Want to subscribe to email groups via RSS? Here’s the problem: I subscribe to all kinds of sites that send me updates via email every so often. For example Facebook sends me email every now and then — someone commented on an status update or photo, someone changed something in their profile etc. Interesting, but not something I want to act on right away. I only want my inbox to contain things that I need to act on right away (or things that do not meet any of my filters).
In the past, I’ve solved this by creating filters in gmail (skip inbox and apply label, when email arrives from ‘x’…), effectively sticking stuff into folders .
Works ok, except that every now and then I have to go and check out all my folders. Email is stuff that is pushed to me (and are kind of like “interrupts”). Feeds are things that I “pull” when I have spare cycles (and are kind of “polling”). The two are very distinct forms of interaction and email lists kind of sit in the middle. They’re mostly pushed to me, though I really want to pull them when I’m free….
Why do some sites send emails instead of allowing me subscribe via RSS? Either cuz they’re really old and haven’t switched to using RSS/Atom based feeds or because they need to authenticate (since they have content that is personal to me). Google solves the authentication problem by allowing subscription URLs to have a “magic-cookie”. For example I can subscribe to my Google Calendar using any old RSS feed reader even though my calendar is not public, because Google makes a special URL just for me (the URL contains a magic cookie!). Kewl!
Back to story at hand though, a lot of sites either don’t have RSS feeds because they don’t know about it or because they can’t be bothered to work out a magic cookie based authentication mechanism. So they send me emails with “updates”.
And then I noticed this:
Not only is it a pretty brilliant idea (the automati content aggregation bit) but it can also help me convert email discussion list subscriptions into “pull” based feeds!
So whenever I get an update from LinkedIn about some group that I’m a member of, I auto-forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org! That’s it. Subscribe to magiccookie.posterous.com in my feed reader of choice (Google Reader) and its all sorted!