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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

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

Podcasting for learning – a series

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Written by Mira Vogel

August 10, 2009 at 14:26

Posted in podcasting, techniques

DIY video – Steve Hull at DIVERSE 09

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Kris Rogers, learning technologist at LSE (I think of LSE as a kind of nature reserve for learning technologists – they are supported, enabled to experiment, and they get a lot done) blogged his experience at the 9th annual DIVERSE conference in Aberystwyth last month.

Lots of links out and – naturally – on the conference site you can get video, audio and slides for any of the presentations captured, with questions, via the Echo360 system, including a screen-reader version.

Kris recommends:

“… today’s most entertaining presentation was by Steve Hull from JISC Digital Media who gave a talk on the basics of producing good quality films using basic equipment, such as a Flip camera.”

Hull’s talk was titled ‘Improving the quality of visual media in education, or anyone can make a movie‘. Aided by some amusing examples of not-so-great practice (these aren’t quite optimised for Echo), he deals with technical, practical and theoretical aspects of DIY video, including: making the speaker stand out against the background; a bit of mise en scène, techniques for steadying the camera without a tripod); interviewing techniques, eg eradicating the ‘barnyard sounds’ of the interviewer through the development of non-verbal acknowledgement e.g. smiling and nodding; simple editing on freely-available software or, at a pinch, in-camera .

(Tangentially, this is DIY but is it edupunk? I can’t imagine a self-respecting punk would have been caught dead in a discussion about developing the quality of their self-expression. Maybe I’m too literal…)

JISC Digital Media is an advisory service and well worth a look – it’s FREE, FREE, FREE (and there is consultancy, with a view to embedding skills, which you can submit a proposal to get).

Written by Mira Vogel

July 9, 2009 at 11:17

A meeting with a student about online experiences of death

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Just thought I’d note this because it was so interesting.

I agreed to be interviewed by a Design undergraduate about death in online social networks. We spent an hour together in Loafers – I was so glad I did it because it really opened my eyes to the hierarchy between online and offline lives. There is currently no online network of support for people who lose online friends or lovers. Often the news is broken online in ways which starkly differ from the ways in which it would be ethical to break it offline – indeed, with a brutality which demonstrates the contempt in which online relationships are held. The needs which are recognised and indeed uncontroversial in the bereaved of the offline world are almost totally overlooked in the online world. One day a profile is existing, curtailed, and the next – after relatives have sent a scanned death certificate to Facebook – it is brutally expunged. This student was addressing these things. I was lucky enough to see some of her storyboards.

What really hit me was the idea learning technologists tend to espouse – that technologies are transformative – didn’t make sense here. Learning technologists are fond of telling the old story of cinema. When the cine camera was first invented, what did people use it for? Why, they filmed theatrical productions – same three unities, same proscenium arch, a single fixed camera angle. It was only a long time later that cinematography emerged – the different scenes, the angles, the split screen, the shifts of focus. Learning technologists encourage academics to think transformatively about the intersection of technologies and their discipline.

But in the case of death online? What does technology mean here? And how does one even raise the subject? “Transform the practice of your grief for the online environment, people!” No.

Bring on the designers.

(Technical notes – we brought laptops for web access. Easily recorded the interview to Audacity using my laptop’s integrated mic. Ask CELT for the podcasting How To Guide, have a look at the Podcasting for Pedagogical Purposes How To Guides, or see the pages on recording on the Oxford / Cambridge / Open University growing STEEPLE wiki)

Written by Mira Vogel

April 6, 2009 at 17:29

‘Choices’ on learn.gold front page – strange behaviour and solution

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I realised that everybody who was logged in could see the respondents to any learn.gold front page poll.

The default role for non-admins when logged into learn.gold (i.e. before entering a course area) is Authenticated User – so I edited the permissions for this role to prevent viewing or removing responses.

You can see the settings by clicking on Users > Permissions > Authenticated User and scrolling down to Choice.

Written by Mira Vogel

January 6, 2009 at 15:58

Posted in learn.gold, techniques

CELT blog – theme changed

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I changed the theme to “Fleur de Lys”.

Written by Sonja Grussendorf

August 15, 2008 at 12:12

Posted in techniques

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