How To Setup a Filtered Blog-Roll

The traditional blogroll lacks focus.  In many ways this lack of focus benefits the blog authors.  The intricate network of blog-rolls sends readers spiraling down a rabbit hole of blog discovery, but when I was just a reader I found it extremely frustrating.  I suspect other readers do too, particularly when they are wading through the Internet looking for content about a niche subject.  My blog focuses heavily on fly fishing for carp which is about as niche as it gets.  In order to maintain focus I have spent a considerable amount of time developing a filtered blogroll (or ”CarpRoll”) that is filtered for carp content.  I recently realized that I have the process refined enough that other bloggers could easily use my engine to filter for other subjects.

What you need:

  1. Google account for Google Docs -or- another way to self host a CSV (comma separated values) file.
  2. A list of RSS feeds from blogs that you would like on your filtered blogroll.
  3. A list of keywords to filter for.
  4. Enough savvy to add and modify an HTML gadget if you are on Blogger.
  5. Enough savvy to translate blogger instructions if you are on Word-Press.The example

    :  As an example I will setup a ”Roughroll” which filters a long list of fly fishing blog feeds for rough-fish content with the keywords drum, sheepshead, buffalo, bowfin, gar and sucker.   You will be able to filter with any (up to 6 per blog) keywords you desire.The Engine:  A fairly complicated yahoo pipe powers my filtered blogroll.  For those who would like to dig into the guts or even modify them the published pipe can be found here.  Feel free to make a clone and tweak away if you are into this kind of thing.  If anybody figures out how to make it do the laundry, clean the toilet or something equally cool do us all a favor and leave the pipe id in the comments section.It is a slippery slope between providing a valuable service to your readers and becoming content stealing scum.  Please keep that in mind if you start to work on alternative uses for this pipe.

    Step1: Making Your CSV Blog List  The CSV (comma seperated file) is a comma seperated list of the blog feeds, blog names and filter keywords that drive the pipe.  The CSV file has to be hosted.  If your blog is self hosted or you have your own file hosting methods worked out then just download a copy of the example CSV and do your thing.  If  you use Blogger and cannot host your own files then Google docs is a great way to host files.

    1. If you don’t have a google account sign up.
    2. Go to the Google Docs Roughroll  CSV file.
    3. Make yourself a copy.  File –> Make A Copy
    4. Customize the CSV as desired for your blog.  Columns are:
        • Title:  A list of non-repeting non-numeric characters used as indexing within pipes.
        • BlogURL:  The blog feed URL for each blog on the roll.  These can be atom or feed-burner feeds.
        • BlogName:  The blog names for each blog.  This will be added to the title of each post on the blogroll so pay attention to spelling and caps.
        • Filter1 to 6:  Up to 6 filter keywords per blog to look for.  These can be different for each blog.  If you need less than 6 filter keywords just repeat one of them.  The filter works on complete words so for example the word “carpet” will not get a post on the roll if the filter is set for “carp”.
    5. Publish Google Docs Spreadsheet as a CSV.  From the drop-down menus select File –> Publish to the Web.
        • Make sure the “Automatically publish when changes are made” option is checked.
        • Hit the “Start Publishing” button
        • Directly under “Get a link to the published page” select the “CSV (Comma separated values)” option.
        • This provides a link to the spreadsheet in CSV form.  This link will be used later, you can copy it to Wordpad or come back for it.
    6. Congradulations, you have now hosted a CSV file.  For freeeeeeeeee?????!!!

    Step2: Add the filtered blogroll (For Blogger, WordPress might or might not be the same)

    1. Add an HTML gadget to your blog.
    2. Copy and paste the yahoo pipes badge from here and into the HTML gadget.
    3. The code shown below highlights what you will need to modify to suit your needs.  Do NOT copy from here because Word-Press butchers the syntax.
    4. <script src=”http://l.yimg.com/a/i/us/pps/listbadge_1.4.js”>{“pipe_id”:”7f87b330bfc0c6e7e5ef5691d857c26b”,”_btype”:”list”,”pipe_params“:{
      “urlinput1″:“https:\\/docs.google.com\/spreadsheet\/pubhl=en_US&hl=en_US&
      key=0AgWsFak7n1rZdFRSZmF2cEtkS1ZsVHUzODNvdG5Ua0E&single=true&gid=0&output=csv”
      ,”Charachters”:”300“,”PostPerBlog”:”1“,”PostPerRoll”:”15“},”width”:”300“,”height”:”500“,”hideHeader”:true}</script>
    5. ulrinput1 input is the link to the CSV file.
    6. Characters input sets how long to leave the description.  The filtered blogroll can keep a snippet of the actual post under the title but the performance of this option is a little erratic so I usually leave it at 0.0.  Note – For some obscure reason yahoo pipes sometimes does not recognize “0″ as a valid input.  “0.0″ works better.
    7. PostPerBlog input determines how many posts any one blog can have on the roll at one time.  When set to 1, only the last post that fits the filter criteria is eligible for the roll.
    8. PostPerRoll input sets how many total posts make it onto the roll.  Set this option to the number of blogs on the list if you want everybody’s last post on the subject to make it in.
    9. Width and height inputs set the size.  If you make the height shorter than the blogroll then it automatically becomes scroll-able.
    10. The hideHeader option removes a title that Yahoo Pipes automatically adds and which is hard to customize.  Since blogger HTML gadgets come with their own title I hide the header.
    11. NOTE:  The pipe id shouldnt change unless somebody creates a newer version.

    Step 3:  Enjoy:

    1. You get what you pay for so don’t come begging for updates.  Unless you are paying in very sincere thank-yous or directions to the nearest carp-hole.  I will work for carp.
    2. I am pretty sure Google cannot see into this form of blogroll so if you want to throw your blogging friends link juice as well as traffic you should back it up with a traditional blogroll or a list of blog-links or both.
    3. For blogs that feature variety a traditional blogroll in parallel has even more value since your readers are more likely to enjoy and want random information.
    4. If you want to fine-tune your CSV file, all you have to do is go modify the Google spreadsheet.  Google sometimes takes a long time to republish automatically and the jury is out on whether or not manually republishing helps.

About McTage

This guy really loves fly-fishing for carp and you can read about it at his blog Fly-Carpin. His regrettable descent from carp-fisher to carp-sniffer is probably just a cry for help.