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« Book Review - Anywhere Computing with Laptops by Harold Davis | Main| Book Review - Rootkits By Greg Hoglund and James Butler »

Book Review - Hacking RSS and Atom by Leslie M. Orchard

Category Book Reviews

Rather than just read RSS feeds, would you like to *do stuff* with RSS and Atom?  I received a copy of a really good book that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of RSS formatting...  Hacking RSS and Atom by Leslie M. Orchard.  

Contents:
Part 1 - Consuming Feeds: Getting Ready to Hack; Building a Simple Feed Aggregator; Routing Feeds to Your Email Inbox; Adding Feeds to Your Buddy List; Taking Your Feeds with You; Subscribing to Multimedia Content Feeds
Part 2 - Producing Feeds: Building a Simple Feed Producer; Taking the Edge Off Hosting Feeds; Scraping Web Sites to Produce Feeds; Monitoring Your Server with Feeds; Tracking Changes in Open Source Projects; Routing Your Email Inbox to Feeds; Web Services and Feeds
Part 3 - Remixing Feeds: Normalizing and Converting Feeds; Filtering and Sifting Feeds; Blending Feeds; Republishing Feeds; Extending Feeds
Part 4 - Implementing a Shared Feed Cache
Index

This book starts with the assumption that you either already understand all the details of RSS/Atom formatting, or that you're willing to learn the details on your own as you go.  This is *not* a reference book on RSS standards.  Rather, Orchard answers the question "what can you *do* with RSS that's cool and useful?".  Using a series of projects, he starts to get you thinking about how you might use RSS technology in ways you haven't considered.  For instance, having your log files report things via RSS feed could give you immediate notice of unusual situations.  Or perhaps having RSS feeds go to your IM client would allow you to react quickly to news and information.  The possibilities are endless, and Orchard does a good job in getting you to think.

The caveat here is that he assumes a particular software language and platform for building these hacks.  Python is the language used, so this book would be most helpful if you already knew the language (or were willing to figure it out on the fly).  Likewise, he writes for the Unix platform primarily.  You can use Unix emulators like Cygwin to run Unix-like command in Windows, or you can mentally adapt the concepts to whatever hack you want to build.  At first I was thinking that single focus might be a liability for the book.  But after thinking about it, I don't think it's that bad.  It maintains the focus on the hack instead of on how every different platform needs to be coded, hence the book is more concise.  Also, his goal is to get you to hack and experiment, not to teach you a technology via a tutorial.  Since hacking is experimenting, you may end up hacking these ideas on a couple of different fronts...

Excellent idea and application book...  If you're interested in going beyond simple feed readers and building stuff for yourself, this is a definite purchase you want to check out...

Comments

Gravatar Image1 - Glad you enjoyed it... it was a fun book to review.

Gravatar Image2 - Wow - thank you very much for this review. As the author of this book, I'm very happy to see such positive recommendations in its favor.

And, yeah, although I pretty much come in solidly for Python on UNIX throughout the book, I hoped that the code and the explanations in the book could be adapted to whatever the reader might want. I wanted to spark ideas as much as offer them.

Though, sometimes I almost wish I'd done the whole thing using PHP, which I later realized might have been a bit more accessible.

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