Tag: Mozilla Firefox

HOWTO: Add an RSS feed to Google Sites

Google Sites is wonderful. Not only can anyone and everyone sign up to make a wikified website, but it’s really easy to use and very configurable. BUT it’s got one very, very major drawback. No RSS feeds! This post shows you how you can generate an RSS feed from either an ‘announcements’ or ‘recent changes’ page quickly and easily. 😀

If you’re an educator, you might want to try Google Sites as part of Google Apps Education Edition. It’s free. I’ve configured it on my mrbelshaw.co.uk domain and it makes life very easy. Throughout the following I’m going to be using my Google Sites-powered learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk as an example.

RSS feed for ‘announcements’ page

If want to create an RSS feed for a blog-like announcements page, you’re looking for a page similar to the one below. You are given an option to create this kind of page when you click ‘Create New Page’.

Google Sites - Announcements page

You need to highlight and copy the URL of your announcements page:

Google Sites - copy announcements page URL

…and then head over to this Yahoo! Pipe and paste the URL you just copied from your announcements page into the box:

Yahoo! Pipes - paste Google Sites 'announcements' page URL

Once you’ve done this click the ‘Run Pipe’ button and  you should see something like the screenshot below (although obviously yours will reflect the contents of your ‘announcements’ page!):

Google Sites 'announcements' page in Yahoo! Pipes

Now all that’s left to do is to discover what your RSS feed URL is by clicking on the orange RSS icon:

RSS icon in Yahoo! Pipes

You should see something like the screenshot below, although it may look slightly different if you use a web browser other than Firefox – and will, of course, depend on your websites’ content:

RSS feed created from Google Sites announcement page using Yahoo! Pipes

You can now take the URL of the RSS feed that’s just been created:

Copy URL of RSS feed from Google Sites 'announcements' page generated by Yahoo! Pipes

…and add it to your Google Sites-powered website, along with the web-standard RSS feed icon!

RSS feed on Google Sites page

RSS feed for ‘Recent site activity’

If, however, you want to create an RSS feed from updates made to the site as a whole, you need first of all to locate the ‘Recent site activity’ link at the bottom of your website:

Google Sites - Recent Site Activity

Once you’ve located that page, simply go through the same steps as above, but use this Yahoo! Pipe instead. 😀

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5 productivity tips/hacks I’ve come across recently.

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:

1. FriendFeed

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…)

2. Firefox Extensions

I’ve already blogged about Stylish and Feedly, but it’s amazing how much Firefox extensions (addons) can improve your productivity. Take a couple recommended by Lifehacker recently:

  • 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’.

In a Lifehacker post about a book entitled How Priorities Make Things Happen, this is put into a more structured and easy-to-understand (and follow) form:

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.

5. Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills

It’s all very well these websites that show you how to start a fire using a Coke can and a piece of chocolate, but how many of us will actually ever need to do that? Really useful ‘modern survival skills’ can give you more control over your life; ergo more time and therefore productivity.

A post on Lifehacker entitled Top Ten Modern Life Survival Skills includes this gem:

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! 😀

(Image credit: branching out by shapeshift @ Flickr)

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2 Amazing Firefox plugins: Stylish & Feedly

Firefox LogoSerendipity’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

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! 😀

Google (Stylish)

GMail (Stylish)

YouTube (Stylish)

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:

Twitter (Stylish)

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! 🙂

Feedly

Feedly

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:

@derrallg

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:

Feedly button

Here’s how easy it is to share stuff you think those in your network should know about:

Feedly (sharing)

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

Further reading: Firefox 3 Power User’s Guide (Lifehacker)

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Wixi: a bizarre yet useful free file-sharing / web-desktop hybrid

I stumbled across Wixi today. It’s a combination of desktop operating system, file-sharing application and personal file repository. It reminds me of EyeOS with which I experimented a year or more ago. It’s currently supposed to be in invitation-only beta, but you can sign-up using this page and get unlimited storage!

Wixi desktop

Once you’ve created your account and logged-in, you can create folders and upload your media to the site. This can then be tagged and set as ‘private’ or ‘public’. If you set, say, some video as ‘public’, it can be streamed (but not downloaded) by visitors to your Wixi profile page. You, however, as the owner of the content, can both stream and download it no matter where you are. Wixi does not require any special software to run, other than a web browser (currently only Firefox and Internet Explorer).

Although I experienced a few minor and not-too-irritating bugs whilst uploading, I’ve found it a great (free!) service so far. I’m stumped, however, as to how they’re going to deal with potential copyright infringement law suits. A quick search for ‘DVD rip’ brought up a whole host of films uploaded by other users that I was able to add to my Wixi page and stream (full-screen!) almost immediately:

Wixi - films

Wixi is definitely one to keep your eye on, especially as you are able to embed widgets to share your content in blogs, wikis, etc. I’m certainly not recommending this one for educational uses. I think this one’s for personal use only… 😉

Give it a spin, and add me as a friend – I’m on there as dajbelshaw. 😀

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