Using FeedFlares to Customize Your Posts Through FeedBurner

FeedBurner (which was recently acquired by Google – congrats) has many great features, reporting tools, and customizable options to fulfill all of your RSS feed subscriber’s needs. Today I’d like to discuss the FeedFlare functionality. To get to the FeedFlare portion of your FeedBurner account, simply log in to your account and go to the optimize tab. FeedFlare will be in the left nav, under “Services”.

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Now that you’re here, let’s go over some of the basics. First, what is FeedFlare? I think they say it very well on their page. FeedFlare gives “your subscribers easy ways to email, tag, share, and act on the content you publish by including as many or few of the services listed below. FeedFlare places a simple footer at the bottom of each content item, helping you to distribute, inform and create a community around your content.” Basically you can add links to digg, stumbleupon, delicious, facebook, etc. Making it easier for your subscribers to promote and share your material elsewhere.

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Basically, if you want to let readers submit your stuff to digg or if you want to let them email the author directly, you just check it off that you want it to appear in your feed and/or site post.

But you, the observant reader, see that there is more! There is a “Personal FeedFlare” section in addition to the FeedFlares offered by FeedBurner. And herein lies the power of FeedFlare. With a little bit of XML knowledge and a basic tutorial on the FeedFlare structure, you’re up and running, ready to make your own personalized Flares.

Here is an example of the XML that I wrote (largely based off of an example from the FeedFlare Developer Guide) to add the author of a post to the feed.

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Let’s break it down:

FeedFlare Unit is the whole packet of information to be read by FeedBurner.

  • Catalog is the information that will be displayed on the FeedFlare tab letting you know what the flare does.
  • Title is the title of your flare.
  • Description lets you know what it does.
  • FeedFlare contains what you actually want your flare to do. Since ours is only text we only use a text tag within the FeedFlare tag.
  • Text is the text you want to appear when the flare is put at the footer of the post. In our case we would like it to say (in bold)***(update 8/24/07) “Posted by – *the author of the post*”
  • The “posted by” part is easy. Simply write, “posted by.”
  • Getting the author itself is a little bit more involved, as you can see. A quick copy and paste from the Developer Guide explains that “What this is saying is that if there’s an author element (with a name sub element) on the current item, use that, otherwise use the item’s ancestor’s (i.e., the feed’s) author name element.” No use reinventing the wheel. Go search through their code first.

And that’s it. Close all your tags appropriately and you are two steps away from your brand new FeedFlare.

1. Upload the XML file to your site.

2. Put the URL of the file here:

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You now have access to your very own customized FeedFlare to fulfill all of your subscribers’ needs. Happy posting! And feel free to post your own examples of Personal FeedFlares that you use in the comments section.



UPDATE!! 8/24/2007

i·ron·ic
adj.
          Poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended.

          example: It was ironic when my post about adding an author to a feed via a custom FeedFlare was sent out and it didn’t include an author because the bold tags I added screwed everything up, rendering the whole FeedFlare useless.

So when I wrote this post our feeds were going out with the author noted at the bottom of each post via the FeedFlare I wrote. THEN, before I wrote my post on how to make a FeedFlare I decided to try to add a little visual flavor to the author FeedFlare by having the name be bolded. I made the change, wrote the post, and when the post gets sent out the next day (to my complete dismay) there is no author at the bottom.

So please, don’t use any textual formating tags within the text tag of the XML file. Not only will Feedburner not implement those tags…they’ll kill your whole Flare. And next time I write a tutorial on something I’ll be sure to test it out before I haphazardly post broken code.

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