Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The RSS Evangelist

The RSS Evangelist

After the recent WEB 2.0 rountable event, the more I thought about it the more I became convinced that as KM Evangelists (we are all KM Evangelists aren't we?) we ought to be making full use of the all the Knowledge Sharing technologies available to us. Hence this article about RSS. If you have yet to start using an RSS reader on a regular basis, I urge you to give it a try. Those of us that do use them wonder how we ever managed without them and how other people manage without them. They really are a valuable tool for keeping up to date on almost any topic. This article will concentrate on RSS use on the World Wide Web, but they also have huge potential for use within the enterprise.

Background

In a KIN survey done a few months ago (do you use an RSS Reader), a quarter of respondents said that they did not know what RSS is and a further 12.5% said that they did not use one. Admittedly, the response rate to the survey was not high but extrapolating those results suggests that use of RSS by KIN members may not be all that prevalent. I admit that I have been using a feed reader for less than a year myself but in that time I have become a big fan. So the purpose of this post is to encourage KIN members who may not yet have tried using an RSS feed reader to give it a go!

What's in it for me?

RSS feeds can be broadly useful. Harvesting news headlines, classified ads, press releases, and even internal corporate project collaboration notes. News from the BBC, seasonal conditions from The Old Farmer's Almanac, product lists from Amazon; the list goes on and is growing daily. You can reduce email clutter by using a feed reader rather than receiving emailed updates to your already clogged inbox. (This was the prime motivation for me to start using RSS!) At a glance, you see what's happening all over the Web on topics that matter to you, without having to give up personal information or remember a load of URLs.Some examples of sites that may be of interest to KM practitioners that have RSS feeds: To pick just 5 sites at random from my own feed list.

Enterprise Use

How do you keep up to date with HR Policies and Practices? What about the CEO blog? And the company bulletin board? And changes your community space? Do you have to visit mutliple sites? Or are you lucky enough to work in an environment where all of these things come to you courtesy RSS ? Are there any KIN member organisations out there that are already using RSS to push information to their employees? If so, it would be interesting to hear from you about your experiences.

So what is RSS, how does it work?

Some of you, I know, have seen this before. Even if you are already an RSS user, RSS in Plain English from the Common Craft show explains it well!

"There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start." BlipTV


OK, I'm interested - what 'Reader' should I use?

As I understand it (and I'm not an expert) you have three basic choices:
  1. Use the Feedreader that comes built-in to your browser (if it has one)
  2. Use a Web based reader
  3. Use a standalone program.
Which you choose will depend on a number of factors. I don't propose to examine the pro's and con's in detail in this post - (I will look for something posted by someone who knows much more about it than I do. But for what it is worth, this post looks at what other people use/think are the best readers available. I use the Web based, Google Reader (which seems to be a pretty popular choice) which I highly recommend. I like its interface and speed. Although it is Web-based you can use it offline courtesy of Google Gears. There are also some other neat features not least of which is the ability to easily share with others the posts I find that I think are worth sharing with other people in a separate web page (for the non-RSS users out there).

And Finally...

I have an ulterior motive for encouraging RSS use by KIN members. At the start of this article I mentioned the recent WEB 2.0 rountable event and one of my conclusions on reflection after that meeting was that it might be useful and helpful to start a Blog. So, as an experiment, that is what I am doing. And the best way for members to follow the blog... is by using RSS.
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