Multi-Author Blogger = Suckage
“The Unnecessarily Painful Painful Challenge of Trying to Filter Multi-Author Blog Posts by Author”

Why!, O why!, O why!, O why! [etc. ad infinitum] are Blogger -and by extension Google- so utterly determined to make it impossible for contributors to a multi-author blog to separate out their own posts?

As you all know –or at least that fraction of you all who are my second year students, I have been wrestling with the problem of how to extract our individual contributions from last year’s multi-author PDP, so that we can import them into Tumblr.

Importing an entire blog from Blogger into Tumblr is doable, albeit a bit of a palaver [using This Script]. However, if we did that with the old PDP, all the posts would import into Tumblr, looking as if they were written by the same person [ie. me, as I’d be the one importing it].

What is needed is some way to filter out the posts by individual author.

As I’ve mentioned before, it seems like Google have set out to deliberately make this impossible to do; there is no mechanism built in to Blogger to allow you to display posts by a selected author. When exporting the blog –for import into _Tumblr_– there is no way to only export selected posts [which would at least allow you to choose only posts by a certain author]. Nor is there even any way to view posts sorted by author in the Blogger dashboard. There are lots of posts on Blogger’s support forums asking why the hell this facility isnae available, some dating back years -all of which go resolutely unanswered by anyone at Google.

Potentially, you could filter posts by certain criteria by building a custom URL to output only the posts you want as a feed and then wrestle with the problem of how to suck that feed into Tumblr. A feed is basically just a stripped-down XML version of your blog, which can be read by other web apps.

The standard feed for the PDP is at:

http://PDP2010.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

But we can tweak the returned feed by adding parameters to the URL. For example, if we want it returned in RSS format instead of the default Atom, we can use:

http://PDP2010.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

If we want to return more than the default 25 posts that the standard feed returns, we can use:

http://PDP2010.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss&max-results=500

And so on. There is a wide variety of parameters you can add to the feed URL, to filter the output in just the way you want. Google even helpfully supplies a list of the parameters that their web services use on this page. The sharp-eyed amongst you [or anyone nerdy enough to even look at that page!] will notice that one of the parameters Google claims to support in feed URLs is ‘author’:

Great! We can just add that parameter to the feed URL too and get a nice RSS feed, filtered by author… can’t we?

No. We cannae. Because Blogger disnae even support Google’s own feckin’ code standards. Try using the following URL:

http://pdp2010.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss&max-results=500&author=%22stiobhart%22

And you’ll see the following delightful error message:

The crunching sound you can hear is my head banging against the wall!

OK - time for a bit of lateral thinking. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Yahoo Pipes, a service which allows you to build your own mini web apps for filtering information from around the intarwebs. I nipped over to their site and, after a few minutes tinkering had built the following pipe:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/madra

The gubbins of which takes the URL of the PDP feed, asks the user to input their username, as used on the PDP and then filters the results by author, where author contains that user name:

So let’s give it a whirl. [Feel free to try this at home folks!]. Visit:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/madra

And click on PDP author filter. If you then enter your Blogger username in the box and hit ‘Run Pipe’, you should get a nice list, showing only the posts from the old PDP, authored by your good self:

[Note: I had to temporarily change my username on Blogger from stíobhart to stiobhart to try this out, as the feed URLs tend to choke when presented with accented characters. The rest of you shouldnae have this problem]

Yay!:

Now we’re cooking on gas!

Yahoo Pipes even supplies you with a nice ‘Get as RSS’ button, which will allow us to view our filtered feed as RSS. All we’ll need to do then is save off the source of the RSS feed as an XML file and then we can import that into a new temporary Blogger blog - thus populating that blog with only those posts from a single author. Once we’ve got that temporary blog set up in this way, we can re-export it from Blogger and [using the script linked to above] import it into Tumblr. The job looks well on its way to quite possibly being a ‘good ‘un’!

So here is the RSS version of my filtered feed:

http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=8dd8ebde23c4615a4d76a3304414edb0&_render=rss&author=stiobhart

So, I save that off as an XML file and then head over to Blogger, where I create a new temporary blog and then go to the dashboard and choose ‘Import Blog’, which would allow me to import an XML file previously exported from another Blogger blog into this new blog, thus allowing me to populate the new blog with only those posts by a single author:

The success of this mission will depend on whether or not Blogger will import an XML blog file that was not created using Blogger itself.  ie.  will Blogger recognise the universal RSS/XML format output by my Yahoo Pipe, or will it use some fuckwitted proprietory XML format of its own and refuse to import the file?

Yep! -You guessed it:

Well, there’s a day out of my life I willnae see again!

So the quest continues until either I find a way to do this, Google get their bloody act together, or you all forget that the previous year’s PDP even existed!

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