01 March, 2007

RSS Feeds - Display Tools

Further to Pete's recent posts 'Create Quick Links to Web Feeds' and ‘Visualising Events in Time: SIMILE Timelines’, I have also been experimenting with different RSS display tools:

(I have created a couple of examples which are available to view in the Developers Community WebCT course. )

1/ A Timeline - created with 'My Timelines Beta'

As their website states, "My Timelines let's you easily add an AJAX based timeline that displays your most recent blog entries."

I really like this tool. The timeline provides a chronological representation of changes that are made and it's interactive too! You can pan the timeline right/left with your mouse, and click on markers for more info.

It is a straightforward process generating the timeline and there are some styling options included at the time of generation such as the size, time display etc. You cannot, (as far as I can tell) restyle the actual timeline but you can embed it into a webpage and style that as you like.

As well as using this tool to create a 'Blog Timeline', I have also created a 'Wiki Timeline'.
Changes to the Wiki appear displayed on the timeline by page title, so multiple changes to the same page make the timeline appear a bit repetitive and messy but the individual markers provide additional info/ specifics of the changes.

It will provide an overview/ history of edits and notification of changes to the wiki. I think it could be a great alternative means of tracking activity on a wiki.

2/ ‘Grazr’ is a tool which allows you to display feeds for browsing (Podcasts can also be listened to within the tool!)

At first glance this tool appeared to be suited to large websites which provide multiple feeds - to enable the creation of ‘feedmaps’ which make browsing (or grazing) all the available feeds on a site possible without the hassle of subscribing

For more information read James E. Lee's Blog posting - 'Create a feedmap to help people find, preview, and subscribe to your feeds'.


I like Grazr and think that it has the potential to be very useful in an educational setting.

It is a very easy to use tool.

At a basic level you can use Grazer to display one feed, either as an embedded ‘widget’* or with a link. You just follow 3 simple steps and are then provided with a range of install options.

  • According to Wikipedia [Feb 2007]
    “A web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications. Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe Flash or JavaScript programming languages.”

With a little more understanding of OPML files you can display multiple feeds with Grazr.

This could be a really good way of providing regular, dynamic and current information within a course as well as introducing students to blogs and podcasts as sources of useful information.

3/ A Basic Text Update - created with 'Feed 2JS Build JavaScript and Preview'

This feed generation allows you to present changes/updates in text form.

Again I like this tool because I think it is really simple to use, it can be styled and the resulting script can be cut and pasted directly into a WebCT text block or HTML page.

To style the resulting feeds I have used the text block editor within WebCT (to create a simple two column layout, one for New Posts and one for Comments). For more sophisticated styling, I have used CSS and then uploaded the files.

This is another great way of introducing dynamic content to your online course area.

1 comment:

mikepk said...

Thanks for the Grazr mention! We believe feeds are going to be more and more important in the coming year but, as you've noticed, we've developed the widget to be a more general purpose tool.

OPML by it's nature is an outline format, so professionals who use outlines (educators with syllabi (not sure if that's the correct plural), lawyers with structured documents, etc...) could find lots of ways of structuring data. For example, this is the US constitution in OPML format:


We're really interested in the implications of structured documents that can contain other resources, like links, feeds, videos, even other structured documents. Imagine a syllabus with links embedded to further reading. Or using OPML's "include" mechamism to create a series of interrelated outlines that are all dynamic but that all link to each other. (Dave Winer's "world outline" vision)

Needless to say, we're excited about the possibilities. :)