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:
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.
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