How to create custom RSS feeds with WordPress

WordPress has many alternate built-in feeds: per category, per tag, per author, per search-keyword. But in some cases, you want feeds built with some more advanced logic. Let’s look at the available options.

WordPress advanced built-in feeds

You can create feeds for “unions” or “intersections” of tags, you just have to use a URL like /tag/foo,bar/feed/ (all articles tagged with foo or bar) or /tag/foo+bar/feed/ (all articles tagged with foo and bar).

You can also have feeds excluding a category, although that requires you to know the category identifier (and hardcode it in the URL like this: /?feed=rss2&cat=-123 where 123 is the category id that you want to exclude).

But there’s no simple way to have a feed that excludes articles with a given tag. The best solution found involves creating a custom feed. I’ll show you a variation of this below.

Creating a custom feed

  1. First of, install the Feed Wrangler plugin, it will take care of registering our custom feeds with wordpress.
  2. Go to “Settings > Feed Wrangler” in your WordPress administrative interface and create a new feed, let’s call it “myfeed”.
  3. You should now create a “feed-myfeed.php” file and put it in your current theme’s directory. The initial content of that file should be this:
    <?php
    include('wp-includes/feed-rss2.php');
    ?>
  4. At this point, you already have a new feed that you can access at /feed/myfeed/ (or /?feed=myfeed). It’s a complete feed like the main one.

Now, we’re going to look at ways to customize this feed. We’re going to do this by changing/overriding the default query that feed-rss2.php’s loop will use.

A feed excluding articles with a tag

If you want to create a feed that excludes the tag “foo”, you could use this:

<?php
global $wp_query;
$tag = get_term_by("slug", "foo", "post_tag");
$args = array_merge(
        $wp_query->query,
        array('tag__not_in' => array($tag->term_id))
);
query_posts($args);
include('wp-includes/feed-rss2.php');
?>

That was relatively easy, thanks to the “tag__not_in” query parameter. Now you can further customize the feed by adding supplementary query parameters to the $args array. The documentation of query_posts details the various parameters that you can use.

A feed excluding articles with a custom field (meta-data)

I went further because I did not want to use a tag to exclude some posts: that tag would have been public even if it was only meaningful to me. So I decided to use a custom field to mark the posts to exclude from my new feed. I named the field “no_syndication” and I always give it the value “1”.

This time it’s not so easy because we have no query parameter that can be used to exclude posts based on custom fields. We’re going to use the “post__not_in” parameter that can be used to exclude a list of posts. But we must first generate the list of posts that we want to exclude. Here we go:

<?php
global $wp_query;
$excluded = array();
$args_excluded = array(
    'numberposts'     => -1,
    'meta_key'        => 'no_syndication',
    'meta_value'      => 1,
    'post_type'       => 'post',
    'post_status'     => 'published'
);
foreach (get_posts($args_excluded) as $item) {
        $excluded[] = $item->ID;
}
$args = array_merge(
        $wp_query->query,
        array('post__not_in' => $excluded)
);
query_posts($args);
include('wp-includes/feed-rss2.php');
?>

A feed with modified content

You might want to add a footer to the articles that are syndicated. I use the Ozh’ Better Feed plugin for this but it applies to all your feeds.

You could do that sort of transformation only in your customized feed by using the WordPress filter named the_content_feed.

Here’s a simple example:

<?php
function myfeed_add_footer($content) {
        return $content . "<hr/>My footer here";
}
add_filter('the_content_feed', 'myfeed_add_footer');
include('wp-includes/feed-rss2.php');
?>

I’ll stop here but obviously you have lots of options and many ways to tweak all the snippets above. They have been tested with WordPress 3.0.4.

Note that in all those examples, I took care to not duplicate the code from feed-rss2.php, instead I used include() to execute it. That way my custom feeds will automatically benefit from all the future enhancements and fixes made by the WordPress developers.

But if you have to modify the XML structure of your custom feeds, you can paste the content of feed-rss2.php in your file and change it like you want…

Git, CIA and branch merging

Dear Joey, we also had this problem for dpkg, that’s why I hacked the /usr/local/bin/git-commit-notice script that we’re using on Alioth to do something like this instead:

while read oldrev newrev refname; do
    branchname=${refname#refs/heads/}
    [ "$branchname" = "master" ] && branchname=""
    for merged in $(git rev-parse --not --branches | grep -v $(git rev-parse $refname) | git rev-list --reverse --stdin $oldrev..$newrev); do
         /usr/local/bin/git-ciabot.pl $merged $branchname
    done
done

It will stop git rev-list each time that it encounters a commit that is available in any of the other branches present in the repository and thus when you merge a branch, you only see the merge commit in CIA.

You should also note that the script is smarter as it calls CIA only for branch updates, not for tag creation (and other kinds of updates) where it only leads to strange errors IIRC.

Assembling bits of history with git: take two

Following my previous article, I had some interesting comments introducing me to git-filter-branch (which is a new function coming from cogito’s cg-admin-rewritehist). This command is really designed to rewrite the history and you can do much more changes… it enabled me to fix the dates/authors/committers/logs of all the commits that were created with git_load_dirs. It can also be used to add one or more “parent commits” to any commit.

In parallel I discovered some problems with the git repository that I created: the tags were no more pointing to my master branch. This is because git rebase won’t convert them while rewriting history.

This lead me to redo everything from scratch. This time I used git-filter-branch instead. The man page even gives an example of how to link two branches together as if one was the predecessor of the other. Here’s how you can do it: let’s bind together “old” and “new”… the resulting branch will be “new-rewritten”.

$ git rev-parse old
0975870bb1631379f2da798fa78736a4fe32960a
$ git checkout new
$ git-filter-branch --tag-name-filter=cat --parent-filter \
"sed -e 's/^$/-p 0975870bb1631379f2da798fa78736a4fe32960a/'" \
new-rewritten
[...]
Rewritten history saved to the new-rewritten branch

Short explanation: the only commit without a parent commit (thus matching the empty regex “^$”) is the root commit and this one is changed to have a parent (-p) which is the last commit of the branch “old”.

At the end, you remove all the temporary branches, keep only what’s needed and repack everything to save space:


$ git branch -D old new
$ git prune
$ git repack -a -d

Assembling bits of history with git

The dpkg team has a nice history of changing VCS over time. At the beginning, Ian Jackson simply uploaded new tarballs, then CVS was used during a few years, then Arch got used and up to now Subversion was used. When the subversion repository got created, the arch history has not been integrated as somehow the conversion tools didn’t work.

Now we’re likely to move over git for various reasons and we wanted to get back the various bits of history stored in the different VCS. Unfortunately we lost the arch repository. So we have disjoints bits of history and we want to put them all in a single nice git branch… git comes with git-cvsimport, git-archimport and git-svnimport, so converting CVS/SVN/Arch repositories is relatively easy. But you end up with several repositories and several branches.

Git comes with a nice feature called “git rebase” which is able to replay history over another branch, but for this to work you need to have a common ancestor in the branch used for the rebase. That’s not the case… so let’s try to create that common ancestor! Extracting the first tree from the newest branch and committing it on top on the oldest branch will give that common ancestor because two identical trees will have the same identifier. Using git_load_dirs you can easily load a tree in your git repository, and “git archive” will let you extract the first tree too.

In short, let’s see how I attach the “master” branch of my “git-svn” repository to the “master” branch of my “git-cvs” repository:

$ cd git-svn
$ git-rev-list --all | tail -1
0d6ec86c5d05f7e60a484c68d37fb5fc31146c40
$ git-archive --prefix=dpkg-1.13.11/ 0d6ec86c5d05f7e60a484c68d37fb5fc31146c40 | (cd /tmp && tar xf -)
$ cd ../git-cvs
$ git checkout master
$ git_load_dirs -L"Fake commit to link SVN to older CVS history" /tmp/dpkg-1.13.11
[...]
$ git fetch ../git-svn master:svn
$ git checkout svn
$ git rebase master

That’s it, your svn branch now contains the old cvs history. Repeat as many times as necessary…