Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In class on Thursday, March 19


Imagine that there are several websites and blogs you want to keep track of because they are regularly updated with interesting information (e.g. your peers' blogs). Traditional approaches include bookmarking each site on your pc, linking them to your blog, or writing down the urls on a piece of paper and then visiting them on a regular basis to see if there are updates. They may or may not offer new items each time you check.
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, often 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.

This week we’re going to play around with feeds.


1 – Create an account in Bloglines. (If you weren't in the lab and would like to be guided through the process, check out the video at the bottom of the message.)

2 – Subscribe. Open two windows. In one open your bloglines account, in the other our course blog. First subscribe to all of your peers’ personal blogs (use the other bloglines tutorial if you weren’t in class). You have to subscribe to the blogs of peers in your group and are welcome to subscribe to all the other ones as well. Then explore the Web, e.g. the blogs you found in e-tivity 2, and see if there are other websites you may want to subscribe to, e.g. online newspapers.

3 – Create playlists. Playlists are another nice way to organize information and a good way for you to organize work in this course. Make a playlist for the blogs in your group. You can also make playlists for the other groups as well as other categories such as newspapers, Listening online, etc..

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

Registering for Bloglines Tutorial
Subscribing to Feeds Tutorial

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