Blog Pile

This Week RSS Winterfest – Same Old, Same Old Format or Not?

I am curious to “be” at the January 21-22 online conference, RSS Winterfest. Most conferences, in person or online, I generally approach with low expectations– mainly out of frustration over the years that the only format for professional communication that seems to be used is the 50 minute lecture to a passive audience.

I have been at educational conferences where presenters use this format to talk about the need to change the mode of interaction in education, that lecture format must go- the old saw about “Sage on the stage becoming guide on the side….” Their next step is to dim the lights, cue up the powerpoints (and the audience head bob starts). It has happened a million times.

Online conferences seem to push the old format the farthest away from its stale equilibrium position and ones where the tools are left open, they continue to have a life of their own long after the event passes.

But I digress from this week’s event, my words triggered by the email reminder for the RSS Winterfest would be in “45 minute sessions” (lecture?), followed by intermissions of open wiki-posting and weblog activity. Therefore, the most interesting allegory of those dull conferences, the hallway informal conversation, is shoved into the interstices of the online lectures. Better type fast.

By setting low expectations, I leave room to be pleasantly surprised. The list of RSS presenters is full of weblog/RSS technorati indeed, but at this glance terribly weighted towards talking about the technology, and less about the process of using these tools, the outcomes, the stories of what people do with them.

As well stated by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid in the Social Life of Information, “learning is a social process”- not a procedural one, not a technical one. The more we focus on the technology, the Atoms, XMLs, meta-data, the more we miss the mark. It is not to say the technology is not important, not exciting (as my profession is creating and using it), but often the acronym soup takes center stage when really it should be in the wings. Weblogs are much more a social technological phenomena than a technical one. Wikis are even a simpler technology.

But I am curious to see the interstitial social interactions at this online RSS Winterfest- and the first time I have been at an online event where wikis are used in real time. Show up and cause a ruckus.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at 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.


  1. Hi,

    I love rss2js and I’m incorporating it into my new site. I have one small problem, I’m trying to use headlines I’ve scraped with MyHeadlines. The RSS feed comes out quite long (here’s one – )

    When I put it into rss2js on my server, it doesn’t work, but when I plug that address into your site’s “preview a feed,” it works fine. What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks in advance. BTW, I’m looking at getting an XServe, how’s it doing for you?


  2. Well, thanks, although the comment is not related to this post, but we shall not penalize you for that.

    When you have RSS feeds that are dynamically generated, they have a “?” in the URL. If you just put the direct URL into the rss2js.php script, it chokes because the second “?” indicates the beginning of another stricng of names/variables to poass to the script.

    The “build.php” script provided in the RSS2JS distribution does the same thhing as the form on our site- it converts the string into a URL it can handle and adds the options for the script.

    You can either run this on our site and get the correct paramater string (everything after “rss2js.php?” and swap in the URL for your version of this, OR run the build.php script from your own server.

    I would like to re-write our site to provide some better user end support, as soon as this Arizona blizzard melts away.

  3. Thanks for the quick reply. I’ll get started figuring out how to make it happen on my server with build.php.

    One other quick question (just to TRY to overstay my welcome): on Windows machines (and IE for Mac), the feeds don’t show all special characters correctly, in particular apostrophes. They still show up with HTML coding. Here’s a link to what I mean:

    If you open it with Windows or IE for Mac, the apostrophes show up as HTML code. Is there some setting within rss2js to show these properly?

    Thanks again,


  4. That will take some work. A little bit of research shows that the ' entity (a curly quote) is valid in XML but is NOT in HTML 4.x specs- therefore not all browsers will chose to display it. I will have to add some code to convert that character in the output (I think).

  5. As a quick test, I was able to get rss2php to substitute a single quote for the ' characters from your feeds; try:

    I have no idea what that character is after “Sebato”- there is only so much we can do with the squirrley characters being generated elsewhere.

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