Back in January I wrote about a piece of software that I think has a very bright future in Boxee makes your TV social. One of the great features of Boxee is that it will take standard podcast feeds and then allow you to enjoy these podcasts through the software and potentially on your TV. At the Open University, where I work, we publish a wide variety of podcasts on all sorts of subjects and these are made available through a wide variety of platforms including standard RSS feeds, iTunesU and Miro. However it hasn't been possible until now to just drop a link into Boxee to let it discover all of the podcasts on offer. This is because the site structure of the podcasts website is described using an OPML format file which holds the information on the navigation required to get to the various podcasts. Boxee does not understand OPML, but today a new facility has been added to provide a Boxee compatible feed that will let you use one link that enables Boxee to discover everything the OU Podcasts website has to offer.
- Log into http://www.boxee.tv with your username and password
- Navigate to “My RSS” on the left hand side
- In the box marked Feed Address enter: http://podcast.open.ac.uk/boxee/rss2.xml
- Click Add RSS
- When prompted click the Video and Audio checkboxes to let Boxee know that the feed contains both these types of podcast
- The next time you start Boxee you should be able to find OU podcasts by navigating to Video → Internet → My Feeds or Music → Internet → My Feeds then selecting Podcasts – Learn at any time – The Open University.
The new feed works bytaking the OPML and some of the RSS information from the podcastswebsite and reformating it into an RSS feed that Boxee can understand(Boxee RSS feeds are described at:http://developer.boxee.tv/rss-specification/).The OPML gets parsed recursively to build the new feed, which was aninteresting experience to code. I wrote it in PHP 5 and it uses Simple XML to deal with the XML files. It should be regarded as experimental atthis stage but will hopefully prove to be useful.
Thanks must go to ChrisValentine, BenHawkridge and LaurianGridinoc of the Knowledge Media Institute and to Tony Hirst variously for advice, setting up the OPML files andagreeing to host the Boxee RSS generator script, and of course forthe podcast website itself. It is an exciting idea to think that we must be one of the first universities to be able to provide a full podcast service inside Boxee.
From a user experiencepoint of view, delivering links in Boxee to a large number of podcasts in this way is not perfect, it can involve a lot ofscrolling to get where you need. However, this is really just astarting point, who knows what will happen in the future...
*** UPDATE 15th June 2009 ***
A group of us put together a proper Boxee app for the Open University. You can find details at: http://blog.boxee.tv/2009/06/14/uks-open-university-on-boxee/ and it is available from the App Box section of Boxee. I'll be blogging some of the background and technical information about it soon.