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Little Bits of Syndication

Maybe some readers are all over RSS and massive amounts of syndication of content, but I am jazzed whenever I discover some small, useful, time saving way to make use of the Small Technologies Loosely Joined. Using free web content services like flickr,, Technorati that can travel the RSS road to dynamically update content elsewhere, moving from static hand spun web pages to live ones, is powerful stuff.

So here is a roadmap of a change I set up in about 30 minutes time to rescue some stale links. This approach is something teachers can easily do to populate their own web sites with new web resources for their students, and can be done so efficiently, and without much effort. It fits in to an instructors own discovery process of resources, and boils down to:

(1) Find interesting sites
(2) Bookmark (using browser tool link) to
(3) Tag it with a special identifier
(4) Create a cut and paste Feed to Javascript code
(5) Past to Web page(s)

By repeating 1+2, the pages in (5) are auto updated. It is no great Einsteinian leap, but cannot imagine where there is not a goldrush stampede of faculty using this approach.

So back to my situation. Our web site for the Ocotillo Online Learning Group has pretty much a stock template for all of the internally linked pages in that site. When I set it up, I did so in a manner so that a box of content on the left side navigation bar representing a collection of new web resources, was generated from a single external text file. Without getting too techie, the PHP technology we use for all of our web pages allows me to create a place in all documents that says, “Take all the contents of this external file, and stick it right here”.

The benefit of a PHP include is if I update the little text file, all changes that reference it are updated.

So my original plan was every now and then I would manually update this file, and there would be a “see more” link to a larger set of web site links. The pitfall to this approach is I either get lazy, or run out of time to keep doing all this manual editing. Thus, the links that were listed as “new” were pretty much 2 years old.


So I had a brief flash of light. Or maybe it was just an extra jolt of coffee.

I already do a lot of site bookmarking on my collection of my bookmarks. I could just start tagging stuff I wanted on my OLG site with a tag of… olg in addition to other tags L might add like “teaching”, “code”, “ajax”, “technology”, “socialtech”, etc… in my normal review of web sites, and extra click using the bookmark tool files sites into a special OLG category.

Now a link to this collection is a start, but we can do more. If I copy the RSS feed URL for this tag collection, and then take it over to Feed2JS, I can build a cut an paste JavaScript line of “code” that will generate a simple list of say the ten most recent marked sites.

Just by putting this JavaScript code created by Feed2JS

into a text file named I can have the dynamic feed of new sites inserted into my web pages (the formatting is controlled by some extra CSS styles, but that is not essential. In all the pages I want this on the sidebar, all I need to have in my HTML code is:

I also add to my file an extra link for “more resources” page that goes to another new page that now uses the same construct, but displays the most recent 20 bookmarked sites, and includes the item descriptions.

Now if all of this sounds complicated, it’s only because I’ve tried to over explain. but think about this- once set up, you can use the Feed2JS code on any number of web pages, be they PHP, ASP, CFM, HTML, home page, Blogger template, Blackbaord/WebCT site… And if you set up tags for say your different classes you are teaching, as you find new resource sites relevant to these classes, you can tag appropriately, and the most recent items will be automatically published to your different course web pages.

It is simple, and elegant, or at least I think so. Being able to update numerous web sites via the basic act of bookmarking and tagging in a collection, and having different subsets of content being “pushed” out as new content to other web sites… well it is just sweet music to me.

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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. Ouch Tim, you are correct– I keep forgetting about’s own JavaScript generation tool which works very well- I like how you can preview and get the code all in the same page as you make different form options.

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