Getting RSS Feeds in your Instant Messaging Client


Get updates on your favorite XML feeds via your an IM client

by Jon Strickland

Senior Network Engineer – Alphanumeric Systems, Inc.
President – Triangle Novell Users’ Group

Managing Editor – Triangle Novell Users’ Group Video Podcast

InstantFeed is still in beta (at the time this AppNote was written) so bear with them.

What is InstantFeed?

InstantFeed, part of the Big in Japan Web 2.0 Toolbox (), is an online tool that allows you to receive XML (RSS or Atom) feeds via your IM client. It was developed entirely using Ruby on Rails. It currently supports AIM, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, and Google Talk. At the time this AppNote was written InstantFeed is still in beta and is free to use.

Rather than have a RSS news reader running all the time checking for updates to the web feeds (blogs and podcasts) we follow, wouldn’t getting updates via IM be a nice alternative to some?

What are web feeds?

What is an XML or web feed? Wikipedia a web feed as:

a document (often XML-based) which contains content items, often summaries of stories or weblog posts with web links to longer versions. Weblogs and news websites are common sources for web feeds, but feeds are also used to deliver structured information ranging from weather data to “top ten” lists of hit tunes. The two main web feed formats are RSS (which is older and far more widely used) and Atom (a newer format that has just completed the IETF standardization process.)

Where do you find a web feed on a web page or a blog? If you’re using the Mozilla’s Firefox Internet browser, it will find the web feeds on a page for you.

Note the

to the left of the site’s URL in Firefox’s Navigation Toolbar. Firefox calls this feature “Live Bookmarks” which allows you to take the web feed on a page and treat it as a Bookmark group that is dynamically updated each time the browser notices the web feed on the site has been updated.

RSS News Feeds for Firefox Users was a Cool Solutions tip/article written back in the 1.0 days. The RSS graphic has moved around a bit but the concept is still the same.

Most sites will have images that look similar to these that are hyperlinked to the web feed.

This large example is a file from the Wikipedia Commons.

Other sites may use this image to designate an earlier version of the RSS file format

Or this image to designate an RSS 2.0 feed.

Novell Open Audio got fancy and used this image tied to an image map to provide links to the web feeds of its podcast, one for Ogg version the other an MP3 version.

Planet iFolder has this image to designate an OPML feed, used to aggregate the web feeds of various members of the iFolder project who have added their blogs to the feed.

InstantFeed has a “button” that can be added to the Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer, or Opera browsers. The InstantFeed FAQ details how to add the “button” to each of the browsers. But to use the button you need to create an InstantFeed Account.

Sign-up for an InstantFeed Account

First you need to sign up for an account by clicking on the “signup” tab on the InstantFeed site

Required fields are first name, last name, login id, email address, and a password. Optional fields include a picture, website URL, street address, city, state, zip, country and birthday. Read over the Terms listed on their sign-up page and if you agree to the terms check the “I accept the terms” checkbox and then click Submit.

Add Feeds

For our examples we’ll add the main feed for Novell Cool Blogs ( and the rss feed ( from the Slashdot home page to InstantFeed.

Once you’ve created your InstantFeed account click the “my feeds” tab.

Paste your Feed URL in the textbox and click Subscribe. The InstantFeed site will examine the URL and then present the following page asking “What do you want InstantFeed to monitor?” and “How shall InstantFeed reach You?” It will show the name of the feed and the tags for the feed that it pulled from the feed’s XML data. You will need to choose an IM account type and then provide the account name.

It pulls the title and tags for the feed from the feed itself. Once you have provided an IM account type and an account name click Submit.

For details on what to expect the first time you receive an IM from InstantFeed check the InstantFeed FAQ. There also instructions on how to add the InstantFeed user(s) to the contact lists of your various IM accounts to ensure proper delivery of the IM messages InstantFeed will send.

Slashdot Feed

At the time this AppNote was written Slashdot was number 3 on InstantFeed’s top feed list.

Scroll down the list and to find Slashdot and click subscribe

Once you click subscribe you will be routed to the Feeds Monitor page just as you were when you added Novell’s Cool Blogs. Since you provided InstantFeed with an IM account it will default to that one or you can specify a different IM account if you’d like to track different feeds with different IM clients.

Once you’ve made a decision, click Submit.

Now you’ve subscribed your InstantFeed account to two feeds.

Novell Open Audio is a podcast you might consider adding, you’d get an IM letting you know when the latest episode was available for download. Open Source Marketing with Reverend Ted is another blog you might want to add. Planet iFolder is another, as I mentioned earlier it’s an aggregate of various blogs of various folks on the iFolder project team. It’s also the first place I learned that an open source version of the iFolder server had been released (pre InstantFeed account).

From a technical support standpoint you could add these RSS feeds:

InstantFeed seems to list the feeds alphabetically by their title.

Cool Blogs “Lite”

Some of you may not want to read all the postings to Cool Blogs but rather only certain postings. Read Ted Haeger’s post to the Cool Blogs on “slimming down your Cool Blogs reading.” The post details how to find feeds by Author or Category.

Okay Now What?

Well it took about a day before I saw my first IM from InstantFeed for my SlashDot subscription, remember the site is still in beta and at the time I signed up I think they may have been swamped with new subscribers who listened to episode 17 of the Inside the Net podcast. Hosts Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte interviewed Brian Oberkirch and Alexander Muse, founders of Big In Japan.

Another reason I may have missed some of the InstantFeed IMs because I try not to be an energy hog and leave my systems on 24/7. Anyway, here’s what two InstantFeed IMs from my Slashdot subscription look like in AOL’s Instant Messenger.

Note: The red N buddy icon was a download from a former Novell office web site once known as

Here’s the acknowledgement from InstantFeed regarding my subscription to Novell Security Patches.

Here’s what an InstantFeed IM from my Open Source Marketing with Reverend Ted subscription look like in AOL’s Instant Messenger.

There’s typically a unique ID at the end of the “Stop this” URL that I blanked out so that Cool readers couldn’t delete the Slashdot, Novell Security Patches, or Open Source Marketing with Reverend Ted subscriptions on my InstantFeed account. Hence the long blank line after unsubscribe/.


Special thanks to Big in Japan for InstantFeed and for giving me permission to use the screenshots of their site in this AppNote.

Special thanks to Ted Haegar (aka Reverend Ted), the Cool Guys, Novell Users International and the contributors to the Cool Blogs (the folks who post). If I left anyone out, blame Ted because I went by his “Introducing Cool Blogs” tip on Cool Solutions. Hopefully InstantFeed will prove to be a useful tool and introduce more people to the power of web feeds and blogging.

Special thanks to Gary Childers, for his contributions to Cool Solutions and for encouraging all of us to give back to the Novell community.

Special thanks to Inside the Net podcast hosts Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte for interviewing Brian Oberkirch and Alexander Muse, founders of Big In Japan. Otherwise who knows when I’d have heard about InstantFeed.

Special thanks to my brother in law, who indirectly caused me to take a tumble down some stairs and somewhat literally put my butt in “traction.” That gave me some time to write up this AppNote.

Legal Notices

The images, logos and Big in Japan product names seen in the screenshots of the InstantFeed site are the property of Big in Japan.

The images, logos, etc in the AOL Instant Messenger screenshot are property of Time Warner, recently renamed from AOL Time Warner.

The Novell logo is property of Novell, Inc.

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