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NewsGator Enterprise Server 2.0, FeedDemon, linkblog

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Jun-2007 21:34

Back in November 2005 I posted a full NewsGator Enterprise Server (NGES) 1.0 review on Geekzone, and since then I have been using FeedDemon as my preferred tool for RSS reading, synchronising to my NGES server here at home. I also have the mobile location enabled on this server, so I can read my RSS feeds on the go, from any mobile browser.

This setup is an example of a small NGES deployment, and of course most individual users will end up using the web-based NewsGator service, which can also be used with FeedDemon.

What I wanted to do

Last month I learned about FeedDemon 2.5 and a new feature that allows synchronising clipping folders with the NGES. Clipping folders are special folders where you can drag-and-drop RSS items to share with other users within your organisation for example.

I immediately thought this would be great for creating a linkblog here on Geekzone - but I didn't know how much work that would involve. At the end it worked, and here are some of my findings through the process.

Things I had to do to get there

First, FeedDemon 2.5 requires NGES 2.0 and up - and I was running NGES 1.4. So I had to update that, which required updating my Microsoft SQL 2000 database software to the newer Microsoft  SQL 2005 version. Not impossible, and actually it took absolutely no time.

After the installation - which simply updated my current NGES database, so nothing wasn't lost, I found that the stock FeedDemon 2.5 is not actually ready for NGES, so I had to run a FeedDemon 2.5 beta software.

I initially had Beta 1 installed, and I am currently running Beta 4, which is much better and stable - including fixes for some problems I've found with FeedDemon 2.0 in my previous installation.

Some new features

NGES 2.0 introduces a lot of features and before explaining how I got to my linkblog, I will post some screenshots:

The new NewsGator Enterprise Server 2.0 interface

Automatic tagging


User features: mark as read, flag post, save to clippings, forward via e-mail, tag, rate

Feed "Scorecard"

FeedDemon 2.5: "Dinosaurs"

Inside your organisation you will be able to share attention data between users - and extract a lot of information about the feeds in use. The new reporting feature is great for IT admins, people managing attention data within the organisation and marketing specialists "managing" your company's presence on the Internet.

The new version allows tagging, and automatically creates tags from articles downloaded to the server. It also allows users to add tags to articles, and clip those to shared areas.

It also makes heavy use of AJAX, causing the NGES homepage to load slowly at first - I recommend you keep the page always loaded, since it refreshs automatically. I also noticed that Firefox seems to perform a little bit better than Internet Explorer 7 - albeit I had not taken any formal timings in the process. As usual, your mileage may vary in this case.

The software is not completely bug free though. I've noticed a problem found in NGES 1.0, fixed with NGES 1.4 was back with NGES 2.0: the folder counters in the mobile location are completely wrong. I've reported this to support and something is going to be done about it.

Creating my linkblog

But what I wanted was to get to the linkblog feature - so my plan was to use FeedDemon 2.5 on my desktop, as usual, to "clip" interesting articles, having this synchronised back to my NGES, and from there use the public RSS feed for the clipping folder and have it as a source for a new FeedBurner feed.

I was thiking I could use the FeedBurner "FeedBoost" feature, that allows users to add a small javascript to create a list of articles from a RSS feed - thus having my linkblog automatically generated.

But it didn't work. I found out the RSS feed for the clipping folder is actually password protected, and this can not be changed (so I am told by the NewsGator support people). I also find out FeedBurner does not support password protected sources, so I was back to square one.

My next idea was to use a NGES feature called "Headlines". It's very simple: when "Headlines" is active you can insert a small javascript code in any webpage and it will fetch the articles from the server, presenting these in a list. Very similar to FeedBurner's own FeedBoost actually.

"Locations" can only be created against feeds in "My Folders", and is not relevant to feeds in "My Clippings", so had to subscribe to my own clipping feed, create a "Location" with this single feed in it, and enable "Headlines". This actually worked perfectly and did exactly what I wanted.

But since this is my test server at home, I didn't want to have an unknown amount of traffic coming down my cable modem connection. So I thought hard and found a way around it: the public NewsGator web-based service does support authentication, unlike FeedBurner. And it also supports "Headlines" in its main "Location".

I just had to subscribe to my clipping RSS feed through the free NewsGator web-based service, which worked well, and then enable "Headlines" for the default location.

Like FeedBurner would, the NewsGator web-based service acts as a proxy between my linkblog and my NGES, thus solving the possible load problem on my home server.

Linkblog working

After all the updates, tests, support inquiries to NewsGator and FeedBurner (thank you guys!) I managed to get this working and have my linkblog up and running.

I could have migrated my feeds to Google Reader, which provides a "linkblog" feature automatically, but I simply can't think of replacing FeedDemon - this thing is fast and very convenient.

Of course you can do the same with a combination of FeedDemon and the NewsGator web-based service, if you don't run your own NGES. You don't even need FeedDemon, if you want to solely use the web-based service provided.

Now I am ready to test NewsGator Go! for Mobile on my Pocket PC...

UPDATE: Newsgator support pointed to a way of making the shared clipping RSS public, that is available without a password required. So I now have it also through FeedBurner to provide a public RSS feed, whch is now up in the linkblog.

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Mauricio Freitas
New Zealand

I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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