saudixpat’s Weblog

November 25, 2008

RSS Feeds

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 8:22 pm

What is RSS? What is a “feed”? How is this changing the way that we glean our information? Is there an educational application to RSS? These are all questions that sprang to mind when I looked at this week’s topic.

The video above is part of the “Plain English” series which takes you through how and why to use Web 2.0 tools. It gives visually a lof of the information that is presented here.

RSS has evolved. Originally, RSS was RDF, or Resource Description Framework. It was adapted from a nifty program developed by Dave Winer, who was also instrumental in spreading podcasting. From there it went through support from Netscape, was abandoned when Netscape was bought out by AOL, and then burst onto the scene anew as a result of independent developers implementing updates to it. Its acronym evolved from RDF to RSS (Rich Site Summary) and then to RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

RSS is a “push” technology as opposed to a “pull” technology. As can be seen in the video, the old model of the Web had users “pulling” content on to their computers. They physically typed in URLs or recalled them from their History or Favorites menu and it was impossible to see if there had been any updates without going to the site itself.

RSS changed all that. Sites with embedded RSS code (which is XML code, developed several years ago because HTML code did not have all the features demanded by web developers) “push” the new content out to RSS readers or aggregators in real time. Thus, if the New York Times changes their headline, my Bloglines account will update and I can instantly go there if I choose to read the update.

The real beauty of RSS is that instead of wasting my time browsing a lot of sites, as an RSS user I can simply go to my RSS bloglines aggregator and browse all of the changes in ONE place instead of running all over the internet.

There is also a powerpoint about using RSS in the library. as well as Gurukid going through how easy it is to use RSS and how easy it is to set one up, as well as using a Feed Reader/Aggregator, which collects and updates information from your RSS feeds. Gurukid isn’t that old, but knows his stuff!

In the end, I have decided to keep up with my Bloglines RSS account. I like Bloglines; it is easy to use and most importantly, at this point in time it isn’t Google. In Firefox it is easily integrated on the toolbar and in IE 7 it is accessible from Favorites (I put my “Sub with Bloglines” link as the very first link in Favorites to make it easier to link to. I suspect that in IE 8 the subscribe function for any RSS aggregator (except Google Reader) will be accessible from the toolbar rather than relegated to Favorites). Why is it not being Google important to me? Don’t get me wrong – I LIKE Google and what they have done for making information more accessible to everybody. At the same time, if I put all my eggs in the Google basket then I am denying or hindering the possibility of the next new thing breaking through the Google “barrier” to innovation. Just as seven years ago I avoided things Microsoft, today I try to avoid some Google things out of principle. Besides, what ARE they doing with all their information?

So as you can see, RSS is a very handy thing to have. Imagine having your students creating their own Blogline or a group Blogline following certain topics or certain Web posters to stay current with what is happening in the field. For instance, I suspect that next year I am going to be teaching Journalism in addition to Media Broadcasting, Multimedia, and Yearbook. I would like my journalism class to set up aggregators to stay current on world news and to examine how journalists use the inverted pyramid model and cut out extraneous material to make their stories succinct. It would also allow them to keep up with current events for quizzes and presentations.

So, RSS and aggregators are good things. They are two of the tools that really make Web 2.0 navigable and allow users to cut down on time spent surfing from site to site. If you aren’t using one, I recommend that you do!

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