I'm always envious of people who have Grazr based widgets in their sidebars. So much more dynamic than a static blogroll. I'm part way through designing a makeover to Business Two Zero, so I took time out of the working day to spend a few minutes researching where to start to learn what to do (expecting it to be pretty technical).
I went over to my friend David Tebbut's blog because he knows this stuff inside out, and two coincidences occurred. First he had just posted about using Google search in a Grazr window - really clever. Second, whilst I was nosing around figuring out how difficult it would be to host an OPML list of the blogs I want to reference, he made contact on Skype IM, which then turned in to a Skype call.
Within a minute I'd found my disused Bloglines account which I used to create an OPML file, which feeds Grazr your list of feeds. That's as straightforward as sorting out what feeds you want to present, clicking on the option to export feed, and saving the file somewhere. It contains OPML, a form of XML, but you don't need to worry about all of that. The only issue with Bloglines is that you can only get an OPML of all your feeds. Other readers might allow you to create specific sets of feeds. That doesn't bother me, because I'll keep my Bloglines account for this specific task.
Within another minute I'd registered with Grazr and got an account. As part of the set-up wizard (or under My Files) you upload the aforementioned OPML file. This is a new addition to the product - they now host OPML files for you. You then click on the "create a widget" button and configure the way you want it to look. You can apply one of a dozen theme styles, change the size, configure from a few different pane view options. It even gives you all of the code options for different blogging tools or CMSs and guidance on how you cut/paste the code in to your particular one.
What a brilliant tool. Here's an example of how it works. Whereas I had expected to do 10 minutes of research to set myself up for some further reading on how to do all this complicated stuff, I had a working example inside 5 minutes (might have been quicker if the double glazing telesales guy hadn't interrupted us on another line!) . This will get added in to the makeover, which should happen sometime in the next week. My thanks to David for some excellent guidance and advice.