Rolling a Google Reader Replacement with Yahoo! Pipes, Readability, & IFTTT

Google shocked the Internet (or perhaps didn’t, those of us who were diehard RSS users kinda realized that there was a thinning in our ranks as people flocked to Facebook and Twitter as “feeds”) by announcing the impending death of Google Reader on July 1. I, like many others, am a bit annoyed by this. Fortunately I have a new solution that I figured I’d share, for those of you who can’t find a good mobile-friendly plug-in-abile RSS feed solution. In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve done.

  1. Downloaded all of my feeds in XML / OPML format from Google Reader
  2. Created a Yahoo! Pipe with the feeds that I read. This creates a “Super” RSS feed.
  3. Used IFTTT to plug that feed into Readability, an offline reading service. (I could have also used Pocket, however I already use Pocket for other purposes, so Readability seemed a good choice)

Here’s how to do this, step-by-step

Download Your Data

Log into Google Reader and go into Reader settings (It’s in the menu in the upper right). Click on the “Import/Export” tab and use the “Download your data through Takeout” option.


This will create a ZIP file which you can then download from the Google Takeout service. Unzipping that file, you’ll find an XML file named “subscriptions.xml”

Screenshot_3_13_13_9_18_PM 2


Opening this file in a Text editor will show the XML code. Reading it carefully you’ll find your RSS feed URLs that point to the RSS feeds you were formerly reading in Reader. Go through and find the ones you still want to read (this might also be a good time to clean feed house!) and make up a list.

Create a Super Feed

Go to Yahoo! Pipes and log in using that old Yahoo! account you have (or I guess any other way Yahoo allows). Click on the Create New Pipe button at the top and begin dragging “Fetch Feed” items onto the workplace. Then use the “Union” item to bind them together. I also throw a “Truncate” at the end to limit to 20 items for tidiness.



Once you have the feed ready, click “Save” and give it a name. Then grab the RSS link for the feed by clicking on the RSS button on the feed’s homepage



A few people have made some great comments that should be considered (Both by Paul, perhaps different or the same Paul?).

The first:

You know that little + URL text on the Fetch Feed object. Click that and add multiple feeds in one object. Much less complicated than using multple Unions

– Great point, multiple Unions can get you in trouble, and using the built-in + button seems to be just as snappy as other modules.

Other (or same) Paul notes:

“Without a Sort module your pipe will take the first 20 items from your feeds beginning with all the items from the feed connected to the leftmost connector of the first Union module, then the next most leftmost module and so on. So if your first feed always contains 20 items then you might as well do away with all the other feeds.”

A Sort is also useful to make sure that you get the order you want, oldest to newest or newest to oldest! Just sort on item.PubDate.

Thanks for the comments!


Pipe that single RSS feed wherever you want (i.e. Readability, Pocket, etc…)

Now you can use IFTTT to pipe that RSS feed wherever you’d like, providing a fairly flexible way to get your feeds into either an offline reader, email account, or whatever. Like I said earlier, I piped mine into Readability, so that I can install the Readability apps on my devices and catch up on feeds wherever I go. This also has the benefit of downloading the full items, so no more “teaser” RSS items!

I realize my solution is a bit clunky, and other alternatives are out there. But for a power user who wants to slice and dice and have their feeds exactly where they want (and wants to use established tools to do so), this is one way to go.


Amazing what we can do these days eh?

Automation is pretty crazy. As I type this, I’m unsure what is actually going to happen when I hit Publish. You see, up until a week ago, I had a pretty jury rigged system where I posted something to a Joomla based CMS that was rather clunky, and then I twittered about it, and that twitter post went to my facebook status. Along the way a component for Joomla would download entries from my other blogs and Pocket PC Thoughts and dump them into the database. This seemed to work out pretty well, but I thought perhaps a more up-to-date system would be nice. Especially with all the changes coming up in the next few months, why not have a better site?
So I’m typing this in the backend of WordPress (Being on a Linux laptop I’m unable to use Windows Live Writer or Word right now), and I have a bunch of gizmos turned on to do various things. First of all, I’m tagging this with a Twitter tag, which I THINK is supposed to trigger some plugin I have to push this out to Twitter and a bunch of other websites (e.g. statuses on Facebook, Myspace, etc..). I’m not sure if it will work. At the same time, the same plugin should push this out as a note on Facebook, but who knows if it will (If you’re reading this there, then I guess it worked).

Now Twitter poses a bit of a problem for me because when this publishes out, I don’t want it sucked back in. Why would it do that? Well, my status updates need to be archived for glory on JonWestfall.Com, and if my status update advertises my blog item and then the status update actually upstages the blog item, it just creates a self-referential storm of junk on the homepage. So I hopefully found a solution using Yahoo! Pipes that should block from my twitter feed any items with [JonWestfall.Com] in them from EVER appearing back on the homepage. Ugh.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it really is. All I want is everything I write to A) appear on JonWestfall.Com in some form and B) my friends to know I’ve posted something (in whatever medium they’re using or accessing). I guess those two are mutually exclusive to some extent. So what will happen when I press “Publish”? Who knows, but hopefully something good.

Manny Being Manny

Red Sox being Red Sox not enough in October
Red Sox being Red Sox not enough in October

He was proud. He was pleased. He was a peacock. He was behind 7-3. He and his Boston Red Sox were still well on their way to a 3-1 American League championship series deficit to the Indians….Celebrating and taunting a solo shot to bring your team within four? This is what they call “Manny being Manny.” There was a reasonable chance he didn’t even know the score or situation when he hit it.
I’m not down on Manny in this post – I think he’s been an excellent player and enjoy a bit of flair (a term the announcers applied, not me in my office-space mind). However it was quite odd to see him admire a home run that, in the end, didn’t mean anything.
Game 5 should be interesting…

Yahoo! Pipes!–create-your-master-feed-with-yahoo-pipes-235726.php
LifeHacker has a great write-up on Yahoo! Pipes, a great new service that lets you take multiple RSS feeds and integrate, filter, truncate, and do other neat things to create a customized “pipe” or channel. I use it to take multiple RSS feeds and make them into one. Quite Cool Stuff!

Ultimate Link List

The Ultimate Link Listing

Ultimate Link Listing Compiled by Jon Westfall ( Distribute as you like, yet please keep this note on here so that people may send me more great links!

Continue reading “Ultimate Link List”

Does Spam Work?

One of the most annoying plagues to hit the Internet in the past few years (aside from angst-ridden teenagers on MySpace, YouTube, etc…) is unsolicited commercial email advertising (i.e. SPAM). One argument I hear made time and time again is that the reason SPAM persists is that it works. People actually buy things as a result of Spam ridden emails, and this small (but significant) percentage of the population are responsible for SPAM’s prevelance.

First of all, I don’t blame my fellow man for SPAM in my inbox. I blame greedy sons-and-daughters-of-a-***** that actually run the spamming enterprises. From small time operators to those who command massive amounts of zombie servers that spend all their lives pumping out email (And whatever else their legitimate owners think they are doing). But does SPAM work?

Obviously we can’t look at the sale of Viagra (or Viz AGR@) to determine this. But perhaps their is an indicator.

Recently, a round of SPAM has been spotted as a result of a botnet of zombie computers. This SPAM advertises stocks as “hot” and tries to get people to purchase them. The following stocks are “favorites” of the emails:

* China YouTV Corporation (CYTV)



So I figured I’d run stock quotes on those symbols and see how they’ve been doing over the last 90 days.

PPTL is rather new on the market – here’s it’s graph over the past 5 days that the SPAM has been making the rounds (courtsey of Yahoo!)

The last trade was for $0.01

CDYV is doing a bit lower lately as well.

It hovers around $0.05 – $0.10

And CYTV, the one I hear about ALL THE TIME is doing…

Markedly better since the spam emails hit. It went from around $0.20 to $1.

Now, why is this. Well, a number of things I can think of:

  1. People actually believe the email, feel the stock is HOT and buy it.
  2. People don’t believe the email but figure that enough other people will, so they buy it.
  3. People notice that #1’s and #2’s of the world are buying, so they buy.

So in the end, I reach the conclusion that… yes… spam does work. Ugh! I guess if you’re a day trader, keep an eye on these three stocks. I will be interested, however, to see how they do after spam filters adapt to them.

Stupid People Alert: Bang Bang

Man at Gun Show Shoots Himeself in Bathroom

“Faribault Police Sgt. Richard Larson said the 59-year-old man shot himself while removing his gun from a hook in a bathroom stall while attending the 31st annual Faribault Rifle and Pistol Club gun show on Sunday morning.”

Damn Enchiladas… guess i’ll duck in here and take care of business… gotta put my loaded rifle on the coat hook here but darn it, there ain’t no place to hang from ‘cept the trigger…
Seriously, do people think that and figure, ah, what could go wrong?

Stupid People Alert: Evolution – the way it has to be.

Evolution vote nears, scientists fight back – Yahoo! News
Evolutionary theory can explain a lot. However, it is a theory. Double stupidity here: It’s stupid to blatently force a theory on people, and it’s really stupid to NOT encourage people to question theories like they are handed down from the mouth of the “intelligent designer” (I hate that term… why can’t we say ‘god’ – It isn’t God (Big G – Christian), it’s little g. Any religion I know of that has a supreme being refers to that person as ‘god’… ugh…) himself.
Theories can NEVER be proven – they can only have support added to them or removed from them. They should ALWAYS be questioned. A scientific theory that is not able to be disproved is NOT a scientific theory. This is theory of science 101 here…