Hacking ReadBurner URLs

You’ve probably heard about ReadBurner by now.

The idea behind ReadBurner is that it aggregates counts of items that are frequently shared in Google Reader.

First a point of clarification: ReadBurner doesn’t get its data directly from Google Reader in aggregate via an API- it gets the data from the RSS feeds of public linkblogs fed by Google Reader. This is explained on ReadBurner’s About page:

“ReadBurner aggregates items that are shared on the Google Reader.

This works by constantly updating RSS feeds of currently several hundred linkblogs. In order to filter out the best stuff ReadBurner counts, whenever an item is shared by multiple persons.”

ReadBurner’s creator, Alexander Marktl, allows users to submit new linkblogs (or does he?), but he can’t ever gather all of them…so I suspect that ReadBurner won’t ever really represent the sharing habits of Google Reader users. Further, I find it hard to believe that Google would not be working on a similar project that actually will have access to all the sharing data from Google Reader users in its entirety…at which point ReadBurner will stop being interesting.

In the meanwhile, ReadBurner is still pretty neat. The features I’d most like to see added are search and to have searches outputted as RSS feeds. I’ve had no luck getting ReadBurner to output the feeds I want, but I have managed to make it filter for just the stuff I want.

I really wanted a form so I could search and, for instance, see if any posts at this blog were being frequently shared. Sadly, no such search form exists at ReaderBurner.

Fortunately, we can make it search in a limited fashion even without a form by messing with the URL a bit.

The back end of ReadBurner is PHP/MySQL, a combination I gained some familiarity with through working on LibWorm with Frankie Dolan (and by using WordPress to power this blog).

All our little hacks will start from this URL:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?

From here, we can play with two parameters, r and a.

r = The name of the source the item came from
a = The name of the author of the item

So if we wanted to see items in ReadBurner that were shared from davidrothman.net, we just need to tack r=davidrothman.net onto the end of http://www.readburner.com/index.php? like so:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=davidrothman.net

For another example, shared items from Boing Boing could be found like so:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing

But what if we want only to see shared items items from Boing Boing which were authored by Cory Doctorow?

To our existing http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing, we’ll tack on &a=Cory%20Doctorowthe ‘%20′ represents the space character between Cory’s given name and surname and does the same between “boing” and “boing” in the previous example, giving us:
http://www.readburner.com/index.php?r=boing%20boing&a=Cory%20Doctorow

Marktl himself shows how to tweak the URL of ReadBurner to filter for language and for a minimum number of shares.

Of course, there are easier ways to get this kind of info from ReadBurner. Once could subscribe to the feed for the recently submitted items and then filter using Yahoo! Pipes or one of the other free tools for filtering RSS feeds…but that’s not as much fun.

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Check it out: Noted biblioblogger Steven Cohen is one of the top sharers on ReadBurner. :)

6 thoughts on “Hacking ReadBurner URLs

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