Sunday, January 25, 2009

ObSrv: Watching the World

I've just completed a project called "ObSrv" which will convert Google Image Searches into MediaRSS compliant RSS feeds.

If you don't know what an RSS feed is, perhaps you should read this, or this. I love RSS because it's an easy way to let other people know what you're doing, and to find out news that is of specific interest to you. This blog (like almost all others) has an RSS feed. Most news sites and picture sharing sites have RSS too. This makes it easy for you to show their content on your website, or to view their content in an RSS reader.

If you don't know what MediaRSS is, you might want to read the specification. Basically, it's for a special type of RSS feed that contains media, such as pictures, video, and music. These feeds are cool because pictures, videos and music are much more entertaining than plain text. You can do more with them. For example, there's a slideshow on the right hand side of this blog that updates every few seconds with pictures of hi-tech gizmos. It's based on a Media RSS feed.

My favourite Media RSS application is John's Background Switcher. It updates the wallpaper on your computer desktop with pictures from a Media RSS feed.

My only problem with Media RSS is that the biggest source of images on the web (Google Images) doesn't serve up their image searches as an RSS feed. Which means that while you can search for images at google, you can't automatically feed them into a media RSS application.

That's where ObSrv comes in. It converts a Google Image search into a Media RSS feed.

Here's how:

  1. Go to http://obsrv.com/

  2. Type a few search words in the box. (Hint. If you want, do an advanced search in Google Images, and copy the Google Images URL into the box instead).

  3. Press ENTER or click on the "GO" button.

  4. ObSrv will give you the link to your feed.

  5. Click on the link to open the feed in a new window, or copy the URL for the feed from the textbox.

Here's some links to some applications that you can use with RSS Image Feeds:

John's Background Switcher (Windows desktop background switcher)

Vuvox (Slideshows)

Feed Reader

RSS Popper

What's Next?

I'll be adding functionality to ObSrv as time permits. My next task is to get it to convert any webpage containing images into an RSS Image Feed.

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