IRC to RSS: Chatting and Blogging in Harmony

I'm sure this has been done before somewhere, but I've been pretty impressed at the full circle that's been achieved by the Mobitopia bot that Erik and Jim got working in the #mobitopia forum on What it does is monitor the chatroom and look for links. It'll also do other fun stuff like dictionary lookups and Google searches, which always comes in handy when in a chat and not everyone is up to speed on the subject, or just to show off your Google Syntax Prowess.

But the link monitor is the coolest. We're using a Python Chumpbot which records the links in the chat which are on their own line and labels them, A, B, C, etc. Then you can tell the mobibot to label the links afterwards - which you normally do anyways to tell everyone what that link you just sent out was for. The list of links is exported immediately to an XML file on Erik's server (and archived as well) and what I did on Mobitopia is whip up a quick server-side script to grab that XML data live and transform it into a web page *and* an RSS feed.

You can check out the Mobitopia Chat Links Feed here.

This has had profound effects on the chat. For example, we all now know that we're not just chatting away, but are in fact adding to the web page and feed. This is very cool. It's not just a dump of the conversation though - I've seen those before and they're boring to try to weed through - but is really just the "meat" of the conversation as well as a very subtle history of the topics for the day. It's great to know that the links you paste aren't just disappearing into the ether. Because of this I've gone in and added links just to spur conversation and to make the feed a bit more interesting. The feed then goes out and to the people who've been monitoring it, they know within a few minutes that there's some action going on in the chat and come check out what's going on. It's a great circular effect....

And additionally, Mobitopia is meant to be a blog of analysis, not just news links. But we all like to know what's going on and like to know the latest and greatest as soon as possible. With the Chat Links Feed operational, we've really added that second element to the Mobitopia blog that's been missing - the news items. This is great because it was needed, but now it's done in a very simple to do group way, just like the blog itself. All very neat.

I know that lately RSS is used for everything and the kitchen sink, but seeing syndication work in this context - to weed out real information from what is essentially the pure chaos of a chat room - really has opened my eyes to some other applications to the feeds. Imagine if you did some bayesian filtering as well and made a feed of the entire chat log, but you only got the sections that interested you... Or maybe even a whole weblog dedicated to snippets taken from the chat transcripts - but semi-intelligently cut and pasted, not just thrown up there. That would be neat as well.

Lots of cool ideas from this. Lots of fun as well.


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