WordPress Hacks: Build a Techmeme River of News Clone, Part 1

[Intermediate users] If you’ve seen sites like Techmeme and Megite and find them handy, you might be wishing you had something similar for a specific niche. Techmeme’s owners do have similar sites for specific niches (including politics, baseball, celeb gossip), but maybe you want something for a different niche. Since as a freelancer, I cover a number of niches on a regular basis, I’ve got my own personal dashboard tools for monitoring niches. But I’ve been on a quest to find/ build a generic tool similar to Techmeme/ Megite. Fortunately, you can produce something similar: a river of news. It doesn’t offer the topical clustering that makes Techmeme and Megite so useful, but it’s a start.

What’s a River of News, and Why Use It?

A river of news is just a stream of headlines from various websites, possibly with text excerpts. See Techmeme River for an example (a snapshot is below).

Techmeme River does not provide any item excerpts, but that doesn’t mean your river of news cannot. (However, in this post, I’m discussing a headlines-only version.) You can format the text presentation any way you like, as well as insert the information you need to appear.

Ok, Show Me How

Here is the simplest process for building a river of news:

  1. Take a bunch of related feeds that you want to monitor, then mash them up. (I like to use Yahoo Pipes for feed mashups because of the relative ease and the great functionality.)
  2. Sort the mashed up item stream. You’ll very likely want them presented reverse chronologically (most recent first).
  3. Truncate your list to X items – say 25, 50, or whatever.
  4. Publish the list to your blog – either in your navigation column, or on a page of its own, or a subdomain. (You can use the new Yahoo Pipes badging or custom code.)

Instead of writing a lengthy explanation of the coding process, I’ll refer you to Splashpress’ own Thord Hendgren and his recent article, Mashing Up Feeds Using Yahoo Pipes. I’ve written similar posts (linked above), but Thord has done a nice job of showing lots of screen snaps. What’s more, he’s provided and explained HTML/ PHP code that you can use in WordPress to parse your mashed feed stream and badge it on your blog.

How Can I Use a River of News For Niche X?

Assuming you apply the instructions that Thord gives, here’s what you might do:

  1. Pick out the RSS feeds you want to monitor, including building custom feeds using Google News, Yahoo News, etc.
  2. Apply the process I’ve given.
  3. Use Thord’s badging process and code.
  4. Tweak your WP theme’s CSS stylesheet to present your river of news text in whatever way you like.

The result will look something like this snapshot, below, from Wisdump’s right hand navigation column (depending on your stylesheet settings). You can also modify Thord’s code to add an excerpt, though I’ll cover that later.


Thord’s code is intended for use in a navigation bar on a WordPress blog. In the next installment of this series, I will discuss presenting a river of news on a separate blog page or on the home page. In a subsequent installment, I might get into a more customized presentation.

5 thoughts on “WordPress Hacks: Build a Techmeme River of News Clone, Part 1

  1. Heh – I don’t want to give away everything I’ve thought regarding a Techmeme clone – at least not until it’s implemented. But yes, I think you’re right. There are actually numerous ways to get topical clusters. There’s no right or wrong way, I don’t think – just the way that suits your needs.

  2. Thanks a lot player. This came up while I was looking for a techmeme clone. Open source would be great but, I do have a few domains laying around that I want to do something like this with.

    I’m no mySQl freak, but just from taking a shot in the dark, I’m will to bet we can get topical clusters by dumping the feed in the DB do a MATCH for title and content, then apply a SCORE and anything with X number of words about a certain percent get thrown into a cluster.

    I’m going to go check out those other posts of yours and Thord’s

    Looking forward to the more customization post.

  3. Bam: Why should I “know better”, just because THIS site runs Drupal? That has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, as you pointed out, yet you’re seemingly criticizing me for something I didn’t do. WordPress has a lack of flexibility and scalability? I don’t think so, as I’ve already written before. You can customize and tweak WP to your heart’s content. (No, it doesn’t replace a $1M high-end CMS, but once again, that has nothing to do with what I’m writing about.) You get an award for most creative way to get a link to a brand new site with only a “hello world” post on it.

    The point of this article is to set up the next one, where I’ll discuss how you can create a blog niche monitor, and then customize the presentation of the information. Sure, you can use a newsreader if you want to. I prefer custom niche monitors, and I’m guessing some of the people that read Performancing might as well. That means I can build a niche monitor and anyone who is interested can view it. This is much simpler than if I only used an RSS reader.

  4. since your site is also running drupal you should know better that drupal has an integrated aggregator that basically does what yahoo, google and others do as well not to mention whole lot of other contributed modules that can customize it further… having said all of this i know you’re trying to come up with a solution for wordpress (even though pro content publishers shouldn’t use wordpress for its lack of flexibility and scalability)

    also i hope a techmem close software, open source just pligg the digg clone, comes out soon cuz we all can use some!!

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