[Tech tips] Why filtered RSS feeds are awesome – and how you can make your own

Let’s imagine that you follow some RSS feeds for professional (or personal) reasons.  You have them nicely set up in an RSS reader so that they are not clogging up your inbox. But they’re getting overwhelming.  Maybe you have an RSS feed that is itself an aggregator, which means it picks up content from other RSS feeds.  That can be really convenient for you, since it means that you don’t have to follow feeds from multiple sites.

But it can also be annoying.

One of the RSS feeds I follow has multiple authors, and I find one of the authors to be particularly obnoxious.  I don’t like his posts.  He is, unfortunately, a pompous windbag who writes too much of too little substance.  Sure, I can skip his posts, but I’d much rather not see them at all.

The solution here is simple: I can filter my RSS feeds.  Most RSS readers can’t handle this task, but I found a very simple, free web application that makes it easy.  It’s called Feed Rinse.  You create an account on their site – you’re using LastPass to manage all your logins, right? – and then you add the RSS feed you want to follow to your account.  Then you can tell it to filter results.  In my case, I told it to cut out all the blog posts that started with a particular title, since the feed I filtered always prefaces articles by that one author with a particular title.

Once you save your filter, you’re nearly done.  Now you can copy the URL of your filtered RSS feed and add that to your RSS reader.

You can also combine RSS feeds into a ‘channel’ with filters, which might be helpful in the classroom.  You could pull together a bunch of feeds, add them to a channel, and then tell the filter to only publish posts that include certain terms, such as a geographic location or a person.  (For example, you could pull together news feeds from several world newspapers, and then filter them to only show results including the word “Lebanon”.  This would help you quickly create a source for up-to-date news for discussion in the classroom, without you having to individually hunt for articles to recommend to students!)

The more I think about this, the more I am amazed – and it’s so easy, compared to some other filtering systems you can construct.  So, go experiment.  Have a good time.

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