Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Using RSS for Data Interrogation

In my previous post on RSS <textinput /> search queries I recalled an even earlier posting on how it would be cool to have an RSS search facility on Firefox.

My occasional searches for such an extension have to date been futile, which got me wondering about whether the functionality is already there? That is, can I subscribe to an OpenSearch query feed, for example, in Firefox as it stands, or using one of the RSS reader extensions?

So, just to provide a bit of context, here's an RSS returning search on Jon Udell's Infoworld site taken from

Just by having this feed abvailable, do we get any emergent functionality for free by plugging it into other stuff that's laying around (a bit like network effects Jon himself observed were possible).

My first thought was the Sage extension, which does allow queries into a couple of sites that already provide an RSS search. However, outside of hackingthe XPI package, there didn't seem to be an obvious way to add another feed.

Second up was the possibility of adding a particular OpenSearch query to the Firefox search tool. This is normally easy enough (for example, here's how I added the an OU Library search to Firefox), but from my limited understanding of it requires searches of the form http://whatever.long/path/name?q1=searchterm1&q2=searchterm2 etc. Without a simple URL Rewrite (which I don't have access to from where I'm writing now) I couldn't see how to fit this into the Firefox search extension definition.

Thirdly, and this seems a bit of a cop-out (though it does work), was simply to use a keyword search. The format of the search I'll use will be udell %s, which will search using the search terms captured in the %s variable. Rather than just display the search results as raw RSS, I'll shove them through an RSS2HTML service. If you'd like to try it yourself, here's the keyword search bookmarklet. Alternatively, here's a quick demo of a search on firefox search.

This approach would be muuch simplified (and generalisable) if the OpenSearch definition file (or the A9 ID of the feed) were autodiscoverable. For example, something like this should do the trick for the InfoWorld search: <link rel="opensearch@A9" type="application/rss+xml" href="" title="Infoworld A9 OpenSearch Feed" />. tags:


Blogger Michael said...

OpenSearch 1.1 specifications (as of draft 2, to be released shortly) suggest the usage of autodiscovery.

9:54 PM  

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