Almost Painless RSS


I live in my email app and my browser, but don’t expect me to visit your site everyday just to check to see if you have new info. One of the reasons I like Twitter and spend more time on Facebook is because they come to me and tell me when new content is posted. Expecting me or worse, trying to force me to come to your site to check for new content feels too much like Web 1.0 to me. Strangely, even with this attitude and my constant need to have a sense of what’s going on in Tech & the World, I’ve never bothered to use the one tool specifically set up to bring the news to the user: RSS (see the video below for a complete explanation of RSS). I’ve gotten away with using Twitter as a kind of RSS feed. Along with the podcasters, I also subscribed to CNN, Ars Technica, and the AP. And having the constant flow of data along the left pane of my browser or easily accessible on my phone works just fine for me. Alas, things probably would have stayed that way were I not now tasked with tracking the musings, thoughts and frustrations of my 57 students scattered among 57 blogs. Damn. So I put out the call today amongst my learned colleagues for their choice in RSS apps and the stumbled upon a solution right under my nose.

Before iTunes entered and then destroyed the market, there was a budding little industry of RSS readers that would also pull down your favorite podcasts. Someone actually suggested an app that goes back to those crazy days called Juice (formerly called “Lemon” and before that something with the word “iPod” in it until the cease and desist letter arrived). Cute, but it’s not 2005. The next contender was the web app, iGoogle. iGoogle was the EMDTMS team favorite until it was redesign and the tabs moved to the side of the interface. Blah. I didn’t care about the tabs, but I did care that I couldn’t rename the labels to my students’ RSS feeds because they had the whimsical tendency to name their blog things like “Catchin’ the tech wave” and other completely useless names, making it completely impossible to be able to track their blog entries. Nyet. Next on the hit list was Netvibes. Very flexible, I loved that I could put my students in separate tabs per their sections and spent the better part of the afternoon getting one section set up. When I started setting up a second section it dawned on me that this was way too hard and my beloved tabs were going to make it more complicated to track the whole group. Ugh. Then I noticed in the sidebar on the left side of my screen that Flock had a Feeds panel all set up and ready to go. In fact, when I was opening my students blogs and then clicking the icon to get their RSS feed, Flock had been giving me a button to push to add the feed to list in the left pane the whole time. Ack. I got all three sections entered and in handy little folders in a third the time it took to do one section before. Damn. Flock, for the win!

The folks do a great job explaining stuff like RSS…