Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Using Magpie RSS to Read News Feeds

This past weekend, I added another news feed to blogs4God. Specifically Facing the Challenge of our times. So rather than take my own medicine from May 13, and use Perl with XML::RSSLite to read a feed, I decided to face the challenge using PHP. Specifically MagpieRSS. Works like a charm.

Afterwhich, I decided to send the nice people at Facing the Challenge (FtC) with an email asking them if they would be interested in what I did and how. This morning, I received a nice, and encouraging not from David Couchman over at FtC, who like myself, is frustrated “apparent reluctance of Christian webmasters to use RSS feeds – either by providing one from their own sites, or by incorporating feeds from other sites, such as ours.” Can I hear an amen?!

David goes on to speculate that “they perceive the whole business of RSS/XML as technically complicated.” On this point I both agree and disagree. As you know, last July I sent out ‘An Open Letter to Christian Media Outlets.’ Responses varied. The most encouraging was that from the good people who went so far as to build an API for the ESV Bible. One of the concerns expressed from more than one respondent was over theft of their intellectual property. I can’t say I blame them.

All that said, David is very correct, as I have a stack of emails from individuals who really don’t want to, don’t like to, or don’t know how to use programming languages such as Perl, Python and PHP. Which is why the good folks at FtC offer a simple singular line of javascript to include on one’s site. And why I offer to those of you who like to programmatically shoot themselves in the foot, this easy to use script, in which I couple PHP with CRON to provide you with a daily read that is both bandwidth friendly and suits your site’s demanding stylistic needs:

So what about you? Are you using PHP and Cron to read feeds? If so, why not leave us a comment so we can see.


  1. I’m using PHP + Cron as my primary feed reader. It’s a part of a large CMS I’ve built, so it’s not quite as easy to share as it could be, but the source code for the reader is here:


    See the “/mod/rss/” directory from the root. You can try out a live version on http://www.fruhead.com/ .

  2. i’m very interested in reading over your post. i’ve been working with the web, html, perl, and “programmatically shooting myself in the foot” for more than half my life (i’m 20). i consider myself advanced in web technology… but xml is difficult. i don’t even bother learning it, because to me there is no use for it. (how about a post convincing me otherwise dean?)

    I wanted to respond to the following part of your post: “David Couchman over at FtC, who like myself, is frustrated ‘apparent reluctance of Christian webmasters to use RSS feeds – either by providing one from their own sites, or by incorporating feeds from other sites, such as ours.’” As for me, a simple church website, there is a lot to consider. We don’t use RSS feeds for a number of reasons. 1) No way to ensure quality daily content, 2) No control over content, 3) We don’t want to confuse our users with dozens of links to outside sites — this is my biggest concern. I always get a little ticked when I go to a web site, click on a link and get transported to another web site. Most won’t even tell you that you’re clicking on an external link or give you so much as new window. As a web guy, I want to respect my users’ intentions, and not whisk them away to other sites without their express consent. Also, selfishly, it’s better for me to keep them on the site longer… providing tons of content within the site so they won’t need to go to another site. So, I’m not giving you an amen, yet at least.

    Sorry for being so long winded.

  3. Dean, I’m dying to play with this stuff, but I need to see a good “less is more” implementation that impresses me. I have enough background from your blog on how to implement it six different ways, but I stil haven’t had anybody tell me why I should care! Someone needs to answer these questions for me:

    1. My users don’t run RSS aggregators/clients for their own use, and they won’t even if I ask them to. What content can I offer them through this technology that they won’t have to set up a new program on their machines to use, but will be a value-add to them? Show me an example of a well-syndicated calendar, events announcer, or other small-church communication that is well done.
    2. Where can I get a good directory of Christian RSS content available to integrate into my own site? I would like to offer a few different daily devotional choices from our page so our members can bookmark it and visit daily. How do I find these?

    I can implement it, and I want to, because it looks cool. But I don’t know where to find anything worth syndicating in, and I don’t understand the client burden of syndicating out. I need to see some well done examples.

    ~Tom K.