Blog Pile

Amazon RSS Feed-Builder

Although Boris recently blogged on a convoluted way to get RSS feeds from, there is a slicker interface from onfocus , the Amazon RSS Feed Builder. This site is by “pb” or Paul Bausch, “co-developer” of Blogger and author of Amazon Hacks, so definitely no slouch at the programming command line. It is the […]

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Games for Learning, What a Concept

Both Stephen and George recently pointed to this bit from Wired News: Educators Turn to Games for Help.

What an idea! … wait a minute, we took a look at Shall We Teach with a Game? back in 1994 at that time, with having our faculty review a selection of CD-ROM games for potential in new learning environments.

It is good to see that MIT has caught up with our work ;-) But no, we are not crowing for “we did it first credit”, but more to look at the power of small innovations that use existing content rather than big ticket projects that create glitzy, commercial game level apps.

We have had some internal discussions in our our organization about a (real? perceived?) notion that our system’s reputation for innovation has lost its luster.

So a question is, when people think of innovation, it it only the big money projects from MIT, Microsoft, etc?


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Onward to Vancouver for a Gulp of MERLOT

Just a few days until I leave (Monday), heading northwest to beautiful Vancouver for the MERLOT 2003 conference. In addition to putting on a poster (and a completely unposter-like poster at that!) on the Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX), I am teaming up with compadres Brian Lamb and D’Arcy Norman for a session covering our work […]

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Build Form added to RSS to Javascript

I just added a small feature to our RSS to JS demo, the site that demonstrates a bone-simple (even humans can do this with their bare hands) way to take a known RSS feed and have it displayed inside any web page.

This new feature is a simple web form that allows you to enter the URL for any RSS feed, select the various options our demo script provides, and voila! magic- it can do a preview version of the output and… (but wait, if you order before midnight tonight, you get a bonus feature!) it will spit out the snippet of JavaScript you need to paste into your web page.

Blog Pile

Boris Finds Emerson RSS from Amazon

Just days before packing his bags to leave for the MERLOT 2003 Conference, our humanities learning object Blogger “Boris” gets rather clever. He has found out how to get RSS feeds from on his favorite American literature movement, see object human: Feeds for Transcendentalism

What Boris has found is rather interesting, and completely due to the work of Raymond Yee and his WebNet Talk on RSS.

In a nutshell, Amazon publishes a custom XML for their searches and main categories, and their a transformation of XLST applied to that result, we can get plain, old, simple RSS, that plugs and plays in Boris’s weblog and his desktop aggregator.

We would not be surprised if he is sticking inside his Blackboard page as we write.

Blog Pile

Creating RSS (bottle opener optional)

Stephen Downes outlines How to Create an RSS Feed With Notepad, a Web Server, and a Beer, essentially a 9 step process for (ugh) writing RSS Feeds by hand.

An RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed is an XML file used to describe the contents of your website. As your website content changes, your RSS feed changes. Other computer systems, known as ‘aggregators’ or ‘harvesters’, read your RSS feed every once in a while. If you have provided new information, the aggregator takes that information and sends it to readers around the world. Thus information about your site’s contents is ‘syndicated’, that is, rebroadcast to a much larger audience.

An excellent one paragraph summary of what RSS is, indeed, but I would hardly recommend wiriting XML in a text editor unless it is for the command line groupie club. XML code is really best for machines to digest, not humans (or canines).

Stephen’s point might be that RSS is simple enough, and maybe one beer’s worth of effort is not much to ask for.


Bag Dropping Bookmarklet

Regarding our post about a new RSS feed for the web’s eye view bag of urls site, Scott Leslie commented about our submission form being an ideal candidate for a web browser bookmarklet tool.

Scott has recently championed these underused tools for one’s browser toolbar, rightfully so, because they are very handy, bordering on indispensible.

I had toyed with this a year ago, especially since I end up posting about 80% of the new items to our
bag of urls but never finished.

But now I have, and it was very easy indeed to build a bookmarklet tool that shortens the steps for dropping a url into the bag


How Many Grains of Sand on a Beach? (Counting Blogs)

Deep philosophical questions or trivial trivia? “How many stars are there in the sky?” “How many grains of sand on the beach?”

The question of How many blogs and bloggers? How big the blogosphere? from blogcount yields an estimated 2.4 to 2.9 weblogs as of Monday, June 23, based on reports of the big centrally hosted systems, some off the cuff estimates of others, and yet another extrapolation fudge factor.

Oops! Typo patrol…. that should be 2.4 to 2.9 million weblogs. Thanks D’Arcy ;-)

For even more numbers, see also the NITLE Blog Census which has spidered and indexed 655,557 weblogs as of today.

Despite all the recent interest in blogging, few hard numbers are available about the extent of the phenomenon, particularly in languages other than English. The NITLE Blog Census is an attempt to create and share a regularly updated database of all known weblogs.

The census has been active since early May, 2003.

Our crawlers search the Web for weblogs, and attempt to categorize them by language and authoring tool.