Tony Hirst’s presentation on RSS feeds and Open Content

October 30, 2007

Ale photographing Tony’s presentation 
Originally uploaded by openlearn2007TTony Hirst
Feeding from Open courseware: Exploring the potential of open educational content delivery using RSS feeds
Calls himself a tinkerer, as per John Seely Brown’s definition OPML allow you to bundle RSS feeds. So, what feeds are available from OpenLearn?• RSS feed in OpenLearn that contains a list of all the units – title and link to homepage on Openlearn• RSS list of feeds by topic• RSS feeds containing unit content.

The key thing about the OpenLearn feeds is that they are dynamic and get updated to provide the current list of course units. The content of the units is fixed.

There are also some unofficial OPML feeds that bundle the topics (created by Tony the Tinkerer). The advantage is that he can navigate all the feed bundles by topic.

Having subscribed to a feed using a feedreader such as bloglines, you can then view the feed content in your feedreader. Tony points out that he only goes to 3 websites per day. Google, his feedreader and Facebook (for some reason) although through these he probably accesses thousants of web pages.

He mentions Netvibes as another – I like netvibes as it is easy to drag and configure the widgets to display what you want to read. In fact, I have the OpenLearn RSS feed aggregator piped into Netvibes so I can easily access all the blog entries for this conference.

Facebook – He’s now describing the Grazrwidget. It’s funny, as a result of seeing Tony’s status updating on Facebook on the day he spent hours configuring Grazr feeder reader, I then installed it. Haven’t really configured it usefully as yet though.

He describes Grazr at some length as he realy likes it. It is free, but it is very flexible and you can embed it on any web page . If you click through to the embed page, you can brand it but you do have to pay a fee to the Grazr people.

Moves on to talk about the OpenLearn XML and how difficult it used to be to use it. He used to trawl through the XML and consume the content, bundling it together to form RSS feeds. He then took the RSS feeds and bundled them together into a single OPML file which allowed him to easily move the content around and consume it using tools that are freely available on the web.

Tony’s XML processor page:

Links – it’s a pain to have to search through all the content to find the links.  I think Tony’s processor allow you to do this.

Normal RSS feeds are dynamic, but the OpenLearn content is fixed. So, if you have a 30 page unit you end up with it as 30 RSS items which you are unlikely to consume all in one go. So he experimented with a daily feed which would give him one page per day.

Then talks about the OpenLearn custom search engine, CSE which will not only search the unit but also all the pages and other content that is linked to that page.

Now he’s moved on to DIGG sites (hope I’ve spelled this right). allows you to create a site that anyone can navigate to. They can view any OpenLearn topic and they can then vote on any topic they like.

Next he talks about an IBM visualisation tool that looks very pretty on the screen. It’s a table with one row for each course unit. Looks good but you can’t yet click on the nice map to get to the content.

Another nice visualisation tool – like a dandelion. 

Next he shows a page where he seems to have converted an MIT course into a U-Tube video. Went through course by course, bundled them as rss feeds, bundled them as opml and now he has his course. His blog is .

One questionner asks whether the RSS feeds in OpenLearn might be too fragmentary and would it be possible to join them. Tony responds that it wouldn’t be too hard to create a little search tool that searched on your search term and combined them, possibly using pipes.


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