Friday, March 23, 2007

e-tivity 5


Imagine that there are several websites and blogs you want to keep track of because they regularly update with interesting information. The traditional approach is to bookmark each site (e.g. using or link them to your blog, and then visit them daily. They may or may not offer new items each day. Wouldn't it be much better to use just one technology that would visit all of these websites for you, collect any new information posted there each day, and then aggregate that information for you in one easy to read spot? That is the gist of what a news aggregator does. "While the technology that makes this all work is on the complex side, the actual implementation and use of RSS and aggregators is actually very easy” (Bell).

Have you ever noticed that on many of the websites you visit (even on your blog) there’s a little orange box or a few little orange boxes under the title ‘Syndication’ like these:

If you have, have you ever wondered what they mean? Let’s start with RSS. This acronym stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. What is ‘Syndication’ then? News agencies produce a flow of news organized based on a common structure: a title, the body of news, the date and hour and, sometimes, the author and subject. The publications that subscribe to a given agency can publish the news they receive from the agency in any format they chose. RSS, and the other formats you see in the image (XML RSD and XML ATOM) are the Web incarnation of the same concept. In other words, websites where information is updated on a regular basis, e.g. newspapers and blogs, offer users the possibility to subscribe to the site. RSS and XML are languages used to transfer the information on a site in a standard format, free of images and other multi-media content and formatting. Each time the site is updated with new information, subscribers receive the update.

How then does one subscribe to an RSS feed? To do this you need an aggregator. Some aggregators can be installed on your computer (e.g. Sage by Mozilla) while others are websites you can access via any web browser (e.g. Bloglines) – most are free. You download or register for an aggregator and then you can subscribe to various RSS feeds. When new information is added to the sites you’ve subscribed to, depending on the options you’ve chosen or that are offered by the website with the feed, you will receive a summary or complete text version of the new information.

Well, this week we’re going to play around with feeds.


Build up resources on your aggregator. Use the bloglines account you created in class: first, subscribe to all of the personal blogs in your course; second, subscribe to any other intersting sites you find during your online searches; third, create playlists. Since we looked at how to do all this in class, I won't describe it here. But, if you've got questions or doubts, don't hesitate to write a comment to this post with it!

Purpose: To learn how to use and start using a feed aggregator and to start building up resources on your aggregator.

1 – Explore. (Are you beginning to hate this word???) But no, really, don’t! This week just explore what we all have already found on See if the sites that interest you have feeds (the ones like blogs should).

2 – Subscribe. Log in to bloglines using the account we created in class (use the bloglines tutorial if you weren’t in class). First subscribe to all of your peers’ personal blogs (use the other bloglines tutorial if you weren’t in class). Then subscribe to the other blogs/websites you want to be updated on.

3 – Create playlists. Playlists are another nice way to organize information. For example, you could have a “BloggingEnglish” playlist with everyone’s blogs, a “Listening” playlist with listening blogs/podcasts, etc. Create playlists based on the blogs/websites you have subscribed to.

4 – Write a post on your personal blog giving your impressions of your new experience with feed aggregators.

Respond: Go to each other’s blogs (using bloglines!) and read your peers’ reactions. Comment on the blogs that interest you – you don’t necessarily have to comment on everyone’s blog.

Timeline: Saturday, March 31 (task), Tuesday, April 3 (respond).

Bell, Steven. Using An "Aggregator" To Capture RSS Feeds: A Technology For Keeping Up-To-Date. Retrieved November 17, 2006 from

No comments: