Category Archives: rss

Week 7: podcasts and multimedia

This week we’ll be looking at podcasts and online video.

What is a podcast?

The exact origins of the term podcast are shrouded in mystery, although podcasting started to catch on around the same time as the iPod so there may be a connection!

A podcast is an audio file (usually MP3) which is distributed over the web. A podcast may contain music, or not. It may be just a few minutes long, or last hours. It may feature one person, a conversation or a panel discussion. It may be recorded ‘live’ or carefully scripted and edited. It may be professionally produced or made by you and me on our PC (or Mac).

The term podcast is now often also used to describe an online video or ‘vodcast’. So you may find yourself watching a podcast, as well as listening to it. In this post we’ll stick to a podcast being audio only to avoid confusion.

How do I listen to podcasts?

The variety of ways you can listen to podcasts is one of the reasons why this technology has become so popular. You can listen to a podcast on your PC, or download it to an MP3 player/iPod and listen on the move.

How do I find podcasts?

Like blogs and RSS feeds, podcasts have their own search engines so you can easily find the podcasts you want. iTunes, Podcastalley, Podcastdirectory, Everyzing and Podomatic among others all offer the facility to search for podcasts, and may also host them as well. But you can just as easily use Google or Yahoo; just add ‘podcast’ as a keyword in your search.

One key feature of podcasts is the ability to subscribe to a series. You can download an aggregator, or podcatcher like iTunes or Juice. Alternatively, because serial podcasts have RSS feeds, you can utilise an RSS reader like Bloglines or Google Reader to subscribe to podcasts.

Can I podcast?

Yes you can! Podcasting, like blogging, is open to everyone as the equipment required is minimal. Got a PC? Got a microphone? Got something to say? Then you can be a podcaster. If you want to know more, check out the activities for this week.

Enough with the audio – what about online video?

The availability of faster and better internet connections, low cost online storage, cheap digital camcorders and home editing software has resulted in an explosion of video online. Content may be professionally produced, like the programmes you can watch or download from BBC iPlayer. But all it takes is a quick glance at video hosting sites like YouTube and Google Video to see that we’re all getting in the act. In fact YouTube’s slogan is ‘Broadcast yourself’ and we do, in our millions.

How do I find online video?

We’ve already mentioned YouTube and Google Video, but other search engines like Blinkx, Exalead and Yahoo offer video searching options. Or you can just add ‘video’ as a keyword in your search on most engines to get results.

Can I YouTube?

You can create accounts with YouTube and Google Video (in fact, if you set up an account with Google Reader in Week 3: RSS, you can use the same username and password to access Google Video.)

An account allows you to upload your own videos to these services, as well as create favourite lists, set up RSS feeds etc.

If you’ve bought a PC or a Mac recently you’ll probably find digital video editing software like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker pre-loaded; ready and waiting for you to create your masterpiece.

The L20 team has a YouTube account and we’ve loaded the short video tutorial we made on setting up your blog.

As you can see the quality isn’t great as the tutorial wasn’t created for YouTube – but it demonstrates how easy it is to join the online video club.

What’s in it for libraries?

Podcasts and online video provide a new medium for libraries in teaching, learning and marketing services to students and staff. Libraries are increasingly using these technologies to complement and supplement printed guides or face to face contact.

Take a look at the Imperial College online lecture page. By using podcasts and video the College is opening up these lectures to everyone – not just the people sitting in the lecture theatre. Many departments are now recording lectures and making them available as podcasts.

The library dipped its toe into the podcast waters last summer and created an audio library induction.

Click play to listen.

More podcasts are planned for the new academic year; there are more details about this on the intranet.

To see how other libraries are using podcasting visit the Library Success Wiki which has a long (mostly US based) list of library podcasts.

Over this side of the pond Cardiff University Information Services worked with the student radio station to produce a six part series on essay writing.

Librarians are also using online video, mainly in the form of screencasts which capture the activity on your PC monitor. Screencasts are particularly useful for demonstrating online resources such as databases. The L20 video mentioned above is an example of screencasting.

Get your ears ready – time to start the activities for this week.

Remember to add a post to your blog about this week’s activity!

Further reading (and watching and listening)

Podcasting in Plain English from the Common Craft show – all you need to know about podcasting in three minutes.

Podcasting: if Terry Wogan can do it, so can we … by Claire Molloy and Elaine Shallcross – the library ‘podsquad’ from the University of Aberdeen discuss their experiences of producing podcasts and vodcasts

Listen to University of Aberdeen podcasts

Watch University of Aberdeen vodcasts

Beginner’s guide to podcasts and podcasting (plus: how to create a basic podcast of your own) – discusses what makes a good podcast and what you need to become a podcaster yourself


Week 3: RSS

This week we’re looking at RSS. After you’ve read the background reading below, have a go at this week’s activities. You’ll see there are 3 activities listed, but you only need complete the first 2. If you get time, have a go at the optional activity.

What is RSS?
There is some discussion as to what RSS stands for, but most people opt for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. In techie terminology, RSS is an XML file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web. In other words, RSS is used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines, and podcasts in a standardized format.

You will find RSS referred to as “feeds” or even “news feeds”. You may have seen one of these icons whenever you’ve surfed the web:

So, what does RSS do? Well, just think about all those websites you visit every day. It takes a lot of time to visit each & every one of them, doesn’t it? Now imagine if you could visit all those web pages in just one place and all at the same time, without having to search for new information on the page you’ve already seen or read before, and without having to consume a lot of time visiting each site individually. Would that be valuable to you? Well, it’s available through RSS.

If any of your favourite websites publish an RSS feed, you don’t have to keep visiting it to find fresh content – you can just subscribe to the RSS feed and wait for that fresh content to come to you. And RSS is free! If you’d like to have a look at what a ‘raw’ RSS file looks like, click here.

It looks like a bunch of meaningless code, but the good news is you shouldn’t ever have to look at that code, because that’s what RSS aggregators do.

What are RSS aggregators?
RSS aggregators are applications that read RSS feeds. Aggregators are also known as ‘news readers’ or even just ‘readers’. These readers take an RSS feed (like the one linked above) and convert all that coding into something that is readable: it will have a title, formatting, and hypertext links that you can click on. An RSS reader is kind of similar to Internet browsers such as Explorer or Firefox: just as browsers present HTML coding in a readable format, so RSS readers present XML coding in a readable format.

But the other important feature of a reader is the built-in update function that checks the feeds you’ve subscribed to for new content. If new content is found, your reader delivers that to you.

There are different types of readers/aggregators:

  • Desktop: these are software applications that require downloading and installation on a computer.
  • Web-based: online aggregators are availableon the web and require users to set up a username and password to access them. To access a web-based aggregator, you go to the site, login, and read your feeds online. The advantage of web-based aggregators is that you can access them from multiple computers (home, work, Internet cafe, etc.). Two popular web-based aggregators are Bloglines and Google Reader. One of this week’s activities (Activity 1) looks at setting up both a Bloglines and a Google Reader account for yourself so as to bring your feeds together.
  • Browser-based: the latest versions of many browsers (like Firefox and Internet Explorer 7) include the ability to subscribe to and read RSS feeds right in the browser.

So, how does all this work, exactly?

Take a look at this clip created by the CommonCraft team and made available via YouTube. It explains RSS really well. Plus it’ll give you a break from reading! Please note: You’ll need headphones to listen to this clip.

How do you find RSS feeds?
If a website publishes a feed, it is usually indicated on the site in at least one of the following ways:

  • a hyperlinked orange icon (three examples are at the beginning of this post).
  • a link called “RSS” or “XML” or “Subscribe” (or some variation thereof).

You can also add a feed to your aggregator even when a website doesn’t publish a feed. We’ll look at how this works in this week’s optional activity.

How else can you find feeds?

  • Directories & Search Engines: there are search engines and subject directories devoted to RSS feeds. For example, take a look at Feedster, Technorati and/or Search4RSS. Both allow you to do a keyword search and bring up results with easy-to-grab links to RSS feeds that you can subscribe to.
  • Serendipity: chances are, you probably won’t remember how you found most of the feeds that end up in your aggregator because most of your subscriptions will probably result from just generally surfing the web and stumbling on a website you really like. When you’re on a website and you’re wondering if they publish an RSS feed, remember to look for the orange RSS icons or for a link labeled “RSS”, “XML” or “Subscribe”.

As always, if you have any questions, contact Jenny, Katharine or Lawrence.

And enjoy the world of RSS!

Further Readings (entirely optional!)

RSS: activities 1-3

Activity #1 – setting up an account on either Bloglines or Google Reader.
Both of these aggregators offer similar features and functionality and the choice between the two usually comes down to personal preference. But if you need some help deciding between the two, take a look at this article.

To find out how to set up an account in Bloglines and Google Reader and add feeds to them, take a look at one or both of these online tutorials created by your friendly Imperial Library staff:

If you feel like exploring, feel free to set up accounts on both sites, play around in them, get a feel for the interfaces, and decide for yourself!

Activity #2 – subscribing to lots of feeds
Ok, after completing Activity 1 you should have added some feeds to your Bloglines or Google Reader. But to get the most out of your reader, you need to add lots of feeds. Try & subscribe to 10 or more feeds in either Bloglines or Google Reader.

step 1: Start by subscribing to the blog for the Learning 2.0 programme. This is what you do:

  • Right-click on this URL:;
  • Select “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut”;
  • Open up your aggregator (i.e. Bloglines or Google Reader), and subscribe to the feed using one of these methods:

If you’re using Bloglines: login to your account, click “Add” at the top-left of the screen, paste the feed URL into the “Blog or Feed URL” box, and click “Subscribe”. The next screen will give you some options on where you’d like to save the feed (you can organize your feeds in folders), once you’ve made your choices, click “Subscribe” at the bottom of the page.

If you’re using Google Reader: login to your account, click “Add subscription” at the top-left of the page, paste the feed URL into the input box that appears, and click “Add”.

step 2: Once you’ve subscribed to the Learning 2.0 feed, take a look at some of these sites and subscribe to their feeds as well. To find their feed addresses, you will have to visit the site and look for the RSS icon or an ‘RSS/Subscribe’ link. They’ll be there somewhere….

BBC News


The Times

Stephen Fry’s blog

step 3: Still looking for more feeds to subscribe to? Getting addicted? Go to some of the library news blogs listed below. Some of these links go straight to the RSS feed – for the rest you’ll have to find the feed yourself…. Subscribe to at least 3 feeds from the list. Read them weekly until September. Daily is better. Why? Because you only really understand RSS by using it regularly.

Library blogs to set up feeds to:

Librarian in Black: Sarah Houghton-Jan covers many of the important stories in the ‘biblioblogosphere’ (!) in short and snappy posts.
Phil Bradley’s weblog
: Phil is a professional librarian and his blog is very useful way to keep up with new Web 2.0 tools.
Stephen’s Lighthouse:
Stephen Abram blogs about future strategic developments in libraries.
Information Literacy Meets Library 2.0
: an IL blog edited by Peter Godwin & Jo Parker.
Information Wants to be Free
: Meredith Farkas’s blog. Meredith has written a very useful book on the uses of social software in libraries.
UK WebFocus
: Brian Kelly’s blog. Brian is based at UKOLN and his blog focuses on all aspects of digital information management, but especially Web 2.0 developments.

Make sure to visit your aggregator at least a couple of times this week to check for new content in the feeds you’ve subscribed to! (you’ll be surprised at how addictive RSS feed-reading can become!) And don’t forget to blog about your experiences using these tools!

Activity #3 (optional) – using Page2RSS
For web pages that don’t have an RSS feed available, Page2RSS will create one for you. You simply type in the URL of the page that you’re interested in, copy the feed that’s created by Page2RSS, paste it into your favourite reader and you’re done.

You need to:

  • Go to the FreePint website
  • Copy the URL from the address bar of your browser
  • Go to Page2RSS and create create an RSS feed for the FreePint site. (You simply paste the FreePint URL into the search box and click on the ‘to RSS’ button.)
  • The FreePint RSS feed address will appear in the address bar of your brower – copy it.
  • Once you have copied the feed address open up your GoogleReader or Bloglines account and paste it in.