Week 2

7 Feb

Blogs & RSS Feeds

4th Thing – Technorati

So, now you have a blog. So do all the other 25-Thing-ers at Huddersfield. But how many other people are using the internet to share their thoughts, experiences and stories about cats? How big, in short, is the blogosphere?

[ “Britain Going Blog Crazy” by Annie Mole on Flickr ]

Well according to Technorati, the leading search tool and authority for blogs, by June 2008, there were over 112 million blogs currently being tracked by the site. Yes, big numbers. But, as you’ve already seen for yourselves, blogging is so easy that almost every industry has been trying to find ways to make blogging work for them.

That’s why, this week, we’re going to look more closely at Technorati.

Do you want to make sure your blog is being tracked? Register your blog with Technorati. Do you want to tag your posts to make them easier to find through a Technorati search? If you owned a business and were trying to attract attention you’d register it with Technorati. If you want other people to be able to find you and your blog, this is a great way to start.

Step 1:
Take a look at Technorati and try doing a keyword search for “Huddersfield” in Blog posts, in tags and in the Blog Directory. Are the results different?

Step 2:
Explore popular blogs and tags. Is anything interesting or surprising in your results?

You can also use Google Blog Search to find interesting blog posts — for example, you might want to track down all the latest “Strictly Come Dancing” gossip 😀

In the same way that spam emails are a big problem, the same is happening with blogs — when you use Technorati or Google Blog Search, chances are that some of the results will be spam blogs (also known as “splogs”!). They’re not too difficult to spot, as the blog post text is usually gibberish along with lots of links to buy Viagra.

Optional extra:
If you’re up for another challenge, learn how to tag your posts with tags so they can join tag searches. The WordPress FAQ pages also have a section on how to add tags to your blog posts. We’ll be looking at tagging in more detail next week, so you might want to come back to this one.


5th Thing – RSS feeds and newsreaders

So now you’ve explored Technorati, you know that the blogosphere is pretty big, and probably contains quite a bit that you might find interesting. And on top of that there are all the other websites that you currently visit every day for news and views. And they’re all being updated, all the time. How on earth do you keep on top of the information overload?

Well, fear not, because this little orange button is about to make life a whole lot easier for you. It’s called an RSS feed, and it’s changing the way that web content creators share information, and web content users consume it.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web. Alongside a good newsreader, this tool will bring all your favourite information sources and web pages together 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.

A newsreader is basically a tool which allows you to display content from lots of websites in one place. It can be a piece of software which you download to your desktop, or it can be web-based tool, which you can use on any computer you choose.

In terms of the web-based tools, Google seems to be dominating the market with its Google Reader. There are some useful tutorials online, including the Google Reader Tour, Google Reader in Plain English and these two videos.

Step 1:
Set up your own, personalized RSS feed reader. Learn about the difference between RSS feed readers and Google Reader.

Step 2:
Create a free account with Google Reader and subscribe to at least 5 newsfeeds to your reader. If you’re struggling to find some newsfeeds, you can try the ones listed below…

…don’t forget that this blog also has a RSS feed, so you could subscribe to that too! And why not check out your Research Council – many of them now have news feeds that can keep you updated on funding and jobs, among other things.


6th Thing – Finding RSS Feeds

Now that you have a newsreader (your Google Reader account), you can begin adding other newsfeeds that interest you.

There are several ways you can locate newsfeeds:

  • When visiting your favorite websites, look for RSS icons that indicate the website provides it. Often a feed icon will be displayed somewhere in the navigation bar of the site.
  • There are also search tools that can help you find feeds:
    1. Topix.net — This search tool allows you to locate recent newsfeed items based upon keyword or phrase searching. The tool focuses specifically on news and media outlet RSS feeds for information, not weblogs.
    2. Syndic8.com — Syndic8 is an open directory of RSS feeds that contains thousands of RSS feeds that users have submitted.

Step 1:
Explore some of the search tools noted above that can help you locate some news feeds.

Step 2:
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?
  • Which method of finding feeds did you find easiest to use?
  • Which Search tool was the easiest for you?
  • Which was more confusing?
  • What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels?
  • Or what kind of unusual ones did you find?
  • What other tools or ways did you find to locate newsfeeds?


Week 1

31 Jan


1st Thing – Read this blog

Hello, and welcome to the University of Huddersfield 25 Research Things 2011 blog!

Over the course of the next few weeks, this blog will show you a range of tools and technologies that fall under the heading of “web 2.0”. We’ll give you exercises to help you become familiar with them, and show you how they might support your research work.

Some of them you will find immediately useful, some will be fun and some you may not see the point of right away. But you will finish the course knowing a lot more about the new ways that researchers can communicate their ideas and findings, and we hope you will have enjoyed yourself as well.

Start by watching this short video clip, which shows how web 2.0 tools have developed, and the ways in which they can be used: Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us.

Each week we’ll introduce a new set of “things” – 25 in total over the ten-week course. You’ll be given exercises to help you become familiar with blogging, RSS news feeds, tagging, wikis, podcasting, online applications, social networks, video and image hosting and much more.

We’d like you to set aside an hour or so each week to experiment and explore. You might want to do this in several smaller chunks of time, or in one go – it’s really up to you. We also hope that you might spend some of your own time learning about the things. If you need help with any of the activities, please contact one of the team (25researchthings@gmail.com), or talk to your friends and colleagues who are also doing this course.


2nd Thing – Set up your blog and accounts

This programme is based upon blog entries, from us and from you. During the course, you’ll need to write on your own blog about each thing you complete. You can record your thoughts and experiences, and add any ideas you might have on how to use these web 2.0 tools for yourself or your work.

You can choose to use a screen name if you prefer to keep yourself anonymous. This name will be posted on your blog, but your “real identity” will not be listed. All participants will be linked to from the 25 Research Things 2011 blog but you will be anonymous if that’s what you choose.

Why blog?

People blog because they want to share with others. They may share their opinions, rants on particular topics, or news from a holiday. They may even have a professional blog where they share views on their work, or they may have a blog all about their pet. When you’re blogging, you can adopt any persona you like. Some people have written from a cat’s perspective. We think you might find it useful to blog about your research? If you already do, then let us know!

[ Flickr photo by Sofia Torrão ]

Setting up your blog

Now that you’ve done some exploring around this blog and understand how the programme will work, it’s time to set up your own personal blog. We would also like you to write your very first post where you can introduce yourself, or your persona, or explain what the blog is for.

Remember, your blog is where you will be recording your thoughts and experiences for the 25 Things programme. If you are not sure how much to write, we would suggest at least 100 words each week, but don’t be shy – write as much as you like!

For this exercise “Set up your blog” we are using WordPress, a free online blog hosting service that is extremely easy to use.

Step 1:
Go to the WordPress website: http://wordpress.com.

Step 2:
Fill in the form – remember, you can use a made up name if you want. Make sure you tick the box about legal flotsam. “Gimme a blog” should be highlighted, so click “Next” and follow the instructions. Make sure you make a note of your username and password and blog address.

Optional extra (A bit on the side…)
When you get your email confirming your blog, you will be able to choose a different theme if you want to personalise your blog’s appearance – just look for the link about themes and search for one you like.

Registering your blog

Cut and paste the url (address) of the blog YOU have created (this can be found in the address bar on the page from which you are viewing your blog), into an email and send it to us at 25researchthings@gmail.com

Once you have registered your blog it will be listed here on the 25 Research Things 2011 blog. The participants’ blog is a good place to gain inspiration and support each other via the comments section in the individual blogs.

Important: Bookmark your blog!

Save your blog to your bookmarks or favourites folder so you can return to it quickly later. You’ll need to add an entry to it for each 25 Things task you complete.

To take part in this programme you’ll also need a Yahoo account and a Google Mail account. Some of you may already have these, in which case use them. Otherwise follow these instructions to set up your new accounts…

Click here to go to the Yahoo home page. Click on the “New here? Sign up” link and fill in the form. Make a note of your username and password.

Google Mail
Now create a Google email address which you can use as for any other email, but also when you want to use other Google services such as Google docs. To create an account click here.


3rd Thing – Survey

We would like you to complete this short survey, to tell us a bit about where you’re starting from, and what you want to achieve from the course.

So, how was it for you?

For the first post on your own blog, tell us what this first week has been like 🙂


25 Jan

Hello, and welcome to 25 Research Things 2011!

[ Flickr photo by Felicia Wichrowski ]
Over the next nine weeks, this online learning course will give you a friendly introduction to web 2.0. You’ll have a chance to experiment with tools and techniques, from blogs to Twitter to social bookmarking. Each week we’ll give you two or three ‘things’ to look at, and a few simple tasks to help you get started using them. We’ll ask you to reflect on how you could use each ‘thing’ to enhance your work as a researcher.
The first week of ‘things’ will be posted on Monday 31 January, so don’t forget to check back then to get started.
If you want to know a bit more about the background of the 25 Things idea, visit this website. We think Huddersfield and the Research Information Network are the first to run a ‘things’ course purely for researchers, so we are breaking new ground!
If you’ve got any questions, you can contact us on 25researchthings@gmail.com.

Stop Press!!

We’ve saved the best news until last! If you stick with us through the whole 25 Things, we’ll enter all University of Huddersfield ‘thingers’ into a free draw to win an Amazon Kindle e-book reader courtesy of the Research Information Network, so now you have no excuse!

We’re looking forward to starting this journey with you and don’t forget we’ll be there right through the course to chat!

The 25 Research Things Team

Ellen Collins (Research Information Network)
Dave Pattern (Huddersfield)
Graham Stone (Huddersfield)