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Sometimes, does it feel that reading stories in your RSS feed reader is like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose? Wouldn’t it be nice to isolate stories from your favorite websites that are only focused on the topics you like or are written by the authors you enjoy the most? Well, a new feed customizing service is now available that makes it possible to do exactly that.
The name of the service is SpecificFeeds, and it’s called that because it lets you isolate specific items from website feeds that you want to see, filtering out the rest, and reducing the overall noise that ultimately ends up in your feed “newspaper”. Here at MakeUseOf, we love RSS feeds. Through the years we’ve offered different ways that you can use RSS feeds, like displaying feeds on your desktop, adding multiple RSS feeds to your reader, or even useful RSS feed readers for your mobile devices.
Feeds can be really useful, especially if you’re too busy to visit every website you follow. The problem is that once you sign up with certain number of feeds, the incoming amount of information can get pretty overwhelming. This is where SpecificFeeds comes in. It’s an advanced filtering engine that allows you to subscribe to a website feed, but define exactly what information you want to receive from each feed. It could be only the articles written by certain authors, maybe just articles with a specific tag or tags that you’re interested in, or you can run a full list of keyword filters for words that are mentioned in the title or even the body of the article itself.
Using SpecificFeeds to Simplify Your News Feeds
The service is fairly new, but it is well designed and functioned well during my initial testing. I spoke directly with the owner of the company, Nicolas Amann, and asked him what drove the company to try and advance an area that is already pretty well established with lots of reader apps and online services.
Nick responded that the service itself is actually pretty unique within the RSS market, primarily because of the flexibility of the feed customizing feature. Nick told me,
“I haven’t seen the core feature (that subscribers can tailor the feed to their needs by selecting to receive only stories with certain keywords, tags, or from certain authors) anywhere else, and I’ve been screening the market for a while now.”
Subscribing to a feed is really simple. In fact, MakeUseOf is already syndicated there so if you’re looking for your favorite site to sign up for customized feeds, there you go!
All you have to do to sign up for a feed is to fill in the email address where you want to receive the updates, and hit subscribe.
The coolest feature here is that you can place them in “In my Personal Newspaper”, a personalized email sent out by SpecificFeeds. Everything you sign up for with SpecificFeeds using that option will get delivered to your email in one single package, rather than multiple emails.
Of course, the coolest part of SpecificFeeds is the advanced filter feature. Click on “Advanced Filter Options” while you’re subscribing for a feed, and it’ll drop down the three major areas that let you customize your feed from that RSS source. The first section is the keyword section, where you can define the keywords you want to search for in the feed updates — either in the title or the body of the article.
You can have the filter check for only individual keywords, or all of the ones that you’ve listed. Also, in between the filter sections, you can define the “And”/”Or” option, if you want to use keyword, tag, or author filters — or all of them at once!
If you just want to receive RSS updates when articles that are tagged a certain way get added to the site, that’s what the By Tags section is all about.
Finally, the third section of the filter lets you pick which authors from the site you’d like to receive RSS updates for.
Once those three simple steps are set up, you’re done and you’ll start receiving your customized feed from that RSS source right in your email inbox. You can either wait for the updates to come into your inbox, or you can check out the customized feed right on the SpecificFeeds website.
To finish setting up your first customized feed, you’ll need to sign up for a new account. Use your Facebook or Google account to make it fast and easy, or fill out the form with a Username unique to just SpecificFeeds.
Getting Your Website Syndicated
If you’re also a website publisher and you want to get your website syndicated at SpecificFeeds, all you have to do is click on the “Syndicate Your Feed” button on the right side of the main page. This will take you through a quick process to set up your website feed on the site. The first step is to type up a short and long description for your website.
In the lower part of the form, you just add the URL for your website feed and you’re good to go. Your website will show up in the listings, and there’s a page where people can see all of your latest RSS feeds.
Navigating Your Account
When you log into your Specific Feed account, your main dashboard has a navigation panel on the left where you can click to view either a list of the feeds you’re currently subscribed to, or the feeds that you’ve syndicated yourself.
On the right side of the dashboard are the customization buttons you can use to edit the subscription settings, and an indicator that shows whether you’ve set up the customized feed to go to your “Personal Newspaper” email, or whether the feed is set up as a separate email.
If you’re looking for new, interesting websites where you might like to sign up for a new feed, make sure to click the “Directory” button at the top of your dashboard and browse through SpecificFeeds current RSS feed options. These listings are growing every day, so you might want to browse through the offerings often, and don’t forget that you can add your own site to the directory for free!
The folks at SpecificFeeds are also offering some pretty unique feeds that are not actually “feeds”, but instead they are “tracking modules”. These are cool alerts that let you do things like monitor whether your website PageRank has changed, whether your website is down, or track weather updates right in your email inbox with RSS.
One of my biggest concerns when covering this app was that there are so many RSS feed services out there, so I asked Nick what he feels makes SpecificFeeds stand apart from the other services out there like Feedburner. Nick responded as follows:
“Feedburner doesn’t provide the option that subscribers can tailor the feed to their needs. Our vision is that where blogs show their subscription options (subscribe by email, RSS, twitter, Google Plus etc.), that there will also be a SpecificFeeds icon where subscribers can decide they only want to receive selected stories.
Another differentiation is that Feedburner is not a syndication platform, i.e. there is not a Feedburner inventory where you can browse through the feeds which use Feedburner. On our site, a blogger benefits by getting a free link to his site and the fact that people become aware of the publisher’s feed on our platform which they might not have got to know otherwise.”
After playing around with the MakeUseOf RSS feed by customizing author, tag and keyword filter options, I really liked what SpecificFeeds offers. I liked it so much that I signed up to syndicate my own blog there. Give SpecificFeeds a try for yourself and see if you like the flexibility it offers in letting you customize the feed updates you get, and the ones you don’t. Share your own experiences with it, and share what you like and what you don’t in the comments section below.