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Use tags to replace the RSS feed from Google Reader's "Share" button

Tue, 01 Nov 2011 17:14:14 +0000

Updated: Yes, you get a news feed from this tip... but it's only available if you authenticate as the user who created it. I'm digging around to see if there's a solution.

Subsequent update: I'm not sure if the issue is that I got caught between feature updates, because this was working last night, but there now appears to be no way around the authentication requirement. What's more, you can't just create any old tag in the Edit tags field; you have to choose from your list of existing folders. Lesson for Rob: wait a bit before posting your Handy Tip™.

Some big changes came yesterday to Google Reader, the venerable RSS newsreader that has become part of the texture of daily online life for a lot of us. The design has changed dramatically, in line with changes made to most other Google services. But there are big functional changes too, as Google aims to consolidate social activity in Google+.

That means the end of nearly all of Google Reader's sharing features. There's no more Share link; no more Followers; and no more public pages for starred or shared items. Instead, you click Send To under any post, and share it through one of a variety of web services (most notably Google+).

For many people, that will work just fine. But some of us have been heavy users of that Share link... and at least in my case, it's been a great way to populate an RSS* feed of posts I come across in Reader. That feed can then do everything from generating Twitter posts to updating a widget on my blog.

If that's one way you've been using Reader, then good news: you can still create an RSS feed of blog posts you flag from inside Reader. Better yet, you can draw on one of Reader's lesser-known features - tags - to createseveral RSS feeds.

Here's how it works:

  • Look at the bottom of any post in Reader. You'll see several links: star, +1, Email, Keep unread, Send to, and - most interestingly - Edit tags.
  • Come up with a short distinct keyword that you want to use for shared items. Maybe it's just the letter "s". From now on, you'll be tagging any item you want to add to that RSS feed with that keyword.
  • Click the Edit tags link. Enter your sharing keyword.
  • Once you click Save, the keyword becomes a hyperlink. Click it, and you'll be taken to a page listing all of the posts that you've tagged with that particular keyword.
  • Click on the Folder settings... button at the top of the page. Then click "View details and statistics" in the menu that appears.
  • Hurray! You'll see an URL for the RSS feed for this tag. Use it the same way as the RSS feed for Shared Items.

Note that this isn't a new feature - you've always been able to find an RSS feed for any particular tag. But the latest changes mean it's just become even more useful.

* Actually, it's the Atom format. But people seem to be more familiar with the term "RSS", so I'm using it generically here.


Media Files:

Not only working, but multitasking

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 07:25:32 +0000

A tasty Valentine's Day greeting from Social Signal

Mon, 14 Feb 2011 19:42:35 +0000


Adding an RSS feed to your iGoogle page

Thu, 27 Jan 2011 05:36:33 +0000

I've been teaching social media fundamentals in the UBC  and Emily Carr University continuing studies programs for nearly two years now. Early on in every course, I show students how to use iGoogle (and similar services) into a social media dashboard, displaying the latest results from online searches, must-read blogs and other sources.

The key to it all is the process of turning a feed into an iGoogle widget. (I know: Google calls them gadgets. Can't we all just get along?) And this year, it finally dawned on me that it might be handy to have a video reference my students can fall back on in case my in-class demo wasn't quite as memorable as I'd hoped.

And so, in case it's useful to you...

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(And if these can be helpful in your own trainings, feel free to use them.)

The 5 requirements for using RSS aggregation to build your online presence

Thu, 21 Oct 2010 17:02:20 +0000

Part 4 of a series. Originally appeared on The rule of 90-9-1 means that small organizations with focused audiences are unlikely to create highly participatory, self-reinforcing online communities. But they can still benefit from using social media tools to engage their audiences in online conversation. And one of the most exciting options is very useful to large organizations and businesses, too. If you are creating a social media presence that can work without a high volume of member participation, you can take one of two approaches: aggregate the content from your members (either individuals or organizations, or both), wherever they are currently posting it (blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.), and leave the door open to additional content contributions from members create your own content on a regular basis, and leave the door open to additional content contributions from members This post tackles the first of these two options, the aggregation strategy. An aggregation-based site uses RSS to pull content in from across the net, and then organizes it on your own site, typically by category or tag (keyword). It's one of my favourite ways for creating a useful, engaging web presence without relying on high levels of participation, which is probably why I've written so many blog posts tackling different ways that RSS aggregation can support effective online presences. This approach requires: A platform for aggregating existing conversations. I prefer Drupal for anything at all ambitious, since it has great, nuanced aggregation options and gives you plenty of room to grow; lots of major non-profit and corporate sites are built on Drupal, so you can grow very big or manage it quite effectively in a smaller form. The nice thing about Drupal's inbound aggregation is you can set up rules that automatically categorize the content you're aggregating based on however it was categorized (tagged) at the original source; this makes it a lot easier to organize content on your own site.You can also use WordPress with an additional plug-in called FeedWordPress; I love FeedWordPress for adding a little aggregated content to a blog (I use it on, but I wouldn't recommend it for building a site that is primarily aggregation-driven. Another new and interesting option is DEQQ, created by our friends and colleagues at Work at Play, which lets you create threaded conversations from your members' existing social network activity; it's not widely used in the not-for-profit sector but it's being adopted by a number of Canadian teams in the NHL, so it's definitely ready for prime time. Set-up time to identify feeds and keywords. You might set up your site to simply aggregate all the blog posts, photos and videos from your members; or you could set up a keyword search (on YouTube, on Flickr, on Twitter, on Google's blog search) to pull in content related to a specific or set of topics. Social media profiles for your members. An aggregation strategy is much easier to execute if you get your members to add their add their Twitter handles, blog URLS (ideally, blog RSS feeds) or other social media profiles to their profiles or even a simple form on your site. Then you can just set up your site to aggregate those feeds; you can even be explicit about this constituting permission to aggregate their content, which will make your lawyer happy (see below). A lawyer. Here's what your lawyer may say: don't do this, because you could be infringing on other people's copyright. It's true that there are plenty of aggregation sites out there, some of which are very respected (and typically careful about limiting their aggregated content to content that is Creative Commons licensed, or by aggregating only short teasers that link back to the original source site. But there are also creeps. I am not a lawyer, and I'm not going to offer a legal opinion on the nuances of keeping your aggregation withi[...]

Convert Twitter lists to RSS feeds with one click

Tue, 13 Jul 2010 05:56:27 +0000

Twitter's relatively new Lists feature can be a handy way of teasing a melody out of the cacophony of incoming tweets, as well as compiling a collection of worthwhile voices on a particular subject.

But it has some frustrating limitations. You can't create more than 20 lists. There's no function to combine lists, and managing list entries is only slightly less difficult than if you'd chiselled them into marble.

And - wha'a? Twitter doesn't offer RSS feeds for them.

Crazy, right? True, they offer a widget, but if you want to style incoming tweets, or parse them in some cool and innovative way, you're twit out of luck.

Or you would be... if not for the kind offices of Alex Kessinger, who created a simple web app called Twitter Lists 2 RSS. Copy the URL for any Twitter list, paste it into a field on the app, and with one click, you get an RSS feed.

He's @voidfiles on Twitter. Give him a quick thanks if you find it useful.

Google Reader: the first social newsreader?

Sun, 31 May 2009 06:37:14 +0000

Think of a social network, and you probably think of something like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or Bebo. (If you're especially old-school, or Brazilian, you might think of Orkut.) Either way, you're thinking of a capital-S, capital-N Social Network. You join it as a social network, probably with the initial intention of connecting with people. But some social networks can kind of sneak up on you. You think you're there to do something purely solitary, but then something happens... If you're using Google Reader, you may already know what I'm talking about. Our tool of choice for following blogs and a wide range of news feeds, Reader has been part of the Google family of web applications for nearly four years now. Features have cropped up here and there to make it a little more conversational over the years - most notably the "Share" feature that lets you select individual items for exposure to your audience - but none of them has been revolutionary. Now, however, things are changing. A series of new Google Reader features is turning a fundamentally personal, individual pursuit into something potentially much more social. Google Reader now lets you follow other people, subscribing to their shared items, in much the same way you might "friend" someone on Facebook. (Discovering them isn't nearly as easy as it should be; I'll show you how in a video at the end of this post.) You can control who can see the items you share as well as who can comment on them. And, borrowing a leaf from both Friendfeed and now Facebook, you can "like" an item... and, more crucially, who else likes it. That's some heavy-gauge social wiring: it makes discovering people who share your interests and tastes a lot easier. This will look pretty familiar to anyone who's poked around media-sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook. But on a newsreader, this is awfully interesting. And given what newsreaders do - track and aggregate newsfeeds, which are already the lifeblood of the social web - it's a kind of meta-social layer: being social about social content. "Interesting", though, doesn't mean they've reached the destination. Google Reader's social features still have an embryonic feel to them - possibly because they're waiting to see exactly what users do with them. I have three one pretty important item on my wishlist before I'm ready to start crowing that the revolution's here: More control over groups and what they can see. Right now, access to comments and shared itsems is like an on/off switch: you're either in or you're out. But I'd like to share different things with different groups of people, and have discrete (and often discreet) conversations with each. Let me invite a client's workgroup to a conversation about a blog post on one of their key issues over here, and my circle of Vancouver Mexican cooking fans to a discussion of fusion mole sauces over here. (Disclaimer: For illustration purposes only. I can't cook a mole sauce to save my life.) Tags, keywords, labels, folders - whatever Google wants to call them, I want them. Google's labelling feature in Gmail would be at least as handy in Reader, which already allows you to assign feeds to folders (which are effectively the same feature). Let me label blog posts as funny, smart, moving, inspiring; let me flag them for commenting, a follow-up on my own blog, or discussion with my team; let me mix and match and slice and dice to my heart's content. Feed me. While Google's busy creating those groups and labels, let's have each of them throw a news feed, like Reader does for shared items. Turns out Reader already has the last two features... although you need to do a little digging to really use them. See the comments below - and thanks, Boris! In the meantime, if you're looking to get started with those new social features, here's a little help: the trick to searching for profiles from within Google Reader. How to find Peopl[...]

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10 tools from 2005 that tapped the power of blogs - where are they now?

Tue, 10 Mar 2009 04:53:28 +0000

In 2005, fresh out of the Online Deliberation 2005 conference, Social Signal CEO Alexandra Samuel wrote about 10 tools that tap the power of blogs. As we were working on relaunching our website, we had a chance to take a second look at this post and thought it'd be fun to do a bit of a retrospective: what's happened to these 10 tools in the past 4 years, as blogging has become more popular and mainstream? RSS. It's absolutely everywhere - in your, in your Twitter, and it's even keeping you up-to-date on your friends' Facebook activity. Atom hasn't quite replaced RSS as Michael had predicted it would in our 2005 post, but it's certainly still making a valiant effort. Bloglines: Still around and kicking; it is optimized for display on the iPhone/iPod Touch at Technorati: Wordpress quietly stopped using Technorati searches for the incoming links widget on its module in version 2.3 in 2008. In spite of the snub, Technorati is continuing to roll out new features. Will they be a hit with bloggers? Only time will tell. Here at Social Signal, we still use Technorati from time to time, but would love it even more if certain aspects of the site were less grating to use. PubSub: Some business missteps meant that PubSub's promising technology is still waiting to see the light of day again. According to its Wikipedia page, the folks at PubSub are planning to re-launch it as something akin to Yahoo Pipes... eventually. Blogrolls: Doc Searls declared them dead in 2007, calling it "a stale relic of blogging's origins in the Static Web era." More recently, blogroll behaviour has been traced as a predecessor to reciprocal following and friending on services like Twitter, which are much more explicitly social and people/connection-focused than blogs may have been in the past. OPML: Still awesome and the format of choice for porting around one's feeds. 'Nuff said. Feedster: Feedster kicked the bucket back in November 2007 and hasn't been seen since. Aside from losing the punctuation, delicious (formerly has remained largely unchanged since it entered the Yahoo fold at the end of 2005. It works - and perhaps more remarkably, looks - pretty much exactly the same way it did in 2005, aside from some nice quirks, subtle features (like URL lookup) and integration with Firefox through the Delicious plugin. Blogger - Since its acquisition by Google, there hasn't been a lot of glitz - but there have been some developments behind the scenes, such as migrating their servers to Google and the application itself going out of beta. For the most part, Blogger appears to live a different life from other Google applications - which is a bit of a disappointment, seeing how Google has, in other areas, become quite central to blogging practice. Wordpress - Wordpress is still the tool of choice for many wanting to combine a great blogging interface with fine-grain control over the geekier aspects of an online presence. Since 2005, Wordpress has added an easy-to-use draggable interface for managing widgets that do any number of things on your site, and they've also introduced, a turn-key hosted solution that competes directly with Blogger's offering for out-of-the-box ease. Next week, I'll take a look at the new tools that we're using for blogging now to replace the ones that went under, and round up 10 tools that tap the power of blogs in 2009. Meanwhile, have any of these tools proven the test of time for you? Do you have any other must-haves that make your blogging niftier, easier or more enjoyable? Leave a comment with your fave! [...]

It's lonely at the top

Fri, 05 Dec 2008 19:00:51 +0000

Google Reader, our newsreader of choice here at Social Signal (hunter-destroyer droids constantly prowl the premises, looking for holdouts still using Bloglines... there's one now! KABOOM!)...

...anyway, Google Reader has launched a redesign. It's crisper, cleaner, simpler and faster.

But apparently, there's a downside: you'll have a lot fewer friends.

That is, if the screen capture on their blog post is any indication:


Sniff. But honestly: if they can't see the virtues of a cleaner and more usable design, were they really your friends to begin with?

Bogeyman 2.0

Tue, 11 Nov 2008 06:43:43 +0000

(mother, having just read a story to two children cowering in terror at the edge of their bed) And that's the story of what happened to the blog that only offered partial RSS feeds. What did you think, children?

How to add an authenticated RSS feed in Mail for OS X 10.5

Tue, 20 Nov 2007 19:41:51 +0000

We're a little Basecamp-crazy over here at Social Signal, and a lot RSS-crazy. So the fact that Basecamp spits out a handy RSS feed that updates you when your projects to much as twitch is, to us, a Good Thing.

But I've never been able to make reading the Basecamp feed a frictionless part of my daily workflow. That's why I was intrigued by one of the new features in the latest version of the Macintosh operation system, OS X 10.5 (known to its friends and marketers as Leopard).

The new version of Mail included with Leopard allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed right alongside your email messages. Which looks like a perfect solution...

...until you try adding the Basecamp feed.

Basecamp, being a secure site where you can plan projects without worrying that the world is peering over your shoulder, very sensibly password-protects its RSS feeds. Mail, unfortunately, is baffled by feeds that require authentication. (And what's worse, it doesn't tell you that's what's the matter.)

So what's the solution? Thanks to the fertile mind of one Kanuck54, a user on Apple's support forums, there's an easy way to get around Mail's minor failing:

The trick I found is getting the authentication information into your keychain.

You can open Keychain Access and add it yourself, but the easiest way is to set Safari as your default RSS reader, open the RSS feed with Safari, and when you enter the username and password tell it to add it to your keychain.

Then go ahead and add the feed to Mail (note the link in Safari to do this doesn't work), and give it permanent access to the keychain entry. Everything should now be good to go.

I tried this without setting Safari as my default RSS reader; the tip worked fine.

And by the way, Safari turns out to be a bit of a Rosetta Stone (that's this kind of Rosetta, not that kind of Rosetta) when it comes to figuring out how to make Mail jump through fiery hoops while juggling kittens and singing The Girl from Ipanema. Check out this tip on including HTML and CSS – including handy things like links to external images – in an email signature.

This week's vendetta: user-driven sites without user-driven feeds

Fri, 28 Sep 2007 18:03:05 +0000

(image) So you really, really, really want people to contribute to your new, grassroots, user-driven site? If you want to invite my content in, you'd better let me get it out.

That means offering per-user RSS feeds for all user-contributed content. (If you're new to RSS, check out our site for an intro.) If I'm adding content to your site, I need an easy way to suck the content back out for republishing on my site. (In fact, my site now consists pretty much exclusively of the content I'm posting on other sites, including this one, and then re-aggregating back onto my own site.)

A useful cautionary tale in this regard is LinkedIn. LinkedIn Answers rely on users to contribute questions AND answers to create a great (and very useful) repository of advice and referrals on just about every business topic imaginable. We often encourage folks to participate actively in LinkedIn as a way of raising their professional profile. But I'm rethinking the wisdom of that advice now that I see there's no outbound RSS feed for my own LinkedIn answers. If I'm going to make LinkedIn the go-to place for my contributions of professional intelligence, I expect to be able to republish the answers I'm writing on my own blog.

And LinkedIn should make it easy for me to do so, for three reasons:

  1. By making it easy for bloggers to republish their LinkedIn answers on their own blogs, LinkedIn encourages bloggers to contribute more actively, which will help them build up high quality content.
  2. By making it easy for people to subscribe to answers that come from their favorite experts, LinkedIn increases the returns to becoming a top LinkedIn expert, which again encourages high quality contributions.
  3. By making it easy for people to republish their answers -- possibly as teasers that link back to the full answer on LinkedIn -- LinkedIn could get a ton of topic-specific inbound links, which would bring in lots of visitors directly from blogs AND boost LinkedIn's Google juice on topical Google searches.

If you're creating a user-driven site of your own, keep LinkedIn's example in mind. Seize the opportunity LinkedIn is missing by making it easy for your users to get content out -- recognizing that's the best way to bring content in.

Does your organization have a Wikipedia entry? Start monitoring it now.

Tue, 13 Mar 2007 07:01:30 +0000

If your organization is listed in Wikipedia, the community-edited online encyclopedia, congratulations. Quite apart from the virtues of collaborative editing, Wikipedia entries often rank at or near the top of Google search results.

Now break open your RSS aggregator. You're going to want to add a new subscription immediately... because nearly anybody could be editing your entry.

Here's what you do: navigate to your Wikipedia page. (Here's a shot from the entry about Wikipedia itself.)


Click on the "history" tab, and you'll be taken to a page detailing every change that anyone has made to this entry, with the most recent at the top.

In other words, it's in the same order as a blog... and like a blog, this page has a news feed. If you're using a modern browser, you'll see an indicator in your address bar (and you can use your browser to subscribe to the feed). If not, just scroll down to the Toolbox on the left-hand side of the page.


The third item in that list offers you your choice of an RSS feed and an Atom feed. Copy the link from whichever one you prefer, and paste it into the aggregator of your choice.

(My setup: I use Firefox 2.0, and I've configured it so that when I click on the XML feed icon in the browser's address bar, it prompts me to subscribe to the feed using Bloglines. I already have a Bloglines folder dedicated to media and blog monitoring, and in it goes.)

OPML for your enjoyment

Thu, 08 Feb 2007 05:16:01 +0000

I'm teaching a webinar tomorrow for NTEN on how RSS is changing how we send and receive electronic communications. As part of the webinar I want to offer participants a set of RSS feeds to get them started, and what better form to offer it in than an OPML file?

An OPML file is basically a file of RSS feed addresses that tells an RSS reader which RSS feeds to track and display. My OPML file (download by clicking the filename below) includes feeds on Blogging/Web 2.0, e-consultation, e-democracy, e-politics, e-pr, friends, general news, Internet research, nonprofit technology, political blogs, RSS, social software, and tech news.

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