My Yahoo Embraces RSS Feeds
I started using RSS in January 2000 after Blake Carver sent me a exasperated e-mail asking why, for heaven’s sake, I wasn’t using it. Surely, he noted, I could see that RSS was the greatest thing since sliced soap. (He may have used slightly different words.) So when I see a search engine like Yahoo embracing RSS and giving it the big stage it deserves, I think “woo hoo!”
Yahoo is doing more RSS as part of their update to My Yahoo. Let’s look at My Yahoo first and then we’ll look at the RSS initiatives. My Yahoo is a personalized page available to registered Yahoo users. When I first opened it it was, um, very purple. But once I logged in and switched to the new My Yahoo, it was more sedate. Unfortunately the new design doesn’t play nicely with Opera; there was some text overlapping at the top of the page. So I tried looking at it in Mozilla and it was fine.
I messed around some with Yahoo’s new RSS reader offerings when those became available, but otherwise didn’t do much with the My Yahoo. The new material however offers enough that I may change my mind. Yahoo has laid out a lot of content and made it very easy to add to the start page. Soon I may be able to say the word “portal” without a full-body shudder. Where was I? Oh yes.
Three tabs allow you to change content, layout, or colors. Content modules which may be added to My Yahoo are divided into several categories, including a Yahoo Services listing. A lot of it (most of it?) is RSS feeds. I wonder if we’re going to see more keyword-based RSS feeds developed just for applications such as this — for example, I may not be interested in movies opening nationwide, but want a feed of movies opening in zip code 90210 that I can watch in my portal.
I liked the Yahoo Services option but it was annoying that you could ADD a service from the list, but couldn’t edit it then-and-there. For example I could add the Weather, but had to go to the My Yahoo Page to set my weather to display just for zip code 90210. Why not have some way to edit it right in the content-creation page?
I added weather for 90210, several curling RSS feeds, and television listings. (How come I can show listings on tv.yahoo.com by category, but apparently can’t do that for my TV listings on the portal page? Did I miss something?) Then I went to the layout page and moved things around a little. (In addition to moving items up or down, you have a few other options here, including the option to have two or three columns.) I then hunted through the themes and set off the whole thing in a pink Hello Kitty wrapper that was breathtakingly, skinpeelingly cute.
I found some of the default options for the page modules annoying. RSS feeds on the My Yahoo page show a default of no more than five items (you can have it be as little as one or as many as ten.) That’s fine. But setting the RSS feeds so that they don’t show, by default, items more than three days old is grating, especially for RSS feeds which are only updated once a week and used as newsletters ( http://www.thisistrue.com/freetrue.rss for an example.) If you’re not going to show more than five items anyway, why institute a default age limit? Make it an option, fine, but not a default.
I nitpick, possibly because I want everyone to get the most use out of and enjoy the RSS feeds. And there’s a lot of RSS here to enjoy; a content search for “baseball” found over 300 feeds. “Politics” found over 700. Yahoo has started their own RSS information page which includes information about Yahoo’s own feeds, the variety of syndication formats, and a FAQ about RSS in general (why would you list Daypop as a source of feeds and not Feedster? or NewsIsFree?) There are also pointers to other resources.
My wish list: make that RSS feed search generally available. (I know there’s an RSS search option in Yahoo’s advanced search form, but the My Yahoo search for RSS feeds looks like it’s been cleaned up and pruned a little. Why not make that one of the search options on the drop-down menu of the front page?) Keep expanding use of RSS feeds (I’d like an RSS feed for Yahoo’s directory categories, providing information on sites which have been added.) Remove that “3-day” default on the RSS feeds in My Yahoo.
Columist Tara Calishain is writer and editor at ResearchBuzz and author of the new book Web Search Garage