Monday, August 3, 2009

norge press in your native lang - rss in reader

The inspiration for this posting came from a short messsage (tweet) in which I pointed out a useful facility of google reader and this led to an enquiry.

Rather than answer the enquiry via a series of short messages, I thought a blog posting including some screenshots might be a more useful way.

I needed a practical example and that is where the 'Norge' in the title comes in. I take an interest in Norwegian news and thought this would be a good illustration of rss and the reader product from google.

From now on I will just refer to the software from reader.google.com as 'Reader' for brevity.

Here is a screenshot of what you see (on the left) when Reader is set up and includes a few feeds:


That screenshot has been cropped and the full width shot shows the actual feed entries in a list.

For the right hand pane, selected 'Expanded' rather than 'List' gives you:

*** At this point if you are already familiar with rss and feeds and the symbols for them and/or use reader software already, then you probably want to skip read the rest of this article. I am deliberately avoiding the point and click shortcuts available for adding rss and aiming this article at being instructive without being the quickest way to get to the goal. ***

The most important button for our use is at the top of the first screenshot and is labelled 'Add a subscription'.

Clicking 'Add a subscription' will bring up a small dialogue box where you should paste in the url of the rss feed.

The highlighted phrases in the previous sentence have links to Wikipedia should you require some explanation of the new terminology I just introduced.

Here are some example urls that are valid feed urls (as of time of writing):
  1. http://dictionary.reference.com/wordoftheday/wotd.rss
  2. http://gnubyexample.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default
  3. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml
  4. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/rssfeed/rssIndexFeed/0,,2,00.xml
Here are some unlikely urls for feeds:
  • http://www.google.com/index.html
  • http://www.w3.org/WAI/
  • http://www.gridstatus.com/
What is different about the first bunch of urls and the second bunch of urls? Well in an ideal world all rss feeds would end with .rss
However that is not the situation, yet there are some clues.
Dealing with the numbered entries (1) ends with .rss which is nice (2) has the word feeds in the path (3) ends with .xml (4) ends with .xml and mentions rss and feeds in the path.

You understand that none of this is an absolute guarantee, however it may be some help to anyone who has not looked at urls in close detail before.

The bunch of 3 urls I marked as unlikely do not mention rss or feed in the path and in particular the first ends index.html.
( The default page for a site is normally default.html or index.html and it would be a bit silly of the website owner to place an rss feed at such a url. )

Now back to the Norwegian news part of this story. I have visited Norway and enjoyed my stay in Oslo and Bergen. Since then I occasionally read up on what is going on in the news.

One of the newspapers with an online presence is Aftenposten and they used to provide a section 'News in English' which I headed for recently. It seems that this editorial is no longer funded so, disappointed, I had a hunt around for an alternative paper and came across The Norway Post which looked to fit the bill.

Now, I do not live in Norway or read the printed copies of Norwegian newspapers. Furthermore I do not really wish to compare the editorial content of these two sites, nor endorse either, as that is not the purpose of this article.

Speaking purely hypothetically, it may be that having digested all the articles at norwaypost.no, I am hungry for more news from that country and want Aftenposten.

Referring back to the title of this article, I now explain a useful feature of Reader which is 'automatic translation'. Google has provided such a thing for web pages for a while. I use it occassionally but it requires some cutting and pasting perhaps. Not so in reader.google.com.

Essentially once the feed url has been entered, there is a nice option 'Translate into my language'.

A feed marked Nyheter (News) is what I am looking for and in firefox 'Tools/Page Info/Feeds' shows me a promising url which I repeat below:
  http://www.aftenposten.no/eksport/rss-1_0/?seksjon=ece_frontpage&utvalg=siste
Pasting this into 'Add a subscription' in Reader brought up a list of news items (not in my language):

...and quickly flicking 'Translate into my language' option of Feed Settings gives the following:

Now I do not claim that google translator is fantastic, in fact in some cases the translation can be way off. However it being free, and a very convenient option of Reader, I will use it without putting too much store by the accuracy of it's results.

Based on the above sample of 3 news items I would have quickly read the first article summary and discarded the other two as suspect translations.

If this posting has got you interested in reader and you want to explore some of it's more advanced facilities then join the group dedicated to reader to swap hints and tips.

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