Tag Archives: rss

Flipboard – iPhone App of the Week

Flipboard – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Flipboard.

Named Apple’s iPad App of the year and one of TIME’s Top 50 Innovations, Flipboard creates a personalized magazine out of everything being shared with you, from Instagram photos and Facebook updates to Tumblr posts and articles from your favorite publications. Fill Flipboard with the things you like to read, from the smallest blogs to publications like Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, and use Instapaper or Read It Later to save articles to read later. Connect Flipboard to all your social networks, and you’ll have a single place to enjoy, browse, comment on and share all the news, photos and updates that matter to you.

New to Flipboard on iPhone is Cover Stories, a selection of interesting articles and photos being shared with you right now. And it gets smarter every time you use it.

I really do like Flipboard for the iPad, it was in my list of top ten web tools of 2011. I was pleased to hear that it was also available for the iPhone. I did wonder how it would work on the smaller screen and if it would have the same usability as the excellent iPad app.

Once Flipboard had intergreated Google Reader into the app, it was at this point (along with Twitter and Facebook integration) that the app turned from an interesting diversion to a useful tool that allowed me to keep on top of the news and social stream of information without becoming overloaded. Flipping between pages of content felt very natural and magazine like.

So I was intrigued if Flipboard could make the transition to the iPhone, they had certainly taken their time, Flipboard was Apple’s App of the Year in 2010, so well over a year in the making.

One useful addition to Flipboard has been user accounts, this allows you to sign in and all your “feeds” are then there ready to go. This is very useful if you as I do have multiple iOS devices. So there I was with the Flipboard iPhone App, I signed into my Flipboard account and it found all my feeds.

The interface, though nowhere as near as nice as the iPad version, does work well on the smaller iPhone screen. I think Flipboard know that their large screen interface wouldn’t have worked on the small screen and as a result are trying something different. I quite like it and I found it easy to move between links and stories.

I even think it is quite usable as a casual Twitter client, remember that it doesn’t get all of your Twitter stream. Having said that you can of course drill down with Flipboard from a larger stream to a smaller one.

Overall I am pleased with the new Flipboard for the iPhone and if you like to browse your RSS feeds, Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook, then do have a look at Flipboard.

Get Flipboard in the iTunes App Store.

100 ways to use a VLE – #98 Embedding RSS feeds into the VLE

Keeping the content on the VLE current, topical and updated can be a real challenge for many practitioners. It can be both time consuming and if you are new to adding regular additional content to the VLE it can be easily forgotten that you said to yourself that you would regularly add content.

Of course for virtually all subjects there are loads of other people out there creating new, current and topical content. On blogs and news sites, lots of relevant and interesting content is being created.

The key is to ensure that the learners are made aware of that content quickly and easily.

You can of course copy and paste links and content into the VLE, but this has to be done manually and sometimes you are busy or just plain forget…

So that’s where RSS comes in.

What’s RSS?

Really Simple Syndication!

What’s Really Simple Syndication?

I knew you might ask me that!

The simple explanation is that RSS allows for content to be easily used and shared (syndicated) onto other web sites automatically. As that content is updated, the RSS ensures that the updated content is made available on the other web sites.

When content sites (like the BBC) update their content, they update their RSS feed. This feed can then be “added” to the VLE ensuring that when the content (and the RSS feed) is updated, the content on the VLE is automatically updated.

So by adding RSS feeds into the VLE, you can easily add new and exciting content into the VLE that update automatically without either the practitioners or learners needing to do anything.

I should point out that a few learners may want to subscribe to the RSS feed direct using a browser or feed reader. They may for example have a feed reader on their iPad or other mobile device.

So how do you add an RSS Feed into the VLE?

Well different VLEs do it in different ways. On Moodle the easiest way is via the Remote RSS Feeds Block.

This then allows you to add an RSS feed (like the feed from this blog) into the VLE.

The next question is I know, how do you know where the RSS feed is?

Well the address for the feeds will look something like this.

http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/technology/rss.xml
http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/feed/
http://screenr.com/user/jamesclay/rss
http://audioboo.fm/users/2631/boos.atom

As you can see it’s not just news and blogs that have RSS feeds, you can also find RSS feeds for services like Screenr, Flickr and Audioboo.

So when you visit a page with an RSS feed on most modern browsers they will have an RSS icon.

Click the RSS icon to see the feed. Another way of describing an RSS feed is as content without the formatting.

In this example the feed is in the address bar.

Copy that into the Add a news feed URL field on the VLE.

This will allow you to embed the RSS feed into the VLE.

What’s nice about the Moodle Embed RSS block is that you can add multiple feeds into a single block.

Adding an RSS feed to the VLE can be for many practitioners quite a complex and challenging task, mainly as it can be difficult for many of them to understand what RSS is and means. However once you get past that hurdle it is then a quick and easy way to add current and topical content to your course on the VLE automatically.

Photo source.

But I have to read everything…

Using tools like Google Reader or Twitter it can become pretty compulsive to read everything. If you use iTunes and subscribe to lots of podcasts you can feel you need to listen to them all.

The more RSS feeds you subscribe to, or the more people you follow on Twitter, the larger the number of those unread messages becomes… Likewise with a lot of podcast subscriptions you can find the number of podcasts you have not listened to growing…

Then after a while you feel you are not coping or those unread feeds and Tweets are always there…

Waiting…

The number also gets larger… and larger…

You start to set yourself targets, you will read all your feeds by Sunday night! You will catch up with Twitter over dinner!

You go away to a conference or on holiday and when you get back the list is even bigger!

Eventually it will reach the point that you have to give up. Then you mark all as read and start again down this downward spiral.

Is this a wise course of action?

Of course no it isn’t.

The key in my opinion dealing with tools like Twitter and Google Reader is to rethink them as streams of information rather than as an email inbox.

In the same way that you don’t watch every TV channel or even watch ALL of your favourite TV channel.

Or reading the weekend paper, you don’t attempt to read every article in every section. Likewise if you didn’t read the paper yesterday, do you read it before you read today’s paper?

Or continually listening to Radio 4 all day long… well I know some people who do that, but you know what I mean!

It doesn’t matter that you don’t read every Tweet posted. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t manage to catch every article in your newsfeed. So what if you miss a podcast?

What is the worse that could happen?

Well yes something bad could happen, but not very likely! But every day because you didn’t read all the Tweets in your Twitter stream, something bad would happen, no I don’t think so.

To be honest nothing bad is going to happen.

So what if you miss an exciting blog post on a subject you care about?

Does it really matter that you missed out on an interesting conversation on Twitter about PLEs?

The thing is you miss stuff all the time outside RSS and Twitter. More often than not, the good stuff resurfaces again and again (well it certainly does on services like Digg).

You need to treat Google Reader, Twitter and iTunes all in the same way. When you have time dip into the Twitter stream. Allocate time during the day To peruse your aggregated feeds in your newsreader. Listen to the most recent podcast, not the one from three weeks ago.

This is a much easier way to manage the huge amount of information that comes into our lives. Yes you will miss stuff, but the stuff you don’t will not be rushed, it will be perused with care and attention not just glanced over because you need to ensure that all your articles in the RSS feed are read.

It’s never about all the stuff it’s about the right stuff.

Now should we talk about e-mail?

The Early Edition – iPad App of the Week

The Early Edition – iPad App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is The Early Edition.

Finally – your own personal, daily newspaper! The Early Edition takes all of the news sources that you enjoy and presents their content in a format which is familiar, stylish and intuitive.

£2.99

One of the useful things that both the iPhone and iPad allow you to do is with certain Apps, aggregate RSS feeds and bring the news right to your device. Saves you having to visit the different websites and or news services.

In this series I have mentioned NewsRack that I use as my main RSS reader, in the main as it syncs with Google Reader allowing me to read the news either on the iPad, on the iPhone or on the web, without having to re-read stories I have already read.

So why did I buy The Early Edition?

Well apart from my making my blog look nice…

Actually there is a simpler reason, The Early Edition is a really nice way to find and read news stories. The way I use it is to access sites that I browse now and again on diverse subjects.

Another way to look at this is I use NewsRack as my daily newspaper, whilst The Early Edition is my Sunday paper.

The Early Edition allows you to import RSS feeds from various sources, including if you want from Google Reader. However unlike NewsRack it doesn’t sync back to Google Reader. Another reason is that RSS readers if they have lots of feeds can be slow. Sometimes I just want the important news not the fluff!

There are quite a few RSS readers on the App store for the iPad, like Reeder and Pulse. Not sure how many RSS news readers I need, but at the moment two are sufficient for me.

Get The Early Edition in the iTunes App Store.

NewsRack – iPhone App of the Week

NewsRack – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. With the release of the iPad in the UK, this series will also now cover Apps for the iPad. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.

This week’s App is NewsRack.

NewsRack is a full-featured RSS reader for iPhone and iPad with a unique interface. Skim over the latest headlines on a beautiful rack of newspapers or use the powerful classic interface to read and organize feeds.

£2.99

There is lots of stuff out there on the web, lots of news, blogs and other stuff. Stuff that I may find useful and stuff that I may want to pass onto others. I often get asked how I know about stuff, well I read a lot of stuff is basically the answer.

A key information skill is the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff in the sheer amount of information which is thrown at you on a daily basis. I often see my role within the use of ILT as a gatekeeper to ensure that important and relevant stuff gets to key people in the college without overloading them with either lots of stuff or what can happen loads of irrelevant and unuseful stuff.

Now I only have limited time, so I need to use tools to allow me to quickly and effortlessly sift through the information, picking out the gems and useful bits. I need to store some for later, others I will post out straight away.

A key way in which I do this is through the use of RSS feeds from the various blogs and news sites. These automatically update throughout the day so that I don’t need to go back to sites and check if there is anything new, the use of RSS feeds allows the news and articles to be pushed to me.

Even though I use RSS I don’t read everything, I just don’t have the time… when I do find a spare minute I will flick through the feeds to see what is interesting and new. I star things I think may be useful, interesting or to blog about later. I also will post URLs to Twitter or the VLE.

On the desktop I use Google Reader, but it’s also nice to be able to view the feeds on a mobile device. In the main as I am more likely to have time with my iPhone to read feeds than with the desktop. I have used a few apps in the past and some of these have relied on services that have come and gone. I use to use NewsGator and NetNewsWire

My current setup consists on Google Reader on the desktop and I now use NewsRack on the iPhone which was recommended to me by someone.

There is also an iPad version available too.

Now NewsRack is not a free App and there are ways of reading RSS feeds for free on the iPhone (through Safari bookmarks for example). What I like about NewsRack is that it syncs with Google Reader, so that any items I have read on the iPhone will be marked as read on the desktop and likewise articles I have starred on my iPhone will be available for reading again, linking, blogging, etc…

As a result of using a service like NewsRack I can quickly browse news and blog feeds and am able to pick out the relevant and useful news and articles I need to enhance and improve the way in which I work.

Yes the newspaper thing is a bit of a gimmick, but that wasn’t the reason I purchased the App. I like how it works and I like how it improves the way I work.