Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pick 'n' mix RSS feeds

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If you subscribe to a high traffic blog or news web site through an RSS to email service such as R-Mail or RSSFwd, you won't be a stranger to a bulging inbox.

No matter how much you love a particular site you're unlikely to want to read absolutely every article posted to its RSS feed. Some sites will give you a range of tweaked feeds to choose from (one for each tag or a 'best of' round up for example) allowing you to selectively filter the information you receive, while with others it's a case of 'one size fits all'. This tip explains how to whittle down the updates you receive from the latter using Gmail's automated email filtering feature.

The idea is to instruct Gmail to instantly delete any emails from a specified sender containing keywords which describe topics you aren't remotely interested in.

To get started visit gmail.com, click on 'settings', 'filters' and then 'create new filter'. Enter the email address of your RSS-to-email provider in the 'from' box. If the name of the site you have chosen to receive RSS updates from appears in the subject line of each email you can enter this in the 'subject' box. If not, put it in the 'has the words' field instead along with any keywords you wish to blacklist.

Let's look at an example where you want to sieve email which uses only the title of the article or blog post to identify it within the subject line. Let's say you subscribe to 'Evangelism Online' and 'Godsquad' and you want to vanquish certain emails dealing with scary topics you can't face.

Here's what you might like to enter into the 'has the words' box: ("evangelism online"|godsquad) (darwin|"other religions"|"atheism on the rise"|"common sense"|dawkins|allegory|langenort|sweden|"the da vinci code"|evolution|southpark|durex|"brokeback mountain"|"separation of church and state"|logic|science|scepticism|"oblique spheroid"|"spongebob squarepants"|"walt disney"|"faith no more"|"john lennon"|reality|"elton john"|diversity)

This string identifies all content originating from 'Evangelism Online' OR 'Godsquad', AND which contains ANY of the keywords/phrases listed between the second set of brackets.

When you're happy with your operator string, press the 'next' button, put a tick in the "delete it" checkbox and jab the 'update filter' button. If you already have some rogue emails festering in your inbox, you might want to tick the 'also apply filter to x conversations below' checkbox.

From time to time you can check how effective your filter is proving to be by casting an eye over your deleted items folder. The messages that have skipped the inbox will be easy to pick out because they will still be bold (as is the case with unread email).

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