For this week I wanted to write a little about how you can use RSS feeds to help your site look and feel more like an ESPN type site. I’ve noticed while browsing through the league profiles we have here at League Crawler that a lot of leagues like their members to write little game summaries after their games and have a picture or something included in the write-up. Some leagues make this mandatory and others just allow for it when the owner feels like writing something. My league was part of the latter because I found that, even for myself, it can be hard to ALWAYS find time to do a write-up that was interesting and enjoyable enough to read. That said, I wanted to ensure that, when people did write stuff, it got read by our community. My goal with my league website was to create a hub where the owners could come, see what’s going on, communicate and schedule all in one place instead of having to click a different page for the forum, for the chat box, etc. Having everything in one place is essential to keeping your community engaged.
As a commissioner however, you’re so busy with chasing people down, going over rules, adding new members, settling disputes, etc that it can be hard to find a smart way to allow people to create fun and engaging content for your league and be able to elevate it to your league’s site without constant manual updates. If you’re anything like me, one too many manual updates eventually turn into a ghost town of content placeholders that never get updated. How can you make your site look more like a hub that holds dynamic, user generated content without you having to constantly update stuff? It’s simple – well, Real Simple Syndication or RSS to be exact.
The first thing you’ll need to make this happen is a forum that parses your forums into an .rss o .xml feed. I suggest Nabble because it’s free, easy to use and VERY powerful in how it lets you use it. So, the basic gist is that you setup your forum and all its sub-forum sections. For my league we had Rules, Scheduling, Trades, and Team News for Example.
With Nabble, every single sub-forum can be viewed by an RSS reader with little work. So, for my league’s main page – I had an RSS reader embedded on the home page that showed any update to the scheduling thread, an ESPN style scroller at the top of the page that showed any update to the Team or League News threads and beneath the chat window, another RSS reader that showed pictures and teasers that updated any time an owner updated his team’s news page sub-forum.
All you have to do with Nabble to make this happen is click on the forum and click this link and it gives you a link with the .xml at the end.
You can then go to any rss reader you want and setup the reader with your rss feed and it will populate the content automatically. Since I used WIX.com for my league’s website (don’t let the mediocre wix.com sites fool you into thinking it’s an inferior product folks, with time and effort, you can do some cool stuff there with less work than coding it yourself or site builders) I was able to take advantage of a few of their built in features (free, but has a watermark or ad on the reader) like FeedNinja and Tint. These readers are really cool because you can pull in content from other feeds as well, not just an rss feed. You can set them up to pull content from a youtube channel, facebook, twitter – anything you want. In my case, I just wanted to have it pull from my forum so I chose to go with the Team News reader by using the .xml link from my Nabble sub-forum.
I eventually got more and more creative with it and made team specific sub-forums that I embedded individually into each team’s own page on my league site so that only news pertaining to that team would show up. Cool stuff! It’s a little tedious but, my goal was to create a place where people’s hard work off the field paid off and were able to be noticed without having to dig into the forums to find it. I hope this helps you guys and if you have any questions, email me and I’ll be happy to help. Next up in this series, I’ll be getting into all the cool things Nabble has to offer and talk about good ways to set up your forums to help your guys get around.
It’s kind of a ghost town these days, but if you want to check out my old league site, you can find it at: