Help! My OPML has fallen down and it can't get up!

Help! My OPML has fallen down and it can't get up!

Summary: Last week, on the Dan and David Show, although the service is still an early prototype, my colleague Dan Farber heaped praise on Google's RSS reader (imaginatively named Google Reader). I decided to finally give Google Reader a look but wanted to save myself the trouble of having to manually reload everything I'm currently subscribed to through the RSS reader that I currently use: Newsgator.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Google
4

Last week, on the Dan and David Show, although the service is still an early prototype, my colleague Dan Farber heaped praise on Google's RSS reader (imaginatively named Google Reader).

I decided to finally give Google Reader a look but wanted to save myself the trouble of having to manually reload everything I'm currently subscribed to through the RSS reader that I currently use: Newsgator.

I use the Web-based version of Newsgator. I used to use the Outlook version which I really liked for two reasons. First, it sets up folder for each individual RSS subscription. Second, unlike with Web-based clients (like Google's), you can access anything that has come through one of the feeds you're subscribed to even if you're not currently connected to the Internet. It's the same thing with e-mail (when using Outlook or any other POP3 client that's capable of retrieving "stuff" and storing locally for off-line viewing).

But,while things may have changed with more recent versions of Newsgator's Outlook plug-in the one I was using was causing some unwelcome side effects. For example, if I was trying to get into an e-mail message while Newsgator was digesting some RSS feed, I'd have to wait. Sometimes, my entire system would slow down while RSS processing took place. So, I removed the software (removing Outlook plug-ins was not the easiest thing to do gracefully at the time) and switched to the Web version. I miss being able to check my subscriptions while off-line. But quite honestly, the less I can do with my computer when it's not attached to the Internet, the more my life seems to improve. The Web version of Newsgator could use some improvements. On occassion, I've traded my thoughts with the company's founder and CEO Greg Reinacker and documented them here on ZDNet. But overall, I've been happy with it. But when Dan Farber started gushing about it, I thought I'd better investigate the commotion.

Fortunately (at least I thought), even though the two RSS readers are fundamentally incompatible with each other (you can't point one at the other's repository), both speak a common language often used for exchanging subscription data amongst RSS-enabled software: the Outline Processing Markup Language (a.k.a. OPML). If two RSS readers under OPML, then one should be able to export its subscriptions to a file that the other can import. Ideally, the one doing the importing should just be able to use some URL on the Internet to import. But in this case, Google's Reader wants a file and I used Newsgator's documented process for creating that file and exporting it. The result (I'm fairly certain I was being cursed for a gaff that I'll explain in a moment)? Check out the error at the top of this image:

The image is one of a bunch that I strung together in an image gallery to give you a screenshot-by-screenshot walkthrough of how something so simple can go so wrong. Coming tomorrow or later tonight if we get it finished is a more complete (and verbally annotated) video version of the walkthrough in what I may start referring to as my "Sucky Technology" series (perhaps at the end of 2007, we'll have the Sucky Tech Awards).

I e-mailed Greg Reinacker who was kind enough to throw his support people on the problem who in turn e-mailed me a file that they say will work with Google's Reader. Meanhile, they're looking into the problem so that the support personnel don't have to start mailing the same thing to a bunch of other users (not a very scalable model).

Oh, and what was my gaff? With great apologies to Dave Winer (the father of OPML and a few other very noteworthy technology kids)... in the original video that's going through encoding right now (as I write this), I say I said "Online" instead of "Outline" when occasionally referring to the "O" in OPML. Mea culpa. Mea culpa! Here's the fixed video:

Update 12/14/06: Newsgator has published the fix.

Disclosure: In the spirit of media transparency, I want to disclose that in addition to my day job at ZDNet, I’m also a co-organizer of Mashup Camp, Mashup University, and Startup Camp. Google, which is mentioned in this story, was a sponsor of the first Mashup Camp. For more information on my involvement with these and other events, see the special disclosure page that I’ve prepared and published here on ZDNet.

Topic: Google

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

4 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Technical meta-note

    For screen captures use PNG or GIF, not JPEG. You'll get sharper images and probably smaller files. JPEG image compression was designed for photographs, not text.
    Carme
    • Actually...

      That's not true either.

      I have been doing captures for manuals for many different user operations and have found that PNG is only smaller than JPEG in a low percentage of cases. A prime example is that I did a capture of this page using Firefox as the browser then using ALT-PrtSc (to not get screen background image), pasting in MS Paint and saved it as both... JPG=146KB and PNG=492KB... somehow that just doesn't strike me that PNG is smaller. As to quality, the both seem identical when viewed.

      Oh, and for honorable mention, the GIF=88KB but it lost so much color information that the page was grainy and hard to view.

      Now with a lower resolution image than the typical XGA or higher and color depths of less than 8-16 bits the PNG MIGHT be better, don't know since I don't run that low.
      Technocrat9
      • *sigh* Here's the deal

        It depends on the content.

        JPG is a lossy compression, making it less than ideal for text based screen caps. You can use a high quality (low compression) factor, but then youi lose your compression advantage.

        The best non-lossy formats are PNG and GIF. GIF has been around for a while, and as stated, is limited to 256 colors. This is usually perfectly fine for screen caps, but for best results you should do your color reduction with "Nearest Color" before saving to prevent the grainy look. The default in the common apps during save is a "web-safe" error difusion dither, which will look horrible when viewd back on most of today's high color displays. GIF uses a LHA/LZH type compression.

        PNG uses an ordered compression algarythm which is most effective with steady or liniar color variences. This means that a page with few colors and no background will capture in a very small space, while a complicated capture with many colors and a lot of words can take a lot more space. George Ou pointed to a page in [url=http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=361]this blog[/url] which illustrates what I mean.

        JPG - best for real life pictures/photos.
        GIF - best for low color text or screen caps and animations.
        PNG - best for TV animation caps or high color screen caps where color reduction would wash out the image to an unacceptable level.
        D-cat
        • OK then....PNG it is

          I probably don't want to get into two much decision making as I do screen grabs on the fly for coverage... but it definitely appears as though JPG is not the right choice. PNG may be a bit heavier, but it will produce more reliable results and so, that's what I'll use moving forward for screen grabs. Thanks very much for the feedback.

          db
          dberlind