Scott at EdTechPost recently blogged about a desire for an RSS feed from the Low Threshold Applications site, a collection of how-tos for teachers, designed to be powerful tasks they can do with a minimum of fuss.

The LTA site is one of those ideal for RSS-ifying: there is a regular format of content, updated over time and can be farther reaching if there were some quick ways to scan the content.

Scott took a cut at doing the “myrss” approach, a site that takes any web URL and tries to turn it into RSS. This is a shotgun approach, beacuse it more or less grabs the links it can, lacks description fields, and often gets links that are not really the content you want in a feed. Ugh.

Anyhow, I just wrote the LTA folks a quick guide for them to create and edit an RSS feed using an online tool. They should have it on their site soon, but I did a test version them as a starting point.

No one should ever, ever, be writing RSS by hand! The XML format is very picky (for good reasons), but WebReference does have a spiffy online tool to make it easy to edit your own RSS files, and modify them once you have them online.

So here is a scenario.

My name is Big Al, and I am going to compete with that guy up in Canada to cover the wide open field of educational technology. And I am going to create an RSS feed from my site (it has just begun here).

Step 1: Go to the WebReference RSS Editor.

For a new Feed, I enter the appropriate stuff about me and my site under “Channel Summary” (about 1/3 the way down the form).

I also add one or two new RSS items under the “New Items” at the top. All you need is a title, a link to the site the RSS item refers to, and a blurb.

To create your first RSS file.. Click any of the “Build RSS” buttons.

Volia! You should see a pile of XML code. This is your RSS file. Save this file directly from your web browser as XXXXX.rss, Big Al’s is called “kewl.rss”.

Step 2: Now you should move this file to a permament spot on your web site, so it has a unique URL, say http://www.big_al.com/news/kewl.rss (Since Big Al is having trouble registering his domain, we are holding this play version at:

http://feed2js.org/kewl.rss

Step 3: Once your RSS file exists on the web, you can use the RSS Editor to pluck the current information. Just go back to the WebReference RSS Editor and this time, enter the URL for your RSS file into the RSS URl field at the top and click the “Fetch” button (You can use the URL above to play with)

Now the form is populated with the current RSS content, and you can modify any of the items, channel summary, and enter New Items as appropriate. After any changes, click any of the “Build RSS” buttons, save the file again, and move it to your server.

Step 4: Of course, Big Al needs a link to his feed, so somewhere on your site, make a “Symdicate” link using the XML orange icon

<img src="/images/xml.gif" width="36" height="14" alt="xml" border="0">

and link it to your RSS feed, e.g.

xml
Syndicate My Kewl Stuff

Later. Rinse. Repeat

PS: I did try and install the perl rssedit script from WebReference but ran into some snags with CSPAN modules. Need to tinker, but my perl is completely rusted.

Update 06.26.03 In less than a few hours of posting it, Charles has the RSS file feeding from the LTA site

http://tc.unl.edu/cansorge/lta/lta.rss

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Alan, this is awesome. I was kinda hoping you’d pick up on this. And I totally appreciate the way in which you offer a lesson in how to do this alongside the actual solution which is absolutely admirable.

    So, shall we tag team around the net causing RSS feeds to pop-up in our trail ;-)

    Cheers, Scott.

  2. I was able to view your feed in my browser quite fine (I have emailed you directly s screen shot).

    The display of RSS code in the browser is subject to the version and settings of your web browser and the method by which your web server is set to send RSS files.

    If it is appearing in your aggregator, you are likely okay, but the ultimate test for every feed you create is to validate it:

    http://feeds.archive.org/validator/

  3. Hi Al,

    I am a technicaly challenged river rat who built and operates a web site, which I built with FrontPage. It gets pretty good traffic.

    I also publish an e-mail newsletter in text format that has about 8,000 subscribers. I also paste it into our website, where it sits as an html file.

    Your RSS Feed post is just about down to my level. But a few days ago I did just about what you described and all worked fine until I tried to save my file as something like http://www.californiadelta.org/halsfeed1.xml

    FrontPage would have nothing to do with it. Would using the xml instead of rss cause the problem? (I don’t think so.) I have not been able to find a word on this subject via a Google search. Maybe FrontPage folks are not interested in RSS Feeds. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you, Hal

  4. Hal,

    I cannot help much with FrontPage- I have never used it. It is hard to make suggestions because I am not sure what you did, but there is no reason for FrontPage to be used at all in the process. I am guessing FrontPage is used to also move the files to your web server, but that is likely a bad idea.

    I cannot look at the feed for the URL you gave because it does not exist

    Your first version of the feed should be created at:

    http://www.webreference.com/cgi-bin/perl/rssedit.pl

    You should save this file from your web browser as what ever you want to call it (feed.rss or feed.xml is fine). You then should move this to your web server via an FTP tool (do not use FrontPage, get something like CuteFTP) and the easist place to save it is the root level of your web server. It would be something like

    http://my.webserver.com/feed.xml

    Test it using the Feed Validator:

    http://feedvalidator.org/

    For any update to it, return to the WebReference tool, and enter the URL for your feed (http://my.webserver.com/feed.xml) which will then load the current feed content into the form.

    Then repeat the steps.

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