A MindManager-based RSS News Reader

The recent GTD Phone Home post described a method for automatically capturing voice input from Jott and/or email input sent to mailbucket into a ResultsManager in-tray using the MindManager rss smart map part.

The method works surprisingly well except for one hitch — each time you refresh the rss map part, it re-imports all the topics. This prevents you from gettng rid of the ones you completed or moved to another map.

To address this issue, I changed the approach used with the rss map part. Instead of having the rss-feed as an in-tray, the new macro ("rss_to_intray.mmbas") in the Macro Library processes one or more main-topic rss map parts and automatically copies their "new" items to a main-topic "In-tray". It accomplishes this by creating another main-topic ("rssdb") whose subtopics serve as a database of previously seen rss items.

MindManager RSS Reader Example

How to use it

  1. Open one of your maps or start with an empty map.
  2. Create rss-map-parts to sites you want to monitor (e.g. http://www.activityowner.com/feed/ ) by clicking on "Tool", "Macros", "Create Smart Map Part".
  3. Drag the newly created map part(s) from the "News Feeds" folder on the "Map Parts" side bar tab to main topics on the map.
  4. Download the rss_to_intray.mmbas macro to your My_Maps\AO directory.
  5. Assign the macro to a menu for manual operation or paste the packed text of the GyroQ "rssi" tag into GyroQ to launch it from there.
  6. Refresh the map parts using Shift-F5 (uncheck the box to allow it to be done automatically later).
  7. Run the macro or the GyroQ tag. It will create in-tray and rssdb main topics if they don't already exist.
  8. Optional: Process the In-tray with the MindReader "c" tag (or mindreaderNLP.mmbas macro) to convert the topics to activities and "process" them.

Using this approach you can "process" the items the macro has transferred to the in-tray with MindReader and/or mark them "read", check them off as "done", or move them to another map, without worrying about them showing up again.

General Use?
Although this macro was built to deal with the "You've got Mail" gap, it actually has some potential for use in general "News" reading. I am relatively new to using NewsReaders to track RSS feed instead of surfing the web, so I imagine I'm not alone.

Like many people, I started by adding RSS-feeds to my My Yahoo page. This is handy,as it allow you to keep an eye on infrequently updated blogs or forums (e.g. the Gyronix Formm) without needing to visit the site itself each day. The downside (particularly from a GTD point of view), is that you can't "mark them read" and "clear your in-tray".

You can address this problem by getting an account on one of several free "reader" websites such as NewsGator, Bloglines, and Google Reader that you can sign up for. Thus far I prefer NewsGator's fast FeedDemon application, which synchronizes with your online account, and allows you to monitor Keyword searches for things like GyroQ or ResultsManager.

For most applications, those options are probably much better than using this MindManager-based reader. On the other hand, there are occasions where working from within MindManager could be handy. For example, the ActivityOwner.com site gets lots of useful comments and suggestions that I want to "process" into tool improvements. Having the ActivityOwner Comment Feed automatically show up in an in-tray helps me avoid having suggestions or questions fall through the cracks.

You might consider doing your blog reading as a low-priority set of tasks on your daily-action dashboard, as an incentive to visit and refresh it often :-).

I'm not sure how well the macro will scale, as it will eventually accumulate quite a few "previous entries" in the database tree. It also might be cleaner to have the rss-feeds as sub topics and the rssdb as a floating topic. I'll cross those bridges at some point, but this fills the need for now.

Note: For those of you who still don't want to adopt a some type of newsreader, you can now subscribe to the ActivityOwner site by email using the side-bar link above.

5 Comments »

  1. Chuck Brown said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 9:55 am

    I'm not sure if this occurence is due to software version differences since this entry was made, to something else wrong with my map, or do the software itself… I followed these instructions, and when I refresh, a couple of times I'll get the message from RM: "Changes can only be sent from dashboard maps". This requires me to click 'OK'. Any suggestions?

  2. ActivityOwner said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

    Hi Chuck — Are you using version 7 or version 6? I'm not sure what would cause the behavior. It sounds like you are activating the ResultsManager "send changes" macro somehow. This macro uses a "send keys" command to refresh the map part, which could be causing a problem.

    What exactly are you doing before the error (tag, macro, etc)?

  3. Chuck Brown said,

    April 4, 2008 @ 8:48 am

    It's version 7, and I have no idea what was causing it. I had pulled the map part off of the map yesterday. When I came in today, I added the map part back (which is set up to the ao rss). when I ran rssi, it didn't do anything. So, I downloaded the rssi code again, and reloaded it into GQ. When I ran it this time, everything seemed to work fine, with one exception. There was already an In-tray, which I had pulled over from the Gyronix Map Parts. However, the rssi routine added a second in-tray, to which it added the RSS entries.

  4. ActivityOwner said,

    April 5, 2008 @ 9:03 am

    Sometimes the Gyronix map part will come into map with its category information as text labels instead of in the category field. In those cases, MindReader, etc will not recognize it and will create a new one. You can fix the original by editing with with ResultsManager once.

  5. Using MindManager as a Twitter Reader » ActivityOwner.Com said,

    April 29, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

    […] the News Smart Map Part to import and organize twitters from his friends. This reminded me of the MindManager RSS News Reader posted back in March 2007. The macro in that tool takes the RSS feed and logs it in a […]

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