Tag Archives: rss

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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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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