Tag Archives: google

RSS and Aggregation: The web you want, where you want it

We’re all hearing stories about how newspapers are obsolete and print is dead. But what’s taking their place? After, all the big attraction of newspapers is their scannability. We humans have become accustomed to absorbing a world of timely knowledge, at a glance.

At the dawn of social media,  RSS (or really simple syndication) was THE way to monitor new content. It still has real value for those curating content for others in a specific niche. To put it in a nutshell, RSS solutions bring the web to you, your way. No clicking. No searching. No fancy formatting. Very little ad clutter. Just the text from your favorite sites along with relevant media. This technology continues to be a better choice for folks who want to actively control the type and quality of information they consume, rather than the passive experience of clicking on what shows up in your social media stream. It defines thought leadership, as opposed to following And the important thing is, it is indeed really simple. Here’s all you need to do:

Step 1: Get An RSS Aggregator

Google Reader was the king of RSS readers until 2013 when Google discontinued it. Using RSS in 2014 and beyond will mean are more ‘social’ experience rather than mere information consumption. The heir-apparent to Google Reader is Feedly due to its similar functionality, but Flipboard is a good choice as well for folks who like more visual experiences in a mobile environment. Bloglines refines the concept a bit with its focus on local blogs, news and events (a good option when you work in place-based heritage). Your reader is just a holding pen for all the information that will come from each site you subscribe to.

Step 2: Learn to recognize a site that offers a RSS feed

Most modern websites have RSS built in, but heritage organizations seem to be lagging behind in this regard. You will most likely recognize a RSS-enabled website by the square icon with a cone-shaped design in it. Usually it’s orange. This orange RSS button could be in the web page itself, but you know for sure by looking at the address bar of your browser. If the icon, or the letters RSS show up along with your website’s address, all you have to do is click the icon to save it to your preferred reader.

If your favorite site doesn’t have RSS, you still have options for monitoring changes to websites.

Step 3: Take stock of your web bookmarks.

Remember all those really cool sites you bookmarked in your browser thinking you would get back to them? I didn’t think so. It’s often the newest, shiniest websites that seem to get the most attention, often at the expense of more established sites that have a backstock of useful information and experienced authors. Go back and take a look at these sites. If they still seem relevant, try adding them to your RSS reader. You can also check the websites of your favorite print publications.

Step 4: Learn how to scan

The beauty of RSS is being able to immediately identify whether an article is something you 1.) are not interested in, 2.) just want to scan, or 3.) want to read thoroughly. Generally, your reader loads a few articles at a time. And items appear one after the other on your page. The length of the post within reader is set by the owner of the website providing the feed. While Web 2.0 netiquette expects that articles be fed in their entirety, some sites provide just a summary or headline. By using an RSS reader app like “Reeder” you can literally thumb through your feed entries.

Step 5: Share what’s useful

When a webmaster establishes an RSS feed, it is often with the help of a program like Feedburner. This embeds a variety of sharing options into each post that goes into the feed. Usually this appears in the bottom of each post. Feed readers also generally include easy options for sharing entries to social media services like Twitter.What you certainly will see is your Reader’s built-in options for sharing. Here’s a screenshot of the sharing options for a post in Feedly:

Feedly entry sharing options

Click the image to read more about what the icons mean for sharing. These options allow you to share the article without leaving your Reader or even losing your place. You can “star” an article or add a keyword through the tag feature for easy sorting later on. When you use “share” it gives all your shared items their own page, that other people can subscribe to. Congratulations, you made your first RSS web page! Of course, you can still e-mail the article if you just have to. Or you can mark “keep unread” so the article doesn’t go away as you continue to scan the articles below it.

Additional Resources:

Featured RSS icon by orangejack on Flickr

“What does RSS mean” graphic by Brajeshwar on Flickr

Originally published August 2008. Updated Jan 2014

 

 

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A primer for expanding your heritage circles on Google Plus

When it first opened as an invite-only social space, Google Plus made a splash, to the tune of an estimated 10 million users. As an early invitee, I was a fan, seeing great potential in its particular abilities to serve the needs of the heritage crowd online. In the time since it’s launched, Google Plus has certainly suffered some missteps. However, if you’re looking to connect with the right folks in real time while enhancing your SEO profile (useful for place-based heritage orgs) with Google, this is still a platform to consider.

G+circles teaserOne of the things that’s been missing in social networking is an elegant and simple way to hit the right audiences with your content. That’s left lots of people creating multiple accounts, reining in their opinions, or feeling like they’re spamming others who don’t share their interests. Twitter lists get you halfway in that they can readily be monitored and shared publicly. Facebook groups allow collaboration, but are fairly closed. Google hits a middle mark with Circles, which allows you to categorize other Plus users into one or more areas, and then post content to the appropriate group(s) of folks. Like Twitter you can follow and categorize people without them being obligated to follow you back, unlike the Facebook button and friending scheme.

If you’re uncertain about who you might talk to when you get to Google Plus, I have a list below of the public profiles of a few folks in my “Heritage Friends” circle. These folks are cultural heritage enthusiasts or professionals. This is a “charter” list of profile links for the earliest adopters, but I’ll break it down further as more people in the discrete areas of interest sign up.

  1. Jim Wald, historic preservationist at Hamphire College
  2. Lynne Goldstein, Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State and an archaeologist
  3. Kate Theimer, of ArchivesNext
  4. Eric Kansa, of OpenContext
  5. Sabra Smith, of My Own Time Machine blog
  6. Nancie Ravenel, conservator at Shelburne Museum
  7. Daniel Cull, conservator at Musical Instrument Museum
  8. Vincent Brown, blogger & media producer at Talking Pyramids
  9. Jennifer Souers Chevraux, museum consultant at Illumine Creative Solutions
  10. Susan Hazan, The Israel Museum
  11. Richard Salmon, conservation engineer
  12. Graeme Daley, historic preservation advocate
  13. Simone Gianolio, archaeologist
  14. Mike Gushard, architectural historian
  15. Nelson Knight, Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program Coordinator
  16. Paul Allen, Ancestry.com founder
  17. Paige Roberts, public historian, archivist and urban planner
  18. Fran Ellsworth of the FamilySearch Community team
  19. Amanda French, Center for History and New Media
  20. Bernie Frischer, University of California
  21. Nicolas Laracuente, archaeologist
  22. Iain Davidson, archaeologist
  23. Ethan Watrall, Michigan State University
  24. MT Bale, archaeologist
  25. Thomas Palmer, historic preservationist
  26. Ian Hadden, genealogist
  27. Jennifer Palmer, field archaeologist
  28. Lisa Louise Cooke, podcaster and producer of Genealogy Gems

I have about 100 people in my heritage friends circle. While you’re checking these folks out you should check out their circles as well, which are sure to be expanding. You’re likely to run into someone who shares your interests. If you’re a heritage advocate, please feel free to share your profile link in the comments. And feel free to connect with me there as well. My profile url (with my shared heritage circle) is https://plus.google.com/+JeffGuin/posts.

I think there is great potential to use the Google Plus Hangouts feature for an informal feedback version of the podcast to talk about applying the principles explained by the folks we interview here. Google is now allowing folks to stream hangouts-on-air to their YouTube pages as well, which establishes the feature’s relevance beyond simple social networking capability. Let me know if you’re interested in taking part.

Other features for heritage content discovery is the hashtag exploration feature. For example, you can search for “archaeology” and end up with an aggregation of all the latest results in a link (and page) that looks like this: https://plus.google.com/explore/Archaeology. Just substitute with any word representing your area of interest! Between “Explore” and “Circles” you can build a pretty effective blogger dashboard for social media outreach. How do you think Google Plus stacks up against other social networking tools?

Related tool:

Teaser image from Flickr

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The Archaeological Box’s Matt Thompson on developing membership websites and refining the use of social media as a support mechanism

Founded in 2009, The Archaeological Box is a media-rich website that incorporates features like Google Maps and podcasts in two languages. It also incorporates a store and professional accounts. In this interview with Matt Thompson, the site’s founder, we’re going to explore the concepts of content management systems, including Drupal, and what goes into supporting the site through social media.

archbox

Guin: How did the site develop and how did you come up with the name? (timestamp #00:01:52.6#)

Thompson: A few of my colleagues and I from school realized that we had a lot of information gathered individually and that it would be more practical if we could share it. So the site started as a small venture for a group of five people. We quickly realized that we weren’t the only ones in this situation and that information was lacking in the field of archaeology. Resources are hard to find and when you do find them, they often aren’t complete. We agreed that if we were going to do this, we’d go big. It grew into the Archaeological Box. We just rode the wave to what it is today. We’re still adding daily. As for the name, I’d like to say there was a well thought-out plan, but our site is bilingual. We found the name in French first. We are a French-speaking team mainly. It has a dual sense as a box with all the information in it. But in French, it can also mean “the firm” or “the enterprise.” So it also meant the “archaeology venture.”

Guin: What was on the site initially? Was it more like a blog? #00:03:37.0#

Thompson: At the very beginning it was just news. Daily, we’d find news articles on archaeology. Anyone who’s familiar with archaeology sites will know how important Google is for survival. Even before we started putting the the site only, we supported a “mini version” so Google would get to know us. Then we found our web designer and started building the components of the site. We started adding photos, blogs and events.

Guin: It’s one of the most professional and refined archaeology sites that I’ve seen. What are some of the other components of the site? You said you have a podcast and are going into other new media adventures … #00:04:58.9#

Thompson: Other than podcasts, we have field school repertories and archaeological site listings. We have an archaeotourism section where people can post travek reviews or look for archaeological travel packages. There’s something for everyone.

Guin: How did the travel packages come about? Does it help support your site?  #00:05:32.5#

Thompson: The travel section serves as the general public portal to the site. The general public accesses the site through the archeotourism portal where they have access to news, events, travel reviews, packages and forums. Our main site is built around a Google Maps search engine. Archaeotourism has similar feature, which includes any hotels that have packages with us for tour groups, car rental deals for tourism. It’s an interesting part of the site that’s being developed more.  #00:07:19.0#

Guin: You mentioned that site was developed professionally, but there are a lot of people who are starting up with pre-made blog sites or ready-made social networks like Ning. What’s the advantage for building your own site from scratch? #00:07:43.0#

Thompson: We are using a content management system called Drupal, which offers a lot of flexibility. That was most important, that we be able to do whatever we wanted to do. As much as our website designer will take care adding things, others I can do myself without much knowledge of the web programming. I can add groups, or use the messaging system or add a customer service window. Those are blocks that are already available via Drupal. It also allows us to custom-develop our site. We did look at Ning and the possibility of developing a Facebook page or creating a cheap version of a social media website. We quickly got to the point that we couldn’t go any further with doing what we wanted. So that’s when we decided to find a web designer and do it right. #00:09:10.2#

Guin: Is Drupal open source? #00:09:15.5#

LOGO-BA(PNG)Thompson: Drupal is open source. A lot of people know it. A lot of people know Joomla. It’s pretty much the same thing. It works with “blocks,” and you’ll see that on our website. And I think that’s a good thing. There’s a lot of information on our site and a lot of first time visitors will be overwhelmed by what they see. As much as we try to cut things out of our homepage so it’s not so heavy, we need to guarantee a certain level of quality at the same time. So having a block-type system that’s very clearly identified, we hope to make it easier for viewers to make sense of what they’re seeing. We started with WordPress in the beginning when we just had news because it’s foolproof. We use two host platforms which allow automatic install of Drupal on the website. We can add things pretty easily. We’ve been adding groups to the site, which have been in prototype states. We set them up and began testing them for functionality, but making the final tweaks to the layouts is where the web designer is so important. So that’s the side-effect of using Drupal: you need to go into code and tweak stuff.

Guin: You’ve got a lot of content on your website. I noticed you have memberships. Why did you decided to follow a membership model? #00:11:38.8#

Thompson: We have two main types of users: personal users and business users. Since the beginning, we decided we wanted to have free personal memberships. There is a cycle that if you don’t have personal members on the site, business members won’t come. But if you don’t have business members, the personal members won’t come. So we decided to have two types of business accounts. A regular business account that is also free and allows basic capabilities for viewing and posting. Then we added a business-plus account. It’s not very expensive and gives these businesses potential to develop a more profile as a viable business portal. You can add a portfolio, create an events manager, add a corporate blog, photo albums, etc. In regard to the personal accounts, we protect users’ information. But a lot of site protect too much information. Business members don’t need us to hide their information, so we tried to create a balance where personal information is locked away and only members can access it. But non-members who only want to come to the site to look at the news, events and field school listings can still have access to a basic level of the site. By creating sign-in option, we were able to serve all these audiences.

Guin: What kind of business customer are you looking for? #00:14:09.6#

Thompson: We have several, which leads me to another complication of building a site: developing categories. Whether it’s for news articles or business members, you need to find a way to include everyone. The hardest thing we faced was deciding how members would be classified on the geography of our Google Map. When we got to the Asian section, we forgot to write “southern and eastern Asia.” Likewise, that was an early difficulty: figuring out what we need to offer as business “types.” At first we thought of everything possible–members from museums, archaeological sites and interpretation centers, archaeological missions, tourism, hospitality, etc. There’s not really a limit for the types of people that we wanted to welcome to the site.

Guin: You mentioned Google Maps. Tell me how you’re using it. #00:16:02.9#

Thompson: When we first started using Google Maps, we wanted a shock value. We wanted people to get to our site and be impressed by something “different.” We think our site does have a shock value, but we also wanted to make sure it was high quality. So if you are impressed by the look of the site, you’ll also be impressed by its content. Google Maps allows us to do both things. It’s nice to look at. It also permitted us to create a search engine based on our site. So you can search for our members on the site, whether they are listed on Google or not. We used a Google Map and overlay our business members with pins that are located on the map by address or by longitude/latitude for archaeological sites because a lot of sites and field schools don’t have addresses. So when you create your account, you click on the map and add your pin where ever you want it to be.

Guin: Do people have the option to include what information they want displayed on the map, or does it just bring up their profile? #00:17:39.6#

Thompson: If you click on a pin on the map, it will open a small window with a member’s profile picture and a short description. If you’re a business-plus member, then you’ll have more information such as a web address. For a regular business member, it will bring up your account name with a link to your profile.

Guin: You’re using other forms of social media outside the site as well. Tell me about those. #00:18:11.5#

Thompson: When we started this thing, we went all across the web. Every social media outlet that could help us, we were on it. We had an account. For folks who are in social media, you quickly realize you can’t do everything. I’ll use our Facebook page as an example. When we first got on Facebook, we posted everything on it. And our membership went up fairly quickly. A hundred new members came from our page every two weeks. But most of those members don’t come to the site because they could get all the information they wanted on Facebook. So we quickly decided to pull back from outside social media. So we kept Twitter and Facebook and we control the information that’s put out there. We use Twitter to post news, so every news article on the ArchaeologicalBox.com is also posted to Twitter. We use Facebook for announcements on the site. Whenever we post a new podcast, we’ll put it on there. New additions or functionality to the site.

Guin: I think it’s important to have your community area and let the social media tools support that. A lot of people think they have to optimized every social media tool with all of their content. Really, the purpose is to use those tools to bring new audiences in. #00:20:23.0#

Thompson: As I mentioned, we have two podcasts. One in English and one in French. Both are news podcasts. We put together a selection of the most important articles. We have a short podcast of about 20 minutes for the English podcast and about 10 minutes for the French podcast. Ironically, the French podcast is recorded in Seattle. The English podcast is recorded in Montreal. In the summer, we have a more relaxed podcast where we go visit sites. #00:21:50.7#

Guin: One of the things that interested me in your site is the “lecture series” area. #00:22:15.5#

Thompson: With “information” as our theme, we realized there was something lacking in the archaeology world. And that was a “free” global lecture series where members from communities that don’t necessarily have structured archaeological organizations or funds to put to that could still welcome renowned archaeologists to speak to them. So we created this series that pairs together lecturers and hosts from around the world for free. There’s no payment. Members will tell us their travel schedule and we’ll match them with hosts that have given us their availability. So we if have a lecturer from Australia who is going to Vancouver to lecture at a university for three months, and there is a host in Vancouver who is looking for someone to lecture about South Pacific archaeology, we can match them.

Guin: I’m sure that you have had a lot of experience in the development of the site. I know that in developing a few sites myself, that building websites can become addictive. A lot of things come up that are unexpected. I’m sure there are archaeological and other heritage organizations looking to start up their own sites now. What advice do you have for those people?

Thompson: We had no idea how much time and resources something like this would take. But we were a good team that had the patience and time to put into this project. So I think anyone who want to build something similar, needs a good support system. Sometimes I’ll get calls at one in the morning: “the site’s down; what do we do?” You need to good support system to be ready for those things.

Guin: Do you use social media personally to engage with friends or other interests? #00:25:46.3#

Thompson: I do have things like a profile on Facebook. But most of my time is spent on developing the ArchaeologicalBox.com. Everything’s available there, right? We can have statuses, blogs, photo albums, so why go anywhere else.

Guin: Are there blogs or bloggers that you follow? #00:26:50.5#

Thompson: I do take the time to follow some of the social media blogs. And in the interest of being a good social media geek, I went to PodCamp (a podcast camp) in Montreal. I met so many people with interesting and smart things to say, so I follow some of their blogs as well.

Guin: That leads to another question: how do you find the news for your site? #00:27:50.5#

Thompson: We control the news a lot. Members can post news articles, which we approve. There is a team of four of us that divide the week per days and go through the web about two hours each day. What’s fun about our way of doing the news is that we don’t use RSS to gather information. You can be sure our news is fresh and not duplicated.

 

 

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Social Bookmarking: track, index and share your web journey

social bookmarking teaser

The Indexed Web contains at least 2.3 billion pages. With that much real estate on the web, how can you be assured you will ever find—and get back to—the information most relevant to you?

The answer is social bookmarking. And it’s not quite the same as the favorite birthday card you used to hold your spot in the novels you read over the summer.

Pinterest: The New, Visual Standard

 

brock pinterest

Pinterest came on strong in 2012 as the new standard for social bookmarking. It’s very visual, allowing users to create Pinboards for sharing links to pages through the images on them. For a more complete description of how to use this tool in a heritage context, view Terry Brock’s post about it on his “Dirt” blog.

Delicious: The Grandaddy of Social Bookmarking

Jeff Guin's Delicious Bookmarks
View my Delicious bookmarks at https://delicious.com/jkguin

One of the most widely used of these tools is one called “Delicious.” Delicious is a free service that allows the user a web-based way to bookmark sites. This means you can get, and add, to your web bookmarks from any computer, where ever you are. If that weren’t nifty enough, you can also add descriptions and keywords, or “tags” to make sure you will be able to find the right page when you most need it.

It’s called folksonomy, which means anyone can help identify the appropriate context for information on the web. This is one of the pillars of the social web and is also what makes Google work so well: It watches what keywords you search for and tracks what you ultimately choose as the result most relevant to you. With this potentially happening thousands of times over each day, Google can offer up the most appropriate search results in a fraction of a second. Unlike Google’s computerized algorithms, however, pages tagged on Delicious are typed in by humans. And the results, while sometimes quirky, can also be highly relevant to your search.

While you’re there, sign up for your own Delicious account. Not only can you save your own bookmarks, but you can save to accounts of other Delicious users by adding them to your network. In turn, others can share websites they think you might be interested in without clogging your e-mail inbox. Remember, as a social tool your bookmarks are visible to anyone unless you mark them private. This can be an advantage for anyone who uses the web for research in that you can explore Delicious based on a tag and potentially find much more relevant content than an ordinary search engine might provide.

There are many advantages of using a tool like Delicious and best practices for using it to organize your web search. For example,

Delicious could be defined to be both a personal and a public knowledge mapping, discovery and archival system. As with most social services, its usefulness lies in the community that keeps adding, reviewing, filtering, and personalizing their own “view” of relevant knowledge resources. You can actually see patterns evolve over time as information miners learn rapidly how to select, reference, categorize and post information resources of their own interest.

Delicious acts on the very principles of socio-biology and ant-like behavior that are so dear to some innovative thinkers of our time. Individual “netminers” and information seekers explore openly and wildly the vast available online resources. Each one of them pointing and reporting whatever she finds to be most interesting and valuable. Thanks to individual netminers’ discoveries other individuals can rapidly discover the same resources, further annotate them and make them part of their own “preferred” view.
The greater the number of information seekers selecting a certain bit of information the greater the relevance and the darker the visual shading applied to the information.
Delicious is one of the original social networking tools and has seen little in the way of change since being bought by Yahoo several years ago, but there are a few features that keep in truly relevant:
Delicious is also capable of delivering is not only a set of personalized views on your “bookmarks” (which can be as extensive as the number of “tags” or “categories” that you create), but which extends to auto-generating a standard, old-fashioned RSS newsfeed. With add-ons for almost every browser type, users can capture on the fly any content, Web site, article or resource online. No matter on which browser or OS. You can use delicious by installing a simple bookmarklet in your preferred browser. Once installed, bookmarking a resource is just one-click away. Likewise, Delicious can automatically add browser buttons as well when a new account is created.
When clicked, Delicious automatically records URL and title of the resource while prompting  a short description and for any number of tags to the item. As you keep bookmarking relevant sources online and tagging them with appropriate keywords you automatically generate a multiple set of  views of your online resources which can also be viewed/filtered instantaneously through the tags (categories) you have attached to each one. The easiest thing you can think of doing is then to start bookmarking relevant resources in selected areas of interest and then to syndicate the content from your delicious RSS feed to your preferred site.
References:A Tool for Individualizing the Web
K.A. Oostendorp, W.F. Punch, and R.W. Wiggins
Intelligent Systems Lab, Michigan State University, E. Lansing
Computer Center, Michigan State University, E. Lansing

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