Last week I asked you to contribute your OPML files (lists of RSS subscriptions) for the general good of mankind. A fair few people did, allowing me to collate them into a wonderful list of over 1600 blogs! I’m still categorising them, and because I may take a while in doing so, have decided to make them available in the uncategorised formats found below:
I used to get overwhelmed by RSS feed-reading and declared bankruptcy almost every New Year. The trouble is, I’d just go and do the same again, building up my number of subscribed-to feeds to overwhelming levels: I just love being exposed to new ideas and perspectives!
Since I’ve been using Feedly, however, it provides a magazine-like front-end to Google Reader. This means I can merrily subscribe to as many feeds as I wish. It’s so much easier to manage. In fact…
I want more.
It’s a little-known fact that you can share lists of RSS feeds easily in a format called OPML. I want you to send me yours! I’ll collate them and share back the über-OPML file. I can’t wait to read what you’re reading!
Here’s how to do it (assuming that everyone’s using Google Reader…):
At my previous blog (teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk – back online soon!) I used to reflect monthly on blog visitors and subscribers via RSS or email. In a relentless drive to improve vistors’ experience when visiting the blog I’d analyze which browsers were being used, their screen resolution, and so on.
I haven’t really done that since moving over to blogging here at dougbelshaw.com/blog. Whilst I don’t intend to produce monthly blog posts on the matter, I thought it would be interesting and useful to reflect on the information I’ve got about blog visitors and subscribers! 🙂
The two tools I use to find out about blog visitors are both now owned and provided for free by Google: Analytics (for visitors) and Feedburner (for subscribers)
The following graph shows how many visits were made to this blog per week between 26 February 2009 (when I installed the Google Analytics WordPress plugin) and today:
Visits are slowly on the rise and are affected significantly by the school year! I’m slightly concerned that people spend, on average, less than two minutes here and tend to only visit one or two pages or posts.
Perhaps I need to make the blog easier to navigate and flag up related material?
So what are people looking for when they come here? The Top 10 most visited posts/pages is make interesting reading:
Unsurprisingly, stuff that was of direct practical utility – either in the form of a downloadable resource or a how-to guide – featured heavily in the Top 10. Geeky stuff also features significantly. I was, however, delighted to see that my Director of E-Learning interview presentation on How E-Learning can contribute to raising achievement was up there as well and that people, on average, spent over five minutes reading through it! 😀
Finally on the general visitor front, I’m pleased to see plenty of people coming from referring sites:
The majority of these referring sites were social media/networking sites such as Twitter and Disqus (the comments system that I use on this blog).
At one time this would have been dominated by Bloglines. Google, as with most things, now rules the roost!
The above chart shows a combination of those who subscribe to the RSS feed via a feed reader or by email. Almost exactly 10% of the 964 people who subscribe to this blog do so by email. The great advantage of this is that I can see who they are and (potentially) contact them without having to put up a public blog post. 🙂
Subscribers act differently to general visitors. The latter might only ever view this blog once, having searched for a very specific thing on a search engine and leave after gaining that new knowledge or insight. Subscribers, on the other hand, have (presumably) made a judgement that this blog consistently produces content that they find relevant and useful.
You’d expect the Top 10 posts/pages for subscribers to be different. And it is!
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of subscribers to this blog are those related to education in some way. And that would make sense given that the tagline is Educational Technology, Leadership & Productivity!
The best indicator of which posts have been most popular, however, comes from the sidebar widget at dougbelshaw.com/blog (RSS/email readers will need to click through to see it). This is powered by the previously-mentioned Disqus and measures how much interest a post has caused based on factors such as the number of comments it generated directly, how many tweets there on Twitter link to it, the number of trackbacks it received, and the number of pageviews.
Last year on my previous blog, teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk, I wrote a very short ‘microblog’ post entitled Please don’t vote for this blog! about the Edublog Awards. It, erm, caused some debate – some of which could be put in the category heated.
It’s time for the Edublogs Awards again, and I still haven’t changed my stance. I’m totally against them, for reasons I shall explain. I wasn’t going to say anything as people who I like and respect such as Tom Barrett and José Picardo are stoked to be nominated, but I really must give my $0.02…
1. They foster competition instead of collaboration and co-operation
Just as when you’re teaching a course that has an exam at the end of it you teach differently to those purely assessed by coursework, so the Edublog Awards can influence blogging. Although I’ve blogged before about making sure you don’t get ‘unfollowed on Twitter’ and offered tips on how to retain RSS subscribers, this is slightly different. The point of those posts was to make sure that people offering a different view of education continue to get their voices heard. The Edublog Awards are a popularity contest that pit blog author against blog author instead of striving to a common goal 🙁
2. They’re promoted by people who have vested interests
I’ve met and think I get on with Josie Fraser reasonably well (education and social media consultant). I’ve heard that James Farmer (Edublogs.org owner) is a great guy. However, both of them do this kind of thing for a living. I’m certainly not saying that they set up and continue to run the awards purely for financial and self-centred reasons. But it’s a consideration.
When I’ve made points like this before, people have said that bloggers deserve a thank-you, a well done and a slap on the back. Yes. They do. That’s what comments, tip jars (like Dave Warlick’s Starbucks one) and blogging about what you’ve learned via that person are for. Awards are divisive.
“I smell sour grapes,” say others. Not so. In fact, one of my blogs (the now non-existent edte.ch) was nominated in the category ‘best resource-sharing blog’, even though it did nothing of the sort! What’s worse, people actually voted for it. I was shocked.
Still others may say that it’s a good way to find out about new blogs or ones that have escaped their attention. So are Technorati, Google Blog Search, the ‘recommendation’ feature in Google Reader, and – shock horror! – people actually just blogging about other people and their blogs that they find useful or interesting. There’s no need for an award, or series of awards, just so that people can discover new or different content. The Internet is already good at connecting people and for searches…
3. It’s very easy to rig them
Just as ‘Teacher of the Year’ awards are won by good teachers but not necessarily the best in their field, so the Edublog Awards reflect the nature the process. What happens when a teacher is nominated as ‘Teacher of the Year’? Everyone even remotely related to their school or family is urged to vote for them.
I know as a matter of fact of teachers nominated in previous years who have encouraged every student they teach to go home and vote for their blog (as the school has a single IP address). I’ve seen blog posts pratically begging readers to vote for a blog.
In the end it comes down to who wants it the most. And I don’t want it at all. Comments and thank-you’s on this blog and Twitter are reward enough. It’s a shame that’s not the case for others in the edublogosphere. :-p
If the following leaves you confuzzled, the BBC have a useful guide to RSS which you should probably read!
If you’re anything like me, you read a wide range of things on t’Internet and, along the way, subscribe to a fair number of RSS feeds. On a couple of occasions I’ve just found the sheer number of blog posts ‘unread’ in my feedreader overwhelming. I ended up just unsubscribing from them all and starting again.
Now, though, I’ve found a system that enables me to keep on top of things. It’s a combination of a really useful web service and a Firefox plugin that works with Google Reader.
Most websites only offer one RSS feed. I have a separate RSS feed for each category, but Lifehacker, for example, goes one step further in having a ‘top posts’ feed. You can actually do this for every RSS feed you come across using AideRSS.
All you do is visit the website, give the website address and it comes up looking something like the screenshot below:
As you can see, there’s an RSS feed for the ‘Good Posts’, ‘Great Posts’, ‘Best Posts’ and ‘Top 20’ posts. The PostRank that you see on the left-hand side takes into account:
The number of times that blog post has been bookmarked on del.icio.us
How many comments the blog post received
The number of other blogs and websites referencing the post
How many times the blog post has been ‘dugg’ at Digg.com
The number of tweets from Twitter.com linking to the post
It’s out of 10 and is only relative to that particular site, being the top 20%, etc.
If you do this for blogs that update very frequently, it’s easier to deal with the firehose… :-p
I’ve been using a plugin called Feedly for the last few months. It’s basically a front-end for Google Reader in that you have to have a Google account for it to work. Feeds are presented in a very good looking magazine-like format:
There’s some great social features of Feedly as well – not least, The Wall:
Although perhaps the screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, The Wall features recommendations from other Feedly users’ that you’ve ‘subscribed’ to. It’s a fantastic feature.
Don’t forget Twitter and FriendFeed. The things your friends on social networks share are likely to be of interest to you as well! 😀
How do YOU keep on top of your unread blog posts from RSS feeds?
I’m always on the lookout for ways in which I can be more productive and increase my creative outputs. Time is precious when you’re a teacher, husband and father! Whilst I recommend you subscribe to blogs like Lifehacker and Lifehack.org directly, I’d like to share with you some of the tips and ‘lifehacks’ I’ve found useful recently:
If you’re not using FriendFeed yet, you should be! I’ve been using it for a couple of months and find it very useful. It’s like the river of news and updates you get on Facebook (or at least last time I checked). The difference is that it’s people in the edublogosphere so it’s things related directly to professional learning. The quality of links, recommendations, etc. I get through FriendFeed means that I actually check my feed reader less often now (and use Feedly instead of Google Reader when I do…)
Tree Style Tabs – allows you to hierarchically organize tabs in a vertical manner in your sidebar. Much more useful than it sounds!
Picnik – allows you to capture and edit screenshots online.
Zemanta – adds features when creating blog posts like related articles, suggested tags, links to Wikipedia articles, etc.
It’s worth trawling through the Mozilla Firefox addons site and/or doing a Google search for recommended extensions. There’s some great one out there! 🙂
3. How Priorities Make Things Happen
I know from experience that I work much better and in a more focused way if I’m working to a deadline. In fact, I purposely don’t start things until, for example, I’ve only got 24 hours left to complete it. Otherwise, I procrastinate and then, when finished, endlessly tinker to make things ‘just right’.
The easiest way to make a goal meaningful is to use ordered lists and a high priority one bar. These two simple tools force you to make tough decisions early. An ordered list simply means putting your goals in priority order, most important at the top, least important at the bottom. Divide that list in half: the top are things you must do, or die (Priority 1). The rest are things you hope to do, but can live without (Priority 2). Make your priority 1 list as small as possible: set a high bar. The smaller your list of must do’s, the easier they are to achieve. You will face waves of conflicting emotions as you decide what is truly important, but once you settle on priorities the hard decisions will be behind you.
4. Share Your Secrets To Be The Change
I’ve always shared pretty much everything I’ve ever produced – from my university essays/theses to resources I use in the classroom. Others have been flabbergasted by this approach, finding it strange that I should give away for free what I’ve put so much work into. I have the opposite approach – I get back so much more than I give. I’m sure others reading this have found the same.
It’s for the above reasons that I found Share Your Secrets To Be The Change, a post on Lifehack.org, to be so affirming. I especially liked the bits about sharing ‘making your life happier’ and making you into a ‘hero’. Knowing that I’ve got an audience certainly makes me more productive.
Ever notice how putting your hand on your clock radio tends to clarify and boost the signal? You can use that same body-as-extended-antenna trick to locate your car in a stuffed parking lot. Hold your remote opening fob against your skull, hit the alarm (or beep-beep locking button), and you’ll locate your vehicle from farther away.
Have YOU got any productivity tips/hacks you’ve come across recently you’ve found useful? Share them in the comments section! 😀
Serendipity’s a wonderful thing. It happens to me more often in this interconnected, Web 2.0 world. This morning, for example, whilst searching for something else entirely, I again stumbled across the Stylish plugin for Firefox. Given that I’m now running Firefox 3 full-time now, I thought I’d take it for another spin. Later, a tweet directed me towards Feedly. I’m in awe of both.
Stylish enables you to view a website with custom CSS. Saying it in technical language like that doesn’t make it sound too impressive, does it? But just look at some of the things I was able to do with about two clicks via userstyles.org! 😀
In addition to this, and perhaps more useful (rather than just being eye candy) are those that change small things in your user experience. Take, for example, the one for Twitter that simply changes the list of people in the right sidebar from a small list of photos to photo + name:
I love this sort of thing – users being put in control of their browsing/Internet usage experience. Go and check it out and see if your favourite sites/web apps have been customized yet! 🙂
The second Firefox extension I’m even more excited about. It’s called Feedly (see screenshot above) and I came across it via @derrallg on Twitter:
Feedly is a Firefox extension that, like the Stylish extension, needs to be experienced to be understood. It aggregates not only the RSS feeds in your Google Reader account, but those who are in your Twitter and FriendFeed networks. It calculates which are your ‘favourite’ RSS feeds (presumably from % read stats from Google Reader) and adds extra weight to them. Everything is presented in a very nice magazine-like format on the click of this button:
Here’s how easy it is to share stuff you think those in your network should know about:
I’m seriously considering ditching Google Reader for the majority of my feed reading now. Feedly allows you to annotate and save items for later – and to email the post directly to others or via your Twitter account. Marvellous! :-p
I’ve been contacted by four different postgraduate researchers in the last two weeks. It’s getting to the stage where I’m considering setting up a new website/discussion space! A couple of them just wanted permission to use some of my stuff in their theses, one is already a member of the Edublogosphere, but one asked a very pertinent question:
My stumbling across some of your postings last night was my first trip in the edublogosphere. What else is going on out there?
As you can imagine, I hardly knew where to start! As I like to reply to emails ASAP, I replied thus:
Find some blogs to read. My Google Reader shared items might be a good place to start. Also try the big names in the edublogosphere – search for Stephen Downes, Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Ewan McIntosh, and Dave Warlick. 🙂
Get yourself a Google account and use Google Reader to subscribe to the RSS feeds of blogs (don’t know how? click here)
Start using Twitter. At first you’ll think “What on earth…?”. After a while you’ll find it indispensible.
Start blogging yourself. Doesn’t matter what, but start making links with people. It’s the conversation that counts! Try edublogs to get you started. 😀
There’s a Hebrew proverb that I’m sure almost every educator will have heard before: “Do not confine your children to your learning, for they were born in a different time.” The same could be said of the Edublogosphere. I can hardly recommend that people start by using the same tools I did when things have moved on so much in the last 3-4 years! What would YOU recommend?
This Sunday, EdTechRoundup will be discussing just this issue – how to get started in the Edublogosphere – from 7.45pm onwards. Please do join us and give your input. The session will be recorded and go out as a podcast.
If you can’t make it, or just want to get the conversation going before then, please add your comment below! :-p
I don’t like it when people automatically post their daily del.icio.us/diigo links on their blog. It just clutters up my feed reader. What I do like, however, is when bloggers share what they’ve really enjoyed reading.
So here’s what I’ve enjoyed reading recently with a brief synopsis! 😀
Lifehack.org – How to Be an Expert (and Find One if You’re Not) – Some great advice; I like this bit especially: “In addition to knowledge, an expert needs to have significant experience working with that knowledge. S/he needs to be able to apply it in creative ways, to be able to solve problems that have no pre-existing solutions they can look up — and to identify problems that nobody else has noticed yet.”
indexed – No matter what the DNA test says – Jessica’s diagrams on index cards can be somewhat hit-and-miss, but I love this one reminding me what being a Dad’s all about!
Lifehack.org – Quantity Breeds Creativity – This post about creativity references problems with the school system, not least, “[W]hen our students leave school they are steeped in a system that says find the ‘right answer’ and you have solved the problem. Unfortunately the real world is not like that. For almost every problem there are multiple solutions. We have to unlearn the school approach and instead adopt an attitude of always looking for more and better answers.”
aphophenia – does work/life balance exist? – An honest post with some swearing, so be warned! I like this bit: “Underneath the sensationalism, there’s a core point here: those who are passionate about what they do do it to extremes.” In other words, you don’t get anywhere by half-doing something… 😉
ICT in my Classroom – Twitter – A Teaching Learning Tool – Tom Barrett’s excellent post on how Twitter can be used in a pedagogically-sound way. Ironically, he composed the post when completely off-grid (“No mains gas, no telephones, no mobile signal, no internet connection, no possible way to interact with my personal learning network”). I love it when bloggers incorporate useful graphics in their posts. Very helpful – thanks Tom!
Teaching Sagittarian – Inspired by 3 Steps – Reflections on this video that looks at 3 steps to a more creative classroom. Great links and great ideas. I just wish I had most of my students for more than one 50 minute lesson per week!
Middle School Ed Tech Blog – Web 2.0 Overview for Administrators – Links to blogs you might not have read yet. Also good for ‘that’ conversation you’ll inevitably have with a member of your Senior Leadership Team!
Steve Hargadon – Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education – ‘Web 2.0′ isn’t a great term, but some of what it represents are extremely powerful. The technologies really level the playing field and allow users to be very creative. Perhaps best summed up by this quotation, “I believe that the read/write Web, or what we are calling Web 2.0, will culturally, socially, intellectually, and politically have a greater impact than the advent of the printing press.”
Ruminate – Social Fluency and Improvisation – Mainly useful for the excellent diagram at the beginning of the post. It’s a Venn diagram showing ‘Social Fluency’ as being a combination of ‘Knowledge’, ‘Communication Skills’ and ‘Thinking Competency’. It’s certainly interesting stuff… 🙂
Connectivism – Pedagogy First? Whatever. – Although I usually agree with him, I don’t agree with George Siemens here. The most important sentence in this post which sums up his position is, “Pedagogy is not hte starting point of planning to teach with technology. Context is.” George quite rightly points out that ‘pedagogy’ can mean many and diverse things and that anyone can find research that backs up their own position. But that’s not to say that learning shouldn’t be put first. Of course context is important, but it’s a consideration on the way to creating learning activities. Otherwise, the learning is unlikely to be rigorous, or indeed, useful and long-term.
Just before Christmas I suffered from blogging burn-out. Having our first son in January last year knocked me for six and the consequences became apparent towards the end of the year. So I made a bit of a dramatic decision (at least for me).
I unsubscribed from every blog I subscribed to via Google Reader.
Now I’m suffering from information under-load (if there’s such a term). I feel a bit disconnected in terms of my main areas of interest: education, technology, productivity. So, reader, I need your help! Which blogs would you recommend in these areas? Are there any that you don’t miss a single post from? Check out my Trends provided courtesy of Google Reader below:
Once upon a time I’d read 1,000 items in a day, never mind a month. Of course, I want quality over quantity.