I have posted several times about the power of using RSS feeds to make sense of the vast array of information in the World Wide Web. It appears to me that few faculty recognize (yet) just how transformational it is to move from a “surfer” of the web to one where the web comes to you…from push to pull. As I noted earlier this week in “A Bookmarking Fiend“, I use feeds from my delicious account, my news feeds of interest, and the blogs I follow – all feeding into my Google Reader account, to make sense of the world…a world that changes every day.
Synchronicity struck once again! Guy Kawsaki commented back to me in the above post that I should check out his new Alltop aggregator. On the same day, I saw a feed from my friend Eduardo Peirano down in Uruguay which highlighted a customized aggregator that he had set up. There is power in each of our processes, so I thought I would compare and contrast.
Guy called me a “power Google Reader user” – though I feel at times more like a power Google Reader stumbler. The plus side for Google Reader is that it is easy to set up and use. To me, it is my daily newspaper. Like newspapers, I can quickly scan the “headlines” and only read the articles that actually interest me. Most RSS feeds from journals, news organizations, or blogs can be established with one click, which is nice. It has become part of my daily routine, but as Lee Lefever notes in his excellent summary video on YouTube, it can be addictive. I find that it does focus me to just the sites in which I am interested, acting in ways as a filter from the unwanted distractions out on the net.
However, I see the power of Guy’s Alltop. If Google Reader is my newspaper, Alltop is the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble! With a glance and a roll of the mouse, you can quickly scan the top feeds in education…or forty other categories. As Guy and his colleagues point out in their FAQ, one could build their own aggregator but, as they note”…knock yourself out. While you’re at it, you could backup your hard disk, bake your own bread, iron your own shirts, floss daily, tune your own car, and bike to work.” I love it! In other words, they have taken the work out of this process for you, and done a credible job. Alltop provides one place to quickly scan the pulse of the field and also spot the feeds you may not be following at the time.
Eduardo is an example of someone who did knock himself out and develop his own customized aggregator. Using Feedraider, Eduardo has built pages of feeds from his daily news (his delicious account, his Twitter account, news feeds, etc), feeds from the College 2.0 Ning site that he coordinates, feeds from Higher Ed, eLearning and Open Learning blogs and news services, and feeds from his friends. Like Alltop, his set up allows you to quickly scan the feeds and focus in on the ones of interest.
Eduardo is out on the bleeding edge of aggregation, but I think his model gives us a glimpse of what is possible. I recommend that you check out both his set-up and Guy’s Alltop…but be careful. As Alan Levine might note, these are both great timesucker sites….you can get lost in the rich information that you find there!