Monday, January 19, 2009

Week 2 - RSS Feeds

During our exploration of blogs last week you may have noticed a variety of little orange icons on some of the blogs. This week we will discover what they mean and how useful they can be.

What is RSS?

If you check several websites each day to keep up with the new items on each site, you probably realize how much time this takes. Wouldn't it be great if you could just visit one place and catch up on all your news instead of visiting all of these sites. RSS is the tool that lets you do this. For a brief description of RSS, check out this short (approx. 4 minutes) video from CommonCraft about RSS feeds.

Sites that have RSS Feeds

Many of the Library blogs that we looked at last week had RSS Feeds. For an example, go to the Information Wants to Be Free Blog. If you scroll down the right-hand side you will see a "My RSS Feed" with an orange RSS icon beside it. Click on the icon. You should get a page asking how you would like to subscribe to this feed and offering some subscription options. To be able to subscribe you will need to set up an RSS reader account which we will do as one of our exercises in a few minutes.

How Libraries are using RSS Feeds

In addition to providing RSS feeds from their news blogs, many libraries, particularly public libraries, are using RSS feeds to provide their patrons with lists of new titles.

Have a look at Cambridge Public Libraries offering of new books, cds and movies. Anything with an RSS icon has an RSS feed. (On another note, try clicking on the purple eye icon beside any topic to see how CPL displays their new books online.)

How Ryerson is using RSS Feeds

University Advancement maintains several feeds of news about happenings on campus. There are news feeds for Events, Campus News and Research News. In addition to being available for subscription, these feeds can and are used to provide content for some of the LCD panels you see around campus.
The Library is using a feed from its news blog to create the headlines that you see in the middle of the home page and to provide the same headlines to the News section of the MyLibrary tab in Blackboard.


1. Set up a Bloglines account for yourself.
If you have any difficulty doing this there is a Bloglines Tutorial that you might want to check out.

2. Subscribe to at least 10 rss feeds. Following are some suggestions:

Co-workers feeds

You can subscribe to your co-workers blogs by entering the url directly into Bloglines. Click on the add link on the top left-hand side of the page once you have logged into Bloglines. Paste the url in the box on the right side of the page. You will find the urls of your co-workers blogs on the right-hand side of this page. Add at least two of your co-workers feeds to your Bloglines account.

New Titles Feeds
You may also want to subscribe to some of our new titles lists for various subject areas. Choose one of the faculties Arts, Business, Communication and Design, Community Services or Engineering, Architecture & Science, then on the resulting page, click on the RSS icon beside a subject that interests you.

Other feeds
Bloglines also has a list of their top 200 blogs that may interest you. You can subscribe to any of these by clicking on the subscribe button.

RSS Feeds in the Wild
Any time you see one of the little orange RSS icons in your travels of the web, you can subscribe to that feed. Usually clicking on the icon will bring you to a page that asks you if you want to subscribe and will list several options including Bloglines.

Toronto Weather - RSS Link is at the bottom of
the page in blue

Once you have finished adding feeds to your Bloglines account, you will need to set up your Bloglines public url which will allow you to tell others about the feeds you are following and provide you with a link to add to your blog.

To set up and find your Bloglines public url:

1. Go to your Bloglines Account - login if necessary
2. Click on "Account" at the top right
3. Click on "Blog Settings" side of the screen
4. Enter a username and Click in the circle beside "Show my Blogroll".
Your public url will be listed on the right. Make note of this url as you will need this for your blog posting this week.
5. Click on the Save Changes button

To finish up this week's activities, create a post on your blog about this exercise. Suggested topics:
  • what you like and dislike about RSS and RSS readers
  • how we might use this technology in the library
  • could RSS feeds help you in your work or personal life
Then add a link to your public Bloglines account at the bottom of your post.

Here is an example of a public Bloglines url that has listing of library related blogs.

Additional Readings (Optional)
Keeping up using RSS by Roy Tennant
Feed Me: A gentle introduction to Internet Feeds (from Palinet, a library cooperative)

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