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I do have to admit that sometimes I can get bored from the same old thing. While certain things were a novelty years ago, once the masses take over it just becomes part of the way things work. What I’m talking about here are things like sending an SMS message from the Internet, blogging from your mobile devices, or syncing up your computer with cloud storage. All of these things were really cool novelties when they first came out, as one or two folks figured out ways to connect a couple of technologies that were formerly isolated by the vastness of cyberspace. Are we running out of fun “new” things to try?
Plato once wrote that necessity is the mother of invention. The truth is, I experienced that phenomenon this week, and I’d like to share my little discovery with you as I guide you through the process of converting emails to an RSS feed and then instantly publishing that feed on your website.
A Community Sending In Updates Via Email
My original idea was to create a sidebar widget on my website that would let me issue short one-line updates to a feed. This would let me issue news alerts to my readers without the need to actually write an entire post until later – sort of like an embedded Twitter feed of sorts.
Creating The RSS File From Emails
Converting an incoming email to an RSS thread isn’t new, but it’s also not easy to find a solution that’s quick and simple. I did discover a really cool and free online service called mmmmail! that will take any incoming email and add it to an RSS file.
Just type in the email address name that you want, and check the system to see if it’s available. Once you find one that’s free, the system creates a repository for all incoming emails, as well as an RSS file where they will all get published.
The xml file is stored at http://www.mmmmail.com/yourprofile.xml. For example, the one I created ends in /topsecretwriters.xml. Here’s what it looks like when you use the system.
First, write an email to your new mmmmail.com email, and make the one line of text that you want to display as the title in the Subject line.
Send this email, and then check your xml file. It should look something like this:
What this means – and what I later realized could make for a very cool feature to offer readers – is a single RSS feed that anyone can send a line-item to. Where this could come in handy is an internal company tool where multiple employees could email updates regarding a project, or multiple news reporters from around the world could issue one-line status updates to editors back at the office that are monitoring for instant reports.
Publishing The RSS Feed To Your Site
The ability to populate a feed with multiple incoming emails can have many really cool uses. Of course, in my opinion, an RSS feed is especially useful when it is embedded onto a web page. No reader required. Just visit the site and you can quickly see the last few status updates.
There are many ways out there to embed RSS feeds. RSSInclude is a pretty cool service, and I really like Amit’s solution over at Labnol. However, my favorite approach is just to create a folder in my Google Reader account and make it public. You can get a script that lets you embed the feed in your site. Here’s how it works.
- Go to settings and click on the “Folders and Tags” link.
- Make a new folder for this purpose, change its status to “Public” and then scroll to the right side of the screen where you’ll find the “add a clip to your site” link.
- Customize your sidebar widget with the title and number of recent updates to display, and then copy the script in the box that shows up underneath.
- Paste the script anywhere on your website, and the feed will automatically get published with your most recent emailed updates. Here’s what the widget looks like on the sidebar of my site. All updates displayed here were emailed in using the mmmmail! account.
As you can see, the subject lines displays sort of like a Twitter feed. When users click on the link, they’ll be taken to the full body text of the email on the mmmail! website.
As you can see, on the site it does unfortunately display the user’s email address, so it’s a good idea to send in updates using an anonymous or junk email account used only for this purpose.
So far, this seems to be the fastest and easiest method you can use to issue sidebar content updates using just your email. This means that you can send in the updates from your mobile phone, from wherever you are, so long as you can send out an email.
Give this setup a try and see if you like it. Do you know of any other ways to improve on the setup? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image credits: Svilen Milev