Management in the Knowledge era: let the web “work for me” – Everything you wanted to know and learn about RSS – and did not know that you can…

First thing first
Few weeks ago, Dave Winer, who is perceived as a “father” of the RSS published a post on his blog in which he discusses the question of whether he invented the RSS…. The post reminded me that once, several years ago, in one of the lectures I delivered; I introduced the use of RSS. A lady from the audience turned to me. She was the director of one of the academic libraries in Israel, And she asked me with an outrage:
“How long this (RSS) exists…?”
“For many years …” I replied.
“So how come I do not know that …?” she snapped to me.
“I think you actually ask: “How do you know things in general, right …?” I challenge her. “I think one way to know how to know, is using RSS”, I answered.
Indeed, the ability to learn from the web exists for many years now, however, the motivation to learn, to find relevant information, to let the network work for you and exploit it effectively, is probably evolving more slowly. This post will share some insights, tips and tricks, on how I learn and being updated from the web, in Real Time.
So, what’s the story?

I am a user. An End-User. I am not a computer professional, nor a programmer who writes code. I am not an application developer or build websites. Not a technology Geek. Rather, I am one who looks for solutions that will help him to learn, catch up, to professionalize.
So, lately I went back to one of the most famous statements by the author Mark Twain, who said “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”. … Why? In recent months I read posts announcing the death of the RSS soon, mainly on the grounds that the Real Time applications like Twitter, or Facebook:  just follow the their NewsFeed and you’re ‘in business’. Well, Not only that, by what is posted online, as well s RSS reader which I use and on which I strongly recommend to my students and colleagues teach – the Google Reader – is also expected to give his soul back to the creator
I read and think to myself that at least in my opinion and based on my experience, we just scratch the tip of this tool and did not reached its abilities, and tips and insights that I share may help you.

What is it and what it is good for?

RSS is a piece of software code in a website which sends a message across the network whenever new content is published in this website. So, if we want to be updated whenever the news of the Business section on CNN, there are two possibilities to do this: first – to enter the site again and again and again, and wait for a new story to born … of course it’s an inefficient way. The other option is to “take” the RSS feed of the channel of the Business section in CNN, incorporate it into a tool used to read (Receive) RSS feeds like Google Reader, and then, whenever a new story section, this news will automatically appear on the screen 0f your RSS reader. Here is a great video clip which explains the nature of RSS in plain English:

Wait! Is like receiving Google Alerts, isn’t it?

Well, not exactly…. Google Alerts is a great way to get E-Mail-like messages directly to your E-Mail inbox, however, it is not possible to search “within” the text of the alert In short, why not enjoy a larger variety of capabilities, and with less effort?

So what now?

So what we can do now is adding the RSS feeds to our Google Reader, from websites, from writers, and – and this is so cool – receive updates on a topic or a subject or a term that interest us.

Okay … but why do you recommend Google Reader specifically?

There are several types of readers RSS Readers which can be used: Desktop-Based RSS reader software applications – these are cost-free software applications that can be downloaded from the web, installed on your computer, and let you create a list of RSS feeds. Such are FeedReader or SharpReader. But, using them is that in order to read RSS feeds means it can be done only from the computer desktop itself.
There are also Email-Based RSS readers such as Microsoft Outlook (from version 2007 onwards) in which RSS channels can be combined like an “Inbox” in a special section for that. This means that the RSS updates will be added to your flood of E-Mails on your desktop. Again, like other desktop RSS reader mentioned above, here too, it will be possible to review the RSS feeds only from your computer desktop.
And there are Browser-Based RSS Readers, which are included in updated versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla FireFox or Google Chrome and other browsers. This means that you can “save” RSS channels as “favorites” in your browser, but of course that in this case can be accessed only from your computer desktop, too.
Finally, there are Web-Based RSS Readers. These are Web applications that allow you to create an account to and to read RSS feed on the web. I highly recommend Google Reader since is my experience it is not only the most popular web service, but mainly the richest and most advanced in terms of features and capabilities it offers. What best works for me in it is that in order to review the RSS feeds I do not need to be “connected” to my computer-desktop – It can be done from any computer with web access wherever you are, or from a mobile device, too.
There is an available application for anyone who has a Google account. You can create your account, here.
Here is a video clip that summarize it all:

Wait! In my organization we are not allowed to access the Internet. What can I do?

Indeed, there are organizations that do not allow access to the organization’s computers from the web. In this case you cannot be updated with RSS feeds on your personal computer in the organization, but only from a computer with Internet access. However, and this is certainly a subject that is less-known or less well-developed in organizations – you can read RSS feed within the organization, and get updated information published on your Intranet portal! Many organizations operates enterprise portals, which based on common platforms like MOSS or SharePoint or other platforms, that contain built-in RSS capabilities, although this cannot always turned on or displayed. These portals can provide updated and useful information, where managers and employees can create reading lists based on their personal interest or their professional need (“pull” – based on their desire, and not just “push” – based on what the organization decides). RSS updates from within the organization can be read using Outlook or through the browser.
Here’s how:

Now, let’s get to work:

An RSS feed from a website:

Not every site includes RSS, but – the number of those is currently dwindling. Many sites are allowing a wide variety of RSS feeds on their sites. As demonstrated before, you can take RSS feed from websites that interests you, for example, the Whitehouse Blog or variety of channels at MOMA. Try and experience for yourself!

An RSS feed from an author’s (writer) website (blog):

All blog offer at least one RSS channel from the writer’s blog, so you can get updated every time a blogger publishes a new post. You can receive RSS feeds updates from Tom Friedman’s blog or you can follow a discussion held in a blog, in response to an interesting and challenging post.

And now – updates via RSS on a topic, subject or term (or co-operation between Google and Microsoft that works for the users!)

So we’ve included so many feeds, but something is still missing….Imagine that you are willing to know what was written and published on the subject that interests us, but – we do not know where the information is published!

First, we will explain how to do it: In fact, we need to find a search engine in which we will enter a word, a subject, a term or a phrase that interests us. But – we are not looking for just any search engine – this search engine must have an RSS capability, that can produce and RSS feed for the results! Why? Because the search engine bots index the web continuously, and whenever they find appropriate update of the phrase or the term that we are looking for, they ‘broadcast’ the RSS feed to our RSS Reader! Cool, isn’t it?!

I guess we all “run” Google search engine … but it is not an option…. Google search engine does not offer an RSS capabilities for its search results, BUT, their competitor’s search engine by Microsoft – BING – actually offer an RSS capability for its search results, even though it is not mentioned on its homepage. If we enter a phrase or a search term, and hit the key, you can copy the address of the search results page, and put it (paste) in your Google Reader – and now you will be updated whenever something new will be published on the web in regard of what you were looking for!.
Here’s an example: look for the phrase “knowledge management” Bing search engine. Take the address of the search results page (as if it was a ‘regular’ RSS feed); add to Google Reader, and – we are done! Every time the phrase ‘Knowledge Management’ will show up on the web, it will directly update the reader!

Well, RSS reader now my sea flooded! How can you filter the flux and focus it?

Here’s a little awkward, but very effective – here also I suggest a combination of Google and Bing search engines to work for us: 1. Create a focused ‘search sentence’ using Google Advanced Search screen, 2. Copy this sentence to Bing, and 3. Copy the address of the results page to your Google Reader…Confused ?Here is a brief explanation:

Say we want to be updated whenever the there are news in regard of Elections, which contains the word ‘Obama‘ and ‘Clinton‘, which contains the word Opposition or a Coalition, but without the phrase ‘Cabinet member’. Write down the corresponding entries in the four fields at the top of the advanced search screen, and press Enter. Now, copy the search sentence from the Google search field, and paste it to Bing search field, press Enter, and then, copy the address of the results page to Google Reader. That’s it!

Why using the combination of the advanced search screen on Google and not Bing? Just because right now, it has many more options than advanced search in Bing.

The power of knowledge – a combination and cooperation!

Any Social Media application or social-tool is fascinating and very interesting. But, the combination of applications together is always a significant force-multiplier. For example, you can have an RSS feed update whenever a new presentation on Learning is uploaded SlideShare presentation sharing website, or whenever a tweet that HashTaged #Obama is tweeted, or when a new bookmark on ‘Knowledge Management’ is added to Delicious, or When ‘Yigal Chamish’ published a new video on YouTube!

You can also search within your RSS reader, but even more than that:

Google Reader allows searching for content, on any of the RSS feeds included, even if the piece was published in the channel before you added the feed to your Google Reader! Try it!

But RSS allows not only to “take” but also to “give” (Share):

Google Reader offer measures that allow us to share your filtered content, with others. Beneath each RSS item you will find several links. If you wish, you can ‘share’, ‘share with a comment’, ‘send email’ with this feed to any recipient, you can share with others using online social media applications, such as FaceBook or Twitter, and more.

Sharing by clicking on Share, allows us to share your update channels, with others. Who are these ‘others’? Anyone who follows you on Google Reader. You can also keep track of colleagues who share their feeds – and that is a huge advantage, because you will be updated with filtered information based on your colleagues knowledge, you know you can rely on.

Wait, so how do you know to know…?

Almost every Internet application, each site of the software, all key company product or service – has an online presence over the web that includes a site (usually for marketing and advertising) and a blog, which provided updated information on the plans, intentions, updates, products are being developed, new features for existing products, and maintain dialog with users and customers.
So, if you want to keep informed about new features and implementation of YouTube, you can take the RSS channel of YouTube’s blog and add it to your RSS. The same goes for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever you want more…

And one more small issue I forgot… If you want to catch up what’s new in Google Reader, so you can catch up here…. It’s easy.

In short, Google Reader becomes the latest Personal Information System we can build for ourselves for free. The sky is not the limit, but much more.

Now more excuses … well, what are you waiting for? …
If you have a question, go ahead. I’m here.

Good Luck!

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