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Tag: RSS

My new thing

It dawned on me recently. I have a great smartphone. I have a long commute and have gotten pretty sick of the repetitive nature of most radio stations. What should I do, then?

The current solution I’m trying out are podcasts. For those of you who don’t know, podcasts are  RSS/RSS-like subscriptions to audio broadcasts, rather than blog/news posts. I’m still trying to figure out what to listen to, but I have found that I’m a big fan of NPR’s Radiolab. I’m also trying out PBS/Nova’s scienceNow podcast, TWiT’s Futures in Biotech, and NPR’s Marketplace.

I’ve gotten a few additional recommendations over Twitter which I will try out soon, but would love to hear any other recommendations that people might have on podcasts covering:

    • Science
    • Technology
    • Business
    • Cleantech

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Suggestion to Major Blogs and Websites

If I can make a suggestion to American TV studios to move towards a miniseries system, why not more?

image I recently spent a couple of hours organizing and pruning the many feeds that I follow in Google Reader. It’s become something of a necessity as my interests and information needs (and the amount of time I have to pursue them) change. But, this time as I found myself trying to figure out which news sites to follow, I found it easier to drop websites which didn’t have sub-feeds.

Most major blogs and websites today use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to let subscribers know when the site’s been updated without having to check the site constantly. While this is extremely convenient, the enormous number of updates that major websites like the New York Times issue per day make subscribing to their RSS feed an exercise in drinking from the firehose.

So, what to do? Thankfully, some major websites (the New York Times included) figured this out and now provide sub-feeds which provide only a fraction of the total content so that a subscriber can not only avoid RSS information overload but get a focused feed on the information that matters to him/her. The New York Times, for instance, allows you to only get RSS updates from their tech column, the Bits Blog, or even just the Venture Capital section of the New York Times’ Dealbook coverage.

Sadly, not every website is as forward-looking as the New York Times. Many sites don’t offer any sort of sub-feed at all (much to my dismay). Many sites who do offer it, offer a very paltry selection with very limited options.

And, given the choice between an information deluge which I mostly don’t want vs an alternative information source which gives me only the information I do want, I think the answer is obvious. As a result, with the exception of two feeds, I dropped from Google Reader every blog which posted more than once a day which didn’t give me a targeted sub-feed option.

In a world where its getting harder and harder for publications to hold on to readers, you’d think these sites would learn to offer more flexibility (especially when such flexibility is practically free to support if you have even a half-decent web content management system) in how their content is pushed.

But, I guess those sites weren’t interested in keeping me as a reader…

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Hello WordPress

So I finally took the plunge.

Instead of hosting my blog on Blogger, I’ve decided to move it over to a self-hosted WordPress blog which not only gives me a whole lot more control over content and styling (and has vastly more versatile plugins and themes), but allows me to start consolidating my online presence into, hopefully, a coherent presence. [This will also hopefully finally get Serena and Teresa to stop with their “Wordpress is so much better than Blogger” comments everytime they talk to me about my blog :-)]

The process, while complicated, was not as painful as I expected:

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1. Design – With the help of my lovely girlfriend, I picked out the Berita theme from BizzArctic. It presents a very cool landing page with a slider and a sophisticated menu-ing system across the top. I then did some simple copy & paste to create a CV page (from an existing resume) and an About page (borrowed heavily from my LinkedIn profile). A quick scan of my Google Reader and some of my friend’s blogs helped me fill out the Links page, and a quick scan of my hard drive put together the various pieces of my Portfolio.

2.  LifeStream – Through WordPress’s plugin directory, I found LifeStream which makes it easy to embed a LifeStream page and sidebar widget which aggregates my activities on Google Reader, Twitter, and my blogging life in one place.

3. Import – WordPress comes with a powerful import tool which made the actual moving of posts from Blogger to WordPress painless. Handling the URL’s (steps below) proved to be a bit more challenging…

4. Maintaining permalinks – Oddly, I discovered that WordPress and Blogger use a completely different mechanism for defining their permalink URLs (the web address that lets you visit the page for an individual post). Thankfully, Justinsomnia maintains a very helpful plugin which helps convert the much more rational WordPress permalink naming system into the peculiar Blogger URL naming system (and because WordPress’s plugins are basically combinations of PHP and Javascript/CSS, it turns out that it’s just a simple regular expression!)

5. Setting up a URL re-direct on Blogger – This too, thankfully, was very simple (just follow the steps after “Update your Blogger settings” as it sets up the Blogger URL re-direct – the playing around with the DNS is needed for it to be completely seamless, but I don’t think its necessary) and step #4 above makes it so that the URL re-directs from Blogger go to the correct WordPress page.

6. Correcting internal links – While steps #4 and #5 fix most of the URL issues, I wanted to fix the internal links so that people who read my blog wouldn’t have to deal with the ugly Blogger re-directs everytime they clicked on the many internal links I have in my blog. Thankfully, because WordPress relies on a SQL database to store all of the post content, a simple SQL command in phpMyAdmin was all that was needed to fix all the internal links.

7. RSS feed – Because most of the regular traffic I get on the blog comes through RSS readers, I wanted to make the transition seamless. Thankfully, I’ve been using Feedburner for quite some time so all I needed to do was switch out the source feed, and then I used the FeedSmith plugin to re-assign my blog’s RSS feed <META> tags to point to my Feedburner feed so that new subscribers would get the right one. So, most of you RSS readers won’t see any difference unless you actually click over to the page itself.

And voila! While I’m sure there are still a few kinks to work out (i.e. alas I’ve lost all the old Disqus comments from my Blogger days and the pictures on my blog are subject to the whims of Picasa/Google hosting), the new blog has been set up. So, please, check it out, let me know what you think, and for those of you with your own blogrolls or who haven’t yet figured out how to use RSS, please update your bookmarks & links!

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