RSS is Spreading

RSS feeds are popping up all over the place. At our university, there is a feed for hot news, one for top news stories, and even the athletics department has a news feed. All the feeds are linked from the “RSS at Ohio University” page. I’m very proud to say that our Library News feed is on the page, as well as the feed for our library podcasts. This of course adds some extra pressure for me to create some more library podcast content, but fortunately I’ve got a few ideas brewing right now. The university webmaster was also nice to include a link to my RSS class at the bottom of the page, so maybe that will help to draw a bigger crowd.

A Sneak Peek of FeedDemon 2.0

Nick Bradbury, the developer of FeedDemon, has given us a few peaks of version 2.0. I’ve been a user off and on of both Bloglines, FeedDemon, and Sharpreader. My weapon of choice for the past few months has been FeedDemon. I still have a Bloglines account, and I use it periodically, but right now, FeedDemon is the aggregator for me. FeedDemon is a desktop RSS reader with a two-or-three pane interface.   It looks very similar to Outlook, Thunderbird, and about every other desktop email client.   FeedDemon is full customizable, and I can change the way I view my RSS feeds by employing a different cascading style sheet. I can save blog posts that I like to News Bins, and every post that I have in my aggregator is searchable. The reall beauty of FeedDemon is its speed, which is why I went back to FeedDemon from Bloglines in the first place. I had been a loyal user of Bloglines, but it was getting too slow for me at times. I’m using RSS to get information quickly, and if my reader can’t keep up, then it’s not doing its job. FeedDemon does keep up, as it is a very fast application. Because all feeds are downloaded to my computer, I don’t have to wait for a web page to change to look at another group of feeds. Switching back and forth between my various feed folders is very quick and easy.   FeedDemon runs $29.95, so it’s not free like Bloglines.   However, there is a trial version available if you’d like to check it out.   Unfortunately, for my Apple friends, there is not a version available for Macintosh.

RSS Without Knowing

Yahoo! and Ipsos Insight have a new report about RSS usage. The report finds that most RSS users don’t even know they’re using RSS:

The number of tech-savvy Internet users who knowingly sign up for RSS syndicated content is only four percent, while another 12 percent are somewhat aware of the term RSS. Twenty-seven percent of adult Internet users access RSS feeds through personalized start pages, though they don’t know that’s what they’re doing on personalized portal pages.

And how do you get others to use RSS?

Evangelism is apparently the most effective tool out there to educate new RSS users. Sixty-nine percent of respondents say their experience with RSS stems from “positive mentions.” Twenty-four percent find RSS easy and convenient, and 18 percent like it because users can choose what they want to read.

In other words, if you use RSS and like it, bring along a buddy to join the party.

The full report can be found here in PDF format.

FeedDemon Aquired by Newsgator

Nick Bradbury, the creator of FeedDemon and Topstyle, will now be working for Newsgator. He explains the move in this post on his blog.

Nick explains that the idea behind this move was born out of his support forums. Basically, his customers wanted the ability to use the desktop aggregator, FeedDemon, on multiple machines. Nick’s license permits (and encourages) this, and many users have the aggregator installed on an office machine, a home machine, and perhaps a laptop. Nick writes:

As regular visitors to my support forums know, the biggest request – by far – that FeedDemon customers have had is the ability to synchronize their subscriptions between multiple computers. They use FeedDemon on one PC at home, on another at the office, on a laptop while traveling, etc., and they want their feeds to be synched between them.

If someone reads an item on one computer, it shouldn’t show up as unread on another computer. And when they subscribe to a feed, it should automatically appear on any computer they use. Basically, provide the convenience of a web-based aggregator with the power and speed of a Windows desktop application.

I toyed with various hack-ish ways to do this, and even considered creating my own web-based sync service, but in the end came to the conclusion that to really do this right, I needed to join forces with someone who already had the server-side piece in place.

This has been one of my biggest complaints with using the desktop aggregator, but I just dealt with it, simply because I like the speed and customization that FeedDemon provides. From the sound of Nick’s enthusiasm, it appears that this will be a great deal for him and his customers. With the acqusition, current FeedDemon users (like me) are going to come out pretty good:

NewsGator uses a subscription model, and FeedDemon will become part of their subscription plans. All existing FeedDemon customers will get a two-year business standard subscription for free – and this includes upgrades to FeedDemon. In other words, if you’ve already bought FeedDemon, you’ll get brand new versions of FeedDemon and a subscription to NewsGator Online free for the next two years.

Nick is currently working on a 1.5.1 beta, and I’ll try it out as soon as it is available. As you can imagine, there are plenty of folks upset with the move, and many have voiced their concern in the comments on his blog. I am not going to weigh in just yet, as I would like to wait and see how things develp. In the meantime, good luck to Nick on “entering this new chapter” in his life and the life of FeedDemon.

American Aggregator Idol

You know that RSS is catching on when American Idol has an RSS feed. I wonder what is the aggregator of choice for Simon, Randy, Paula, and Seacrest? Are they part of the 16 people that are subscribed with Bloglines? Perhaps now that the competion is into the final 12 contestants, hits on the Idol feed will increase just like Fox’s ratings. Unfotunately, with the technology’s limitations, you can’t “RSS” your vote for your favorite contestant. Maybe next year.

Spreading the word about RSS

I taught an RSS workshop about a month ago, and only recently did I think to blog about my experiences. I have been a little overwhelmed the last few weeks, so my blogging has suffered immensely. I have even been so busy that I had to ignore (gasp!!) my aggregator.

This was the second workshop that I have taught on RSS. I taught the first one last April, and while it was open to the entire university community, only about 10 library staff attended. Of those ten staff members, two were from our library systems department. I have to admit that it was pretty cool to teach a couple of our tech guys a thing or two about the latest trend. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the participants of the April class are currently using RSS on a regular basis. I have asked around, and apparently I failed at converting the masses on that occasion.

In my second class, I used the same format as before. I have a blog which gives the outline of the class. I have the class go to the blog, and we go through the various topics. Because the class is taught in one of our teaching labs, the class has the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with aggregators. Together, we walk through how to set up and subscribe to feeds with Sharpreader, FeedDemon, and Bloglines.

On the blog outline I list a variety of sites that have RSS feeds. These range from library-specific blogs like The Shifted Librarian or Library Stuff, news feeds such as CNN and ABC. We also play a game called Find That RSS Feed in which we look at the front page of and try to locate the link to RSS. I have the class subscribe to each of these feeds with the three different aggregators and then look at the feeds. I show them the difference between the full-text feeds of a personal blog (such as The Shifted Librarian) and the headline or teaser feeds of a commercial site (such as Business Week). All of the discussion, hands-on exercises, and questions are more than enough content to fill a two-hour time slot.

I had six people attend this last class, and only two of them were library staff members. I know for a fact that one of those two has been playing with Bloglines a little, so perhaps there is hope for my ability to promote RSS. After the class was over, I had two class members stay late to ask me questions about blogging. We wound up talking for a good half-hour. They had a lot of questions and were really interested in setting up blogs for departmental communication. I told them that this was something we had done, and we discussed the benefits of using blogs for internal communication. I need to check up on those guys, to see if they were also bit by the blogging bug. Perhaps they got hooked on RSS and blogging at the same time. Perhaps they set up a departmental blog, and now everyone in their department is subscribed to the RSS feed. If so, perhaps I need to invite them to teach my next RSS class.

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