Shortly after posting about timeline tools for info presentation on the web, I came across another tool, My Timelines. This timeline tool is based on SIMILE Timeline, so it can be embedded into any website or blog platform. It’s similar to the Freshlabs SIMILE Timeline WordPress plugin in that it creates a river of news. But the difference with My Timelines is that you supply an RSS feed (or Atom or RDF) and it produces the timeline from the items. This is a much nicer way to scan a niche’s headlines.
Here’s the general process for building a niche monitor using timelines:
- Pick the blogs/ sites that you want to monitor.
- Mash up the feed set into a superfeed.
- Burn the superfeed’s URL at Feedburner. (See reason below, under Superfeed.)
- Use My Timelines to build a river of news with the Feedburner superfeed.
I’ve used Yahoo Pipes to build a superfeed of some of the SplashPress Media sites related to blogging, design, podcasting, webworking, freelancing and loosely-related topics. (Because Yahoo Pipes generates a dynamic RSS feed for each Pipe, the URL has some parameters in it. This seems to clash with MyTimelines code, so I had to burn my Pipe’s URL in Feedburner before I could get it all to work. So to use MyTimelines, you must have a “straight” feed URL that uses no parameters.)
Here are the sites I mashed together:
- Performancing (feed).
- Blog Herald (feed).
- Blogging Pro (feed).
- Wisdump (feed).
- Business Logs (feed).
- Devlounge (feed).
- Audival (feed).
- Have Laptop Will Travel (feed).
- Social Platform Journal (feed).
- Tubetorial (feed).
The superfeed is sorted reverse chronologically, with no limits on the number of items from each source feed. I’ve used my Yahoo Pipes pipe to truncate the superfeed size to 50 items (the most recently published across all the sites). So the sites that are most active will be the ones with the most prominent news items.
The irony is that I don’t have admin access to the Drupal theme of this site. so I cannot do a live embed in this post of the resulting timeline. What I’ve done is included a snapshot, below, which links to a live embed on one of my test sites. Also, somewhere in this post, near the bottom, you’ll see a link for an attached HTML file. I’ve created a sample page with the timeline embedded. You can use this page as a guide for how to do your own timeline embedding. (If you want to add a timeline to a blog page, you’ll need to insert some code into your HTML header. Just follow the instructions at MyTimeline.)
Here is a snapshot of the resulting SplashPress superfeed timeline:
Depending on your browser, you might notice that, unlike most timelines, the display is synced up to the first news item of the current day in your timezone. This isn’t necessarily the most ideal setup. It might actually be better if MyTimelines had synced on the most recent news item at far right. Though I guess it depends on your browsing style. Note the little vertical ticks in the bottom bar, which show instances of other news items, extending to the left and right. Use that as a guide to know when to stop scrolling. (Tip: Double click your mouse cursor to either side of the clear “window” in the bottom band to get partial scrolling in different directions.)
A timeline built using MyTimelines is a far simpler solution than any of the niche monitors that I’ve discussed previously. It’s arguably also easier to consume news items because of the visual approach.
FOOTNOTE: I’d said in the previous timelines post that I’d talk about how to use WordPress to build custom timelines. I’m just putting the finishing touches on that article, and it’ll appear some time early next week.