The tracker and the feed

Yesterday I tried to build myself an RSS feed based on a tracker. The result is the Neath Port Talbot Council press releases feed on the right. It’s not working.

I wanted to find a way of presenting the press releases from the Neath Port Talbot Council website on our website, as a shortcut to having to check and update our site manually (which we currently don’t have time to do). The simplest thing, of course, would have been to subscribe to their RSS feed. Unfortunately, they don’t have one.

Here’s what I tried to get around the problem.

1. I found a brilliant blog post which explained trackers and said that they could be used to create RSS feeds. Read it here.

2. I read all the different solutions, and was most attracted to the options offered by – being a coding newbie, I thought their Tracker Wizard would offer me the simplest way in.

3. I duly signed up with Femtoo with a free account and set up a tracker on the Council web page that lists press releases in order of release.

4. Using the Femtoo Wizard, I was able to select the headline of the first press release, and ask Femtoo to monitor any changes to that text. The simplicity of the Wizard meant that it wasn’t hugely clear whether it would continue to track that individual piece of text (which obviously would not change, and would mean my Tracker wouldn’t work), or whether it would simply check the same location (which would hopefully have a new story on it periodically, and would mean my Tracker would, hopefully, work).

5. Meanwhile, I set up the RSS feed, following the explanation on the Wild Apricot blog, which took me to Feedburner. That was all very simple, and once I had a host for my RSS feed, it was simple to copy and paste it into the widget behind the scenes on WordPress.

6. Then, I waited to see what would happen. With a free Femtoo account, you can only ask Trackers to check your site every 12 hours or every 24 hours (you have to pay EURO 1.20 a month for a Solo account, which gives you a few more features). I picked 12 hours, and waited for a story to change on the Council website.

7. Bingo. This morning, the top story changed. Duly, just a few hours later, I received an email from Femtoo (when the 12 hours was up) to tell me my Tracker had found a change.

8. Bugger. Sadly, my RSS feed did not change.

The good news is that the Tracker looks like it’s doing its job. The problem seems to be the way the change on the source website is being displayed on my RSS feed. I need to find a way of getting it to change the text from the generic title I gave the Tracker in Femtoo, to the headline of the press release. This is the page element I’ve asked the Tracker to monitor, and so it can’t be too difficult to display it in my RSS feed, surely.

Now I just have to figure out HOW. I will play around and report back.


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