A history of reading


I’ve always been fascinated with all that there is to read and learn when you’re a connected educator. The problem for me has always been how do I keep track of it. In yesterday’s OLDaily, Stephen Downes shared this article and his thoughts:

An Ode To RSS, A Vessel Of Freedom In Elearning

That got me thinking of my own journey. It’s been a long journey through a number of different paths.

In the beginning, there was no tool to really bring it all together so I created my own! It was a simple web page written in HTML using a text editor. In it, I had the links to places I wanted to read and a short description. I suppose in some way, it was like what we would consider bookmarks in today’s browser. But, it was mine and I controlled everything. It was nimble enough to be modified in a heartbeat if needed. That was the beginning and then things exploded from there.

Onto the scene came RSS which was a real game changer. One of the features that browsers wanted to be best at was putting RSS just a click away. It was simple enough; you’d just go looking for that cute RSS icon on a web page and subscribe to the feed.

At the time, there were lots of readers available and I tried many of them. As I look back over this blog content, some of them even became blog posts. There always seemed to be something missing, sometimes just cosmetic, so I wrote my own. It wasn’t terribly difficult; RSS feeds are just text files that need to be parsed and then presented.

The problem, as anyone who writes code knows, is that it needs to be maintained. Quite frankly, I kind of lost interest in that project and decided to settle on someone else’s efforts. After a number of tests, I elected to go with Google’s Reader. It was close enough to everything that I thought a reader should be. Then, as everyone who uses RSS and the Google Reader knows, it went away. We were at a big loss!

I tried a bunch of alternatives and never really found something that reached out and grabbed me. Many blogs allowed you to subscribe to their content via email and that seemed handy enough. I still do that today with some blogs.

I’ve always felt that, if something is good enough for you, that it’s worth sharing and so I do maintain a Livebinder of Ontario Educational Bloggers and a public facing Blog Roll of blogs that have made the voicEd Radio show. They’re good for sharing but really don’t do the trick for personal productivity. My daily reader before the dog wakes up takes me into Flipboard which is nice for some predictable and some not-so-predictable resources.

I still wanted a reader that not only would keep a collection but would let me know when something new was there. There’s nothing more frustrating and time consuming to click on a link in someone’s profile and then find out that they haven’t written anything in years.

So, after wandering around all this digital landscape, I landed back with RSS. From that article, this basically sums it up!

There is probably no technology more beaten down, more discarded by “innovators,” and yet more irreplaceable and urgent today than RSS.

And that’s where I stand today. After an exhausting set of evaluations, I ended up with The Old Reader. It may not have all the design and noise and animations that you might expect in other products. But, since the loss of Google Reader, I’m now feeling like I’m back in charge of my reading and that’s worth it to me. I’ve been in control for a long time now and it feels just right.

The Search for a New RSS Reader


The search continues.  It’s interesting to see the folks that are still finding out today that their beloved Google Reader is no longer an option.  If you go to the Google Reader site, they do offer some alternatives.

In fact, they direct you to http://alternativeto.net/software/google-reader/ where you will find a goodly list.

Another source for alternative products can be found at: http://www.alternative.to/Google_Reader,29653017#alternatives

How are those for alternatives?

But, the best source is to turn to the public and get their input on what works.  A blog post from Anil Dash titled “The Golden Age of RSS” was very interesting.  In the middle of the post, you’ll find a list of over 100 web based RSS alternatives suggested by the crowd!  From a simple start, people just kept adding ideas!

But read his comments.  I like his point – we don’t need another RSS reader.  He talks about the need for a blog reader instead.  I agree.  Like I said in yesterday’s post about Noowit, I appreciate a reader that finds new stuff for me based on a concept.  And yet, I do want to continue with the principles behind RSS reading.  I want to be loyal to those bloggers who have inspired me over the years and I want to visit them when they post new content.

The saga continues.  What does the future hold for us in the realm of online reading?

 

Rethinking RSS – Noowit Comes To Beta


Like many people, I feared that the end of the world was coming when Google announced that they would be retiring the use of their Google Reader.  After all, it had been the source of news for me for years now.  Some of the notable RSS feed that I read regularly appear right here on this blog over to the right and down a bit in the Blogroll.

I’ve highlighted these excellent resources but certainly have more that are pulled into my RSS reads.  They’re blogs, news services, Diigos, Delicious, and more.  When I’m reading something and like the quality of it or find that it’s contributed to my immediate learning, I immediately go hunting for the RSS or Atom feed and track it.  I even have included the feed from this blog in my reader just as a double check that everything is working as it should.  dougpete has paranoia, don’t you know?

Between Google Reader and NewsSquares in Google Chrome, I’ve always had a tonne of things to read and ponder on a regular basis.  These were my personal calls to action in terms of awareness, new learning, and consolidation of old learning.  So, I was concerned when the thought was that this service would go away.  I’ve downloaded my subscriptions from Google Takeout a few times just so that I don’t lose track of all of the resources that have been so helpful to me.

Somehow, it was comforting knowing that Stephen Downes was going through much of the same process.  He had a nice summary of what he thinks about the top replacement players here.

And like so many, I’ve been looking for alternative solutions.  As I blogged a couple of days ago, incorporating RSS into Hootsuite has been a great solution for me so far – on the computer.  I do do so much of my reading on my portables – it’s a great way to pass the time while waiting in line for appointments or lying in bed or on the couch or so many other places.  I’ve been playing around with Feedly and the new Digg as well.  However, even Feedly which seems to be everyone’s choice of reader is having problems.  You’ve heard of “failed whale”; how about a “failed cloud?”.  To their defense, everyone is looking for a solution.

2013-07-02 17.23.35

Every analytic, I’ve come to recognize that I really do most of my portable reading on Zite and Rockmelt.  Both have allowed for the importing of RSS but more importantly you can set your reading to a concept and not just a pre-defined feed.  This allows the services to discover content wherever there is a feed to scrape.  I’ve run into some very unique and interesting resources.  Zite doesn’t have a desktop version but Rockmelt does so that gives me a shot of serendipity when I need it.

But, recently, I was invited to play around with a pre-Beta version of Noowit.  Somehow, the best way I can describe it as combining the best of everything into a web application.  So far, it’s been very impressive.

Noowit

Like so many readers on the market, it imported my Google feed and let me “Discover” related content.  So, as a reader (and sharer), it performs very nicely.  There is another feature that I haven’t got to yet and that’s the ability to create my own Nootwit Magazine.  I’ve started but haven’t stuck to it long enough to generate something worth sharing yet.  For right now, it’s all about the discovery, reading, and sharing.

Like many programs of this type, you add categories and ideas.  Noowit claims to learn what you’re reading.  I’m hoping that once I get a chance to start my own “Mag” that helps discover more related and interesting content.  Plus, sharing is nice.  It has the feel of a paper.li to me.

Right now, I’m kind of fascinated by its navigation.  If there ever was a web app that works like a tablet app, this is it.  Navigation by mousepad feels and reacts just like I’d reached out and swiped the screen.  I wonder if the developers are programming with Windows 8 in mind.  The whole layout and preparation is interesting.  You can pick by author or category or sources.  There’s also a “cut the noise” setting that’s definitely going to take some playing with.  There is so much in this project and I know that I’m not taking the best advantage of it.

The whole experience, combined with what I’ve done in the past has convinced me that I’m in search of more than an RSS Reader.  In that regard, perhaps Google’s move has been good for the entire reading industry.  Perhaps we’ll become better and more diverse readers because of it.

Check out Noowit’s description:

and the best news….

What about you?  Are you looking for just a Google Reader replacement or do you want more?

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…

Story

 

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.

Tweaking Rebelmouse


I’ve had a Rebelmouse account for a while now.  I think it’s a terrific way to summarize things that I’m doing with social media.  Quite frankly, I’m just using it to gather my activity from Twitter so that it’s all in one spot.  I could add links to Instagram (I don’t use), Tumblr (not really using it now), Pinterest (which is a collection of my blog posts) or an RSS feed (I use Feedly for that.)  So, it could be bigger but I’m good with what I’m doing now.

I’ve blogged a couple of times about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

Just recently, the developers have added a great deal more functionality to this wonderful program.

1)  You can now customize colours and fonts.  Those that know me know that that will involve Verdana fonts and lots of green.  It’s not one of the standard templates that they provide, however, a little editing of the CSS to create a customized theme.  I’m not done with it yet but am pleased with what I’ve done so far.

2)  Now, that’s really cosmetic.  The really handy feature in the revised Rebelmouse is the ability to create pages based upon the source of your content.

Now, instead of everything being lumped into one stream of resources shared, tabs across the top of the landing page let you zero in on, in my case, the source for what I’ve shared.

I’ve just started to get the knack of this and really like the way that it allows for a review of what I’ve done recently.  I suspect that anyone who is interested in what I’m doing will find it helpful as well.

If you don’t have a Rebelmouse page tracking and sharing your activity, why not?  Give it a try – you’ll like it.

It’s a terrific way to review and organize your resources – if you’re looking for a handy way to organize classroom resources, this may be the tool that you’re looking for.

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