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We’re the only people with a material interest in promoting RSS

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In a nutshell, RSS (‘Really Simple Syndication’) is an excellent, non-proprietary filter. Given the huge demands on time imposed by information and correspondence overload, I’ve been trying to persuade colleagues to use RSS for years.

RSS allows you to a) avoid having to subscribe to things by email, thus helping you to reduce the volume of email and its management and b) ends the need to keep visiting web sites to see if anything has changed – the changes come to you. For example I read all my journals this way now, and the ability to filter out, at a glance, what I don’t need has improved vastly. There is definitely more to RSS, but these are the most obvious gains.

Sadly, RSS is also – unless you know what it is, understand why you need it, and can recognise it – obscure. There are interests in keeping it that way.

Because it is such a good filter, RSS allows you to sidestep the advertising that seems to be part and parcel of today’s web. Precisely because it is such a good filter, it is interfering with some business models. Few think it’s a coincidence that RSS is being disappeared or obfuscated:

“… they can’t make as much money if we read their content our way… as they can if they can force us to read it their way- at their site, complete with scads of browser-clogging tracking scripts and ads galore.”

Here is Kroc Camen’s summary of the implications:

“If RSS isn’t saved now, if browser vendors don’t realise the potential of RSS to save users a whole bunch of time and make the web better for them, then the alternative is that I will have to have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, or some such corporate-controlled identity, where I have to “Like” or “Follow” every website’s partner account that I’m interested in, and then have to deal with the privacy violations and problems related with corporate-owned identity owning a list of every website I’m interested in (and wanting to monetise that list), and they, and every website I’m interested in, knowing every other website I’m interested in following, and then I have to log in and check this corporate owned identity every day in order to find out what’s new on other websites, whilst I’m advertised to, because they are only interested in making the biggest and the best walled garden that I can’t leave.”

As Kent Newsome notes, we – the Web’s readers, lookers and watchers – are the only people who have a material interest in promoting RSS.

First, use it. Second, write to your browser’s developers.

Hat-tip Stephen Downes.

And (update) for an example of RSS in educational practice, see the experimental free online course Connectivism and Connective knowledge at Athabasca University – from its overview:

“So, how do you share?

First, use the CCK11 tag in anything you create. Our course tag is: #CCK11

It is especially important to use this tag in del.icio.us and in Twitter. That is how we will recognize content related to this course. We will aggregate this content and display it in our newsletter. Yes – your content will be displayed in the Daily. That’s how other people will find it.

Second, if you are using a blog, Flickr, or a discussion group, share the RSS feed. We will offer a separate post on how to find your RSS feed if you don’t know how. But if you know how, please tell us your feed address.

You can use the form here: Add your RSS feeds by adding a feed here

Then, when you post something to your blog or forum, use the #CCK11 tag. That is how we will recognize that the post is related to this course, and not about your cat or mountain climbing in the Himalayas.

You can either place the tag in your post, of you can use it as the post category. Either way works for us.

If you’re doing something completely different, send us some email. stephen@downes.ca We’ll figure out how to add it to the mix.”


Written by Mira Vogel

January 13, 2011 at 11:41

Technophobia and other responses to technology

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You may have heard of Michael Wesch, professor of anthropology and digital ethnographer, known for his outstanding videos about the impact of information and communications technology on global society (particularly university learning). After listening to his keynote at the 2009 Association of Technologist Conference, I went to Wikipedia to find out more, and there I learned that in 2008 he had won something called The John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in the Field of Media Ecology from the Media Ecology Association. So, because Michael Wesch’s videos are important and he has been called ‘the explainer’, I went to see who had won the award before and since.

I came across the best-articulated piece of technophobia I’ve encountered in a long while (and I don’t use technophobia in a rhetorical pejorative sense but a straight descriptive one). It references Postman, Debord, Ellul and Mumford (you can see most of their pictures along the top of the Media Ecology Association site), and I understand technophobia a lot better now. Here it is.

Michael Wesch is more interested in rethinking things.

Two such different winning presentations for an award overseen by an organisation which included Marshall McLuhan. Is the medium the message?

Written by Mira Vogel

October 18, 2009 at 22:23

Help with media

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At Goldsmiths we have a well-appointed Digital Media Suite (see its staff’s site) and Media Equipment Centre (with a loan collection) staffed by friendly and knowledgeable technicians and technologists. In Goldsmiths’ Learning Enhancement Unit, learning technologists can discuss with you about different forms of media used to support different kinds of learning, with reference to examples and research findings, and we can work with you to design different learning experiences.

At a national level, JISC provides information from its advisory service based in Bristol. From them I received this today by email:

Hi all,

Tomorrow (Wed 7th Oct) at 13:30 we will be available online for our second online surgery. <http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/surgery/>

JISC Digital Media are providing fortnightly one-hour online help and support sessions to answer any queries you have regarding digital media. Queries regarding any aspect of still images, moving images (including video), audio and how they can be used for teaching and learning are welcome. Technical, workflow related or general queries will be answered and there are no limit to the number of queries that can be asked. No query is too simple to be explored.

Hope to see you online,


Zak Mensah, e-Learning Officer
JISC Digital Media – A JISC Advisory Service

Still images, moving images and sound advice

Free Helpdesk for UK Further and Higher Education:
Online advice documents: <http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/>
Hands-on training: <http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/training/>

Written by Mira Vogel

October 6, 2009 at 15:36