Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogs and RSS Feeds

By Renee M. Zamora (
What is a Blog?
The first time I heard about a blog I thought of the Blob. The mass that was indescribable, indestructible and nothing could stop it. In some ways a blog is like a blob. It is taking over the internet. With Web 2.0 technology it is enabling people to do HTML-Less Publishing of journals, e-portfolios, etc. Nothing can stop it and it is growing at incredible speeds. It has created a whole new Blogosphere on the Web.
Actually Blog stands for WEBLOG. A Blog is:
  1. A place for an individual to write their opinion and thoughts about a variety of subjects.
  2. Online journal or Personal diary
  3. Collaborative space
  4. Collect & share things you find interesting
  5. Your voice on the web
Blog Entries…
· Are written in chronological order, but…
· Displayed in reverse chronological order
Blogs usually contain…
  • Title, Headline, and Posts
  • Post Date & Time
  • Text and images
  • Links to other blogs or websites
  • A place where readers can leave comments or feedback on the subject. (Interactive)
  • Categories, labels or Tags
  • Mood or Music
  • Permalink, the internet address or URL of the complete post.
  • Directory of recent posts.
  • Bio on the blog owner.
How Do I Find a Blog?
  • If you go to Google you will find an option “more”. It will give a drop down box with a link to Blog Search.
When I first did a Google Blog Search for genealogy back in 2005 I know I was able to look at all the results, I would guess that would be about 100 results. Today (2007) there are 7,287,530 results for genealogy.
Google Blog Search gives you the option to several options to view those results. You can view blog posts written in the last hour, last 12 hours, last day, past week, past month or you can choose the date of the post. There is also an option to sort by date or relevance.
You will note on Google Blog Search the ability to subscribe to Blog Alerts. If you click on the link it will let you create your own Google Alert. You can put in you search terms – such a genealogy or New York genealogy. The type has several options. Most likely you want Blog. You can specify how often you want the alerts of new posts to come to you. I would recommend once a day but I might change that to once a week because I never have time to read all the alerts. If you choose the option “as-it-happens” you will get way to many emails of each individual post made on any blog across the whole internet. In theory if 7 million posts have been made regarding just genealogy you could have an average of over 9 thousands posts created each day. I’ve never seen Google Alert give me any anywhere near that number of results per day but if Google vamps up their Alerts you could get overwhelmed.
About now you might have some questions?
  • What if the Alerts become unmanageable?
  • What if I want to read only certain blogs?
  • Do I have to visit each blog’s website everyday?
The answer is…Feeds
  • RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary)
  • Atom – this is the more advanced feed
Blogs will usually have the icons for you to click on to get the feed address. If you are using an older version of Internet Explorer or Mozilla you will see the actually XML code the feed is written in, very similar to HTML code if you ever seen that.
In the latest version of Internet Explorer and Mozilla you will see a new feature. Near the URL address there is a symbol. This symbol lets you know that you are on a website that is actually a blog and has a feed associated with it. Click on that symbol/icon will take you to a page where you can subscribe to that feed and later read all the posts made on that blog.
In Internet Explorer it uses almost the same concept as saving favorite websites where you can later go back and view them. The difference is that you don’t actually go to the website to view the posts. It will give you a running page with all the posts with the most current one on top. The other nice thing about the way Internet Explorer lets you view the blogs is it has a box that will let you display various things you might be looking for on the blog. There is a search engine that will display all the articles that contain the words you might be looking for. You can sort posts by their date, title and the author. The other nice thing is that lets you filter by category tags. If the author has used tagging correctly just the list alone will allow you to determine if they are speaking on the subjects you are interested in and then find worthwhile to continue watching this blog.
At the very bottom of the search and category box is the option to mark the feed as already read so you can keep track if there is anything new. Plus it has the option to view feed properties. When you click on its link you will see that it has settings to tell Internet Explorer how often you want the browser to search that blog for any updates. The frequency can be set to check for updates every 15 minute, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, 1 day or 1 week or never. I usually have mine set for 1 day. You can also set archiving options for the blog articles.
I really like this feature except it doesn’t always show me all the graphics that the author used in that blog post. The other problem is the Internet Explorer is notorious for its security holes. Well the latest version of Mozilla also uses the same principle of letting you know when you are on a website that is using blog technology and sending a feed.
In Mozilla you can subscribe to the feed using Live Bookmark with is just a glorified version of saving your favorites only it gives a drop down box of all the blogs post titles. When you click on the title you are interested in it takes you to the actually blog posts URL so you can see all the graphics associated with the post. You miss nothing. I’m not totally sold on that method yet. I really like quickly scrolling through the actually article to see if I am interested in it.
The other option Mozilla gives to subscribing to the feed is to send the feed to a blog reader. The only ones it will send it to are Bloglines, My Yahoo and Google. With Google you can read the feeds on Google homepage or Google Reader. I’ve used both and had Google Reader set as my browsers homepage, but it takes a while to load. With Google Reader you have the functionality of most Readers. You can organize the feeds into categories, star favorites, mark items as read and customize your tags.
Some of you might still have concerns.
  • Use to mailing lists concept and delivery to email account
  • Set it up once and forget it.
The answer could be RSSFwd
  • Reading RSS the way you are already reading your email.
  • Subscribe to any feed, anytime, anywhere.
  • If a new article appears it will be sent to you.
  • Single or Clustered (digest) options
You will need to know the RSS or Atom URL. If you click on these icons you will see the correct address to enter. If you only know the website URL use that and RSSFwd will give you some options.
You can choose to have RSSFwd send you text-only emails or Clustered. Clustered gives you options to view a blogs posts in digest format, reading everything on a single page when you choose to (end of day, start of day, end of week…your pick).
Now that I have formularized you with what blogs and feeds are – what if you are feeling the desire to be a blogger?
Blogger Benefits
  • You can have a “webpage” without all the baggage.
  • You can have your posts picked up by search engines.
  • Increases your chances of finding others to collaborate with.
Are You a Genealogy Blogger?
  • Talk about your research experiences.
  • Pass on tips and research techniques.
  • News and happenings in your community.
  • Update and discussions on specific products or projects.
  • Discussions about concepts, plans, needs or techniques.
  • Social networking
Blog Service Providers
  • Live Journal – Renee’s Genealogy Blog(old)
  • TypePad – Dick Eastman’s Newsletter
  • Blogger – Very Popular & Simple
  • Social Networking: MySpace, FaceBook. Windows Live Spaces.
  • – Arlene H. Eakle
After preparing this class presentation I decided to move Renee’s Genealogy Blog to Blogger. Blogger requires that you have a Google Gmail account. The beauty of signing in under that ID is that you can manage all your various blogs under it. It is very simple to set up and use. Google’s Blogger says you can create a blog in 3 easy steps. You will find you want to go back and do some customizing afterwards but it is very easy to do so.
You can go to to take a tour and set up your own blog. Your address will then have but if you have your own website address you can forward it.
It is also very easy to add FeedBlitz as an option for readers to receive your blog posts in their email address. FeedBlitz allows a Blogger to received stats on who is reading your blog.
Renee’s Genealogy Blog –
A Great YouTube presentation on Web 2.0