Burn your own RSS feeds

There are two people who probably don’t know it but to them I owe most of what I know about computer programming. One of them is Dave Winer. I learnt to program using BASIC in the early 80’s but I learnt to love programming when I discovered Frontier in the mid 90’s. Ah those were the days.

Anyhoo like me Dave feels there must be an easier way of leveraging RSS instead of using services like Twitter, so he has burnt his own RSS feed as a contingency for when Twitter is down. It makes sense of course because RSS is ubiquitous and shouldn’t need centralised services like Twitter to syndicate. Stephen correctly reminds us that finding RSS feeds still isn’t as easy as it could be (anyone know of a good way to find email addresses? Me neither yet we manage with those) but that could change very quickly if there was the demand, and of course new ways of using web data are demand driven. A special kind of search like Google’s blog search or FriendFeed or countless others could find and syndicate RSS feeds relatively easily.

I’ve recently found Feeder, an elegant way of burning your own RSS feeds for almost any occasion. It even supports iTunes podcasting extensions. It’s easy to make a feed and publish it to a variety of hosts including via FTP. The beauty of making feeds in this way is that they have a permanence that conventional feeds e.g from a blog don’t. This can be a good thing.

For example, here’s an RSS feed containing the sources I used for my recent randomly generated CD covers. A trivial example but you can do a lot with RSS as a lightweight content syndication format.

Fancy a cuppa?

If your hot beverage of choice is tea rather than coffee then head on over to the Rare Tea Company. Henrietta Lovell, the proprietor sells the most amazing teas and she’s a jolly nice person to boot, happy to chat about her selection of teas to help you make a choice. I can recommend them all but particularly special are the Jasmine Silver Tip and Oolong tea. For the single tea drinker I can also recommend buying the White porcelain tea pot and tea cup.

While you’re at it head on over to the testimonials on the web site. Yours truly somehow managed to enthuse about Henrietta’s tea right next to Angelica Huston. So you’ll be in good company for your next cuppa!

CD cover meme

For my birthday today (yeah, 43, who’da thunk it) my brother emailed me the CD cover meme. Being a bit of a music fan I like this meme very much. The idea is that by following 3 simple rules you generate your own CD album cover via the synchronicity of random selection, or something like that. The rules are:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Now combine these elements in your favourite image editing package and you have your CD cover. There’s even a Flickr group for other people’s CD covers. Some are very good indeed.

Mine had a kind of resonance on this my birthday.

My birthday CD cover using the CD cover meme

RSS microblogging vs Twitter et al

You know the thing that puzzles me about services like Twitter and Jaiku et al, sometimes referred to as microblogging applications, is that you have to use a central server or service to create and distribute your Tweets or microbloglets or whatever-you-call-thems only to have them converted to RSS and syndicated. Why not just use RSS in the first place? You could create a lightweight RSS client that outputs your status, one-liner pearls of wisdom, or anything else you wish to tell your ‘friends’ about. Bake it into weblog or email or news-feed clients and you’re away. The beauty of using RSS is that everyone’s stream is distributed rather than collected at a central point, or bottle-neck as it sometimes becomes.

The benefit of a single service access point I guess is that it makes it easier to find new sources or feeds, but there are so many ways of finding RSS feeds that a distributed rather than centralised approach would be no problem. So what value do services like Twitter add? I guess that until we get better RSS clients – that is RSS creators rather than RSS aggregators – then the likes of Twitter offer client applications. But if we started to get other kinds of clients based upon RSS then just imagine the possibilities. You could syndicate your status and other Twitter-like info, but also mobile data, email, calendars, and in an educational context learning activities, reading lists, portfolios, lots of stuff. Of course you can syndicate a lot of this now but only via dedicated clients apps like purpose-built calendering service, VLEs, etc. An RSS client agnostic to content based around the triumvirate of title, description and link (plus attachment of it makes sense to add a file) would be a very flexible tool indeed.

I had a similar thought 5 years ago and created a simple tool back then for Radio UserLand. The tool is still available though I doubt it works now, and I don’t have a copy of Radio to try it.