Whats Hot In OptometryI came across a Web site called what's hot optometry, which is billed as Hot topics in optometry your peers are reading. Free articles from three top-ranked international optometry journals. In short, it's an up-to-date list of links to stories from Clinical and Experimental Optometry, Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics, and Optometry and Vision Science.

I was happy to see this as I've become fairly paperless. I have stopped getting a newspaper, stopped subscribing to magazines, and try to read books on my iPad whenever humanly possible. However, I know myself, and I have a hard time going to multiple Web sites to read articles. This is why I've grown to love RSS feeds. I don't want to go into too much detail about RSS, but if you're not familiar with it I'd read up on it. In short, RSS allows you to compile content from tons of sources, including newspapers, blogs, you name it. It collects these articles and displays it all in one place, such as Google Reader or in mobile apps like Reeder and Flipboard. I especially like Flipboard: it's like having a glossy magazine filled with stuff you like.

So, when I saw this list of links on the whatshotoptometry web site I looked for an RSS feed button - alas, there was none. So, I decided to see if I could find another way. A little Googling brought me to feed43.com, which states Your favorite site doesn't provide news feeds? This free online service converts any web page to an RSS feed on the fly. Sounded good to me. I clicked the create your own feed link and got started.

First of all, I entered the whatshotoptometry URL into the address line, left the "encoding" field blank, and hit "reload". It successfully loaded the page's HTML:

Feed43  Edit Feed

When you scroll to the lists of articles and links on that page (see above) you can see the pattern that the HTML falls into. In this case:

  1. a paragraph tag
  2. a link with the article's title
  3. a line break tag followed by the article's authors
  4. the rest of the reference (year, volume, pages)
  5. the closing paragraph tag

From here we can make a search pattern to extract the pieces we want. So, we state that we want to to use {%} to identify the text we're interested in and then map out the search pattern like you see below. When we hit "extract" we see that we're successfully getting the right bits of information:

Feed43  Edit Feed 1

Now, we have to use the data we're scraping from the site to create our RSS feed. I gave it a feed title of What's Hot In Optometry and a feed link of http://www.whatshotoptometry.org/ and set the RSS properties like this:

Feed43  Edit Feed 2

I hit preview, and the results looked pretty good. However, I was more interested to see how it looked in something like Google Reader, since this is how I would be using it. So, I copied the link it gave me, which was:


I went to Google Reader, hit the "subscribe" button, and entered in my link.

Google Reader  1000+

Then, I found the What's Hot in Optometry feed in my subscription list, clicked it, and saw just what I was hoping to see: A list of all my feeds complete with easily clickable links that take you directly to the article.

Google Reader  1000+ 1

Even cooler, I can set up Flipboard on my iPad to grab this feed from Google Reader, allowing me to casually browse through the articles anywhere (which means in bed - I know, I'm so exciting).


One caveat: what makes Flipboard so cool is that it grabs images from the content you tell it to, which makes for a really slick magazine-like viewing experience. Since these optometry articles usually don't have any flashy pictures it isn't quite as visually pleasing, which is kind of ironic when you think about it (get it? optometrist? visually pleasing…? Oh, never mind…).

Oh, by the way: Feel free to use the above RSS link if you like. There's no reason why you have to repeat this whole process if you just want to subscribe to the feed!

AuthorTodd Zarwell