Hoot Reading

Like many people I suspect, I’m on the search for a good replacement to the Google Reader when it stops operating on Canada Day.  For so long, Google Reader has been my go-to for news reading and I will really miss it.  But it is what it is and we’ll have to change.  I’ve installed Feedly on my computer and I’m actually go to go with that but I got sidetracked.

In my web browser, I have Hootsuite open all the time in a tab.  It may not necessarily be the open tab but it’s there should I have the need to take a look at what’s happening on Twitter.  When I discovered that Hootsuite had made RSS reading available, I had to give it a shot.  My first reaction is very positive.  Rather than having a separate application open for RSS reading, incorporating it into my existing social reading routine makes so much sense.

Here’s how I did it.

First, I had to get my Google Reader data.  It’s a step that everyone should do – you get it by going to Google Takeout and downloading your content.  The nice thing about this is it also lets you take control of your information.  The content comes down as a .zip file which you need to expand.  Inside, you’ll find a few files but the important one for this process is subscriptions.xml.  Got it!

Now, the standard Hootsuite installation doesn’t do the trick.  You need to download the Hootsuite Syndicator.  It’s part of the Hootsuite Hootlet for Google Chrome.  (Try saying that five times)

It installs itself into Hootsuite as an application.  (I already had the Evernote application installed)

Launching the Syndicator for the first time gives you the opportunity to import your subscriptions from your Google Reader.

Or, you could start from scratch/add even more.

Next step is to work with the Subscription Manager to look at your existing subscriptions.

Each blog that you’re monitoring or potentially monitoring has to be selected.  If you have them in groups, add a group or add the individual feeds.  I actually liked this process.  It reminded me of how much I have chosen.  (I did decide to not activate a couple)

And you’re off!  Refresh the column or let Hootsuite do it based upon whatever time interval you have set and the reading resumes…right in your social media browser!

You’ll undoubtedly want to play around with the configuration options to make the installation your own.  What is particularly nice is the age of sharing pops up when you cursor over a story.

Favourite it, share it (Yeah!), mark as read, or mark it to read later.

Clicking an individual story opens a reader…



With a hot link to go to the original story in a new tab.  I like this feature.  I don’t tend to sit down and read stories one by one.  I tend to read the title, consider the source, read the snippet and then open the story in a new tab if I want more.  Once I have a bunch of tabs open, only then will I do the complete article reads.

The implementation is quite nice.  There will be critics, I’m sure, that will indicate that it doesn’t have the full set of features previously found in the full blown Google Reader.  Individual users will have to make their own decision but, for me, the fact that it’s just another column in one of my most used applications is really appealing.

Monitor Your Brand

I know that there is a great deal of concern about the future of Google’s Alert service.  You know, it’s the service that sends you an email with the references to any set of criteria that you may choose to set.  I used to use it to get a summary of the times that “@dougpete” or mentions to this blog hit the web.  If you’re reading the web, there are a number of suggested alternatives to Google’s service that are being promoted.

One of the things that is so impressive about search engines is their ability to scour information and find where content just might pop up.  Sometimes, it’s from the darnedest places.

I realized a while ago that the significant area that I wanted to monitor was Twitter itself.  It’s here that the significant mentions happen.  So, I figured, why not put Twitter’s search engine to good use.  Unlike other services that will send you a message daily with your mentions, Twitter search does things right now – the moment that it happens.

Since Hootsuite is my current favourite Twitter management console, it’s a snap.  I decided to set up some monitoring right there.

To consolidate things, I set a new tab and called it “Brand”.

Next – what am I monitoring?  Of course, my Twitter ID.  Over the time that I’ve used Twitter, I’ve noticed that people will make reference to me as both “@dougpete” and “dougpete”.  So, if I search for the lowest common …

I’ll catch both instances.  The results appear the moment Hootsuite picks them up.  Save the stream and it becomes a permanent entry within that tab.

I also want to monitor references to this blog so I’ll set up another customized search for “dougpete.wordpress.com”.  Sure, the first search for “dougpete” finds the reference but I’d like the blog references separated into a column by themselves.  Creating it is just as easy.

I also am monitoring my wiki and a couple of other services like my Diigo account.  Quite frankly, they don’t generate nearly the action as these two and I may just drop them.

And there you have it.  Instant monitoring!

Instead of another service with daily updates or doing a number of different searches, I just set them once and they do their thing.  A quick click on the tab shows me the latest.

Now, in the big scheme of things, my two little searches probably don’t amount to a hill of beans.  But, if I was monitoring an entire school or a number of events or a number of entities, the concept of a number of searches within a tab makes so much sense.

If you’re using a Twitter dashboard that allows for saved searches like Hootsuite, why not give it a shot this fine Sunday morning.  Your ears might start burning when you read what people are saying!  More importantly, this will give you the ability to see the entire package and engage with anyone who is talking about you.  And, isn’t that the point of Twitter?


Highlight Your Reading

Recently, I read an article that listed 4 Tools to Simplify the Blogging Process.  Yeah, I know, they don’t come much simpler than me.

As I read the article, I thought – OK, I’m doing this. Feedly, One Tab, Evernote and then a new one – CruxLight.  Never heard of it.  I took a quick read of the descriptor.  I’m very interested.  It reads the webpage on your screen and summarizes the main points.

I’m really interested.  This was a skill that was taught throughout school in English and French classes.  Of course, on paper, you would use a highlighter.  That made reviewing for tests and examinations possible.

I’ve got to check out this Chrome Extension.  Off to the Google Chrome store I go.

A quick download later and I’m ready to go.

I decide that the first thing I’ll do is check my instance of Hootsuite.  I’m not sure that I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting this!

The page you are trying to view is loosely connected. Try summarizing wikipedia articles, news articles, etc.

Although, when you think about it, it makes sense.  A typical Hootsuite screen is really a collection of usually non-related topics.  I figured that I’d try a different page – I tried one of my blog post pages and was immediately impressed.  It seemed to be able to instantly understand when I was making a point and when I was providing background information.  The points were highlighted so that I could focus just on them.

Here is my post about Symbaloo after the CruxLight treatment.


A click again and I’m into a layout with only the most important parts visible from the post and on the right side, CruxLight pulls out what it was determined to be the Focus of the page.

And, the second layout.


It’s an interesting extension.  Over the time that I’ve had it, I just leave it running and let it highlight what it thinks is important.  I’ll be honest; I don’t trust it 100% yet and I do skim through the non-highlighted material just to see what I’m missing.  To date, it really does seem to do a good job.  I wonder if I’ll ever fully trust it.

In an English class, I could see this being a very interesting tool to be use when you’re teaching how to read articles online.  It does ignore advertising and seems to do a pretty nice job of pulling the important points from an article.  I’d be very interested in any language teachers’ thoughts on its use.  For me, I’ve added it to my version of Chrome and am enjoying it.

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Learning Together

My learning started today with a sharing of an article to my Twitter stream.  It was about a new extension for Google Chrome called OneTab.

The claim was that its use would save up to 95% of memory usage.  That’s an interesting number but it’s the “how” it does it that really caught my interest.  It does so by collapsing open tabs into a single tab which you can restore selectively or all at once.  As an embarrassingly “over-tab” user (or when I do a presentation to have a whack of them preloaded, I was immediately interested.

I shared it with the sharing link from within Zite so that anyone else who is interested knows about it and the post serves as a bookmark for me to follow up later on.

As it turns out, @bgrasley saw my post and was interested as well.  I’m guessing that he has a sore spot for tabs too.

He hopped in asking questions before I had a chance to test it out.

The bottom line, ended up doing a little co-testing of the application and sharing what we were finding.  My Hootsuite ended up tracking two conversation chains.


I’m sure that there will be more to follow but that’s where we stand as I write this.

And the verdict…


There are a number of interesting things to note.

  • if I wasn’t connected and online, I would never have had found about the extension in the first place;
  • if I wasn’t friends with @bgrasley on Twitter, we would never have had this discussion;
  • if I hadn’t shared my thoughts, nobody else would have known;
  • if I hadn’t shared my learning in the open, my personal testing wouldn’t have gone as deeply as @bgrasley has taken it.

The bottom line for me is that this one little example just shows how important being connected is for my own personal learning.  I can’t imagine swimming in the big internet pond without folks around me to help out.


Twitter to non-Twitterers

In yesterday’s post, I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek when I said:

The people who really need to read this aren’t on Twitter!  Hopefully, the excellent post will be printed or something so that the target audience reads it.

That’s always been a problem for those of us who use Twitter.  First, trying to convince others that they need to join and second, if they don’t join and there’s something that they really need to know, finding a way to get it to them.

I’ll do a lot of things but I won’t print a Twitter message!

@stepanpruch wouldn’t either.

But he does offer a solution that meets the non-Twitterer at least half way.  Surely the intended audience has an email account.

Those of us who use Hootsuite have had the email option available for a while.


If you’re not using the Hootsuite service, the official Twitter web interface supports it now in a feature added recently.



You no longer have to worry about keeping your colleagues anymore in the dark than they’ve already chosen to be.  A quick “send an email” is far quicker than a screen capture or a copy/paste job.

And who knows, maybe they’ll click the link and load Twitter and get curious enough to poke around on their own.