ll mess with it more later, but I’m short on time at the moment.

Still, I’m impressed with how easy this was. If you know of other similar free tools for generating Javascript for displaying feeds on a site, please mention them in the comments below.

4 thoughts on Another Goodie: Latest Recommended Links

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  1. JavaScript is the easiest way to display feeds on a website, but it’s certainly not the only way. If your site supports PHP (and in the case of a blog, if you can put PHP code into your template and have it executed), then solutions like CaRP can do it without requiring JavaScript. Such solutions are generally faster than JavaScript, and make the contents of the feed visible to search engines, in case that is important to you.

  2. “However, if you wish to display the content of a feed on your site or blog, Javascript is apparently necessary.”

    Amy: Not at all… in fact, if you’re using a blogging tool more sophisticated than Blogger, there’s really no reason to use Javascript at all.

    It’s generally pretty easy, too. Here’s all it takes to add a feed to a JournURL-powered blog template:

    [weblog:include url=”http://del.icio.us/rss/yourusername” name=”delicious” type=”rss”]
    [ul]
    [weblog:includeitems name=”delicious”]
    [li][a href=”[weblog:includeitem name=”link” filter=”xml”]”][weblog:includeitem name=”title”][/a][/li]
    [/weblog:includeitems]
    [/ul]

    (See my blog’s sidebar for a whole series of RSS feeds that are displayed in this fashion.)

    Doing the same thing with WordPress, MT, etc. isn’t significantly more complicated. Although in some cases you may need to install a plugin or something.

    And in the end, you get absolute control over the feed’s display, and you’re not reliant on an external service to translate the feed for you.

  3. Well, I definitely learn something new every day.

    The non-Javascript methods Antone and Roger mentioned do appear interesting and functional.

    Still, for people like me who have limited programming skills, web-based tools like the one I used are simply more user-friendly.

    User-friendly counts for a lot. People tend to do what’s easiest, unless the drawbacks to the easy solution are so significant that they outweigh the benefits (as is the case with Internet Explorer).

    – Amy Gahran
    Editor, CONTENTIOUS

  4. <shamless plug%gt;
    There are more than a handful of wasy to incorporate RSS feeds into web content- I rolled one out 2 years ago now known as Feed2JS for the very reason that Amy cites- mere mortal humans do not have the programming skills to create code that can parse and display XML.

    Feed2JS is open source, uses the open source Magpie RSS library, and we provide it as a package you can run on your own server (if it supports PHP), and we have a PHP include file that allows you to easily use the same code library to add feeds via a simple include, avoiding the JavaScript. Ours is one of the few that provides a NOSCRIPT alternative that provides the feed as a link for the JavaScript-less users. Magpie provides caching of feeds so you can be sure you are not pounding the source sites, and FeedJS provides an option for UTF-8 encoding for wider language supports.

    Our output is fully set in CSS classes so site owners can customize the display by declaring their own styles (and we have a cheap knock-off of the CSS Zen Garden where folks send us new style sheets).

    But at the simplest level, we have 24,000+ visits a day bouncing off the script on our site, where displaying feeds becomes a matter of cut and paste.
    </shamless plug%gt;