Open Thinkering

Menu

Tag: RSS

Another new side project: privacy.garden

privacy.garden screenshot

I’m not sure what it is with me and side projects at the moment, but I started another one today called privacy.garden. I’m a big fan of news aggregator websites, and thought it was about time there was one related to online privacy that I would visit regularly.

Unlike extinction.fyi, for which I manually update an XML file hosted via GitHub Pages, privacy.garden is an installation of WordPress hosted via a DigitalOcean droplet. I’m using the extraordinarily simple (and free!) WP RSS Aggregator plugin to import feeds from various privacy-related blogs.

The rather comically-bad combined emoji logo was created in about 30 seconds using this guide. I’ll replace it, hopefully with a custom-designed one from someone who knows what they’re doing. I may also tinker with the layout.

There is, of course, an RSS feed for the feeds that the aggregator pulls in which you can access at: https://privacy.garden/rss-feed

If you’ve got suggestions of blogs and other news sites to aggregate, please let me know!


This post is Day 98 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

How to subscribe to extinction.fyi

extinction.fyi logo

This is just a quick update to say that I’ve been working behind the scenes to make my side project, extinction.fyi, easy to subscribe to for updates.

There are now several ways to keep up-to-date with my ongoing documentation of the climate emergency:

  • Email digest
  • Telegram channel
  • Twitter account
  • Mastodon account
  • RSS feed

These options very much reflect the services I use, so no Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp options, for example. However, there’s nothing stopping someone using the RSS feed and creating their own bots for their favourite service! If you do this, please let me know so I can update the site.

Subscribe to extinction.fyi


This post is Day 97 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

Refactoring extinction.fyi

Last weekend, I launched a new side project called extinction.fyi to share news about the climate emergency. The site looked like the screenshot below, because I wanted it to provoke a response in people.

Old version of extinction.link complete with skulls and strapline "Documenting the end times"

Several things then happened. Some people on the Fediverse, quite rightly, asked for an RSS feed. As I was just hand-coding a simple HTML file using GitHub pages served from a repository, I tried using a service that tried to parse the HTML into a feed. It was sub-optimal, to say the least.

In addition, and as I mentioned in the original post announcing this side project, my wife was not a fan of the skulls and the strapline ‘Documenting the end times’. She mentioned this on several occasions, so I thought it was probably worth doing something about it for the sake of marital harmony.

To cut a long story short, I’ve refactored the site in several ways to create a site that now looks like the image below. The page itself is a styled RSS feed meaning it no longer relies on a third-party service.

New version of extinction.link with new logo (earth on fire) and strapline "Documenting the climate emergency"

This took a much longer time to achieve than I anticipated, mainly because I had no clue what I was doing, had to look up everything, and experiment/fail along the way.

For those interested, here was my thought processes and the tools I used:

  1. I remembered that Firefox used to style RSS pages nicely, so I searched for how to do something similar. This post gave tantalising clues, but this one was more useful.
  2. I’ve never created a page in XML before and styled it using XSL, so that was a huge learning curve. In addition, XML is really fussy when it comes to structuring data and using special characters. So that was fun.
  3. I decided which fields to use in my XML by following the W3C guidelines and seeing what authors of the two blog posts referenced above did. There was a lot of trial-and-error, where the W3C feed validation service was invaluable.
  4. I’d been just using the GitHub web interface because it’s easier when switching between devices. However, this became annoying when moving and editing many files and folders, so I started using Atom again, which integrates nicely with GitHub workflows (push/pull, etc.)
  5. The logo is actually courtesy of my daughter, who showed me that on WhatsApp (which I don’t use) you can merge emojis. So I asked my wife to send me the combined emoji for fire and earth, which is displayed as a WebP file, to reduce the filesize.
  6. In terms of the strapline, I wanted to keep it brief, so I had a bit of a think and a play around with words and came up with “Documenting the climate emergency”.

The only other thing to mention is that I used opengraph.xyz to add previews for various social networks. That works well for the about and faq pages, but I haven’t got it to play nicely with the XML on the index page.

Copy/pasting the existing news from HTML to XML RSS format was tedious, so I’m glad I only had 30 items to convert!

If you’d like to suggest any changes to the site, please check out the code repository and send issues or pull request. You can visit the site itself at extinction.fyi and also subscribe via RSS by simply adding that URL to your feed reader.


This post is Day 95 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

My new work blog and other RSS goodies.

Doug's Work Blog

Spurred by several things including our most recent JISC infoNet planning meeting and Will Richardson’s decision to quit long-form blogging at Weblogg-ed and move to Tumblr, I’ve set up a work blog at http://dajbelshaw.tumblr.com

The theme hopefully reflects how I want to use it – as a visual snapshot of my research. Rest assured that, unlike Will, I’ll still be blogging here as well. I love writing. My work blog is more for clipping and quickly commenting on stuff relating to Open Educational Resources, Mobile Learning and Digital Literacies (my 3 main research areas).

As a reminder, you can also find other posts by me at:

I’ve collated the RSS feeds for my research and original writing in two separate über-feeds (which you can also subscribe to via email if you click through):

Doug's Writing Feed Doug’s Writing Feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougsWritingFeed)

Doug's Research Feed Doug’s Research Feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougsResearchFeed)

I’ve updated the sidebar at dougbelshaw.com/blog to make these quick and easy to find. For those people wanting to do something similar, RSSmix seemed to be lot easier and hassle-free than fiddling with Yahoo! Pipes…

Feeding back.

RSS CombinedLast 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:

The files

The instructions

  1. Go to Google Reader
  2. Click on ‘Manage subscriptions’ at the bottom-left of the screen.
  3. Click on the ‘Import/Export’ tab.
  4. Click on the ‘Choose File’ button and navigate to where you saved one of the above files.
  5. Bask in your now-larger list of RSS feeds!

Image CC BY-NC Kyle Wegner

Feed me! Feed me NOW!

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!

Win/win.

Here’s how to do it (assuming that everyone’s using Google Reader…):

  1. Sign in to Google Reader
  2. Click on Manage Subscriptions at the bottom-left of your screen
  3. Click on Import/Export
  4. Click the link Export your subscriptions as an OPML file and save the file somewhere you’ll remember
  5. Go to http://dropitto.me/dajbelshaw (password = opml) and upload your OPML file

Questions/comments? Add them below!

Notifo: a notifications inbox

Twitter’s great. It’s of particular use for me at work for short messages instead of emails for answering quick questions or getting time-sensitive information.

But here’s the problem:

  1. I want to find out immediately if someone sends me a message on Twitter.
  2. Twitter has turned off the ability to receive @ replies by SMS (you can only get DMs that way)
  3. Sometimes I confuse DMs with SMS which can be, er, sub-optimal.

That’s why Notifo is great. I’ve signed up and receive free notifications on my iPhone when someone sends me an @ message or DM on Twitter. Clicking on the notification takes me to the Twitter iPhone app, so no confusion with SMS!

There is a way to get Notifo to push any type of RSS feed to you, but it’s not straightforward unless the site’s using something like the WP-Notifo WordPress plugin. Let’s hope they sort that straight away.

If you’re looking for a site to test Notifo with, try this one! Click on ‘Subscribe’ in the left menu bar and then enter your username in the box. Every time I publish a post you should be instantly notified of it via Notifo.

Let me know how you get on! 😀

Education Eye: an RSS reader for those who don’t feed-read…

I’m a big fan of Futurelab‘s work. I’ve used their resources, been part of their Teachers as Innovators project, and even helped Dan Sutch (legend that he is) run a Futurelab seminar at BETT.

When they launched Education Eye I didn’t really get it. Now I do. RSS feeds pulled in from blogs and news outlets (including, yes, this one) and presented in a very visual fashion. I love the way that the dots are colour-coded according to ‘inspiration’, ‘Policy’, ‘Practice’ and so-on, with certain posts starred as Futurelab staff favourites. Awesome.

I mentioned on Twitter to Dan that this would make an amazing screensaver (like the Digg ones). Turns out they’re already working on it! And not only that, but they’re working on an Event Eye, ‘an indexed, searchable, content aggregator that pulls together the best content from the web about a particular conference or event.’ Double awesome.

Logging in gives you extra features. Check it out and share it with someone today! 😀

PS Dan had a bit of a disaster with his Twitter account! Help him rebuild his network by following him: @dansutch

Recommended Design-related blogs

Introduction

A couple of people in the last month have asked if I’d share which blogs I read regularly. It’s a logical follow-up, I suppose, to my Things I Learned This Week posts. If I used an RSS reader this would be very easy: I’d just export my subscriptions as an OPML file. Readers could then download this and import it into their RSS reader.

But, er… I don’t any more. I made a conscious and deliberate switch to subscribing to blogs by email – either through author-provided functionality or RSS >> Email courtesy of Reblinks. Which makes things slightly more difficult (and this post necessary).

A non-design blog I subscribe to, Alan Levine’s excellent CogDogBlog, featured a post yesterday that discussed the importance of both online and offline filtering. That’s because, as Clay Shirky is always at pains to point out, it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure. Whilst serendipity and specific niche interest are both important things that shouldn’t be neglected, it’s also important to identify people who are awesome filters of information, links and connections.

The Blogs

The following blogs are design-related but also have a community element; they serve as a hub for a wider bunch of people. As such, you’ll find added value in trawling the comments section as much as the posts themselves. 😀

  1. FlowingData – I really enjoy Nathan Yau’s blog and find his simple and straightforward guides extremely useful as a beginner!
  2. Smashing Magazine – Design in the widest sense. They often have wonderful posts showcasing the best and brighest stuff on the intertubes in a given area. They also have (downloadable) monthly wallpaper contests – such as this one for April 2010.
  3. swissmiss – Tina Roth Eisenberg is a prolific blogger, to the extent that she only took a few days off from blogging after giving birth and named her baby after consulting her readers! I love the quirky stuff she posts and it always makes me smile. 🙂
  4. Information is Beautiful – David McCandless not only has a regular section in the Guardian but has written books. Awesome visualizations and infographics!
  5. Visual Complexity – The diversity of visualizations and design on this blog is truly stunning.

More?

Looking for more design blog goodness? Try this ‘Top 50 design blogs’ and, of course, AllTop’s Design section. :-p

Things I learned this week – #1

This is the first of a planned weekly series in which I reflect on what I’ve learned during the previous 7 days. As I explained in My digital reading workflow these links are culled from blogs and tweets I read.

Happy New Year! Feeling guilty because you haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution? Perhaps you could try the New Year’s Resolution Generator! (via swissmiss) It came up with ‘This year I will… declutter’ which seemed most prescient for me. 🙂  I’ve already made my Commitments for 2010 but for those who need things broken down step-by-step, they could do worse I suppose than try out mySomeday (via Mashable). Oh, and Zen Habits claims to have The Definitive Guide to Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions. 😀

Before I go any further I must point you in the direction of this eye-candy:

The Known Universe by the American Museum of Natural History zooms from the Himalayas to deep space (via FlowingData)

100 Extraordinary Examples of Paper Art (via BoingBoing)

While we’re on the subject of design, swissmiss had a useful blog post on Japanese design principles. There are seven basic principles:

  1. Fukinsei (imbalanced)
  2. Kanso (simple)
  3. Kokou (austere)
  4. Shizen (natural)
  5. Yugen (subtle profound)
  6. Datsuzoko (unworldly)
  7. Seijaku (calm)

I’d like to think that this blog has elements of 2, 5 and 7. 😉

Not that I write much any more, but I was interested to (re-)discover that some people claim to be able to tell whether a person’s handwriting is ‘male’ or ‘female’. To be fair, if they managed to decipher mine they would only be able to tell that it was ‘messy’… In other quirky news (for which BoingBoing is an excellent source), it turns out that “there are more people currently alive in Asia, Africa and Latin America than the total number of people who died—anywhere, and for any reason—during the entire 20th century.” Wow. More at Census of the dead, in infographic form.

It’s been 5 years, apparently, since Google first started blogging. They’ve no got so many blogs that it’s difficult to keep up with them all. If you, like me, are becoming overwhelmed by the unread items in your RSS reader, why not get everything delivered by email? If you’ve got a decent system (see my How I deal with email) it can be a very efficient way of keeping up-to-date. The trouble is, of course, that some blogs don’t have an subscribe-by-email option. That’s where FeedMyInbox is useful. Enter website URL and your email address and, hey presto! If you want a quick-and-easy way of getting all of the links from your Twitter followers, try ReadTwit. It creates an RSS feed of tweets that contain links from people you follow. You can put that through FeedMyInbox too. And if all that sounds like too much effort, why not try LazyFeed? (via @heyjudeonline) :-p

Talking of productivity, Hans de Zwart (who has recently been promoted to the cool-sounding Innovation Manager: Learning Technology) has a great post on The Influence of a Workspace on Performance. In it, Hans cites a book by Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness of which I wasn’t aware. His main thrust is highlighting the discrepancy between the exquisitely designed office space he works in, designed by David Leon, and the stupidity (his word) of being locked down to Windows 2000 and Internet Explorer 6. As Hans quotes David Leon as saying,

Innovation depends on bright people. These people cost more and are far more valuable than the buildings they occupy… but it is a proven fact that the environment in which they work has a major impact on their effectiveness.

For that reason we design workplaces and buildings round the needs of people and the business aims of their organisations.

He contends – and I agree – that should go for digital surroundings as well as physical surroundings. I recently reorganized my study, including building my own desk, to get things just right. 🙂

Motivation and productivity can be affected by surroundings, but a great deal of it comes from within. As Chris Guillebeau notes, there will always be people who say that you “can’t” do something. His reply (or rather, that of one of his readers) is:

Reading a lot of books is definitely a worthwhile thing to do, but one that takes dedication and motivation. How To Read a Book a Week in 2010 (via @chrisbrogan) is a useful reminder as to why setting yourself a definite target (e.g. one per week) is more useful than a hazy one (e.g. read more books).

And finally, some quotations I came across that I warmed to immediately. The first comes from a blog post on The Innovative Educator entitled My Top 20 Education Quotes from 2009:

Many of the most brilliant and creative people didn’t really discover what they could do and who they were until they’d left school and recovered from their education.

Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open. Thomas Dewar (via @timekord)

If you can find something everyone agrees on, it’s wrong – Mo Udall (via @russeltarr)

The only one thing I can change is myself, but sometimes that makes all of the difference. (via @Vincent_Ang)

Stuff to which I didn’t find a segue:

Can’t wait until next week? See the tweets I favourite in real-time at http://twitter.com/dajbelshaw/favorites

css.php