Reply to This Indispensable Digital Research Tool, We can Say, Without Lying, Saves Time

Replied to This Indispensable Digital Research Tool, We can Say, Without Lying, Saves Time by Alan Levine (@cogdog) (Extend Activity Bank)

People will claim they can replace RSS Readers with social media streams like twitter. While we do get many key resources and news stories via social media, let’s dispute that claim:

  • Clutter, noise, distraction. What you get is interspersed with many things that are outside your interests, rants, yelling, silly gifs. That’s a lot of filtering.
  • You Miss It, You Lose it. Social media is focused at the head of the stream. While you sleep or actually do something productive away from social media, it all flows away. Yes, maybe your network can signal with repeating important things, but its spotty.
  • Duplication You have no means to quickly know what you have already looked at, and you see may the same story multiple times.
  • You Are Subject to Algorithms Especially on facebook, what you see is determined by the mysteries of an algorithm. Sure you choose sources by followers, but the means by which information is presented is determined by some outside automated entity.

This activity brings you an exception to the technology as time-saving lie; it’s old tool that many people have abandoned. I will wade carefully through the acronym jargon jungle, but we are talking about using an RSS Feed Reader to monitor the most recent news, blog posts, data from sources you choose to follow, not ones dished out by some company’s algorithm.

RSS is incredibly valuable as is OPML.

I had used Feedly for several years, but made the switch to Inoreader last year, in part because it has one additional useful feature that Feedly doesn’t: OPML subscription. While it’s nice to be able to import and export OPML files, needing to remember to update them can be an unnecessary step, particularly if 20+ people need to do the update to capture all the new RSS feeds added. (As an example, say one or two students join a class late and everyone has already got the original OPML export and now needs to update to add a few more feeds to keep track of classroom activity.)  OPML subscription improves this by allowing the subscription to an OPML link with multiple feeds in it. If the original OPML file updates with new feeds, then the reader automatically updates them and pushes them out to everyone subscribed to that OPML file!

Think of an OPML subscription as an updating subscription to a bundle of RSS feeds which all also provide their own individual updates. Instead of subscribing to a bunch of individual feeds, you can subscribe to whole bundles of feeds.

For those looking for some sample OPML links to subscribe to, try some of mine which are listed at the bottom of the linked page. For some ideas about building your own data stores with OPML links for WordPress, try my Following Page solution. WordPress’s old Link Manager described on that page will provide the ability to store the data and provide the OPML links, the rest of the page discusses publishing it on one’s site so that it’s publicly available if you wish. URL schemes for sub-categories are discussed separately.

Syndicated copies to:

Reply to Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean Shareski

Replied to Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean ShareskiDean Shareski (Ideas and Thoughts)
And I think it’s true. I don’t use RSS the way I did in 2004. That said, I remember reading that blogging was dead ten years ago. And while it’s maybe not trendy, many educators have seen its value and maintained a presence. Apparently, RSS has some valid uses as well but like most everyone, I tend to use social as a place to find new and emerging ideas. But I also think using Twitter and Facebook to haphazardly find content lacks intention and depth. I also value reading a person’s blog over time to understand better their voice and context. So I’m asking for some advice on how to update my module on finding research. What replaces RSS feeds? What works for you that goes beyond “someone on Twitter/Facebook shared….” to something that is more focused and intentional?

Dean, I can completely appreciate where you’re coming from. I too am still addicted to RSS (as well as a plethora of other feed types including Atom, JSON, and h-feeds). I didn’t come across your article by feed however, but instead by Aaron Davis’ response to your post which he posted on his own website and then pinged my site with his repsonse using a web specification called Webmention. We’re both members of a growing group of researchers, educators, and others who are using our own websites to act as our social media presences and using new technologies like Webmention to send notifications from website to website to carry on conversations.

While many of us are also relying on RSS, there are a variety of new emerging technologies that are making consuming and replying to content online easier while also allowing people to own all of their associated data. In addition to my article about The Feed Reader Revolution which Aaron mentioned in his reply, Aaron Pareck has recently written about Building an IndieWeb Reader. I suspect that some of these ideas encapsulate a lot of what you’d like to see on the web.

Most of us are doing this work and experimentation under the banner known as the IndieWeb. Since you know some of the web’s prior history, you might appreciate this table that will give you some idea of what the group has been working on. In particular I suspect you may appreciate some of the resources we’re compiling for IndieWeb for Education. If it’s something you find interest in, I hope you might join in our experimentations. You can find many of us in the group’s online chat.

I would have replied in your comments section, but unfortunately through a variety of quirks Disqus marks everything I publish to it immediately as spam. Thus my commentary is invariably lost. Instead, I’m posting it to a location I do have stricter control over–my own website. I’ll send you a tweet to provide you the notification of the post. I will cross-post my reply to Disqus if you want to dig into your spam folder to unspam it for display. In the meanwhile, I’m following you and subscribing to your RSS feed.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS | Ideas and Thoughts

Read Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean Shareski (ideasandthoughts.org)
I have included a module on RSS to allow my students to create their own research teams on topics of interest. Because I’m old, I still have my students set up Feedly accounts and plug in the RSS feeds of their classmates and hopefully add other blogs to their feeds as well. And like blogging, I realize only a handful will continue but I want to expose them to the power of sharing their own research/learning via blogging and how to find others who do as well via Feedly.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Because I’m old, I still have my students set up Feedly accounts and plug in the RSS feeds of their classmates and hopefully add other blogs to their feeds as well. And like blogging, I realize only a handful will continue but I want to expose them to the power of sharing their own research/learning via blogging and how to find others who do as well via Feedly.  

I also value reading a person’s blog over time to understand better their voice and context. So I’m asking for some advice on how to update my module on finding research. What replaces RSS feeds? What works for you that goes beyond “someone on Twitter/Facebook shared….” to something that is more focused and intentional?  

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Microsub and the new reader evolution | skippy.net

Read Microsub and the new reader evolution by Scott MerrillScott Merrill (skippy.net)
I was an avid Google Reader user.  When it shut down, I started hosting my own RSS reader: first tt-rss, and later miniflux. I very much liked being able to subscribe to sites and read them at my leisure. I also appreciated not having my reading habits tracked or quantified. I had maybe two dozen f...

What I was really after was the confluence of RSS feeds and Twitter and the ability to post to my own site.

Syndicated copies to:

IndieWeb Summit 2018 Recap

Last week was the 8th annual IndieWeb Summit held in Portland, Oregon. While IndieWeb Camps and Summits have traditionally been held on weekends during people’s free time, this one held in the middle of the week was a roaring success. With well over 50 people in attendance, this was almost certainly the largest attendance I’ve seen to date. I suspect since people who flew in for the event had really committed, the attendance on the second day was much higher than usual as well. It was great to see so many people hacking on their personal websites and tools to make their personal online experiences richer.

The year of the Indie Reader

Last year I wrote the post Feed Reader Revolution in response to an increasingly growing need I’ve seen in the social space for a new sort of functionality in feed readers. While there have been a few interesting attempts like Woodwind which have shown a proof-of-concept, not much work had been done until some initial work by Aaron Parecki and a session at last year’s IndieWeb Summit entitled Putting it all Together.

Over the past year I’ve been closely watching Aaron Parecki; Grant Richmond and Jonathan LaCour; Eddie Hinkle; and Kristof De Jaeger’s collective progress on the microsub specification as well as their respective projects Aperture/Monocle; Together; Indigenous/Indigenous for iOS; and Indigenous for Android. As a result in early May I was overjoyed to suggest a keynote session on readers and was stupefied this week as many of them have officially launched and are open to general registration as relatively solid beta web services.

I spent a few minutes in a session at the end of Tuesday and managed to log into Aperture and create an account (#16, though I suspect I may be one of the first to use it besides the initial group of five developers). I also managed to quickly and easily add a microsub endpoint to my website as well. Sadly I’ve got some tweaks to make to my own installation to properly log into any of the reader app front ends. Based on several of the demos I’ve seen over the past months, the functionality involved is not only impressive, but it’s a properly large step ahead of some of the basic user interface provided by the now-shuttered Woodwind.xyz service (though the code is still available for self-hosting.)

Several people have committed to make attempts at creating a microsub server including Jack Jamieson who has announced an attempt at creating one for WordPress after having recently built the Yarns reader for WordPress from scratch this past year. I suspect within the coming year we’ll see one or two additional servers as well as some additional reading front ends. In fact, Ryan Barrett spent the day on Wednesday hacking away at leveraging the News Blur API and leveraging it to make News Blur a front end for Aperture’s server functionality. I’m hoping others may do the same for other popular readers like Feedly or Inoreader to expand on the plurality of offerings. Increased competition for new reader offerings can only improve the entire space.

Even more reading related support

Just before the Summit, gRegor Morrill unveiled the beta version of his micropub client Indiebookclub.biz which allows one to log in with their own website and use it to post reading updates to their own website. For those who don’t yet support micropub, the service saves the data for eventual export. His work on it continued through the summit to continue to improve an already impressive product. It’s the fist micropub client of its kind amidst a growing field of websites (including WordPress and WithKnown which both have plugins) that offer reading post support. Micro.blog has recently updated its code to allow users of the platform the ability to post reads with indiebookclub.biz as well. As a result of this spurt of reading related support there’s now a draft proposal to add read-of and read-status support as new Microformats. Perhaps reads will be included in future updates of the post-type-discovery algorithm as well?

Given the growth of reading post support and a new micropub read client, I suspect it won’t take long before some of the new microsub-related readers begin supporting read post micropub functionality as well.

IndieAuth Servers

In addition to David Shanske’s recent valiant update to the IndieAuth plugin for WordPress, Manton Reece managed to finish up coding work to unveil another implementation of IndieAuth at the Summit. His version is for the micro.blog platform which is a significant addition to the community and will add several hundred additional users who will have broader access to a wide assortment of functionality as a result.

The Future

While work continues apace on a broad variety of fronts, I was happy to see that my proposal for a session on IndieAlgorithms was accepted (despite my leading another topic earlier in the day). It was well attended and sparked some interesting discussion about how individuals might also be able to exert greater control over what they’re presented to consume. With the rise of Indie feed readers this year, the ability to better control and filter one’s incoming content is going to take on a greater importance in the very near future. With an increasing number of readers to choose from, more people will hopefully be able to free themselves from the vagaries of the blackbox algorithms that drive content distribution and presentation in products like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Based on the architecture of servers like Aperture, perhaps we might be able to modify some of the microsub spec to allow more freedom and flexibility in what will assuredly be the next step in the evolution of the IndieWeb?

Diversity

While there are miles and miles to go before we sleep, I was happy to have seen a session on diversity pop up at the Summit. I hope we can all take the general topic to heart to be more inclusive and actively invite friends into our fold. Thanks to Jean for suggesting and guiding the conversation and everyone else for continuing it throughout the rest of the summit and beyond.

Other Highlights

Naturally, the above are just a few of the bigger highlights as I perceive them. I’m sure others will appear in the IndieNews feed or other blogposts about the summit. The IndieWeb is something subtly different to each person, so I hope everyone takes a moment to share (on your own sites naturally) what you got out of all the sessions and discussions. There was a tremendous amount of discussion, debate, and advancement of the state of the art of the continually growing IndieWeb. Fortunately almost all of it was captured in the IndieWeb chat, on Twitter, and on video available through either the IndieWeb wiki pages for the summit or directly from the IndieWeb YouTube channel.

I suspect David Shanske and I will have more to say in what is sure to be a recap episode in our next podcast.

Photos

Finally, below I’m including a bunch of photos I took over the course of my trip. I’m far from a professional photographer, but hopefully they’ll give a small representation of some of the fun we all had at camp.

Final Thanks

People

While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who came to the summit. You all really made it a fantastic event!

I’d particularly like to thank Aaron Parecki, Tantek Çelik, gRegor Morrill, Marty McGuire, and David Shanske who did a lot of the organizing and volunteer work to help make the summit happen as well as to capture it so well for others to participate remotely or even view major portions of it after-the-fact. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Martijn van der Ven for some herculean efforts on IRC/Chat in documenting things in real time as well as for some serious wiki gardening along the way. As always, there are a huge crew of others whose contributions large and small help to make up the rich fabric of the community and we wouldn’t be who we are without your help. Thank you all! (Or as I might say in chat: community++).

And finally, a special personal thanks to Greg McVerry for kindly letting me join him at the Hotel deLuxe for some late night discussions on the intersection of IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own philosophies as they dovetail with the education sector.  With growing interest and a wealth of ideas in this area, I’m confident it’s going to be a rapidly growing one over the coming years.

Sponsors

I’d also like to take a moment to say thanks to all the sponsors who helped to make the event a success including Name.com, GoDaddy, Okta, Mozilla, DreamHost, and likely a few others who I’m missing at the moment.

I’d also like to thank the Eliot Center for letting us hosting the event at their fabulous facility.

Syndicated copies to:

I maintain a few lists of #IndieWeb related influencers:

Twitter List: https://twitter.com/ChrisAldrich/lists/indieweb/members
Following list: https://boffosocko.com/about/following/#Indieweb
OPML file (for more easily mass following via RSS): https://www.boffosocko.com/wp-links-opml.php?link_cat=1521

Please ping me if you or someone you know should be included or was overlooked somehow. Obviously you have more street cred if the canonical place to follow you is on your own website.

I find that it’s nice that I can follow fewer and fewer people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, et al. because they’ve begun owning all of their content on their own website where I can get as much of it as I like in my feed reader without having to subscribe to or try to read their content in dozens of different places with algorithms impeding my personal preferences.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 Google News Drops RSS Feed Subscription Buttons | Search Engine Roundtable

Read New Google News Drops RSS Feed Subscription Buttons (seroundtable.com)
With the new Google News, they didn't just drop the standout tag and editors pick but it seems like the direct method to subscribe to Google News via RSS and Google News keyword searches is gone.
Syndicated copies to:

👓 How to Join Our Podcast Club | New York Times

Read How to Join Our Podcast Club by Samantha HenigSamantha Henig (nytimes.com)
It’s like a book club, but for on-demand audio.

This ironic quote from the piece sticks out to me:

Podcast listening can be harder to crack. There are so many shows! How do you find the ones you’ll like? And once you’ve found a show, where do you start: with the most recent episode? At the beginning? Some specific gem of an episode buried deep in the back catalog?

Perhaps the New York Times could simply start with making the RSS feeds for their podcasts easily discover-able?! Why are they hiding this simple piece of functionality? I just spent 20 minutes doing some reasonably serious web gymnastics to extract the RSS feed for Caliphate out of the iTunes feed using a JSON request tactic. Why can’t the podcast’s main page have or advertise the raw RSS feed?!

Corey Doctorow complained of this type of growing issue on the web recently in a short tweetstorm as well:

How hard is it to add the following simple line to the header of their generally beautiful and functional Caliphate page?
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Caliphate" href="https://rss.art19.com/caliphate” />
They’ve got so many advanced resources, yet somehow they’re missing some of the simplest and best supported web technology that goes back more than a decade.

By the way, that link https://rss.art19.com/caliphate is the correct one for the RSS feed of the show by the way, in case others are searching for it.

If anyone needs a one-click button to subscribe to the series in their favorite feed reader, I’ve set up a SubToMe button on the follow post I made for the podcast.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 An IndieWeb reader: My new home on the internet | GoDaddy

Read An IndieWeb reader: My new home on the internet by Aaron PareckiAaron Parecki (The Garage: GoDaddy)
What if you could reply to a blog post in your feed reader, and your reply would show up as a comment on the original post automatically? Or if you had one place to go to follow all of your friends’ blogs and more? An IndieWeb reader might be the answer. Get insight from the cofounder of the IndieWeb movement.

/me salivates…

Syndicated copies to:

On the topic of RSS audio feeds for The Gillmor Gang

Some suggestions for extracting audio only podcast-friendly feeds for one of my favorite shows.

I’ll start off with the fact that I’m a big fan of The Gillmore Gang and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the very bleeding edge of the overlap of technology and media. I’ve been listening almost since the beginning, and feel that digging back into their archives is a fantastic learning experience even for the well-informed. Most older episodes stand up well to the test of time.

The Problem

In the Doc Soup episode of The Gillmor Gang on 5/13/17–right at the very end–Steve Gillmor reiterated, “This isn’t a podcast. This was a podcast. It will always be a podcast, but streaming is where it’s at, and that’s what we’re doing right now.” As such, apparently Tech Crunch (or Steve for that matter) doesn’t think it’s worthwhile to have any sort of subscribe-able feed for those who prefer to listen to a time shifted version of the show. (Ironically in nearly every other episode they talk about the brilliance of the Apple TV, which is–guess what?–a highly dedicated time shifting viewing/listening device.) I suppose that their use of an old, but modified TV test pattern hiding in the og:image metadata on their webpages is all-too-apropos.

It’s been several years (around the time of the Leo Incident?) since The Gillmor Gang has reliably published an audio version, a fact I find painful and frustrating as I’m sure many others do as well. At least once or twice a year, I spend an hour or so searching around to find one, generally to no avail. While watching it live and participating in the live chat may be nice, I typically can’t manage the time slot, so I’m stuck trying to find time to watch the video versions on Tech Crunch. Sadly, looking at four or more old, wrinkly, white men (Steve himself has cautioned, “cover your eyes, it’ll be okay…” without admitting it could certainly use some diversity) for an hour or more isn’t my bailiwick. Having video as the primary modality for this show is rarely useful. To me, it’s the ideas within the discussion which are worthwhile, so I only need a much lower bandwidth .mp3 audio file to be able to listen. And so sadly, the one thing this over-technologized show (thanks again TriCaster!) actually needs from a production perspective is a simple .mp3 (RSS, Atom, JSON feed, or h-feed) podcast feed!

Solutions

In recent batches of searching, I have come across a few useful resources for those who want simple, sweet audio out of the show, so I’m going to document them here.

First, some benevolent soul has been archiving audio copies of the show to The Internet Archive for a while. They can be found here (sorted by upload date): https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Gillmor+Gang%22&sort=-publicdate

In addition to this, one might also use other search methods, but this should give one most of the needed weekly content. Sadly IA doesn’t provide a useful feed out…

To create a feed quickly, one can create a free Huffduffer account. (This is one of my favorite tools in the world by the way.) They’ve got a useful bookmarklet tool that allows you to visit pages and save audio files and metadata about them to your account. Further, they provide multiple immediate means of subscribing to your saves as feeds! Thus you can pick and choose which Gillmor Gang episodes (or any other audio files on the web for that matter) you’d like to put into your feed. Then subscribe in your favorite podcatcher and go.

For those who’d like to skip a step, Huffduffer also provides iTunes and a variety of other podcatcher specific feeds for content aggregated in other people’s accounts or even via tags on the service. (You can subscribe to what your friends are listening to!) Thus you can search for Gillmor Gang and BOOM! There are quick and easy links right there in the sidebar for you to subscribe to your heart’s content! (Caveat: you might have to filter out a few duplicates or some unrelated content, but this is the small price you’ll pay for huge convenience.)

My last potential suggestion might be useful to some, but is (currently) so time-delayed it’s likely not as useful. For a while, I’ve been making “Listen” posts to my website of things I listen to around the web. I’ve discovered that the way I do it, which involves transcluding the original audio files so the original host sees and gets the traffic, provides a subscribe-able faux-cast of content. You can use this RSS feed to capture the episodes I’ve been listening to lately. Note that I’m way behind right now and don’t always listen to episodes in chronological order, so it’s not as reliable a method for the more avid fan. Of course now that I’ve got some reasonable solutions… I’ll likely catch up quickly and we’re off to the races again.

Naturally none of this chicanery would be necessary if the group of producers and editors of the show would take five minutes to create and host their own version. Apparently they have the freedom and flexibility to not have to worry about clicks and advertising (which I completely appreciate, by the way) to need to capture the other half of the audience they’re surely missing by not offering an easy-to-find audio feed. But I’m dead certain they’ve got the time, ability, and resources to easily do this, which makes it painful to see that they don’t. Perhaps one day they will, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

I’ve made requests and been holding my breath for years, but the best I’ve done so far is to turn blue and fall off my chair.

Syndicated copies to:

👓 How has soundcloud hidden the URL of streaming audio | Stack Overflow

Read How has soundcloud hidden the URL of streaming audio (Stack Overflow)
I am trying to hide the URL of my audio streams for my HTML5 player and was really struggling to think of a way to do so and then I realised, soundcloud must hide the URL's of their streams. So i w...
Syndicated copies to:

👓 It’s Time For an RSS Revival | Wired

Read

This article, which I’ve seen shared almost too widely on the internet since it came out, could almost have been written any time in the past decade really. They did do a somewhat better job of getting quotes from some of the big feed readers’ leaders to help to differentiate their philosophical differences, but there wasn’t much else here. Admittedly they did have a short snippet about Dave Winer’s new feedbase product, which I suspect, in combination with the recent spate of articles about Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, motivated the article. (By the way, I love OPML as much as anyone could, but feedbase doesn’t even accept the OPML feeds out of my  core WordPress install though most feed readers do, which makes me wonder how successful feedbase might be in the long run without better legacy spec support.)

So what was missing from Wired’s coverage? More details on what has changed in the space in the past several years. There’s been a big movement afoot in the IndieWeb community which has been espousing a simpler and more DRY (don’t repeat yourself) version of feeds using simple semantic microformats markup like h-feed. There’s also been the emergence of JSON feed in the past year which many of the major feed readers already support.

On the front of people leaving Facebook (and their black box algorithmic monster that determines what you read rather than you making an implicit choice), they might have mentioned people who are looking for readers through which they can also use their own domains and websites where they own and maintain their own data for interaction. I’ve written about this in more depth last year: Feed reader revolution.

One of the more bleeding edge developments which I think is going to drastically change the landscape in the coming years for developers, feed readers, and the internet consumption space is the evolving Microsub spec which is being spearheaded by a group of projects known as the Aperture microsub server and the Together and Indigenous clients which already use it. Microsub is going to abstract away many of the technical hurdles that make it far more difficult to build a full-fledged feed reader. I have a feeling it’s going to level a lot of the playing field to allow a Cambrian explosion of readers and social related software to better leverage more easily reading content on the web without relying on third party black box services which people have been learning they cannot fully trust anymore. Aaron Parecki has done an excellent job of laying out some parts of it in Building an IndieWeb Reader as well as in recent episodes of his Percolator microcast. This lower hurdle is going to result in fewer people needing to rely solely on the biggest feed readers like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for both consuming content and posting their own content. The easier it becomes for people to use other readers to consume content from almost anywhere on the web, the less a monopoly the social networks will have on our lives.

I truly hope Wired circles around and gives some of these ideas additional follow up coverage in the coming months. They owe it to their readership to expand their coverage from what we all knew five years ago. If they want to go a step or two further, they might compare the web we had 15 years ago to some of the new and emerging open web technologies that are starting to take hold today.

Syndicated copies to:

🔖 Gentle Reader – Read Match Discover

Bookmarked Gentle Reader (gentlereader.com)
Gentle Reader gives you the freshest content in an easy-to-read format with no clutter and no ads. Add your favourite websites and Twitter accounts or discover new articles by exploring what other readers are bookmarking based on your interests. That way you can save time and hassle by efficiently combining RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, bookmarking and read-later services all in one app. What's more you have complete control over if, when, and how you discover new information with our unique matching function.

This is an interesting looking app. Sadly no Android version yet, so I’m taking a peek at it on the web. An interesting melange of features, but certainly not perfect for my needs yet. Has some interesting discovery type tools, but I’ll need to dig in further to test these out.

One of their default feeds, while solid, appears to only allow a synopsis sentence or two instead of the full feed, so it’s not the best example for the site to feature.

Syndicated copies to: