With version 3.31 of Movable Type, the product began shipping with feeds.app lite, which allowed some simple abilities for republishing the content of other feeds on your site, through the use of Movable Type template tags. This plugin was a great step forward, and expanded on earlier plugins that did similar things, but in fact, it is the less-capable sibling of the (much) more powerful feeds.app from Appnel Solutions.
The primary difference between the two is that feeds.app lite allows you to pull some basic information out of the feed, while feeds.app allows you to get anything at all – it’s much, much more powerful (and it also has a price tag associated). Unfortunately, feeds.app, while insanely powerful, also has caused some signficant hair-pulling to get things working from time to time. It’s a shame, because it’s a good plugin. Some of the problem is a conflict between the default feeds.app lite plugin and the full-featured feeds.app plugin. Some is that there are a lot of requirements (that ship with the plugin), and it appears that many systems just don’t support everything that you need to get it working. Because of that, I have recently been looking for an easier solution, and I think I’ve found one in Feed Digest.
Feed Digest is sort of an online version of feeds.app, in that it allows you to set up an aggregation for your other feeds, which you can then pull into your own site and republish. There are some advantages to this – namely that you don’t have to mess with the installation of another plugin, nor do you have to worry (much) about additional bandwidth. The Feed Digest service is, at least at this point, compeletely free, and they do all the polling for you. All you have to do is specify the feed – or feeds – that you want to pull into your aggregate feed.
Perhaps best of all, Feed digest allows you to modify the look and feel of your digest right there on your site. While it is true that this is another template language, and you do have a bit of learning to do in order to fully custzomize the layout, they provide a number of templates so that you don’t have to take this route. You can simply apply their template and it’s done for you. But if you decide that you want to take that extra step, you are able to do so – and once you do, the included file on your site is automatically updated with the changes.
The one item I don’t have much information on is the reliability. To date, I haven’t seen the site go down, but as a third-party service that doesn’t charge, and doesn’t seem to be ad-supported, I’m not exactly sure how they intend to keep afloat. Their about page says that they have quite a few requests, which is a good sign, but I’d be curious to know how they intend to make some money from the service down the road. My guess would be that someone like Google (via FeedBurner) would come in and make use of them. But for now, it’s a great way to republish those feed snippets on your site, without having to worry about another plugin that you can’t get to work quite right.