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November 19 2010


Making magazine awards more user-friendly

Given I’ve already linked to Tony Hirst twice this week I thought I’d make it a hat-trick. Last month Tony wrote two blog posts which I thought were particularly instructive for magazine publishers organising blog awards.

In the first post Tony complained after seeing Computer Weekly’s shortlist:

“Why, oh why, don’t publishers of blog award nomination lists see them as potentially useful collections on a particular subject that can be put to work for the benefit of that community?

“… There are umpteen categories – each category has it’s own web page – and umpteen nominations per award. To my mind, lists of nominations for an award are lists of items on a related topic. Where the items relate to blogs, presumably with an RSS feed associated with each, the lists should be published as an OPML file, so you can at-a-click subscribe to all the blogs on a list in a reader such as Google Reader, or via a dashboard such as netvibes. Where there are multiple awards, I’d provide an OPML file for each award, and a meta-bundle that collects nominations for all the awards together in a single OPML file, though with each category in its own nested outline element.”

I’d suggest something even more simple: an aggregator widget pulling together the RSS feeds for each category, or a new Twitter account, or a Google Reader bundle.

In a second post the following day Tony finds a further way to extract value from the list: use Google Custom Search to create a custom search engine limited to those sites you have shortlisted as award-worthy. His post explains exactly how to do that.

The point stands – lists can be more than just lists: they can form the basis for resources and tools – and they can be beneficial internally as well as for users.

March 22 2010


Sharing your Google Reader subscriptions with bundles

Google Reader’s ‘Bundles’ feature – which allows you to share a selected collection of your subscriptions in a range of ways – has been around for 10 months now, but as I’m asking my students this week to use it, I thought I’d blog a quick how-to and why-to.

Traditionally, to share your Google Reader subscriptions you’ve had to know how to export and import an OPML file. To share a specific selection of those subscriptions you had to know how to edit an OPML file (clue: use a text editor).

OPML also has the disadvantage of not making it easy to see at a glance what subscriptions it contains.

Bundles, on the other hand, make it pretty easy to do all of the above. It will also:

  • Create a specific page showing the latest headlines from the selected feeds
  • Allow others to easily add those feeds to their own Google Reader
  • Embed those feeds on a widget on another website (javascript support required, i.e. not Wordpress.com)
  • Allow you to email it
  • Create an, er, OPML file

For my own purposes, it’s especially useful because I normally ask students to submit a screenshot of their RSS reader subscriptions for their Online Journalism assignments as evidence of their newsgathering (along with their Delicious URL and a logbook of sources). This saves them that process – and a bit of printing.

Frustratingly, it’s not the easiest feature to find and use. So here’s how you do it:

Step 1: go to ‘Browse for stuff’

You’ll find it under ‘Your stuff’ (see image, left).

Step 2: click on ‘Create a bundle’

The main area should now change to ‘Discover and search for feeds’, with the ‘Browse’ tab selected. Look to the right of the suggested bundles to find the button that says ‘Create a bundle’ (normally on the right hand side).

Step 3: drag and drop the feeds or folders you want to share into the dotted box

Your feeds should be visible in the ‘Subscriptions’ box in the left hand column of the screen (under ‘Browse for stuff’, ‘People you follow’ and ‘Explore’. If it is hard to see your feeds under all of that, collapse those sections by clicking on the ‘-’ box next to them).

If you are dragging a folder of feeds, the title will be automatically filled in for you. Or you can choose your own, and add a description.

Click Save, and the main area will change again to give you some options to share your new bundle.

Step 4: Share your new bundle however you like

Having written this post I discovered another that would have saved me the time (and includes a nifty way to share folders by simply clicking on the drop-down menu to the right of a folder and selecting ‘Create a bundle‘ . Check it out to see more images while I bang my head on the desk…

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