RSS to Email Primer with Movable Type and Bloglet

by Ray_Matthews on May 01, 2003 at 05:25 PM

Movable Type Notifications

Movable Type supports "notifications" using Ben Trott's mt-add-notify.cgi. The blog administrator enters email addresses using the notifications screen.

Notifications are never sent automatically. The administrator of the blog can elect to send a notication of a particular posting to those on the list. After entering a new story, and saving it, the person publishing the story can send the entry along with an optional personalized message.

As used in this way, notifications have a very limited value. Users cannot self-subscribe and the process is not at all automated. There is no way to filter so that stories posted to particular categories can be sent to subscribers interested in those topics.

MT comes with a simple CGI script to allow visitors to add themselves to your notification list. You just have to enter this form script in the template HTML code where you want it to appear.

The process, however, is still manual and users are dependent on the story publishers to elect to and remember to send notifications. The visitor who subscribes in this way, doesn't get an email notification confirming the subscription, nor can she or he unsubscribe at will.


A second option for sending RSS channel stories to subscribers by email is to use Bloglet. Bloglet is a service developed by Monsur Hossain using Blogger's XML-RPC interface. Think of it as a RSS-to-email conversion subscription service. Anyone can register and enter the XML channel URL for any feed, and then receive the new headlines in a daily email message. It's very easy to register and add channels. Here's a typical bloglet email update:

Advantages of using Bloglet:

  • It's automated and there's no work required on the part of the blog owner

  • There are no advertising banners
  • Subscribers can unsubscribe at their choosing

  • Headlines from multiple channels are aggregated into a single email message. It's like receiving one long newspaper from multiple sources.

  • The person registering the feed can elect to limit the feed to headlines, a certain number of characters, or the full description.

Limitations of Bloglet:

  • There is no option to vary the frequency of distribution to weekly, biweekly, or monthly

  • The service is erratic; sometimes its down for days at a time

  • The code is not open source so you can't host a bloglet service on your own server

MT-Notifications/Bloglet Combo Script

Girlie wrote a script for combining the above two methods.

I've place this experimental script here at RSS in Government with some minor modifications such as removing the notification url box.

My appreciation goes out to Monsur Hossain, Ben Trott, and Girlie for sharing this code.

In the next installment......

Some examples of customized 'RSS to Email' scripting in use by others.


I'm currently working on a service that works similar to BlogLet, called rss2email. It can be found at:

However, there are some big differences:

- My service only supports rss/rdf news feeds. It also has preliminary support for ATOM/PIE news feeds.
- It will provide custom sheduling so that you can decide when you want to receive email updates.
- For the email message, you will be able to select a template it should use or you will be able to create your own templates.
- It will provide a way to import/export OPML channel files.
- (future) it will provide full text searching through the contents of the feed data (including archived items).
- (future) it will provide ways of sharing your subscriptions with friends.

Currently, we are still beta testing and adding some necessary features to the system, but it's already operational. If you want to help beta testing, feel free to contact me by email at

If you have any other suggestions on what you want such a service to do, please let me know and I'll implement it.


Posted by: Pieter Claerhout at October 29, 2003 07:17 AM