Part of your daily ritual should now be sitting down to your computer, signing in to iGoogle, skimming through your Google Reader widget, checking out what new content your peers and your teacher have added to their blogs. Some of us have encountered a problem, however, in being able to subscribe to both POSTS and COMMENTS. I think–with some help from Clare–we may have solved the problem.
If you copy and paste the URL of a friend’s blog into the “Add Subscription” box of your Google Reader, you will subscribe to new posts your friend writes, much like you might subscribe to Newsweek to have it delivered to your mailbox (Google Reader being your mailbox in this analogy!). However, if someone comments on one of your friend’s posts, you won’t see the comments in your Google Reader. This poses a serious problem because we all want to be a part of the discussion. Having others hear our voices and listening to the voices of others is a huge reason we blog. We are creating a community of intelligent voices, each questioning, connecting, theorizing about our world.
The solution: for each blog, you should subscribe to TWO different feeds.
Like you, I am a lifelong learner. I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to ask the right questions and seek in the right places and test my theories to discover, or sometimes invent answers/solutions–that is, I know how to problem-solve. I’m not certain adding two subscriptions for each blog is the best solution, but for now we’ll try it until we discover a better solution. I’m researching feedburner, a site that allows you to create feeds to webpages (blogs, wikis, pages…) you create. Why would you do this? If you REALLY want others–many others–to hear your voice, you have to get your voice out, like advertisers market their products. Syndicating (Providing easy access to your feeds for others to subscribe to) your pages helps you create a readership, thus broadening our circle of intelligent voices.
I still have questions that need answers. When someone creates a PAGE (as opposed to a post or comment), will the blog send a feed to my Reader? Can I combine two feeds (posts + comments) to create one feed that will allow my readers, with one simple click, to subscribe to all new material posted on my blog?
One final word, adding [comments/feeds] to the end of a URL is unique (I think) to WordPress, the software that powers our blogs. If you were to subscribe to a blog (or any web page) not using WordPress, I don’t think adding the string at the end of the URL will work.
To conclude, RSS and Readers are only tools. Let’s not forget tools are created to make our tasks easier. At first, all this digital business may seem a bit messy. You might be tempted to declare “doing things the old way” is easier. I challenge you, however, to give yourself a chance to learn to use the tools, to learn how powerful they can be. We are only beginning to understand what these tools can enable us to do. After all, I bet someone once thought picking cotton by hand was easier, better than using a complex, frightening, seemingly cumbersome machine.