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Web Design and Development
Getting Started

Meerkat Help

Editor's note: Meerkat predated the popularity of syndication, feed services, and feed readers. Now that other groups are providing this service, we have removed Meerkat in favor of their better solutions. We maintain these articles for the sense of historical interest.

The Meerkat Window

The Meerkat window is composed of three main sections:

  • Header & Toolbars
    Not much to say about this section; the top of the page is composed of the standard O'Reilly Network header, tabs, and toolbar. To take full advantage of all of Meerkat's features, be sure to join the O'Reilly Network.

  • Control Panel
    The Control Panel is where you get Meerkat to hone in on the stories you'd like to see, navigate through them, and save/restore sets of settings as Profiles. For more specific instructions, see the Control Panel section below.

  • Stories
    Meerkat displays stories in reverse chronological order -- the newest of the new are the first you'll see.

    • Action
      Alongside the stories you'll find icons representing various actions that take you further than the particular story itself.

      Clicking the Web Search (globe) icon next to a story opens a new window and performs a Web-search using the title of the story as initial keywords sent to the search engine. This usually results in something useful, but at the very least provides a starting point for a Web search.

      Some stories may also sport a Search This Source (magnifying glass) icon. This opens a new window and performs a search in the same manner as the Web Search described above. The difference is that this search is conducted only at the site from which the story originated. For example, clicking the magnifying glass icon next to an O'Reilly Network story results in a search using the O'Reilly Network's search engine.

    • Story
      Story titles are in bold, followed by a short blurb if available. To read a story, click on its title; a new browser window will open and transport you to the full story at its source. Clicking on a story syndicated by Wired, for example, will take you to the full story on Wired's Web site. This new window is reused for each story on which you click so as not to litter your desktop with browser windows.

    • Source
      The name of the channel in which the story appears. Click on the source to have Meerkat display all stories from this source.

    • Category
      Meerkat's stories are at present loosely categorized along channel lines. If you're interested in shaping how syndicated stories are categorized, be sure to visit the O'Reilly Network RSS DevCenter or drop in on the oreillynet.rss forum.

    • Date The Date field indicates when Meerkat first noticed a story and cataloged it in the database.

Control Panel

Using a combination of settings in Meerkat's view controls, you can hone in on the kind of story you wish to read. We'll now take you through each control in turn, followed by a few combination examples.

Whenever you make any changes to the controls, be sure to click the Go button to update the window and retrieve the appropriate stories.

  • Show me...
    (default is 1 HOUR)
    The Show me... control specifies how far back in time you want to travel in search of stories. To see the last 2 days' crop, enter 2 into the textfield and select DAY. To view all stories since the dawn of time (read: the dawn of Meerkat, 16 Jan 2000), select ALL from the pull-down menu. Note that the interval number is ignored if ALL is chosen.

  • Category
    (default is ALL)
    You may select one or more categories from which to draw stories; Hold CTRL(Windows) or COMMAND(Mac) while picking multiple categories. Not all categories will have recent news; those which do for the interval you've chosen are prepended with a + (plus-sign).

  • Categories/Channels
    (default is ALL CHANNELS)
    This is a list of available channels and the categories into which they have been, well, categorized. Categories are either sorted by category (the default) or alphabetically. If sorted by category, categories are in UPPER-CASE and are left-aligned; channels are indented under their associated category. If sorted alphabetically categories and channels are mixed in together; categories are in UPPER-CASE and contained within square-brackets to distinguish them from channels.

    Note that not all channels will have recent news; those which do for the interval you've chosen are appended with a + (plus-sign).

    You may pick any combination of categories and channels from which to draw stories. Note that selecting a channel or channels under a category you've already selected has no effect. For example, if I were to select the SERVER: HTTP: APACHE category and then also the ApacheWeek channel, this second selection will do no particular good -- nor harm, mind you. Selecting a category automagically selects all the channels that fall beneath it. To select more multiple categories/channels, hold the CTRL(Windows) or COMMAND(Mac) key while choosing items with your mouse.

    To change the sort order of the Categories/Channels listing, click either on the by category or alphabetically radio button and Meerkat's screen will refresh itself. If you do not have JavaScript enabled in your browser, click the Go button after making your choice.

  • Search For
    (default is blank)
    To search for something in particular, enter either space-delimited keywords or a // enclosed regular expression in the search box.

    Keywords result in any stories (within the constraints of your other settings) containing one or more of the specified keywords. If your search turns up nothing, try synonyms or variations on words and check your speling ;-)

  • X-Y of Z
    (default is 1-#)
    Meerkat displays fifty stories per screen; use the Show pull-down menu to select which 50. If, for example, Meerkat finds 120 stories matching your criteria, the Show box will display the first 50 as "1-50 of 120". Select 51-100 (and click Go you don't have JavaScript enabled) to see the next fifty.


How about a few examples...

  • "The Newshound" is interested in anything that floats by, so long as it's fresh. He chooses and a 30 minute interval, and ALL channels.

  • "The Sysadmin" is interested in new software, security issues, and the latest nerd-worthy news. Since she's very busy and only gets a chance to check in twice a day, she selects and a 12 HOUR interval, and the Freshmeat, Linux Today, Security Focus, and Slashdot.Org channels.

  • "The Columnist" uses Meerkat as a search engine to keep abreast of the latest developments on stories he's covering -- in this case, "patents." He chooses ALL as a time interval to make sure he didn't miss anything while at the cabin for the weekend, and ALL channels since you never know where patents stories might pop up. He filters the resulting stories for anything with the keywords patent amazon o'reilly in the Search For box.

  • "The Developer" starts her day a nice cup of Java, ambling through the last 24 hours worth of Java news. She selects an interval of 1 DAY and the JavaSoftware.Com, JavaWorld, and JavaScript Tip of the Day (yes, I know it's not strictly Java ;-) channels.


Wouldn't it be great if each time you visit Meerkat it remembered your likes and dislikes -- or, more specifically, what your preferred view settings are? Whether you visit from the same computer or another, after an hour or a month, Meerkat remembers who you are and what you were looking for. All you have to do make sure you're logged in to the O'Reilly Network (click the Login button in the black toolbar).

But wait.... there's more! Meerkat takes this functionality one step further with Profiles. Profiles allow you to save a particular group of settings. Restore them at any time to return to particular view. We've even given you a head start with some global profiles we've defined for you: Linux, Apache, Wireless, a DEFAULT (to return to Meerkat's default view) and many many more.


Meerkat Mobs are a bookmark-like feature of Meerkat, allowing you to create groupings of stories. Display them in Meerkat or retrieve them using Meerkat's API. Share them with others -- each Mob has its own URL!

Manage your Mobs using Meerkat's intuitive Mob Manager interface. Select "Manage my Mobs..." from Meerkat's Profiles/Mobs menu. Create a new Mob by clicking the [New] button and following the directions. Take a gander at the current state of a Mob by selecting it from the Mob: pull-down menu. The Mob Manager also allows you to alter your Mob and save changes, or delete your Mob entirely.

To Mob a story (ie. add a story to one of your Meerkat Mobs), click the "Mob" icon (ring of dots) next to the story in the Meerkat window. When the Meerkat Mobs dialog window appears, select a Mob to which to add the story. The dialog window will automagically close itself when finished.

To display a Mob in Meerkat, click its URL in the Mob Manager. This same URL may be passed on to friends and neighbors, allowing you to share articles of interest.

Note: To use Profiles and Mobs, however, you must be an O'Reilly Network member. Register Now! -- it's FREE and won't take but a moment or three.

Still Confused?

Have any questions not answered by this Help page? Please post them to the O'Reilly Network RSS Forum. Also, if you need help along the way, simply click the (?) icon next to any component of the Meerkat interface for a quick tip on its use.

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