06 RSS Introduction exercises


What we're going to do first is get you signed up for on Web-based RSS feed reader. The one we're going to use to start with is Bloglines. Most students last year used this feed reader all semester and we're satisfied with it; a few others used Google Blog Reader for various reasons. ("Resistance is futile.") This doesn't have to be the one that you'll use forever because you can export your feeds out of it and then import them into another feed reader later. So we just need to give you a place to store them while you go through this exercise. You may (or may not) want to change RSS feed readers later. We'll see how to do that in this exercise.

Next, we'll try out multiple different ways of finding RSS feeds that are related to one topic. If you don't know one yourself, you should try out [sustainable business], [sustainable enterprise], and [sustainable development] — though I highly encourage you to search for information related to your term project. Pretend that you're interested in this topic; pretend that you want to keep up with this topic for a period of time and you want to find 10-20 useful RSS feeds that you are going to monitor for the next month or two in order to get up to speed on the topic. If you have already chosen your term project topic, then you should definitely use that topic during this exercise.

BTW, as you work through this tutorial, you are absolutely required to add to it if you feel it can be improved, changing it so that it would be more useful for others in this class and future classes. Thanks!

Sign up for a Web-based feed reader


If you're going to use Bloglines (which I recommend if you're not wedded to Google), complete the following:

  1. Sign up for account with Bloglines.
    • If you are completing this assignment on your own computer, then you should definitely go to the page that allows you to add a bookmarklet to your browser toolbar. This makes subscribing to feeds much easier. You will use this tool over and over for the rest of this semester — and beyond (really!).
    • If you aren't working on your own computer right now, you can always go back and do this later.
  2. You will want to put information about your bloglines account on your personal wiki so that you (and I) can find it.

Google Reader

If you're going to use Google Reader, then complete the following:

  1. Go to Google Reader.
  2. Sign in and/or set up an account.
  3. Click on "Sharing Settings" on the left.
    • Make your Shared Items public (anyone can view).
    • Check the box to add a link to your shared items on your Google Profile.
    • Near the bottom of the page choose a custom URL for your shared items page.
    • Click on "Home" on the left to get back to the Reader home page.
  4. Once you start sharing items, you can create a page within your wiki like my shared items page.
    • To do this, first go to the tab that says "Shared Items" under "your Stuff"
    • In the right hand corner of the blue box is a link that says "Show details." Click this.
    • Copy the feed URL to WordPad or Notepad
    • Go to Prof. Moore's RSS Shared Items page, go to the edit page, and copy the code
    • Create your own page on your Wiki site, and change the URL in the code to what you copied, and make sure to change anything that has Prof. Moore's name to yours
    • Save the page, and it should be good to go.
  5. You will want to put information about your Google Reader account on your personal wiki so that you (and I) can find it.

Find interesting blogs

Lists of popular blogs

Look through the collections of top blogs at these pages for some blogs (whether personal or related to your term project) that you might be interested in. If so, then add them to your blog reader. It's easier to add and delete later than to try to remember one that you think might be useful, so go ahead and add blogs of interest to your reader.

Searchable subject indices of RSS feeds

  • Yahoo Directory provides RSS feeds of updates to specific Yahoo Directory categories. So see if you can find a directory category that interests you; if you can, you can subscribe to an RSS feed that will update you if/when it is updated. This probably won't be too frequent, but could possibly be helpful if it's a good match for you.
  • Browse through both of the following and see if you can find any RSS feeds of interest. If so, subscribe to them.

Searching for blogs using bloglines

  1. Now you're going to use some features of Bloglines to find some feeds and then subscribe to them. You should use bloglines for this step whether or not you are using it as your feed reader.
  2. Run a search for a term (or set of terms) on Bloglines. This finds RSS articles that match your query.
    • Under Matching feeds (to the right) you can find feeds (not individual articles, but whole feeds) that match your query.
    • Under each article, notice that you can preview the feed and subscribe to the feed.
    • You can sort the result articles by relevance, date, or popularity.
    • You can subscribe to the search itself.
  3. Look again at the search box in Bloglines. Next to it is a drop down box that allows you to search for posts, feeds, citations, the Web, or a specific URL. Try out each one of these. When would you use these different choices?

Searching for blogs using several different blog search engines

Now you're going to move on to other searchable feed databases. Try out searches in each one of the following. Explore the results that the tool gives you. Today what we're trying to do is to get a feel for each of these blog search engines; we'll do more in-depth work with them later. Subscribe to the feeds (that is, into your bloglines (or Reader) account) that you find interesting and/or useful. If you find some that are outside of the scope of the class, that's okay, too. What types of useful information does it give you that helps you find useful information?

  • Google Blog Search
    • Investigate "Related blogs", "Sorted by relevance" vs "Sorted by date"
    • Remember that you can use all of the usual Google search techniques that we have learned
    • At the bottom of the page are three items:
      • Email alert — we'll talk about this in an upcoming class. Don't do anything with this for now
      • Blog search gadget — Useful if you find a really good query that you want to monitor very carefully; otherwise, skip this — you can get the same effect with an RSS feed
      • Blog search feed for Google Reader — if you end up using Google Blog Reader, then this would be helpful. If you're using Bloglines, you can simply click on the Sub/bloglines button in your toolbar and get the same effect.
  • Technorati
    • Search for posts. Under "Posts" near the top of the page is the phrase (or something like it "Search in tags only of blogs with some authority in English"). These are the options that are set for the search. Click on the "change" button next to it and explore what options are available.
      • The "authority" idea is quite useful for searching. Play around with it and see how it affects your search results.
    • Now search for blogs.
    • Check out Technorati's blog directory.
  • Blogpulse
    • Check out this trend looking at Macintosh and Windows
    • Search for [iphone android]
    • Then click on the "trend this" icon and see how this topic exploded recently.
  • Blogs.com
    • Search for [google android apple iphone]. How are these results sorted? (I have no idea.)
    • For fun (and possibly some useful information), check out their lists of "Top 10 Blogs".
  • IceRocket
    • Search for [obama healthcare]
    • Then click on "Results Trend" on the left side of the screen.

Possible class blog topic

One possible blog topic that you might write about is the following: Pick at least three of the most interesting tools. You'll describe how to use the tool (go into more detail if there's anything tricky about it — don't feel the need to explain the obvious), what type of information is returned, and why you found this to be interesting or useful. Also, would you prefer any of these tools to the exclusion of the others; if so, under what circumstances?

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