Quick & Dirty Research
Writing Program TA Orientation | Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Simple searching and social bookmarking

  1. Google Advanced Operators
  2. Google Print
  3. MSN Search RSS
  4. FindArticles
  5. Urban Dictionary
  6. del.icio.us RSS
  7. Oishii!


  1. Flickr RSS
  2. Newseum: Today's Front Pages


  1. Bloglines
  2. Bloglines How-to

RSS (really simple syndication) and Aggregation

To start, you'll need an aggregator. If you already have one, that's terrific. Feel free to assist someone close to you. I recommend Bloglines. It's free and hosted on a server, which means that you can login from any computer to access your subscriptions.

Bloglines Account Setup
Begin here. Register for a new a new account (it's free). You will need to login to your email account to validate the account setup. Once you have the account set up, check to make sure you are logged in.

Feed List
We're going to import a list of feeds or subscriptions to help you get started. Click here to open and save a file containing a list of feeds (in the computer cluster hold CTRL when you click on the file, then select "Save linked file as..."). Save it to a location where you can find it easily, such as your desktop.

Next, in Bloglines, select the "My Feed" tab, then choose "Edit." At the bottom of the left-hand sidebar, you will find the option to "Import Subscriptions." Select this option. In the frame on the right, click on "Browse," then locate the file you saved above.

Complete the process; you should find that you have several feeds listed in the "My Feeds" tab of bloglines. This is the place you can return periodically for glancing into ny feeds you've subscribed to in your bloglines account.

Add New Feeds
A quick-add bookmarklet is a button in your browser that allows you to quickly and easily check whether a site has an RSS feed. Just by clicking on the button, Bloglines will tell you whether a feed exists. If one does, you will have the option of subscribing to the feed. To add a quick-add bookmarklet: Select "My Feeds." Scroll to the bottom. Click on "Easy Subscribe Bookmarklet." You'll find several possibilities in the right frame. Find the section that matches your browser (Mozilla, Explorer, Safari, etc.). Drag and drop the blue button into the browser status bar (top of the screen). Now, when you are at a site, you can select "Subscribe with Bloglines" to subscribe to the RSS feed for that site, provided one exists.

MSN Custom Search
Now that you have an aggregator set up, you can use MSN Search to create feeds for specific searches. To buiild a custom search, enter search terms, then calibrate preferences under "+ Search Builder."
Once you have the search defined, click on "Search."
Finally, to make this search into an aggregator feed that will update daily in your Bloglines account, add "&format=rss" to the end of the address showing as the URL. Then, in Bloglines, add a new feed by cutting and pasting the entire URL, including "&format=rss" into the feed line. Now, when you return to your Bloglines account for reading the latest on the web, you will find updated search results for your terms and customized settings.

Managing Feeds
Feel free to experiment with the edit, add, sort, keep new, and clip/blog options. The interface and all of the options will become more and more intuitive with practice.

Remaining questions
Try this comprehensive FAQ.

Just about any "primary interest" RSS search in Google will yield numerous feed lines available for you to customize your "My Feeds" list.

Ultimately, your Bloglines account or any similar aggregator enables you to power-skim the freshest content on the internet. Unlike browsing, which tends to privilege well-establised and heavily trafficked sites, subscribing to RSS feeds delivers the freshest content to your interface. Still, the process often yields surprising and serendipitous results--finds--that can be used for the generative and inventive work of teaching and writing.