Category Archives: Jabber

instantFeeds 1.0.4

I rolled out a new version of instantFeeds tonight, you can read all about the new features / bug fixes here. The big feature is that now all notifications will include the title, link and summary of every item in the feed whose publication date is later than the date of the last notification the system sent. I had a number of people write in to tell me they were using it and that they could use that exact feature.

Thanks to jas osborne for the patch that got me started again!

instantFeeds 1.0.3

New version of instantFeeds: version 1.0.3. It includes a two new features: you can now turn off your notifications by sending the command ‘off’ (kind of like an out of office feature) and turn them back on by sending the command ‘on’ and the notification you get sent now includes an approximately 255 character summary of the latest item. Additionally, I fixed the package naming (Wildfire recently had to change it’s name to Openfire and all the package names had to be updated as well) issues.

As always, you can check out the release notes, the source repository or just skip to the good parts and download the plugin.

instantFeeds: real time notification of RSS updates via Openfire

I wrote a long winded post a couple months ago with a nebulous title called “IM and RSS: Rome is on Fire” where I talked about the feed bot that I wrote for Wildfire (which is now called Openfire). It’s been up and running now for a couple months, giving me a chance to work out some of the bugs and add a couple features and I think it’s ready for you to look at and use. The project page has all the details.

Also, I updated the client-side sign up form to use Prototype / rather than the YUI stuff (which ended up costing somewhere north of 200k in JavaScript). Since you can run your own Openfire server and you can download and use the instantFeeds plugin, feel free to rip the JavaScript off this site if you want to enable your users to sign up to receive your blog updates via IM.

IM and RSS: Rome is on Fire

Last August, Marshall Kirkpatrick (another Portland resident) posted an entry to TechCrunch about a company called FeedCrier which:

… makes it easy to receive rapid notification of new items in an RSS feed by IM

I bookmarked the link on, noting offhandedly that it would probably be easy to do something like this using Wildfire and Rome Fetcher… Almost 5 months to the day later, I’m really proud to say that it wasn’t easy, but it’s definitely doable, albeit with a slightly different aim.

If you swing by my website (instead of viewing this post in your favorite feed reader), you’ll see a list of ‘subscription options’ in the right hand navigation bar: RSS, AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk and Jabber / XMPP (the full set of IM services thanks IM Gateway Plugin). Clicking on RSS takes you to the feed so you can subscribe with a feed reader, clicking on any of the others results in a fancy schmancy dialog box (courtesy of YUI), into which you can plug in your preferred instant messaging username … click ‘subscribe’ and AJAX will send a request to the Wildfire plugin I created (proxied by mod_proxy), which will then send you an IM to confirm that you really want to receive alerts for this feed. Click the link in the IM and you’re off and running. The service then polls the feed you subscribed to at regular intervals, sending you a message if it finds something new. It supports all the feed formats that Rome supports and also supports XML-RPC pings (my blog is configured to ping the service when I post something to my blog).

I’ll be the first to admit that the UI sucks and that the dialog box should show a confirmation, that the YUI stuff is really heavy (380K of JavaScript and CSS to make a dialog box? sheesh!), that it’s not a ‘professional’ service like FeedCrier, and that I haven’t passed the code by the Wildfire team yet (I’m hoping they’ll accept it as a plugin that’ll be included as part of the base Wildfire distribution) but I’m really excited about the idea of RSS to IM in general and this implementation in particular for the following reasons:

  • As far as I know, all of the existing RSS to IM services (, Zaptxt, Rasasa and the aforementioned FeedCrier) are hosted services. If I subscribe to your feed via any of the above services, I’ve got a relationship with them, not with you. If you’re a hip publisher, you’re probably sending pings their way, but you don’t know who is subscribed to your feed. You probably don’t have access to the list of subscribers (and as a subscriber maybe you wouldn’t want them too, but I’ll get to that in a second). With this plugin and an instance of Wildfire, you can go one to one with your customers, rather than working through some third party. Said another way, given the ability to run a Wildfire server, what company wouldn’t want to offer a ‘subscribe to this blog via IM’ as part of the ‘subscribe via email’ and ‘subscribe via RSS’ feature set?
  • Because you host it, you might configure the server in such a way as to give it access to feeds on your intranet, feeds that are completely inaccessible to *all* of the above services. What’s that you say? Your internal feeds are protected by Basic Authentication? That’s ok, the plugin can retrieve protected feeds as well. Specify the username and password in the URL (http://username:password@yourserver/feeds/my.xml) and you’re golden. So if you work at a big corporation that’s producing RSS feeds like rabbits produce baby bunnies, don’t fire up your desktop feed reader. Get someone to set up a Wildfire server and then pester them to install the plugin for you.
  • It’s truly instant: one of the things about RSS to instant messages is that you’d hope that you do get notified or alerted *instantly*. The reality is that it takes two to tango: for FeedCrier to alert you instantly when a feed is updated, they have to have the cooperation of the publisher, the publisher has to send them a ping when the feed is updated. Since the plugin supports XML-RPC pings, you as a publisher can configure your blogging software (or whatever else produces your RSS feeds) to send standard XML-RPC pings to the plugin, so while polling is supported, it should be the exception to the rule.
  • Finally, as a subscriber, the thing that’s valuable is that you a) get your content and b) that you get it instantly. You could care less about FeedCrier or any of these other services, you want your content now. So (and this is what I’d I’d get to earlier) you might be willing to give up the anonymity that RSS normally provides in exchange for immediate access to the information you want (or maybe anonymity isn’t a big deal to you at all). In other words, for truly valuable information, this service puts publishers in a position of power: subscribers get their fix instantly as long as they cough up their instant message information.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your feedback. And don’t forget to subscribe. You know, to get your fix.

Wildfire Enterprise launches..

For the last couple weeks I’ve been working on the ‘Deep, Real-time Reporting’ features of Wildfire Enterprise, which officially launched today (if you’ve ever thought about messing around with instant messaging / XMPP / Jabber, I’d highly recommend checking it out and that’s the last corporate pitch you’ll hear out of me). Herewith (as Tim Bray likes to say) are some notes about the tools we used to develop said features.

  • Prototype / Before I started working at Jive in April, I had done enough JavaScript to get by but my general attitude toward it was disdain. It seemed like it was always safer and easier to do things on the server. Prototype and changed all that for me. If you haven’t worked with either: get started now. For whatever reason, the prototype website doesn’t contain a lick of documentation, so head on over to this site and this site once you’re ready to dive in. If nothing else, get rid of all your document.getElementById('thisAndthat') code and replace it with $('thisAndThat'), you’ll feel cleaner afterward. Also, make sure you get the latest version of prototype by downloading the latest version of because there’s a nasty bug with prototype 1.4 which I’ve written about before.

    Which leads me to Go ahead, be amazed at the drag and drop shopping cart, the ‘sortable elements with AJAX callback’ and the sortable floats. Now, put all that useless stuff aside and look at the core library, called Visual Effects, which include the ability to do just about anything, but make it really easy to do things like slide elements in and out, show and hide elements, and highlight elements. You can see some of the cool effects in action by watching this movie our marketing team made ofthe dashboard in action.

  • DWR: I didn’t mention anything about AJAX in the previous two paragraphs because all of the AJAX work is being done by DWR, which takes away all the hassle of binding the objects that exist on your server to the logic on the client and back again. You don’t have to deal with JSON, XML or HTTP requests. On the server you create a class, expose one or more methods and point your DWR config file at the class. On the client, you include a couple DWR JavaScript files and write JavaScript to call methods on the server. It’s drop dead simple. I highly recommend trying it out if you’re using a Java servlet container as your platform. We used DWR in a couple different places, but notably on the dashboard to create a view of the conversations on the server.
  • JRobin: Before working on this project I had never seen JRobin or heard about RRD. In short, it’s a way of keeping statistics about your system over time without having to maintain giant log files or large databases. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to keep track of oh, let’s say the number of database connections to a server, over a period of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, take a look at JRobin. It’s fast, can record just about anything you want and the size of the log file(s) it generates will be the same on day one as it is on day 323.
  • JFreeChart: I’ve used JFreeChart on a number of projects in the past, but I used it more on this project than any other. It is not the easiest tool in the world to use. There are about 600 different knobs you can turn, which makes it tedious to make something look exactly like you want it too and the full documentation costs $40, but the product itself is free.
  • iText: Last but not least, we used iText to produce some pretty nifty looking reports in PDF format, which includ the graphs created by JFreeChart. I hadn’t ever used iText for anything more than messing around in ColdFusion back in the day, but it was still relatively easy to get something working quickly. It would be fantastic to be able to hand iText an HTML document and say ‘create a PDF’, but you can’t have everything in life.

And that’s the story! Send me an email if you have any questions about how we integrated the above tools, I’d be happy to help.

Email to Instant Message Gateway

It’s wicked cold this weekend in Massachusetts so I stayed inside and had some fun with Apache James and Smack (an open source library for communicating with XMPP servers from Jive Software). See, I was looking over this page of Mailet ideas on the Apache James wiki and I saw two different people wanting instant message notification of email delivery. Having spent some time writing a custom mailet or two recently and having been recently reminded of the very cool Smack library, it turned out to be relatively easy to snap the two together to make an email to instant messaging gateway. I don’t want to bore you with the details, so I posted a full description, including installation / configuration instructions, source code and binaries over on my projects page. Enjoy!