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If you’re always checking your RSS feeds for news, stories and other kinds of updates, here’s a really neat tool that may be your new best friend. IM Feeds is a service that takes your pre-existing list of RSS feeds and runs them through an instant messenger (IM) robot which will notify you as soon as a new article is posted. The simplicity of the service is one of its greatest attributes.

RSS feeds is basically an alternate version of a website that can be “read” by a machine. A blog, for example, looks like a very simple list of articles that an RSS reader can then display to the user in any format they desire. IM Feeds has made a simple IM account that reads your chosen feeds every five minutes and reports any updates via the chat window in your IM client (such as Pidgin Pidgin - Tips and Tricks Pidgin - Tips and Tricks Read More , Digsby Why I'm Digging Digsby Why I'm Digging Digsby Read More , or Trillian).

IM Feeds in an IM Window

Setting up IM Feeds is extremely easy:

  • Go to their website and click on “get started.”
  • Add one of their robot addresses to your buddy list. They have one for AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Talk.
  • Once that “user” is added, send it an instant message with the command “join” as the text.
  • From there, the automatic response will tell you the next steps in the process.

Once the IM buddy is set up and you have created an account on the website, you then need to add your feeds. There are several ways to do this. First, you can simply go to a website you want to subscribe to, copy that feed’s address (usually associated with the orange radio icon), and enter it on the IM Feeds website. Second, you can IM the robot the “sub” command, followed by the feed address, and that will add it to your subscribed feeds as well. For that option, I suggest typing “help” first, which will list all of the commands you can use with the IM bot.

Lastly, you can take all of your pre-existing feeds from another feed reader and import them into IM Feeds. This is what I did because I already have many, many feeds that I subscribe to and I want to get the latest updates on the fly. Simply look in your current feed reader for the option to export into OPML format. Once you have that file, IM Feeds has a place on the website for importing it.

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Be careful to only submit the file once and expect some delays, as their servers are in a period of growth. I accidentally submitted my OPML file several times and had duplicate feeds, but the support staff for the site were nice enough to clear it all out for me so I could start over.

Your feed updates will be displayed like this on the site:

Feed Update List

And you can manage your feeds here (click the “x” box to remove them):

Feed Management Pane

All in all, I really like this service because there are a ton of different uses for it. If you already have a lot of feeds (like me) but don’t want to have to check your reader for the latest stuff, it makes for a good snapshot of “right now.” The only downside to this is that you are constantly inundated with IMs from the bot. It takes some getting used to.

I can also see some very selective uses for it. If you have several feeds that alert you about big events or maintenance issues, you could subscribe the IM bot to only those feeds and it would ensure you never miss an update. Also special events like WWDC or MacWorld (if you are a liveblog-reading fanboy like me) might warrant their own dedicated IM bot.

Inside Info:

While the IM Feeds staff was fixing my account, I asked them about any new features they are working on. Aside from obvious server expansion, they are also planning on supporting German, Spanish, Mandarin, and possibly French as well as providing a new kind of alert type. The new alert system would allow users to enter bits of data like a stock abbreviation. Instead of having to hunt down an RSS feed for each stock you want to keep track of, the new alert will simply find the most logical feed for each stock and do the work of setting it up for you.

This new tool may not be for everyone, but any serious feed user should check it out and see if they can put it into use. Can you think of any neat uses for IM Feeds other than those listed above? Post your thoughts in the comments!

  1. Arpit Garg
    November 17, 2008 at 11:10 am

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  2. Khendar
    July 1, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I've been using this for a few weeks now and I concur with most of the above comments. Its fantastic for infrequently updated feeds but I wouldn't subscribe to more than a half a dozen feeds at time with the tool. It just ends up being notification overload.

  3. Pali Madra
    June 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    The service is quite helpful and I'm sure more features would be added to this service with faster start of notifications of new posts on your subscribed feeds.

  4. Aibek
    June 29, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I think this app works better for quick alerts i.e. weather, stock picks, todos etc. Definitely not for someone who is subscribed to 20 or so regularly updated blogs.

    My 2 cents. ;-)

  5. Jimmy Rogers
    June 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    @Mark
    I guess I just liked the AIM bot method of doing it. The thing that will make this really stand out (hopefully) will be the new features they have coming. With any luck the interface will be simple and transparent for even people new to RSS.

  6. Ameet
    June 27, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Awesome, without any more windows, can stay updated, one at a time :D

  7. Mark O'Neill
    June 27, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Getting RSS updates via IM has been done before by a couple of companies. I covered one of them before - a company called ZapTXT - http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/get-rss-feed-updates-in-your-im-program-with-zaptxt/

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