Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

Engineering beautiful software jon aquino labs | personal blog

Thursday, May 05, 2005

descriptious: Adding descriptions to and Populicious feeds

Get the Descriptious version of PopuliciousRecommended!: RSS, HTML
Get the Descriptious version of RSS, HTML
Get the Descriptious version of Trendalicious: RSS
(See complete list at the end of this post)

Populicious and are two wonderful RSS feeds that show you what is popular on the web each day (I like Populicious better because it removes duplicates). But the problem with these feeds is that they only give a title for each link -- there are no descriptions. To find out what each link is about, you have to guess from the title, and failing that, actually visit each link. This is time consuming -- and totally unnecessary because many users enter descriptions for their links.

Descriptious to the rescue. Descriptious augments each of these wonderful feeds with descriptions entered by users. So now when you're checking out those new links, you get descriptions for each of them. Simply subscribe to the Descriptious version of the feed (see the links at the end of this post).

The Descriptious feeds are updated hourly. (Ruby source code)

What other feeds would benefit from descriptions?

Below is a picture of Descriptious in action. Note the descriptions in italics, collected from extended descriptions entered by users. They are useful for getting an idea of what the article is about, as the headlines are often not very helpful.

Update: Some people have requested Descriptious versions of other feeds. Here is a complete list:
  • Populicious: New Sites (24h):Recommended! RSS, HTML
  • Populicious: New Sites (48h): RSS, HTML
  • Populicious: Last 24h popular: RSS, HTML
  • Trendalicious: RSS
  • Oishii:New! RSS
Bloglines tip for eliminating duplicates: If you are using Bloglines, you might encounter duplicate entries in your Descriptious feeds, probably because Bloglines is treating textual changes as updates. And of course the text changes as people add descriptions. The solution is to go into Bloglines, click Edit Subscription, then set Updated Items to "Ignore".


  • Excellent Jonathan!

    That is very nice indeed. Why don't you do the same for Trendalicious?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/06/2005 3:55 a.m.  

  • Yippee! Thanks PC!!

    Robin - Alright, I will add one for Trendalicious when I get home tonight. I'll let you know when it's done.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/06/2005 1:30 p.m.  

  • Robin - Done.

    And thanks to Gina Trapani at Lifehacker for the idea about providing HTML versions. Done.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/07/2005 12:18 a.m.  

  • Thanks for the link, nice work.

    By Blogger Wes, at 5/07/2005 3:50 p.m.  

  • Wes - You're welcome! Enjoy!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/07/2005 5:45 p.m.  

  • It's cool when someone puts an image URL in their description. Example: The image shows up in the Descriptious feed.

    Could widespread adoption of Descriptious be an added incentive for people to enter good extended descriptions in

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/08/2005 9:24 p.m.  

  • Hi Iain - I'm delighted that you find it useful. Excellent idea about adding the top 3-4 tags. I will look into it!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/10/2005 7:53 a.m.  

  • Help! When I click the RSS link, or even when I make a bookmark of the link, it goes to this result: "This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below." Firefox is not showing an orange RSS button to click.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/10/2005 7:59 a.m.  

  • Hi Matt! Welcome to the world of RSS! Not to worry; everything is as expected -- the RSS link is not for Firefox but for an "RSS feedreader" like Bloglines. Either:
    1. Use the HTML version, or
    2. Grab the RSS version and paste it into your RSS feedreader (right-click "RSS" and select Copy Link Location)

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/10/2005 8:06 a.m.  

  • Great! Thank you very much, Jonathan.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/10/2005 8:52 a.m.  

  • I have implemented Iain Cheyne's brilliant idea of including the top 3-4 tags at the start of each description.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/10/2005 7:53 p.m.  

  • Hello, the Descriptious version of Populicious is really cool and usefull, I like the Cheyne's layout. Just please could the last line of each entry be deleted? It is the same as the Title, so what's the point? It just eats up space. Thank you very much.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/27/2005 1:31 a.m.  

  • OK quirkyalone - fixed!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/29/2005 8:04 p.m.  

  • By Blogger Chris Clark, at 6/02/2005 8:03 p.m.  

  • Thanks Chris!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 6/02/2005 10:17 p.m.  

  • Jon -
    You are making some great web tools, thanks for all of the work you have put in for our benefit!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/13/2005 6:21 a.m.  

  • Dewayne - My pleasure, seriously. It's great that I can make these tools for myself; it's doubly great that everyone else can use them too, through the magic of the web.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 6/14/2005 12:08 a.m.  

  • Wow, you really have some useful apps rolling! Oishii ( would also benefit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/12/2005 2:23 p.m.  

  • Keep up the good work, Jonathan! I've found a few of your projects on, and it's fun stuff.

    What I'd love to see (and if it exists, I haven't found it yet) is a feed of just the links that have been posted in the past 24 hours that have only been posted by 1 person total in the site's history. That's where I find the really interesting stuff. The other, "popular" stuff will eventually be posted to all of those sites that post the same news items and the same links. :D

    I'm not a coder, so I'm not sure how I'd go about rolling my own version of this. Any ideas?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/15/2005 2:00 p.m.  

  • Hi saurierduval - Alright, I've added a descriptious feed for oishii!!

    Scott - Hmm ... I guess you could scrape the front page every hour, looking for links posted by only 1 person (those are the ones that don't say "and ... other people". If you don't want to do much coding, I would probably take the approach of downloading Cygwin to get you the Unix tools onto your Windows box (assuming you run Windows); then you could probably come up with a 1-liner to do what you want (using lynx, awk, etc.) ... hmmm ... maybe it's not so simple ...

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 7/19/2005 10:51 p.m.  

  • Jonathan,

    Descriptious is one of my favorite feeds. It's one of the very few I try to keep up with consistantly.

    I've thought of a couple of features that might be nice to include. I realize that these might be difficult, if not impossible to implement, but it doesn't hurt to ask, right?

    First, since my foreign language skills are pretty limited, it would be nice to somehow be able to filter out non-English pages. As a shortcut, is it possible to scan the data in a page for the most common English words, such as "the", "of", "to", "and", & "a."

    Also, I wonder how hard it would be using's API to have a personalized feed that gives an indication of the similarity of the tags for a given link to my own collection of tags. For instance, if the most popular tag for a given page were GTD and my bookmarks in contained lots of GTD links, the score would be higher. I realize that might be difficult to implement and may go against the idea of syndication, but it's a feature I'd love to see.

    In general, I'm fighting the information overload battle and looking for any shortcuts to help keep up on all the great stuff out there. In any case, thanks for the great tool.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/08/2005 7:43 a.m.  

  • Hi Matt - Thanks for the ideas. And have you checked out
    It's an interesting alternative to delicious/popular.

    Ha! More information to overload you with.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 9/08/2005 9:12 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home