News and Notes, Sept 21 – Oct 21

New on True Strange News is a daily audio podcast of news headlines called the RSS News Feed Bonanza.

Creating the RSS News Feed Bonanza

Sure, there are great real newscasts out there, but with our own news podcast, we get to pick all the feeds, weed them out over time, and even ban them for spamming and so on.

Audio Pauses. Getting our screen reader to pause while reading list items, as far as we can tell, is currently impossible. There are codes you can put in your web page to make screen readers pause, but Apple’s free reader just ignores these completely, making them useless. So, you get a funky helicopter sound as a pause in the news feed, for now…

9/29/2020: Found a way! Enjoy the much improved podcast with silences between headlines and news sources.

Pronunciation. Things that seem like they should be simple have turned out to difficult and have taken days, while other puzzles are quick and easy. It has been fun trying to figure out how to get the Apple screen reader to pronounce certain words correctly, without breaking the pronunciation for other words. It’s a compromise at times. Political “moderates” (mod-er-its) is pronounced differently that when you say someone “moderates” (mod-er-eights) a chat room but instead of writing intelligence into it, I’m just picking the most common one for news feeds, well, I have added some intelligence. You will hear trade offs in the feed. One of the most difficult words to get right is “Live” (I live in the USA) vs “Live” (a Live news feed) because they are both so common.

Timeliness of feeds. The last few days have been spent figuring out how to remove all the feeds that have timestamps other than today. One fix leads to needing several others, as is the way of computers. The feed does now remove all headlines without a date stamp of today in the news feed. Getting this to work was a huge two day puzzle which resulted in too little sleep, but after the fix, the daily update shrank under 40 minutes instead of the hour and 40 minutes long it was that particular day.

Some news sources (that’s you Mars Daily) are posting today’s date every day on stories that they have had up for a while, so we may decided to remove such headlines or the entire feed. 10/2: Mars Daily is now replaced with NASA mars news.

10/3: Now removing from the audio feed any items not from the date it is in GMT time zone. This should bring more of the most up-to-date news.

New Daily Content, Same File Name

Getting the site to give the latest version of what is the same audio file name each day has also been a challenge. A few new efforts in that direction are on the home page now. Works on some devices.

Still to do:

  • Remove the news feed headline if it has no listings for today. (Decided to leave these in, but feed got too long, so I did find a way to remove feeds with no listings for the day. 10/3: Some glitches today as I worked out a new way to remove feeds with no listings. )
  • Remove duplicate headlines.  Done, sequential duplicates in the same feed are now removed.
  • Automate running of the script. Done. Finally, I don’t have to push a button for the updates to run.
  • Improve content. I’m still exploring feeds and will add new ones and remove some over time.
  • Get updates from useful non-RSS sources, such as Twitter? in some cases, web sites, etc.
  • Add an email alert service. For now, added a time and date on the home page of True Strange News that shows when the next update is expected.

Enjoy. – Xeno

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