Thing #8 Make Life "Really Simple" With RSS & A Newsreader

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web.

RSS is best described by using Netflix as a metaphor. You tell Netflix what movies you like, then they mail them to you when they're available. You tell an RSS reader what websites or blogs you read, and it delivers the newest articles and posts directly to one place (that place is called a "reader" or "aggregator"). They're both timesavers, essentially.

Just think about all the websites and news sources you visit (or wish you could visit) every day. It takes time to visit those sites and scour them for just the text you want to read, doesn’t it? Now imagine if you could visit all those sites in just one place and all at the same time … without being bombarded with advertising… without having to search for new information on the page you’d already seen or read before… and without having to consume a lot of time visiting each site individually. Would that be valuable to you?

Well, you can do it now through a newsreader and RSS.

This week’s discovery exercises focus on learning about RSS news feeds and setting up a Google Reader account (a free online newsreader) for yourself to bring your feeds together.

Discovery Resources:

  • Play this video called "RSS in Plain English" (audio probably needed to fully understand this one).

  • Google Reader - This online tutorial walks you through how to setup a Google Reader account and add newsfeeds. (Since Blogger is Google-based, you should be able to use the same username and password you used for your blog).

  • Your co-workers - Have a co-worker who already uses RSS? Ask for their help!

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Follow the discovery resources above to learn more about RSS and newsreaders.

  2. Create a free online Google Reader account for yourself and subscribe to several newsfeeds to your reader.

  3. Then try adding a few other types of news feeds from special interest sites. (If it's confusing, then don't worry, the entire next lesson is about adding feeds) Here's a few to try:
    • Look at the right column of this blog and click on the RSS icon to subscribe to posts. Now new lessons posted will appear in your reader as soon as they're posted here.

    • Reader’s Club new review feeds

    • Unshelved - Library cartoon feed

  4. Create a post in your blog about this exercise.

Don’t know what to blog about? Think about these questions:

  • What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?

  • How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?

  • How can libraries use RSS or take advantage of this new technology?

PS: Once you tackle this discovery exercise, you've tackled the most difficult one of the whole 23. :)

Thing #7 Blog About Technology

Discovery Exercise

  1. View this video (audio not required, but nice!).
  2. What do you think about "2.0" so far?
  3. Blog about something technology related (how will mobile devices figure into the info landscape? does ethnicity play a role in which technology is used to access net resources?).

Links o' Inspiration

Some Machines That Are Linking People

  • Apple's iPhone and the Google G1, not just for calling home
  • Kindle,'s ebook, enewspaper, e-everything reader
  • Flip cameras, inexpensive videocameras perfect for Youtubin'

Thing #6 More Flickr Fun

Like many Web 2.0 sites, Flickr encourages other people to build their own online applications using images found on the site. Through the use of APIs (application programming interfaces), many people have created third party tools and mashups* that use Flickr images. Here are just a sampling of a few …

  • Animoto - Will retrieve your flickr images and automatically make a cool music video out of them.

  • Qoop - lets you create lots of cool stuff, like t-shirts, keychains, and even businesscards.

  • Montagr – create a photo mosaic from photos found on Flickr.
Discover more mashups, web apps, and Flickr tools. The iLibrarian has highlighted a bunch more.

Discovery Exercise:

Your discovery exercise for this “thing” is to:
  1. Explore some of the fun Flickr mashups and 3rd party tools that are out there.

  2. Create a blog post about one that intrigues you.

Personally one of our very favorite tools is FD ToysTrading Card Maker. And there’s a ton of librarians out there that have created their own Librarian Trading Card. So have some fun discovering and exploring some neat little apps. And if you're up to the challenge while you’re at it, why not create a trading card of your own. :)

* Mashup Note:

Wikipedia offers some great articles that explain mashups. Basically they are hybrid web applications that take features from one application (like Flickr) and mash it up with another (like a map). In this example, you get Mappr (

PS: Learning 2.0 image (and SAPL Learns logo) created by Spell with Flickr.

Thing #5 Explore Flickr and learn about this popular image hosting site

Central 2008 Knit-Out ProgramPhoto sharing websites have been around since the '90s, but it took a small startup site called Flickr to catapult the idea of “sharing” into a full blown online community. Within the past few years, Flickr has become the fastest growing photo sharing site on the web and is known as one of the first websites to use keyword “tags” to create associations and connections between photos and users of the site. We're taking a look a the wide world of Flickr and the little interactive world of our library's mysapl and mysaplstaff accounts.

For this discovery exercise, you are first asked to take a good look at Flickr and discover what this site has to offer. Find out how tags work, what groups are, and all the neat things that people and other libraries are using Flickr for.
Photo credit:
Central 2008 Knit-Out Program on mysapl.

Discovery Resources:

Discovery Exercise:

In this discovery exercise, you have two options…

OPTION 1. Login to the mysaplstaff flickr account (your password is on the Intranet Flickr cheat sheet). Take a good look around your contact mysapl for an interesting library photo that you want to blog about. You are encouraged to tag or comment on the mysapl photo in Flickr- this makes the photo findable and adds a personal touch. Don't worry, instructions on how to tag or comment are on the Intranet Flickr cheat sheet.

You can paste the photo's URL link into your blog, or you can "embed" the photo directly on your blog. To embed, click on the mysapl photo you want to blog, click to the right of the photo on "Share this," click where it says "Embed it" and copy the html code Flickr generates. Then (in a separate browser window) go to blogger and sign in, go to "New Post," and paste the html in your editing window. Blogger will give you a option for the size of the photo - choose small or medium size. Presto, you have embedded the photo in your blog! Type your blog reflections under the photo.

-- OR --

OPTION 2. If you're up to an easy challenge ... create a Free account in Flickr and use a digital camera to capture a few pictures from your life. Upload these to your Flickr account and tag at least one of the images "SAPLL2" and mark it public. Then create a post in your blog about your photo and experience. Be sure to include the image in your post. Once you have a Flickr account, you have two options for doing this: through Flickr's blogging tool or using Blogger's photo upload feature.

So go ahead, explore the site and have some Flickr photo fun and if you're interested in looking at some photo hosting sites, then why not check out Jamie's recommendations & this Wired story. (Thanks Jamie for the link).

PS: A quick word about photo posting etiquette - When posting identifiable photos of other people (especially minors) is it advisable to get the person's verbal ok before posting their photo in a publicly accessible place like Flickr. Never upload pictures that weren't taken by you (unless you have the photographer's consent) and always give credit when you include photos taken by someone else in your blog. For more, check out the my SAPL and Flickr FAQs or the my SAPL and Flickr: Share Your Photos on the Intranet. If you have any questions about Flickr, you are welcome to ask bibliosopher on her 23 things blog - she's here to help along the way.

Thing #4 Explore the blogosphere

Take a little time to play with the blogs and get to know them!

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Check out the other 23 Thing Participants.
  2. Comment on someone else's blog. Encourage each other!
  3. Also check out one or more of the Top Ten Library Blogs to read in 2008

Our favorite of the Top Ten Blogs, is definitely "Judge a Book By It's Cover", where they turn the age-old adage on its head and make fun of salacious, silly, and psycho-seeming book covers all the day long.


Got some extra time? Check out some other library blogs. Austin Public Library uses blogspot as an outreach and marketing opportunity.

Blog about your favorite.

Thing #3 Grab yourself a blog in 3 steps

Now that you’ve done some exploring of this website and understand how the program works, it’s time to setup your own personal blog and begin recording your thoughts, discoveries and exercises.

We recommend that you use Blogger*, a popular free online blog hosting service that is extremely easy to use. It's also the program this blog is created on!

Creating a blog using Blogger takes just three steps:

  1. Create an account (view screenshot)

  2. Name your blog (view screenshot)

  3. Select your template. (view screenshot)

Once you’ve created your blog here are two important things to know:

  • To view your blog: Your blog address is http://(xxxx), (xxxx)=the unique identifier you entered in Step 2.

Check out Google's video on starting a blog for a quick visual example:

OK -- Now, it’s your turn...

Discovery Exercise:

  1. Setup a blog for yourself through Blogger.

  2. Add a test post or two. Use one of your test posts to create an entry about the habits among the 7 and 1/2 lifelong learning habits that is easiest and hardest for you & why.

  3. Send an email to the SAPL 23 Things Team and tell us your name and the address to your blog. We will not publish names publicly - you can choose whether or not to identify yourself in your own blog.

  4. Have fun!!!!

IMPORTANT NOTE: How you choose to identify yourself on your blog is your choice. You can blog under a screen name, anonymously or as yourself.

* Use of Blogger is only a recommendation. If there is another blog hosting site that you are more comfortable with, please feel free to use it. Just let us know at the email address above.

Thing #2 The 7 1/2 Habits of Lifelong Learning

Among libraries, lifelong learning is one of those core values we shelve our books by. So it makes sense that before we embark on this online learning and discovery journey that we take a few minutes to review a few habits of lifelong learners.

These habits, which we’ve called the Seven 1/2 habits of lifelong learners, will provide you with a refresher on what it means to be a lifelong learner.

Discovery Exercise:
  1. Make sure you have headphones or speakers attached to your computer.
  2. Check out this tutorial to learn the 7 1/2 habits:
  3. As you watch and listen, write down which habit among the 7 & 1/2 that is easiest for you and which is hardest. You will use your personal blog (which you will set up in the next lesson) to post your thoughts about lifelong learning.
Have fun! If you haven't jumped on board yet, it's never too late to become a lifelong learner.

Next Up: Creating your blog so you can begin tracking your journey. Several staff have already taken a jump start on this activity, so if you're up to it why not join the early bird crowd.