Blogs & RSS Feeds
4th Thing – Technorati
So, now you have a blog. So do all the other 25-Thing-ers at Huddersfield. But how many other people are using the internet to share their thoughts, experiences and stories about cats? How big, in short, is the blogosphere?
Well according to Technorati, the leading search tool and authority for blogs, by June 2008, there were over 112 million blogs currently being tracked by the site. Yes, big numbers. But, as you’ve already seen for yourselves, blogging is so easy that almost every industry has been trying to find ways to make blogging work for them.
That’s why, this week, we’re going to look more closely at Technorati.
Do you want to make sure your blog is being tracked? Register your blog with Technorati. Do you want to tag your posts to make them easier to find through a Technorati search? If you owned a business and were trying to attract attention you’d register it with Technorati. If you want other people to be able to find you and your blog, this is a great way to start.
Take a look at Technorati and try doing a keyword search for “Huddersfield” in Blog posts, in tags and in the Blog Directory. Are the results different?
In the same way that spam emails are a big problem, the same is happening with blogs — when you use Technorati or Google Blog Search, chances are that some of the results will be spam blogs (also known as “splogs”!). They’re not too difficult to spot, as the blog post text is usually gibberish along with lots of links to buy Viagra.
If you’re up for another challenge, learn how to tag your posts with tags so they can join tag searches. The WordPress FAQ pages also have a section on how to add tags to your blog posts. We’ll be looking at tagging in more detail next week, so you might want to come back to this one.
5th Thing – RSS feeds and newsreaders
So now you’ve explored Technorati, you know that the blogosphere is pretty big, and probably contains quite a bit that you might find interesting. And on top of that there are all the other websites that you currently visit every day for news and views. And they’re all being updated, all the time. How on earth do you keep on top of the information overload?
Well, fear not, because this little orange button is about to make life a whole lot easier for you. It’s called an RSS feed, and it’s changing the way that web content creators share information, and web content users consume it.
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web. Alongside a good newsreader, this tool will bring all your favourite information sources and web pages together in just one place and all at the same time…without being bombarded with advertising… without having to search for new information on the page you’d already seen or read before… and without having to consume a lot of time visiting each site individually.
A newsreader is basically a tool which allows you to display content from lots of websites in one place. It can be a piece of software which you download to your desktop, or it can be web-based tool, which you can use on any computer you choose.
In terms of the web-based tools, Google seems to be dominating the market with its Google Reader. There are some useful tutorials online, including the Google Reader Tour, Google Reader in Plain English and these two videos.
Set up your own, personalized RSS feed reader. Learn about the difference between RSS feed readers and Google Reader.
Create a free account with Google Reader and subscribe to at least 5 newsfeeds to your reader. If you’re struggling to find some newsfeeds, you can try the ones listed below…
- UK Newspaper RSS feeds
- Huddersfield Examiner – Local News
- BBC News Front Page World Edition
- BBC Weather Huddersfield
- Kirklees Council RSS Feeds
- Doctor Who
…don’t forget that this blog also has a RSS feed, so you could subscribe to that too! And why not check out your Research Council – many of them now have news feeds that can keep you updated on funding and jobs, among other things.
6th Thing – Finding RSS Feeds
Now that you have a newsreader (your Google Reader account), you can begin adding other newsfeeds that interest you.
There are several ways you can locate newsfeeds:
- When visiting your favorite websites, look for RSS icons that indicate the website provides it. Often a feed icon will be displayed somewhere in the navigation bar of the site.
- There are also search tools that can help you find feeds:
- Topix.net — This search tool allows you to locate recent newsfeed items based upon keyword or phrase searching. The tool focuses specifically on news and media outlet RSS feeds for information, not weblogs.
- Syndic8.com — Syndic8 is an open directory of RSS feeds that contains thousands of RSS feeds that users have submitted.
Explore some of the search tools noted above that can help you locate some news feeds.
Create a post in your blog about this exercise. Don’t know what to blog about? Think about these questions:
- What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?
- How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?
- Which method of finding feeds did you find easiest to use?
- Which Search tool was the easiest for you?
- Which was more confusing?
- What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels?
- Or what kind of unusual ones did you find?
- What other tools or ways did you find to locate newsfeeds?