Twenty-Three Things: RSS & Newsreaders

I’ve challenged some of my colleagues to take the 23 Things challenge to become more invested in online learning this summer. This website includes a 10-week game plan for learning some online learning and presenting methods that are useful for teachers, and that are appropriate activities for the age group we teach.  There are other 23 Things lists out there, I know, but this is the one that we’ve chosen to work with, and that I’ve decided to complete.

The previous entries in this series are here:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Discovery
  3. Setting Up a Blog
  4. Starting with Flickr
  5. Find some Flickr Toys and Tools
  6. Blog about the role of tech in your classroom

For activities 7 and 8, I’m supposed to set up a newsreader account with RSS. They recommend Google Reader. This is a problem. Google Reader is being phased out and shut down; as of this writing, it may even be offline.  I never even used it, actually.

For Activity 7, I’ve just set up a account, and I expect that I’ll be trying that out for a while.

Here’s what I don’t like about RSS readers… I forget that I have one website that I can go to for all my primary news materials; and then when I do remember, I don’t always get to read RuneSoup in the format that Gordon intended.  Here’s what I love about an RSS reader: I can go to one website, and see which sites that I read have updated lately, and get all the news from all the websites I visit regularly, all at once.  I love that.  It’s an elegant solution to a complicated problem.

See, when I read all my news sites, it takes forever. I mean forever. I can burn an hour visiting all the websites and reading the principle articles that have updated, or even two hours. But half of them may not have updated yet.  I have to wait for the page to load, tell me there’s no new content, and then I have to find the link to the next website in my “regular check-list”, load that one, and see if there’s new content.

(Sidenote: It occurs to me that my own website is akin to a firehose — a post a day whether I have anything interesting to say or not… Scale back? Maybe?  Something to think about.  I also know that about 250 people subscribe directly to this blog; another 1500 people or so follow the Twitter feed; but of course that doesn’t mean that I have 1800 daily readers. I think a lot of them are bot accounts, or spam e-mail accounts. Or spam Twitterers.  Who knows?)

Anyway, I’ve put about 60 websites on my feed, and I’m going to try checking it once a day for a couple of weeks.  I’ll report back when I know more.

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  1. I’ve been hooked on RSS feed reading for a long time, at least a decade. I started with a desktop program, NetNewsWire, which I’ve used until this week. Once I had a mobile device, syncing what I read between desktop and device became important so NNW’s syncing with Google Reader and Google Reader’s very usable mobile web interface has been where spend a lot of time. The cessation of Google Reader is a big deal to me.

    I’ve been in denial about it but this week finally took action. Rather than jumping to another provider, I’ve set up Tiny Tiny RSS” (TTR) on my own server. The main developer doesn’t support it on shared hosting services, in fact he can be kind of a jerk about it, but my hosting provider (Dreamhost) is one of the better, more flexible ones, and I found instructions specifically for setting up TTR there. It was actually pretty easy. It’s a little bit slower but not bad. There are some interface details I don’t like but I could actually tweak the code if I want.

    I also found a TTR mobile web “client” that lets me use it with an interface that emulates Google Reader’s mobile interface. On the desktop, for now I’m using TTR’s native web interface. I’ll probably have to give up NetNewsWire but I’ve seen reference to other desktop clients possibly working with a TTR backend.

    I’ve seen references to running TTR on Amazon’s cloud or as a Heroku app. For Amazon, you might need your own domain name but you wouldn’t for Heroku. These could be very, very cheap (cheaper than paid feed aggregator providers) or even free.

  2. Some years back this was a required project for our faculty in the year before we rolled out a 1:1 BYOLaptop program. It’s an awesome thing–there’s always something among the 23 things that you can really get something out of. Great idea!

    • Indeed!

      I’m enjoying working my way through the list again. Funny to see what’s stood the test of time, what’s changed, what’s broken, what needs fixing.

      At the same time, the technovolution seems to be slowing down, don’t you think? More computers yes, more networking, yes, but… I keep meeting students (and teachers!) who have computers, and network access, but don’t know what to do with them.

      It’s rather like… We need a new list. A different list, which teaches teachers how to be makers or at least how to train makers. We need teachers who are digitally literate, yes, but also creatively literate — because we live in a world where being a reader and writer alone isn’t enough.

      Hmmm. Might I be hinting at a coming attraction on a website near you? Maybe. Maybe…. 🙂

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