CleverClogs

Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for September, 2006

links for 2006-09-30

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Written by CleverClogs

September 30th, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Posted in RSS

links for 2006-09-29

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Written by CleverClogs

September 29th, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Posted in RSS

RSS Tool Vendors Super Aggregator

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"While I collected RSS-related feeds in my aggregator, my reading list grew so big
with blogs and what’s-new feeds from RSS tool vendors, that I decided
to create a separate group for these. Soon collecting them became a
goal in itself."

When I started to get serious about being an expert on RSS for BlogBridge, I explored the type of sources my subscribers would possibly be interested in. I broadly identified these categories:

  • Blogs focusing on RSS
  • A-List blog posts about RSS
  • Social bookmarks tagged with RSS
  • Team blogs and development news feeds from RSS tool vendors
  • Wiki pages, tutorials, resources, background articles
  • Feeds based on custom keyword searches in blog search engines

Rss_tool_vendor_news_browser

While I collected feeds in my aggregator, my reading list grew so big with blogs and what’s-new feeds from RSS tool vendors, that I decided to create a separate group for these. Soon collecting them became a goal in itself. I discovered all kinds of RSS tools and services I didn’t even know existed in the first place.  Then it turned out some vendors chose a team blog as their means of communication and that others even delegate it to a professional blogger. I found out some of these feeds didn’t validate (the Bloglines one, for example), and sometimes their auto-discovery settings failed.

All anekdotal stories aside—when I passed the number of 150 feeds, I figured it was time to wrap everything up and present all these feeds in an OPML browser. There’s still lots to improve, but I still think I may now humbly advise you to go and explore my new blog RSS Tool Vendor News browser, proudly created using BlogBridge, FeedDigest and Grazr. Then, jump to the comments section and let me know what you think.

Written by CleverClogs

September 22nd, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Posted in RSS

Google Ajax Search

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This is where I’ll be playing with the new Google Ajax Search applet.

I’m trying to find out what makes the code appear and work fine on my home page, but not on the individual-entry pages.

I’ve now moved the code from my sidebar to the main container to see if that makes a difference.

UPDATE Sept 12, 2006 – 11:24 PM GMT+2:
I restored the original setup. Moving the code from one column to another didn’t help me much.

It seems the TypePad comment-form template module contains or calls a piece of code that prevents the Google Ajax Search box from being displayed. When I disable this particular module, the Google search box pops up just fine. Something tells me the onLoad() event handler, on which Google Ajax Search relies, is reset through the authentication script in the comments section.

I’ll submit a TypePad support ticket and use this blog post to report the outcome.

UPDATE Sept 12, 2006 – 11:43 PM GMT+2: Literal text of my support request ticket:
"As you can see at the top of the sidebar of my tech blog CleverClogs (http://www.cleverclogs.org), I’m trying to implement Google Ajax Search. I’ve got it working just fine on the main page, but on subpages for individual entries the search box refuses to display. The Google Ajax Search API key is valid for my domain and its subpages.

I did A LOT of background research before submitting this request for help. I’m now pretty sure the cause of the problems lies in the default comment-form template module. If I prevent that module from loading within the individual-entry template, Google Ajax Search appears just fine. It looks as if the comment-form steals away the onLoad event handler.

I think once we’ve got this sorted out, Six Apart will be able to offer an extremely attractive Google Ajax (Blog) Search widget that can be implemented in a typical sidebar TypeList without much difficulty (except for a Google stylesheet that needs to load from the page header of course).

Is there anyone on your team with whom I could talk this particular issue through?

I hope you will consider to take the time to handle my request.

With the best of intentions,

Marjolein Hoekstra"

UPDATE Sept 13th, 2006: 05:20 AM GMT+2 My TypePad ticket is picked up by Jen, with the remark that there’s a glitch in the way I coded the closing <div> and if fixing that might make a difference. Jen also asks how I implemented Google Ajax Search. I immediately fixed the typo but it doesn’t make a difference. It makes sense to build a new weblog from scratch. My first document on that site will be a list of instructions on how to implement Google Ajax Search on a TypePad blog.

UPDATE Sept 13th, 2006: 11:20 AM GMT+2 The new blog is live: Google Ajax Search. Please check it out if you want to know the details of this particular project.

UPDATE Sept 13th, 2006: 07:05 AM GMT+2 Submitted my reply to Jen:

"Hi Jen,

Thanks for your fast response. Embarrassing glitch you found in that /div tag, but unfortunately fixing that didn’t lead to resolving the issue.

Your kind reply inspired me to dig pretty deep today and I figured I wouldn’t be a blogger if I wouldn’t publish my findings. I worked on this all day, so it better be good this time.

So, please go here: http://www.cleverclogs.org/2006/09/google_ajax_sea.html to see a journal of my findings debugging this divine widget and then move over to the ‘real’ thing here: a new blog completely devoted to Google Ajax Search: http://dutchisms.typepad.com/google_ajax_search.

Note that there are two blog posts there, of which the oldest one remains on the home page as a featured post. I figured TypePad Pro users would most easily find it this way. This post has comments enabled.

In the sidebar you will find a Recent heading that mentions the other post I just created, with comments disabled. You’ll immediately notice the different effect that enabling comments has on the Google Ajax Search box.

I hope you like what I’ve been trying to do. Please note I’m a very avid TypePad user, very loyal and very eager to learn (and probably most from my own mistakes).

Do let me know what you think of all this. Feel free to pass this on if there’s anyone else on the team who might be interested as well.

Kindest,

Marjolein
(P.S. in some situations it can be much more efficient to exchange ideas over IM. Should you or someone else be inclined to this: I’m Chopianissima on most IM/Skype systems)
"

FINAL UPDATE: September 20th, 2006: on Friday, Sept 15th, TypePad Support got back to me with their final, rather disappointing verdict: they say they are currently not able to alter the comments script so that it will work with Google AJAX Search. A Javascript nitwit, I have now put all my hopes in Marc Lucovsky and his development team at Google. I posted a note on the Google Ajax Search API Developer support forum pointing to my new Google AJAX Search blog on the TypePad system and mentioned the problems I was running into while implementing it. Then Mark was generous enough to not only correct my code so that it reflects the API’s current feature set (it’s adjusted now), but also to start investigating if the issues I’m having can be fixed on the short term. Hopefully this story will have a happy ending after all.

Final UPDATE: September 22th, 2006: Mark Lucovsky left a short, but oh so meaningful comment on my Google Ajax Search blog. Mark wrote:

Take a look:

http://ajaxsearch.typepad.com/

I’m so impressed. Basically, Mark signed up for a blogging system with which he wasn’t familiar, worked his way through the Advanced Templates mechanism, and solved the issue I was having to get Google AJAX Search to behave with TypePad comments (or vice versa).
I’m going to be out of town for a few days. After that I’ll fix the code to my own blogs and also update the instructions for everyone else to enjoy. Great work, Mark.

Written by CleverClogs

September 12th, 2006 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Search Engine News

9 RSS Reader Housekeeping Secrets

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"I made the decision not to worry so much about the number of my subscriptions, knowing that BlogBridge easily handles large amounts of subscriptions, but more about the quality of the feeds that I keep. In fact, I’m noticing that I am more or less in the process of building my own mini-directory of blog feeds and that I use my RSS aggregator as an advanced feed bookmarking tool".

In the blog post The Problogger’s Dilemma: Trimming Down My Feed Subscriptions J. Angelo Racoma mentions that his Firefox browser becomes rather unresponsive when his RSS reader’s feed count (he uses Bloglines) reaches a certain critical number of subscriptions. Right: adding feeds is one thing, determining which ones can go is another. I know the feeling all to well…

A few months ago I made the decision not to worry so much about the number of my subscriptions, knowing that BlogBridge easily handles large amounts of subscriptions, but more about the quality of the feeds that I keep.
In fact, I’m noticing that I am more or less in the process of building my
own mini-directory of blog feeds and that I use my RSS aggregator as an advanced
feed bookmarking tool. My passion for collecting feeds on specific topics (mostly technology-related) is now motivating me to create expert guides that others can subscribe to if they want to. Read more about this in my post In the Lion’s Cave: BlogBridge Expert for RSS. Now, back to the Racoma dilemma:

Racoma continues his post by asking for suggestions how to become more efficient at eliminating feeds. I initially started my reply as comment to his post, when I realized this was something that would fit well in a post of my own. So, here’s my list of RSS reader housekeeping secrets for you to drop or adopt:

  1. Categorize feeds by topic or project. If you lose interest in that topic, that branch is easily pruned. If necessary, assign multiple categories to feeds. Find experts for each group of feeds so that you know whose writings are mostly considered authoritative.
  2. Use techniques like feed filtering, feed digesting and smart feeds to obtain chronologically ordered lists (river of news) of highly relevant items. These techniques reduce the number of feeds that you have and they improve the quality of the ones that you do decide to subscribe to.
  3. Create a separate category ‘Evaluate’ where you keep candidate feeds. After a few weeks you’ll notice how quickly your interests have shifted. You’ll find that it’s a delightful relief to swiftly erase feeds you thought were indispensable a couple of weeks before.
  4. Tag, rate and annotate your feeds so that you know why you added them in the first place. Edit your feed titles to make them meaningful, for example add the name of the blogger to the feed title.
  5. Sort your feeds by rating within each category. This will allow you to focus on the feeds you rate highest when you’re on a time budget and it makes the actual chore of pruning feeds a snap.
  6. Use different update notification mechanisms depending on the feed’s rank: IM, ticker tape or system tray pop-up notification for urgent messages, email for intermediately urgent messages, and your feed reader for the remaining items. This way you’ll know for sure you won’t miss the most important items.
  7. In your mindset redefine the meaning of ‘unread’ vs ‘read’ items: the read ones can usually be skipped on the next round of feed reading, so turn these off. Be real: the ‘unread’ items don’t hurt you. Feed reading is fun and informative. Don’t spoil it by forcing yourself to race against the clock.
  8. Be brave enough to close your feed reader every so often and do stuff that might help you to relax.
  9. Keep a copy of your feeds by exporting them to OPML. You can save the file to your hard drive, then delete them from your reader. There’s also a possibility other people consider you an authority on that particular topic. Offer your subscriptions through an OPML browser on your blog. This encourages you to finetune your list of feeds because you know others are keeping an eye on the quality of your work.

Please feel free to ask specific questions about my own RSS best practice working procedures. I could then describe some of the tools that I use in more detail. Now, there are many, many RSS tools on the market today that could help you with individual aspects of nurturing your RSS reading sanity. 3Spots, an extremely productive blogger and social-networking specialist with a passion for RSS, made a much better effort than I could ever have accomplished in the blog post Feed and RSS Tools in 5 Steps. This list is not only incredibly useful and elaborate, it is also continually updated and hence of course highly recommended. 3Spots’ posts are well complemented by John Tropea’s scrutinous work on Library Clips. I keep going back to his pages to find thorough reviews of RSS tools, OPML services, feed search engines and whatever interesting tool he can get his hands on. Both 3Spots and JohnT practice what they preach: their blog designs reflect the tools they currently are investigating. Go find their many daily discoveries on the various bookmarking sites.

Talking about blog design and cutting-edge widgets: have you noticed the cool Google Ajax Search box in my sidebar? I installed it a few days ago after carefully studying the blog post How to Get Google AJAX Search For Your Site by CJ Millisock. Thanks for inspiring me, Chester! If this keeps functioning well, I think I may keep it in favor over the SurfWax LookAhead one that I installed last month.

I’m also looking at possibilities to implement a live spell checker based on Ajax for my comments section: so far I found two that are free to use: SpellingCow, created by Craig Nuttall as proof of concept of his COWS AJAX cross-domain scripting solution (based on earlier hard work by Emil Eklund), and Orangoo Speller by Amir Salihefendic.

Written by CleverClogs

September 10th, 2006 at 12:07 am

Improving the Microsoft RSS Experience

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"Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts, for example to the unsolicited and blunt criticism Dave Geek-For-Life Brunelle provided after Microsoft’s underwhelming launch of their corporate feed directory."

With a series of posts Dave Morehouse—program manager to the Microsoft MSCOM Communities Team—bowed last week to the many suggestions to improve the Directory of Microsoft Feeds. Morehouse specifically addresses complaints that Dave Brunelle expressed in his post Microsoft Needs to Fix Their RSS Experience regarding lack of consistency and lack of accessibility. Quoting Morehouse’s article More on the MSCOM RSS Experience:

  • Make OPML available for any category or grouping of feeds in the directory
  • Add to the directory social bookmarking features, including
    alternative navigation metaphors based on tagging–e.g., tag clouds and
    the like. Essentially, we’d step away from formal controlled
    vocab, taxonomy-based categorization schemes and step into the world of
    folksonomy. The question we will have to resolve is how to reconcile
    the two; perhaps the latter would completely supersede the former.
  • Implement tagging and user recognition controls across the network
    as well as on participating third-party community (and possibly
    partner) sites.
  • Give customers the ability to create their own feeds and OPML
    collections of Microsoft-related resources, based on their and others’
    tags.

In the earlier related post The Strategic Importance of RSS, Morehouse himself bravely quotes an email message from a German member of his team, Klaus [Klaus Who?—mh], who suggests adopting the following value propositions:

  • RSS is a strategic movement. It builds the foundation for innovative ways of communication (PodCast, Blogs, viral Marketing)
  • RSS and Blogs together will enable us to reach business customers with a minimum of investments
  • RSS is the ideal technology to establish content distribution to either other sites on ms.com, sites owned by Microsoft Partners and at least sites whose are totally external (e.G. Ford or Citibank)
  • RSS is the easiest way to increase your reach if you don’t have enough budgets. A RSS-Feed works as a multiplicator. Use Google to check which sites are referring to an rss-feed. 763 results for the security bulletin (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=%22www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/secrss.aspx%22) is a clear statement!
  • RSS is state of the art – WE CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER
  • The competitors in the market have already adopted the technology (look at: http://www.ibm.com/news/us/en/index_podcast.rss)
  • The customers are expecting to see new technologies on our web-pages
  • Finally, it is also a matter of image 😉

While I was scanning Morehouse’s blog I found another proof of his clear thinking in the post What are some potential applications of tagging?, in which Dave lists over 20 exemplified and categorized use cases for a tagging solution of the Microsoft web service. Final quote, this time by way of a screenshot:

Benefits_of_tagging

I’m pleasantly surprised by the Morehouse’s apparent candidness and that of his team members regarding their current positioning in the minefield of RSS technology. Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts. What’s even nicer is that Dave Brunelle, in turn, acknowledges and even praises Morehouse’s openheartedness: Microsoft.com and the RSS Experience.

With or without the Freedbacking tag, it seems Chris Pirillo’s plea last June to channel and leverage constructive developer feedback is finding shape. I personally submit loads of bug reports to all kinds of software vendors. Some do follow up, some unfortunately don’t. A logical question might be: in such an exponentially growing landscape of bloggers, software and web services how can feedback submitters and their followers monitor which of the issues that they bring up has adequately been addressed? Can we have a conversation on that particular aspect of consumer interaction?

Oh, and to close off for today, here’s a friendly, freedbacking wink to all my fellow TagJag lovers:

Freedbacking_tagjag

Written by CleverClogs

September 8th, 2006 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Feedback,RSS

RSS Explained in American Sign Language

with 12 comments

"Now isn’t this ironic: usually we’re being told to make an effort so that deaf people are not excluded from conversations between hearing people, but with Jon’s ASL video about RSS it’s the other way around: it’s clear Jon is extremely proficient in ASL and this time it would be nice if we, ‘the hearing’, could get subtitles…"

A couple of weeks ago Jon-Lenois Savage posted a two-minute explanation of RSS for deaf people in his blog post What’s RSS? on his video blog Jon’s Vlog.

Rss_asl_video

Jon is a deaf blogger from San Diego with a passion for surfing, who has posted about twenty videos on YouTube already (all Jon’s videos).

Now isn’t this ironic: usually we’re being told to make an effort so that deaf people are not excluded from conversations between hearing people, but with Jon’s ASL video about RSS it’s the other way around: it’s clear Jon is extremely proficient in ASL and I personally would so much like to know how he explains RSS to deaf people.

I found this video through a blog post by another deaf blogger called Jared Evans, who maintains a single-page aggregator about blogs for and by deaf bloggers, and who advises deaf people how to use RSS technology effectively.

Best_of_deaf_blogs

Check out more YouTube videos tagged with the keywords "RSS" and "feeds"

The same YouTube video search displayed using onelurv, a personalized RSS portal that I’m currently investigating:

Note that the contents of this widget will reflect any changes that I make the RSS subscriptions stored in my online onelurv account. As such it’s not really an RSS to Javascript tool—it merely shows which feeds I’ve subscribed to.

Written by CleverClogs

September 5th, 2006 at 1:54 pm